When we first walked through the house in April, it was basically empty – no furniture or window treatments, nobody currently living there at the time. After we decided that yeah, we were gonna take a shot at buying this house built in 1900 (!), we came back and took a closer look. I’d found out the hard way, from a house we’d signed a contract on a few weeks earlier, that it was a good idea to open those cabinets, look in the closets, really take your time and decide if you can make this place work. (We backed out of the other house after the inspection turned up some Bad Things, but I also hadn’t realized that the kitchen cabinets were actually horrible inside – I never bothered to open a door or drawer. Doh! The market was insane at that time and we were basically jumping at any house that hadn’t been sold out from under us.)
As we slowly inspected each room, opening cabinets and drawers, we realized that there was actually quite a bit of stuff still here. Pots and pans, dishes, silverware, lace curtains (still in the packaging from the dry cleaner) hanging in the closet. The upstairs storage area, which I call the attic but really isn’t – it’s just a small room at the end of the upstairs hall with lots of space for storing things – had some holiday decorations in the back. There was a propane charcoal grill on the back deck. Stuff like that.
We tried to piece together the story of these left-behind items. The seller hadn’t lived in the house since 2011 or 12. I found a whole kitchen cabinet filled with inkjet cartridges, markers, first birthday invitations, even photos, and our seller was not in any of them. Leftover invoices in the same cabinet had somebody else’s name, a couple with a small child from the looks of things. I assumed they were renting the house and, for whatever reason, took off in a hurry and left a bunch of stuff behind. I also assumed it would all be gone once we actually took possession in June.
But it wasn’t gone. We opened the door with our new key, walked in, and found all these things in the same places we’d last seen them. So I ended up with a couple of new pots and pans, donated most of the dishes, gifted to Paige all the things she needed for her new home, and tossed the junk in the trash.
I pretty much forgot about the holiday stuff. I mean, it was June and the holidays were the furthest thing from my mind. Once November rolled around, though, I started eyeballing potential spots for a Christmas tree. You might remember my dilemma when we moved to the little house in Niles, a house so small that there was no possible place for a full-sized tree. (I actually considered not having a tree that first year, until Dave insisted that we look at some pencil trees.) To have multiple possibilities for tree placement was a novelty for me; even in Illinois, there was only one real option for where to put the tree (and I still had to move furniture to fit it in).
“We need to buy a tree this year,” I reminded Dave. “I hate to spend the money, it would be cheaper to buy it after Christmas, but that pencil tree is just not big enough. We’ll put that one out on the front porch.”
He held up a finger to stop me. “Hang on.”
He went downstairs (we have a Michigan basement here, so I try to stay out of it as much as possible). A few minutes later I heard something thunking up the stairs, and then a six-foot Christmas tree appeared in my kitchen.
He peeked around from behind it. “It was downstairs! It has lights on it and everything. It’s from Bronner’s!”
I mean, what are the odds?! This tree is the perfect size for the family room, and it is gorgeous.
I did suggest that we buy a second tree during the after-Christmas sales and put it up in the living room or dining room, but Dave shot that down. Can’t blame a girl for trying! 😉
Last night we diced up the last butternut squash from our 2014 garden. As I brought it up from the basement, I remembered furtively picking it in late September. Because everything was so sudden with our move from Illinois, and because we had no idea we’d be moving that summer to begin with, our garden got short shrift. Actually, if we’d known we’d be moving by July we would not have put in a garden to begin with.
But we did, and we hated to leave it behind. The timing was awkward – a little earlier, and we could have brought some of the plants to Michigan and transplanted them. But it was too late for transplanting, and too early for much harvesting.
Because we were still going back to Illinois regularly for Dave’s dentist appointments, we did manage to harvest a few things: some tomatoes, one zucchini, all the garlic and onions, and a few leeks. My purple broccoli was coming along really well but we had to abandon it [sad trombone]. The house was in our name until the end of September, so on our very last trip back we grabbed the aforementioned tomatoes and zucchini, and then I started wandering the butternut squash patch.
Dave was getting antsy to get back on the road and kept urging me to stop. “But look at this one! It’s ripe already,” I said, pointing. I inched forward, crouching, pushing leaves aside. “Oh wait, I have to get this one too.” A couple were not as golden as they should be, but all told I ended up getting six beautiful squash before we headed back to Michigan. Over the past few months, they all ripened perfectly in our cool basement.
We just got our first seed catalog a few days ago, and even though we’re firmly in winter’s grip, we are already looking ahead to spring. One of the many things that attracted us to this house was the acre of land, and a very flexible landlady who was more than happy for us to put in a huge garden. Although there’s a tiny chance something could come up, some house at an amazing price that we just know is meant to be ours, it’s more likely that we will stay here for another year when our lease comes up in July. We decided to take a chance and put in that big garden we’ve been dreaming about.
I really hope we can see this one through. It’s going to be the largest garden I’ve ever had, although Dave is really the gardener in our house so he gets all the credit. I think I’ll be more involved in this garden though; its size might require two people for maintenance. We’re planting things I’ve never grown before – cauliflower, celery, sweet corn, fennel, kale – and things I haven’t grown in years, like carrots, green beans and watermelon. My purple broccoli will get a second chance in 2015, as well as the herbs, butternut squash, a variety of tomatoes and peppers.
Although nobody in our immediate family died in 2014 (thank God), it still felt like there was too much loss, too much taken from us. I’m looking forward to new growth and renewal, filling that empty space.
They say that moving is one of the most stressful things you can experience, and they aren’t kidding. I’m happy to report, though, that we made it through fairly unscathed and now it kind of feels like we’ve been here for a long time. When I look back and realize it’s not even been two weeks since we actually moved our furniture in, I’m kind of shocked.
We did a self-move, because when we got quotes on movers it was rather eye-opening. Moving from one state to another, even just two hours away, makes a big difference in price. Although we really wanted to hire movers with a big truck, we ended up getting three Relocubes from ABF (kind of like Pods, if you’ve ever seen those). I was concerned about loading them up (we aren’t getting any younger) but then I did some research and found out that you can hire people just to do the loading/furniture-moving aspect . So we hired two guys for two hours (although I think they got everything finished in about 1-1/2 hours) and they loaded all the heavy furniture and boxes. They were able to get two of the Relocubes totally filled, which was amazing. (It helps to hire people with experience in packing those things – you use every bit of available space, all the way to the ceiling.)
They drop the cubes in your driveway, and you get three days to fill them; if you do it sooner, you just call and have them pick them up sooner. They were dropped off at about 4:30 on Monday, the guys came on Tuesday to pack two of them, and on Wednesday Dave packed the third one and we called for them to be picked up, which happened on Thursday around 11 am. I think the most stressful thing for me was worrying about everything fitting into the cubes, which didn’t look all that big. I was pretty sure we’d be leaving tons of stuff behind. All of the furniture and boxed stuff fit into the two cubes though, which was a nice surprise. The third cube was filled with the miscellaneous stuff from the garage that Dave wanted to take (building materials, etc.) and things we were using right up until the last minute. We did end up filling that third cube and then kind of running out of space, so we had to leave a few things behind. We were able to stop back at the house earlier this week when Dave went back to IL for one of his dentist appointments, so we put those things in the car and brought them back.
We loaded up the car (another VERY stressful experience, because these were things we needed to get us through the next five-six days while we waited for the cubes to be delivered) and that was where I had to leave a lot behind – most of the stuff in the fridge (the cooler was smaller than I realized), our house plants, etc. (We did rescue the house plants this week, thank goodness.) As soon as our cubes got picked up, we headed out. Then we hit a major traffic jam near Gary, Indiana and the car started to come dangerously close to overheating – the needle was hovering right before the red area. I was completely freaking out. We made it though, and two hours later I was so glad to get out of the car and into our new house!
Our cubes weren’t delivered until Monday morning, so we had to work with the few things that were already in the house: two lawn chairs, two TV tables, a twin bed, and some dishes I’d brought up earlier in July. We’d also brought our TV earlier in July (we bought a new flat screen and left the old 200 pound tube TV at the old house), and we brought our computers with us in the car.
It didn’t take long to unpack the car and get things put away, and normally we would’ve spent the weekend exploring our new area of Michigan, but the car was scaring us. Dave figured it was a sensor going bad, or maybe the thermostat. In any case, we just stuck close to town until we could get it looked at.
We slept together in the twin bed Thursday and Friday nights, and that was an experience. Dave gave up and threw a bunch of quilts on the floor for the next two nights, but he was very glad to see our queen bed on Monday night!
Dave’s sister, Laurie, her husband Tim, and our nephews Gage and Tucker drove down to help us unpack the cubes on Monday. I thought it would take the full three days to get everything unpacked, but I underestimated the vigor of youth – the adults helped, of course, but those boys got all three cubes unloaded and were still bouncing around with tons of energy when they were finished! Seriously, I don’t know how we would have done it without the four of them. We started around 10 am or so and around 2 pm we were all sitting down for pizza in a restaurant downtown!
Nothing was broken, and our move went as smoothly as it possibly could. As I said, it was stressful but mainly because of worrying whether everything would fit. It was the closest Dave and I have ever come to really fighting – more than once before the move we had to sit down together and clear the air. I would still like to be able to use movers and a truck the next time we move (not for a while yet, thank goodness) but I can highly recommend ABF and the Relocubes – we had a great experience with them.
We’re almost all settled in now, and the car is fixed (it needed a new radiator and two oxygen sensors, but at least we found a local mechanic that we like and trust). We’re starting to explore our new surroundings and we are loving everything! We’re both sleeping much later than we used to – partly because it’s dark later in the morning now that we’re on eastern time, and partly because we just sleep better here, and all that stress is gone. We weren’t able to bring any of our garden plants – they were too mature by the time we moved – so I guess we’ll have to wait for spring to put in a garden. We did get a little ornamental pepper plant (with deceptively HOT peppers) and a basil plant, and we already have chives, mint and oregano. I’ve never grown oregano before even though it’s one of my favorite spices, and I find myself using it all the time – I guess I thought fresh oregano wouldn’t be as potent as dried, but I was wrong.
One of the big things that worried me when we first saw this house was that it echoed so much, to the point that I couldn’t understand Dave unless I was reading his lips. Now that we’re all moved in, the echo is gone and I can hear just fine. Everything, in fact, is more than just fine.
Back in 2011 I wrote:
“When we buy our next house,” I mused, “I would like it to be far enough from our neighbors so that they won’t be tempted to have a conversation with me from their yard.” … Here’s the scenario: I walk outside, to do whatever, and I’m minding my own business. After a while, I glance over and realize one of my neighbors has been talking to me, yelling from their yard, and I’ve been ignoring them. Awkward. Even worse, now that I’ve made eye contact, I’m expected to respond. But no matter what I say, I will not understand what they shout back. This leaves me with two options: casually wave and immediately turn around and go back into the house, or go down two flights of stairs, across the yard, to the fence and have a conversation I really wasn’t planning to have.
As of later this month, that will finally be my reality. Although we were hoping to stay in this house for another year, you can never predict what the bank will do when you’re in foreclosure. Although they still have not actually notified us, thanks to Dave’s daily research we knew that we had until Sept. 12th to find a new place to live.
We toyed with a few different options, since we didn’t have quite enough saved to just go plunk down some cash and buy a house (our original plan). At first we were seriously considering buying an inexpensive mobile home, but it was really hard to find a home that was both in a nice park and not in god-awful condition. We came very close to purchasing one – we actually passed their credit check – but then decided it just needed too much work. It was in a really nice park just a mile from the Warren Dunes, so the location was tempting. At the end of the day, though, it just didn’t feel right.
Right after that, which was our second trip to Michigan to check out possibilities, we came home and started looking for houses to rent. We avoided apartment complexes because we have cats and there’s just no storage; we knew we’d be seriously downsizing, which is fine, but I was hoping to keep the furniture that’s sentimental to us for the future house that we purchase (which will hopefully be big enough for everything).
The house we eventually found has so many things in the ‘plus’ column that we can easily overlook the fact that it is small and lacking closets (no coat closet, the two bedroom closets are about one-fourth of what we have here). Those neighbors? Far enough away, with visibility blocked by trees surrounding the property, that I don’t have to worry about casual chit-chats, yet close enough that we don’t feel totally isolated. We have a full basement (unfinished but clean and painted) for storage, hardwood floors, an acre of land with permission from our landlady to plant as big a garden as we wish, a nice-sized kitchen, and a clean, freshly-painted interior that needs nothing done to it.
It’s just a two-hour drive from this area, so we can get back to see my family with no problem. There’s an Amtrak station right in town so the kids can travel from Chicago in just a little over two hours; because of the time change, they even gain an hour coming back (leave Michigan at 10 pm and get into Chicago at 11 pm, for instance).
Even though we’re just renting, it was one of those situations where you walk in and it just felt right. It felt like home. We’re just outside the city limits so it feels like we’re in the country, but we only have to drive a few miles to get to the main area of town. I love it!
So I’ll probably be scarce here (yet again) for the next month while we pack up this house and get ourselves moved to the fruit belt area of Michigan. We’ve been making weekly trips, bringing a few things at a time, to do things like get our banking situated, get utilities switched into our name, etc. Our big, final move will probably happen during the last full week of July.
On another note, all of the stress of the past month helped me reach my goal weight (YAY!) and then sail past it by a couple pounds. This is the first time since the late 1990s that my BMI has been in the ‘normal’ range; when I started all of this, back in October, my BMI was 31 (which is in the obese category) and it’s 24.7 now. Of course, I look at pictures and STILL think I look exactly the same as before. Maybe it’s because I’m short, and it just doesn’t show?!
So I’m going to sign off and go looking for a wool dust mop (something I never thought I’d covet) while Dave researches ways to set up a clothesline, something I’ve always wanted. He’s also telling me I need to buy work boots, which sounds ominously like he’s planning to put me to work around the yard and garden. Country living, here we come!
A few Sunday afternoon updates from our neck of the woods:
My oldest, Eric, turns 23 tomorrow and that just kind of blows my mind. I mean, I can remember being 23 very well, unlike, say, age five or six. In just two more years, he’ll be the age I was when I got pregnant with him. Which was just a couple years ago, I swear!
We were trying to make plans to get together and celebrate his big day, and since it falls on a Monday that means we really have to plan it for a weekend. We tentatively set it for today, and Paige came out (from her dad’s) a day early. Then Eric couldn’t make it, so we got a bonus weekend with Paige! 🙂 Plans have been tentatively rescheduled for next weekend and fingers have been crossed.
Paige arrived at the train station yesterday brandishing her very own driver’s license. She’s the first of the kids to get one (she turns 19 in August). I noticed a trend with my kids and their friends: very few of them get a driver’s license at age 16. Out of 10 kids, maybe two will have a license and access to a car.
Neither of my kids was interested in driving and getting their license at 16, which is the complete opposite of how I was at that age. In fact, I asked for driving lessons as my 16th birthday gift because I had a late August birthday and would have had to wait until the fall after I turned 16 to take Behind the Wheel in school. So I did it through a driving school that summer, and went on my birthday to get my license.
It was very different back then – I took a class in school during sophomore year, did my (very few, maybe six) hours with the driving school that summer, a little bit of driving with my parents (my mom still talks about how I scared her when I was learning to drive…I don’t think their hearts could take much practice driving with me), took the driving test, passed and got my license. Now if a kid aged 16 wants to get their license , they have to drive a minimum of 50 hours with their parents, and a certain number of hours have to be at night; you have to chart the weather conditions and how far they drove each time. I think both kids got maybe two hours of driving with us, tops, before they just lost interest. Once you turn 18, you don’t need to show all the hours of driving that you do if you’re 16.
Eric moved to the city and gets around via public transportation; a car would be a hassle more than anything right now. He never did bother getting his license. Paige waited it out until she turned 18 and then did some casual driving with her dad to brush up on what she’d learned at school and with us. She took the test yesterday morning and passed on the first try!
Dave’s six week Hepatitis C viral load count was 35,000 … down from 1.6 MILLION just two weeks earlier! The big test is coming up – this Wednesday, eight weeks in. We are really hoping to see the number under 100, so he can do the 28 week treatment instead of 48 weeks. Things are still going well, side-effect wise, with no change from what I reported before. He is, however, really irritated that he hasn’t lost tons of weight. Personally I’m glad he’s not suffering from nausea; after going through two pregnancies with some pretty major morning sickness, I can safely say I’d rather gain weight than constantly feel nauseated and grossed out at the thought/smell of food. (Brushing my teeth made me gag…even the smell of bread baking at the grocery store turned my stomach!)
Dave diligently looks at houses in southwestern Michigan (where we hope to move in the next 18-24 months), daydreaming about what we’d do with each one as far as renovations or putting in a big garden or whatever. He found one today that just blew his mind, and I have to admit that it did look perfect; it made me wish we were in a position to just buy it right NOW. (That’s the only trouble with looking when you aren’t in a position to move yet…you always find The Perfect House and then it becomes The One That Got Away.)
He was showing me the pictures and describing everything, and then he excitedly said, “Really, it’s a plantation, not a house. You would love it. I’d even let you wear the curtains!”
I almost choked on my coffee when he said that; once I got a grip, I couldn’t stop giggling. (This will only be funny to people who used to watch the Carol Burnett show. It’s my favorite skit!)