Wanted: A Village

I don’t want to pretend for a second that we regret moving to Oregon. It has been an unbelievably great decision. Our health has improved. We are more active. We wake up most days to beautiful fall leaves and mountain fog. The culture is very live-and-let-live and we love it here.

BUT…there’s always a but, isn’t there?

We are lonely. As friendly as everyone is, we don’t really have any friends yet. Sure, we know lots of people. Friendly people. People that are happy to greet us at work and ask us what we did last weekend. People who say hello at the apartment mailboxes. People we wave at everyday that also bicycle commute.

The fact that we didn’t have any friends yet hit us recently when we traveled out of town for a friend’s wedding. We needed a dog sitter and realized we didn’t know anyone well enough (or even have their phone number) to ask them to dog sit for us. Then there was getting a ride to the airport. Who do we ask? Collecting our mail while we were out of town? Who? We really are alone up here.

Lately we’ve been trying to make plans for Halloween. It falls on a Saturday this year and we are both off of work that evening. We’ve both been dropping hints every chance we get that we have no plans and we’d love to join in on whatever it is that people do up here to celebrate. The hints have all bombed. Apparently tons of people are throwing parties…that we are not invited to.

Then there’s the holidays. Since we’re both new to our jobs, we both work and don’t have enough time off to fly home and visit our families. So, like two little smelly orphans (this is not to suggest orphans smell, only that we must stink since no one wants us around) we will be spending the holidays alone up here.

Sometimes we feel like strangers in a strange land. The weather reports on the news offer an “outfitters guide” and a bicycle forecast. No. Seriously. I took a picture because I knew the folks back home would never believe me.

cycling forecast

Sometimes we have no idea how to react in conversations (“you have to drive out to the Dalles tonight…..wow??? Is that far then?”) Then there’s the home buying process. So far we’ve been turned down by three realtors. Apparently no one wants to work with you if you are trying to buy property, no matter how small for anything less than $200k. The folks at work tell me they have missed out on houses because they didn’t bid $100k above the listing price.

So, as glad as we are to be here, sometimes it hits us hard that we are two thirty-somethings stuck in a crappy, little apartment with no one to hang out with but each other. It’s a dramatic change from just six months ago when we had a large house with a large yard for the dogs, family just an hour away, and more friends than we knew what to do with.

To compound that lonely what-do-we-do-all-by-ourselves-this-weekend feeling, everything in our place is unfamiliar. We sold everything in the move. Everything. Now the bed we lie down on is unfamiliar. The couch I am blogging from is new. The vacuum I’m charging is new. Nothing is a friendly reminder of the life we had just a few short months ago.

And this is what our dinner conversations look like:

Me: ok, I’ve almost worked up the courage to ask one of the guys I work with out to dinner. He’s pretty cool and his wife sounds like an interesting lady. I think they might be a good couple to double date.

My husband: ya, I’ve been working on this new guy that is helping out at our office. His haircut and tie selection convinces me we could be compatible. He transfers back to his regular office next week, but I think I could close the deal by Friday.

That’s right, folks. We are trying to “ask out” and “close the deal” on some friendships. The one friend I’ve made up here was accomplished by passing a check-yes-or-no note as a joke after four days at a workshop together because I thought it would be strange to say out loud:

“I like being around you. I feel like you are someone I could someday ugly cry in front of and I value you enough I would be willing to someday spend five hours at your hypothetical 8-year-old’s birthday party with only minimal alcohol consumption. Want to make it official and give me your contact info?”

No. People don’t just say that to each other. But, oh! If only they did! This would all be much simpler.

This silly note scored me the one phone number I’ve gotten so far and when I asked for a hangout I got “I’m really busy for the next couple weeks, so…”

Somehow the idea of organically growing friendships through similar interests has not worked and we are branching out to strategize and recruit our village. We’re using all of our resources, even the puppy. I’ve set up four play dates for her in the last two weeks…and I didn’t score a phone number from a single one. Just a “Well, this has been great, we’ll see you guys around. Wonderful to meet you!”

Perhaps we’re radiating desperation and potential friends are being driven away by it? I’m not exactly wearing shirts proclaiming “Seeking friendship within ten mile radius of greater Portland” but at this point, I’m not above it.

So, in summation, we’re happy to be here; we can’t find affordable housing; we’re currently accepting friendship…any friendship….really….anyone…you don’t even have to be originally from Earth…we’ve broadened our search criteria to interstellar…and we’re just a tad lonely in a beautiful, but strange new place, surrounded by what appears to be someone else’s stuff.

A Day at the Coast

This is the Oregon coastline from Hwy 101.

We took a whole day and didn’t make it to all of the stops along the way or even do half of the coastline, but what a fantastic day we had!

This is part of Sunset Bay State Park.

This is Winchester Bay.
In Florence this guy saw me taking his picture and charged me!
Still in Florence, those little white things are jellyfish. Sights seen on the hike up to the Heceta Head Lighthouse, just north of the world’s largest Sea Lion caves above Florence.
  A river empties into the ocean at Devil’s Elbow Beach. From the lighthouse, looking down on Devil’s Elbow Beach and the historic bridge just past the tunnel.
  The bay in Newport.

We made it!

Today we arrived in Oregon.

But today was a big day for more than just that. Today I celebrated my 33rd birthday. Today we got the call the the buyers had signed, the loan was funded, and our house was officially sold. Today we got the call that my partner was approved for the new CPT vest that will allow him to do breathing treatments on the go instead of spend a few hours each day next to an outlet.

Tonight we celebrated. We swung by the grocery store and picked up salmon and chicken wrapped around asparagus and provolone, a cranberry walnut salad and a salted caramel cheesecake and drove to the Crystal Wood Lodge just north of Klamath Falls – a fantastic dog friendly lodge on a bluff in a meadow. There we met a great couple from the Bay Area and their dog. We spent the evening eating our gourmet meal, sipping Amaretto and learning about mushing from Liz, the inn keeper.

My amazing dinner.

Throughout this trip it hadn’t really hit me yet. In my mind I’m on vacation and in a few days I’ll drive back to Texas, unpack my stuff in my house and tell the girls at work what a great trip we’d had. It hadn’t clicked yet that this trip ends in Portland and we are staying this time. It hadn’t clicked that I am free from the House of Hell and the dreadful neighbors we used to have. It hadn’t clicked that the fresh air and clean water I’ve been enjoying are not temporal. In my mind I’m not on the journey of a lifetime. I’m just on vacation. I’m on a trip to Oregon, just as I was last summer.

But after tonight it is beginning to connect. After seeing the “welcome to Oregon” sign. After connecting with some people at the grocery store on what a great day today was (the woman behind me in the checkout line had just started a new job and was collecting a celebratory meal too, the woman in front of me was from Denver). After spending an evening on a porch with locals, drinking and talking late into the night. It’s so early. But it fits already.

I like this place.

Squirrel Crosses Street

If you haven’t read my post on squirrel crossings, it will be necessary to understand this post.

As I suspected, I got a call from Eugene yesterday afternoon with a job offer. Once I began asking the kinds of questions you can only ask after an offer is on the table I learned the benefits were even better than I had hoped for, and the pay was less than half what I had expected. Oregon has a way of coding jobs that is different from what I have seen in Texas and I didn’t understand the job would gross half of the salary published in the job posting. They weren’t very forthcoming about it. I had to ask twice before I understood it and heard a specific number.

I talked it over with my partner and I slept on it, and try as I might, I just couldn’t justify living two hours from the adult CF clinics and the city we wanted for a job that wanted all of my weekdays flexible and available for what amounted to little more than minimum wage.

It will break my heart, but later today, after I am sure the apartment lease in Portland is signed and approved (aka that they really accept Dobermans), I will make the call and decline the offer.

We also made a decision about closing on the house. We’ve decided to take the soul-searching trip and close on the road. We are coordinating the date we leave with the date a moving pod will arrive in our driveway and the rest is the dust behind us.

So, in a little over a week we will arrive at a place in Portland we’ve never seen before and call it home. I will work part-time at Company X, and call the company that wants to bring me in for a second interview for a full-time position, and we will look to Obamacare as our new health insurance.

Today is my last day at the job I have held for seven years. An emotional day indeed. I didn’t bother wearing mascara.

Goodbye Texas.

Hello adventure.

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!"

Google images

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.

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.

The married woman’s dilemma

The buyer’s inspector comes tomorrow to pick apart our house. It is the last potential hiccup in the unbelievably rapid sale of our home. The clock is ticking and there is a rush to get rid of everything we are not taking with us. We’ve been whittling down our stuff for months and now we are down to the really hard choices.

This post is about my hardest choice: my wedding dress.

We got married five years ago and it was one of the worst days of my life.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy with the partner I chose and I’m glad we are wed but our wedding day was one of the most stressful, frustrating days I’ve ever experienced. If I had it all to do again, we would elope and there would be no big, white dress.

Yet, I have kept this dress for five years. It has never come out of the bag it was stored in since the wedding. It just sits in a closet, taking up plenty of space.

We said some year for our anniversary we will put on our wedding attire and go out as if we’d just gotten married just for fun.

We’ve never done that.

I said I would cut it up and use the fabric for pillows and curtains.

But I can’t cut it up. It’s a wedding dress. Those things are sacred.

All of the women I know that kept their wedding dresses (99% of the women I know) said they kept them because they paid big bucks to clean, preserve and vacuum seal it so that one day their daughter(s) could have it. I asked the grown daughters I knew if they wanted their mother’s dress and they ALL said no (it was old fashioned or too small or they wanted one they could pick for themselves). Not one of my friends wore her mother’s wedding dress when they got married. Now they are holding onto their dresses for their daughter(s) and their mother’s are holding on in case their granddaughter(s) want it someday. On and on it goes. Dress after dress.

I don’t have any daughters, but I still find it hard to let go of or re-purpose mine.

Why?! It doesn’t represent a happy memory for me. It represents a day that was so rough I spent half an hour of the reception crying alone in the bathroom. It isn’t doing anyone any good in the back of a closet. It’s heavy and bulky to move. There’s not one good reason to keep it.

But….but…well…it’s just so pretty. And it fits me perfectly (3 times back to the tailor to bring it in again). I’ve never had a really fancy gown that was tailored for every curve of my body before. Nor do I think I ever will again….and…and it marks the beginning of the commitment I have with my partner….

But then I find myself waxing the other direction. The commitment I have with my partner does not vanish just because I remove some fabric from the closet. I will probably never have occasion for another white gown no matter how perfectly tailored….

But…it’s so damn pretty!

It always comes to that. It’s a beautiful dress and who throws away such a beautiful thing?

Once the pragmatic side took over my brain I ran a Google search and found there are lots of charities out there that collect wedding dresses, sell them, and use the proceeds for great causes. What a great use of a dress I no longer have any use for!

So today after work, I’m going to go home and for the first time since my wedding day I will put on my gown. I will look at myself in the mirror and let my dog (who was the ring bearer) come smell it and remember with me. Together (because it’s hard to make these decisions alone and dogs are sagely counsel) we will decide if this is something we can let go of. And if we can (I’m really hoping we can) I have chosen the perfect charity that gives to couples coping with terminal illness – something near and dear to my heart.

Ladies, let’s be bold together. How long have you had that wedding dress in the closet? How often do you have use for it? How much money have you spent preserving it or keeping it in a temperature controlled storage space? How many times have you moved it from the back of one closet to the back of the next in a new house?

I know. I know. It’s so damn pretty. But that is not reason enough to keep from doing the good you could do…stop and look at it for what it is: you’re hoarding fabric you will never use again.

There are great groups out there that can turn that beautiful, breathtaking, sparkly, form-fitted piece of clutter from you and turn it into something even more beautiful: charity to those in need.I hope I am able to let go. Because as pretty as it may be, it’s the right thing to do.