Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The House and I, We Thank You

On the last day we're going to be in our little house, I want to pause and thank some of you readers and friends, who I have been thinking of as I've packed up all our worldly possessions this week. I have fond memories of my little bilevel, and I have realized it's not the house itself, but the people who have shared it with us at different times and for different reasons.

So here goes.

Thank you, M.W., L.W., B.B., and C.B. for late nights at the dining room table playing Hold 'Em, and later nights down in the basement (back when it was still dark, depressing wood panelling) playing Catchphrase. And dropping red velvet cake.

Thank you, D.R. and B.R., for being our first overnight house guests and for visiting us almost annually since. I always think of the basement as "The Rs' bedroom."

To K.H., for driving all the way up from Atlanta to come to my baby shower and for trying out Ainsley's big-girl bed years before it was actually her big-girl bed. And for tolerating that bedroom for several days back when it was very, very teal. And to R.H., who joined K. to visit me while I was sick and desperately needed to feel like life on Farmwood was business as usual. Let us not forget the cigars you both also sent for my remission anniversary, which Jason and I enjoyed out on the deck on a beautiful summer night when all was truly right with the world. (This is my absolute favorite memory of our house.)

To M.W. and H.R.M., for a great night of intelligent (on your parts, anyway) political conversation over beverages. See? We can disagree without being disagreeable. Don't forget that we agreed to talk religion next time. We have to keep having these summits so we can solve the world's problems AND get rid of the surplus Bud population.

Thank you, C.B. and B.B., for Unibroue and Rock Band. Sometimes separately, sometimes in combination. But always a good Saturday night.

Thank you, J.K. and C.B., for bringing the kids every Halloween and starting the cousins-trick-or-treating thing. And thank to D.M. and A.H. for some good times watching UK basketball which I can almost remember.

And for those who aren't with us anymore and won't get to see the new house:

Thanks, Dad, for making sure the essentials were taken care of for us when we moved in: you bought us a TV for a housewarming. Ours had gotten busted in the move, and you strongly believed that a house is not a home without a working television. Preferably a big one. We plan to always follow this line of thinking.

Thanks, Kathie, for spending a weekend with us and telling people afterward, "She is a good cook...and an excellent housekeeper." Coming from you, this meant so much and made me see my house in a more positive light: I got the Kathie Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. High praise coming from a woman whose house I always coveted and whose footsteps I always felt were too big to tread in.

Thank you, Scout, for killing big spiders, providing attractive window dressing, alerting us to the presence of unseen things above our heads which may or may not have been ghosts, testing the water quality every time we turned a faucet on, hiding toy mice in obscure spots so we would be sure to think of you even after you were gone, and in general making our house feel like a home. No matter how many years you spent at my mom's, this was your house as much as it was ours.

Ainsley tonight will be saying her own goodbyes and thank-yous to her neighborhood friends, and she will have the experience of looking out the window of a loaded car and watching her home disappear in the rear view. It will be sad for her, and for us. But a new home and new memories await.

I hope to see y'all there.

Monday, May 23, 2011


"There's someone outside!"

Countless times over the last 10 years, I've woken Jason up in the middle of the night to tell him that I think someone's outside on our deck. I've been wrong every single time; usually it's just the wind shifting the patio furniture, or the neighbor's garage door opening and echoing strangely around the back of our house, or a particularly raucous party being thrown by the young couple at the end of the cul-de-sac. Our deck spans the entire length of the house, and our bedroom has a walkout. Any little noise or minute shift in the furniture or pop in the wood during rapid temperature changes makes it seem as though someone is walking around right outside our bedroom door.

Friday night, though, I was finally right when I heard noises outside. Yay?

It was 5am, and I had been sleeping like the proverbial rock. Hours spent packing and moving things out to the POD after a long day of work had me physically and mentally exhausted. Something woke me up before I even heard the noises, a sense of something being wrong in the world. I checked on Ainsley to find her sleeping peacefully; I checked for lit candles and walked out to the living room to make sure the house was sound. I decided I just needed more sleep.

No sooner had I gotten back in bed than I heard the patio furniture on our deck move suddenly and loudly.

Wow, I thought. The wind is really picking up. We must be getting a storm.

Then I remembered that there was no patio furniture on the deck. It was in the garage, ready for the movers. I heard the noises again, though louder this time. Footsteps. Shuffling. The whole deck vibrating. A squeaking noise against the bedroom wall that seemed as though someone or something was pushing against the vinyl siding.

I woke up Jason, as I have so many times. And like the townspeople who heard the little boy cry "Wolf!" one too many times, he had no reason to believe anything was amiss. Until he, too, heard the unmistakeable noises of something larger than a raccoon and much more bipedal roaming around our property.

I am not a fan of guns. I've said I never want one in my home, what with having a small and curious child. But I immediately found myself wanting to pull out a 9 and bust a cap in someone's ass.

Jason started to part the curtains over the walkout door.

"Don't!" I whisper-screamed.

I didn't want to see what was out there. It could have been a garden-variety burglar who thought the house with the "Sold" sign in the yard, and the Pod in the driveway, was vacant and a good place to hit. An amateur who would have gotten scared off had the curtains parted. Or it could have been a serial killer. Or some trigger-happy jail escapee who had already held up a liquor store and a pawn shop and had nothing to lose. I thought it might be good to make some noise but to not paint a target on ourselves.

I called 911. They asked me if I was sure it wasn't an animal; I told them that unless buffalo herds had been spotted in Spring Valley recently, I was fairly sure our intruders were in the human family. Jason got up and rattled around the bathroom. My mama grizzly instincts took over and I stationed myself at Ainsley's bedroom door, ready to grab her and run at the sound of a window smashing. Instead, I just kept hearing the noises out on the deck. From the hallway, it seemed the whole house was shaking and even the attic seemed to be creaking. I pictured ninjas invading our home, climbing the roof to swoop in through the windows on ropes. My legs began to fail me and I collapsed against my child's bedroom door, praying that whoever was outside our house would just leave already.

"I'll give you whatever you want," I wanted to say. "The more you take is the less we have to move. Just quit freaking me out."

After Jason flushed the toilet, the noises seemed to stop. It's as though it took a flushing toilet for them to get scared away. There are some jokes I could make here, but I haven't slept well in three nights and I'll just leave the potty humor to you.

Two police officers arrived after that, and they searched all over our property. Whoever it was, they were good and gone. The guy and gal in blue reinforced my first thought that whoever it was probably assumed that our house was vacant. Having heard the noises we were making inside the house, they learned they were wrong and fled. As dawn broke, I tried to settle back into restless sleep.

The next day, a conversation with our neighbors revealed that there was widespread vandalism in our neighborhood that night. Every car parked on the street adjacent to ours was egged. Jason checked all around the house looking for any damage and vandalism, and when he lifted the heavy wooden door to our storage space under the deck, we both recognized the shaking, squeaking, creaking noise we had heard so much. The noise that sounded like siding being torn off. The pieces started coming into place; the egging vandals, perhaps after being spotted, looked for a good place to hide. The deck and unlocked storage nook (we had taken everything out of it in preparation for the move) of a house sold and seemingly vacant seemed like a good idea. In there, they probably shuffled around and pushed against the siding. At one point, they probably did venture up onto our large, high deck to look out and see if the coast was clear. And at the sound of our voices (and a flushing toilet in the bathroom that looks out to the deck) they scattered.

It was a comfort the next day to be able to have a theory built around some meddling kids and not a friendly neighborhood serial killer. Until nightfall, when I slept with one eye open, waiting for the sound of a return visit.

I had been very nostalgic about leaving our house. I was full of warm, fuzzy memories. But my sense of safety and security there are now completely obliterated. Whether my teenage vandal theory is accurate or not, someone was in my yard, under my deck, on my deck. They could see in windows, they were feet from where we were sleeping. They invaded my privacy, my turf. I felt violated. It will be hard to find peace there again.

Our next house is next door to a police officer. I will feel safer knowing that. In the light of day, I go back to thinking I don't want a gun in my house. But who knows? Maybe I will at least try to learn how to use one.

For now, though, we are safe. Which is the most important thing.

And we only have two more nights in our house. Which is suddenly just as important.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Climb Every Mountain

I've been thinking a lot lately about the time I accidentally climbed a mountain.
It was an unusually warm late February afternoon my senior year in college. I was in Gatlinburg for the weekend chaperoning and judging a high-school speech and drama tournament. That was my part-time job that year: working as an assistant coach for a high-school Forensics team (not the criminal kind) for not a lot of money but a whole lot of teaching experience. The season was winding to a close, as was my college career, and I had a "take life by the horns" attitude that weekend. The world was my oyster, and I was ready to put some hot sauce on that sucker and throw it down.

I had bonded with the other female chaperone and judge, a coed a year behind me and in a completely different social caste. We had a Breakfast Club kind of weekend together full of gut-spilling and heart-to-heart bonding moments in a locked-in environment, which was followed by us barely nodding at each other the rest of the year when we crossed paths on campus. Ah, the power of cliques.

The last day of the competition saw us with 4 hours to kill before the awards ceremony and the long drive back to Centre. We decided to hit a nature trail. Neither of us were wearing the right shoes, and we had a half a bottle of water each, but we were in our early twenties and wanted to get some sun. The skin cancer rates as our generation ages are going to be epic.

"Maybe one of the shorter trails," I said, looking at the brochure I had picked up.

"This one is only a couple of miles," she said. "Chimneytops. We can do that easily in four hours."

What we didn't know is that it was 2 miles straight up. Chimneytops trail isn't so much a nature hike as it is a climb to the top of a mountain. It's a subtle difference.

The first part of the trail was easy. Kids were doing it. We got to a marker showing that the short, beginner's part of the trail was over. We were told to proceed with the rest of the trail at our own risk, or to turn down a path that would take us back down to the parking lot and a lovely vending area. We weren't remotely tired or tan. We were having fun. So despite everyone on the trail ahead of us wearing hiking boots, carrying backpacks, and walking with big sticks, we kept going.

"If it gets too tough, we'll just turn around," I said. "Let's give it a shot."

The terrain changed. We found ourselves sometimes having to crawl up steep inclines and rocky spots in the trail. The air grew thin and cold. My blue suede Converse All-Stars, brand new until that trip, rubbed blisters on the backs of both heels that bled through the socks and through the shoes themselves. We stopped for a moment. This was not the peaceful, sun-soaked nature walk we had in mind. It seemed we may have reached our stopping point.

"Just half an hour more, girls," an older lady told us as she passed us from her way down the mountain. "The view's worth it."

I looked at my fellow coach. She looked at me.

"Well, we've come this far, we might as well see the view," she said.

And we did. We were dirty, tired, short of breath, low on water and food. My feet hurt. My temporary friend had needed to pee for about a half-mile. (We each eventually crept off the trail for a mutual first: going in the woods, hoping you know how to spot poison ivy.) But when we made the last climb, up a scary bald place in the mountain where you could surely die if you weren't careful, we got to see a view of the Smokies that was literally breathtaking.

Someone at the top shared their granola bars with us and passed us a bottle of water to share. No one spoke. It was, to that moment, the most empowering moment of my life. I had never before been proud of myself for endurance or physical strength. But I had just climbed a freakin' mountain. A mountain. And I hadn't even meant to do it.

The walk down hurt my heels and my knees so badly I would feel the pain with every step for a week after. But it went so much quicker than the trip up. We were soon back at the car. We realized we were going to be late for awards and sped back to the hotel, where we walked in just as the kids were taking their seats.

Our head coach looked at us and his jaw dropped open.

"What happened to you two?" We were covered in dust, our hair ratty, and our skin burned red by sun and wind.

"We climbed a mountain." And with that we collapsed into our seats and laughed.

My fellow assistant coach's words to me, at that moment when we were trying to decide whether or not to go on when things started getting tough, have come back to me this week. Until a few days ago, we weren't locked into the home we were buying. There was a question of getting some needed repairs made and some back-and-forth about some issues the home inspection found. We ran into our own issues trying to get some of our repairs on our "old" house completed. There was a moment where I was in tears in our kitchen wondering why the hell we ever started down this road, when suddenly Jason said,

"Well, we've come this far..."

We might as well see the view.

I've been tempted to turn back. To just stop packing and go, "Screw it. This is hard. We're staying." But then I won't get the opportunity to take this new house and make it the way I want it and spend the rest of my life looking around, feeling good that I pushed on even when all signs pointed to staying put and taking the easy road.

So I'm changing my shoes, grabbing some water, and continuing my climb. It isn't easy, but the end of the trail is in sight.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

To My Troll, With Love

Just wanted to take a break from packing to let everyone who reads this know that someone posted a comment on my last post that said, and I quote because it's eloquent, "this blog remains terrible." They didn't capitalize or use proper punctuation, and honestly, that hurts my feelings even though the comment itself doesn't. What exactly are our schools teaching these days? Oh, usage and grammar. How I will miss you when you're gone.

Since I do comment moderation, I didn't post that comment. And I thought about letting sleeping trolls lie, but I do want to remind my new "fan" of a few things:

1. I don't write this blog for anyone but myself. It's my therapy, my sanity-saver, and a way of using my brain in a productive manner those rare times when I realize there's nothing good on TV. It's meant for my entertainment, not necessarily yours. I don't write for you, so I honestly don't care whether you think it's good, bad, or indifferent. My readers are mostly my friends and family who just check in to see what I'm up to and take it for what it is: an amateur blog written by someone who just loves to write. Why do you check in? Run out of puppies to kick?

2. If it remains terrible...why on earth do you keep checking back? You, sir, need a different past time besides looking for people who are inferior to you so that you can feel better about what, apparently, is a miserable, cold existence.

3. No matter what you say, even if no one is reading me, I will continue to write this. Because I love to write. Not because I want fame or fortune or to be published someday. Not because I am some egotistical pseudo-intellectual who thinks the world needs to hear my ramblings in order to keep spinning in its axis. If I have one reader, great! If I have no readers...also great! As far as pasttimes go, amateur, unpublicized blogging is about as harmless as playing golf or growing tomatoes. Plenty of people do those things for fun, too, and some aren't so good at them. And yet...they do them anyway. Even when that little voice in their heads says, after a putt that goes waaaay long--"Dude, you suck at this." And you know what? Those people, who do things for fun and not because they're great at them, those people are happy. And they probably don't go around commenting anonymously on blogs to make themselves feel superior to someone. Just sayin'.

4. And takes a lot of courage to post anonymous comments, doesn't it? Not so proud of your comments that you're willing to log on with your Google account, are you? If you really feel like trying to cut me down (and you haven't, but you have pissed me off with your smugness, which is the ugliest of all traits, really) , let me know who you are. It's the brave, respectable thing to do. Which is probably why you won't ever do it. Because it's so much easier to throw stones with a mask on, isn't it?

So you continue to have fun your way (anonymous trolling, which, as everyone knows, is soooo cool) and I will continue to have fun mine (writing terrible blogs that I apparently force you to read--insert evil laugh here!) Haters gotta hate, writers gotta write.

Now, back to moving my life.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Movin' On Up

We sold our house. We technically have bought a new one. (Though the inspection of that one brought up all kinds of lovely issues the relocated seller may not be able to fix, and I feel like running in the other direction.) So I am surrounded by boxes full of stuff, boxes not yet full of stuff, and things that need to be put in boxes. I am boxed in and boxed out. Box! Boxety-box-box!

All work and no play makes Cranky something-something. Go crazy? Don't mind if I do! It happens. Moving sucks.

The good news? We got a good price on what has the potential to be a good home in a great neighborhood.

"You can always change an outdated kitchen," our agent said, as we stood looking at ugly, dark  kitchen flooring in what would eventually be the house we chose, "but you can't change an updated house's location."

So we chose a house that has great potential after some fresh paint and fresh flooring. And some handyman work. And maybe a plumber. 

It doesn't help my opinion of the house that every time we've been shown it except for the first time, when we both really liked it in spite of its flaws, it's been raining. Possibly because it's been raining in our part of the world for a solid month now (if you live in northern Kentucky, you know that this really and truly is not an exaggeration.) And it doesn't help that the house has been unoccupied for almost a year. It's dirrrrrty. The first month we live there, I will be like the little cleaner robot in WALL-E. My wheels are gonna spin, spin, spin and I am going to be in constant scrub mode until my little chip short-circuits and fries my hospital-corners brain.

It will either make my OCD ten times worse or cure me of it forever. Vegas odds are on the former.

What keeps my hair from turning white and keeps the nice young men in the clean white coats away is that the house shortens Jason's commute without lengthening mine, has a front porch that I will be able to put Cracker Barrel rocking chairs on, gives us enough bedrooms to have a place my mom can comfortably stay in the next time an artery gets clogged from too many cheese coneys and cigarettes, and puts us on a street that is decidedly free from members of the banging class. It's essentially a blank canvas right now.

A blank canvas in a really lovely museum.

It is a comfortable step up from the space we have now, even if the first year we're there will feel like a step down. It has good bones, as they say. Like a beautiful Hollywood actress who yellows her teeth, has bags added under her eyes, and dons an unflattering wig to play an Oscar-bait role, there's beauty under the dust and cosmetic issues.

Yep, we just bought Charlize Theron in Monster. (Oh, I jest. It's not that bad. Just sorta dark and mildly neglected. Like Kate Winslet in Little Children.)

Because I will be packing, cleaning, planning for cleaning, and having a series of emotional breakdowns in between, I am probably taking some time off from the blog. I know the two of you who read it will have a hard time living your lives, but it's the price we all pay to live in the money pit.

The big move will happen the last week of May, and I suspect I will have a lot to say when the dust settles. A lot to say because there will be a lot of dust.

Have a nice end-of-spring, readers. When I next write you, it will be from the one-seven instead of the one-eight. Holla. Edgewood, represent!