We Share the Same Sphere

The evening before Hubby came home from work, for the last time, I chatted with my neighbor about how I was looking forward to retirement some unforeseen day out in the future, thinking we would likely stay put in our house. My only worry was how Hubby would occupy himself without a J-O-B. Little did I know, but the very next day, January 20, we would come face-to-face with that reality.

We were shaken with the abrupt change to our lives and we spent a lot of time palling around together. I continued my quilting business, and Hubby accompanied me to meetings with customers, chauffeured me around, and we accomplished errands together. In those first days, he spent hours readying the yard for spring (we fired our landscapers on day 1), and hours working out at the club where we kept our membership, but ratcheted it down to just a membership for one instead of for the whole family. Hubby also took on house cleaning responsibilities (we fired our house cleaners on day 1), and when the first time cleaning day rolled around he spent the entire day on about a third of the house. That part of the house was “deep” cleaned in a way it had NEVER seen before.

More recently, and months later, our 3rd daughter was home for a few months in the summer. Her arrival coincided with a particularly stressful time during the house saga, and she commented how she noticed and appreciated that her dad and I were partnering so closely through the challenges of this transition. This daughter noticed something that had occurred to me just a few days into our new life. Hubby and I had lived in two different worlds – he had his, and I had mine. Our two worlds did have an overlapping section that we shared, but most of our time was spent in our separate worlds. Now, we occupy the SAME sphere, nearly entirely. It might help that we have turned our lives upside down, but so far it is good, really good.

House Saga – Buying (It’s easier to buy than to sell, and that applies to EVERYTHING!)

Right about January 20, when Hubby’s job ended abruptly, we started looking on-line at real estate In Memphis. Originally, our sights were set on small houses that we could rent on AirBnB. Later we thought we would look for a slightly larger house that we could live in and also rent the extra rooms.

With the help of our Son-in-law, we narrowed down our search into specific “good” areas in Memphis. Also on about January 20, we connected with a realtor in Memphis named Stacy. I loved her immediately, and I love her still. I’ve asked her to be my first friend in Memphis, but I’m not sure she is into that. Perhaps I should stick to quilting friends.

At first, every time I found a “good” house, I would email my SIL – he would say things like, “Too close to the railroad tracks,” or “That is in the ghetto.” Once in a while he would say, “Awesome location!” I would email Stacy, and she would say, “That one is already under contract.” Eventually, SIL sent us a map of Memphis with the “good” areas highlighted. That made things slightly easier. Every morning, Hubby and I would peruse the listings in Memphis and imagine owning some of those houses.

Sometime in April, a little 2 bedroom, 1 bath house in an historical area close to downtown came on the market. It was darling – it had red kitchen cabinets and an adorable front porch. I emailed Stacy that we wanted to make an offer. She let us know that the buyer was accepting all offers by 5pm in 2 days time. That is how houses under $200,000 in good areas in Memphis are selling. This thing had just gone on the market! We asked Daughter and Son-in-law to go look at it for us. They did and we decided to go forward. Full Price offer – cash. We learned the next day that buyer took another offer. Oh well, we were excited because we were, “In the game!”

Soon after that, another 2 bedroom, 1 bath house in an even better area came on the market. Showings and offers would start in a week’s time. There was only one picture on-line. Daughter and Son-in-law took a look and we made another offer – again full price, cash. This time we got it! Yay! Or, OMG… What have we done?? Closing on this house was scheduled for June 15. I planned a trip to Memphis near the end of April.

We continued to peruse listings, and a few days before my trip to Memphis a house came on the market that was perfect for us – perfect for us to live in and to do AirBnB in as well. It was more expensive that the other houses we had looked at, but it was beautiful and it was PERFECT!

I travelled to Memphis. Stacy took me to see many houses – the one that was in the ghetto, several I had selected from current listings, the house we were actually under contract to buy, and the PERFECT house. This all happened on a Friday. That night I went to sleep fine, but woke at 5 am in a panic. I didn’t like the house we were under contract to buy, not at all. What in the world were we doing, anyway?

The household was up a bit later, and Daughter needed something at the store. I offered to go. I came out of the store, into the Memphis 9 a.m. heat in late April and nearly burst into tears. I could not breathe. This is not my place. I do not belong here. I went home to Daughter’s house and did burst into tears. My two oldest daughters were in the house that morning. They immediately took me under their wings and made me feel much better – first by validating my panic and second by convincing me how “cute” the house we were under contract to buy could be.

The PERFECT house was on Peabody Avenue. I will from now on call it Peabody. There was an open house at Peabody on Sunday. We visited it again. It is still perfect. I flew home on Tuesday. Hubby and I talked about it. He agreed that it was perfect (though he hadn’t seen it) and we decided to try a contingent offer. We needed to sell our house in order to buy it, and our house wasn’t even yet on the market and wouldn’t be for about 3 weeks. We made a full-price offer. The seller was also the agent and we went back and forth for about a week. We weren’t being entirely reasonable, though we didn’t understand that at the time. Finally on our last counter, Hubby said, “And throw in all the outside furniture!” That pissed them off. And that was the end of that. All this happened during the first week of May.

From early May until middle August, we watched Peabody on-line. I constantly checked to see that it was still on the market. I was pretty sure that the seller would give us a chance to “play” if they got another offer. While we felt that Peabody was perfect for us, it has its downsides. It has a formal living area and formal dining, but no real bonus room or family room. It is largely bedrooms and bathrooms – perfect for our plans. Peabody remains on the market (with occasional price drops) all through us getting our house on the market, going under contract, going back on the market when our first contract failed. During the time we were newly back on the market with our house after the first contract failed, Peabody’s seller reached out and said they would be very flexible on price if we could close in 30 days. We had to sell our house first.

Then, on the 3rd weekend of our second time on the market with our house, as we were vacating our house for an open house, we got a text from Stacy. Seller of Peabody had reached out to let us know they had an offer they were considering. We were morose. We had visited Memphis again at the end of July, and Hubby had seen several properties, as well as Peabody. It is clear and uncontested: Peabody is perfect. We asked if seller would consider an offer from us. Their response was, “Only if there are no contingencies.” What to do?

We decided to find out if we could get a mortgage. Over the course of a few hours we learn that we “might” be able to qualify for a mortgage and that we can borrow from Hubby’s IRA account, tax and penalty free (he is not yet 59 ½) if we return the money in 60 days. Who knew? We get a letter from our broker that we have the funds to make the purchase. We decide to proceed, to use the IRA funds if we need to, and to get a mortgage. We make an offer that is under the current asking price, and significantly less that we had offered in May – cash, 30 day closing. Seller says they will let us know the next day. We are feeling they had probably only used us to get the other offer to go higher. At least we had tried.

Next day around noon, we heard. We got it. Peabody is ours. We are ecstatic.

To be clear, we understand that none of this was very smart. Turns out, we cannot get a mortgage. We have no income. My quilting business is clearly ending in Oregon, so that doesn’t count. Hubby is not 59 ½ for 18 months, so they won’t consider monetizing his IRA. My IRA is accessible penalty free on September 15, but mortgage people won’t consider that amortized over just the period until Hubby reaches 59 ½, it has to be amortized over 30 years and that amounts to just about nothing. Asset based mortgages don’t want to do what would clearly be a short-term mortgage to cover just the time until we sell our Oregon house. The bottom line: no mortgage. All the sudden, Peabody has become more expensive when you consider penalties and taxes. OMG, what have we done? We have contracted to buy the PERFECT house, that’s what!

We took the money out of the IRA on September 21. As long as we have it back by about November 20, all will be well. We feel a bit like we’ve borrowed money from someone who will break our knees if we don’t pay it back. If our Oregon house closes in the next few days all will be well.

Perhaps it is now clear why the house selling saga has been so stressful. We brought it upon ourselves. All for the PERFECT house!

Hopefully, this is a story that will end well. We are currently on our cross-country journey with all our “stuff” from Oregon to Peabody. We are 1,500 miles out, with 775 miles to go. And we are going to Peabody – the PERFECT house.2781fc42f6efa5321e4b83500777b3f3l-m0xd-w1020_h770_q80

Update 24 hours later: the Oregon house did close today! All is well. We are now 209 miles away from Peabody. We will sleep there tomorrow night.

House Saga – Selling Part 2 (“Third time’s the charm” we hope)

As I said in Part 1, our go “live” goal was May 1. Realtor had explained the perfect formula: go “live” on Wednesday or Thursday to get the word out and have an open house on the weekend to get the biggest bang. Continuing repairs and parts on order and we weren’t ready for pictures until Friday, May 19. Realtor says we go ‘live” the next day anyway. I guess the perfect formula was out the window. We were all anxious to get this show on the road.

We were barely “live” by the start of the open house. That very afternoon we were struck by how little information flowed our way after the open house. How had it gone? That afternoon we got 3 requests for showing the next day. Problem was, the next day was our youngest son’s 18th birthday. It is a royal pain to prep a house to be shown when you are living in it, especially when you are living in it with a teenager and 2 dogs and 2 cats. I told the first realtor they could come the next morning. I told the next 2 realtors that they could come at the same time as the first rather than at their requested times – I did explain the birthday thing. We only had one showing the next day, the 2 realtors I put off declined to come. We were annoyed.  They probably were too.

The next weekend was Memorial Day weekend. We had NO requests for showings. By the end of the weekend, I was sure we would never sell our house. We were panicked.

The following weekend we went out of town, returning early Sunday, just in case. We ended up having several back-to-back showings that day. We were hopeful.

Late on the next day, Monday, we got an offer. We were elated! The first page of the offer was a delightful letter from the young family who hoped to buy our house and they eloquently described all the features of our home that they loved (as did we) and how their growing family of 2 toddlers and a baby on the way would grow and thrive in our home. It brought tears to my eyes. I wanted to sell to this family. Then we read the important details: they were offering 80% of our asking price. We were crest-fallen. Then sick. Then pissed.

We intended to ignore this offer. Realtor suggested we counter. We suggested that we would sleep on it. Next morning Realtor said to hold on – we might have another offer coming in. We were cautiously optimistic.

Early that evening, we received a second offer at better than 95% of asking price. We were ecstatic. The offer was contingent on buyer selling their house (which was not yet on the market), and Realtor convinced us that at our price point that would likely be the case with any buyer and that we could continue to market our house and if we got a better offer we could send our buyer packing. So we were under contract with a “bumpable” buyer. We were happy.

Then came inspections. I don’t want to go through the gory details. Suffice it so say inspections are, from the buyer’s perspective terrifying, and from the seller’s perspective over-done, nit-picky, and expensive. We got through it and still felt reasonably OK with our deal.

Then came the buyer’s deadline for selling their house, which they hadn’t. Then came buyer’s receipt of an offer, which they declined. Then we moved on; we started over. We were devastated. We had wasted 7 weeks of prime summer selling time.

Then came two weekends of open houses, a price drop, and another weekend of open houses. On the Saturday of the last weekend, we bought our dream house in Memphis (see House Saga – Buying yet to come). We decided to move to Memphis whether we sold our house or not.

The following Monday, we received an offer – full price, cash. We were elated. It was meant to be. Committing to the Memphis house was clearing manifesting our destiny and the universe responded with a cash offer. I have learned to talk that way from my yogi daughter who refers to herself as a hippie and a fairy, and in this case I believed it. We were flying high.

Then came the end of the inspection period, and our cash buyer walked. We were shell-shocked.

Next day Realtor said our first buyer was back, they had an offer they were willing to accept if we accepted a new price. We took it on the condition there would be no more inspection business. The inspection and repairs already done earlier in the summer would stand. They agreed. We were, in the words of my Hubby, “Ready for this circus to end.” Amen.

There were hurdles – our deal was contingent on their deal closing. Their deal had to get through the inspection business. Both houses had to pass appraisal. They had to accept the repairs we had done for them. Each of those hurdles was individually passed, with our corresponding angst and relief. Closing was to be on October 12. Buyer’s deal closed on October 12. We packed our U-Haul on October 10. We hung around our empty house and signed on October 11. Escrow is awaiting some final loan docs. They don’t come in. We turn off the water and drive away on October 12 in the afternoon. There is no point in sitting in an empty house any longer – this is out of our hands.

We are now 1000 miles away from “home” with about 1500 miles to go. Loan docs did not come in on Friday, the 13th, so now we wait until Monday, in limbo. Buyer has released their earnest money to us in an effort to show their confidence that all will be well. We declined to give them occupancy (“just to the garage”) until the deal is done. We are exhausted by this process, in a constant state of anxiety over it, and clearly older and greyer than when it began.

House Saga – Selling Part One (“Stuff”)

We decided shortly after January 20 to pursue the idea of transporting ourselves to Memphis. In addition to living in the same city as our now 1 and 2 year old granddaughters (as well as our eldest daughter and son-in-law), it was an economic decision. Hubby’s job of over 30 years had abruptly ended and retirement (the kind where no money is coming in) is at least 10 years off. Retirement (the kind where we kick back in our recliners) is NEVER happening.

Property values in Memphis are about half what they are around Portland, Oregon. Memphis is a tourist hot spot – or warm spot anyway. Our daughter and son-in-law had made some good money hosting AirBnB guests in their 3-bedroom townhouse about a mile from downtown. Their AirBnB venture was our introduction to it, and at first it freaked me out. They had guests in their extra 2 bedrooms, on the same floor as their own and they all shared the same bathroom – freaky. Then, over several visits I met some of those guests and found the experience to be absolutely delightful! Not all of their guests were perfect, but at least they had no horror stories.

Hubby and I devised a plan. We would sell our house on the Willamette River near Portland, Oregon

and use the proceeds to purchase AirBnB properties in Memphis. Managing those properties would be our new business. Hubby would not have to look for another J-O-B!

Hubby began doing all the “fix-it” projects around the house that we had put off, some for a long time. This occupied his time and moved us along toward our new goal. He drove around our area and got realtor names from other river properties that were for sale, and we interviewed two. It took us until early April to actually bite the bullet and sign with one. The fellow we signed with walked us through our house of nearly 30 years and explained how we needed to get the house ready for promotional pictures and for showing. Virtually everything on the walls, on the shelves, on the mantle, and on the counters needed to go.

As you might know, I’m a quilter. I ran a long arm quilting business that consumed one large room in our house. One entire wall of that room was a design wall. If you are a quilter, you might be drooling over that notion. The design wall had to go. I told the realtor that my long arm (12 feet long by 6 feet wide, floor to ceiling high) and my cutting table (4 feet by 8 feet) were both staying until the house was sold – this was business! In our office, my big Bernina embroidery machine occupied a large space. Realtor said it could stay, as he now understands how important sewing is to me.

The coffee pot can stay on the kitchen counters. A FEW books can stay on the bookshelves in the living room and in the office. There was a bookshelf in our master bedroom that I went to great pains to tidy up and largely clean off in anticipation of this walk-through. Realtor took one look at it and said, “That whole thing should go, there’s not much on it anyway.”

Anticipating a going “live” date of May 1, we began packing up. During a significant remodel in 2000, we gutted the living, dining, game room, kitchen of the house we had purchased 12 years earlier. In the process of spending about double what we originally paid for the house, we moved the kitchen to a different area, finished the ground floor and created a fabulous man cave, or as we lovingly referred to it, a teen lair. We created a gourmet kitchen and great-room, added 2 full baths and a laundry room, added an office, and created lots of huge built-in drawers. Those drawers served us well housing kids’ toys at first; we could quickly clean up before Dad came home from work. Toys are pretty much gone from our house, so what in the world is in all those full drawers anyway? We quickly discovered that a lot of storage is a curse; once something made its way into one of those drawers, it never came out. I found tax returns going back to the 1980’s. I wasn’t sure how long we needed to keep records, but I was pretty darn sure it wasn’t that long.

For every box we packed (to store in the garage until our actual moving day), we took about double that volume to goodwill or to the dumpster. We tried to be ruthless. During that first packing up process, we pretty much filled our garage with boxes – Realtor said that was fine.

Jumping ahead, we loaded the biggest U-Haul we could rent 2 days ago. Concerned that we wouldn’t be able to fit all our “stuff” into the truck, we were willing to leave most of those boxes in the garage – after all, we had lived without them just fine for nearly 6 months; we could probably live just fine without them forever.  In the end, every single one of those boxes is in the U-Haul.  I imagine I will be unpacking them and taking more to Goodwill in Memphis.  All of my sewing “stuff” made it, including my entire fabric stash organized in bins by color, and all of my unfinished projects.  I’m not completely sure that is a good thing.

I pray that my relationship with “stuff” is forever changed. I think that we will have much less storage space in our Memphis house, and that will be a blessing. I learned that I liked being in my quilting room much better with only the essentials left in the room. I could breathe; I could move. We discovered how much easier it was to clean the house without all the clutter. We joke that we have become minimalists. I hope it is true.

Pumba is Ready to Go!

Pumba spent half the day at Pet Smart today, mostly because she does not smell very good and the U-Haul cab is pretty darn small. We got her a new bed that is smaller than her old one, and smells a lot better. That was the only alternative since our washer/dryer are loaded in the U-Haul and inaccessible.

Here she is after her long, hard day at Pet Smart. She will sleep mighty fine tonight!


Loading Day

IMG_4583It’s Tuesday, October 10, and loading day. A 26-foot U-Haul Truck is ready in our driveway, and the entire house is boxed up and ready to go. It’s raining. Moving labor arrived around 10 a.m. They took a walk through the house and immediately opined, “It won’t all fit.” They suggested another 16 foot moving Pod. I immediately got a quote: another nearly $3,000. Hubby and I decided, nope. We would rather purge more of our belongings than pay $3,000 to move old “stuff” we can live without.


We got up early this morning to do a couple very last minute things: box up our 65 inch flat screen TV and wash our bedding before the washer/dryer got loaded up. We like our TV and enjoy watching it every night. I’m not sure how we will live in this house for the few nights left until we actually drive away, without a TV. Wonder what that says about us. I was happy that I had time to wash and dry our sheets. It is somehow comforting to know we will have clean bedding so we can sleep in our own bed again as soon as possible, even if that is over 2,500 miles away.

So what is this all about and why is it worth blogging about? Nearly 9 months ago, on January 20, my husband came home from work at 3 in the afternoon. He never came home early. It was Friday. It was raining. It was inauguration day. I was doing yoga in our living room. Turns out his job of over 30 years ended that day. A new president at the company wanted his own people. Hubby was the last man standing and January 20 was the day he was told to sit down.

To say we were shell-shocked would be an understatement. On January 20, Hubby was 57 and I was 58. We had often talked of early retirement, but security mattered a lot to Hubby. I’m not sure he would have ever felt that we had put by “enough.” We sat together near our fireplace that evening and considered what might come next. Hubby said, “We don’t have to stay here, we could go anywhere.” We checked Google – what places in the USA have low costs of living? Then we looked at each other and together said, “Memphis; we can be grandparents!”

In 9 months, we could have birthed a baby (well, in our younger years anyway, when we actually did birth 5). Instead, we have completely transformed our lives. At least we are well along the way. There is more to tell from the past 9 months, and there is definitely more to come, but this is a start. From thinking we would retire and live in the Oregon house where we’ve lived the past 30 years, the house where we raised our 5 children, our dream house, to moving 2,500 miles away to inner city Memphis, Tennessee, into a 100+ year old historical home where we intend to make a business hosting AirBnB guests. And, to where we intend to be grandparents to our 1 and 2 year old granddaughters, and a blessing (NOT a curse, we solemnly swear) to our eldest daughter and son-in-law.

The U-Haul is loaded. Movers were, of course, correct. It didn’t all fit.


The saddest thing thing that didn’t fit is our couch – it is 20 years old, was ridiculously expensive at the time, and then I spent more time with my interior designer (paying her the whole time) to try to find a less expensive alternative, all to pay for the couch that Hubby loved.  It served us well for 20 years, and we had hoped to deliver it to our eldest daughter in Memphis to serve out a few more years.


The cushions are in the U-Haul, but the couch just wouldn’t fit.  Sorry, Honey.

If you are interested in following along with a couple of nearly 60 year olds as they remake their lives, stay tuned.