Saturday, February 6, 2016

...And Then There Was a New House, Part 2

If you haven't already, you may want to read my previous post, which is the first part of this story. If you already read it and you're coming back to read the resolution of this little cliffhanger, I'm not sure I'll get all the way to the end in this one post. We'll see.

So, after months of waiting to see this house empty for the first time, we flung that door open, and...


Right in the face. In the mouth. In the nose. Way up in the sinuses. Instant burning. A very strong and unmistakable odor.

Cat pee.

We glanced at each other in horror. This could not really be happening, could it? No.

The first room you walk into is the kitchen. I set my keys down and leaned on the counter, kind of in shock. I think my sanity preservation instinct kicked in. I remember saying, "we just need to get some fresh air in here, it'll be fine." We ventured into the dining room and then into the living room. We were horrified all over again.

The seller had mentioned that her cats had the occasional accident on the living room floor. In all our visits to the house, we mostly only smelled cat pee near the litter box, and even then it wasn't any worse than you would expect near a litter box. We did catch a couple of wafts here and there in other areas of the house, but nothing severe. Even with Dave being allergic to cats, we weren't concerned about it.

We honestly couldn't figure out what happened between those visits and closing day a few weeks later. Maybe the cats got upset about the move and started retaliating on the living room floor? Hard to say. All we knew at this point was that the living room floor was extremely soiled with cat urine. There was a basketball-sized yellow spot in the middle of the living room, where a table had been. (Remember, this was our first time seeing the house empty.) There was about a four-foot section of the wall by the fireplace that was stained dark yellow from what we thought must be years of anointing by the cats.

We were so in shock and so horrified that we just stood silently in the living room for a few minutes. All that kept running through my mind was, "what did we just do?!?" As we did that first walk-through of the living area and the backyard, the displeasure intensified. It quickly became clear that the "move-out clean" she had done was not at all what a move-out clean should be. The counters had dust and dirt on them. The stove had a bunch of crumbs and food remnants all over it. All of the art that had been on the walls was removed, but all the screws and nails holding it up were left in the walls and there were really dirty outlines everywhere. I don't think the walls had ever been cleaned.

That wasn't all. There was a whole laundry list of things that were not as we expected.

  • She had told us on two different occasions, without us asking, that she was going to leave the very nice patio furniture set and one of the fire pits in the backyard. Both were gone.
  • She told us she had power washed the (large) deck in the backyard. Technically she did, but it looked like it was done by a 4 year old - still filthy.
  • The garage door opener only worked intermittently.
  • The dishwasher was not attached to anything, so when you opened the door, the whole appliance flopped forward.
  • One of the living room walls was completely full of cat scratches - they were concealed before by furniture.
  • There were random items left around the house, like a cracked vase (for cut flowers) on the back deck and a carry case for a collapsible lawn chair, and in the master bathroom, a night light that looked like a cat climbing into a toilet.  (Oh, the irony.)
  • The windowsill in the guest room, which had previously been too full of junk for us to really inspect, was water damaged.
  • The kitchen cabinet shelves were missing support pegs, so they sagged in the middle.
  • Multiple sets of bifold doors had broken hardware/guides.
  • The walls in the master bedroom are full of cat scratches, holes, and dents/blemishes.
  • Two of the three bedroom doors don't close properly.
  • The motion sensor light on the back of the house, which she had said just needed new bulbs, was actually broken.
  • The front door has large patches of missing/damaged paint. (We always went in and out of the garage!)
  • The downstairs bathroom wall is damaged due to a broken toilet paper holder being allowed to scratch it all up.
  • The master bathroom doesn't have a door. There is an extra door in the garage, but it has no doorknob?
I guess you probably get the idea.

It's probably good that we didn't have much time to brood on this, as the moving truck was backing up to the garage to unload. And so began a day of chaos, with the new house filling up with our belongings as planned, however now I felt sort of sick about it. I wanted to hose down the whole inside of the house with Lysol before anything we owned was unloaded. However, there was no time for that.

While the movers unloaded at breakneck speed, our first priority was getting our refrigerator and freezer contents from the apartment to the new house. I flung the refrigerator door open in the new house, and immediately had to try not to gag. It was as if someone had set a bowl of cat pee in that fridge and just let it marinate for weeks. There was spilled food and brown crusty stuff all over all the glass shelves and in the drawers. It hadn't been even superficially cleaned in a very long time. I hate to say it, but I really wondered if it had ever been cleaned since it was purchased in 2007.

Dave and I began frantically pulling all the shelves and drawers out of the fridge and freezer to wash and sanitize them, and the whole interior of the thing. The smell was so horrid. Our eyes and noses burned, let alone the plain ol' gross-out factor. We took turns reassuring each other that this would all work out. The house just needed to air out, we thought. Let's open some windows and doors. Let's Febreze that living room carpet until we can replace it, months down the road once the dust settles and we can afford it.

Little did we know...

Friday, February 5, 2016

...And Then There Was a New House, Part 1

Once upon a time, probably nine-ish months ago, a co-worker who was preparing to retire approached me and asked me if we were interested in buying her house. At the time, we had been in our "temporary" apartment for well over a year - longer than we'd hoped - and we were planning to wait another few months before we got pre-qualified and began house hunting, since we were in a lease.

When she first asked me, I laughed. She lived in a very nice, quiet neighborhood that was in our top three choices of areas (not including the spendy houses on the hill, that is!). I told her I would love to look at buying her house, but that I was pretty sure it was outside our budget, based on neighborhood alone.

And then she uttered some words that would live in infamy.

"Actually, I was thinking of selling it for the amount you said was at the top of your price range, if we can do so without realtors, since that would save me a ton of money."

Or something to that effect.

Of course, red flags went off all over the place when she said that. But, we'd known her long enough to not be concerned about any deception or anything. The concern was more about trying to broker the sale of a house by ourselves. It seemed daunting. We had already purchased two houses before, so we basically knew the drill, but still - who would swoop in and save the day if any complications arose?

If only I knew then what I know now.

Over the next few months, we visited the house probably ten times. At first we were just wandering through, and then as time progressed and we got more serious, we wanted to check out specific things about the house. We were trying to make sure we caught every possible thing that could be a problem, since we wouldn't have a realtor to do it for us. It was (is) a very nice house, only a dozen years old so no major repairs should be needed for a while, and the layout is exactly what the kid requested: living space on the ground floor, all bedrooms upstairs. That's kind of a funny story all in itself - I'm pretty sure he was asking for that because our house back in our hometown was laid out like that and I think maybe he misses it a bit, like his Mommy does...

A few weeks before the 'for-sure' date she gave us for a decision, we told her we were ready to move forward. Our pre-approval was ready and we both sat down at the kitchen table with the seller and filled in a blank "for sale by owner" sales contract. And so began a two-month-long process of fumbling through all the necessary steps.

The inspection went very well, though I admit we weren't thrilled when we arrived for the inspection and found the inspector (whom we had chosen) was apparently an old friend of hers. He turned out to be great, though. "This is a very clean property," the inspector said to us. The grout needed to be re-done in the master shower; Dave quickly volunteered to do that himself. There were a handful of other things, nothing major, and we all quickly agreed on who was going to take care of what.

The appraisal went well, too. It came in a few thousand over the sell price, which is ideal for a buyer. We were very excited. It seemed to be the final procedural hurdle. I was kind of having to micro-manage our lender's representative, as she just did not have a sense of urgency about anything, and also was missing a pretty important eye for detail. If not for my intervention, we would have been asked for a much higher amount up front at closing than we should have. I was annoyed for having to babysit the whole thing, but it was worth it. Despite some bumps in the road and some frantic phone calls, everything finally worked out and we went to closing. The seller was not leaving the state until the day after closing, so she had asked us if she could stay in the house that last night. Without hesitation we said yes.

That next day, around noon, she let me know that she was headed down the highway. We were busy with the movers packing up our apartment. When they got finished, somewhere around 3pm, we finally had an opportunity to go see the house empty for the first time. I was so excited when we pulled up, I was fidgeting in my seat!

Oddly, the first two things we noticed when we pulled into the driveway were a trash can next to the garage that was positively overflowing, and that the two flower baskets on the front of the garage contained dead flowers. Huh. Weird. But obviously those were little, tiny, not-worth-mentioning things. Just not the most charming welcome to our new house!

We opened the garage door to find some surprises. She left us the lawnmower as promised, which was wonderful. She also left various yard type things, like potting soil and pots and a seed spreader and just a bunch of random stuff. That was all fine, just unexpected. Then, with great anticipation, we approached the door to the house. I remember looking at Dave with excitement, taking a deep breath, flinging the door open, and...


Something slapped us in the face. Hard...

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

I Have the Urge to Write...

But I cannot get started. I still have two more days to cover from our vacation which was now nine months ago (what?)... but the pictures are tricky for reasons that are both too complicated and too silly to get into here and now. And what on earth is the point of a vacation post with no pictures?


So, two months ago, we bought a house. And so begins an extremely long story full of ups and downs. Well, I guess it actually starts about four months ago when we were approached with an opportunity to buy a great house at a great price.

Maybe if I leave myself that setup, I'll be able to write more in a day or two. I'm trying here!

Friday, June 5, 2015

First Big Family Vacation - Day 5

Here we are, already on the fifth day of our Seattle vacation , or as I affectionately call it, the day we learned that GPS's don't work well in a concrete jungle.

After spending the first four days of our trip driving all over creation to see various family and friends, we finally took a day to head to downtown Seattle and enjoy the touristy stuff. As a huge bonus, Dave's aunt (the one who surprised us with her presence on day two) decided to tag along for part of the day! We were all very excited about that, especially given the intense cold shoulder disappointment we experienced the day before.

We made our way to the downtown area after breakfast, with much excitement! Aidan had been begging for days to go to the Space Needle, and since that particular place is such a huge and happy childhood memory for me, I was dying to take him. But first, we were to meet our auntie at the Seattle Aquarium. I couldn't wait!

As we neared the core downtown area, I started noticing that Emily, the lovely British woman inside our rental car's GPS, seemed to be getting confused.  She wasn't sure where we were, nor which way we should go. The bigger issue was that her uncertainty did not cause her to stop giving us (what ended up being poor) directions. We got a bit turned around. She even told us to get out of the car once and walk the rest of the way. True story! We were not amused. Oh, and how about some road construction to further complicate navigation? Why not?

With all that said, though, I do love downtown. As a sheltered Alaskan kid, I'm always so blown away by the massive buildings. I think they're pretty.

We finally found our way with the use of two iPhones. We read there was a parking garage right across the street from the Aquarium. We found that and ventured in, only to learn it was cramped, damp, creepy and smelly. The smell of urine was a lovely distraction from the fact that the doors seemed to have locks and bars on them where they shouldn't have. By some miracle we made it out of there alive and wandered across the street.

While Aidan was totally captivated by the Aquarium, I was flooded (see what I did there?) by childhood memories of the place. It was just wonderful to be back there.

Did I mention it was a good time?  The Seattle Aquarium is actually not all that large, which might be my favorite thing about it. You can see everything in a couple of hours, and still leave feeling impressed and like you've done something to connect with nature.

After the Aquarium, we wandered down the boardwalk not-very-far, looking for lunch, and found the Crab Pot restaurant.  I thought the place was cute and I felt inexplicably compelled to buy a tee shirt there that said something like "I got crabs at the Crab Pot!" I talked myself out of it just in time.

After we filled our bellies and said goodbye to our auntie who had other commitments for the afternoon, it was time to tackle another attraction. Aidan first spotted the Great Wheel last winter in a skyline shot of Seattle during a Seahawks game on TV. He asked if we could go on it when we went to Seattle. To say he was excited about this would be an understatement...

I'm proud to say the kid had no idea that was really nervous about this! I definitely wanted to do it, but I'm not big on confinement nor being way off the ground, and on top of that I have balance/vertigo issues sometimes, so it was a bit scary. But we climbed into our lovely enclosed private gondola and off we went! It felt pretty weird at first since the gondola was rocking, but after the first couple times around, I got used to it and felt comfortable enough to enjoy it and take some pictures.

That last one has been the wallpaper on my iPad since the day it was taken! I just love it.

Any guesses as to what came next?!

YUP!  Finally!

It was like walking up to an old friend - except the whole area has changed so much from what I remember 30 years ago. Of course when you walk into the base of the Space Needle, you walk immediately into a giant gift shop, where I spent more than I should have but far less than I wanted to, so I call that a victory! Tickets to ride to the top are spendy, but really, how often would we get this chance? And I certainly could not deny my kid a trip to the top of the Space Needle he'd been begging to visit for over a year. So, up we went.

I had forgotten just how stunning the views are up there.

There's a little cafe up there and tons of info about the Space Needle and Seattle in general. I absolutely loved it, even if I felt a bit dizzy most of the time thanks to my oversensitive ears. I also am certain the thing kept swaying back and forth slightly when we were at the top, but Dave insisted it wasn't. I still think it was! At some point it occurred to me how much I would NOT want to be at the top of the Space Needle in a big earthquake. I quickly shoved that thought away and laughed at how my brain works sometimes.

After descending from the sky, we decided to hit one more attraction, even though we were getting tired and ready for some relaxation. 

My mom used to take me on the monorail in Seattle when I was a kid and I thought it was so cool! Naturally we had to take Aidan too. It's a short ride - maybe five minutes each way - but since he loves all things train-related, he loved every second. We had hoped to have time for a couple other fun things at Seattle Center, but it just didn't happen this time. 

In hindsight, we should have stayed there for just a bit longer, because our next adventure shall forever be known as 'that time we tried to get out of downtown Seattle at exactly 5:00.'  Oh my goodness, what a mess an adventure that was! I can't remember how much time it took us to get to Mukilteo, but I remember being quite frazzled by the time we did.

Thankfully, we had another opportunity to visit with not only my Grandma and Pop, but my uncle and aunt were there too, so we got to see them for the first time in about ten years. That was really wonderful! We had a great dinner together and I so enjoyed getting the chance to catch up with them. I adore them both.

That wraps up a very eventful day five! We truly had a blast. And once again I was grateful for the very nice hotel to go 'home' to that night. I was exhausted, and again, fell asleep in seconds.

Monday, June 1, 2015

First Big Family Vacation - Day 4

By the fourth day of pretty much any vacation, I am usually beginning to feel a little fried and ready for a mellow day. Thankfully, that's exactly what we had in store for day 4.

From our hotel in Mukilteo, we decided to head north a little to explore. My mom had told me repeatedly there was a quaint little town up by the water, with a little lighthouse. She was right! We saw Ivar's - though never did make it there to eat, unfortunately - and then found the park with the lighthouse and ferry terminal. 

Aidan loved walking on the beach collecting shells. It was a chilly, gray day - my favorite - but I had neglected to bring a jacket, and it was extremely misty out. It's unlike me to wimp out because of cool weather or rain, but this time I did, as I didn't want to look like a drowned rat for the rest of the day. The weather on our trip sure was a lovely contrast to what was happening back home, which was 6" of snow the night before we left, wind, and cold.

After exploring the waterfront area for a little bit, we headed south of Seattle to visit our company's location there. It is a regional service center type place, so we deal with the people there on a daily basis, but had never met most of them. We got a nice little tour, met lots of great people, and had a lovely visit.

At this point, we began trying to contact Dave's sister about the day's plans, as she lives right near the place we had just visited. She had told us the night before to text her in the morning and we'd hang out. We weren't shocked when she didn't answer right away, as that is fairly typical. So, we decided to seek out some lunch in the area while we waited.

For the 18 years we have been together, I have been hearing all about hubby's childhood fondness for a particular fast food restaurant in the northwest. I don't believe I'd ever been to one. So, what better time than right now? I googled it, then entered the address in the GPS. Within minutes we were sitting down.

Okay, yes, not the healthiest option in the world. Shush, we were on vacation. I must say it was rather delicious for fast food! I especially loved all the emphasis on recycling and not generating more trash than is necessary. I'm happy to spend a couple more bucks and not contribute much to the landfill. 

We left there with full bellies, and decided to explore the area a bit while waiting to hear back from Dave's sister.

I could tell you a long, frustrating, and sad story about how this whole thing played out, but I honestly don't feel like giving it the time and effort. I'll just go ahead and skip to the end. She completely ignored all of our attempted communications and stood us up. And my husband, who is much better at giving people lots of chances than I am, and who had his heart set on seeing her, wanted to wait around for quite a while hoping to hear from her. 

So, long story short, we blew half a day of our vacation wandering around her area hoping she would reach out. No dice. Super fun with a 4-year-old in tow, I tell you. Sometimes I don't get people. I was sad, but more ticked. I don't like seeing my husband crushed. It makes me very angry. But, I'm realizing that you can't make people give a darn about you, blood or not. Sad, but true. Thankfully we had tons of other people who DID want to see us, and we had great times with them instead.

On another upside, during this time, we found a nifty shopping center just chock full of stores that we don't have in Alaska. So, it was not altogether a waste, though we'd much rather have been spending time with family. I stumbled across a clothing store that I would give a limb to have in Alaska! It is very hard for me to find off-the-rack clothing, but this place was full of it! I spent an hour in there and $300. Oops. But so worth it! The clothes are fantastic and I very rarely buy clothing because I hate shopping so much. So that was great.

Dave finally gave up on his sister around dinner time. We'd seen a Sizzler on the way in, which I know is not exactly high-brow dining, but we used to have one back home and it closed many years ago. So it was a place that both of us had a lot of childhood memories. It was fun to go to the modern version. The food was good. After that, we headed the 45 minutes back to our hotel. I must say, I love the Seattle skyline! (Pardon the crummy moving iPhone pictures through car windows in the dark...)

I could stare at that night skyline for hours without getting bored.

My husband sighed a lot when he got in bed that night. I tried to hide my anger. Neither of us slept worth a darn.

First Big Family Vacation - Day 3

This second full day of our vacation will probably go down in Aidan's memory as 'the day we learned the hotel has free make-your-own Belgian waffles.' Oh my heavens, this kid was excited.

All joking aside, we did find out that our hotel had a really good free breakfast - not the mediocre-to-disappointing sort of thing we've found at most other places. I felt really good about that since the hotel was quite a bit more expensive than we usually go for. At least we were saving money on food?
Enough about breakfast!

After that was done, we hit the road south to Tacoma to visit my cousin and her family. She and I had not seen each other in something like 25 years! We used to write letters back and forth as kids, back when long distance phone calls actually cost something and we couldn't really call. Of all the dozens of cousins I have on that side of my family, she and I have somehow always had a special bond even though we've never seen each other regularly, having never lived in the same state. I was SO excited to be headed to her house.

Thankfully we only had one unplanned detour on the way from north Seattle to Tacoma thanks to some confusing road signs. (That's our story and we're sticking to it.) But it was no big deal, we ended up back on the interstate soon enough and saw some cool stuff in the interim that we wouldn't have seen otherwise. Eventually we made it to my cousin's house and had a lovely reunion.
I finally got to see her house, which was lovely, and has a great story to go along with it. My uncle, my cousin's dad, helped her get into a house before he passed away years ago. As luck would have it, she ended up falling in love with the guy selling the house. He moved back into it and they got married! Speaking of her husband, after only communicating with him on Facebook for the past few years, it was wonderful to finally get to meet him and spend some time with him. He's great and so perfect for her.

We headed out almost immediately to this awesome place! Neither hubby nor I had ever been there, and being a bunch of animal lovers, we were very excited. The adventure there was a bit rushed, but still marvelous. There were elephants and sharks and monkeys and my favorite animal on the planet (sea otters) and baby tigers, need I say more?!

After the zoo, we went back to my cousin's house. The boys (her two and my one) and the men (hers and mine) played with toys and video games while us lady folk got to spend some time in the kitchen together. She wouldn't let me help with dinner, so I stood there and pretended to be useful while we got to catch up on 25 years of life lived too far apart. We had a lovely dinner before heading an hour back north to our hotel. We had to use Netflix on the iPad to keep the kid awake that long, as he was completely worn out from the day's activities.

Actually - we did take one little detour on our way back to the hotel. Dave's sister, who is hard to reach via electronic means most of the time, works about halfway between my cousin's house and our hotel. We hopped off the interstate and after getting turned around a couple of times, found her work and waited outside, as she was due to leave work any minute. We got to surprise her, which was really fun. We made plans to spend time with her the following day, and then took off to the hotel.

Again we all collapsed into bed at the hotel, exhausted, but so happy.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Some Heavy Stuff

I must interrupt this blog series about our family vacation to get some things off my chest.

First, let me be very clear. This blog is my space to write about anything I wish. Writing is very cathartic to me. I am somewhat careful about keeping this reasonably anonymous. I'm sure people could find out who I am if they tried hard enough, but you'll notice I often omit names or details in an effort to just be a little bit faceless on the big ol' Internet.

It is not my intention - EVER - to offend, hurt, or call out anyone on this blog, on any social media site, or anywhere else. Especially not anyone I love. By nature I am not a spiteful or malicious person, with very few exceptions. Those few exceptions would be people who have done really awful things to me personally or those I love. My default disposition is rather sunny with periods of anxiety, worry and generally putting too much pressure on myself.

I have been struggling lately. There are people in my life who have said and done things that, whether I should or not, I have taken personally. I know this is on me. I'm just really tender hearted, like it or not, so when someone accuses me of being cruel or doing or saying mean things, or rejects me, especially for reasons unknown, I take it harder than I probably should.

Combine this with the realization a while back that I don't need to feel obligated to keep people in my life who are toxic, have a negative effect, or who just don't truly care about me, and there's just a shift happening. I really don't make any apologies for my feelings on this. Life is just too short. Thanks to some recent drama that I can't even begin to understand, I have been thinking about pulling away from people in general to try to protect my feelings a little bit.

The first step of my plan was to deactivate my social media accounts. I really didn't want to do that, as there are people that I communicate with primarily through social media and who I would not want to lose touch with. For example, kiddo's birth mom. I definitely don't want to risk losing that tie, and sometimes she is hard to reach any other way but Facebook.

During a much-needed talk with a friend today, I realized something. Well, she made me realize something. Not only can I not control other people's thoughts or behaviors, but people who behave this way will always find something to take issue with. If it's not a post on social media (which I am careful about; I'm not a passive aggressive jerk on social media)... it will be some other random thing.

The whole point is - the issues are theirs, not mine. They can try to make the issues mine (which I believe is usually unintentional), but I don't have to take them on. That is a choice that I have to make. I can be dragged down into the mud, or I can stay upright and just do the best I can to be gracious and forgiving and to love unconditionally. I feel like I have allowed other people's words and actions to dampen those qualities about me. And that's not okay with me. Time to take control back.

As much as I wish I could fix all of this damage and make things better and keep it that way... oh how I wish I could do that... I just can't. The only things I have control of are my thoughts, my words, my actions, and my reactions. So from now on, I am choosing to work on re-sharpening my forgiveness, my gift for putting myself in someone else's shoes, my understanding, and my knack for giving people the benefit of the doubt.

I will be happier and maybe I can make others happy in the process, too.

Win win.