Two months in…

For lack of a better update, after making the first two of 360 scheduled payments the whole “new house thing” is coming along nicely (I’ll just set aside the discussion on storm water and runoff management for the moment). The boxes are almost all unpacked, with the empties being passed along for others who had use for them. A few rooms still look awfully sparse – a surprisingly nice side effect of trebling the square footage you occupy. The empty maw of the dining room was filled in with pieces that have been knocking around the family for over 100 years. The 3rd and final bedroom is an ongoing effort that has been part staging area for all the other rooms and part catch all for the things that don’t fit in anywhere else. Under other circumstances that would have been the designated home office, but in this case other more convivial locations were available.

The stacks of cardboard have even disappeared from the garage. I’ve resisted the temptation thus far to organize that space on the fly so it’s still basically controlled chaos. With the rest of the house whipped into livable shape, though, it should be long before I jump in to get tool racks hung and bring my own brand of order to everything piled onto shelves and ever available flat surface. One temperate weekend afternoon should suffice to get that effort out of the way. Like the back bedroom it’s not one of those tasks I’m chomping at the bit to dive into. Since both require some serious organizational planning, I’d like to give it some time to ferment and then do it right so I only have to do it once.

I find myself still finding out the quirks and oddities of the house. There’s nothing earth shattering, but odds and ends I wish I’d have known about when I was writing up the pre-closing “owner will repair” list. All things considered though, the place is starting to feel like a home – or my home at any rate. I look forward to being there at the end of a long day not just because it’s where my stuff is or because it’s where other people aren’t, but for reasons far more intangible.

To be honest for the first few weeks I was confronted by “oh God what did I do” more often than I thought possible. The house and its nuances were all strange to me. Everything felt not-quite-right. It’s safe to say I’m well past that initial break in period. Sure, I still want to gut the master bathroom down to the studs and replace the tragically white composite kitchen countertops with something more substantial, but I won’t feel at all strange about doing it now. It’s taken a couple of whole-house cleanings, a few weeks of cutting the grass, and a whole bunch of rearranging furniture, but it feels indisputably mine now… and that’s not bad for being just a couple of months in.


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.

The search is on…

This little project to find a new and improved Casa de Jeff is beginning to get serious. How you know it’s getting serious is I’m altering the long-established Saturday routine in order to fit in meeting with a realtor and checking out a few potential houses. Between now and then I supposed I’ll have to firm up my list of must have options and the list of things I’m willing to trade away. Right now the must have list is pretty short – 1+ acre, 3 bed, 2 bath, and not in needing a gut-to-the-studs renovation. The willing to trade list includes central air, garage, and basically everything else. I like to think I won’t be picky or overly demanding, but I think we all know that’s a pipe dream.

Judging from the few places I’ve driven past to eyeball in the last few weeks, I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact that the dollar doesn’t stretch as far here in the Baltimore/Philly exerbs as it did in West Tennessee. I’m doing my best to adjust my expectations on fit and finish accordingly… on the bright side for you readers, very soon you’re going to be able to play along with my little game of taking pictures inside other people’s homes and wondering what the hell they were thinking with their design and decorator choices. That’s always a treat.

In the meantime, if I seem to get in too much of a rush, feel free to remind me that there is absolutely no timeline associated with reaching mission complete on this project. The plan is mostly to keep plugging away at it and hope I know it when I see it.

Information overload…

The problem with the internet is it puts every little thing you want to know right at your fingertips. Sure, that’s also the very best part of the internet, but that’s not the side of the coin I’m dealing with just now. In the opening stages of House Search 2015, I’m finding some decent places – or at least places to start… but then my damned inquisitive mind starts to wander.

It wanders to issues of property tax and leads me to the state government websites. It wanders to issues of boundaries, zoning, and planned nearby development which leads me to the county planning website. It skips towards flooding and hazard mitigation which leads me to FEMA’s notoriously inaccurate maps. And then there are the pictures – The fuzzy ones taken by the realtors and then on to the satellite imagery, bird’s eye views shot from airplanes, and Google’s evil car cam. As a side note, Google has not yet reached many the back roads of Ceciltucky. I find it oddly comforting that they actually don’t know everything.

I know more or less what I’m looking for in a house. I’ve moved enough to know what I like, what I don’t, and the fact that it’s all one enormous compromise in order not to totally blow the budget. I suppose it’s time to bring on a professional to help me narrow the scope a bit. From what I gather the good ones make pretty decent coin for sifting through the data I’ve been trying to manage on my own for the last few weeks.

I have to keep telling myself it would be a shame to just hand over their commission without really putting them through their paces to earn it.

Officially settled in…

After a weekend of furiously breaking down boxes and moving crap from one room to another, I’m please to say I seem to be more or less settled in here. Of course there is the spare bedroom that is crammed full of things I’m not at all sure what to do with and a garage stacked with cardboard boxes that need to be bagged, but for the most part stuff is where it’s going to go.

I also had my first visitor yesterday. The spaghetti seemed to turn out well, confirming that I can still boil water (with only one slightly alarming boil-over). The conversation was pleasant and all-in-all it was nice having someone around… especially when it came time to clean up. Any time I can avoid actually doing dishes, I’m pleased as punch (Thanks for the company, by the way. And come back any time).

One thing that has consistently amazed me over the last two weeks is not so much how much stuff I had actually been living with, but how many things I find I need that I didn’t have. I’m not actually talking about frivolous purchases here, but things like ladders, random hand tools, and a solid grip on basic carpentry. I’ve probably gotten more use out of my old set of Craftsman tools in the last two weeks than I have in the last five years. God help me, I actually spent time on eBay this afternoon looking for one of those big red tool chests for the garage. And after a week of using the kitchen counter as base of operations, I have come to the conclusion that I’m actually going to have to build a workbench in the garage. It can’t be that hard… right?

Yeah, I’m already planning on ordering at least twice the amount of material as I think I’ll need.

And then there was December…

money_pitWell, we’re moving right along through the 2006 archive. Today’s posts are from the pivotal period of early December 2006, when I was in the process of buying my money pit… er… I mean house in Memphis. I have to confess that there’s not a lot of drama there, but for at least one of us it’s interesting seeing where things were six years ago around this time and compare them with where we stand now. Whoever said “the more things change, the more they stay the same” was really on to something, there. If you’d have told me what drama the intervening six years would bring, I’d have never believed you. There never seems to be an end to the drama, but if nothing else, I’ve had the good fortune t live in interesting times… Or maybe I’ve just inflicted interesting times on myself. Either way. It’s been a trip.

Click over to the archives to start checking out that month that was, six years ago in 2006.

In the stretch…

The last two weeks have been the longest stretch since I moved in that something hasn’t gone horribly wrong. Nothing has broken. Nothing is leaking. There’s no new mold to report. No one has dropped of a junk car in the driveway. Things have settled into a relative state of normal. If anything, normal makes me nervous. It’s like the prelude to something worse. The calm before the storm if you will. It’s the new normal, means that I’m in a perpetual state of waiting on the other shoe to drop.

I should probably just embrace it and try to ride out the last two days of the workweek into a long weekend and trip home. There will be plenty of time for mayhem and chaos after Sunday. For now what I really need is a nice calm couple of days leading into what is looking likely to be the closest thing I do this year to taking a summer vacation. All is well. Things are good and my stress level is way, way down… so why do I feel the need for some all-American debauchery bubbling just under the surface?


It took two months to get the widgets lined up and a particularly bruising two hour visit to the Motor Vehicle Administration, but I’m pleased to announce that as of two days ago, I am now officially licensed and registered in the State of Maryland. Add that to the recent income tax deduction from my pay and it seems that I’m a citizen again and not just a resident alien. I sincerely hope that this brings to a close the saga of moving home from Tennessee. After this experience it’s safe to say that I have no intention of going anywhere ever again. Well, technically, I think that means I’ll be leaving my stuff here. I still have a little too much of the old wanderlust to stay put completely. But as far as a home base goes, it’s me and Maryland till the wheels come off.

4 hours…

I took four hours off tomorrow afternoon. Normally that’s good enough reason for celebration, but in this case it’s time dedicated to hanging out with the fine men and women of the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration. Come on… The filling out forms. The taking bad pictures. The standing in line. The standing in another line. The filling out more forms. And finally forking over a fistful of cash. That sounds like some real kicks on a Friday afternoon, right? If this goes as smoothly as everything else involved with this move, it should be finished with everything sometime next Tuesday. With the stack of paperwork I’m taking with me, I think I have all the bases covered… Which practically guarantees things will go horribly wrong in a new and interesting variety of ways.


As part of the mind-numbing process of restoring my status as a citizen of the great State of Maryland, my one year old truck was subjected to a vigorous “safety inspection.” I can’t be the only person that things this is probably overkill for a truck that rolled off the assembly line less than 12 months ago, right? But still, a “senior tech” poked prodded, scanned, and test drove my ride to make sure it was fit for service on the roads. Personally, I assumed that as long as it could roll through the toll booth, Maryland would welcome it. Apparently that was wildly optimistic. Although everything was in good working order, it seems my front window tint offended the sensibilities of the fine men and women of the Maryland General Assembly and in order to pass inspection had to be removed. Fine. Done. Give me my certificate of inspection and I’ll be on the way… and $139.00 lighter in the wallet. That and the $50 bucks its going to cost me to get the tint reapplied. I know I certainly feel safer.

So now, we’re on to the last step in the process. That would be waiting on MVA to let me know they’ve received my titled from Toyota, so I can drive over there, hand over 73 different forms of ID, give them more money to send a title back to Toyota, and walk away with a newly minted license that says I live where I live. If this process wasn’t intentionally designed to be a giant pain in the ass, there is a room full of bureaucrats somewhere in Glen Burnie who have missed their calling.