Archive of ‘New House’ category

We Are Still Here

A year ago today we closed on our home. It was unreal. We never thought it was even POSSIBLE. I remember walking through it at about 7:00 that night, all big and empty, looking at the floors like…woah. We have floors.

In the year leading up to that purchase, we paid off three major debts, one of which was a surprise debt neither of us knew existed. And when I say major, I’m talking nearly $20,000 between medical, credit card, and surprise debt. We thought we were at least a year away from being able to own a home. But one day, whilst on the toilet (sorry Bear), Bear told me he didn’t want to wait to buy a home, he didn’t want a starter home either, and he wanted us to start looking now. Bear tends to be a little more impulsive than me. (That’s a nice way to say it, isn’t it?) I humored his sentiments from the other side of the bathroom door and didn’t think twice. Within 4 months, though, we were moving in. (His impulses are usually right.)

Five days after we purchased our beautiful home and moved in, Bear was let go from his job as a construction project manager due to “overhead.” He was already in the interview process for another job, so that process just sped right up and he was due to begin in two weeks. That’s only two weeks between jobs!
A week after that, Bear was informed the new position was being vetoed by the executives and he no longer had that job.
Luckily, on his way out of that disappointing meeting, he met someone else who asked to interview him. A week later he was awarded another position.
I bought steaks. It was a great relief.
We started 2016 with Bear in a new job, our family in a new house, and me desperately wanting to have a job within a school or an office somewhere so that I could contribute more financially. I wanted to know that if Bear lost his job again in the future, I could take care of us.  My writing and virtual assistant jobs just wouldn’t cut it. I applied for no less than 15 jobs, all of which deemed me “overqualified” (never include your Masters Degree on an application for a desk job) or “lacking in experience” (never get a Masters Degree and then have a child two years later). I was shocked. But Bear was working full time and while he was incredibly busy/stressed/tired, we were doing just fine.
Until that one day in May when one of his co-workers decided Bear was no longer welcome back and the next day his boss fired him. A reason was never actually given.
It was riiiiiight about then I couldn’t repeat the “It’s all happening for a reason” mantra anymore.

Bear immediately created his own business, applied for a tax identification number, and began bidding jobs as though this is what he’d been doing all along.
Two weeks later, we got married.
The day we got married was the day he received his Articles of Incorporation. He was an official business. We were officially married.
It was official.
We were on our own.

It felt like floating in space, no tether.

The summer of 2016 was one of the worst of my life in terms of anxiety. I never knew from week to week if we would have enough money to pay for groceries, to pay for things the kids wanted to do, to pay for our phones! The mortgage terrified me. We OWNED this house now. It wasn’t like we could just move to a less expensive rental or ask our landlord for an extension each month. I was in a state of panic and fear and overwhelm 100% of everyday. I got depressed, I slept as much as possible, and when I was awake I struggled to function.

Bear landed his first contract in his new business in August, exactly 2 days after he came down with the flu. He was forced to work outside in the 100 degree heat for 4 days with a fever and brain fog. But he did it.
He was soon awarded another job. He hired a guy to help him with that job (our first employee!) who promptly worked for one day, texted Bear and said he couldn’t work anymore, and then left with $600 worth of brand new tools. Never to be seen again.
Bear finished that job himself.

“Are you sure owning your own business is the right plan?” I asked.
“Positive,” he said. Impulsively.

I found extra work a little at a time. By about September, I realized that I was (in fact) paying the bills. Nothing was late! After only going through about half of our savings, I was scraping enough together to keep us functioning while Bear continued building the business. I gained a little bit of pride.
Bear continued to make contacts and land contract after contract, making enough on one job to buy himself a work truck so he didn’t have to drive his own truck (which we were afraid he was about to run into the ground before he could pay it off). He gained some pride, too.

We continued to work our butts off the last three months, Bear keeping the business afloat and me keeping our house in our name.

In between all of that, the laundry room exploded, I found out I might have breast cancer (I didn’t), and…

You guys. 2016 was hard.
Really hard.

But here we are, one year later, and we made it. What have I learned…
I’ve learned, once again, that things do have a way of working out. It doesn’t mean that you can sit back and let your faith be enough. It doesn’t mean that it will be easy or obvious or fun. I just view the last two years as a sort of spiritual clean-up. We knew what we wanted (a stable life together in a home of our own) and it took about two years between us and God to tie up all the loose ends, prepare us for the next steps, and get clear on what the future looked like. The path is now clearer, and my new ability to see that everything is temporary leads me to believe that I can handle these kinds of things differently in the future.

This morning at about 6:30am, my husband rolled over and whispered in my ear, “Happy Housiversary”. I grunted at him (because I don’t like speaking before 7:30am). But today is more than just a celebration of buying our home. It’s a triumph. We are still here.

12309964_10154373759214829_5415705167843983856_o

A celebratory shot, one year ago today.

 

If you haven’t already joined me in a daily exercise of smiles, thoughts, and life, head over to my group Mind, Body, Peas. 🙂 We do life nice there.

 

 

Clogged

I would like to know how plumbing at the soul’s journey are connected. I’m not talking about internal plumbing. I’m talking about home plumbing. Since we moved into our new home, we had a plumber to our house no fewer than 6 times. We’ve lived here 6 months. (I offered them a cot on the back porch last time they were here so I didn’t have to put in anymore service calls…) Now, there’s nothing wrong with our house other than it being old, recently remodeled, and that it sat empty for 6 months prior to us purchasing it; things are bound to back up. But one day recently…I got fed up with calling plumbers and plunking down a check everytime they pulled out of the driveway.

Our new kitchen didn’t have a disposal when we moved in. Now, I’ve lived with and without disposals and let me tell you, I prefer “with.” So we purchased one from our local hardware store and installed it shortly after moving in. But one night when I had the house to myself (which meant I could clean it without it becoming IMMEDIATELY messy again), I did the dishes and suddenly, the water wasn’t draining in the kitchen sink. No. No no no no, I thought. This is not happening. I tried the old stanbys: hot water, vinegar and baking soda, plunger…nothing was working. I stared at the dirty water just standing in my sink, chuckling at me. “Plumb again, eh Salem?”
Shut up, water.
I went to Google. I learned that it could be anything from food stuck in the disposal to a clog deep in the ground that would require digging up half the house. I had a mild pity party and went to bed leaving a big, red sign on the sink. SINK IS CLOGGED. DO NOT USE SINK. I live with boys, you know, and they probably wouldn’t have thought twice about continuing to run the water despite the obvious signs of a clog…
The next morning I woke up and said to myself, “Not today, Satan. Not today.” I Googled a video about how to take the elbow pipe off the disposal. I cleared out all the cleaning products from under the sink, got a bucket, some kind of a grippy tool that looked similar to the one in the video, and went to work. The water immediately all drained out of the sink and into the bucket.
AH HA! The clog in further down the pipe! I’m like a Plumber Einstein!
Shit. The clog is further down the pipe. That means I have to dig up half my house…
“Not today, Satan.”
I Googled more. Try a Zip-It. Have you ever seen one of these?
Zip-it-tool-to-unclog-drainThey’re $2 and you shove this long piece of serrated plastic into your pipe and it grabs anything in its way. Seeing as how we’ve had 900 clogs before this one, we had one so I grabbed it. I shoved. It went into the pipe in the wall under the sink for about 6 inches. I tried pushing harder and then I imagined it breaking off inside the pipe and decided this would be worse…
I Googled more.
Pipe snake. Seeing as how we’ve had 900 clogs before this one, we had one so I grabbed it. I started trying to fish it into the pipe and I still only made it about 9 inches. Obviously snaking this pipe was not going to work. I sat quiet on the kitchen floor amidst the mess and continued Googling.
Finally, I found a suggestion: use a shop vac. Hmmm. A shop vac. We have one of those. I rolled it in from the garage and wrapped a towel around it and the pipe to get good suction. Then, I prayed.
Dear God, please let whatever is in this pipe come out so that my sink drains properly so that I don’t have to begin dipping into my retirement account (just kidding, you know I don’t have one of those) just to do the dishes. Thanks. Erin.
I clicked the shop vac on. I heard a quick whoosh and then a POP.
Shit. A pop seems bad.
I turned it off and stared at the shop vac and the pipe. Did something come out? Did I just ruin the pipe? AM I GOING TO HAVE TO CALL OFF THE WEDDING AND MARRY A PLUMBER?!
I opened the shop vac and…there it was. A piece of saran wrap. A bunch of food and a piece of saran wrap. That could have been it, right? That could have been blocking the pipe, right?!
Only one way to find out…
I put the elbow pipe back in it’s place and tightened it using my grippy tool. I took a deep breath, and turned on the water.
Swoosh. Straight down the sink it flowed. I watched it for probably 8 minutes flow into the sink, continuously, with no back up…

I AM VICTORIOUS. I raised my arms and paraded the kitchen. I AM VICTORIOUS. I HAVE BEATEN THE CLOG. I NEED NO PLUMBER. I AM VICTORIOUS.
“What does victorious mean, Mommy?” Abe asked.
“It means I win. I win at life today, Abe.”
“Oh, ok.”

I don’t know if perhaps plumbing is a metaphor for life. I Googled that phrase and nothing of significance came up, so maybe it’s just that we got super unlucky with the old pipes. But whether it does or doesn’t mean I’ve got some sort of deep-rooted issue with things flowing or with the direction of life being clear, I know one thing: I won that battle, and I will win the war.

I’m Basically Ready for Survivor

Bzzzzzzzzzz. Bzzzz. Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

I sat in my office this morning and I heard this buzzing sound, as if a bee was inside of a can. I couldn’t figure out where in our house there would be metal, let alone a bee. I followed the sound for about 15 minutes as it started and stopped, stepping once to the left, twice to the right, and closing my eyes so I could “hear better.” Finally, I found myself directly in front of the fire place.
Ooooh. Bees in the chimney.
When I stepped outside to take a look, I noticed I wasn’t quite right.
Wasps. Wasps in the chimney.

HOME OWNERSHIP RULES.

I texted Bear.

Me – There are wasps in the chimney.
Bear – Ummmm. Ooook.
Me – What do I do?
Bear – Smoke ’em out.

Huh. Smoke ’em out. Yeah. I can do that.

I went outside and collected some dry leaves and sticks. You know. Kindling. Because I’m like a camper or a farmer or a survivalist or whatever. I brought it all inside and then walked back outside looking for wood.
Wood. Wood. Hmmmm…wood. I didn’t see any wood. But I DID see the remnants of the pallet coffee table that Bear made for me. I started trying to break apart a wooden plank with my foot and when I nearly broke a finger, I decided I was just going to have to put the whole piece into the fireplace. I carried those inside and then decided I should check to be sure the flue was open.
Do you know how to check if a flue is open?
Me neither, which is why I looked like a miner by the time I climbed out of the fireplace with the big thumbs up – flue’s open!
Then I googled “smoking out wasps”. This was funny because it’s 4/20 and none of the websites helped me. I got more specific with my search and learned that it’s important to burn a good fire for about 30 minutes to fully “relocate” a wasps nest.
No problem.
I started with a lighter and some dry leaves. I figured I’d get those going, add the sticks, then the planks, and we’d be in business. What I learned is that even when you have a lighter, it’s really hard to just get stuff to light on fire. I lit those leaves no less than 9 times before one of them caught fire.
I could never be on Naked and Afraid.
Then I learned that leaves burn REALLY FAST. I started throwing the sticks on but by the time I got them in there, the leaves were burnt out.
Time to go gather more leaves.
I was sweating my face off because I was searching for dry leaves in 80 degree weather because I needed to BUILD A FIRE.
My fresh batch of leaves made a nice little bed inside the fire place and, thinking ahead, I stacked my sticks in one of those little pyramids everyone thinks you should make to start a fire. Another few rounds of trying to get them to light and sure enough, they started blazing. My sticks kinda did, too, but I didn’t have enough so I ran back and forth outside trying to bring in more sticks before everything burned out again. Finally, it seemed like I had a fairly decent blaze going, so I added a plank.
A plank of wood.
It stuck halfway out the fireplace. There was no jamming it in there. I laid another one on top of that one and if you saw it, you would literally think this was my first day on Earth.
Luckily, the wood was very dry and a little bit brittle so it caught fire nicely. As soon as it started to burn through the middle, I shimmied the pieces sticking out of the fireplace back in and stacked them. Without burning myself. VIOLA! Exactly one hour later I’d built a fire!
I set a timer for 30 minutes, turned the AC on full blast, and sat back down at my desk. Mission accomplished.
Then my phone dinged.
“Hair appointment in 30 minutes.”
SHIT.
Shit shit shit shit.
I JUST GOT THE FIRE GOING and now I had to leave.
Could I leave a fire burning behind the metal curtains and the metal gate and safely go to get my hair did?
I got dressed and grabbed my purse, staring at the fire.
It’s fine. It’s completely contained. It couldn’t even jump to anything. It needs 30 minutes.
Right. I decided it would be fine. I ran and got into my car. I had 25 minutes to get to my appointment. I made it out of my driveway before I turned around. I forgot my water bottle.
Water. Water bottle. Is this a sign from God that I should put the fire out?!
I grabbed my water and stared at the fire again. It was burning, but it was completely contained and in no way suggesting it would burn my house down.
Fine. It’s fine. Gotta go. 
I jumped back into the car and made it halfway down the street this time before I turned back around. Why? Because I ran the Dateline Test…and if my house burned down, I would DEFINITELY end up on an episode of Dateline; at the very least the local news.
Fine. I’m just going to have to start another fire another day and let it burn for 30 minutes.
I ran back inside, filled the Vitamix pitcher with water, and doused the flames. I still had 20 minutes to get to my appointment. Plenty of time.
53349376I jumped back in the car, fully confident that I would not return to a pile of charred wood, and made it all the way to the end of my street, when…
Funeral procession.
If you’ve ever been stuck behind a funeral procession for nearly 20 minutes, you know that it produces a myriad of opposing feelings. On the one hand, you pray for the people IN the procession who are mourning the loss of someone they love. On another hand, you cannot BELIEVE the person who died knew THIS many people. And on the third hand (just go with it), you are cursing the day they decided to put a cemetery on a main road where there ARE NO OUTLETS FOR RELIEF.
I was 20 minutes late but my lovely stylist was very understanding about the funeral procession. My hair looks lovely.
So far, I haven’t heard any buzzing tonight, so before you do any burning: 10 minutes is all it takes to smoke wasps out of a chimney.

 

Stillness, Motion, and Wrinkly Eggs

keep-calm-and-do-something-170I heard my pastor this weekend say, “You cannot find your calling in stillness. You can only find it in motion.”
I tend to spend way too much time worrying about what I’m going to be when I grow up. Will I continue writing? Will I adopt a million kids? Will I become a lawyer or a pastor or a nurse or a Zumba instructor?? I should KNOW this stuff by now. My latest calling-based anxiety-attack has been, “Should Bear and I have a baby?” Because you know I got that age 35 coming up next year and that means “advanced maternal age” and THAT means them eggs is gettin’ wrinkly in there…
Also I’m loving dancing in my new Zumba classes so much that I started looking up Zumba trainings. Should I take a Zumba training and become an instructor?!
Oh, and I want to finish my second book. Should I do that?

Then there’s Bear. When he decides he’s going to, let’s just say, close his business, move across the city, buy a new truck, get a new TV, start a cornhole business…he just…he just freaking does it. He starts putting out his resume or looking for new places to live or searching truck ads or building cornhole boards. And then EVERYTHING HAPPENS. I, on the other hand, pray and then sit in the corner and wait for a giant sign that something is going to change and then when it shows up I wave at it and wait until something physically moves me towards the sign and then I might consider taking some action (after coffee and a shower and possibly a nap).
But the Pastor’s word Sunday gave me a friendly little Jesus-slap. How could I think that any of these options for next life-steps will make themselves known to me if I’m sitting around spending all my actionable time just wondering about them? I mean, I daydream about winning the lottery all the time and I don’t even BUY LOTTERY TICKETS. I cannot win the lottery nor find my calling by hanging out and asking God to tell me what I’m supposed to do.
This doesn’t mean I’ve taken any action. I’m just the messenger for you, I’m not ready to actually DO anything. I’m still mostly paralyzed by the fact that we close on our house in one week and then we have 4 days to get a million things fixed before we move in. I’m mostly waving at THAT sign right now and hoping the electric company calls ME and asks if I want to move my service to the new house. They keep track of new home sales, don’t they? If they don’t, they should.

By the way, did you one of you guys book movers for me?

Certified Mail and Beer

After spending weeks on the phone with our lender on a day-to-day basis, I decided to give up on the house and just move in with them. I bought a cot and a small bucket and I now live in an office with them. It’s the least they could do.
Just kidding.
Our loan was sent to the underwriters who felt that we would have no trouble closing on the house. Which was a HUGE relief and also a wonderful exercise in skepticism. “Oh, but you’ll think of something else you’ll need from us at the last minute that will cause me to have heart palpitations and probably waste more of our money.”
No, I didn’t say it out loud.
It’s incredible to think that we did this ourselves. Not to say that I didn’t think we could, but, well…I didn’t think we could. I didn’t think we could save enough money. I didn’t think we’d qualify. I didn’t think we’d EVER finish the underwriting process. And here we are, nearing the end, and it looks like we will freaking walk into OUR house in December. Pretty amazing, right?!
Of course, that means we have to move. We held off on giving our 60-day notice (Batty requires 60 days) because we wanted to get a thumbs up from the underwriter. We also wanted to pay the least amount in rent and mortgage at the same time, so it was a wing and a prayer when I sent the email to our landlord and her assistant that they wouldn’t argue about the timeline we proposed, moving out by January 1, even though that would only be 50 days…
Then things got so fun.
I got a response from the assistant letting us know that she no longer worked for Batty.
Then I got a response from Batty, except it wasn’t Batty. It was a response letting me know that she no longer worked for the organization that owned the email address I was using for her.
I now had officially no way to give her written notice except send a letter.
It was a Friday.
It wouldn’t get there until Monday.
Now we were giving 46 days notice.
AND I had to re-write my letter.
I found Batty’s phone number in the lease and left her a message (after listening to it ring and repeating aloud, “Please don’t let her pick up, please don’t let her pick up…) letting her know of our intentions. She called back…but she didn’t call me. She called Bear.
This was a mistake on her part because calling Bear at 5pm on a Friday after a long week does not a happy Bear make. In fact, you might say it’s poking the Bear.
I can’t be sure what Bear said, and all he told me was that she snapped at him that if we were moving out, we needed to send a certified letter because “that’s the law”.
Forgive me, but I also thought the law included NOT walking into the house of your tenants uninvited, but who knows? Laws change all the time.
I send a certified letter and decided to drink a beer.
On Sunday, my phone rang. “NO CALLER ID” This is not a phone call I would ordinarily answer, but I did.
“Hi, Alex?”
“No, you have the wrong number…”
“Yes. No. No I don’t. You are…Oh. Is it…Erin?”
“Who is this?”
“This is Batty.” She called herself by her real name because she doesn’t know she’s Batty. “I put a sign in your front yard this morning for rent and I’ve already had 11 people call me.”
“Oh. Ok. How nice for you.”
“Yes. So, could you move out early?”
“I…like when?”
“Just…sooner.”
“Yeah. I mean, I think so.”
“I just want to be clear I’m not TELLING you that you have to be out sooner.”
“I get that.”
“But if you CAN, it would really help me.”
You know what I thought of when I woke up Sunday morning? How could I REALLY help Batty today?
So, in short, God found a way to save us half a month’s rent. Batty even suggested that we would get our security deposit back in full for our trouble, though I don’t know if I believe that entirely.
So while I’ve had several very MILD panic attacks over closing, completing a few household repairs, and then moving, all in one week, I think God knows what he’s doing on this one.
Now.
Who wants to help me move?

(And I promise, when we close I’ll share pictures…)