Becoming those people…

Six years ago today the spot where I’m sitting to write this was covered by a stack of boxes freshly hauled inside by three guys from Allied Van Lines. If you find yourself in a position to move your entire household after the age of about 30, I promise you hiring the job out is absolutely worth the money. You’ll have plenty of time to throw out your back moving furniture into just the right spot or lugging boxes once they’re already in the house. Moving is chaotic enough without personally schlepping every item you own in from the curb.

For most of these last six years, every spring has involved a minor crusade against the green algae that appears inevitably on the north and east sides of the house. Usually, it was a minor annoyance that could be beaten back with a good scrub brush, a hose, a few helpful chemicals, and half an afternoon of concerted effort. It’s not the kind of yard work that’s particularly fun, but necessary for the sake of keeping up appearances.

Over the last year or two, the algae has been creeping higher than can comfortably be reached, even with a ladder. Worse yet, the roof is now showing undeniable signs that good growth of moss is starting to take hold. I love my woods full of old oaks and poplar, but this is one of the inevitable inconveniences – and not one of those that can be remedied by ignoring it until it goes away on its own. 

I’ve long since gotten too old and fat to risk falling off my own roof… a result that feels almost inevitable if I were fool enough to take on the job myself. Since I’m going to have the roof done, I might as well let them take on the gutters while there here. The fascia and soffit are filthy too. The algae needs taken care of. Since there’s a spot of it up towards the gable end, they might as well deal with that while the equipment’s already going to be here.

Yeah. I’ve apparently become one of those people… but at least the exterior of the old place will look better than it has since I took over the management here. Even if that means I’ve got to pay someone to scrub the place from roof peak to foundation.

Selling the old rental homestead…

The little house I rented when I first arrived back in Maryland is about to be for sale.

I didn’t love the three-level split layout. I didn’t love the baseboard electric or window air conditioners. I didn’t love how the place was inexplicably hard to keep clean or how it was staggeringly dark inside.

It had a fenced yard, the owner allowed dogs, and it was available immediately. Those things overrode all other considerations and sealed the deal… because every shred of the personal belongings I couldn’t fit into my truck, were two days behind me on a trailer and arriving whether I was ready or not. 

Once I started going around the nominal property manager and working directly with the owner about things like vehicles the previous tenant abandoned in the driveway, mold in the basement, and appliance repairs things got better. I whipped the yard into shape and made the place surprisingly presentable considering it hadn’t been updated since it was built sometime around 1988. 

I’d never want to live there again, but damned if seeing it posted as a “coming soon” didn’t make me just a little bit nostalgic about a couple of memories made in that little house that that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

I hope someone snaps my old rental homestead up, gives it a bit of the TLC it needs, and makes it a proper home. It’s got the bones for it, if someone has the vision and a few dollars to spare.

The cost of getting the job done…

I moved into my current house five years ago. Sure, the movers got everything through the door, but my job was making sure once it’s was in that it was situated in the right spot. Over the years I’ve acquired some cheats and tools – a vast collection of furniture dollies, hand carts, straps, and plastic sliders – to make moving large objects easier. Working smarter, not harder, is an absolute necessity when you’re an army of one.

I was more than capable of slinging my big oak bookcases through the house five years ago. That was 37. This morning I’m finding that getting them across the room left me twisted up in a curly que and just barely able to put down fresh water for the dogs. Yeah, I definitely pulled something. This is apparently 42. 

I still feel strong as a bull moose… and I still got the job done, though it seems there’s an increasingly high price to pay for brute strength-ing things into place. I’ve always tried to work smart, but it looks like I’ll have to work smarter yet to keep from wrecking myself.

If anyone needs me, I’ll be over here popping ibuprofen and and reeking of IcyHot.

May 4th or: On having no regrets…

Five years have come and gone since I was sitting in a West Tennessee cubicle and received a call from Mother Maryland that it was, at long last, time to come home. I will always celebrate it as one of my personal high holy days – the beginning of the end of a particularly troublesome personal and professional period otherwise known as my late twenties and early thirties.

Somehow it feels like it was a lot further away than just five years ago. The transition came with its own set of pains and problems, of course. The rental and eventual sale of a decidedly underwater house, footing the bill for dragging my gear a third of the way across the country, renting a house here sight unseen, the drug addict neighbor, the property manager who wouldn’t, and finding that the grass on the other side of the fence is still just grass no matter how green it may appear.

Every minute of that slog was worth it. It would have been worth the cost at twice the price. Even with the incumbent ups and downs, it’s one of those rarest of moments that I can look back on and say without sarcastic intent, that I regret nothing.

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.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

If you thought movin’ on up was going to in any way interfere with regular installments of WAJTW you clearly don’t know me at all. In my head there’s always something worth bitching about. Like these:

1. Going bump in the night. Two nights in a row I was brought out of a dead sleep by something going bump in the night. It’s a fine little rush, but doesn’t make for a restful time. The third time it happened it wasn’t so much a bump as it was a persistent scratching… and that’s when reality sank in. My headboard and George’s tank align almost perfectly and are separated by two thicknesses of drywall and about three inches of air. Every time he did a little excavating or nudged the side of the tank I was hearing my tortoise loud and clear from half a foot away. That made it a lot less unnerving at 3AM, but didn’t do much at all to eliminate it’s the week’s most annoying “discover” here at Casa de Jeff v2.

2. High efficiency. I inherited a high efficiency front load washing machine. It’s an impressive piece of equipment, no doubt. However, with the old top load $300 Sears outlet model, when I set it to a normal wash cycle it would finish like clockwork in about 40 minutes. This new, improved, high efficiency model on the other hand just takes as much time as it decides it wants to take no matter what it’s set on. Could be 30 minutes. Could be 2 hours. Just depends. While my clothes, I’m sure, are cleaner than ever it sure would be nice to have a little predictability in how long getting them to that state might take.

3. Stupid dreams. So far this week I’ve had dreams about home networking, dreams about washing machines, and dreams about work. Whatever happened to dreams about Sports Illustrated cover models, I have no idea. All I know is going to bed is way less fun when it involves home improvement projects rather than scantily clad supermodels.

Enjoying the moment…

At some point I’d like to get back to writing about anything other than what feels like every small detail of the move. Since the blog, by definition, comes from my day to day experiences and opinions the ins and outs of setting up in a new place feel a little like what’s going to be dominating my time for the foreseeable future, though. It may not always be entertaining reading, but it’s cathartic for me and sometimes that’s way more valuable than being entertaining.

If I didn’t have my moving blinders on, I’d probably be writing about Rand Paul (I don’t completely hate him), meetings (and how much they suck), or the fact that boxwood shrubbery looks so good but smells like cat urine. I’m sure that last one will get its own post sooner or later.

At the moment, though, I’m just going to sit here any be happy that I’ve got the coffee set to brew in the morning, tomorrow’s lunch is packed, the dogs are fed, and I’ve got a little more than an hour of “free” time before the call of bed is overpowering. I’m going to take the night off from what’s left of the boxes and enjoy a few minutes of nothing on the “must do” list.

Entrenched and natural…

I’m glad to say I had the wherewithal this afternoon to make it back to the new house instead of following the well-worn path to the old. Given my tendency towards routine and habits, I’m calling it an accomplishment. While we’re on the topic of habits, I hadn’t quite realized how much being in a new place would though my week-day schedule totally out of whack. I hit all the marks on time (even a few minutes ahead of normal), but couldn’t shake the feeling of being off. I wonder how long it takes for new habits to feel entrenched and natural. By the time they do, it’s probably not something you even notice.

The dogs survived their first day alone at the new place, so that’s something. It’s going to take a while before I’m managing everything quite so well. I’m ready to have a deep, passionate love affair with this house, but it’s going to take some time before I start thinking of it as “home.” I have a funny feeling that getting the last bedroom/current storage area sorted out, unpacking the garage so I can do more than squeeze the truck in, and getting the giant stack of flattened cardboard out of the dining room will go along way towards making that happen.

In the meantime I’ll be trying not to let my OCD take over and remember that sleep is actually a good thing.

A week later…

image2So I’ve been scarce for a while and I feel badly about that. A week after moving I’d like to report that everything is up and running and normal life has resumed without much of a hitch. As long as you don’t look too closely the house might even give that impression. For the most part flat surfaces are clear(ish), closets aren’t straining their doors, and all the lights and appliances work.

It’s a start. I say start because I still can’t seem to figure out where anything is. I find myself wandering around from room to room alternately forgetting what I was originally looking for and then finding something that I want to put somewhere else. Then, of course, there’s also the “catch all” room that still has boxes stacked around every wall and the dining room that was pressed into service as a temporary cardboard recycling center. The house is clearly reminding me that moving isn’t an event so much as it’s a process – a time consuming, exhausting, madding process.

Aside from the obvious items I knew I wanted to address coming in – reworking the master bathroom, installing a fence, and a few others – the house is busy informing me about other projects that will image1need my attention sooner rather than later. There are grading and drainage issues in the back yard and landscaping that will take a season or two to beat into shape. There is carpet that needs stretched and cleaned. There are approximately 1,372,261 nail holes that need filled and painted. It’s a well put together house, but despite being easily rated move in condition it’s going to be a work in progress for quite some time.

The dogs are slowly setting in to their new routine as well. They’ve adjusted to being lead around on a leash temporarily better than I have to be honest. They’re still barking at every bump and thump when the washing machine runs or the furnace kicks on, but other than that there the move hasn’t caused them any apparent trauma.

I could use another week or two to really get things settled here, but work beckons… which I suppose is a good thing as in a few weeks I’ve got to start paying for this mess.

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.