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28 August 2005
  Discovery
We went to Ikea today and spent four dazingly-happy hours wandering around. Their furniture is plain and nice and best of all, inexpensive. I found a wonderful china cabinet that would look wonderful displaying Mom's china, and, joy of joy, they not only have bookcases that are tall enough (80 inches rather than the normal 72), but you can get an extension shelf on the top to make them even taller!

When you live in a small space and have lots of books, you look for vertical solutions automatically. Ikea understands this!

Anyway, we still had time on the way home so we followed signs to a place named Trellis Oaks. It looks like it is in Smyrna, where the property values have just popped. We found this place amazing because, although it was a new property in the area, the price was reasonable, houses starting at $190,000. (There was another place with similar prices, down near the Super WallyWorld, but they were already sold out.) Trellis Oaks looked like it had mostly split level homes; we could tell the expensive ones—there is one next to the model house that is just huge.

The development is in a between stage: there are some homes already occupied, some homes nearly finished, some stick built, some blank lots. We went to the back at a cul de sac and looked at two homes. The smaller had a more traditional floor plan with the kitchen, dining room and living room on the ground floor and the rest upstairs. It was fun to look through, but didn't have much room, and the back living room wall was all windows. Where we'd put everything would be problematic.

But the house next door was just perfect. It had—they all have—a two-car garage (no swapping cars anymore at night) and a big room off the garage for gardening tools. On the bottom floor was the laundry room, two small bedrooms, a bath, and a medium-size bonus room. I immediately looked at this and said "Library!" Upstairs was a master bedroom (with a closet inside the master bath!) and two small bedrooms on one side and a living room, kitchen, and small dining room on the other. The kitchen was connected to both the living room and the dining room by pass throughs. There was a fireplace in the living room and a door to go out to a nice deck. (James saw the deck and immediately thought "I can have a grill!")

This probably bears looking into more. We stopped at the office and got a brochure and met one of the agents, Elizabeth. We'll have to come back.

(The one we didn't like was called a "Vernon," and the one we liked is a "Springfield C"—wonder what happened to Springfields A & B? <g>)

pumpkin divider

27 August 2005
  A New Venue?
One of the things James and I talked about was what we were going to do with the money from the sale of Mom's house. Keeping the house would have been a big temptation were we in some sort of position to move, but we are entrenched here, and really, even if we fixed up the attic and redid the basement we would probably still be bursting at the seams. The lot is small and there would be no room to build out much without completely killing the back yard.

I think this was then we started to toss around the idea of buying a new house here. Otherwise we could have never afforded it; we just refinanced only four years ago and don't have much equity in this house, plus it needs cosmetic changes like new carpet, linoleum, and painting. I haven't really wanted to ever move again. We moved into our present house at the end of July on a day when the temperature was 99°F and the humidity was 98°F. We did not have movers; our friends helped us move. (They are saints, every single one of them. They did it all for lunch from KFC—I think; it's been awhile—and supper at Piccadilly and all the ice cream the guy in the van could provide.) The thought of that weekend and that heat still makes me shudder.

I knew Mom would be pleased. I've never said this aloud because I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings, but my Mom never really liked our house. Mostly what she hated was the carpet (see, I come by it honestly). She thought it was cramped and dark (well, the latter is our fault; before we had the vinyl sidings put up to add insulation to the side of the house, we had to keep it dark in the spring when she came visiting just to keep it cool enough). The sliding glass doors worried her and that back yard full of trees...

Anyway, so we've been looking at house developments again. Most of them make my blood pressure soar. Anything near us is hideously expensive: from $300,000 and up. There are places only a few miles away where they are selling homes for a half million dollars and up. Wow, who lives in these places, and by that question I mean "Where are these people working that they can afford to live in places like that?" I remember when we applied for the loan on this house they would have qualified us for a house up to $200,000; since we didn't have a down payment at all it would have meant a monthly burden of about $1400 at least. I know people who have done that, but I don't want to be like the guy on the commercial who's "in debt up to my eyeballs."

The alternative is going way, way out in the country. Back when we were first married James and I used to amuse ourselves by wandering around housing developments; we loved to climb among the unfinished rooms in the skeletons of the structures. But the only homes we saw that were reasonably affordable (at this time around $70,000 for "starter homes"), were way out in Dallas, GA. (James still jokes about the time we drove out to Dallas and it took so long, me being a Rhode Islander and knowing that in RI if you drive for an hour in any direction you're in another state, I asked "James, are we still in Georgia?" I mean, it felt like we were about to cross the Alabama state line any minute.)

My God, it takes me a minimum of 40 minutes to get to work now, just imagine living 30-45 more minutes away!

pumpkin divider

25 August 2005
  Prologue
In 1995 we were living at the Chateau DeVille Apartments in Smyrna. This was a great place when we moved in in 1991, but had gone steadily downhill. At first we had great apartment managers, then a management company that financed it with HUD bought the place out. They weren't allowed to turn anyone away, even if they had bad credit or didn't meet the minimum income requirement. Every time we had a complaint, it was "we can't do anything about that." They couldn't do anything about the kids throwing rocks on the roof, the torrent of water that poured between the sidewalk of the building and the cars when it rained hard (it was at times strong enough to knock you down), the rats at the dumpster, the men living in the back throwing bottles at the dumpster and urinating off their balconies in public (in front of one of our neighbors and her small daughter), the people shooting guns off back there, the ants in the upstairs (!!!!!) bathroom, etc.

Our next door neighbor wouldn't let the exterminator spray in his apartment and his kitchen backed on to ours, so we had roaches running around our counters, sometimes a dozen in one night. It was sickening.

Plus our downstairs neighbor would get drunk once about every two weeks and turn up his stereo so loud that pictures were literally vibrating on the wall. We were afraid to complain about him because he was also the apartment maintenance manager and had unrestricted access to our apartment. More than once we found things that weren't ours in the apartment and once a rusty fishhook was left buried in some papers on our dining room table, and we had some books stolen. We were worried about Leia and Bandit being hurt.

Our friends the Elders had just found their dream house in 1995 and were selling their smaller split level home. We really didn't want to purchase at that time and were hoping to grit it out at the apartment for another year to save up more money. I was a GS-05 back then and James wasn't making a lot at his store job back then and we couldn't afford most of the houses on the market. We had even fallen in love with a small house at a place called Swallows Landing, but the monthly mortgage payment was $800. No way.

So the house we are living in now was kind of a godsend. It was small, but the converted garage into a den was quite homey and the neighborhood was nice. We took it and ran, and it has been good to us, with the usual homeowner's frustrations. We did fix some things, but have still left major things undone like removing the peeling wallpaper in the kitchen and hall bath. I have painted rooms, cleaned out attics, scrubbed floors, and done all sorts of dirty jobs, but the idea of removing wallpaper just flummoxes me, especially since the wallpaper wasn't put on the walls of the house properly anyway: they did not prime the walls before they put it up, but placed the wallpaper directly on the drywall. I have no idea what would happen if you took it off!

Over the years we have made certain improvements: painted all the rooms, vinyl sidings, a new HVAC system, new roof, guttering, new kitchen faucet, new bath insert, the closet organizer in the master bath, etc., but the house is just getting too unweildy. The trees in the back yard are too much work. We are bursting at the seams with books and kitchen utensils and crafts materials, even though both of us pare down several times a year and have brought many loads of things to Goodwill. The house is laid out awkwardly for our living habits: James is isolated when he cooks and the disadvantages of sleeping upstairs was brought sharply into focus when Mom was staying with us and eventually ended up totally confined to her room because she couldn't make the stairs any longer. It goes down to minor irritations: we don't see the Christmas tree most of the holiday season because it's in the tiny living room and we're in the den where there's no room for it.

Besides, I feel we could remodel this house forever and never really get it to look attractive. I know I'm not much of a girl...I lost my taste for dress-up long ago and I'm more comfortable in sweats and sneakers, but I'm still one at heart and for once in my life I would like something...pretty. I don't need the fol-de-rol from HGTV with the $93,000 dining room makeover and crown molding and furniture from Haverty's and the cut crystal my mom always longed for. I didn't used to care, but I'm getting old, and my mom's death has just hammered into me that I'm pushing fifty and for once I want something nice for myself. I remember how she always wanted a dining room and cut crystal and a china cabinet and now I know how she felt.

pumpkin divider