Thursday, June 2, 2016

I’m on a flight to Tampa, FL to attend AAMI (Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation), the biggest trade show for Fluke Biomedical. Fortuitously, I got a window seat, after swapping places with my associate, who preferred my aisle seat, further back in the plane.

I love being by the window.

Waiting to take-off, my mind wanders back to the scene in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, where the ape throws a bone into the air and it transitions to a spinning space station. I see the bone morphing into an airplane. How did man go from living in caves, and foraging for food to building magnificent machines that can hold hundreds of passengers, communicate with people on the ground, generate electricity to power the lights and mechanics, and use fuel that’s been pumped from the ground, refined, and then judiciously feed into engines to propel it across a continent (or oceans) within hours?


This trip also marks the end of a chapter in my life. When I return, Rich and I will rent a U-Haul truck, and move the rest of our furniture and belongings from our Kirkland to our Mount Vernon house. We’ll return for a day to clean, and finish up last minute projects, and then the house will be listed. With a shortage of houses in Seattle and the surrounding area, we expect to receive multiple offers, and sign sales papers within a week.

This is what we wanted. This is what we’ve been planning for years, but it comes with mixed feelings, and tears.

In 2007, when we were looking for a house near Microsoft, so I’d have a short commute, there were few on the market, and most were selling for considering more than our budget allowed. We visited 5 or 6 houses, and Rich settled on our Kirkland house after a few hours of looking. I was deeply disappointed, having previously lived in a spacious, recently refurbished house in Round Rock, Texas on 1.7 acres with hardwood and tiles floors throughout, large kitchen, two covered porches, covered second-floor balcony (all with ceiling fans), and many amenities, including a hot tub, creek along the back of the property, electric gates, garden shed, and magnificent dogwood, magnolia, crepe myrtle, and oak trees.

Nevertheless, Rich promised to make many improvements to the Kirkland house. The evening the house closed, and we were handed the keys, we started ripping out the carpet, and strategizing on our initial projects.

Two years after moving, the top floor had lovely bamboo floors, we’d removed the popcorn ceiling, painted every wall off-white, replaced the dingy wooden doors and baseboards with white six-panel doors and white baseboards, replaced most of the dated light fixtures with modern ones, replaced the windows, and added elegant white molding and windows sills.

A few years later, Rich cut a large hole in the kitchen ceiling, adding to large skylights, which allowed light to pour into the kitchen and stream into the living room, and dining room. He also added a kitchen island with butcher block on top, and ample storage below. Additional storage was added with new shelving in several closets. Last year, we added granite counters and stainless steel appliances.

Rich’s next project was to remodel the two upstairs bathrooms, adding tile floors, maple cabinets, chic lighting, new toilets, sinks, and faucets. The master bath took several months because he removed a wall, and made the shower considerably larger with tile from ceiling to floor, and a snazzy glass shower door.

There was a break in remodeling while we cared for my mother, and adjusted to reduced income after Rich was laid-off from IBM, and I struggled to find steady work after leaving Microsoft. However, after purchasing a house in Coupeville on Whidbey Island, and selling our lot in Anacortes the vision for our future was solidified. Instead of building a three-story house on the lot, with its shrinking view of March Point due to fast-growing fir trees, we’d be spending the rest of our “mobile” years in a one-story house with an unobstructed view of the Puget Sound!

The Final Push

While Rich was hoping to start on the final remodeling of our Kirkland house in January 2016, he had to wait until the start of March, after working an additional two months for Microsoft as a contract test engineer. A few weeks into February, he was side-tracked when his step-father Ted passed away, leaving a large estate to deal with, including a house that was “under water” and three mobile homes, each with numerous problems.

In between dealing with lawyers, tenants in the mobile homes, insurance and utility companies, and other issues surrounding his step-father’s estate, he demolished the downstairs of our Kirkland house. The entire time we lived in the house, we scarcely gone downstairs, except to do laundry, and tend to our cat’s needs. The laundry room had a large, grungy sauna, where we’d placed the cats’ food and water, and blankets for sleeping. The laundry room also featured dingy cupboards, and a windows that was partially blocked by our washer and dryer, which were stacked on top of each other to make room for a large litter box.

The rest of the downstairs was a hallway with dark brown panel on one wall, leading into a large family room, also partially paneled with two high windows. In one corner was a 70’s bar with dark brown cupboards, large mirror against the back wall, and glass shelves.

Rich’s first task was to remove everything from the laundry room. The space once occupied by the sauna was cut half, with the back half forming a closet, accessible from the family room. Rich built a wall to form the back of the closet. On the other side of the wall, where the laundry room is located, he added a cluster of cabinets with a counter for sorting clothes. The washer and dryer were then placed against the back wall with a cabinet in-between, opening up the window.

To further bring light into the laundry room, he added white molding around the windows, and a large window sill.

At the front of the laundry room, opposite the new cabinets, he did extensive plumbing and electrical work to create a small vanity with a small-profile toilet, mod lighting, and a dainty mirror.

He also installed a pocket door into the laundry room so there’s no door opening into the laundry, taking up valuable space.

At the end of the hallway, he installed a door, turning the family room into a “suite” complete with a fireplace, and mini kitchen. The former bar has new maple cabinets and small sink with room for a small refrigerator, small microwave or hotplate. Using several types and sizes of tile, he created an attractive backsplash in the mini kitchen.

The flooring in the laundry room, and mini kitchen is an oak-like laminate. The family room, and hallway is now beige carpeting (fast, and somewhat cheap).

Finally, he installed new light fixtures, including bucket lights over the kitchen so there’s plenty of light for cooking.

The resulting house is fantastic! I thoroughly enjoyed the bright kitchen, new counters and appliances, and garden windows, which looks out onto the deck, and backyard, shaded by a large oak and three majestic cedar trees. I relished the wildlife that visits from perky stellar blue jays and bossy crows to humorous squirrels and inquisitive raccoons. We’ve delighted in seeing several litters of raccoon grow from awkward, playful bundles of fur to mature adults who respectfully knock on our French doors, requesting a handful of dog kibble.

Our master bedroom has been restful with a pretty ceiling, tiffany lamps, and shabby chic bedspread and pillows.

Another bedroom was for guests, its walls covered with needlepoint my mother did. A second bedroom, we turned into an office with Rich and I having matching desk. On his side of the office were several computers, along with maritime paintings and instruments on the wall. My side had painting and needlepoint pictures of cats, and trinkets that made me happy like miniature red VW bugs, a Mary Engelbriet daily calendar, small wooden mannequin from my cousin, and inspirational books.

The door of the fourth bedroom was removed, and we turned it into a mini den with futon, TV, and small desk and cabinet for my sewing and art projects. Most of our evenings were spent in this den or our office. It was a cozy gathering spots for humans and felines alike.

The living and dining rooms, of our Kirkland house were off the kitchen with a large picture window in the front, and French doors at the back. To let more light into the house, we replaced the ghastly amber windows over the top and along one side of the front door with clear glass windows with adjustable blinds. The dated front door was replaced with one having a mosaic of different types of glass, some of which created rainbow patterns on the walls when the sunlight shined through the front door.

Nine years after purchasing – and remodeling – our Kirkland house, it became a wonderful, restful oasis.

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) are days in the house are down to a few hours. When I return from my Tampa trips, I’ll spend one more short night, before all of the furniture is moved, and what’s left is cleaning.

It’s bittersweet.

Sweet in that it will be sold for a substantial amount, and the proceeds used to pay down the mortgage of our Coupeville house to $50,000 or less. Rich relishes the idea of having a very low mortgage on a house we intend to live in for the rest of our lives. And sweet in that Rich is looking forward to ending the push to remodel the house, and list (and sell it) while the market is strong.

Rich is also looking forward to not cleaning off the roof every few weeks because of the never-ending shower of debris from the cedar and maple trees.

Bitter in that it’s been a pleasant house. While not my dream house, it’s been comfortable, convenient, and somewhat free of issues. We’ve enjoyed watching kids sled down the hill in front of the house when it snowed. The yard has been easy to maintain with plenty of flowering bushes and bulbs, including narcissus, daffodils, irises, peonies, hydrangea, and rhododendrons. And Rich has taken pride in the groomed lawns in the front and back.

Our furniture has nicely fit in the house, and our walls hosted our large collection of paintings, needlepoints, and pictures.

Next Steps

I’m not elated about moving to our Mount Vernon house with its 70’s shag rugs and worn-out linoleum floors, old counters and cupboards, and smaller rooms. While most of our furniture and belongings have already been put in storage, we have a cluster of antiques squished in the living rooms, and we’ll need to use every closet to accommodate our clothes. There’s a box of toiletries in the bathtub of one bathroom, many of our canned goods, spices, and other packaged foods are on a shelving unit in the laundry room, and the entire downstairs is housing my collectables, painting, and other framed artwork in boxes… along with furniture, and stuff we never brought to Kirkland!

All-in-all, however, we’re going to have a great summer in Mount Vernon. There will be no need to drive between Kirkland and Mount Vernon or work on pressing home-improvement projects. We fully intend to spend our weekends hiking, biking, kayaking, sightseeing, and simply relaxing.

I’ll continue to work at Fluke Biomedical, until I find a job closer to Whidbey Island (Oak Harbor) or a role that can be done remotely. Rich will spend his days fixing our motor home (the section over the cab got dry rot), painting the trim on the Mount Vernon house (most of the house was painted last summer), repairing the deck, and light refresh projects to get the house ready to rent in 2017.

Our Coupeville house is leased through September; although the tenants could leave earlier. Once they’re gone, we’ll launch back into remodel mode… replacing the carpeting, updating the kitchen… turning the dated bar into display cabinets… and much, much more!

With a bit of luck, we’ll be moving into our “forever” house by October. We’re looking forward to matching rocking chairs, dentures in glasses of Polident, and lamenting where we left our glasses and canes, as we gracefully age-in-place.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

I’m sitting at my PC, having moved to Mount Vernon a few days ago. Rich is staying in Kirkland another few days to finish up a last minute projects. He’s left with a bed, box on a stool with a clock and small lamp, a handful of clothes, desk with his PC and a few other electronics, paper plates and plastic cups, cleaning supplies, and tools in the garage.

The day we rented a Budget Truck, Tuesday, the thermometer climbed to the high 80’s. Fortunately, we didn’t have a lot to move, having packed and placed most of our belongings into storage or the bottom story of our Mount Vernon house. Even so, we need to unpack our clothes, the kitchenware I couldn’t live without (i.e. Cuisinart food processor, Kitchenaid mixer, ceramic casseroles, etc.), office equipment, and much more. Our Mount Vernon house is crammed with furniture, boxes, food from my sizable Kirkland pantry, and of course, closets of clothes.

Today, I returned to work, thinking I’d be taking a bus to work, necessitating I leave at 5:20 every morning, spend 25 minutes driving to a park-n-ride, and 45 minutes traveling to Boeing, then walking a quarter mile to work. However, I bumped into a friend who hooked me up with a vanpool, which will be significantly more pleasant to take, and drives directly to work, starting at 6:55 in the morning.

Moving to the country, and this fall to Whidbey Island, closes a chapter of Rich’s and my life. Suburban living with the traffic, crowds, and constant stress has come to an end. We have sunsets, migrating trumpeter swans, miles of farmland, access to just-picked produce, and weekends of hiking, biking, kayaking, and sightseeing ahead of us.

It’s a great start to the next chapter.