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Day 73: Breaking up: part two

July 17, 2012


The house hunt and dating are, once again, bringing to mind major parallels. You prowl the market, test a few out, then find a keeper. Getting comfortable with long-term commitment trickles into life’s little details: taking the house’s layout into consideration with every home goods purchase, taking another’s perspectives into consideration with every decision, even if it’s just dinner.

When it suddenly comes to an end, acclimating back to solo life is a bit awkward. No need to go to garage sales or look at paint samples. No need to check my phone with anticipation of a text message.

The similarities between my house hunt and dating life over the past six months have been downright uncanny. Right around the time I found the Ottawa Hills home, I met my (now ex) boyfriend. I spent the next several months dancing through a fairytale. But fairytales are usually too good to be true. This turned out to be the case for both of my “catches.”

After months of waiting to call Ottawa Hills home, the delay turned out to be a blessing in disguise. While I adore the house, I couldn’t ignore the elephant in the room any longer. The dollars beyond the purchase price were piling up in the thousands. My car is also on its last leg. And what if the furnace goes out? What if a tree falls on the house? What if the plumbing goes awry? I was suddenly struck with the harsh grip of reality. Separating my emotional attachment, I realized, yes, I can do it, but it would definitely be unwise financially.

Breaking the news to Mimi, the homeowner, wasn’t easy. But she was kind and understanding. After that phone call, a weight suddenly lifted off my shoulders: one I hadn’t realized I was carrying. That told me I was making the right decision.

When I said my final goodbye to the house, I stood inside the big, empty living room; collected the memories I’d already started making inside those four walls; and shed a few tears for what could have been but will never be.

So now it’s back to square one: searching for my happily-ever-after in the ballpark of $20,000 less and tall, dark and handsome.

Day 72: Home inspections aren’t cheap, but they sure are valuable

June 23, 2012

I reunited with Branden from Buyer’s Home Inspection this week. Thanks to him finding a few damaged goods in the Alger Heights home, I’m on the cusp of closing on an amazing home in my dream neighborhood, Ottawa Hills.

After a thorough three hours of poking, prodding and patiently answering my billion questions, I’m one step closer to being a homeowner. Among many things, he reported a high-efficiency furnace; a water heater that’s working 15 years past its life expectancy; an orphaned water heater; two mammoth spiders hanging beneath the three-season room (let’s hope Calin never finds this secret hiding place); tips to improve the non fire-hazard electrical work; decent insulation; a solid overall structure; and most importantly, a major discrepancy with the roof inspection last week.

In commenting on the twelve spots needing repair on the roof, he retracted his statement. “Let’s be real, there’s way more than a dozen spots that need fixing.” Proof is in the pictures, whereas, the roofer last week asked me, “So, why did you want me to come over here?” but NEVER climbed on the roof!

Now, let me defend my lapse of judgment (ok – sheer stupidity). Roof Inspector 1 was at the house in January inspecting a few noticeably damaged areas. I assumed he’d done a thorough inspection of the roof back then, which is why he didn’t climb up on the roof last week to check out the questionable areas I’d noticed during my months of home stalking. He’s the roofer; what do I know? And he’s the one making money off his recommendations; if he’s not suggesting further repair, he’s essentially turning down income, right? I must be overreacting about these rippled shingles, I told myself.

Turns out, my gut was right.

Seven months ago and now, my gut (and my dad!) also tell me that Branden provides a thorough and trustworthy Grand Rapids home inspection.

Closing is on pause, but the story continues: we’ll see what a second roofer has to say next week.

Day 71: Nice to meet you, neighbor.

June 17, 2012

I met a neighbor today. Driving past the house to show my friend Anya, we found a woman standing before the irises.

“How kind!” I exclaimed. “A friendly neighbor is tending the landscaping of a vacant house.”

Noticing the trowel in hand, Anya wasn’t quite as trusting. “You better put a stop to that.” So I pulled into the driveway, startling the gray-haired woman.

Sure enough, Anya was right. We caught her red-handed stealing plants! The first words out of her mouth: “I’m a master gardener.” As if that makes her behavior tolerable. She even had the audacity to describe how beautiful the uprooted irises were that were held hostage in her filthy little hands. “They’re a deep, velvet purple,” she said.

Her voice shook with embarrassment as she tried to divert my attention from her dishonest behavior. She’d discovered the root rot of iris borer, pointing out that her sticky fingers were actually doing me a favor. And picking up on my ignorance of all things gardening, she kept talking and talking, until Anya piped up with her flora know-how, saving the day once again.

Fortunately, Calin and I got off on the right foot with the family living between the plant thief and us. Their seven-year-old daughter gave me flowers.

Day 70: Decorating = anxiety; memories = happy

June 12, 2012

A packet of the shingles that adorn my roof were hiding amidst last fall’s leaves.

I got the roof inspected at the Iroquois house today. All is well, except for the damage we already knew about. My stepmom and I lingered around the house after the roofer left; she was seeing it for the first time.

Standing in the living room, I took it all in. Instead of uncontrollable excitement electrifying every cell in my body – which is what I expected after getting a passing grade on the roof – I was overwhelmed with the emptiness surrounding me. The walls are empty. The floors are empty. The rooms are empty. Paint, photos, art, plants, rugs, tables, furniture: so much is needed to fill the space. And I am so not good at this kind of stuff.

On the other hand, that’s all material. I can’t wait to fill the emptiness with life. This is the first house Calin’s fallen in love with in our 90-house search. He gave my cousin Laura a tour yesterday (cute, since she grew up visiting her grandma in this house). He squealed in excitement with every discovery of a hiding spot. He hugged his new four-year-old friend and next-door neighbor, Ari. He told me later we should live here forever. I can’t even begin to imagine what will unfold inside these walls, the stories they will hold, the secrets they will keep, the memories they will display. Which part of the house will Calin love most? Where will his secret escape be? Which parts will be his fondest memories?

For me, most of my memories of growing up revolve around my home. My parents probably hated the unfinished basement, but I loved it; the cement was perfect for rollerskating!

The top landing of our staircase was the perfect spot to “spy” after I was supposed to be in bed. My friend Sara and I kept a Super Duper Snoopers diary and logged clues like: Kara’s mom is slowly turning the page in her book. I’m not sure what mystery we were trying to solve. One time, my cover was blown when I spotted a mouse scampering across the carpet.

I spent many hours hidden away in the attic. Stacks of baby books, photo albums and my mom’s high school yearbooks were like buried treasure.

My brothers and I had five acres of land to roam around. Floating on my back in the swimming pool surrounded by the peaceful still of a moonlit sky while everyone else was sleeping except the bats is a vivid memory. I loved climbing trees; I’d leave boxes of books, notepads and snacks tightly nestled snug in between their branches for a later return. I had wild dreams of turning the adorable baby raccoons into pets, too, but my mom wouldn’t hear of it.

Although I do remember decorating my bedroom, it was finding another girl’s messages scribbled behind the wallpaper we tore down and writing my own that made the experience memorable. She said, “Joe’s a squirrel” and a number of other claims about boys.

So I guess that’s that. Turns out it’s memories that make a home. And decorating the interior will be one part of creating those memories!

Next step: home inspection. Then the excitement can officially begin (I learned my lesson last time)!

After showing me stunts I never knew my four-year old was capable of (hanging upside down from a clothesline), Calin smiled happily for his first new-home photo.

Day 69: I’ll have to learn to think like Ken

June 11, 2012

I haven’t even closed on the house yet and I’ve already managed to break things.

I met Mimi (that’s Grandma Ruth, the homeowner) to get the keys tonight and do a walkthrough of the house (to make sure Tim the Tenant had really left with all his things). Mimi’s friend Ken swung by, and thank goodness he did!

The water pressure was low in the master bath – and it was tinted orange. He found a screwdriver, dissembled the showerhead, tinkered around, and voila, the water pressure was fixed.

The light in the closet was rigged to turn on when opening the door, but it didn’t seem to ever turn off. I stood in the closet while he switched the breakers from the basement. Number eight controls the bedroom; now it won’t waste energy while the house is vacant. I never would have thought of that.

I’ve mentioned before that a house fire has been my biggest fear since I was a kid; maybe Ken’s been reading my blog. He pointed out that I’d want to change the locks in case of a fire. Otherwise I’ll be fumbling around for keys to get myself out both the front door and the garage door. You lock yourself in at night with a key instead of simply turning a deadbolt. That’s definitely a priority change before my first sleepover!

Speaking of keys, on our way out I locked the front door, and SNAP! The key broke in half! What on earth am I supposed to do now? Luckily, no one had pulled away. Handyman Ken to the rescue! Ingenious thinking (but so simple) got the door open again. He’s meeting me tomorrow to finish the job (it was way past Calin’s bedtime).

Yikes, what am I going to do without a Ken around? I’ll learn on my own, I guess. Who knows, a year from now I’ll have learned to be so resourceful, this blog name might just change to Miss Fix-It. Either that, or my hair will be gray.

Who knew it’d be so thrilling to see my car parked in the driveway?

My favorite room in the house. It’s on the main floor, just off the living room, leading to a screened in patio.

Day 68: A look inside the house – finally!

June 9, 2012

The renter is out – but not without one last jaw-dropping hurrah. He was supposed to turn the keys over Memorial Day weekend, then it was June 1, then he needed the weekend. My entire maternal family showed up to finally see a vacant house, but the keys were nowhere to be found.

A while later, I found my uncles unhinging the porch door (without much luck – but a memorable moment, indeed) when Tim the Tenant suddenly appeared on the other side, INSIDE THE HOUSE!

The house was a mess. Excuses poured from his lips. “My car started smoking on the way here two hours ago. We need three hours to finish packing.”

I stared at him in utter disbelief. You’ve had FIVE MONTHS to pack. You were supposed to be completely out DAYS AGO! And three hours to get all this junk out? Try THREE DAYS!

Of course, I kept silent, but I’m notorious for my face being a dead giveaway of emotion despite trying to keep a straight one. (Clearly, poker is not my game.) I hope he saw this written all over my face. At this point, his laziness doesn’t affect me, but I’m shocked by his cunning and disrespect toward an 88-year-old woman!

On a brighter note, he left and we finally got to peruse the home in peace. I can’t wait to call this place home!


Look at all that junk! This is a view into the living room. The dining room is off to the left, with a doorway into the kitchen. The entry way and stairwell upstairs is to the right.


Love this doorknob!



Day 67: Salty thoughts

June 4, 2012
tags: ,

Death has barged into my life one too many times over the past couple months. A few months ago, my stepmom was diagnosed with breast cancer. Fortunately, she caught it in the early stages, but facing cancer head-on was enough to shake us all up. What if she hadn’t caught it in time? Imagining a life without Liz wasn’t something any of us wanted to think about.

Shortly after, my best friend’s mom – fellow Pisces, haunting enthusiast and lover of superfluous storytelling – and also a breast cancer survivor, found out the cancer was back. It had metastasized to her lungs. I broke down sobbing: for her having to endure this disease, for my best friend who’s confronting the horrific What Ifs, for the people that have to live without a mother.

Meanwhile, my boyfriend’s brother attempted suicide shortly after the family memorialized the year-anniversary of their mother’s death. The fragility of life was banging loudly at my door.

A few weeks ago, it came crashing in. I found out a 17-year-old boy was killed in a drunk-driving accident. During the funeral service, I recalled memories of him: a toddler wobbling around as our families roasted hot dogs, marshmallows and hobo pies together during our annual camping trips. The church pews held hundreds of tear-streaked faces, family and friends shaken by the short life of a charismatic, adventurous kid on the verge of high school graduation. I remember losing a friend in high school. My heart went out to those who lost a friend. Now, as a parent, my heart wrenched for Timmy’s parents. You’re not supposed to bury your kids.

This past Friday, my mom called. I asked what was going on and her three-second pause in response indicated something was wrong. Who’s getting divorced? Was it one of my brother’s newborn twins? Did something happen to one of my grandparents?

“Becca died.” I wasn’t prepared for this, for death to still be lurking. A whole new set of emotions ripped through me when I learned it was suicide. I pulled my car over as salty thoughts of my captivating, beautiful cousin streamed down my face.

Life will never be the same: not for her parents and sister, not for her grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. She won’t be there to spend Christmas in my new house – recalling memories of growing up with her grandparents. She won’t be there to laugh at Uncle Danny’s jokes. On March 26, she won’t turn 22. She’ll be forever frozen in time as a 21-year-old girl who had the world ahead of her.

Life is ephemeral. That message has been loud and clear over the past few months. Don’t wait for tomorrow; it may never come. Appreciate the little moments, make memories, love with all you have. Live life.

My cousin Becca

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