Monday, March 06, 2006

Road(s) Less Traveled

As kids in the 60's, my sister and I would take any big boxes from deliveries that came to our house, refrigerator and dryer boxes were best, and using our crayons, we'd draw dials and buttons and panels on the inside. Then we'd cut port holes with Mom's scissors and - Viola! - rocket ships. We spent a lot of time like that; making up our own games and using our imaginations. These were good days.

My mother read to us all the time so it's no surprise then that I grew up to love books, especially Fantasy & Science Fiction. I thought about that today because sometimes I need to active my inate Super Powers: multi-tasking, organization, negotiation, compassion for self and others, active listening and often perceiving what others cannot. Sometimes I need to go " shields up" and on days like today I need to rush to my Captain's chair and push the Emergency
Buttons I've drawn on the inside of my psyche;the ones with titles like: PATIENCE, DON'T ASSUME, PREFERENCES, NOT EXPECTATIONS & BREATH!

This was one of those times.

We flew into our new home city last Friday night to begin the Great House Hunt. My partner and I both had a rough month at work work and we had both spent a all of our spare time time getting our current house to get it ready to sell. The weekend before we flew out, I worked our usual vendor booth and taught at PantheaCon, while my partner prepared for a big project at work. All this meant that we didn't get any rest the weekend before The Hunt. (and even so, PantheaCon was worth it).

We flew in at 7 pm and checked into a Travel lodge. On Saturday we got up early, met with our Realtor, and got into her car for the Long Retail March; 21 houses in two days. We drove hither and thither and yon, over a very wide area, and I mean, we looked everywhere: West Side, East Side, mountains, farmlands, back roads, windy cliffs, deep forests, lakeside , you name it.

Now, this Realtor is a great gal: honest, ethical, professional, experienced and she really listened to us. Anything she showed us met our criteria, price range and stated needs. She is tops in her field and has all the awards to prove it BUT she can't drive worth a damn. Seriously, she is dangerous on the road, and these are dangerous roads, already. She also can't multi-task very well, she has no sense of direction, she has no spatial sense and she has vertigo, which makes her a very nervous and timid driver on mountain roads. She jerks the wheel without any warning. She panics easily. She stops for no reason at all and tends drive in the middle of the road on a blind mountain curve. Worse yet, she doesn't know how to use her car's antidiluvial directional system (which often tried to take us the long way round to any destination). So my partner sat in the front seat of her car with a Thomas Guide on his lap in order to get us to these places the right way. I sat in the back seat and kept my eye on the road in order to get us to these places in one piece. As much we (who learned to drive on the LA freeways) hate any kind back seat driving, we had to do it because she wasn't looking at the road, she was looking at us or the computer's directional map - which she didn't quite know how to use or couldn't read correctly, at house numbers, street signs or at us whenever one of us spoke. On the inside I was screaming "AhhhhhHHHHHHH!". On the outside, I stayed calm and easy going. Handling very different insides and outsides is a skill I learned early on in life. (Some super powers are very practicle).

After two days of this, though, I was ready to kill her. And I really like this woman. She is smart and she's great at her job. She is also the wife of a good friend but that's not why we picked her . We picked her becusae she helped other friends find homes and they all raved about her. Funny enough, not one of these rat bastards mentioned her driving. Either they all have a sick sense of humor or they see this as a Trial of Endurance we had to go through to find the magickal castle of our dreams.

Seriously, her driving aside, she is a very good person. When she was a young women she worked on the voter registration drives in Alabama with Dr. King during the Civil Rights Struggle at a time when doing that could get you raped, beaten or killed. She has always been on the forefront of charity and social justice movements and I admire her for that. So, I tried to keep the positive aspects of our journey in mind, even as we worked to keep her from killing us. After two days of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride we decided to make a change. So we told her that he would prefer to drive, with me to navigate so that we could both learn the area. She was frankly relieved. ("Gods!", I thought, " I wish we had thought of that before!")

Well, all's well that ends well. We found a house we absolutely love.

Now comes the hard part.

I've bought houses before, but I've never bought one and sold one at the same time. So we sat down to make our bid. Our Realtor gave us outstanding advice during this process, and walked us through every step of this complex path, speaking English and explaining the details and answering all our questions. All I had to do was make sure that we didn't talk to her while she was writing up the forms, or she would get off on another track.....

When all was finally said and done, we went to dinner with her and her husband to celebrate.

I found during dinner that this gal was the child of a brutal alcoholic, and that she had to put herself through college because she had no money from her folks. Her mother thought that she didn't need en education because "Girls should marry", and SShe couldn't get scholarship, even though her grades were excellent. So she worked and anaged to put herself though a great school. I also know that she supported two kids from her first marriage as a single mom until she married my friend later in life. Her kids, by the way, are doing great. The more I goet to know her the more I honored her smarts, her toughness, and her life wisdom. So it was with respect and affection that I said, "CC, have you ever been tested for ADD?"

Well, it turns out that, no, she hadn't but she did know that she has at least one form of dyslexia. She knew that she could not multi-task, she's had to struggle to organize all her life (and she has succeeded at that). She also knows that she can easily get overwhelmed and she has found ways to work through it. Like many people, she has a very high IQ on standard tests, but she also had challenges she was dimly aware of and could not put a name to. She had managed to be a success despite all these obstacles, though sheer determination, and hard work. So, I explained to her that children of alcoholics often have learning disabilities and spoke about my own struggles with dyslexia. I then gave her - at her request - some advice on how to handle the directional issues and where to get tested. She found this to be a great help, and said so. So, by practicing compassion, working to see all sides, taking care of ourselves and laughing a *lot*, we were able to turn a very stressful weekend into positive experience for all concerned.

But that's not the end of the storey. This same Realtor also found us a great Mortgage Broker. The Broker is a faithful Christian woman. Our first clue about this came from the poster of "The Passion of the Christ" on her office wall, signed by none of than Mel Gibson. "Eeeeck!" I thought. "Gee Toto, I guess we're not in California anymore!. My qualms aside, this Mortgage Broker was very good at her job. She made the numbers dance and got us a great deal. Now Mortgage Brokers can sometimes be scum and it's hard to know if they are ripping you off. So, it pays to deal with ethical people like our Realtor, because they know other ethical people like this Broker. So while her poster made me nervous, this lady walks her talk; she does charity work in her spare time and she's a hard worker. So even though I hate this movie and don't like Mr. Gibson or his politics, this was yet another reminder for me trust my instincts, not my fears.

Speaking of militant Christians, our Realtor shared many a giggle with us as we went through several houses absolutely covered in crosses and pictures of Jesus, including one place that clearly belonged to a recovering addict and alcoholic in a 12 Step Program. (When I saw that, I thought "Peace, brother"). I didn't want to buy his house, but I petted his cat and admired his garden. I'm fine with other people's icons and we both do interfaith work and have lots of Christian friends, but some of this stuff was really over the top. One place was blaring Jerry Fallwell's Christian TV show on a big screen TV the whole time we were there. The message from the Realtor and her clients was clearly meant to be that "We want only Christians to buy this house!" Since they can't say that (not legally, anyway) they sent their message this way. After a while, it just got to be funny. Our Oregon Realtor knew full well that she was showing these home to a Pagan and a Buddhist. So we three walked through these houses with respect and when we got back to the car and we busted up laughing. Truly, we felt like spies.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, our California Realtor is telling us to take our drums off the wall and pack up the statue of Quan Yin and all the science fiction books (??!!) lest they offend someone.

(Ironically, our Oregon Realtor is a secular humanist, a feminist, and, culturally speaking, Jewish. She and her husband are bemused by the fact that their son has chosen to become an orthodox Jew. Several years ago he entered into an arranged marriage and he now has 5 kids, and lives on a settlement in Israel. She adores her grandkids and enjoys the cosmic joke.)

After viewing over 20 other houses, we came back to the house we wanted all along. I had been lusting after for many weeks online and couldn't wait to see it. We saw it in person first on Saturday. At that time, the owners were away on vacation. We wanted to go back to see it again on Monday, and were told that the owners had come back suddenly as the man's father had just passed away unexpectedly. We did not want to intrude on a family in mourning, so we offered to cancel this visit, but the woman told us to come ahead anyway. Her husband was already at his parent's house, and she and was flying out to join her husband for the funeral the next day. This lady and her husband want to move to another state to be closer to their children and they want to sell their home as much as we want to buy it. So we arrived, gave our condolences, and our Realtor talked to her while my partner I went around the house to take pictures and decided where to put the dog door. Here was yet another reason to be grateful for this Realtor's help. She isn't a “hard sell kind of person (I hate that). We all showed respect for this other woman's grief while continuing to work with her. In the end, it seems to have worked out well for all concerned. We made a generous bid on their house last Tuesday. We gave them x-tra time to answer, as they will be tired and sad after they come home from the funeral. I'll know by 2:30 today if we have it.

I've done a ritual for Highest Good for all concerned and now there is nothing more to do now but wait.


Addendum: We got the house!

We move in late April. Wooo hooooo!

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