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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.

The chair

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

It was love at first sight, really.

I was wandering through a vintage store in Kansas City when it caught my eye. I made a beeline for it, and bought it the same day. It made no sense – because how would I ever get it back to Seattle?

It didn’t matter. I didn’t care. The chair was made for me.

That was the spring of 2004, and it wouldn’t be until the summer of 2005 that I would drive nearly 2,000 miles from Seattle to Kansas City in my Honda Accord just to fetch the chair from my parent’s basement where I had left it underneath a sheet. I drove back to the Northwest, and the first thing I did was head to my new apartment building in Wallingford. I muscled the chair up 3 flights of stairs, unlocked the door for the very first time, walked into the empty studio, and set the chair right by the window on the hardwood floor. It was the first and only piece of furniture I owned.

But slowly, my little home began to build around it.

The chair became the centerpiece of my décor, the first thing that people would notice when they walked in – then outwardly show their disappointment when I told them it was from the 50s, and that no, they could not find an equivalent. When I eventually decided to leave Seattle for Nashville, the chair was the only piece of furniture I moved with me. I stopped in Kansas City on the way, and carried it to the middle of a field where my sister-in-law snapped what would become somewhat of an icon in my life.

I built a new life in Tennessee, and as I moved around, started using the phrase “Home is where the chair is.” And it’s true: each humble place that my chair graced truly felt like home.

At the end of 2009, I loaded the chair for yet another move, this time to Denver. From Franklin to Hooker to now Alcott, the chair has traveled with me, and has remained my favorite piece of furniture. I’ve talked about how I want to keep it forever, picturing it in various reading nooks, or maybe a daughter’s room someday. This chair has been woven into the story of my life, and I have never run across another that could compare with how much I love it.

But this year, something tragic happened. Blame it on years of use, blame it on age, but the seat of the chair wore through and split open. The threadbare fabric finally gave way, and just disintegrated beyond repair. I tried to pull and stitch. I brainstormed how to reupholster it – but it was no use. This chair was done for.

I fought it for months, the raggedy chair keeping up residence in the living room, guests commenting on how the stuffing was coming out. I didn’t want to get rid of it, and tried to think of any way I could resurrect what had become such an important item to me. But I knew that the day would come.

And that day was today.

I bought a utility knife. I walked into the living room, turned the chair around, and took a blade to it – I felt like Fantine cutting off her hair. When I was through, I had removed the back panel of fabric, the only piece that was still in good condition. This memory, this scrap, is now lying in the living room.

My future brother-in-law Michael carried the half-naked and now-destroyed chair out to the alley and threw it in the dumpster. It’s over. It’s gone.

– – – – –

I have some dreams that have not come true. Like the fabric on the chair, no matter how I’ve tried to pull, the fiber of my life just won’t reach far enough. No matter how I’ve tried to stitch, the threads unravel. If it were up to me, my dreams would come together seamlessly, creating something good and unique and beautiful, something that others would comment on, something that I would love.

Just hours before I cut up my chair, I talked to Greta about the importance of letting certain dreams die, or at least transform. If the dream no longer holds together, if it dissolves despite our best efforts, then maybe it’s time to let it go. If forcing the pieces only tears them further, then maybe it’s time to be open to something new – and to be open to that something new being GOOD, even though it isn’t exactly what we’ve valued in the past.

As I look ahead to a new year, I don’t know what to dream. But I know that it needs to be new.

Tonight, I mourn the loss of my chair. I stare at the panel of fabric that I saved, and wonder what to do from here.

But whatever it is, I have to believe it could be good.

A sense of home

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

My grandma has lived in the same house for 57 years.  Fifty-seven.

She spent the entirety of her marriage there.  She raised her children there, from infancy to adulthood.  Her kids, her grandkids, and her great-grandkids have eaten in that same kitchen, swam in that same pool, and sat on that same front porch.  She has attended the same church, shopped at the same grocery stores, seen the same neighborly faces, and driven the same streets for a lifetime.

I recently sat down and made a list of how many times I have moved.  In the 12 years since I left my hometown of Montrose, Colorado, I have moved 18 times.  The longest I have lived in any one place is 2 years (a studio apartment in Seattle); almost all of my tenures have been less than a year.  A total of 13 scattered months have been spent with no address at all, squatting with friends or family for short fragments of time, all of my possessions boxed up in basements, garages, or storage units.  I am on my fourth set of friends, with countless other relationships far-flung around the world like a constellation.

Perhaps this is the norm for my generation, but at this point, the concept of home barely rings a bell.  I don’t know where my home is.  But I know that I crave it with every ounce of my being.

Last night, I went to Red Rocks for the first time ever, and heard James Taylor play “Carolina in My Mind.”  Before he began, he told the audience that he wrote the song in 1968 in London.  There he was, recording overseas, with the accolades and attention of some of his heroes (two of the Beatles, Paul McCartney and George Harrison, are actually featured on the track); by all worldly standards, he had reached “success.”  But even with his accomplishments, he explained, he had been so homesick – and that prompted him to write and record this song that so many of us now know and love.

Old or young, famous or not famous, home calls to all of us.

My grandma has lived in the same house for 57 years – but we know that her time here on earth is winding down.  Even for one with a very strong sense of home, she can’t stay.  What an ache.

But I believe that our true Home is more than just a spot on a map.  It’s more than geography and more than circumstance and more than time.  It’s where my grandma is headed, and it’s what James Taylor sings about, and it’s what my own heart longs for.  It’s absolute familiarity and comfort and permanence, a lack of insecurity and an abundance of joy – and it’s closer than we think.

In the meantime, while I’m in this life on earth, I am thankful for little reminders of Home: a cup of coffee in whatever house I wake up in, a flawed but precious lineage, and the songs of James Taylor.

Home again, home again

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

I know that you’ve all been racked with anxiety since I announced that we might soon be living underneath a bridge. You’ve probably lost sleep, your hair, and your minds from the stress of it all.

But worry no more, good friends and countrymen: we found a house.

A HOUSE.

A stand-alone structure.

Do you realize with this means? We will be living in a place with no shared walls, floors, or ceilings. Early in the morning, we won’t hear thundering footsteps. Late at night, we won’t hear screaming babies (or grown-ass adults). We can have friends over and entertain WITH ABANDON.

This house has a deep front porch and a big backyard and a second-story balcony with no railing (read: no adult beverages allowed on the balcony). There are hardwood floors and a bay window, a big basement for storage, a gas stove, and plenty of charm. We’ll have (almost) enough closet space.

We move in 10 days.

I’m going to be bold and just say it: I feel like this move is a game-changer. We’ve committed to living here in Denver, and are ready to live in a HOME. In the 11 months that I’ve lived on Hooker Street, I can count the number of times I’ve invited a friend over on one hand, mostly due to the fact that it isn’t a pleasant place to be (low ceilings and loud neighbors will do that). But hosting and entertaining is in the fiber of my being, and I’m so excited to be able to welcome people in.

We’ll have space to spread out a little bit, and it won’t feel like we’re tripping over dogs at every turn. We’ll have lawn games. We’ll have wine & cheese on the porch. We’ll have fun, and peace and quiet, and walks to Hash (breakfast, not pot).

And we’ll have you over.

Where we might live soon

Friday, April 13th, 2012

It’s crunch time.

Hooker House #2

Monday, February 6th, 2012

Waaaaay back in July, I gave you a glimpse of our home with Hooker House #1.  Then I never showed you anything else.

We have less than three months left in our lease, and due to several less-than-ideal situations, April 30 cannot come soon enough.  We will move to a place with a fenced-in yard, and zero skunk dens, and no one living/stomping/screaming above us.

But just because, here’s one angle of my bedroom.  I opened the curtains for the picture, but you should know that I generally live in darkness – a Fortress of Solitude.

All of the things I have to say

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

All of you over-achieving, perfectionistic control freaks out there, raise your hand.

I mean, I can’t be the only one, right?

I have a really hard time when I can’t do something perfectly, which is unfortunate because I can do basically nothing perfectly.  And lately, I’ve been doing a lot of things, which means that I’ve been confronted with imperfection all over the place.

My spiritual life is not perfect.  My diet is not perfect.  My money management is not perfect.  My exercise routine is not perfect.  My sleep habits are not perfect.  My relationships are not perfect.  My abilities are not perfect.  My heart – oh, my heart – is far, far, far from perfect.

Not a single one of my efforts is perfect.  And I really hate it.

I have so much that I want to say about this, but I can’t even write about my imperfections perfectly.  Gah.  Gahhhhhhhhhh.

– – – – – – – –

This was my bed last night.

I stared at it, and wished that it would just fix itself, but it didn’t, so I just moved my computer and slid underneath it all and went to sleep.

– – – – – – – –

Now it’s the morning.  All of the stuff is still here on top of me.

– – – – – – – –

On Sunday, I was on a walk, and I walked past a realtor hosting an open house.  I wound up going in, just because I’m nosy and take any opportunity to snoop where I wouldn’t otherwise wouldn’t be able to.

I didn’t expect to fall in love with this house, but I did.  Like, deep, soulful love.  Like, I was mentally arranging my furniture.  Like, I was imagining backyard parties and the perfect hutch for the dining room.  Like, the combination of the hardwood floors and the interior brick walls and the incredible range in the kitchen was lethal to my Dave Ramsey-loving self, and all of a sudden, I was trying to figure out how to pull together $389,000 before nightfall.

Then I just walked back to the Hooker House.

– – – – – – – –

Starting tomorrow, I get to do something really cool.  I get to fly to Sundance Film Festival and call it “my job.”

You know I’ll report back on any celeb-encounters.

Rent (not the musical)

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Recently, I was at Target, and I saw a stainless steel toilet bowl brush.

The first thing that I thought was, “I want that one – it’s so nice and shiny.”  Then, I thought, “It’s too expensive – I’ll just buy this plastic one for $2.99.”  And I did.

See, stainless steel toilet bowl brushes are designed for home-owners, people who never move, people who do not have to think about spending $15 on something that in a few short months, they will just want to throw away – because who is actually going to lovingly pack up something designed to scrub feces?

I am an unrooted, unfettered, tumbleweed of a girl.  I have never owned a home – at the rate I’m going, I may NEVER own a home – and in the past 11+ years, the longest that I’ve ever stayed in one domicile is TWO. ENTIRE. BLISSFUL. YEARS. in a studio in the Wallingford neighborhood in Seattle (in Washington, in the United States, in the world).  It was a 1920s building, with crystal doorknobs and coved ceilings and hardwood floors.  Shoot, I loved that place.

But prior to that, and ever since then, I have moved every 12 months or less.

My constant moving, nomadic lifestyle, and sporadic homelessness have led to the occasional identity crisis, the random revelation, and the frequent emotional breakdown to my mother.

But while I have a deep soul-ache for a sense of rootedness and home (oh mercy, do I ever), there are a lot of great things that come along with being a gypsy of a renter.

When the hot water heater breaks, someone else fixes it.  When the window needs replacing, someone else does it.  When the horrible neighbors raise their ugly voices, you just move.  When your mom gets cancer, you just head to Colorado.  When the housing market crashes, you just don’t even care.  You never need to talk about the most boring terms imaginable like “HOA” or “APR” or “HUD” because when you ask yourself “WWJD,” you realize he would just wander the earth loving people*.

Some people think of renting as “throwing money away”; I call renting “exchanging money for freedom and flexibility.”

Maybe someday, I’ll find myself in a situation/season/city where buying a home would make sense – and in that event, I hope that the house has a breakfast nook and plenty of closet space and at least one interior brick wall.  But for now, I rent.

And at least this way, I don’t find myself justifying $15 on a toilet bowl brush.  Seriously, America.

*Not solid logic when it comes to renting vs. buying.  But definitely a truth, in and of itself.

Itty bitty tidbits

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Something I Googled this morning:
Is kennel cough contagious to humans?

Because – bad news – Kodi has kennel cough.  And also – bad news – it is.

– – – – – – – –

First, “The Pianist” came from Netflix.  Then, “The Piano” came from Netflix.

What in the world.  Why did I choose to watch these back-to-back?  I’m so depressed.  If you happen to know something happy, please share.

– – – – – – – –

I’m so bored of my running playlist (Roxette’s “It Must Have Been Love” is only SO inspiring – although, let’s be real, it’s pretty damn inspiring).

What are the best songs to run to?  I’m thinking of utilizing this.

– – – – – – – –

Sometimes I miss Nashville so much, I can hardly breathe.  The next day, it’s Seattle.  Today, both are very much true.

But right now, in this moment, I choose to be present in this city, on this day, with these tasks, and these people.

I believe that the future holds good things.

But I also choose to acknowledge that the present holds good things.

It is a choice, you know.

So many places

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

I ordered this print from a charming little Etsy shop.

Truer words there have never been.