Monday, October 19, 2015

How Not to Move

We relocated our family from Alabama to New York a little over two years ago. It didn't go smoothly. Not at all. In fact the whole process was one frustration and disappointment after another. It would have been pretty disheartening if not for some miracles and answers to prayers we received along the way.

Back at the end of March 2013 we made a trip to New York house hunting. We found a house that we loved. It was a charming restored farm house built in 1850. It was on nine acres (mostly wooded) and had a pond for fishing and ice skating. It had the original wide plank wood floors, an amazing stone fireplace, a remodeled kitchen, built in bookshelves, a dutch door and a partially fenced yard for our kids and our dog. It wasn't exactly perfect--there were a couple of problems to address--but it nearly was. We made an offer and after a little negotiating we had a contract to buy the place.

We were truly excited. I kept asking myself how we could be so blessed. I never imagined being able to own anything so special and I began to make plans for redecorating, landscaping and other projects that I would do in my new home. Despite our enthusiasm, there was some doubt about the scale of one of the issues that needed to be addressed, but as the inspection came back to us with very few problems and an enthusiastic endorsement ("It's a gem") the doubt was pushed aside. We payed for the appraisal and continued to wait for the bank approval. And because of that small nagging doubt I had, I continued to pray that if this was not what Heavenly Father wanted for us that it just wouldn't work out. Be careful what you pray for, because sometimes you get it.

Due to a number of events including the bank dragging its heels on the mortgage approval and some septic issues that were not disclosed by the seller in the original property disclosure, the contract fell apart sometime around the end of May or beginning of June that year. As we searched for answers as to why the seller wouldn't work with us, more information came to light. One of the owners had been arrested in 2010 for writing fraudulent checks (red flag--possible title issues), the seller was in danger of losing the house and the bank had extended her a courtesy and forestalled the foreclosure since we were obtaining our funding through the same bank. As we struggled to try to save the contract, the seller quit returning her own realtor's phone calls and directed all communication through her attorney (a bankruptcy lawyer), AND the seller had the gall to try to keep our earnest money (In the words of our lawyer, "WHAT?! That's not gonna happen." And it didn't).

We were devastated. I ranted. I cried. I cursed the seller. Then I remembered a dream I had had a couple of weeks earlier. In the dream, it was time to move into the house. We pulled up into the driveway in our moving van and went into the house. The seller was there with screwdriver, hammer and crow bar dismantling the built-in book shelves and smashing walls and stone. We chased her off and as I wandered around the house to survey the damage, it changed. It was no longer the 1850 farm house. It was a completely different house--a 60s or 70s era ranch with a brass fireplace, dark purple bedroom walls and dated decorations (I think all the undesirable parts of the dozens of houses that we had been looking at on-line kind of melded into the house in my nightmare). At the time, I had just chalked it up to stress about everything, but as I reflected on the details of the dream and after speaking with my parents and my in-laws and having time to think, I felt peace. I began to feel like we were being protected in some way and that maybe we had dodged a bullet. Who knows what else the seller wasn't disclosing? We decided that despite the whole situation being supremely disappointing, that it was probably for the best and that sometimes there are things that we just can't understand. Sometimes we can't see the big picture and probably never will in this life. We just have to trust that our Father in Heaven knows what we need better than we do and that He loves us and is looking out for our well-being.

About two days after we finally called it quits on trying to save the contract and gave up the dream, the mortgage approval paperwork arrived in the mail.

At that point, with no home to move into and only three weeks until our moving date, we were left to scramble and try to find a short term place to rent once we got to New York with the hope of buying a home soon after we arrived. About a week and a half before the move we found some apartments that said they would probably have a three bedroom vacant for us but they wouldn't give us a solid date or a forwarding address for us to fill out a change of address before our move. We had to take it. There was nothing else. We also had to find a home for our greyhound since the only available housing that we could find would not allow us to bring our 80 pound pet.

The move was really hard. I knew it would be hard, but it was physically, mentally and emotionally draining. I can honestly say that the whole ordeal is one of the most frustrating and difficult things I have ever had to do. I dealt with some pretty severe anxiety and depression as a result of everything that we went through leading up to, during and after the move. I'm only sharing a small part of it here because I don't think people want to read about every minute detail of our personal trials, but trust me, it was bad. We knew that this move was the right thing for us (see my post about "My Miracle") but even so, it was incredibly difficult to leave our home in Alabama. We lived there for seven years. We had a child there. We loved our town and our kids' schools. We loved the weather (in every month except July and August). We loved the University and all the amazing things about living in the South, but what we miss the very most is the people. We have friends there that we love so dearly and that we will remember for the rest of our lives. Our church truly was our surrogate family. Heaven will not be heaven if I cannot be with some of those friends again.

Our home a few days before closing.
With our house key right after closing.
Unlocking our front door for the first time.
So, now here we are. We have been in New York over two years. After arriving we got back to work with our real estate agent and after looking at roughly 50 different properties, we closed on a house in September of 2013, just three months after our arrival. We are pretty much settled. Our 1920s cape cod style home isn't perfect, but it has a lot of things about it that I love and when I walked through it the first time, it felt like home. It is NOT a mid-century ranch (no offense if that's your thing) with an ugly brass fireplace or dated decorations, so that is a bonus. The schools have been fantastic for our kids--we have had a particularly good experience with the elementary school where my younger boys attend. We have found a pediatrician, an eye doctor, a dentist and a barbershop that we like (even if this town does still lack a good thrift store). I even feel like I have a few friends now (it always takes around two years when I move somewhere new. Probably because I tend to come across as unapproachable until people get to know me--or so I've been told. I tend towards introversion but I really am pretty fantastic once you know me). David loves his job and the university and we are growing to love Oswego more and more as time goes on. I am in a much better place than I was two years ago mentally and emotionally, so when I ran across this post that I started two years ago as I was going through my drafts in Blogger, I decided I was ready to share. I had started compiling a list of "How Not to Move" within a week or two of our arrival in New York and I set it aside because it still hurt and was too fresh.Time heals wounds though and it is true that I can even laugh a little at some of the things we had to deal with now that enough time has passed.

This is an updated version of my previous draft. I'm hoping that maybe there is something in it that will benefit someone.

How Not to Move in 10 Easy Steps

1. Don't ask for any help with loading the truck. Kid yourself that you can handle it all yourself and turn down any offers to help pack, clean, etc.
2. Get very little sleep the week leading up to your move. You want to make sure that you are so exhausted that you are cross with your spouse and kids and so that you need to pull over at a rest stop for a ten minute nap while you are driving across the country.
3. You need your stuff packed and ready to go, right? Make sure you pack anything you might need at the last minute (like checkbooks, important papers, toothbrushes, etc.). Put them where you can't find them when you need them.
4. Make sure that when someone does show up to help you move, you set the kids' suitcase that you've packed for your drive to your new location in a spot where it will mistakenly get packed onto the truck. You wanted to make a last minute trip to Target to buy a change of clothes for your kids anyway, right?
5. Don't attempt to be organized. Don't make lists reminding you of last minute tasks. Assume that any boxes in your attic or shed are properly packed so that when you discover that you assumed wrong, you have to repack them before loading them onto the truck.
6. Make sure that your departure time is at least five hours behind what you originally scheduled. There's nothing like frustration and delays to begin a cross country move!
7. Promise your kids that you'll stop at a hotel with a pool after a long day on the road, then make sure the pool is outdoors and it is raining and that it closes within half an hour of your arrival at said hotel.

8. If your husband is driving a U-haul, make sure he runs out of gas about 15 minutes from your final destination.
9. When you take your husband to get gas, make sure he locks his keys in the truck so that you can waste more time trying to find a locksmith.

Phoning a locksmith.
10. When you are trying to find your destination and call for directions yell at the apartment manger and call her an idiot as you hand the phone to your husband so that she is sure to overhear you. This is important. You will have to see her when you bring your rent to her every month so make a memorable first impression.

My big boys and the Elders moving our piano into the house.
We did manage to survive our move despite the bumps and bruises along the way. There were blessings too. A few minutes after we discovered that the keys to the U-haul were locked in the truck a sheriff happened along and was able to unlock it for us (prayers answered!). There were a few good people from church waiting to help us unload everything when we got to our apartment. The apartment was less than stellar but we only had to be there three months. Our in-town move from the apartment to our house went a lot more smoothly, although I told my husband we are never moving again. Ever.

The back of our house in winter.
The front of our house in winter.
I guess only time will tell. We are here for at least a few more years--possibly forever--but at least now I'll know how not to move if we ever have to do it again.

1 comment:

Mauri said...

This rings so true for me right now. The frustration, stress, lack of sleep, and especially the "We're not moving again. Ever." statement. I think I've said that to Nathan a hundred times. While our move didn't have as many interesting challenges as yours, it certainly had an interesting landlord and many wonderful missionaries and ward members who helped.