Sunday, September 27, 2009


You’d think that now that all the angst and uncertainty of this past year were over that I would be happy and content; doing my part to see that this house in Austin sells and preparing for the big move. Well, yes I’m doing that; I keep this house uncluttered, tidy and clean and make myself scarce whenever a realtor wants to show it to a prospective client. I’m making lists and doing whatever it is I need to do from this end to prepare for the move. But really, there’s just not that much to do here right now. The only reason I’m here and not in New England is because somebody really needs to keep this house occupied while all our possessions still reside here. And so here I sit.

I’ve always been good at occupying myself, no matter what the situation and now is no exception. Besides the eternal house-cleaning and the basics of cooking and errand-running I spent the 16th through the 21st of this month in St. Louis with my mom. We celebrated Rosh Hashanah together on Saturday. I did some work to clean up her office and get some of her paperwork filed. My mom does a very good job of keeping track of her affairs but she truly hates organizing things and putting them away, and at 81 years old she’s not going to change any time soon. I created an “in box” for her and just said “if you don’t feel like filing things put them here and I’ll be happy to file them the next time I’m in town.” It’s a lot better than sorting through five years of randomly filed papers!

I was also able to see how much pain her hip is giving her. Around 8 years ago she broke her hip when my father lost his balance and knocked her over. The hip joint was surgically repaired but it’s always been somewhat painful and it’s gotten much worse. She’s going to a surgeon October 8th and I'm prepared to hear that she’s finally going to have to get the hip repaired again or even get the joint replaced.

When I got back from St. Louis I had to buy a car. The week before Daniel left for Boston with Lee he was in a car accident. A lady pulled out right in front of him (while talking on a cell phone no less) and he ran right into her. Thank goodness no one was hurt, but they finally determined that the Hyundai was totaled. This turned out to be really great news in a way because they gave us $6,000 for it which was WAY more than we would have ever gotten for it on a trade-in or if we tried to sell it ourselves.

Lee did the research online and sent me five or six cars to look at. A few of them were in Austin, but if they didn’t suit I was going to have to go to Houston. I bought the second car I looked at, a Subaru Legacy All Wheel Drive Sedan. It’s a really nice car, blue, with a tan interior. It’s a 2008, but it has a fair number of miles (37,000) because it was a rental car. No matter, it drives really nicely and doesn’t have a scratch on it. I’m happy to have a nice car to drive again!

But now, here I sit. Frankly I’m bored! I’m eager for Lee to show up Thursday night, for Mel and Stan to get here, for ACL next weekend. I’m eager to go up to Boston again the weekend of the 8th through 13th of October to see the fall colors and drive to the Berkshires to buy ski equipment! I’m READY to pack up this house on the 19th and 20th and drive to Boston. I want to close on our new house, move in, and start the next part of my life.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Boston House-Hunting

Saturday, September 5th, 2009

I can’t believe we’re going to get to live in New England! My favorite book as a child, Understood Betsy, by Dorothy Canfield, is the story of a little girl that gets sent from some unnamed big city (probably Boston) to a rural area in Vermont to live with her cousins, and in a loving environment learns self-reliance and confidence. She overcomes her fear of dogs (dogs terrified me as a child), gets her mathematical confusions corrected, takes care of a younger child, learns about humor and making maple sugar. She experiences snow, country roads, train rides and driving horses. I was enchanted and ready to move there immediately!

I’ve never lived on the east coast, except for a year in DC when I was in 5th grade. I’m excited to be near New York City, and only a short train ride away from downtown Boston, yet in an area of charming New England towns, filled with history.

But finding a house we like is going to be a challenge. We’d love to live in one of these little towns that are within a reasonable commuting distance to Lee’s job. Yesterday I went out with our realtor and looked at houses in Andover, North Andover, North Reading, Boxford, Newbury and Newburyport. All of the towns are just as cute as can be, but the housing is all over the place. If we had more money to spend we could definitely find a dream-house, but we don’t. If we were willing to do major renovations to an older house we might end up with something amazing, but that’s something of a shaky proposition. So far the house in our price range that meets all of our wants and needs is elusive.

I did get a much better picture of this area yesterday. Today we’re going to look at some additional towns as well – Haverhill, Chelmsford, and a couple of towns in New Hampshire – Salem and Windham. There are some nice lakes up there that would meet Lee’s desire to live on water. We’re going to look at some building lots, and there’s a house in Newburyport that from the outside looks amazing and is in a great location.

I asked our realtor a lot of questions yesterday about winter (November through April), amount of snow (about a foot of snow on the ground through much of this time), snow removal (efficient and fast but you’re sick of shoveling by March), commuter trains (hub and spoke system goes to most northern suburban towns). Mentally I’m making notes to check out the Newcomer’s Club and the League of Women Voters in these towns.

Monday Morning, September 7th, 2009

We looked at the house in Newburyport on Saturday. It’s a great little house, in a wonderful location, but it’s not perfect. It’s not a true open design (there’s a wall between the kitchen and the living room). The kitchen isn’t perfect, although it will do. It doesn’t have a gas line to the house, so it’s a real fireplace and an electric stove, but we’re investigating if a gas line could be run to the house. It doesn’t have air conditioning (!) but it doesn’t sound like that’s really an issue up here except for maybe 3 weeks out of the year. It has a really nice yard; it has a beautiful deck, a great master bedroom, huge walk-in closets, plenty of storage, and nice bedrooms upstairs. I think we would be all over it, except for the price. It is at the absolute top of our price range and we have no idea if they would come down much, if at all.

Then yesterday, while our realtor was taking the day off, Lee and I drove around on our own for hours. We drove past a lot of houses up in Salem, New Hampshire and found three we want to go inside on Tuesday. One is really beautiful and right next to a lake, but doesn’t have its own lake access. It’s way out in the country too. The other two are right on lakes. One looks too good to be true for the price, but doesn’t have a garage. The other one has a one car garage and would probably need work, but definitely has potential. All the prices are much more reasonable, but we are back to country living and I’m just not sure what I think about that any more. They are all easy commutes for Lee, but Salem isn’t nearly as charming from what I can see as Andover or Newburyport.

Monday Evening, September 7th, 2009

Sunday we found a house in Andover that we want to see. It’s in a very pretty part of town and looks beautiful from the outside. The pictures on the internet look great, but you can never really tell from that. It has a pool, which seems kind of stupid here. AND the name of the street it is on is Penni Lane! That’s going to be an issue; we were humming or whistling Penny Lane for hours yesterday!

We also drove over to Newburyport again and stared at the house we like there. We drove through downtown Newburyport and over to Plum Island to eat lobster rolls at Bob’s Lobster House. The weather was absolutely perfect – blue skies, temps in the high sixties. Then we drove through the tourist part of Newburyport, right by the ocean. It would be an amazing place to live, and now it’s clearer to me why the price of that house is so high. If Lee could stand the commute (probably 35 minutes each way) it’s by far my favorite town.

Then last night we drove over to my Cousin Mark’s house in Newtonville, near Boston College. Mark and Amy, his wife, are both doctors. Mark is around six years younger than me. They have three children. One is a sophomore at Washington University in St. Louis; one is going to be a junior in high school and the youngest is a freshman. They are really nice, down-to-earth people, and it will be fun to live close to them. We went for a walk in their neighborhood after dinner. We could hear the Boston College soccer team playing a game as we walked through the woods near their house.

The Boston Marathon passes close to where they live so we walked over to the Johnny Kelley statue. Johnny Kelley is famous. He ran the Boston Marathon a record 61 times, won twice, placed second 7 times and in the top ten 18 times. It is actually two statues, one showing Johnny as a young man and one as an older man, both as runners, raising their arms in victory. The statues are at the bottom of Heartbreak Hill. Heartbreak Hill comes at miles 20 and 21 in the marathon, a point where many runners hit the “wall”, meaning that glycogen stored in their muscles has become depleted. When I think about how tired I was at 15 miles and try to imagine getting to 18 miles and reaching a hill like that it’s not a pleasant thought! I ran yesterday for the first time since coming here and I felt fine, no aches and pains, which is encouraging. When I start training again for my next race I’m going to build in more recovery time after long runs. Galloway says as you get older you need to do that, and now I’m convinced. I’d like to try training for some shorter events though – 5 and 10Ks – before I attempt another long event. And I’m not so sure about training here in the winter anyway.

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

Well, it’s Tuesday morning, and we’re meeting our realtor again at 10 am. We’re going to tour the house in Andover we found yesterday and go back to the house in Newburyport again. Then we’re going to tour the three houses in Salem and Windham and then we’ll make our decision and make an offer. I have a feeling we’ll make an offer on the house in Newburyport and use one of the other houses as a backup.

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

Isn’t it funny how things work out? The house on Penni Lane was a complete bust inside. The lakefront properties in Salem and Windham were total rehabs and when it came down to it they were just more work than we wanted to take on. We made an offer on the house in Salem last night. Inside it was absolutely perfect. The kitchen is a dream; the open floor plan is just what we wanted. The master bedroom, bath and closet are wonderful. It has two additional bedrooms and an office, a formal dining room, large doors and windows leading to a deck in the backyard. It has a gas fireplace, and a fire pit out back. It’s shielded from the road by woods, and the backyard borders conservation land. It was built in 2005, so it’s almost new. Yes its out in the country, but it isn’t very far to the cute towns nearby. And it’s close to the train or bus to Boston proper. The Newburyport house is the backup if for some reason this one doesn’t work out.

It was a very hard decision to make yesterday. Emotionally we were so drawn to the town of Newburyport, but the price and the commute were daunting. And although the house in Salem is out in the country it’s very close to the practical necessities of life – groceries, gas, malls, etc. And New Hampshire has no sales tax and is just a less expensive place to live. I’m really okay with the decision today. But we’ve got to wait and see what happens with the offer before we get too excited.

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

Well I’m on the plane back to Austin, and we have a house! They accepted our offer yesterday. They ended up going down $15,000 from their asking price which is fine with us. We have a contingency to make sure that the area designated as “wetlands” in the front portion of the property won’t prevent us from paving or even moving the driveway in a year or so, but other than that we are moving to New Hampshire and the closing date is October 30th.

Yesterday I took Lee to work and then did a lot of investigative driving. I drove all around the little lake where the house is located. I was looking for good places to jog. On our side of the lake there are cute little lakeside cabins next to houses like ours and a few McMansions. The roads on this side of the lake have little traffic so it will be great for walking and running. I can probably figure out a 4-5 mile run on our side.

To go all the way around the lake is around 7 miles, but there’s no way to avoid running on busier roads with poor shoulders at some points so I doubt that I will do that very often. I’d like to find an area with hiking or biking trails for longer runs. There must be someplace like that not too far away, but I don’t know where that is, yet.

The lake (I think its name is Arlington) has private beach clubs. If we join one of them we can use it for swimming and small craft boating. I saw some people using kayaks on it yesterday. Lee could get a small sailboat – a Hobie-cat or a sunfish, but nothing with a keel, because it’s pretty shallow. He was talking about a small ski boat, but we’d have to find out the rules for motor boats. I kind of hope motor boats are not allowed; I like the quiet!

There is a place in Salem called the Town Forest, and I drove to it as well. It has trails that can be used for hiking, biking or cross-country skiing, but not running (too rugged). It’s very close and will be a nice place to go sometimes.

Then I investigated both the bus terminal and the closest train station, for trips into Boston. The bus terminal is very close, maybe 5 minutes from the house. And non-rush hour the bus is only around 35 minutes to Boston. Its more expensive than the train, but not by much. There are two train stations I can try. I drove to the one in Haverhill, around 15 minutes away. Even though the train is cheaper, it takes longer and you have to pay $4 to park, so the difference ends up being not that great. I’ll have to check out the station in Lowell and see if it is more convenient. I’ll probably try all these different modes of transportation. I don’t think I’ll drive into the city very often, unless I have visitors like my mom that can’t do much walking.

There’s a Newcomer’s Club in Andover, maybe 20 minutes from the house. That will be a good way to make friends in the area. I’ll also look for a book or gardening club at the local library in Salem or Andover. I have lots of friends on the East Coast but I need to meet new people in the immediate area too. After all I need ladies for lunch dates, shopping, walking! I have so many different kinds of interests…it just depends what’s available and excites me once I’m settled. I have moved enough by now that I know there’s no telling what that might be!

I intended to take lots of pictures this week, but really fell down on the job. We were just working too hard on the task of finding a house for me to be very creative. It’s too bad; the surrounding area is beautiful, the little towns are charming, the moon was full and lit the night with an unearthly glow, the leaves are just beginning to turn. Ah well. I’ll be back here in mid-October and it will be a more relaxed visit, with more time for photography.


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