Annie Get Your Shotgun

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We can never go back

Saturday, June 11th, 2016

If you really want to torture yourself, keep your email address linked with the house you used to own in a city where real estate is on a rapid upward trajectory. Once a week or so, you’ll get an update that tells you how much the value of your former home has increased, i.e. how much money you didn’t make because you sold when you did. Bless.

Yesterday, I finally (mercifully) cut the Zillow cord with the Shotgun, my old, charming, 11-foot wide, 600 square foot house in Denver. I loved that nest, and it was the perfect place for me to live for the years I spent there — but that season is over. I made a choice, which led to a decision tree of other choices, all of which ultimately led my life 900 miles away to Minneapolis.

The cruelest question in the world is “what if.”

And yet, we ask it all the time, don’t we? What if I had stayed? What if I had gone? What if I had said yes? What if I had said no? What if I had met that person, or not met that person, or met that person at a different time? What if I had never left my house in Denver and now was sitting on an 11-foot wide MOUNTAIN OF GOLD.

Dumb, all of it.

Asking “what if” keeps us stuck, mentally revising the past toward a future that will never actually be. It’s a waste of energy and a waste of heart. Like Joy Williams sings, “We can never go back, we can only go on and on and on.”

Real estate profits are the least of it — because that stuff doesn’t matter, really. It’s about owning your life, owning your decisions, blessing the good, and wrestling the bad (which, by the way, would exist no matter which path you would have chosen). It’s about seeing your story for the adventure that it is, and realizing that certain things aren’t up to you, anyway. It’s about knowing that it’s a privilege to have a choice at all.

If you struggle with feeling alone, or anxious, or frantic because life doesn’t look the way you imagined it would — well, me too. Keep going, though, because we can never go back. We might as well move forward, because who knows what might be up there?

The Fox Den

Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

I’m a homeowner again – as in, fare thee well, all of my dollars.

But for a most worthy cause.

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A few weeks ago, I traded the little sum I got from the sale of the Shotgun in Denver for a 1916 – farmhouse? Bungalow? Victorian? The official style is unclear, since different elements of the house favor different trends – but in any case I’m dubbing it the Fox Den, for obvious reasons.

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I have tiny-bit-more-than doubled my square footage – which, coming from a 600 square foot Shotgun house, was not hard to do. Still though, just a 2 bed / 1 bath feels like so much space. I have an entire closet JUST FOR COATS – and it’s a good thing, because come Minnesota winter, you know I’m going to need them.

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Here are a few things I’ve learned in this particular home-buying process:

  • Internet service providers are like political candidates – they’re all the worst, but they’re all we have to choose from.
  • Mowing a lawn is basically just like vacuuming, but burning more calories.
  • When house hunting, it’s best to buy the first and only house you look at*.

It’s true: I’m two for two. When I bought the Shotgun in Denver, it was because I wandered into an open house while on a walk (not house hunting at all), stood in the front doorway, thought “I like this – maybe I should buy it?” and then I did. I never looked at a single other abode.

This time around, my friend Gabe’s friend JMatt was selling his house without listing it through a realtor – and when I found out about it, I just so happened to be in Minneapolis wrapping up with Larabar. So I grabbed my friend Mark (who was in town from New York) and we went to take a look.

Mark asked all of the questions you’re supposed to ask when considering the largest purchase of your life (“When was the roof replaced?” “Why is there a cluster of wires coming up through the laundry shoot?” “Allow me to inspect the basement walls.”) – but I just walked around swooning.

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And then I bought it.

I thought about looking at other houses in other neighborhoods, but… why? This house was everything I wanted: warm, welcoming, with enough space for guests to come and stay. A big yard for Foxy. A back deck and a front porch swing. A mile and a half from work. Why WOULDN’T I buy this house?

So now I’m settled in. I love it so much. It’s more than I knew to ask for or imagine, and falls into the “Generous Things I Do Not Deserve But Will Never Take For Granted” column (which is already overflowing, to be honest). I am grateful for my home, and want to fill it up with my people.

So please come and see me.

*I cannot be held liable for this backfiring in your face.

Shotgun for sale

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

As of tonight, my house is on the market. And given all I have accomplished in the last seven days, I feel like nothing less than a freaking superhero (I call dibs on the name Trixie Firecracker).

In addition to holding down my full-time job (three more days!), I have moved 30 boxes, a bookshelf, a cabinet, and a flat screen TV to my sister’s garage, completely de-cluttered and neutralized my house, found a potential new home in Minneapolis, number crunched while comparing estimates from five different lenders, made some emotional decisions and a few rational ones, had an honest conversation with someone I care about, sent a few of the longest emails I’ve ever written in my life, flown to Portland, been stuck with acupuncture needles in a friend’s living room, attended a wedding for some favorite folks, slept in my own bed, my sister’s bed, and a hide-a-bed, deep cleaned my house, vacuumed the cobwebs off the ceiling, weed wacked the backyard, laid mulch in a flowerbed, organized the basement, and somehow managed not to eat my feelings. (Except that pulled pork mac & cheese. But it could have been so much worse.)

According to my Fitbit, my resting heart rate is generally around 57. One day last week, it was consistently 81 all day long, even when I was just sitting at my computer – a physical manifestation of the state of my emotions. Things have been BANANAS.

Speaking of bananas, I don’t really buy them anymore. Sure, I like bananas – but I never want a whole one. And when you try to save the other half for later, the open end gets mushy.

But let me tell you, I’ve learned a lot about selling a house (it is my first time, after all). And one thing I know: when it comes to strangers traipsing through your house deciding whether they’re willing to pay you some percentage of a million dollars for it, YOU STOCK YOUR DAMN FRUIT BASKET.

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You also adorn the tables and nooks with fresh flowers.

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And God forbid anyone find anything in your home that tells them what sort of a person you are: all books, pictures, toiletries, toys, trinkets, and shrines to Tim Riggins must be packed up and stowed far, far away. The potential buyers have to get the idea that your home is warm and inviting, yet still be able to envision making the space their own. Not that anyone could argue with Riggins.

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I adore this little Shotgun house. I’ve only been here for two years, but in that time it’s felt more like “home” than anywhere else I’ve ever lived. I’ve taken good care of it, and put as much money as I could afford into improvements: new windows, new kitchen floors, and – get excited, buyers – brand new natural gas lines! This air is safe to breathe.

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My favorite things about my house are the skylights, the interior brick, the original hardwoods, the high ceilings, the gas stove, the claw foot tub, the insane water pressure, and the location – good grief, the location. Less than a mile to downtown, a half mile to REI, three blocks to the football stadium, two blocks to the Platte River bike trail, one block to Jefferson Park and a B-Cycle station, and around the corner from a little French restaurant.

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Plus, whoever gets to live here next will surely feel my spirit lurking – and there is no price tag for that.

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So come and get it, folks! This house is about to fly.

An eensy weensy check-in

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

Some seasons can’t be wrapped up into compact little blog posts. So let’s just pretend that I haven’t not written here for a while – at least anything of substance – and catch up free-form. Like a meandering conversation – but with me talking into a megaphone (everyone’s dream).

We’ll start with the most important things, such as my sadness over Zayn leaving One Direction. Where do broken hearts go, Zayn? Things will never be the same. In light of his departure, I have reordered my ranking of best voice to worst voice to Zayn, Liam, Harry, Niall, Louis (Louis will always be last) – because what can I say? Absence makes the heart grow fonder. We didn’t know what we had when we had Zayn. Paved paradise and all that.

Now, an explanation for why I’ve been a bit MIA. In the past three weeks, I’ve been in nine different states (Foxy joining me for eight): Colorado, obviously. Then Utah, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Wyoming, Kansas, and Minnesota. I am finally back home for the next two and a half weeks, reacquainting myself with my morning routine, exercise, and dry air. Each time I’ve reentered Colorado in the past few weeks, I’ve gotten a bloody nose. Love, your ideal woman.

Speaking of Foxy (not that we were, but let’s do), I thought about creating an ongoing series on this blog called Fox News – but then I remembered that it would all kind of be the same. She’s the best! I love her! We go on walks! She doesn’t eat her food! She’s scared of strangers and kids and balloons! She loves kittens! So there’s your Fox News, no Ann Coulter necessary. And if you’re feeling nostalgic, here’s a Then & Now warm fuzzy.

Foxy then now

I’ve made a list of things I want very much, but for financial reasons will need to pace myself in the procurement thereof. In no particular order, here they are: a new bike, a Shark vacuum, a Fitbit, a new rolly suitcase, a grown-up size CrockPot (right now I just have a little one), a new Sonicare toothbrush (mine died), and an entirely new wardrobe.

I am still working from my dining room, which means that I am still living in squalor, like a natural foods Grey Gardens. One hundred square feet is simply not enough space to house all of the STUFF my job requires, so it’s all spilling out into the rest of my 500 square feet and making me twitch.

And with that, I’ll let you get back to your day. Keep going! Pink bunny with the drum.

The sky is falling, and other tales of woe

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

Ever had one of those weeks?

Last Monday and Tuesday, I got four parking tickets in 24 hours. My license plates had expired at the end of March (news to me!), and before I could find an opening in my work schedule to hit the DMV, Denver’s parking patrol graced me. Four times.

I have to say, street parking enforcement in Denver is stricter than any other city in which I’ve lived. No matter the offense, THEY WILL CATCH YOU. I’d say that it’s the worst thing about this town, except then I remember how bad the boogers hurt (those who live in dry climates at high altitude surely understand), and allow the parking patrol to drop a notch on the Worst list.

When I finally made it to the DMV, they slapped me with a late fee and sent me on my merry way.

Late last week, I walked out into my backyard to find Foxy chewing on a chicken bone – just, you know, an instrument of canine death. I mentally accused every one of my neighbors of throwing leftover KFC over the fence into my yard, and cursed them along with their children and their children’s children.

The next day I saw a squirrel summit my fence with a chicken thigh in his clutches, and realized that the bone had likely been dropped by a varmint. I released my neighbors from vindictive mental prison, and instead, channeled my anger into psychic BBs aimed at a rodent – which really gets me nowhere (as opposed to despising my neighbors, which is obviously edifying).

When I was stopped at a red light at Colfax & Speer and I offered the homeless man on the corner a granola bar and he refused it, saying he doesn’t eat “that garbage,” I told him that his sign (“Anything helps”) was a lie. And as he walked angrily and aggressively toward my car and I frantically reached for the button to roll up the window, I thought, WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME.

On Sunday, May 11, it started to snow. On Monday, May 12, it was still snowing. And just as my soul was withering up to die, my kitchen ceiling caved in* – as did my will to soldier on.

Let me tell you, you think life’s bad, and then your roof collapses*.

I’m leaving tomorrow for a work trip to Minnesota, and 12 hours after I get back, I’m leaving for a week in Nashville. My roof has one job – to keep everything out – and it’s failing. Work is busier than ever. I’m exhausted. There’s a lot of uncertainty in my life that I’m trying to beat back and not give the power to, but it feels impossible. I find myself craving things I don’t need – new clothes and new shoes and plane tickets to take me far away – but I know that they’re just misplaced desires. This ache can’t be fixed by money or things or security or control, all of which are just a fist full of water – the tighter I hold on, the more they slip through my fingers.

“You sound really stressed,” she said. And it was the best possible thing someone could offer – a simple acknowledgement that life feels out of control right now.

My throat got tight. “I am. I’m really stressed. I wish that just one thing was easier right now.” And then, the heart of the matter floated right up to the surface. “I need to find a way to be happy.”

And I’m not talking about a “look for the silver lining,” “there’s always something to be thankful for,” “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” kind of happy. I’m talking about laughing in the face of life’s trials and letting them roll off my back like a wet duck – because life’s too short to dwell on the nonsense. Do I trust that there’s a story bigger than I can see, and that it really doesn’t matter if the sky is falling, because my security lies somewhere other than my circumstances?

This is the question I’m asking myself today – because the older I get, the faster life goes. I don’t want to miss it.

*Very dramatic terms to describe a mere leak – although yes, thank you pessimist friends, I agree that the roofer is probably going to tell me, “There’s no such thing as a ‘mere’ leak.”

Yard work

Sunday, May 4th, 2014

I’m discovering that I’m no DIY-er – which is unfortunate, given that I’m also not made of money. When I first moved into the Shotgun, I painted a few walls – the first and last act of home improvement to be performed by my own hand. The slop-job of color application has bothered me every day since, and I recently bought a Groupon to have professionals come fix my domestic faux pas.

I used my tax return to have new windows installed – a relatively painless feat, since there are only two (one on the front of the house, one on the back). But the change has made such a difference, it’s given me the itch to upgrade a few other things – namely, the kitchen floors and counters (at some point), and the backyard.

Let me tell you about my backyard. It’s tiny (the size of a parking space), it’s sun-beaten, and it has no water source. Foxy has dug several holes. The ground is dry and the growth patchy, but the plant life that does exist (i.e. weedy grass) grows with enthusiasm. Last summer, I eventually had to have a lawn company come spray the entire plot to kill what had grown to be waist-high – I didn’t know what else to do, given that I didn’t own a lawn mower, and even if I did, I’m sorry, how do you use a lawn mower?

I’m determined to stay on top of the yard this year. So on Saturday, I borrowed Erica’s weed whacker – a tool I previously had zero experience with – and went to town.

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It’s like a really bad haircut. (And if you’re wondering what’s under that hatch, that’s a horror story for another day.)

Obviously, my best case scenario would be to have a water source, thus have a way to grow grass – so after I weed whacked, I had a plumber come by to tell me what it would take to get a spigot installed in the backyard.

I’ll tell you how much: one THOUSAND dollars. No thank you.

So I’m left without a good solution. Maybe I’ll just remodel my kitchen instead.

Shotgun, revealed

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

It’s no secret that I’m a perfectionist. I don’t like to admit that I’m a person in process, because I would love for everyone to think that I have it all together 100% of the time.

Well, I don’t have everything together 100% of the time. And as if there weren’t already enough hilarious (read: mortifying) reminders of this on a daily basis, I am now the owner of a 113-year old house – and it is definitely not perfect. The roof leaks in the kitchen, the hardwoods are scratched and stained and disintegrating, the backyard is completely dead, and there is no central air, leading the thermostat on the wall to read 86° every minute of the last 3 months.

But it’s mine, and I love it so much. I’m working to fix things, one tiny dollar after another. Little by little, it’s coming together, and although it’s taken me 4 months to start to feel settled, these 600 square feet really do feel like home.

So here it is – the Shotgun, revealed*! Although I’m not showing you the outside because then you would come and steal me.

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I know. You have to walk through the bedroom to get to the kitchen. It makes everyone uncomfortable except me, because hey, I’m the one who gets to sleep 5 feet from the refrigerator (life dream).

I’m trying to not make it Girlyville, hence the burlap curtains, selection of bourbon, and a few gender-neutral pieces. The last thing I need is for a man to like me only to be driven away by my decor like the girl with the unicorn house in “Dodgeball.”

Someday I’ll show you the bathroom. But I guess it won’t be today – because truth be told, I forgot to take any pictures. Poor bathroom, always being overlooked.

There are still things I want to do with the space, of course – new windows, a gallery wall in the hallway, building a closet to hide the washer/dryer, sealing the exposed brick in the bedroom, installing an awning over the back window, somehow fixing the standing puddle of water on the roof over the kitchen (any ideas?) – so more to come. But for now, I think it’s pretty good start. And I’d love to have you over any time for wine or whiskey – or more likely, both.

*Please do not judge my photography. I have no idea how I’m related to We Are the Parsons. I’m going to make my own company called I Am the Parsons, and it will specialize in horrid blue/green lighting and zero skills.

Annie Parsons, pure brawn

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

Arriving home after work last night, I opened the living room curtains to let in some light. There on the windowpane was a spider, which, obviously, is unacceptable. So I grabbed a flip-flop and swatted the glass.

And the entire window shattered.

I shattered my living room window with a flip-flop – because if there’s anything I’m made of, it’s unbridled strength.

My first reaction was laughter – the kind that you try to stifle so it winds up snorting out your nose. But then I thought of all the cuss words. My windows are from the 1920s – single-paned, wooden-framed, on tracks with weights in the walls to suspend them open – and they can’t be easy (or cheap) to repair.

For now, I’ve duct taped a mega piece of cardboard over the breach, my slapdash attempt at home security.

They say that women are like tea bags – we don’t know our own strength until we’re in hot water. Well guess what. Women are also like sledgehammers.

Think about THAT.

Aloneness

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

I’ve been in the Shotgun for two and a half weeks, and things are coming together. I have all of my furniture, and as of Sunday, a washer and dryer. A few pictures are hung on the walls. I painted the hallway, but gave up halfway through painting the bathroom because the ceilings are too high and the floor space is too small for a ladder; I think I’ll need to hire a professional to finish the job. My curtains are up, and I’ve jerry-rigged a temporary solution for the skylight over my bed (a towel draped over two tension rods). I’m learning the oddities of the space, and despite the quirks, it’s starting to feel like home.

But the transition has been rough for Toad.

This little dog has been through more than her fair share of change in the last few years. We just passed the 2-year anniversary of her amputation, which is right around the time she came to live with me. In less than two years, she’s been through three moves, lost her dog companion when Becca got married and took Gabe with her, grew out all of her fur just to have it shaved off, and has tripped and scraped her nose more times than I can count. Through it all, she just keeps hopping along.

But my new next-door neighbor (with whom I share a wall) recently told me that when I’m not home, Toad barks. This is surprising to me, since Toad never barks when I’m around – she’s a silent, sleepy mutt who, for hours at a time, barely makes her presence known. But it appears that she has an alter ego, and as soon as I’m out the door, starts barking – and she doesn’t stop.

Last night I came home from guitar class, and had to park on the street a few houses down. As I walked toward my front door, I started to hear it – a desperate, throaty cry. “That’s not Toad,” I told myself. It couldn’t be her. But as I got closer, I knew it: my dog was barking incessantly, to the point of losing her voice, and she’d been doing this for the past 2 hours straight.

After an apology text to my neighbor, I sunk onto my bed feeling exasperated. Doesn’t this dog know that I take good care of her? Doesn’t she know that I always feed her, always make sure she has what she needs when she needs it? Doesn’t she trust that I’m never going to leave her alone, that I’m always going to come back for her?

She doesn’t believe it, so she cries. And I am no different.

How often do I buy into the lie that I’m all alone and that no one is going to take care of me? How often do I overlook the ways I have been provided for? How often do I draw conclusions based only on what I can see? How often do I assume the worst?

I’ve lived alone before, but something about being the only signature on the deed to this house has exposed my “aloneness” in a new way. Have you ever tried to hang a picture on a wall without someone standing back, telling you whether to move it higher or lower? Or deciding to change the placement of the rugs after the furniture has been set without someone else to lift the corner of the sofa? Not to mention being the only person earning money for the bank account to pay for it all. If I think about it for too long, I start to feel a lot like my little dog: frantic and afraid.

But here’s the good news: when you’re alone and you know it, you’re so much more aware of the ways in which you’re taken care of.

If I didn’t feel the full weight of my aloneness, would I feel the value of a Home Depot gift card from Luke and Maggie? Would I understand the thoughtfulness of flowers from Allie on my doorstep? Would I fully appreciate Steve coming over to drill things into the walls? Would I know the significance of Graham taking his entire Sunday afternoon to help me move a washer/dryer? Would I acknowledge the Denver map from Hitoshi, the rosemary plant from Isreal, or the bottle of wine from Erica as so meaningful? Would I read all of the well-wishing words with as much gratitude? Would I wake up each morning well aware that I’m living in a home that I didn’t even know to ask for or expect?

In the morning, I’m leaving for a 36-hour work trip, and I have an Anna-Hannah-Becca tag-team to make sure that Toad is never left home alone to bark. I don’t know what I’m going to do about this problem long-term. But despite the aloneness I am so tempted to feel, this little stressor of a dog is being provided for and taken care of – and so am I.

Shotgun

Monday, April 29th, 2013

Over the weekend, I traded in my dollhouse for a real house: as of Friday, I’m the owner of a shotgun row home. I’ve spent the past few days vacillating between absolute elation and a full-on panic attack – mostly for irrational reasons, like What if it’s built on a sinkhole? and What if I’m murdered?? Because obviously there is a direct correlation between owning a home and being murdered.

Back in February, I was not looking to buy a home. It was not a thought in my mind. You know me – I’m a rolling stone, a vagabond gypsy, a tumbleweed of a girl – and the thought of “settling down” makes me break out in hives. Of all of the feelings, trapped is the worst one I can think of.

But there’s a difference between being trapped and making a decision. When you go to a restaurant, you can’t keep staring at the menu forever just to “keep your options open.” That would be dumb, because LAY OFF ME I’M STARVING. There is goodness to be enjoyed and life to be lived, and sometimes you just have to choose.

Two months ago, Greta was here for a visit and we walked past an open house. I can’t resist an open house, because apart from becoming a lawyer, it’s my only legal-slash-socially acceptable chance to be nosy. I took two steps into the house before I realized I was in love.

Built in 1900, the house is 11 feet wide and 55 feet long, four rooms stacked one right after the other: living room, dining room, bedroom, kitchen. It has hardwood floors, 10 ft. ceilings, 3 skylights, a brick wall, and the tiniest backyard perfect for a 3-legged dog. Two minutes from downtown, the Jefferson Park neighborhood has a history of violence and crime, but it’s in the process of development and change. The area is still gritty, but right now is an exciting time to buy here (even though you know I’m still using the Club on my steering wheel).

It all happened pretty quickly: I got a realtor and a lender, sent off a bunch of paperwork, had an inspection and an appraisal, wrote some checks, and bam, signed on the dotted line. Call me crazy, but I didn’t look at a single other house; I saw this one, loved it, and bought it.

The entire experience has been surreal, and I have a lot of emotions swirling around in regards to buying a house as a single woman, the financial commitment, the fact that this house is in Denver, and the dead mouse decomposing on the cellar floor. I also have emotions about the skylight right above my bed, forcing me to wake up with the sun (I welcome your solutions to this problem).

I’m sure that I’ll write about these things in the future, but for now, I just wanted you to know where I am. Home.