How Did The World End Up Like This?


For the second weekend in a row, we took the top off the jeep and drove around town and ended up at Dilly’s for some burgers & ice cream. As we drove under blue sunny skies, we stopped at a stop sign at Aquetong Road and Dalia asked, “How Did the World End Up Like This?”




 




It is impossible to answer that question without subjectivity, so I pressed her for context, what did she mean? “You know, the trees, the sky, the grass.” I think the question came from a state of pure wonder, a realization of how beautiful a world we live in. I rambled on about how all things in nature have an important responsbility, a job to do. I talked about termites and fungus, the trees recycling carbon dioxide for oxygen, it was a pretty lame response, but she let me off the hook as she was bored of the scientific path I traveled along. She wanted a story, the Bible’s version of events that created all of this would have been much more exciting to her, as I am sure both accounts can coexist.




 




The question kept popping up in my mind though, I applied it to myself, I felt like the Talking Heads song, Once In A Lifetime:




And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack

And you may find yourself in another part of the world

And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile

And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife

And you may ask yourself

Well…How did I get here?




 




I feel like I’m not too different from the termite, I just want my family to flourish and live in a nice home, and I think there’s good opportunity in Pittsburgh for us. My old company was laying people off and a company in Pittsburgh made a fantastic offer for us to live there. The change is tough, but also exciting, I am happy that we’re nearly settled in.




 




Winston told us a funny joke on the same journey, where do police officers go to the bathroom?




 




In Arrest room.


Home Saga Continues


We had to terminate our offer for the home we intended to buy in Pittsburgh, the work required was just too much. We loved the house & neighborhood, but it was obvious that we were going to be stepping into a situation that would have been perilous.




 




Thank the lord for the home inspector, he really did an incredible job and always remained very objective, he stated the issue in a clear and unbiased way…sometimes though, I could tell he wanted to say, “This is just messed up, I have no idea who did it this way, but it should have never been done like that, and a building inspector should have never approved it”, but he would just pause and just focus on the issue and calmly explain that it was “done in a atypical fashion that does not meet existing building code and it will cost between $6,000 and $8,000 to fix it.”




 




So, my temporary housing is about to expire, my family is just about of our existing house, so that just left me with one option, buy a house without my wife. Jaclyn is not yet completely sold on this decision, but she’ll someday thank me! 




 




All this reshuffling has pushed our new move in date back to August 1, but we’re going to figure out a way to live together in the meantime. I plan on getting the family a membership to the swim club and hopefully they’ll be spending 75% of their days there.




 




Wish me luck & keep reminding Jaclyn that she has a great husband! 




  




 




 


Inspections


People say a lot about home ownership, but the best advice I ever received was from my father: “No matter what, commit to making at least one enhancement to your home each year.”




 




Today, I went through the inspection process of the home we intend to buy, but it looks like several major improvements will be required for the deal to still go through.




 




I’m not saying the current home owners did not make enhancements each year, home ownership can be a lot like Whack-A-Mole, once you fix one thing, two other items will pop up that require repair. I remember fixing the back door of our current home and being very excited about the enhancement, the following week our water pump stopped working and we had no water. Poof…another couple thousand dollars disappeared!




 




Our inspector took over four hours to look through every nook and cranny, he even put on a special suit to crawl around in the crawl space for about 20 minutes. After he did his thing, he would emerge from deep concentration and tell me his evaluation, what could remedy the situation, and appropriate maintenance moving forward. I learned an incredible amount about home ownership. I think owning a home is harder than driving a car or raising a child, there should be course people can take before they buy a home.




 




I am very grateful to our home inspector, he taught me a ton and saved me tons of money. More importantly, he saved my sanity.




 




My realtor also suggested that as part of the inspection, we get a plumber to guide a camera down the sewer line to check out the health of the pipe. Some people may have balked at this suggestion, thinking it is just the realtor trying to give some business to their plumber friends, but I have lived through replacing a sewer pipe and it involved a backhoe and $5,000. The plumber showed up today with the camera at the end of a long hose cable and snaked it down the drain, we watched the camera travel through the fecal corridor until it showed a huge portion of the pipe completely gone on the right side. I was disappointed that this issue was discovered as I want to move into the home, but pleased that it was discovered prior to me buying the home! The plumber then went to figure out exactly where the break in the pipe was located, unfortunately, it was dead center in the middle of the driveway.




 




The pipe is just one of 5 large issues that we need to get through, all on similar caliber, not minor cosmetic issues, but pretty big problems that will cost a lot of money to repair. I will try to keep you posted, but for tonight, I am heading to my first Pirates game.




 


Closing In


Here’s where we stand. Our home in Hartsville, is through inspection and should close on June 30th. Jaclyn has scheduled the movers to come on the final Thursday & Friday before the closing date to remove all our stuff and take it to a storage location in Pittsburgh.




 




Our offer has been accepted on a new home in the Pittsburgh area. The new home is in Peters Township, which is a nice suburb about 25 minutes south of Pittsburgh. In many ways, it is very similar to our current neighborhood, good schools, plenty of hiking trails, numerous rivers, and plenty of stores to feed our hobbies. We are trying to close on this home on July 11.




 




This leaves us with a couple weeks without a home. I have forwarded a couple suggestions to Jaclyn, none of them ideal, but it will be a short time. The dog is the most complicating factor, but Toby will be happy once we move in the new home as it has a fully fenced in back yard where he can roam day & night.




 




I was talking to my Grandparents this weekend and athletics came up in our conversation. My grandfather held the Pennsylvania state record in the mile and I had heard my grandmother was athletic too, but she has never boasted about her accomplishments. I asked her if she ever scored any goals when she played field hockey, she said she scored 9 goals in her final game (but she said the team wasn’t that good). Can you imagine being the other team’s coach? I would have strongly considered putting more defenders on her to slow her down a bit. She said she was just too fast, no one on the other team could catch her.




 




She mentioned that her team took on the school’s football team at the end of the year in a heated game of field hockey. She said that my grandfather (who played on the football team) and several teammates played the game with blond wigs, kilts, and old broken sticks discarded by the field hockey team. My grandmother said that the football team was terrible at field hockey and the game was ridiculous, I asked “Who won?” She said, “We won…well, wait a minute, I think they may have actually won, but it was a sham! A couple of the guys actually grabbed our goaltender and pulled her away from the goal, so they were shooting on an open net. It was ridiculous, but we all had a great time.” This game must of taken place over 60 years ago, but it was like it happened yesterday.




 


May Updates


The folks who submitted an offer have had an inspector come and look at the house, the process lasted 3 or 4 hours. Ultimately, they are requesting some work on the patio and chimney, we will see where this negotiation leads, but I’m optimistic that the deal will still move forward.




 




On the other end of things, we’ve been evaluating various neighborhoods for the past 5 months and narrowed our search down to Peters Township. We love the area, reminds us of Central Bucks, the schools are great, and there is a comic book store, trails, & swimming pool nearby, so the kids love it. On Friday, we looked at 10 homes that fell in our price range, we found one that we loved and put in an offer yesterday. Still waiting to hear back.




 




We attended a wedding in Blacksburg, VA last weekend, home of Virginia Tech. From Pittsburgh, you drive straight down, south through West Virginia and then into Virginia, it was one of the most beautiful drives I have ever been on. This was my first trip into West Virginia and my prior perception of the place was Hatfields & McCoys, Rednecks, meth, and Deliverance. After driving through, I am ready to vacation there! We passed the most beautiful lake I have ever seen, it was called Summersville Lake, it had cliffs all along its banks and the water was crystal clear. As we drove over it via bridge, I could see through the water and see the rocky bottom. The lake is over 300 feet deep in some places. We also crossed the New River Gorge, which is a huge bridge, it is 850 feet over the river below. On the third Saturday in October, every year, they close the bridge and people jump off it with parachutes, I think they call it Bridge Day.  The New River Gorge Bridge is featured on the back of the West Virginia quarter. Any ways, the state is breathtaking, really look forward to exploring it more.




 




Dalia has an amazing eye for things. I am pretty good at scanning water and seeing fish underneath or spotting creatures hiding in the brush, but Dalia is one hundred times better than me. She is amazing at finding frogs and capturing them, they blend in so well in the grass & aquatic vegetation, but it is like they are glowing orange, she spots them so easily. She sometimes gets frustrated with me when I can’t see what she sees. Then once she spots the frog, she assumes a hunter’s stance, prowls around and snatches the frog with her bare hands, she is a very natural athlete, I cannot wait to see her play sports. She is also amazing at finding four leaf clovers, at the age of 5, she has already found at least 4 four leaf clovers, I have never found a 4 leaf clover in my life.




 




I miss my dog, haven’t seen Toby for a couple of weeks. Hopefully we’ll all be living together in July, can’t come soon enough.   


Moving Along


There have been a couple times where I have involved the family in something in something that was more challenging than I anticipated. Last year I convinced Jaclyn and the kids to take a jaunt along the Appalachian Trail to the top of Mount Minsi. About one hour into the hike, everyone was complaining of exhaustion and I kept reassuring them that we were almost to the top. Eventually, a couple hikers returning from the top came walking down and I casually asked, “Are we close to the top?” and the two of them laughed hard, until they noticed the devastating glance being cast by my wife in my direction, and then they pulled it together and said, “Yeah, sort of, not too much further.” We pressed on and eventually made it to the top, it was quite impressive. See everyone, it is awesome…right? Come on, lighten up, wasn’t the climb worth it?  




 




On Friday, Jaclyn’s thirty-second birthday, we struck a deal with a potential buyer and signed an agreement of sale. We are slated to close on our home at the end of June. Keep your fingers, toes, legs, and armed crossed that the buyer’s mortgage paperwork all comes together and we can stop climbing up this mountain for a bit.




 




When we first started the long distance situation, I would head to Pittsburgh with my head filled with big ideas of how I was going to make a great impression at work. After 5 months of leaving the family 5 days at a time, my mind is now completely preoccupied with counting down the days until I see my family again. As I left the house on Sunday night to head back to Pittsburgh, Dalia jumped up onto the bay window at the front of the house and was waving, blowing me kisses, and saying “I love you!” as I backed out the driveway. She gives me the best sendoff ever, I can’t wait to no longer require those sendoffs, I look forward to be taken for granted again.




 




The 5 months away have allowed me to give an unprecented amount of energy & focus to work though (not saying it was worth it, but I made the best of the situation), and things are off to a great start at the new company. Tomorrow, I present to sales leadership and in June I present to the entire company, I will be introducing all my marketing efforts and know it will be well received. 




 




We also have a vacation planned for mid July, we will be spending half the time at Niagara Falls and the other half enjoying our new city. We’re not quite at the top of this hill yet, but I don’t think we have too much further.  


Concussed


Last Wednesday afternoon, I received a call from Jaclyn, she was pretty hurt. There was a rain storm outside and she just picked up Winston from the bus stop, when she got back inside, she slipped on the wooden stairs, her feet flew up into the air (like in the cartoons when a character slips on a banana peel), and she slammed her head on the wooden steps. I asked if she needed me to get home immediately, I asked if she needed to go to the hospital, I asked if the kids were watching out for her. What I did not know was that I was talking to someone with a concussion & people suffering from concussions are not supposed to be making important decisions.




 




Essentially, Jaclyn just said she was going to walk it off and that she’ll be okay. The answer seemed fishy, she was obviously in a great deal of pain and she has a pretty high pain tolerance, so I was a little worried. I called her hourly throughout the afternoon to see if she was improving, she was sore, but felt like she was going to be okay. I asked if the kids did anything for her when she fell, she said that Dalia gave her a wet wash cloth and Winston gave her some Band Aids as she laid on the ground in horrible pain, then they went downstairs and continued to watch TV. They need to work on their bedside manner!




 




I talked to Jaclyn the next morning and she did not seem right, her logic and speech was capable, but not sharp. A stranger would not notice, but she just wasn’t operating at 100% and the lingering symptoms she explained weren’t consistent with just a bruise, she was nauseous & light stimuli really bothered her. She called a doctor and they stressed that she should immediately head to the Emergency Room. Fortunately, her father was available and took her to the emergency room where it was confirmed that she suffered a pretty severe concussion. I rushed home from Pittsburgh to help administer the doctor’s recommendation for her to stay away from sunlight, noise, TV, books, and children!




 




The week was bonkers, my work continued to require a lot of my attention, the kids required a lot of attention, and the realtors required a lot of attention. Jaclyn would try to pitch in, but any time she started to clean or help out, she would get nauseous or a terrible headache. It was impossible to manage it all, I would make a horrible single father. I would just give the kids a bowl of food (typically Doritos) like a dog, turn on a movie, and lock myself into my office and continue on my calls with supervisors & customers. Then I’d look out the window and see Dalia venture outside, she’d grab a net, capture a frog, and start yelling up to me through my office window “Dad, you gotta see this frog!”. I would put my phone on mute and head outside, praise her frog, remind Dalia to stay away from the road, and return to my office. A couple minutes later, the dog somehow has gotten out, he’s now chasing a jogger and it looks like a bad scene is developing. I put the phone on mute and run after the dog. Then a realtor calls and wants to show the house in 3 hours to a potential buyer. This goes on about 10 hours every day.




 




The paragraph above is not to make me out as a martyr, the intent is totally opposite, I just want to recognize how poor Jaclyn did not get total rest & relaxation at a time where her head & body was in immense pain. Thank you for the friends & family who chipped in and brought actual food that humans should eat (unlike the diet of processed food that I was providing my family on a routine basis).




 




On Friday, 9 days after the initial injury, Jaclyn started to improve significantly. Dalia had a ballet recital that night and she did a lovely performance to the Frozen song “Let It Go”. Afterwards, the performers and family had a nice reception with cookies and juice. I gave Dalia a nice bouquet, she earned it, she takes pride in her activities, but I am anxious to see her on a soccor field, she is a natural athlete.




 




On Sunday, we had a lovely Mother’s Day. The kids & I made breakfast for Jaclyn (the house still smells like bacon). Winston & Dalia both made a nice card for Jaclyn. Winston did something at school where he took the word “MOTHER” and wrote something special about her using each letter, for the letter T, he wrote Tacos.




 




Sunday afternoon was spent driving along the Delaware River with the top off the Jeep. Then we found a great trail that took us to a neat knee deep pool of water along the river where the kids & dog played for hours.




 




Everything is back to normal. Our realtor thinks we may sell the house by the end of the month…fingers crossed.


River Bridge


I love walking across the bridge from Lambertville, NJ to New Hope, PA. The best time is in the summer (not after rainfall as it muddies the water and you want visibility), anywhere from 5PM to 7PM (to reduce sun glare), walk across the bridge and you’ll see the stony banks descend into the river and disappear into the rushing currents. Stop as you get to a pillar and watch the effect of the water slamming into the concrete, at the front of the pillar, the water level actually rises, then slopes back down along the sides, it rips along the edge of the pillar, and then at the very back, directly behind the pillar, the water spins, swirls, placidly lingers, you may even see a couple dead leaves asleep on the bottom. On several occasions, I’ve seen fish waiting patienty in the eddy, they are looking for food caught helplessly in the currents to drift by, like sushi on a conveyor belt, and the fish can dart out to grab the food and go back to the eddy to enjoy it without exerting much energy.  




 




I’ve always felt a strong connection to the water and lately I’ve felt a lot like the river hitting the bridge. I am proud of my currents and the intention behind them, it is all true and purposeful. But that damned bridge, just slamming into my intentions, my progress, causing that backwards swirl of anxiety and frustration. We are doing everything we can to sell our house to be reunited, but cannot make it happen as soon as we hoped. The home really does look incredible and we’re now prepared to sell it for less than we paid for it, we are pushing so hard, our currents are rising, but the eddy is indifferent.




 




We posted another ad in the newspaper with photo of our home, it generated another 10 visitors (which ties are all-time high, coincidentally was when we last placed an ad with photo). We replaced the single pane of glass in our big bay window in the front of the home that had a crack & discoloration, it was $125 and makes a world of difference. Jaclyn removed the old medicine cabinet from the bathroom and has placed a big beautiful mirror there instead. The yard is roaring back to life and the vibrant colors of Spring are almost on full display.




 




I am proud of the kids, we are all aligned on our objective to be reunited as a family. They understand that cleaning their room and toys to make the house more attractive to potential buyers helps in achieving our objective. They are not doing it because they are being told, they truly want to be reunited and to do their part.




 




When I’m walking across the bridge in New Hope, I spend a lot of time looking at what objects or fish are enjoying the respite within the eddies behind the pillars, but the truly best part of the bridge is when you’re standing in the exact middle of it and you look out and you can see the shops of New Hope to your immediate right, the big Play House further downstream, Bowman’s Tower on the tree topped hill on the horizon, the raging currents behind the wing dam, the Lambertville Station & Inn, the entire scene is beautiful, it is one of the most picturesque places I’ve ever seen in my life.


Relocating Tips


I’ve been reluctant to post lately as my life has been dominated by work, commuting, and cramming in family time on the abbreviated weekends. Ultimately, I am willing to admit that the scope of this move is beyond what I anticipated. Selling your home is a big and annoying event, more of a hassle than I imagined when we decided to make the move. The commuting back and forth is easy, I don’t mind the actual drive and have found ways to make it pass in a breeze, but the elimination of vast amounts of family time is tough. I’ve learned a couple things along the way, here’s what I know now, but didn’t know when I made the decision to relocate:




 




1. Expecting to sell your home in January or February is not a realistic expectation in the bitter cold North East part of America. The yard, trees, and outdoor areas of the home are all battered and barren, kids are in the middle of the school year, and very few people were looking to move. Try to time your move in the Spring/Summer.




2. Realtors can be frustrating partners. I know there’s nothing that I can do to make the realtor as passionate about moving as I am, but I do not think my realtor is in the same universe when it comes to urgency. One reason may be because our home is not super pricey, maybe another reason is that our realtor is just patient and feels like activity does not translate to results. Ultimately, I wish we made our realtor map out a more specific marketing plan of the home before we proceeded in our agreement to move forward. As this drags out, I wish I could have asked more questions up front about this exact type of scenario and get the realtor’s plan of action to deal with it. To my realtor’s credit, they have done multiple open houses and very few homes competing with us have sold.




3. An up front discussion with your hiring manager on flexible hours in the corporate offices would be beneficial. My boss would probably have no issue with me leaving a day early or coming home a day late (in fact, I’ve been able to do this a couple times already), but it would be better to have more of this framed up before you started to minimize surprises or uncomfortable situations. It is tough to not see your family for 5 days every week for months at a time, anything to lessen this burden would be helpful.




4. It has been a big transition making meals for myself. The idea of buying ingredients, dirtying dishes, and whipping up a meal just for yourself is a lot of work for a piece of chicken and some mixed vegetables (it’s seems more worthwhile when you’re doing it for your significant other or family). If you’re going to relocate, I suggest plotting out your meals, things you feel comfortable making, and how ingredients might be amortized in other dishes (for example, chicken on Monday, chicken stir fry on Tuesday). Then grocery shopping with a plan in mind.




5. Map out reconnaissance missions. Create a checklist of neighborhoods to check out, fishing holes to explore, museums, towns, shopping malls, etc. so you can be a good tour guide for your family when they arrive. This also gives you a life outside work and makes everyone more enthusiastic about the transition.




 




With all the challenges, I still feel like this was a great decision for me and the family. I am also a hard worker and have probably errored on the side of working too hard to show value and make a big difference. People are always asking, “How’s Pittsburgh?”, this is a huge ordeal, but the city is amazing, works going well, and I think we’re past the hardest part of the transition.




 




 


Still Waiting – House Saga Continued


Winston got off the bus yesterday, April 1st, and announced to his mom “I got into sooooooo much trouble today.” This is a highly plausible statement and Jaclyn was about to lose her composure when Winston caved in and said “April Fools!”.




 




The house selling process marches on. We’ve had a steady amount of traffic, lots of people checking it out, but no one has thrown us an offer yet. Our pendulum is swinging from anxious to sell, will do whatever we can to get the deal done immediately, to now need to explore alternatives if it does not happen quickly. The highs and lows of each showing have been replaced with modest expectations. Here’s the issue; we have an older home that requires TLC in a good school district. So, if you had 100 potential buyers, half of them are immediately out of contention because they do not have kids and do not want to pay a premium for the school district. A quarter of the remaining buyers want a beautiful home where everything is brand new, they will pay a premium for a new fancy home. We are fighting for the remaining 25%, they are out there, we’re positioned well to be attractive to those buyers, but we just need to keep people coming in and looking at it until we find our buyer. An old sales guy once said, “Every No brings you closer to a Yes”.




 




Solo life in Pittsburgh is nowhere near as exciting as people imagine it. Being away from the family actually has a weird effect on my psyche, just do not have much desire to get out and do stuff. Outside of work, my best companion is a stink bug who crawls around the walls of my apartment. I once contemplated letting him outside, but selfishly kept him for company!




 




Sometimes, for a very brief instant, I feel sorry for myself and think, “Gosh, this is tough being away from the wife & kids, traveling home on the weekends, I cannot wait to be reunited.” But then I think about the poor people in the military in temporary shelters in Iraqi deserts or Afghani hillsides, submarines, and aircraft carriers. They get poor compensation, their life’s in danger, and they don’t get home on the weekends to see their family, I really must thank veterans and soliders whenever I see them.




 




Last weekend my friend opened up a brewery, Jac & I got a sneak peek/taste before it opened to the public. It was awesome, an incredible accomplishment, and the beer was tasty. In a couple of years, I’d like to post an interview with the brewer, he has a terrific story, but I can’t get into it yet!




 




Thanks for reading, I can’t wait to wrap up this chapter.