Month: May 2016

An Affair of Sorts

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Something Different This Way Comes

Two weeks ago started off like any other week. Off to work on Monday after a relaxing weekend that included checking out a vacant old farmhouse we’d noticed a few weeks earlier while out driving around country roads. There was information on one of the windows designating the home as a Fannie Mae property and gave contact information which I jotted down and followed up on once we got home. We made arrangements to see the home and property on Wednesday.

Although I saw the home and property as having potential for the cheap price, my wife was seeing the amount of work it would take to get the place up to code. She was right and we abandoned further thought on the house. That house anyway. We wondered what type of other homes were available in the county so we jumped online and started looking.

It’s not that we aren’t happy with our own place. We live out in the country along a mildly traveled county road about six miles out of town. We have a few neighbors nearby, almost an acre of land, and we have beautiful woods all around us. Sounds wonderful to most people and it really is. Our house just needs some minor upgrades and a little TLC on the normal wear and tear a house goes through. The lazy part of us thought there might be something better available. Something with more land and less things wrong.

We found a property online that was a similar distance out of town but on the northeast side. Not much different landscape than where we are now, which is mainly wooded hills, country roads and hollows, but the property had more land. A lot more land. My wife was off work on Friday so I took a half day off and we made arrangements with the same realtor from Wednesday night to view the property at 1:45.

That’s when our adventure began.

Almost Off the Grid

Fifty plus acres with a cabin and a pond the listing said. Not only a great hunting camp but a place to take the family for a getaway the listing said. Living room, kitchen, two bedrooms, sleeping loft, wired for a generator, and a wood burning stove the listing said. A covered front porch with a wonderful view of the pond and hills the listing said. Paradise.

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We met the real estate agent at the bottom of a dirt road that would lead us up a hill. We followed her up the road through very thick woods. There were two small clearings along the rough dirt road, both with homes on them. The first one looked like squatters lived there and  the second, somewhat nicer, was near near the gate to the property we were going to see. The gate was guarded by a dog that must have belonged to the owners of the that house.The realtor got out, unlocked the gate, and we all drove through avoiding the dog that was still barking too loudly and acting as though he wanted to bite the tires. We drove forward about two hundred or so yards then hung a left and drove down a grass road canopied by trees to the cul-de-sac that might be ours someday. Actually, scratch that. Cul-de-sac is not a country property term.

Cabin

Let’s take a closer look.

Cabin 2

We gathered in front of the cabin and soaked in the surrounding area.  There was a pond directly in front of the cabin and I already had purchased a comfy chair in my mind for the front porch. Or maybe it was a porch swing. We noticed three deer peeking through some cover in the woods beyond the pond.  We continued our three hundred and sixty degree view from in front of the cabin. There were two small shed looking buildings about thirty yards away and an outdoor grill similar to what you might find at a park.

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The realtor had moved on to unlock the cabin door after we all stepped onto the porch. We walked into the cabin first and instantly fell in love. There were wooden walls everywhere and stained beams overhead. There was a small kitchen to the right with a breakfast bar. A living room to the left with a large wood burning stove in the corner. There were two very small bedrooms, and a ladder to a sleeping loft above the two bedrooms. Six hundred square feet. I’ve lived in apartments larger than that in my younger years. But, size didn’t matter here. Our current home is about eighteen hundred square feet and our bedroom is four hundred square feet with a covered porch off the back. And a deck. None of that mattered at the moment.  We had already built on additional footage in our minds and added another bedroom. We were now looking at this cabin like we were going to move into it. As in permanently. My wife and I were absolutely sold on the cabin as a home.

Well, almost.

We then started noticing little things.  There was no refrigerator. There was a stove, run off a propane tank outside of the cabin.  And the sink had no running water. That was because the barrel outside that collected rain water and runoff from the gutter happened to be empty and that is what supplied water to the cabin. No running water. Wait a minute. No running water. And where is the bathroom? Or refrigerator?

The two sheds outside? Yes, one was an outhouse. The other a shed was for wood and a generator. The generator was not a secondary option for power. It was the option. There was no septic system, no electricity, and no running water. Maybe not sold now.

We walked back outside and down passe our SUV and stared at the pond. A beautiful pond that had been stocked with fish.

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We walked back up to the porch and took it all in. My focus again back to the pond and the surrounding woods and the hills beyond that. And then the realtor spoke and mentioned something about envisioning a writer sitting here on the porch working on his or her next story. Wait, what? A writer? I’m a writer, and yes, I see it too and thankfully, or so I thought, so did my wife. Back to sold. We might even be able to enjoy the seventeen year cicada invasion from this porch.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”  – Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Oh how I wish.

What happened next is somewhat of a blur, but I’ll do my best.

A Ride, Dinner, Home Depot, and More Wandering

We took some paperwork from the realtor, thanked her again, and with visions of our potential new home clouding our normal 20/20 vision, we got in our vehicle and slowly turned around glancing quickly to the pond on our right and quickly back over to our left to look at our cabin one last time. Our potential new home.

No septic system, no water, and no electricity. No problem.

We estimated the distance from the cabin down the grass road before we hung a right to head back down hill. Two hundred yards I guessed. Then another two hundred yards to the gate and the still barking dog and a pole with power I now noticed. So four hundred yards post to non-existing post near cabin and another fifty to get power to house. Four hundred fifty yards.

We had’t even made it down the dirt road to the county road when words started flying between my wife and I.  It was 2:45 and we had been at the property for an hour. We were discussing downsizing. All our stuff would not fit in a small cabin. We’d have to store some of it and get rid of some of it. Mental note to get a price on a storage unit. After our tires came into contact with pavement, my wife suggested a trip to Home Depot. To dream. Get prices. Why not I thought. We had no obligations the rest of the day with our youngest  at orchestra camp. Not band camp, orchestra camp. As for our eldest, he was at home reading and can fend for himself, you know, being a college boy and all.

We decided to head to a Home Depot in a small city about thirty miles away.

During the first few miles we decided we could live with a generator short term. We could do laundry in town at the laundromat. We could get by with an outhouse during the summer. And we could fill that large drum with water. This could work. We could even put up an outdoor shower. Who would see us anyway?

A septic system, water, and electricity. Alright, maybe a problem but workable. At least through summer and most of fall.

We’d have to build a bathroom and have room for a refrigerator. The bedroom adjacent to the kitchen could be a bathroom. The boys could just sleep in the loft. Our oldest is only here during the summer and breaks anyway right? We’d get a small refrigerator to start. A dorm style one. My wife added that to our list for Home Depot.

During the drive, she started searching for prices on her phone. First, was a septic system. She found prices varied from $2,500 to $7,500. She also searched for prices on putting in a well.  The realtor mentioned a couple of natural springs on the property, not that I would know how to tap water from there. But, there is a pond so there must be water. Well prices could be around $10,000. We also have friends who have had this done so it can’t be rocket science but we could assume the worst of course. You know, for budgetary purposes. We’ll figure $20,000 to be safe for septic and water.

We weren’t fifteen miles into our drive and we had tentatively solved two problems, or at least had an idea of a plan. Septic system and water would be the most important. Electric could wait provided we got a generator. We decided to have dinner first and I would get online and come up with an estimate for power. Both a short term plan and long term plan.

During the remainder of the drive we added on a larger bedroom and expanded the kitchen. We also changed the bathroom to a laundry room and added on a bathroom to that. This would expand the back of the cabin and the left side where there was already a deck. It’s only money right?

We reached Applebees, ordered our meals and drinks, and started looking into the long term plan for power. I found out quickly it’s done by feet and not yards so my four hundred fifty yards now became one thousand three hundred fifty feet. It also became anywhere between $10,000 and $20,000 depending which site I wanted to believe. I wanted it to be the cheaper site of course.

Maybe power from the grid would have to wait until year two. 57a5f094-d358-46df-9266-6d33da0c0f69_1000After dinner, we went to Home Depot. We started on the far left side of the store that conveniently had generators. Perfect. I grabbed a worksheet that helped calculate how much generator we would need, started a new note on my phone, and entered a model, size, and price. We then found a mini frig somewhere between a dorm frig and a normal frig and entered a price. We continued this exercise on each aisle looking and writing down prices for: vanity combos, vanity mirrors, faucets, shower heads, shower stalls and tub, toilet, and an electric water heater. As we progressed along each aisle, I also noticed our tone was changing. We were not only pricing these items for the cabin but making comments regarding how nice our current bathroom would look with a new vanity combo and mirror, or how nice it would be to add a storm door with a slide down window revealing a screen to the door on our porch.

By the time we got through the doors, storm doors, building supplies, and deck material, we were now pricing things for current projects we have talked about doing to our home.  Quick math said the additional money we would have to spend to do all these things for a new property would be foolish. Fun but foolish, and not part of my ten plus years to retirement plan. I won’t even get to the discussion on how we only have two vehicles out of four that could have made it up the hill to the cabin. We’d have to get rid of the Fusion and small truck and get another 4WD. More money, more money.

Our ride home from home depot had a different tone than the ride there. What were we thinking? We talked about it and brought up the idea of looking at houses in town. Close to people. Real neighbors. After an orchestra performance for my youngest on Saturday, we spent the remainder of the day looking at houses. For this, we included the kids. We did the same thing on Sunday. There were some beautiful houses within walking distance to my youngest son’s school and downtown. Some nicer than ours and some about the same. But with each house, we were finding we’d have to add a deck, or a fence for our dogs, or this or that. Still, this exploring was both fun and emotionally draining at the same time.

Not surprisingly, by Sunday evening we ended up right back where we started: our home, with all her faults and beauty and familiarity. I think we’ll put some effort into her this summer. I still have a supply list and prices on my phone.

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Our Home

 Photos courtesy of me, Pixabay, and Home Depot

 

 

 

 

If We Were Having Coffee #14 – 8 ½ Months

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If we were having coffee, I would have a number of choices to offer your today. I have a breakfast blend, a butter toffee, a house blend (somewhat dark), and a caramel pecan roll flavored coffee. For creamers, I have French Vanilla and Italian Sweet Crème. I’m going with the house blend and Italian Sweet Crème. Let’s head out to the back porch and enjoy the morning shade. It’s uncharacteristically cold out this May morning and the forecast rumor is snow but coffee will surely warm us.

I haven’t had a coffee share post in a few months, instead opting to read a few each weekend. Since my thoughts today are related to a coffee share post 8 ½ months ago, I though it only appropriate to drop by this venue for today’s post.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you about how lost I felt 8 ½ months ago after saying goodbye to my oldest son when we dropped him off at college. At the time, I was bouncing back and forth between how excited I was for him and selfishly wallowing in the sad reality that is just one recurring stage of parenting; continually letting your child go.

Through this forum, I had received many kind words of support, both from people who have been there before and from those going through the same thing. It helped and I am forever grateful.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you it wasn’t all that bad. We had daily texts and were able to see him numerous times over the last 8 ½ months. There were school breaks, weekend shopping trips, and a few times we drove down just to take him out to eat. There was the occasional phone call or FaceTime. It worked. One hundred and twenty miles away was not that far. We survived. And grew. All of us.

We picked him up at school Friday May 6th. He was both excited to come home for the summer and sad to leave a new friend who would not be returning next semester. We moved him down there in our car and moved him back home in a new SUV. He asked if it was “ours” which tells me everything is the same despite being different.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you we got his grades a few days ago. I could brag. Really, I could. Suffice it to say I am proud of him along with all he accomplished and figured out his first year in college.

I suppose I should have expected nothing less. In the meantime, we are going to enjoy the next 3 ½ months.

Until next time…

B

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Weekend Coffee Share is hosted by Part-Time Monster

Pictures courtesy of Pixabay and my son

Do, or do not. There is no try.

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“Do, or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda

For anyone seeking inspirational guidance or motivation, there is no shortage of information out there to help an individual or group pursue a desirable goal or achievement. That information may come in the form of famous quotes, one liners from movies, written works, slogans, or music. There is also no shortage of individuals or groups willing to offer guidance and/or motivation. They might be professionals (speakers, authors, educators, etc.) who receive a fee for their actions or they might be family members or friends seeking nothing more than the enjoyment of helping or watching someone succeed. Those same friends or acquaintances might even be on the same journey or endeavor. Your running club, the gang at the gym, your writer’s group, or your classmates. There is also a third person offering guidance or help. Yourself. Wait, that’s the first person. And yes, that’s my attempt at writer humor.

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“I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor.” – Thoreau

I’m thinking about this subject for a number of reasons. I have numerous friends at any given time trying to elevate their lives and I am always respectful and supportive because at any given time, I am usually trying to do the same. Currently, I’m writing, refocused on my health, and recently agreed to pursue a professional certification at work. The writing has no end goal other than finish, then start the next, then finish, and repeat. The focus on health is for no other reason than I want to be around for some time. The certification is another story. I don’t need the certification. I have many years of experience, a degree, and have always taken on more responsibility than originally asked. I’m at that stage of my career that is comfortable and secure provided I perform and remain relevant. Due to some added job responsibilities, I felt I needed to study up on some new things as well as refresh my memory on others and in doing so, was offered an opportunity to take a course leading to certification. I have plenty of motivational sources for writing and my health but the certification effort will be solo and with that, so will my motivational source. No worries there.

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I’m also thinking motivational speak this weekend because I am trying to be there for my son. Last August we were dropping him off at college and here it is already finals week. His first year of college is almost over with and I have been sending him short texts offering words of encouragement as he crams for finals. That is probably all I can do at this point. He’s endured hours of motivational speak from both me and my wife. I say motivational since most of it was meant to be encouraging but some of it was more facts of life type speech. I won’t call them lectures. More of a life talk and that is always harder but my wife and I have not wanted to sugarcoat anything with our kids.

Fifty percent of the kids he graduated with last June that are going to college, will not finish. At his orientation for college last year, the staff let us know that approximately twenty percent of the freshman class would not return for their sophomore year for a number of reasons. Facts of life. Through research of our own, along with what my son has learned this year from others, there are certain classes in the program he is in that will weed out students from continuing in the program. After next week he will have completed four of them. There is another critical one next semester but I’m confident he will do OK. He is on an academic scholarship that demands a certain GPA be maintained in addition to being in a program that demands a specific GPA be maintained for all classes taken related to the program. My son is well aware of this and well aware of the consequences should he not meet those requirements. The program GPA is what it is and there is nothing mom and dad can do about that one. The financial scholarships are what they are and cover a good portion of his costs. The rest is being paid by student loans and Mom and Dad. We’ve made it clear that we will not make up the difference should he lose his scholarship. This is a partnership in my mind between the school, the government, my son, and my wife and me and there are expectations for each vested party. One of those Dad things I say to him all the time is there is no practice life. This is it and what you do or don’t do counts. Or maybe I’m repeating something I heard in a movie or song, or something I read or some other life lesson I try to share hoping he makes the connection and seriousness of it all. That and reminding him to enjoy himself and make memories in the same conversation. It all seems to be a contradiction of sorts.

My son gets all this. He budgets and balances his time. He reaches out for help if he needs it and he crams when he has to. That impresses me. No safe zone, no sugarcoat, no bullshit. He is realizing something now that takes others years to even conceptualize. His hard work in high school only gave him the opportunity he has now in college. Nothing more. The rest is up to him and only him and that demands more hard work.

There are a lot of inspirational quotes or passages I could share with him this weekend. Most of them I have already shared. My personal favorite is something many attribute to Nelson Mandela but is actually a passage from a book by Marianne Williamson:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.” 

In classic tasteless fashion, as can be so prevalent in my household at times, I opted for words of encouragement that were not so profound but still offered some motivational insight:

“Time to nut up or shut up.” – Tallahassee

Photos courtesy of Pixabay and GoErie

 

 

 

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