Rootless

I have been trying to buy a house. I did all the things I was supposed to do, provided all the paperwork, yada yada. I had no reason to expect anything to go wrong. Making the offer, getting accepted, getting the inspection, all that, took hardly any effort at all and was complete in under a week. Then the process was passed on to the mortgage company.  After waiting and waiting and waiting, life suddenly turned to shit. It began with the incessant requests for documents, even those previously requested and provided. It concluded with multiple requirements to spend insane amounts of money, and still no closing date. Today, we still have no closing date.

Along the way, I asked the mortgage broker, what is the worst case scenario?  A week, or more? I have to give notice at my rental. If I give notice for the first, will this pose a problem (closing was originally scheduled for the 23rd of July)? No, I don’t think so, he told me (Liar. Unwilling bearer of  potential bad news.). A week out should be fine. So I gave my notice. Big mistake number one. No, actually that was big mistake number two. Big mistake number one was choosing the mortgage company that I did. I had been pre-approved by another company, but I chose this one on the recommendation of my realtor. She’s wonderful. She had all the best intentions, but certain aspects were out of her control, like a useless underwriter who considered other files more of an emergency than mine, even three days after the original closing. My realtor has been as upset by the turn of events as I have, but she could not fix it. She could not make the mortgage company act any more quickly, or go back and change the date I had to move out of my house, the date the landlord wasn’t willing to extend because new renters wanted to move in, the consequence being that although there was no closing date, I had to leave July 31. And here we are, living in a hotel until tomorrow and then on to couch surf friends for who knows how long after paying $600 for a rental truck that was going to cost 40. I’m ready to give up.

We drove over to the old neighborhood tonight, Isabel and I. Driving past the Whole Foods, I felt like an intruder, like I didn’t belong or deserve to be there. Rootless. Alone. Right now, I feel so alone, like even being around people I am still isolated. Is this how it is for real homeless people all the time? That in not having a place to call their own, they don’t belong anywhere? Would it be any easier or less lonely if I had a partner in life? Would it be better if Milla were home, more grown up and able to understand than Isabel? I don’t know the answers to those questions because they aren’t my life right now. What I do know is what is. If I’m supposed to be getting something from this, I haven’t figured out what it is. I don’t like not having a place that is my own, somewhere to be comfortable and settled as I go out in the world to do my job or live my life or just be. Maybe the point is to learn to just be without a base, but I don’t know why that would be a useful lesson. I think it’s natural for most creatures above a certain brain size to crave a secure place for themselves. Even my kitty, staying in a large kennel at a friend’s, longs for her home and family, eating nearly nothing and worrying at what has become of her life. My dog seems happy, visiting a friend with two other dogs as if at a makeshift doggy camp. Oh, and Milla, visiting her dad and playing the video games I don’t allow. And actually Isabel too, is content as long as I am nearby. Perhaps it is just the cat and I who cannot deal with this, both of us because we don’t know what will be next, as if anyone ever does, but we are used to life’s moderate predictability. I don’t know. I do know I’m not comforted. I think of all I have to do and I’m tired. I don’t believe I’m learning anything I needed to. Maybe there isn’t a lesson. Maybe sometimes life just sucks and you have to get through until it doesn’t anymore, and that’s just all there is.

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Dribble, dribble, drip

Oh, moving is such a chore.  I haven’t done one creative thing in 2 weeks.  I haven’t worked on my book.  I have barely played my cello. I haven’t looked at my French lessons. I haven’t taken one photograph (except a couple with the iPhone). I certainly haven’t written any useless nonsense on this blog. I have spent all my free time packing and moving, then moving, and now unpacking.  Really I would like to find a home to stay in for a really long time. This one would work for me if the owner would sell it, but I’m not sure that’s going to happen.  I think next year I need to begin looking in earnest.  I don’t want to move again, but I need to find my own place.  However, I do like this house a lot.  It is much larger than the space we were in and it’s weird to be able to move freely and have places for things.  I loved the style and neighborhood of our little duplex, but the keyword there was little.  It was just too small, and it was never going to be a permanent home, as it was a duplex and a rental and I did not want to buy it. Plus three weeks before we left, the owner cut down the lovely tree in the front yard that was the only thing keeping the place from being a total fishbowl.  I had been feeling kind of sad about leaving the place, but the tree removal took care of that.

In any case, we are here now and the internet works, which is a plus.  I have been looking online on craigslist for some rugs.  I need one for Isabel’s room, the dining room, and perhaps up in what will be our family room.  The house is hardwood floors,so rugs make the house a home.

Craigslist is weird.  There are a whole bunch of ads for dead animal rugs.  First of all, how weird and gross is that, to walk around on some dead animal’s head and body?  I don’t get it.  There were a couple of tigers, a bear, and a cow skin.  Oh, last night i saw at Ikea that they were selling cow skins.  I just don’t find that look attractive at all.

The other thing I don’t get are ads that are selling some nasty old couch or something, with the caveat that it has holes and is covered in cat hair and probably stinks, but it’s a great, old friend, so you should want it too.  Oh, and it needs to be gone by this afternoon at 6.  And it’s $200.  Yeah, right.  Good luck getting someone to haul your ugly-ass piece of junk to the dump.

Work has been overwhelming.  I don’t know who I’m telling this to, but it has been crazy busy.  When I’m at the office I spend every spare minute cramming in work. A lot of the work is above and beyond the usual, so it’s even more workish.  I feel like a slacker for going to the bathroom or eating lunch, but since I’m one of those never-could-be-anorexic, desperate-for-food-every-five-minutes, kind of gals, I have no choice but to stop and eat.  Oh, and did I mention I’ve suddenly gone even blinder?  Last week after completely struggling to work because I could not see (this with + 5.25 prescription contacts in my eyes already) I got in the car and drove to Walgreen’s and bought some damn reading glasses for the office.  I already have several sets at home for playing the cello because I was having such a difficult time reading my music without them, but none were at the office and Walgreen’s was closer and I have no time to leave work and go home for glasses and….okay, enough long sentence.  You get the idea.  You being like the big, unknown they.  I don’t know who YOU is, or who I’m saying this to, I’m just saying it, or typing it, or something.  Oh, maybe Kathleen.  She said she reads these posts sometimes. Hi, Kathleen, if you’re reading this.

Anyway, I have to eat.  My stomach is growling.  I’m hungry.  It’s getting late and I need food.

Home Again

We have led a remarkably busy, whirlygig sort of existence over the last few weeks.  On August 5 we decided to move back to Portland.  As a child is imminent (due September 10), we wanted to accomplish a lot in a very short amount of time.  We also sent a moving truck along its merry way from NYC on August 13, and required a home for our belongings to land.  This put some pressure on us to get things done so we would not have to unload the truck into a family garage or storage unit, reload into another moving truck, and unload into whatever home we located.

Fate was with us.  We searched all day for five days for an apartment or house.  We applied at many locations and were accepted at one, but it wasn’t exactly what we were looking for.  Early the morning after that acceptance, I woke up too early (the m.o. these days) and was doing the search on Craigslist.  The first house to show up that morning was exactly what we were looking for.  I was reluctant to call because it was so early, but figured since the posting had just shown up the person must be awake.  So I called.  I am so grateful that I did.  We were the first callers and the owner said he gave priority in order of who called first.

Later that morning (last Wednesday) went and looked at the house.  Not only was it in the exact neighborhood we wanted, it was the style of house I love the most, had plenty of room, and was simply lovely.  It is a bungalow with a huge front porch, a fenced backyard, a full basement, and all the amenities we could ask for.  The old tenant was a cool guy who was heading to Canada to “hang out with his mom in Vancouver, B.C.”  He graciously agreed to allow our belongings to arrive before he departed, whenever that happened to be.  On Saturday we received the call from the driver that he would be in Oregon on Sunday.  We made arrangements for him to meet us at the house and we started calling friends.

Here is how Oregon is different for us from New York:  In New York, we had 3 people who could help us, one of whom had to leave after an hour for another engagement, leaving 2 people plus Dan to load our truck (considering at the time I was 35 weeks pregnant, there wasn’t a whole lot I could do in the hucking boxes department).  Here, we had 10 helpers, plus Milla had two girls to play with, daughters of one of the helpers.  Loading the truck took nearly 8 hours.  Unloading took under 3.  Unloading always takes less than loading, but the speed here was phenomenal, plus everything went into the house in an organized manner.  I couldn’t unload, but I could certainly direct traffic!

Basically, since we decided on August 5 to move back to Oregon, and arrived so late August 14 it may as well have been the August 15, we have managed to find a place to live, buy a used car, find a new midwife, and begin settling in.  We have been busy, to say the least, but so far things are working out.  Dan has had a few gigs and I’m slated to return to work for a firm here after baby is born and maternity leave.  It has been a lot of work, but it has been so worth it.

A year ago I could not wait to leave Portland.  There had been a long string of hard times and it was difficult to see a future here. Having left, spent too much money, and returned, I cannot imagine being anywhere else.  I am grateful for a place among family and friends.  I am so grateful we found a house we like in the neighborhood we wanted.  Now I just need to relax and sleep through the night.  It won’t be long before our little one arrives and sleeping through the night will be a thing of the past…

I Should Say Something

I’ve been running like a chicken with my head cut off.  On August 5, Dan and I decided to move back to Portland.  But we had to do it quickly because we have a little baby due on September 10.  We booked a moving van and began frantically packing.  We packed the entire apartment in six days!  The moving van arrived last Thursday, we loaded it up, cleaned up the apartment, and flew off on Friday.  We have spent every day since we arrived looking for a place to live so that when the moving van arrives it has a place besides Dan’s mom’s house to leave our belongings.  We have also been interviewing midwives and looking for cars. I have a job interview later this morning.  Dan got his old job back and has gigs lined up.  Overall, it’s been quite the whirlwind couple of weeks.  We have several applications in and one has been accepted, but we are waiting with bated breath to see if the application on our favorite place is accepted.  We are supposed to find out today.  I will keep my fingers crossed, then get ready to unpack. We have to nest before our little girl arrives!

Settling In To Our New Home

I live in an apartment where the previous occupants must never have cleaned.  It is easy to draw this conclusion based on the grime covering nearly everything, the sort of grime that requires years to accumulate.  Now, I completely accept that I am tidier than a lot of people.  I have higher standards than others when it comes to dust and whatnot.  I do not say this with any sense of superiority, but only to point out that I know I am pickier than a lot of people.  But seriously, the filth in this apartment takes the cake.  Even Boyfriend, who probably dusts twice a year, has been appalled at just how disgustingly filthy this place is.

Getting the apartment clean, and getting us unpacked and settled has been slow going.  As we have moved in, we have had to clean each place before putting anything away.  We left the rugs for each room for last.  The floors were so grimy the mop would catch on the goo in the first couple of runs over it.  Vacuum, then mop, rinse, mop, rinse, mop, rinse, sometimes six or seven times before we would get to clean wood.  Needless to say it has been slow going.

The windows easily qualify as the most dirty part of the apartment.  The outsides were so unclean, it was difficult to see through them near the edges.  The sills inside were so black with grime and filth that rags used to wipe them would be completely black.  I don’t mean a bit of dirt, but actually black as if they had been wiped through soot.

The other day I set out to try and clean these windows.  We had wiped down the inside in an effort to allow some natural light, but the outsides were so disgustingly filthy, with streaks of black grime, that every day appeared to be cloudy, even in bright sun.

We live on the fourth floor.  The windows in our bedroom are next to a fire escape, so I figured I could climb out there, although the prospect was not exactly appealing.  The living room windows, however, were another matter.  There is nothing between them and the cement below except air.  I decided I would reach outside with a mop and keep at it.  I did this, bringing the mop in every few seconds to rinse the soot-like blackness from the mop’s edge.  Then I reached out and up as far as I could in an effort to remove some of the streakiness.  The result was far from perfect, but a vast improvement.

In the meantime, Boyfriend had gone down to the basement to dump some recycling, then to the mailbox to pick up our mail.  He was gone a bit longer than I would have expected, but I was busy and did not really pay much attention.  A few minutes later, he came into the apartment, walked into the living room, and popped the bottom window down, exposing the outer face.  He then clicked some buttons on the top pane and lowered it.  Voilà!  Access to the outside of the windows!

It turns out he met a neighbor while checking the mail, a nice man who had welcomed us to the building the day we were moving in.  He saw Boyfriend and asked him how we were settling in.  Boyfriend mentioned the windows and wondered aloud whether the management company ever cleaned the outside, and the neighbor showed him how we could do it ourselves.

We are finally settlling in for real.  The windows in the living room and our bedroom are so clean, you can’t tell there is glass there.  Milla’s room and the kitchen are on slate for this week.  Curtains are up in the living room and our bedroom as well.  The rugs are on the floor.  There are only three boxes left, two of which are full of donation items we’re trying to figure out how to get rid of.  Overall, it seems our little home is coming together.

AAAAAACCCCCCKKKKKK!!!!!

Okay.  So I am going to spend a few minutes bitching and complaining even though I know that I am the person responsible for everything I am bitching and complaining about.  I get it.  This does not undermine my desire to bitch and complain, however.  I took it upon myself to pack all my shit in a moving truck and hike 3500 miles across the country with my boyfriend.  I get it.  I knew such an undertaking would result in chaos and disorder for a period of my life.  I get that too.  I underestimated how difficult it would be to reorganize having packed nearly all of my belongings over six months ago.  I also underestimated how long it would take to get things organized and situated within the tiny apartment in order to unpack.  I guess I really had no idea until I actually did these things.  I do know myself.  I do know that disorder and chaos for extended periods of time drive me batty.  I have been doing breathing exercises and working to relax through this transition.  As the chaos gradually turns to order, I have been moderately successful in these exercises.

Yet in the one area where disorder drives me the most insane is paperwork.  I cannot stand out of order paperwork.  I cannot stand not knowing how much I owe exactly, how much I have exactly, where proper tax documents are, etc.  I have taken to keeping all tax documents online in an effort to streamline this process and have been successful.  But this year is a mess.  All my stuff is spread between four boxes.  There isn’t anywhere to put anything.  I don’t know what I need, and I need to apply for scholarships and financial aid to two extremely expensive institutions.  On top of everything, both of these institutions require applications completed ONLINE.  Small problem.  No ONLINE.  No INTERNETS until next Friday.  One school’s papers are due that Saturday.  One’s are already overdue.  I cannot wait until Friday to work on these applications.  This necessitates running down to Starbucks to use the internets.  However the paperwork required for these give us all your information including the date of last intercourse applications is back at the apartment.  I get through a step.  I figure out what I need.  I go back to the apartment.  I look for the shit.  I find the shit.  I come back to Starbucks.  I discover another step not previously accessible.  I discover new paperwork requirements.  I have to go back home.  I’m losing my mind with this.

Today I discovered two MORE essays I have to write for the scholarship application to Columbia.  I have already written four admission essays and one scholarship essay.  The scholarship essays nearly mirror the application essays in some regard, at least two of them do.  For Christ’s sake, can’t they all read the same ones?  Apparently not.

So apartment chaos, financial applications, and lack of internets are all making me crazy as a nutjob.  I’m having batty stress dreams.  I also need to find a job and try to get the publisher I have been editing for to send me more work.  It’s enough to make me jump off a bridge.  If the water weren’t so frigid, that might be an appealing option.

January 7, 2009 Driving to New York

We just entered California on the second day of our great moving adventure.  We are both happy to be on the road and headed to our new home.  I have lived in a lot of places, moved around the country on several occasions, but this time feels surreal and exciting at the same time.  It is the first time I have decided to permanently settle somewhere besides Oregon, with no intention of returning, and the first time I have done so with another person.  We are both thrilled and a little scared.

The last few days have been exhausting.  We picked up our rental truck on Monday morning, drove to my friend Kathleen’s house to pick up my boxes that were stored there, drove to my friend Mark’s house to get the last of my boxes, then drove home to pack the truck with the piano.  Our timing was perfect; we drove up just as the piano movers did.

A word about piano movers–they are brilliant at their job.  They loaded up a baby grand and got her on the truck in under a half an hour.  I was mightily impressed.  We had a set of stairs at our Oregon house.  They led from the yard down to the street.  The piano movers backed up their truck and placed a bridge across.  They then just wheeled the piano across the bridge, backed their truck up to ours, set the bridge into our truck, and rolled the piano onto our truck.  Viola, piano loaded!

After the piano movers left, we loaded some gross furniture on the truck to take to the dump.  That was an experience.  We went to an environmental dump where they parcel everything out into different piles depending on what it is.  There was a giant wood pile, a giant couch dismantling station with piles of upholstery, foam, and wood, and a giant plastic pile.  The plastic was tossed onto a conveyor belt where it was dumped into a compactor that turned it into hideous, plastic lumps.  I am constantly refusing to buy certain items for Milla because they are landfill disasters.  I took a photo of the landfill disaster and sent it to her to see where all the ugly plastic goes when it breaks or someone doesn’t want it anymore.  Too bad we can’t put the dump next to Walmart or Target so people can see where the shit goes six months after they buy it.

After the dump at nearly 4 in the afternoon, we headed home to load up.  Boyfriend wanted to leave early Tuesday morning.  I thought he was being overly optimistic, but hey, who am I to rain on his parade?  Unfortunately, Boyfriend’s belongings were not quite packed yet.  We started packing boxes and loading the truck at the same time.  A friend came to help, but things were slow.  Another friend of Boyfriend called and offered to help.  It was dark but things were moving.  Boyfriend’s mom came and helped to pack the kitchen (thank goodness–she was a lifesaver).  Her fiance’ packed Boyfriend’s bike (thank goodness again).

One of our best helpers was Robert, an old, alcoholic singer with grey hair.  Long in the face and long in tooth, he is simply awesome.  He took charge and ordered Boyfriend and helpers diplomatically.  When rope needed cutting, he pulled out his trusty “Old Timer” pocketknife.  Such an old character, so cool, and he adores Boyfriend.  He was indispensable.

It became apparent after the mattresses went into the truck that all the stuff would not fit.  We packed the truck completely, but realized at about 10 p.m. we were going to have to get a trailer.  The rental places were closed at that hour so we amended our plan to leave until later on Tuesday.  Finally, at about midnight, we were ready to stop work and get food.  It had begun raining about 11, so we were grateful everything was in out of the weather and that we could finally eat.  After eggs at an all night Denny’s we headed home to get a tiny bit of sleep.  We had packed the bed so we curled up on an old twin mattress on the floor.

Our dog was confused by all the changes. She had spent the day wandering around watching all her stuff leave the house, her black, triangle-shaped head cocked to one side.  She lay on her bed next to us, blinking sleepily.  I can only imagine her doggy thoughts.  Probably not much more than some vague notion that life was not right, and hopeful her people wouldn’t leave.  Before dawn the next morning Boyfriend moved to his roommate’s futon because he kept falling off the twin mattress, so the dog came and curled up next to me.  It wasn’t until the alarm went off that I realized it was the dog I was snuggling and not my warm man.  She was a worthy substitute.

The next morning I immediately called the Uhaul up the street.  They had trailers we could look at.   As we drove the truck to get the trailer, it became patently obvious that the truck had not been packed evenly.  It listed precariously to the right, all the weight dragging it over.  A baby grand piano, 300 pound armoire, and thousands of records were all on one side, mattresses were on the other.  Damn it if we weren’t going to have to repack half the truck.

Boyfriend immediately jumped on the phone and called everyone he could think of who might help us.  An hour later we had three friends to help, the rain had stopped, and we began to furiously unload to beat the weather and lost time.  We managed to reload and load the trailer in only a couple of hours.  We both feel much better about the reload; the armoire and records are now on the opposite side of the truck from the piano.  We also repacked a bit more securely.  It must have worked; so far at every check, nothing has shifted and fallen.

We were finally able to leave the house at about 6 p.m. Tuesday night.  We had to stop and give a friend the key to Boyfriend’s car because he is selling it for us.  We also had to stop and buy a lock for the trailer.  It was rainy and late, and traffic was terrible because of the hour, but we were both so excited to be on our way, we didn’t care.

Boyfriend climbed a steep learning curve last night on how to drive a big truck with a trailer.  I have driven many trucks and trailers because I have hauled horses all my adult life.  I am used to the stopping distance and turning radius required.  I have learning how important it is not to overcorrect, how a little move of the steering wheel results in a big move with a heavy vehicle.  Boyfriend figured it out last night driving in the dark and rain.  Needless to say, his shoulders were a bit tense.

Today, however, is a different story.  He is driving like a pro.  At one point he went to pass a slow car in the right lane.  The truck began rocking side to side.  He held the wheel and the rocking gradually ceased.  Later, he was making strong man arms as he climbed the mountains at 45 mph.

Our iPhones have been a fantastic road trip addition.  Once we were finally on the road, we figured we would make it to Grants Pass, Oregon for the night.  I jumped on the internets and booked a room on Expedia for $40 a night.  Not bad for a twin bed, clean room, and warm bath!  Tanya the dog approved of the room, and she protected us this morning from an 80-year-old Navy veteran.  Good dog, Tanya!

Luckily for us but not so for the planet, it has been sunny and warm today.  It was too warm for hats and scarves, that’s for sure.  Anyone who thinks climate change is a myth is deluded.  We spent the last two hours driving over the Siskiyou Pass.  At 4600 feet there was barely any snow on the tops of the mountains off in the distance.  Everywhere else it looks like late August.  I can’t quite express my dismay and fear at the sight.  Things really are changing; arguing over it is a tragic waste of time.

Right now we are driving through Shasta national forest.  It is breathtakingly lovely.  Here there actually is snow on the ground, but the road is completely clear and dry and the sun is shining.  We could not ask for better conditions for driving the first week of January.  Our original plan was to head south through Albuquerque, but forecasts and friends assure us we can go through Denver without any problems.  We will decide here in few hours because we have to decide by Reno whether to continue to Elko or head south.  Right now it is looking like it will be Boulder.  We’ll get to stay with friends and see Milla besides.  Sounds good to me.