A House is Where the Heart is

We bought a house.


That single sentence (either of them) really cannot convey the craziness which is buying a house in these United States in 2010. The market is just awful. Most of the houses we walked through were vacant, either a short sale or in foreclosure. Both times we've owned a house, we've managed to be at the right ends of the US housing bubble.

Not only is the market full of these challenging types of home sales, the homes themselves are in varying degrees of vacancy or disuse. One home we put an offer on turned out to have been vandalized -- both A/C units needed replacing (an absolute must have in Arizona!). After that contract didn't go through, I really began to wonder if there was a house out there for us. Would we have to go through a year, or more, in an apartment?

Our requirements were many -- and our list of characteristics varied between "need" and "want". We needed at least 2000 square feet. I looked at a lot of homes in the 1750-2000 square foot range and it would have just been a stop-gap measure for us. Since we want to spend about 10 years in this place, working towards building a dome, that just wasn't an option.

We needed at least four bedrooms and two bathrooms. It had to be a ranch-style -- all on one level -- for me. I even considered some houses where the master and all necessary areas were on the main level, with the additional bedrooms either up or downstairs (finished basement). Most of the time, the fact we had ferrets made such options less than acceptable because of the way it was executed.

We like an open floor plan -- big great rooms, with the kitchen being the "hang-out place" for everyone. We wanted a "cook's kitchen" since three of the five people here are cooks -- plus I bake on occasion (but if they were happy, so was I).

The big kicker was location and size. How close could we get to Randy's job at ASU? How big of a lot could we get? The bigger the better -- but that meant a bigger price.

One of the houses which gave us the most hope (before we saw it) was in a two-block neighborhood in East Mesa, where the lots are all acre-plus and have horse privileges. Considering how "in town" that still is, that's unheard of! The house we were considering there was at the end of the cul-de-sac, backing onto one of the canals. It already had a diving pool, too. Unfortunately, the reality was awful. Even looking past the half-moved state of the home (the previous owners abandoned a lot of belongings on the property), there were layout and condition issues right away. At least two bedrooms were involved in a problem with the foundation which was causing the ceramic tile to crack. The so-called fourth bedroom was a joke. There was a staircase surrounded by a wrought-iron railing/gate which led down to a dark secondary room space. The stairwell was in the center of this "fourth bedroom". The kitchen was outdated and small, the living room was separated from the kitchen, as was the "family room". Clearly this potential dream property needed a better house. So we moved on.

In many of the homes we looked at, it was painfully obvious that the previous owners had added on -- closing in a back patio with less than stellar results. In one such home, I twisted my ankle and fell, slamming my left knee straight down on the tile. It's been over three months since that fall and I'm still having trouble with the knee, though my right hand and right ankle are better, for the most part.

The house we bought was added on to, but it's the best add-on we've seen. No matter where I've lived, I've always seen things I could fix in a layout to maximize the space for our use. The same is true here. While I love my master suite, my bathroom isn't big enough for a single person, let alone the three of us.

I do love that there is no carpet in this house. The great room and the areas off of it -- what will be Randy and Jenne's music room and our dining room, plus part of my master suite -- are all 16" tile. The rest of the house is laminate flooring. Whoever laid it down did an excellent job -- there's only one threshold which crosses two laminate floor areas. The other thresholds are laminate-to-tile. I haven't had a lot of time to let the ferrets run free yet, but they've had the run of my office a couple times. The sound of their little claws scampering on the laminate is just amazing.

We have so many plans for this place. I can't wait to get started on them! We intend to remove two large palms from the front yard and remove all the grass, too. We plan to xeriscape, using gravel between planter boxes for edible landscaping. I really want to try using ollas for watering our garden. Hopefully, eventually, we can put together a greywater system and save more water that way.

In the meantime, Obstacle Number One has already popped up: we're having problems with the plumbing. As this part of the story is still on-going, it will have to wait for later posts for more information.

Meanwhile, very shortly all my loves will be under one roof. I'm looking forward to this very much. I feel too scattered -- and the boxes all around me aren't helping, so maybe I should get back to it?

Silent Anne?

If we go by my actual blog posts, I'm "silenter" than Silent Bob -- he talks at least once in every movie, right?

Depending on how religiously you check here in the hope for new content, you may have seen the blog go down for a week or two. Yeah.... I think some of the posts are broken/missing and this annoys me. I had a problem a couple months back and Randy swooped in to save the day -- the database had corruption issues -- and I think that's where the missing posts went. sigh

Because of that problem, I've been even more lax at doing any kind of managing of the site. This includes figuring out why my comments are being spammed so ridiculously -- I think there have been no legitimate comments in over a year, while the spammers are just drowning my blog with spammy comments. Meanwhile, I really do want to clean it up and maybe find a better theme. The blue is just too.... bright. Too "cheery". Like a flight attendant with too much caffeine. Ugh.

So, what's new with me? Hmmm.... Well, we've been looking for a house since before the house we fled from in June. You might recall we were putting a bid in on this house, before we left town for our 20th Anniversary Roadtrip. While we were out of town, the bank who was permitting the short-sale got back to us. Apparently, their comps (comparable houses in the area) were $20k higher than our bid (which placed the price very conveniently at their list price). So, they decided to go to foreclosure instead. Meanwhile, we learned that both A/C units had been vandalized and would need replacing. We already knew that due to such a long vacancy, the pool needed some surface repairs and we were likely to lose the orange trees from lack of watering. So, we passed on that house.

Once we returned home from the roadtrip (I'll cover that in a bit), I got right back to checking out ZIP Realty for price drops, new listings and such. One of our days of looking resulted in a fall -- I didn't see a "step down", twisted my ankle and landed on my left knee, directly on tile. I didn't realize until later, I'd braced myself with my hands as well, so I've done some kind of minor (?) damage to my right hand, along the pinky side. The right ankle is the same one I broke in the car accident.

Anyway, we kept looking for houses. (The one I fell in was not good -- the pool was so beautiful, but the house itself was just not workable.) Just before I left for New York for almost 3 weeks, we toured a house in Mesa, only .3 miles from the light rail! We put together an offer and began the process. It was made much easier by a product called DocuSign. We're currently waiting on a document to show up and for the loan to come back from underwriting. Close is supposed to be on the 17th of this month -- this Wednesday!

I really hate living in this tiny apartment -- and very soon, we're going to have one more person living with us! This is a good thing, but if the house falls through, it's definitely going to be an interesting start to the new year!

So, let me back up a little bit. The Roadtrip was good, until it wasn't. We visited Randy's parents, then headed in to Canton, Ohio for my sister's wedding on the 28th. It turns out she had a cold. I caught it. It dropped straight into my chest and I was extremely worried Randy would come down with it next. We cancelled all our other planned stops and made a bee-line for home. Poor Randy had to drive the entire trip by himself. For at least the first 75% of the trip, I was knocked out with all the cold medications. I think Sirius Radio saved the day! One of the plans cancelled was a meet-up with DrunkenMonkeyKnits herself. sigh

Many blogs are personal in nature, not business-oriented. For that reason, we all choose what we are comfortable sharing about our lives, online and in the clear. Maybe it's not super-obvious, unless you've tried to leave a comment (another reason I debated dropping the whole blog is because of the spammers), but I'm running my blog on Drupal. So far, I haven't really bothered with settings like "you must have an approved account and be logged in to read posts" because I feel that's sorta contrary to the concept of a blog. Couldn't I just send emails to the people I'm willing to let read the things I don't want public?

I've been struggling with how to handle some of the private stuff I'm not sure I want "in the clear". Those who know me in person are pretty likely to know some of this stuff already. Those who don't may or may not know it. And I'm hedging my bets on waiting, rather than having stuff "out there" I can't take back (at least, not easily!).

Something I can talk about is our Intentional Community, or IC (pronouned eye-see) as we call it. We've been debating whether to keep the name of the IC independent of the dome we hope to build (yes, it seems that most if not all of the domes have names!). So we tend to refer to it in the abstract as "the IC". We're adding another member to the IC at the end of the year, which I'm really excited about. We're hoping, if the house ends up being ours, to develop a garden and perhaps, eventually, a tilapia pond!

I've been actively planning to return to school in the Summer of 2011, to get my Master's in Architecture. With everything else on my plate right now, I'm feeling a little crammed just trying to study for the GRE. I'm also not 100% positive of my reasons for going back to school. I'll be the first to admit, I feel a little "worthless" at times -- worth very little and a drain on the household economy. So, I think the idea of going back for a degree in something I really do want to do and being willing to go back to work and "bring home the bacon" is appealing to me. More importantly, I don't want to be one of those people who just sit around and let life slide right past them, while they whine about life not being great and feeling depressed.

The question has been raised: did I quit writing for the right reasons? Did I quit because I wanted to? Or because I lost faith in myself? Did I allow Clarion West's rejection to dictate my future direction? Do I still really want to be a writer?

Which brings me to the GRE exam. It's $160 -- a lot to spend on just an exam, if I'm not fully committed. And right now, I don't think I am. With the possible move and settling into a new home, the addition of an IC member, the stuff I really don't want to talk about here, "in the clear".... plus some of my other personal projects, I just don't think my focus is on taking the exam this month or even next month -- only to have to turn around and put together an application package.

To this end, I'm going to focus on

  • getting us in a house (one way or another)
  • getting my D&D character sheet files finally cleaned up, so I can publish them on
  • cleaning up my blog theme
  • a knitting needle inventory idea
  • the lace pattern I have been futzing with for 3 years now
  • a couple other pattern ideas
  • perhaps getting my short fiction published?

Once I've dealt with some of these things and "cleared my deck", so to speak, maybe I'll focus on my first novel and the rat's nest I made of the ending, so I can finally get it onto a publisher's desk!

But for now, I'm not making any more claims. I've made too many and I'm starting to feel buffeted by my own winds of change.

Moving.... Again.

Hey! Look at that. We're packing. Again. headpalm

Yeah, we decided to pass on purchasing the delete...delete...delete house we're renting. We've begun a full-out search for a house to purchase, but the one we are planning on making an offer on is a short-sale. In the local market at least, that means 4-6 months to see if our offer is accepted and get to closing. sigh

So, we're moving to an apartment for the time being. That's cool. Two pools -- one heated in the winter -- no landscape hassles OR pool maintenance, less rent (!)... these are all good things. Right?

Then there's the other side of the coin. We're moving from about 2400 square feet to a "whopping" 1133 square feet. Oh dear gods, how are we going to manage that? I (we, really) have a plan.

First, we secured a climate-controlled storage unit yesterday. 10x15x10. The washer, dryer and fridge are going in there -- that's not even a question! All of Randy's tools will likely go in there as well. At least 5 of the tall Billy Bookcases (4 have glass doors) are going in there. We're putting most (if not all) of our remaining hardback and non-fiction books in storage. The extra dining table is going into storage. My (beautiful) 120 gallon aquarium and stand and Nick's 45 gallon acrylic aquarium and wood stand are both going to storage. I think Rowan has a 15 gallon set-up for a reptile that he's going to store as well. When we're farther along in the packing, I'm going to have Randy disassemble my desk and come up with a smaller configuration for both of our desks for the new place. Rowan is planning on putting his desk in his room, which will help a lot.

The plan is still "in progress" -- so many things haven't been considered yet. But the one thing I've made sure of is that ALL my yarn, and Simon (my spinning wheel) will be going to the apartment. I think my 3 sewing machines will be going to storage -- since it's climate controlled, that makes that decision easy.

I plan to go through my fiction hardbacks today to look for any that can either (a) go to Bookman's for trade-in credit or (b) that I want to keep out so I can read them finally. Then I'll look through the metric tonne of mass market paperbacks for books which we don't want to trade in, but could possibly go to storage. The plan here is to keep one of the Billy bookcases (one without doors) out and put all the books on them. I may try to change that and have us install the shelves over the desks or something like that, since the square footage is going to be tight.

In the midst of this packing madness, I'm still working on the Lattice Lace shawl I want to wear at Marcey's wedding in August.

I'm still hoping to create a pair of stockings to wear with the gown -- but that's moving more and more into the realm of "wish", instead of "reality". If I had a pattern that worked with laceweight yarn for a sock (!), giving me good stitch counts to work from, I'd feel more confident that I could pull it off. As it is, I'll cast these on after the next project I have planned.

And that project... is another Baby Bobbi Bear for someone special. This one is going to be very unique as I'm planning a "patchwork" kind of bear. She reads here, so I don't want to ruin all my surprises. I promise to reveal the final product, once this bear's new owner has it.

So, can I pack this place in 3 weeks and still finish the Lattice Lace Shawl before July 1st? Can I fit all of us and an abbreviated list of our belongings into 1133 square feet? Can I abbreviate my belongings?

Stay tuned to this same knit channel, this same knit time, to find out!

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