No place like it

The first time i saw the place, my jaw dropped.  It was HUGE!  Five bedrooms?  An extra kitchen downstairs.  Full dining room, with hardwood floors through the entire upstairs.  There was NO WAY that this was going to be my home – it was amazing!  More house than i could have ever wanted…  “We’ll NEVER be able to fill it up*- we don’t have enough stuff!”
 
That feeling washed back over me as i watched the face of the young woman, carrying a baby, as she entered the home for the first time since she and her husband offered to purchase it from me.  Her jaw was very nearly on that hardwood floor.
 
When i moved to “The Barbie Dream Condo” almost two years ago, i kept the old family home as a rental property – waiting for the housing market to recover at least a little.  The house represents my savings, and i wanted to optimize the cash out of it.  The tenants moved out last weekend, and i put the place on the market again last Sunday.  On Wednesday morning**, i was stunned when my realtor brought me three offers…
 
Reviewing the offers over coffee that afternoon, i grilled him about the people who wanted to buy the house.  He described the young couple with five kids (four under the age of 10 plus a 21 year old from a prior marriage), who are currently living in a very small three bedroom home nearby.  He even remembered to check my most important criteria – yes, they have a dog!
 
Sure, i wanted to know their credit scores, ability to come up with the down payment, and timing (whether the sale would be contingent on the sale of their current home).  But it was the five damn kids that sealed it for me.  And the dog***.
 
It was a great house for our family.  A closed neighborhood with very little traffic, it was safe for kids to ride bikes.  Trees.  A creek full of crawdads and tadpoles.  Good neighbors. The kind that look out for each other, without getting nosey – a delicate balance. 
 
After i accepted their offer, The Boy and i decided to drop by and walk through it – he was headed back to school, and wouldn’t have a chance to see it again before closing.  Twenty years of memories.  Scrapes on the concrete ledge in the garage where The Boy perfected edge grinds.  The artsy-fartsy light switch covers in The Girl’s old bedroom.  The ceramic tile in the kitchen, installed by my niece’s first husband – as he tried to earn money to pay his legal fees after his arrest.  Goofy stickers on the dartboard in The Boy’s old bedroom. 
 
As The Boy and i drove home, he said “That chapter is closed.  Nice to have seen it one last time.”  It’s almost closed for me, too.  If all goes well, that will happen Tuesday morning, after the paperwork is completed and i hand over the keys and garage door openers. 
 
It brings me tremendous pleasure that there will be little kids in that home.  And a dog. 

yep. that was our car...

 
* Stumble  forward 20 years.  We filled it.  And then some… dumped a couple tons at the garage sale.
 
** Happy fucking birthday, by the way!  It sold in three days.  My advice:  listen to your realtor.
 
*** The husband told me it’s a Doberman, who is afraid of climbing stairs.  She’ll either get over it, or spend a lot of time downstairs!

Heartworm… of a sort…

Returning from the airport well after midnight on Saturday, it wasn’t until lunchtime today that i was reunited with my canine life partner, Mr. Pickles.  After letting my kids know that i’d had a great time, but was doing battle with a mild case of “Mummy Tummy” after eating some bad nachos at a rasta bar, i got this from my daughter:

Sorry to hear about your tummy trouble, though you and Pickles share similar circumstances. I woke up on thursday to an extremely irritating puppydog demanding his walk. When i let him out, he shat a lovely brown liquid. When going downstairs for my run, i discovered that he had left me a “good morning” present: a splattering of poo all over the theater room floor that loosely resembled a Pollack painting. Dog’s got talent…

By the time i was in the airport on Saturday, my son called to inform me that the gastro-rocketry had gotten worse – now with much pukage.  Including a rather spectacular splat on my bed*.  He took the pup to the vet first thing Saturday morning, and the doggie doc wanted to keep him for the rest of the weekend.  It seemed fairly serious.

Sunday was a very long day.  It’s hard to describe, but the presence of this large brown dog – breathing, rearranging his dulaps, groaning or sighing in his sleep – is something that we’ve all gotten used to.  He doesn’t constantly beg for attention.  He’s just always there.  A quiet, comforting companion.

As we go about our business, he moves from room to room – flopping on the bedroom floor as i put away my laundry, dozing at the top of the stairs if i’m mucking around in the utility room downstairs, coming in to say ‘hi’ if i’m in the bathroom for more than a few minutes.  Mostly, he sleeps.  Hardly an overpowering presence.

When he’s gone?  Everything is wrong.  Feng Shui fucked up to the max.  It’s as though the household heart has stopped beating.

Given that the doc’s office was closed on Sunday, i wasn’t able to get an update on his condition.  Fearing the worst, i called this morning.  I was overjoyed to learn i could pick him up at my convenience! 

Still no idea what jacked his delicate digestive tract, i’m simply delighted to have him home again… even though my current endearing name for him is “Shitstain”…

Still not 100%, but glad to be home...

Still not 100%, but glad to be home...

* The Boy earned himself some bonus points by laundering all of my bed linens – and making my bed – before i returned home… And both of them spent many hours scrubbing the gnarliest of gnarly dog messes from carpeting… Thankfully…

Respecting Boundaries – Real and Imagined

i still have no furniture in my living room – i moved in late August.  My priorities are sound, however, as the billiards table has been in place since October, as has the hard core electronics gagetry…  But it’s time for seating, as the threat of another party lurks for later in the month.  Another farewell party for a young ‘un at the office, he’ll invite perhaps 75 folks, with an expected 40-50 attending.

Yep.  Barbie’s first kegger in the new crib.

i’d been waiting for The Girl to return from her sojourn to the middle east, and have put her MAD DEZYN SKILZ to work to help me select the basics.  My goal is to have a cozy seating area, with lots of flop space.  Focal point is the fireplace, and wall of windows overlooking the deck and trees.  Leather is a must, as the brown dog likes to flop on the couches, too… and nothing is as easy to clean as leather when you’ve got a mutt loose in the house.

Having picked out some cool stuff, i wasn’t sure it would all fit properly… so i did my anal-retentive best to draw the room to scale, using simple computer-based layouts to try several arrangements.  Despite my best efforts, it still seemed too crowded. 

So i did what any self-respecting dork would do.  Taped out the layout for the sofa, coffee table, and then built cardboard cut outs for the footprints of the chairs under consideration.  And then worked through several arrangements to assure that it all fit comfortably.

you have to use your imagination a little...

you have to use your imagination a little...

Much to my complete and total amazement, i discoverd that Mr. Pickles would not walk on the imaginary furniture.  Much like Les Nessman, of WKRP in Cincinnati, the dog is treating these taped boundries as “real”.  Even after i “sat” on the couch and tried to get him to hop up and join me?  He’s a good boy…

Dogs are just goofy…

Downward Dog

Downward Dog

"Is that new?"

"Is that new?"

"Don't wanna piss her off..."

"Don't wanna piss her off..."

"She's the goofy one... taken minimalism to a new low..."

"She's the goofy one... taken minimalism to a new low..."

Return of Danger Monkey

The Girl is home!  After 4 months in Beirut, she was successfully retrieved from the airport*, minus one bit of checked luggage, and none the worse for her adventures!

She used her time well, visiting the north, the south, The Cedars, Tripoli and everything in between.  Scariest thing that happened to her during her stay (besides this)?  An elevator ride in JFK Airport, NYC.  As the elevator shook violently, her thought was “Damn!  After all that I’m going to die in a fucking airport elevator!”.

We returned, killed a bottle of wine, hung out with The Boy and swapped pictures and stories until way too late for this old lady with a pesky day job.  All’s well – for the moment – in this little corner of my trailer park…

At Musa Castle, Lebanon

At Musa Castle, Lebanon

*Despite predictions of a killer ice storm, raining death and destruction… which never materialized.  Not a damn flake of snow.  Yep.  It’s winter here

Of all the things i missed in “chick school”…

i think that “Home Decorating 101” is currently the most desperately needed.  The genetically-coded shopping thing bypassed me as well, and was replaced with a near maniacal hatred of shopping malls.  And while i like shoes, shoe shopping brings no emotional orgasm.

The Barbie Dream Condo is coming along nicely, with the addition of the pool table, home theater/digital audio zones and plans for the custom wet bar well underway.  Never mind the fact that there’s no furniture in the living room.  The Girl will help me with that when she gets back in country next month.  My priorities are fine, thank you very much.

The most egregious decor in the newly purchased condo was the “fruit basket” wallpaper in the kitchen.  Beyond hideous, i removed it from the walls within a week of living here.  Figuring i’d eventually get around to painting.  That was a month ago.  Having no color sense, and not knowing the difference between “feisty autumn gonad” and “roasted pepper giblet”, i knew i needed help.  And i found it at the local Paint Emporium! 

Rather than go to the hardware store again, and chat up the burly-hot biker boy in the paint department – and risk household hideosity– i took the advice of a friend and went to the Big Time Paint Professionals!  If i agreed to buy at least $75 worth of stuff, they offer a free home “Color Consultant” service!  Woo Hoo!

A few weeks ago, the Color Consultant arrived at the condo.  Trying to gauge my tastes, she eyed various objects d’art*, and enquired about how i’d like to the place to feel.  Explaining that i like to throw parties, have no actual artwork, and wouldn’t know sophistication or class if it bit me in the shorts, she furrowed her brow and made some notes.  Spying the giant plastic Sea Monkey hanging from the dining room chandelier, as well as the 3′ steel sword by the stairs, she continued to scribble furiously – and headed out to her car to retrieve more paint samples.

Returning with a dusty box – which, in hindsight may have been labeled “Paint Samples – Cyndi Lauper 1985 Collection” – she said i seem to be the “eclectic, international party girl”  What she left out were the words “dorky, unsophisticated and juvenile”.  We walked through each room, she made suggestions, stuck little colored papers here and there, and wrote everything down for me.  At the end of the hour, she gave me my “Color Strategy“!  Do you hear that?  i had a COLOR STRATEGY!

Armed with the confidence that only a certified Color Strategy provides, i wandered off the the Paint Emporium yesterday morning.  It was finally time to tackle the kitchen**.  Taking three of the colored papers (for the kitchen and living room) to the manager, i explained that i was “Deploying Phase I of my Color Strategy”.  And i might have done so with just the hint of smirk.  He asked what finish, and which type of paint, i wanted for each color.  “Huh?”  Oh, and he even asked me how much…  Shit, i don’t know.  Enough to paint a fucking kitchen, for christsakes!

Confidence rattled, i returned home and set about painting.  Going from a “melted butter jism” color to a “festering mosquito bite red”, even i knew it would take a few coats to fully cover the walls. Painting away merrily, i was disturbed to find that the walls were really splotchy.  Maybe from the wall paper glue residue?  Crap.  Well, i had enough paint for three coats, so it would probably cover ok… Finishing the second coat, i knew i was hosed… Let it dry?  My walls looked like “Sunburnt Teenager with Acne”.  Shit.  Should i have used primer?

Returning to the Paint Emporium, wearing my paint covered t-shirt and looking a bit despondent, i noticed the manager and clerk exchanged knowing glances.  As if to say “Another Paint-tard…”.  The manager looked at the clock.  Hey… did those little shit weasels make a bet on how long before i came back to report disaster?  The manager set his strategically stubbled metrosexual jaw, and drilled in with questions about my “situation”.

After consulting with nearly every clerk in the store – and perhaps a few customers to assure my complete public humiliation – they gave me some tinted enamel primer, another quart of “festering mosquito bite” paint, new roller pads, and i was on my way. 

The best thing about oil-based primer?  Massive destruction of brain cells.  i hadn’t realized it was a problem until The Boy arrived with a few of his friends, and demanded that i quit huffing fumes.  My response?  “Hey, anybody wanna get high?”  He opened some doors and they scooted downstairs to avoid the toxic cloud in the kitchen.

Whew.  It turned out lovely.  My confidence rattled, but not completely shattered.  i’m not afraid of color… and i still have a Color Strategy!

__________

* during our discussion, the only thing i plan to hang on my wall in the living room is the bedspread my paternal grandmother made for her marriage bed.  it was used once (Ewwww!) and is simply stunning.  Color Consultant?  Went nuts, said that with a 30′ tall wall, i’d be crazy not to mount it and display it in the living room… and off we went!

** Motivation?  Hosting a party for my fellow “professional degree” graduates Monday.  Somewhere between 20-40 people will descend upon me for a major throw down.  i thought it might be good to paint the kitchen first…

Christening…

Committing to debt for 30 years.  Clutching my heart only when i saw the date “August 19th, 2038”.  Rational thought saying “i will have it paid off in less than half that time” but irrational chick brain saying “i’ll be 76-fucking-years old”*.

My friend, realtor, garage-sale maven and fellow trailer park refugee, KMD helpfully pointed at something shiny and distracted me.  Arriving at the new condo at 2:00 pm for the pre-closing inspection**, we walked the place making sure that all required repairs had been accomplished.  i was clever enough to bring the stepladder to inspect a disconnected sewer gas line above the master bedroom.  i wasn’t clever enough to remember to bring a flashlight, however…

One annoyance?  KMD noted that the seller had removed every single roll of toilet paper.  Just rude.  Upon further inspection, we found that the seller had left the washer and dryer.  Ummm… ok.  Fair trade.  They seem functional, perhaps same vintage as mine.  i can leave mine in place at the “rental”, and that’s one less thing to move and connect.  i can buy toilet paper.

After the pre-closing inspection, we scooted back to my house to allow me to change into something less smelly, and to load both cars to start the moving process.  Since the packing crew – arriving friday – charges for wardrobe boxes, but all other boxes/supplies are included, we decided to start transporting hanging goods.  And we started with the end of the closet where my “party gear” resides…

What was the first box i carried across the threshold?  Corsetry, of course!  Two carloads later, it was just a bit less empty.  i’ll be deciphering the light-switch structure for months.  Had a celebratory drink with KMD, and i returned to the current homestead, met a friend, and we hauled two more carloads – and a six pack – over to the new place.  KMD had left a rather spectacular – and wildly appropriate – gift for my new home.  What’s a Trailer without Tequila?  Woo hoo!

Still daylight, we made another run – and this time, i felt compelled to bring the guitar.  It won’t feel right without it.  Knocking back a couple brews on the back deck, overlooking the wooded creek, it seemed like a good christening.  Festive girl-wear, guitar, and beer.  Oh, and toilet paper.

Once the dog has acclimated?  It’ll be home… (sigh)

__________

* Ooops.  i think i said that part out loud.  Fortunately the seller – a pleasant woman across the table from me, and perhaps within tooth-spitting distance of 76 years old – did not hear the comment.

** Minor repairs, but necessary.  Found by the smokin’ hot, deliciously irish home inspector i’d hired, i had provided the seller the option of making the repairs, or cutting a check for $3500 at closing to cover the cost.  They chose to repair the items.  Damn.  Might have made a nice pool table fund…

The Welcoming Committee

Left London this morning, and encountered absolutely no travel glitches*.  Miraculously managed to hook an earlier flight home from Philadelphia – being allowed to board even after the gate agent had closed the door!  Quickly sent text messages to the kids to make sure one of them could get me from the airport almost 3 hours earlier than planned.  Quick confirmation from The Boy that he could come to get me, and a text from The Girl to “Save Room for Tacos”**.

Sailing smoothly through the doors at baggage claim, i had to wait a bit until they arrived.  Spotted them pulling up to the curb a few minutes later…

The whole entourage came to get me!  The Boy at the wheel, The Brown Dog slobbering in the backseat, and The Girl riding shotgun… Holding a cardboard sign out the window as they moved slowly along the curb…

“Mom?”

Except it was upside down…  i love my kids… they always know how to make me laugh my ass off!  Great trip, great to be home…

* Well, not counting my failed attempt to stock up on single malt scotch at Heathrow’s Duty Free because i wouldn’t be checking my bag homeward.  Have to exit security in Philly after customs… Bastards…

** They had come home to a very sparsely populated pantry.  Even worse than usual.  The Girl was in charge of dinner, The Boy responsible for dessert.  Hence, vegetarian tacos and jello pudding cups on the menu.  What The Girl called a “hobo meal” – the “shit you eat when you don’t have money”.  Over the meal, they decided they should open a taco and pudding restaurant – to be called “Taco del Pud”.  Pronounced “poohed”…

There’s no place like home

After quite a ride, Mom went home from the Cardiac Rehab facility today.  The first week there, she seemed to be happy to be out of the intensive care unit at the hospital, and was enjoying 3-meal-a-day room service*.  As she got more mobile, there was increasing restlessness.  And much to my complete and total amazement – she lost her appetite.

This scared me.  As i’ve mentioned before, we are not a family that wastes away.  i’ve seen her leave family funerals early to dig into the goodies brought over by neighbors.  She had every symptom of depression.  Going home might not be enough to solve the problem…

From the start, we’d told her that the decision to stay or go was up to her.  By Tuesday of this week, she was down in the dumps, crying a bit, and starting to ask about being “sprung from the joint” to go home.  My niece, DQ**, took her to a follow up appointment with the surgeon yesterday.  After the consult and review of her medical condition, she was given the green light!  Oh, and some anti-depressants – turns out a bout of depression is not uncommon after bypass surgery.

Just off the phone with Momma.  She was a little anxious.  i reminded her that she has a de facto “call button”, through the Life Alert System that she was thrilled to have installed last January. 

daisyfae:  Mom, you’re ready to be home.  DQ is next door, and the call button will get someone on the intercom within seconds!  It’s your safety net…

Mom:  Oh, that’s right.  i knew it would come in handy one of these days.

daisyfae: [biting tongue… while smiling]

* it looked quite institutional to me, complete with gray-green peas, creamed corn and dessicated meatloaf, but she loved it. At first.  When i was visiting over the weekend, she was pushing the food around on her plate like a stubborn toddler.

** i’ve had lots of unflattering things to say about my niece, DQ.  Like this, this and this…  Oh, wait.  Can’t forget this one…  But this round – when it comes to taking care of business for Mom – she has been brilliant!  Readily acknowledging that since she doesn’t have a job, and lives next door, she’s in the best position to lead the care-giving.  Stepping up to the task, she’s gone beyond ‘tactical’ support and logistics, but even gotten the hang of dealing with the doctors.  i’m awed, and perhaps feeling a tad guilty.  looking forward to things getting back to normal so i can write more of the fun stuff…