Feeling settled…

And here’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for – or at least the moment I’ve been waiting for – the last post (probably) from the house I’ve been renting for the last four years. I moved in basically sigh unseen. My furniture was about 24 hours behind me and it met all the major criteria. Basically it was available immediately and it had a fence. If I had to describe it in a word, I’d say the house as been “serviceable.” I’ve had my troubles with the place, but it’s been a good enough roof over my head and I’m sure next week when I drive past it I’ll look at it a little more fondly that it probably deserves. Sitting here now with boxes piled on every flat surface is not exactly bittersweet – I’m enormously pleased to be leaving – but there have definitely been a few moments of nostalgia this morning. There won’t be time for that tomorrow.

If I’m honest I’m still finding it a little hard to believe I’m a homeowner again. The reality hasn’t quite sunk in yet, although it got a little more real yesterday when two trucks and a trailer’s worth of “stuff” were deposited. George the Russian Tortoise has even taken up residence already so I’ll make at least one trip down this afternoon there to see how he made it through the night. I know it will feel a lot more like mine tomorrow evening when the furniture is basically in place and the dogs are threatening to trip me at every turn. At the moment, even with a few of my odds and ends there, it still feels like a big empty house – someone else’s big empty house. I keep expecting the old owner to wander down the hall and ask what the hell I’m doing in his house.

It feels a little like I’ve been in some stage of moving since I pulled up stakes in Memphis. In fact there are still boxes taped shut from that move that will get loaded on the truck tomorrow. That probably explains a bit about why I’ve never felt entirely settled here. We’re about to resolve that issue… and I can’t wait to get this all behind me so I can get out of a “moving” mode and into a “living” mode.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

All other annoyances this week have been superseded by this one:

Waiting for the last minute.

I understand selling a house is a complicated business. It’s not a mission to Mars or anything, but it’s complicated enough. At the same time it happens millions of times every year from one corner of the country to the other, so it’s not exactly like we’re trying to figure out how to do it for the first time. There’s no creative financing involved. There are no issues with the title. There is really not anything remarkable about this transaction in any way… except that putting together the final HUD-1, the document that lays out the dollars and cents of the transaction, is apparently the hardest thing to do in the world. Ever. I started writing this post 19 hours before closing and they still can’t seem to tell me exactly how big a bag of cash I need to bring to the table to get the deal done. I started asking for this document a week in advance specifically because I am going to review and understand where every penny is going. I’d hoped I would be able to do that on my own time, but if I have to sit in a room with the lawyer, the seller, and both our agents wasting half a day of their time tomorrow going over every item line by line until I’m satisfied it’s correct and my questions are answered, I guess we can do it that way too.

Note: In the interest of fair and balanced blogging I should tell you that I received the paperwork about 30 seconds after finishing the above paragraph. I’ve opted to let it stand alone because I still find it pretty damned annoying.

Masters of adaptation…

I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating – the dogs are even more creatures of habit than I am myself. That’s no small accomplishment. Watching them wander from room to room trying to sort out what to make of the stacks of boxes was fun for the first 30 minutes. Now it’s just sort of sad.

These two southern dogs have been here now longer than they were in Memphis so it’s as much or more home to them as anywhere else. Conveniently, dogs are masters of adaptation and will settle in to the new and different far more quickly than I will. Well, they’ll adjust quickly enough to everything except not having a fence. I know I’m going to miss that far more than they will, but it’s a mercifully easy fix – in theory.

I love these little hoodlums, but having one under each foot every time I move is wearing a little thin. I’ll be glad of getting them introduced to the house a bit this weekend so we can start getting back to our own warped version of normal. If we keep up the current routine much longer there’s a fair chance I’ll accidentally kill myself while tripping over one of them, falling into a sea of cardboard, and never being heard from again.

Getting boxed in…

One of the most challenging aspects of keeping this blog is always trying to sit down and say something even on those nights when I have nothing to say. In this case, maybe it’s more of a case of not having anything to say for public consumption. There’s plenty going on here at the cardboard box factory, but none of it is even mildly interesting – and certainly not interesting enough to stretch into an opinion piece. I have the distinct feeling that these next couple of days are going to be more about grinding the job out than having anything entertaining to say about it. There are only so many ways to say moving is a pain in the ass and I feel like I’ve delivered that message effectively already.

Through foreign vacations, career changes, the occasional personal issue, and the regular ups and downs of a life lived I don’t think I’ve ever declared an outright operational pause for this blog. I don’t think I’m going to do that now either because no sooner will I say I’m taking a week off then something stupid will happen and I’ll be right back here writing about it. Maybe I should just say that unlike every other normal week, posts for the next few days may not keep to any particular schedule. Then again maybe they will, but I don’t want to box myself into a case of over promising and under delivering.

For now, jamming the rest of my life’s accumulated possessions into cardboard boxes feels like it should take precedence. In a day or so it’ll be down to me, a few critters, and the network I wouldn’t be able to convince myself to take offline until the last second. The last few days of this process really are nearly intolerable.


As far as I can tell, there are about 3,572 different and distinct approvals needed in order to get a mortgage. There’s the pre-qualification, the pre-approval, and the tentative approval through the loan officer. From what I’ve gathered in the last thirty days, none of those three types of approval mean a damned thing to anyone. The only kind of approval that matters when it comes time for a six-figure loan is the one from the mortgage underwriter stating all conditions are cleared and the loan is well and truly approved.

The “clear to close” approval is the one I finally got this morning – a whole three days in advance. I feel like it’s a major accomplishment.

The final walk through is scheduled. The seller is preparing to produce receipts for all requested repair work. Closing is set for noon… and my inner paranoid pessimist is screaming out his familiar warning that someone, somewhere will find some way to send this thing hurtling wildly off the rails at the last moment.

I’ll feel infinitely better once I’ve signed away the next 30 years in exchange for a set of keys… or some magic beans. Either way.

Coke or Pepsi…

As a one-time member of the Republican Party, I still identify more closely with them on most positions than I do the more liberal opposition. Though my membership has lapsed, I do follow Republican party politics more or less the same way a casual baseball fan in the 50s might have followed the box scores in the newspaper every morning. I like to have a sense of who’s up, who’s down, and what’s happening over in the big tent while I lurk out among the fringes.

This weekend has been all about Ted Cruz – not surprising since he’s the first Republican to get out in front of the election. Until someone else formally throws their hat into the conservative ring, that mean’s Ted is going to command the news cycle. He’s going to be the (most likely) temporary face of the Republican Party…

If anyone needs anything, I’ll be over here just wondering how a group of reasonably educated, mostly employed, and politically savvy people have decided to give Ted a chance to carry the standard forward. Seriously? If that’s the face of the future of conservatism in America I’m not sure there is a lesser of two evils to pick from any more.

Coke. Pepsi. Either way it’s just over-sugared water that ends up being bad for you. Campaign

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Customer service chats. I like the customer service chat functions available through most major businesses. They save me from calling an 800 number and sitting on hold for half an hour. They save me from sending an email that “will be answered in 2 business days.” It’s instant enough gratification that I can call up a chat from my desk at work and get on with my day while resolving whatever issue I happen to have. I’m always surprised when I’m doing business with a large commercial entity that doesn’t offer this convenience… and it always makes me want to deal with them a little bit less.

2. Boxes. I forgot how incredibly awful living eyeball deep in cardboard boxes really is. Now that we’ve reached the stage of the process when just about everything that’s not tied down is living in a box, running into a moment of “oh, I can’t do that because X is packed already” is becoming situation normal. Although the situation will theoretically resolve itself in short order, I’ll be a far more content human being when there’s more stuff coming out of boxes than there is going into them.

3. Staff work. Some weeks there’s more work than three people could do washing across my desk. Other weeks it’s a challenge to keep the cobwebs from taking over. This week has been a case of the latter. The nature of the work doesn’t exactly lend itself to a nice constant flow, but damn it would be nice if it did.


Usually writing is my pressure release valve. Tonight it’s feeling a bit too much like real work to be particularly enjoyable. I’ve got plenty of ideas – and even a “by request” still in the queue, but the fact is I just don’t feel like stringing together a little slice of life story this evening. It’s not so much that I’m physically tired as it is my brain just feeling a bit pooped. With eight days (assuming everything goes to plan) between now and closing, the volume and velocity of things that need done are picking up dramatically.

Then I remember that the pace only increases after closing – with the first round of household goods making the move the following day and then the vast majority of my gear making the three mile trip two days after that. I’m doing my level best to stage everything to make it all happen as seamlessly as possible… the down side of that being it all requires a pretty precise level of attention to detail to make sure all the gears mesh. They way everything is set as of this evening the plan gives me seven days to tear down, move, reset, and establish some semblance of order at the new place before jumping back into my version of a normal routine. Of course it it happens to be raining on any one of those days the whole schedule gets shot to hell and the process gets to start over from scratch. No pressure.

For now I’m going to throw down another few cups of coffee and push back the whole pooped feeling and get a few more things checked off the list tonight. At least when I hit the sheets tonight I’ll feel like I’ve earned it.

Joe… just joe…

Dear Starbucks,

No one loves your cup of joe more than me, but really I wish you’d just stick with providing coffee and a scone without offering up a side order of social commentary. I’ve come to your establishments across the country secure in the knowledge that I could order a venti vanilla latte extra hot with a shot and have it delivered up consistently from coast to coast.

What I’m generally not looking for with my jolt of hot caffeine is a debate or discussion with the staff on same-sex marriage, or gun control, or race relations. God knows there are enough venues available where those topics can’t be escaped. I hate to think your shops are just another place to avoid now.

Look, I know coffee shops have a long history of being a hotbed of radical thought and gathering points for critical discussion of the issues of the day… but for the love of God that’s what the internet is for now. I’m begging you to just be a place I can go to get a reliable cup of coffee. If I want politics with my caffeine I can always swing by McDonald’s every morning and listen to the old men bitching and complaining.



Read the inspiration for this post here.

Living the dream…

Picture it. Appalachia. 1984. If you asked the average five or six year old in that time and place what he or she wanted to be when grown, the answers you’d hear would probably be something like fireman, cop, nurse, baseball player, a teacher, or vet. My answer was pretty much always that I wanted to be a senator when I grew up. Even from a young age I had a sense that high office was pretty damned good work if you could get it.

Today, by contrast, I wouldn’t want to be a senator for 10 times the salary. I’m not sure I could spend the day dealing with sycophants and lobbyists, the right wing crackpots like Tom Cotton and Ted Cruz, or left wing ideologues like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. I don’t know that any amount of senatorial decorum could stop me from carrying out my deep desire to heave the whole lot of them into the Potomac. At least now I know what I don’t want to do.

What I do want to do – what I’d consider my dream job today – is a little harder to pin down. I know I’d want to write, but not all day every day. I’d like to have an unlimited amount of time to sit on a sunny porch in the morning and drink good coffee. I’d like to walk through the woods, ride 4-wheelers, and shoot guns. I’d like to really take the time to learn how to brew beer and distill whiskey.

As far as I can tell, my dream job is essentially being a PowerBall jackpot winner and having the financial freedom to pursue whatever happens to interest me in the moment. Don’t get me wrong, I’m compensated well for the time I spend in the office, but it doesn’t take too many days of playing “Who Has the Key to the Mysterious Locked Equipment Room” or “1001 Ways to Make Your PowerPoint Better” to make a guy wonder if there’s something more out there.

I’m not Thoreau and this place certainly isn’t Walden, but it keeps me off the streets. That’s probably as much as a reasonable person could want… but I’ve never claimed to be the model of reasonableness. So the answer to the “dream job” question really is, “it depends.” It depends on the day and hour you ask. For me it’s always been something of a moving target.

This is the second of three answers “By Request.” Thanks, Chrissie!