Watermelon Roses

A collection of random thoughts, commentaries, and journaling. There is a lot to explore here, including links to other sites of mine. These are mostly for my own benefit, but guests are welcome to browse and explore as much or as little as they like.

Friday, July 27, 2007

From Texas to Washington, Part II: The Move

I hate when I agree to something when I just know better. This was the beginning of a major period of stress in my life. If I were a tree trunk with rings on display, I'm sure July 2007 would stand out in some way.

When we moved from England to New York in 1998, we had very little shipped over with us due to the enormous cost of shipping. The move from New York to Michigan in 1999 was still fairly reasonable, with just the addition of furniture and electronics. By the time we left Michigan for Texas in 2002, we had boxes upon boxes of toys and papers that we were determined to sort through as soon as possible when we got settled in our new house. When we left Grand Prairie and moved to Frisco in 2006, we had so much to sort through, including an embarrassing number of unopened or barely opened Michigan boxes, that we decided we couldn't bring the accumulation with us to Frisco and would have to make regular trips to Grand Prairie to sort it out before we could sell the house. Eight months later, we gave up and moved everything to a storage area so we could sell and not have to maintain two houses and their associated costs, vowing to clean out the storage area before moving again. We planned to at least collect one or two boxes each from storage per week. Fast forward to a year later, when it's time to move to Washington, and no more than two or three boxes have ever been retrieved from storage. In fact, the papers and clutter have accumulated so much just since coming to Frisco that boxes are taking over the master bedroom and the garage, which we can hardly use for parking anymore. So when my husband tells me not to let the movers pack anything at all clutter-like, including all those boxes taking over the house, because we just have to go through everything before the movers come three days later, I know that's a bad idea and not very realistic. After all, he's been working almost every single day, weekends included, and tends to fall asleep wherever he happens to be sitting shortly after dinner. Meanwhile, I have three small children (and a cat, and a husband,) to keep clean, fed, and out of trouble.

The reality was that from Friday when the movers packed to Monday when the movers came to collect everything, I had about seven hours of sleep, none of which occurred on Sunday night, when I was frantically trying to just get everything into boxes before the movers came. To make matters worse, I hadn't packed the things we'd need to keep away from the movers to take with us ourselves on the plane. When the lead mover arrived bright and early Monday morning, he found a bleary-eyed, disheveled, and still somewhat frantic housewife telling him not to worry about the fact that the cluttered, unpacked house was nowhere near ready to load, because my plan was to run around ahead of him throwing things into boxes while he loaded the things they had packed on Friday. After touring the house, he suggested hopefully that he could come back tomorrow. We had a schedule to keep, and I assured him I could do it. Unfortunately, this put him and his men in a bad mood and one in particular was really rough on our furniture. We paid twice as much as usual for this company (Graebel) which had been highly recommended to us by a couple of people. We had such bad experiences in the past with movers that we were willing to pay extra to have everything go smoothly for a change. The man who came out to give us our estimate assured us that furniture would be disassembled and wrapped in blankets, and that extra care would be taken with our things. It was a nice thought, anyway.

We had given away or sold a lot of things through Craig's List beforehand, which helped, and the packers did pack quite a lot. Our bedroom, the garage, and part of the kitchen were untouched, though, and that was a problem. Since I was operating on no food and no sleep, things get kind of blurry here, but I do remember that I was hot, exhausted, and miserable. There was a whirlwind of boxes, packing paper, and unsorted clutter. We had a babysitter for the day, trying to keep the children out of the way. With the majority of their toys packed, those were some sad, bored children. K had gone to work by mid-morning. They informed me at one point that they couldn't disassemble our corner computer desk upstairs because it was partly made of particle board, and it wouldn't fit through the door assembled. I pointed out that we were told by the estimator that they would disassemble anything that needed disassembling. They frowned (more) and told me he shouldn't have said that, and informed me that if I had read the fine print in the materials he left me I would have seen that they don't disassemble particle board. With K gone, I had to try to disassemble it myself. Unscrewing, I could do. Lifting a heavy, bulky hutch that had to come straight up because of pegs holding it in place off of a big corner desk by myself, I couldn't do, and I did enough damage to the desk by trying that I just broke down and cried for a few minutes. At lunchtime, the lead mover said they were going to take a break to give me time to finish up the bedroom. Five minutes after the movers left, the car transporter arrived and I had to walk around the cars with him and sign them over to him. K got back about 5 minutes before the movers did, and I left him with the cars and ran back in to try to make it look like I had done something, anything, while the movers were gone.

They disassembled the bed while I continued throwing things into boxes, trying to set aside the things I thought we should take with us on the plane, since the movers could take up to two weeks to arrive. I later found a piece of the hardware needed to reassemble the bed just before it got vacuumed, and tucked it away in my purse while thinking uncharitable thoughts about the movers. Once they finished with the bedroom, they told K they could hang around and wait for us to finish with the desk upstairs and charge us overtime, or they could just leave it. We decided to abandon it. K had to go back to work. I had to lead the movers to our 10'x20' storage area so they could load all the unsorted boxes mentioned earlier. They riled up the manager there by parking on the sensor that makes the gate open so that it wouldn't shut. She riled them up by being rude about it. Once everyone was good and riled up, they emptied the storage area. I tipped out of a sense of obligation because they DID do a lot of work, but they sure didn't earn it based on attitude. I was so glad to see them go!

Still no time for sleep, because I had to rush home, shower, and meet K and his entire office staff at Pappadeaux for his going-away dinner. I don't think I dozed off more than three or four times at the end of the meal. Pretty good, I thought, considering! We were given some lovely and thoughtful gifts and cards, and everyone was very nice. We moved into a hotel after dinner so we wouldn't have to sleep on the floor. I really understood the meaning of bone-tired by the time I fell into bed that night!

Over the next couple of days, I had cleaners and carpet cleaners come to the house, helped K with minor repairs, gave away the desk on Craig's List, and had the landlord over for a walkthrough. We discovered that the movers had taken the landlord's soaker hoses and water hoses while we were throwing things into boxes. I also had to pack up all the things I had set aside to take with us on the plane, which, along with repairs, took us so long that we had to cancel our going-away dinner with my family. Having grossly overestimated what would fit neatly into a few suitcases and boxes, we ended up with six suitcases, five boxes, a stroller, two car seats, a laptop, two changing bags, a purse, a cat in a carrier, two children's rolling backpacks, and two miscellaneous carry-on bags. My mom and Justin brought their cars to help us get it all to the airport. We checked the six suitcases and five boxes curbside after having to rearrange a few bags to get them all within the proper weight limits and paying an excess baggage fee. I left K to go with the porter to wherever it was the porter said they had to go (I think this had something to do with the cat,) and took the children with me to return our rental car. Leaving both Layth's seatbelt adjuster and my toll tag in the car (after repeatedly reminding K to be sure to get his toll tag from his car,) I hurriedly loaded my children and car seats into my mom's and Justin's cars so they could shuttle us back to the terminal. K was anxiously waiting outside to help us unload. We were so pressed for time by this time that I hardly had time for goodbyes.

Security was a nightmare. After removing our shoes and unloading everything we could onto the belt, we had to convince them that the car seats wouldn't fit through the machine, fold the stroller, put that on the belt, take the cat out of the carrier, and I had to walk a squirming baby and a nervous cat through the metal detector while K tried to corral Layth and Maya on the other side. Reassembling everything and everyone on the other side took much too long, and Layth and Maya didn't help by running here, there, and everywhere. Once assembled, we made a mad dash for the gate, to be told that we had just missed the plane. With two flights left for the day, we were put on a waiting list for standby, and went to the food court for dinner. I didn't even think about spare clothes for the baby until he had a giant poopy diaper leak during dinner, so I had to go through several gift shops until I found the one 18-month-sized outfit in the entire airport. Overpriced and not even cute, it would have to do. I cleaned the stroller the best I could with baby wipes, and we were off to the gate to be told that there was no room for us on the next flight. One flight left, with three restless children, two resigned adults, and one surprisingly patient cat.

When the last flight was boarding, we were told we couldn't all fit on the flight, but two or three of us might make it. We decided if it was two, I'd take the baby, and if it was three, K would take the boys. The cat had to go either way, because I didn't have food for another day, and she'd need water. In the last minutes of boarding, we were told two of us could come. I headed off with the baby and the cat while K tried to restrain a screaming Layth, but when the already annoyed agent saw that I'd need to check the stroller she said she was sorry, but they didn't have time for this, and they'd have to take the next two on the standby list. That was that.

I sank into my seat, defeated, and refused to go to a hotel because I couldn't bear the thought of having to go through the security nightmare again in the morning. K insisted, and had one of the agents make arrangements for us at what was supposed to be a new Days Inn in the area. The taxi driver took advantage of us, the Days Inn wasn't really in the area, wasn't in a good area, hadn't been new for at least 20 years, and smelled of wet animals. We gave the cat her food, set up the disposable litterbox I had packed (yay, me!), sulked, and slept. Up at 4am to take the shuttle back to the airport in hopes of catching the first flight out at 7am. Again, we were told only two of us could go, but we knew better than to try to check the stroller again, so I took Maya and the cat. Layth was heartbroken to be left behind, and was sobbing loudly as Maya and I boarded the plane. About ten minutes later, as the plane was getting ready to leave, we saw K and the boys boarding the plane! The joy I felt in that moment almost erased all the heartache of the past week. I was so glad they were coming with us!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

From Texas to Washington, Part I: Preparations

Late last year, K was told that his contract would not be renewed with the practice because the new office just didn't have the client demand that they had expected. This was undoubtedly for the best, since there were some personal conflicts going on as well, and K hadn't been as happy there as he hoped. Since this site is available to the public, that's all I'm going to say on that matter, but if you know us well, I'm sure you've heard our complaints!

K started going on his interviews early this year. His top choice in Virginia wasn't hiring, so he interviewed in Boston, St Louis, Sacramento, and Seattle. Boston was an easy elimination. The job just wasn't right. The other three were harder to choose between. My mother was rooting for St Louis because it was the closest and most driveable (she hates flying.) They also offered him the most money and had a reasonable cost of living, so I was all for it. The Sacramento job sounded pretty good and also offered great pay, but the job didn't even officially exist yet, and they weren't sure when it would. Despite that, they wanted him to pay $1,000 for his California license before they'd even officially consider him. When K came home from Seattle, I had a suspicion that it might be the place. He loved the people, the potential partner, the seafood, and the area. They were offering the lowest pay, but he felt he'd be happiest there. In the end, he talked them into meeting him halfway on his requested salary and contributing to the cost of our move. We both felt that his long-term happiness with the practice outweighed a higher starting salary, so the decision was made. I dreaded telling my mother that we were going so far away!

Once we settled on Seattle, we started looking at houses online. We didn't want to buy until we had a chance to get to know the area and to be sure that the partnership was going to work out, so we were limited to rentals. Housing is much more expensive in Seattle than in Dallas, and it took a while to adjust to the idea of paying at least twice as much as we had been. Air conditioning isn't very common in houses in the Seattle area, but I insisted I couldn't live without it, which limited our choices considerably. After months of looking, we decided that K and Layth would just have to fly up there and look at some in person in order to make a decision. Unfortunately, their flight was cancelled due to bad weather and they lost about a day and a half of their four-day trip. It was frustrating and exhausting trying to actually get them up there, and once they were en route, I found out when I called to confirm their hotel that despite the fact that we had prepaid over $500 for the hotel, because they didn't show up the first night, the reservation was cancelled and our prepayment forfeited. That was so frustrating! I hurriedly booked them a room at a hotel down the street and left instructions for them at the original hotel to call me for details.

The few houses they were able to see weren't right for us, and there were many days when it all felt hopeless. However, we had a fantastic real estate agent, Marilyn Droukas, (referred by our wonderful Dallas real estate agent, Eric Holmes ... if anyone ever needs an agent in the Dallas or Seattle areas, look them up and tell them I sent you!) who was a great help to us and even went to look at houses on our behalf while we were in Texas. Thanks to Marilyn and Craig's List, we were able to make arrangements to have a house to go home to once we got to Seattle. Pictures of the house as seen on Craig's List and sent to us by the owner can be seen by clicking on the photo below.