Squirrel crossing ahead

squirrel crossing the street

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Last night I experienced my first FaceTime interview with another company in Oregon. It was a job I applied for before everything had worked out with Company X and I figured there was no harm in giving myself options – this was a part-time job with benefits. Company X is a part-time job without benefits. It stands to reason I could split my time between both, but I should mention the job I interviewed for last night is two hours away from Portland. What can I say. I was getting desperate. I applied for everything I qualified for from Portland to Eugene.

I thought to myself, “only if the interview is amazing will I consider this job. This is a great opportunity to practice interviewing because I already have a job, so there is no need to feel desperate or nervous.”

And then – as you may have guessed – the interview was amazing. I loved the people. I loved what they were offering. I loved the direction the company was going. I loved the culture of the office. I loved the details I learned about the specific job I would be doing. My background perfectly fit the projects they were looking to do.

Well crap.

Now I am torn. If they offer me the job (and I’m told I will hear from them in the next week) do I turn down a good gig with health insurance my family really needs? Or do I realize the commute alone will knock out a good portion of my paycheck and sleep schedule and look for something else in Portland?

But wait, there’s more.

The fantastic (and only) apartment in Portland that accepts Dobermans still has not given us the stamp of approval on our application. We were told it was all but signed by the supervisor – they even gave us what would be our new address. We were supposed to hear from them by the end of the day yesterday.

Still nothing.

I browsed their website today to get dimensions and info about our new place and found a pet policy that said they only accepted one dog, under 70 lbs with breed restrictions. That’s a completely different story from what we were told. Have we been declined and that’s why we haven’t heard anything?

So we don’t have confirmation on a place in Portland yet…and if this job is that great, we could live in Eugene….even though the adult CF clinics are in Portland and there are more job opportunities in Portland and my partner doesn’t have a job yet…

But wait, there’s more.

Last May I did a phone interview with a company in Portland that went really well. They told me to call them when I got to town in July to set up a second interview in person. This is a full-time job with benefits and strict M-F, 8-5 hours. The current part-time, no benefits job I have at Company X wants me to work on the weekends…

But wait, there’s more.

We finally came to an agreement with buyer #6 to sell our house. It’s all looking good from here. The sign is out of the yard, the stager has been by to pick up all of her stuff, and the appraisal came back at the same number as the offer. But the closing date has been set for after our departure. We have been planning an amazing road trip up to Oregon that includes stops at Cadillac Ranch, an overnight stay in an earthship in New Mexico, camping at the Grand Canyon, a night in Las Vegas, and yurt camping along the coast. We pushed the deadline to leave back when the first buyer fell through. Apparently not back far enough. We asked them to move the closing up a few days and it was declined.

Now the plan is to stop at a bank somewhere along the way with a notary, sign and overnight the papers back to Texas, or cut the trip entirely so we’re here for the closing. My partner already has doctor’s appointments lined up in Portland following the schedule we had set with the trip that need to happen in July. If we stay we remove the uncertainties of signing extremely important papers at an unknown bank and wondering how we will get the funds. But staying in town until we close means we sign the papers, hand over the keys and jet to Oregon as fast as our Subaru will take us, cutting the soul-searching journey along the way we’ve been planning for a year.

So in a nutshell: I have a job, but if I do nothing else on the job front, my family will not have health insurance starting August 1. The job two hours away (if it is offered to me) will call me by the end of this week and want an answer. I am expecting to hear back from the apartment in Portland and sign a 10 month lease (their only option) at any moment. Plus, I already have a second job interview in Portland in two weeks. But that one is full-time, so it would mean giving up Company X – a job I already have and know I like but has no benefits.

Meanwhile we did great with the estate sale last weekend and until we make a decision and go we’re sleeping on an air mattress and eating off of paper plates with plastic utensils in an empty house.

I put in my notice a week ago and this Thursday at 5pm I will no longer be gainfully employed in the state of Texas.

It’s time to go. It’s just a matter of when…and what to do with the loose ends…and which city we’re ending in…this must be why squirrels stop one quarter of the way across the street and turn back, then dash to the middle and stop at the most inopportune times.

Movin’ on Up!

Sometimes things work out better than you could have expected. This is one of those times.

It only took a few hundred calls, but we finally found an apartment complex that would take our Doberman and Pit mix! We were so relieved, we didn’t even bother asking questions, we just put money down to hold it and thanked our lucky stars we wouldn’t have to embrace the gutter lifestyle. I’ve never done something so unplanned in my life. We just gave some apartment complex across the country $400 and a 10 month commitment and we don’t even know where it’s located, if it’s dilapidated, if it’s in a safe neighborhood, or if we just rented a unit previously lived in by a chain smoker.

But like I said, this is a story with an unbelievably happy ending. As soon as the application was sent, we started our research to evaluate what we had just done. We smiled and gave a sigh of relief when we learned the whole complex is a smoke-free facility. Our voices lifted with excitement when we found it’s across the street from a hospital! (If you were moving to a new climate with a CFer you would understand the great comfort of a hospital nearby.) We laughed with glee when Google Street View showed us a well-maintained complex with lots of green spaces and hoards of trees in a nice neighborhood. The happy dance started when we found it is across the street from a large park. The freak out dance began when we found the complex has two pools (one heated year round) and an extensive gym. To two people that have spent the better part of four years outside of work in dusty, paint-stained renovation clothing doing back-breaking labor, this place looks like living at a spa.

William Shatner "but wait there's more!"

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Since Company X is so protective of their office locations, we didn’t learn until yesterday where the PDX office was. We now know that our new apartment is about three blocks from Company X!!!

This time next month I will be an Oregonian. I won’t have a lawn to mow. I won’t have a gutter system to finish. I won’t have a foundation to water. I won’t have overextended attic ladders. I won’t have a mortgage. In a month if something in my home breaks, I get to call someone else to take care of it. I will have time to swim. Time to explore the nearby coffee shops. Time to drive out to the beach for a day. Time to explore the mountains with our dogs. I will be working half the time and making twice the pay.

You guys. I can’t even. I don’t even know how to process this much joy. I am basking in the light at the end of the tunnel. I am walking…nay! strutting out of the abyss that has been home ownership.

Are there things still up in the air? Yes. We are waiting on the appraisal for our house and all of the financing to go through for our buyer. We still need a plan on health insurance since I won’t have it with my job anymore. We are pulling an all-nighter tonight to be ready for our estate sale this weekend. BUT, it’s going to work out. I’m learning to let go and see how wonderful things can turn out.

From here on out I’m going to be more optimistic. I’m not going to consume myself with all that could go wrong. I’m eagerly expecting things to work out spectacularly.

Man’s best frienemy

Late last night we got a list of 13 concessions from buyer # 6. The option period ends tomorrow. We plan to go back and forth with them today and hopefully this time reach an agreement and sell the house.

Meanwhile, the thought occurred to us that once we do finally sell this house we will need somewhere else to live. While we have thought often of the next place we will buy, we haven’t really hashed out a plan for the interim.

On the one hand we won’t have the money to buy the next place until we sell this place so we’re stuck there. On the other, we can’t just live in a tent for six months. No, really, I tried really hard to sell my partner on that idea and his refrigerated medicines disagreed with my plan.

We decided since we’re about two weeks from moving, we should lay the groundwork for a temporary place until the funds come through for our next permanent place. That spelled apartment to us.

There’s just one little problem: we haven’t found an apartment in the greater Portland area that will take us. Allow me to explain.

[Cue lone violin]

According to every apartment landlord in Portland, these are the faces of terror.

That’s right, folks, don’t be deceived by their furry, innocent appearance. These two top the list of dangerous, banned breeds.

Here they are accosting a street urchin. Because they are hard core thugs.

 Here they are attacking a less dangerous breed. As you can see, it is completely helpless and does not suffer from a predisposition to aggression.

Hide your children! Hide your wives! Heaven forbid they live next door to this!

Clearly these two are cold-blooded killers. Right? They must be. Nevermind that the Doberman has come to work with me where I interact with people with disabilities without incident. Nevermind the countless times we’ve been told “wow, those are the best behaved dogs I’ve ever seen.” Or the fact that study after study has repeatedly proven that no one dog breed is any more likely than another to attack a human.

No! They were born members of forbidden breeds! They are pure evil!

At least that is the idiotic rhetoric of the landlords in Portland (and many other places) that have breed restrictions as part of their pet policies.

If you really believe that a Pit Bull or a German Shepherd is any more likely than a Golden Retriever or a Lab to turn on a person or act aggressively, check out the American Temperament Test Society and have a look at their findings. Every year this research group does a study that tests a collection of dogs from each breed. Their tests are far more humane and thorough, but it is the layman’s equivalent of “how many times can I poke this breed in the eye before I get an aggressive reaction?”

Portland landlords! You should be ashamed of yourselves! Three of the dogs on your restricted breed list have long histories serving in the American Armed Forces and countless domestic police departments. They are not chosen for that work because they are viscous man-killers, but because they are intelligent, obedient, and loyal. They are officials of the state complete with badges. They save lives. They catch bad guys. They warn of danger. They find people stuck under the rubble. They detect undetonated bombs. This is how you thank them for their service to our country and community?! Shame! Shame on you!

Below is a picture of the Military Working Dog Teams National Monument in San Antonio, Tx. It features the four most prominent military dogs since WWII. Notice two of the statues pictured are what Portland landlords consider “aggressive, dangerous breeds.” While our country is honoring and thanking them, our landlords are forbidding them.

statue of soldier and four military dogs

Google images

I tried, but it turns out you can’t fix stupid (I’m looking at you Portland landlords). So, today we are researching other temporary places to live in the greater Portland region that don’t discriminate against veterans or police officers in their selection of tenants. Oh I went there. Bring it! I’ve got a Doberman and Pit Bull mix that will lick your faces right off!

A ship in the harbor

Everything is in motion. Each day brings more change.

Two days ago I took the moving box of toys and catnip I had packed for Gracie up to the local shelter to donate. I still can’t sleep in the bed without her so I have slept around the house for almost a week.

Yesterday we accepted a new offer on the house and signed a contract. Today inspector #2 arrives.

Today is also my last day of training at Company X which means I am ready to fill out paperwork to transfer to the Oregon office.

We feel like a ship in the harbor letting go of all that we must release, signing our letters of transit, and bolstering for the journey ahead. It might be premature of me but I think this might be the hardest part. This is the part where we have to look at our lives, our house, our jobs, our families, our friends, our comfort level, our finances and say for certain “we are doing this.” It is not too late to back out yet. Here in the harbor we are safe and well-fed and employed and sheltered and clothed.

ship sailing at night

Google images

It’s a deep, unpredictable sea out there. We have been brushed off by two realtors, rejected for job after job, and called “transplants” by the locals but we remain hopeful that there are good people there too. Those that cross oceans or countries must believe there is a better life ahead.

Ships are not built to stay in the harbor, and the stars will guide us Northwest whether a welcome mat is rolled out or not. Once we leave the harbor the decision is made, the journey begun, the adventure started. This part is about pushing out that last shred of doubt. About embracing the change and letting go of what anchors us here. About untying the ropes and throwing them back on the dock. Because ships are built for sailing. And in the next few weeks, come what may, we will leave the harbor.

Round Two in a “seller’s market”

First, thanks to everyone for the words of comfort you offered on the passing of our cat last weekend. Your kindness is deeply appreciated and your comments have helped me.

Now, an update on the house. We just lost buyer #5.

The first buyer was an older woman in constant emotional meltdown with a bullshit inspector (he found stuff in the house that wasn’t there – you can’t have a broken exhaust fan where there isn’t one installed) that spooked her out of buying the house on the last day of the option period.

The second buyer was a flaky couple that never could decide if they wanted it or not. Finally one of them wanted it, and then the other got back into town, discovered actions had happened without consulting them and killed the whole thing before we had a contract.

The third and fourth buyers were investors that came to the table with cash. We asked them if they would step up to the ballpark we had been playing in with the first two offers. One lowered the price $5k below listing, the other held firm at listing price. We had higher offers on the table, but it would mean a deal with financing.

Buyer #5 was a finance deal in our ballpark. It was another older, single woman who was bringing a hefty sum to put down in cash. When our realtor called her she asked to come see it again that night with her daughter. We were at my parents house visiting after burying our cat. We agreed, jumped in the car, drove an hour back, had thirty minutes to clean and stage it again and took our dogs to the park. This morning we got the call. Buyer #5 was out. Her daughter had convinced her something was terribly wrong with the house for so many buyers before them to walk away. Thanks a billion daughter with no freaking clue there was only one legitimate buyer in line in front of you under contract. You’ve been SO helpful.

"Two things are infinite. The universe and human stupidity...and I'm not so sure about the universe." picture of Albert Einstein

Google images

I’m guessing the other five offers have moved on because our realtor recommended we re-list. So this afternoon once we get all of the dog nose prints off of the windows and all the dishes cleaned and toothbrushes tucked under the counters we will re-list and hope for the best.

Goodbye Gracie

Our cat, Gracie, was coming along great with the travel training. She had gotten used to her harness, learned to get in her travel carrier for food, and had taken a few trips in our Subaru.

Then, suddenly last Friday night, she was gone.

Though our hearts were heavy as we put her in the ground today, we are grateful for the fifteen years of love, devotion, and comic relief she gave us.

Her last day with us was lovely. She spent the afternoon with us on the couch. Her last meal was the slices of muenster cheese I gave her as she sat in the kitchen while I was making dinner. Then she napped in the den, basking in the setting sun. After a few sniffs from a dog who noticed something was different, she got up and came over to us at the dinner table. Just under our feet she stopped and had a seizure. I crawled under the table and stayed with her until the end. It was brief. One of the most mercifully short deaths I’ve ever known.

Today we took her out to my parents house where past family pets have been laid to rest. It was painful. It was tearful. Now tonight there’s a cat-shaped hollow spot next to me in the bed that matches the hole in my heart.

I write this post in memory of Gracie, a friend who never left me unattended when I was sick; who spent her nights keeping me warm and cuddled; who wasn’t afraid to take on dobermans to protect me; who helped me pick the right partner to marry; who saw me through teenager to thirty-something. She was more than a cat. She was a confidant, a muse, and a guardian. She was family. May she rest in peace knowing that she is deeply cherished and eternally loved.

The Three Words That Changed Everything

Another beautiful post from one of my favorite bloggers. Encouraging. Therapeutic. Awakening.

Truth and Cake

Photo: Sachin Khona Photo: Sachin Khona.

Something’s been brewing out there. In the work I’ve been doing with my clients. In the world of social media. In the conversations with family and friends. In the atmosphere. People are waking up. They are wanting more. They are beginning to believe that they can have lives that are different from the ones they’ve been sold. Easy lives. Free lives. Rich lives. Lives full of love and purpose.

There’s something I say regularly when I’m coaching and it never fails to stop people in their tracks. I went through the fire to learn it. I travelled to Australia, California, England and Spain seeking the answer. I went night diving, drank plant medicine, holed up in a yurt, sank into grief, rose up, lit bonfires, trekked through nature, fell in love, lead a retreat, road-tripped, got messy, got brave and had a hundred conversations about it along…

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Not so sold

Perhaps my earlier post titled “Sold!” was a little premature. Forgive me, I’ve never sold a house before. Last night our buyer walked away from the table.

We tried to be reasonable. We agreed to fix most of the list given to us from the inspector. We came down on the price considerably. They buyer kept having one “emotional crisis” after another and wouldn’t give us a specific request about anything she wanted. So, on the last day of the option period at the eleventh hour we asked her if what we were offering was enough. The buyer wanted everything from the inspection report fixed and a bigger drop on the price (there was one item on the inspection she wanted to do herself) or she was going to walk. The realtors asked us to extend the option period a few more days “to give her a chance to calm down.” We said we’d give her until 3pm tomorrow.

The call came a half hour later. She had terminated our contract. We are sad to have to start again, but we are not sad to loose this particular buyer. There’s negotiating like adults, and then there’s the crap she was trying to pull.

Why do realtors always try to make it an emotionally unstable person on the other end of the deal? This happened to us when we bought the house too. The realtors tried to tell us we were taking advantage of a sweet, little old man who had just lost his wife when we asked the seller to repair some leaky faucets. There always seems to be a sob story that has to pull at your heartstrings. Why?

This might be heartless, but we didn’t feel for this buyer’s sob story at all. Even if the story we were getting was completely true, that her adult daughter was in the hospital, we didn’t see why that would hold up the whole deal. We are the last people to sympathize with a “someone close to me is in the hospital and I just can’t function” story. My partner is a terminal lung patient. We spent a good part of our day yesterday in a hospital too. We were still able to come to the table and talk about what we were willing to do. Sometimes my partner is in the hospital for weeks. I still go to work and run the house and walk the dogs and return phone calls. Why couldn’t this woman? It wasn’t happening to her, it was happening to her daughter. Her ADULT daughter. We never felt comfortable enough to say it to the realtors, but we thought the “daughter in the hospital” excuse wasn’t really a good reason for her to behave hysterically and demand everything without budging an inch for us. We think she was unwilling to work with us and they had to give us a reason in hopes we would feel for her and be more accommodating since she had already pissed us off during the inspection.

buny meme "your sob story does not move me"

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We could be a sob story too. Anyone could. Take out the lung patient part and you still have a story about two broke newlyweds that bought a house that was falling apart and spent almost every waking moment of their lives for the next four years fixing one thing after another until no part of the house was left untouched. We have left only some minor things for the next owner. Things that could be fixed in one day or one service call. We’re exhausted and beyond done with this place, yet we’re still willing to negotiate. That is more than fair. Everyone could be a sob story if they wanted. Life is hard. But life goes on. And so will we.

This morning our realtor is calling the other nine offers to see who is still out there. Buyer #2, step right up.

Joining the dark side: Company X Part 5

Last weekend I put in my first two days as a corporate sellout at Company X.

This place is the polar opposite of my current job in every way, from the polished office in the skyscraper to the security clearance cards to navigate the building.

See, currently I work in higher ed. I have blinds in my office that were broken before I moved in that will still not work for the next person. I’ve put in a request to have them fixed. Four times. I have accepted that it just won’t happen and every day around 3pm when the sun appears in my window, I wear sunglasses at my desk. I do this because the work request to fix it is $40 and I’m told our office doesn’t have that in the budget. Once a month the bathroom on my floor is out of service. Once a quarter the whole building is cut off from the water supply for maintenance. Once a summer some building on campus has a broken AC. We once went five years without any merit raises. Sometimes I get a lunch break somewhere between 10am and 3pm. Sometimes I don’t. We are currently guided by austerity measures and attrition. I have already been asked to submit my resignation just as soon as I am able “to help with planning the office budget.” They even asked me to burn through my vacation days as I’m able (an hour here, a few hours there) before I resign so they don’t have to pay me for them. This is the life I am used to.

You can imagine what it was like for me to get a key card with my face on it that lets me into all of the secure areas of the building including the enormous, fully stocked break room with two stainless-steel refrigerators. I had a full and undisturbed lunch break (at lunch time!) in front of a floor to ceiling picture window overlooking the city. I was instructed to take a ten minute break every hour because, and this is actually what they said: “we appreciate you and your skill and we want to be sure you are taking care of yourself mentally and physically.” I was given an ergonomic assessment so that my chair, desk and keyboard were at the appropriate heights and distances to reduce fatigue and physical injury. A licensed massage therapist wanders through the cubicles offering massages for anyone that needs one (compliments of the company). The company also contracts two therapists for employees to access – one for situations encountered on the job, the other for personal life situations that could affect performance on the job. There is a designated area for books and puzzles for when you need a mental break. There is a phone charging station with chargers supplied by the company. They have a great mentor program. The list goes on and on.

So. This is the view from the top.

With the theme song from Working Girl cycling in my head I sat down at my cubicle and looked around. On the wall just outside my cube there was a row of framed certificates of recognition. I knew every name on every certificate. These were people in my field whose reputation preceded them. Some I had met. Many I had not. They all worked here. The rock stars of my field just became my colleagues.

The work itself is extremely challenging and emotional. But it is also very interesting and rewarding. I would love to describe it more, but I spent a good half hour signing papers that said I would not tell a soul about the work I do or the information I am privy to or the specific location of the office or the names of any of the other employees…that list goes on and on too.

I hate to say it. It doesn’t feel right. It tastes funny in my mouth. But. But. I think I might like it. It’s nice to be appreciated and valued. It’s nice to work in a place that seems to have some control over the temperature in the office. It’s nice to know, nay even decide, to take my breaks when I need them, not when and if schedules allow.

It’s early yet. I’ve only been at it two days. But if it keeps going this way, I could get tremendously comfortable being a corporate sellout.

The inspection that wouldn’t end

Last Friday the inspector came to pick apart our house, thus ending the fairy-tale, easy selling experience we were having. Here are the finer points:

The inspector scheduled a four hour block to do what we were told was a three hour inspection.

Then he arrived twenty minutes early.

My partner got our two dogs and cat out of the house for those four scheduled hours. When I got off of work, I met him and we waited the hour and a half necessary until the inspection time was over.

The inspection was set to end at 6:30, so we arrived back at the house at 6:35. Not only was the inspector not finished, the buyer was there too.

We decided their time was up, every second they stayed was more stuff to add to the report. Plus we were starving and ready to make dinner so we went ahead back into the house with all of the animals.

This should have been a cue for them to leave. They decided it was instead a great opportunity to interview us about the house.

Before we could get in the door and set down our stuff they introduced themselves and launched into an interrogation about the things the inspector had found.

Uncomfortably, we answered their first question truthfully and then excused ourselves to the back bedroom so they could wrap it up.

They still did not get the hint. Five minutes later the inspector knocked on the bedroom door and asked my partner to join them as they had some more questions.

Ten minutes after that he asked us to move our car because he hadn’t made it into the attic above the garage yet.

We were frustrated, starving, furious and unsure what to do (plus, that attic ladder overextends and he didn’t need to know that if we could prevent it). I frantically started texting local friends and asked if anyone could come over under the guise of a dinner party so they would leave. No one offered to come over. We were stuck. We put on a smile and complied.

As the inspector pulled the string for the light on his way out of our attic it broke. “Add that to my bill” he joked. This started suspicions in our minds. What else has he broken we don’t know about? Who doesn’t take five seconds to tie on another string to something they just broke with the buyer and seller standing right there watching you?

At 7 they finally got out of the house and chatted in the driveway.

Hindsight is always 50/50. I learned this morning we could have called the realtor and asked them to get them out before we got home. Although they seemed pretty deliberate about us crossing paths so they could ask us some questions and I think without anyone physically removing them, they wouldn’t have left until they could talk to us.

Everyone was friendly and gracious, but that is the most uncomfortable I have been in a long time. After the sale goes through and money has changed hands, I’ll sing like a canary about anything the buyer wants to know. Until then, leave me alone and get the hell out. Your time is up and this is still my house. How dare you corner us in it and take advantage of the situation you have put us in!

We have not heard a word from the buyer yet about concessions but the option period doesn’t end until this Wednesday.

I hope it was worth it to be friendly and accommodating to their completely unfair approach to home inspection.