Rendezvous at Ritter’s- Santiam High Class of ’79 Girls Night Out
Forty years is a long time to be out of high school. A reeeeaaaaally long time. In November, Amy messages me on Facebook. Her idea is for a bunch of local girls from our class to meet for a dinner in Salem. Hey, I’m game! A little background on these ladies. Connie is one of the new kids on the block. She came from Detroit our Sophomore year and as fate would have it, now lives a couple of doors down from me. We were cheerleaders our senior year and her heart is as big as her voice.
The rest of us have known each other pretty much since first grade at Gates Primary. We learned to read with Mrs. Parker and Mrs. Barnhardt. We sang My Country Tis of Thee with Mrs. Schaer on the piano. Mrs. Benefield’s room smelled of chalk and Crayola Crayons. Multiplication tables and cursive were on the class schedule for Mrs. Phelps and Mrs. Dorothy’s classes. It was the 60’s, we were not allowed to wear pants; only dresses but spent most of our recess time on the Monkey Bars anyway! We loved playing “in the woods” and couldn’t go past the dreaded “red markers” without serious consequences. After lunch, Mrs. Etzel shook our milk cartons to make sure we didn’t hide the peas or broccoli we didn’t want to eat. If you were caught, you lost 10 minute of recess time on the wall.
Charlotte was the first person I met when my family was transferred to Mill City. We started first grade together and one of the funniest things she ever said to me was after she was chosen as an Angel for the School Christmas Program. I was upset she was picked over me and she told me “you can’t be an Angel, Angels have long hair”…. Yep, you guessed it - Pixie cut for me, no wings in my foreseeable future.
Renita is a gem and was one of the masterminds behind “the” murals at Santiam. She takes sarcasm to the next level and her humor is contagious. Wanderlust fuels her soul, logging 1000’s of travel miles. She sports a very interesting and exotic passport!
Tess is another clever lady currently espousing her new-found talents on the potter’s wheel. She is throwing out some awesome pieces, pun intended. Tessie’s dad was a State Police Trooper like mine, and we spent a lot of time together as kids. I loved visiting her farm in Gates; the cows, chickens, eggs, ducks and geese and Popeye, her chicken-lickin’ dog. (Yes, there is a story there…and how on earth do I remember the name of her dog? I can’t remember what I had for breakfast yesterday.)
Tree and her family moved around a bit but continued to come back to Mill City. Once settled in, she showed off her talents as a painter on the mural and later as the owner of the Mill City Independent Press. She still has the same quick smile, the best giggle and the best family story.
Coming from one of the most talented family’s in the canyon, Amy’s bedroom was the original Niagara Post office! Now she owns her own design and animation company. You have probably seen her work and didn’t even know it! Amy’s gentle heart and sweet smile made her a favorite among everyone. She also held the most epic Halloween Parties!
Only my hairdresser knows for sure, in my case, it’s true. Linda knows it all and yes, indeed, she is my stylist and keeps my hair from having too many bad Leslie days. She is the best listener/chairside therapist a girl could ask for. Charming and soft spoken, she has a heart of gold.
Cheerleading, college roommates, weddings, our first pregnancies at the same time with kids within two weeks of each other, Donna and I have been through it all. She is one of the strongest, most intelligent, hardest working ladies I know. She has seen the tears and the triumphs. Her best talent is a reverse handstand through the sunroof of a Tahoe… and her poodle gig will bring you to tears… laughing.
For most of us, it has been years since we have all been together. As we reminisced, we found commonality in our past, with marriage, divorces, parents, kids, and travel. We shared stories and laughed… and laughed and laughed. There is nothing in the world that can make you a kid again but, being around childhood friends (accomplices) is a good way to start. We look forward to our July Class Reunion, and yes, this time we will invite the boys.
2019 Redo, Rework, Reinvent
Sooo Christmas is over and the New Year has passed. I had my tree down and decorations back in totes waiting patiently in the garage to be put back into the attic on December 26th. Being home with a sick child you get a lot accomplished. Usually I try and leave it up until the weekend after, but I was on a roll. Even my husband was a little surprised when he came home from work that it was all down and the tree was sitting on the front porch. Now I have bare shelves and totes filled with every day décor also waiting patiently to be put back up.
However, this year I have decided not to rush on getting all that back up. I want a clean palette to re-invent our home. Like so many out there I am a big Chip and Joanna Gains fan. I love their style or should I say her style, so when her design book came out I pre-ordered and waited for its arrival. Since it has arrived, I have only gotten through one section - what can I say life and holidays happened. ;) Most of it is stuff that I already knew or have done myself throughout the years, but it is always nice to have a different perspective on the same ideas. We all may like the same style or a variation of that style but to see it in pictures or someone else’s ideas, even your own style can be swayed.
I have decided (nope haven’t discussed with the hubby yet) that I am going to rework, redo, reinvent different areas of our home. 2019 is the year to reinvent. I am going to focus on one area of the book and then apply what I have learned or have been reminded about within our home. I love color so probably won’t have many white walls, but maybe I can squeeze one in somewhere….nah! Sorry JoJo!
We have been in our home for a little over 3 years - we did the basics when we moved in; painted, added carpet in one room, took down the lovely brown paneling, installed an office area, redid the laundry room…yada, yada, yada. Now after 3 years, I am ready to change it up once again.
My husband is the outdoorsy, hunting, ‘less is more’ type of guy so basically, he doesn’t care how I decorate, as long as the horns can stay up he is happy. I like to mix it up all the time, so my style is kind of allover – farmhouse, modern, vintage, VERY minor rustic. Living in an older neighborhood, updated 1975 ranch style home, I feel that trying to mesh these different design trends tends to be too much. Our home doesn’t have that open floor plan (yet!) and the rooms are smaller than newer homes, lighting is horrible…I think you get the idea.
So behold – Reinvent our home in 2019! My first task is the entry way. It is not very big, so I am going to re-work this area. Remove/add different furniture and update the gallery wall, make it more inviting when you walk in. After that we will see were my design skills and Joanna’s book take me. Stay tuned - you never know where I will end up by the time it’s my turn again to write a letter from the heart! Jen
Well, looks like it is my turn! What to write about... No new additions to the family, no family trips, nothing at all. We are a pretty boring family once school starts. It is just an accomplishment for everyone to get out of the house, fully dressed, hair done, and on-time!
A typical morning for the Johnson family starts at 6 am with Cassi being the early riser. I guess growing up on a farm has her conditioned to be a morning person. Heck, sometimes she’s up by 5 am. I don’t understand. I just don’t get it. I usually start the snooze button assault around 6 am. You would think after the 2nd alarm/4th snooze button, and fresh coffee brewing I would be up. But that’s only a 50/50 chance. Did I mention I am NOT a morning person?
Getting the girls up and ready is where the real fun/torture starts. Hadley (my oldest) is the spitting image of her mother. Alarm goes off at 6:15 am, and she is up and ready to tackle the day. No worries at all. Dressed, hair done, breakfast made. She will even make and pack her own lunch. Not bad for a 3rd grader. Efficient, organized and calm - that is, unless she isn’t happy about my morning progress (or lack of) and time management.
My youngest, a big grown-up kindergartener this year, is not a morning person either. Piper oh Piper - who, or what are we going to get this morning?? Is it Dr. Jekyll, or Ms. Hyde? Or better yet, how early is Ms. Hyde going to come out. Will she get out of bed without assistance? Or is this a rip-the-covers off & drag her out by her feet morning? Yeah, she loves that. I can tell by her high-pitched shrieks. Even if it is a successful awakening, there will be something along the way. One constant with Piper is her knack for wanting to wear dresses every day. For some reason, she doesn’t realize she lives in the Pacific Northwest. A summer dress just doesn’t work when it’s raining and 40 degrees outside!
Of course, all of this going on is why Hadley has been ready to be out the door for the past 20 minutes. Hadley has a BIG phobia about being late. We start edging closer to the “go/no-go” time. The pacing will begin. Soon, she starts doing laps around the house, fists clenched, trying to urge her sister to hurry up! Picture the bunny on Alice in Wonderland. We’ve always make it out of the house and have yet to be late. Tears have been shed on the way to school. But never late! And this is a morning with Mom at the helm. But on the mornings when Mom is gone by 6 am for her job as a nurse, it’s just Dad & the girls. I don’t think I’m ready to share that story yet...
It’s A Dog World
Dogs? I’ve always loved dogs. As a child, we had no fewer than 3 dogs at any one time and I welcomed every one of them into the house and right on my bed at night-time. I never gave a thought to my stay-at-home mom cleaning every day. Next thing I knew, I was all grown up, out on my own & suddenly realized I no longer had my very own built-in housekeeper. I decided I was much too busy to own a dog of my own that I would have to take care of.
So, marrying a farmer, I was happy to transition to farm dogs who preferred sleeping on the porch or in the barn with the livestock. They were working dogs - which means their extensive training led them to turn the cattle in exactly the wrong direction every time.
It’s a familiar & regular occurrence. Hubby: We need to move the cattle today. Are you ready? Me: Yep! Should we lock the dog up? Hubby: Naw, he’ll be fine. The ensuing explosive expletives from the men as the dog #bertjojolucysam turned the cattle AWAY from the gate at the very last critical moment were loud, predictable and oddly poetic in their familiar cadence & rhythm.
After our last dog Sam decided he preferred g’pa’s porch to our own (can yousay24hrtreatsanytimeiwantthemandgpaisjustoneBigSoftie?), Dave said he thought he’d wait to get another dog until Sam passed on (so he ‘wouldn’t hurt Sam’s feelings’ - whaa??). But he also remarked more than once how much he missed having a dog at his heels every day as he went about his daily work on the farm. He also said that he thought he’d like to have the dog ‘come inside’ at night this time. I just smiled indulgently and chuckled quietly to myself. No way - no how was my internal thought - farm dogs are always muddy and dirty and they like to roll in dead things. I wasn’t worried about it – Dave rules the farm, I rule the house.
Sooo, as I was wracking my brain trying to figure out something really special to get him for his big 6-0(!) birthday this June (I’m much much younger than my husband - 3+ yrs at least); I suddenly had a flash of inspiration - a puppy!! He would be SO surprised and happy (becausehubbyisjustaBigSoftieaboutdogstoo).
But I only had 1 week - ackk! - to find one. As luck would have it, I found a pretty little 10-wk old mini-Aussie pup in Prineville. My lovely daughters immediately took the day off work for Our Great Conspiracy and we made the trip over the mountain and picked him up. Cassi kept him hidden overnight and we revealed the surprise @ a big birthday breakfast the next morning since there was no way we were keeping that pup hidden until the barbecue that night! The surprise on his face was priceless. It’s probably one of my best moments as a wife I’ve ever had – total score.
After all day with the little wiggle-buns, I agreed that we should probably let him stay inside (just in the laundry room though!) for the first week or two while he got used to the new place. So here we are 3 months later and he hasn’t quite moved outside yet...Indeed, Shep has expanded his realm to the living room. And the kitchen. And pretty much every other room in the house except for the bedroom (I MEAN it when I lay down those ground rules! Kind of).
And now I’ve turned into one of those “I’m a Momma of a Fur-Baby” (I admit it, I always rolled my eyes at you people...) but we’re busy laying down the law with Sheppie (ohyouarejustSOcute!). AND we’re continuing strict training because I can’t stand a dog who doesn’t mind or have any manners (ohmigoshyouarejustsooosweet!). Good and faithful companion to my husband. All -dog who likes to roll in dead things. I’m moving you out any day now.
You special special dog… Brenda
An Alarming Story
We installed a home security system a year or so ago. Overall it has been a super easy system to operate, but we have had a few snafus. The first one happened not too long after we set it up. Hubby Jim set the alarm and left to run some errands, about half way down the street he realized he forgot something, so he turned around and came back planning to quickly grab whatever it was and head back out. As he stepped inside he heard the telltale beeping, letting him know the alarm was armed and he just needed to put the pin # in. No problem, he could remember the number, but what he forgot were his glasses. He could not see the numbers on the buttons and ended up just hitting all of them which of course didn’t work at all. The alarm company called, but unfortunately he was a little rattled by then and couldn’t remember the “secret word”. By the time he got out to the driveway a policeman was pulling up in front of the house. He laughed when he saw it was Jim. Gotta love a small town!
Lesson # 1 learned- keep your glasses handy!
The second snafu was a little bigger. We had been out to a Rotary fundraiser and got home about 11 pm on a Saturday night completely tuckered out and ready to crash. On this particular night however, Jim was to go to his monthly “nocturnal adoration” at church. Catholics may know what that is, but for the rest of you, it’s sort of a “prayer relay” where one Saturday a month the church is kept open all night and differ-ent groups go in and pray for an hour and then the next group comes in to relieve them and so on. His hour on that Saturday was 1-2 AM. I was sleeping soundly when he left, however, about 20 minutes later I woke up, used the bathroom, went right back to bed and fell immediate-ly back into a deep sleep. The next thing I know I’m having this weird dream that people are yelling in my house. It sounds like they are say-ing, “Stayton Police! Stayton Police!” As much as I tried, that just didn’t fit in with the dream I was having, so I reluctantly opened my eyes in time to see two police officers in my bedroom! I thought to myself I MUST still be dreaming but my instincts told me it was real. I sat up and said something like “what the…?” I must have been a sight because they looked about as scared as I was feeling. They said “Sorry ma’am! Sorry ma’am! Your alarm was going off and we tried to call, but did not get an answer.” They asked me my name and I told them, then they asked where my husband was and I said, “He’s at church”. I saw their eyebrows raise, I suppose it sounded a little suspicious…at 1:30 in the morning. By now I think they were feeling sorry for me, looking as I did- hair standing on end, wild eyes, and believing my husband was in church in the middle of the night. They backed out as quickly as they could, no more questions.
In my groggy state I still wasn’t sure what had happened and I started thinking maybe someone DID break into the house and they were still hiding inside. I had no idea if the police had searched the whole house before they found Sleeping Beauty. So I sat up in bed with the lights on and waited. Imagine Jim’s surprise when he walked in. He wanted to know what the heck I was doing wide awake. I told him I had some action while he was gone. “Oh…?” By this time I had figured out what had happened and told him that the police had been in our bedroom. “Oh…??!!” Yes, I told him, you can’t set the “away” status on the alarm when I’m still in the house. “Oh!!!!”
Lesson #2 learned- don’t set “away” on the alarm if you aren’t all away, OR don’t get out of bed!
June – July 2018
Wow the last Baseball lineup for the year! Where has the year gone? Has it really been two months of practice and games. Is school really out?
I was lucky enough this year to take over head coaching duties for the Mehama Coach Pitch Team. I use the term “lucky” very loosely. Thanks Amanda for deciding that having a baby somehow took precedence over coaching this year! You would think being an assistant coach last year would have prepared me for this. After all, they’re just 1st and 2nd grade kiddos. It certainly can’t be any harder than a real estate transaction with all the moving pieces from clients, lenders, home inspections, etc. Yeah, famous last words...Turns out I really wasn’t ready for this! Case in point: the first practice of the season. April rain drove us into the gym. Parents and players started to arrive, and tennis balls were handed out to play catch - I didn’t think it was a good idea to hand over real baseballs in an enclosed gym with 1st and 2nd graders. Find a partner and toss the ball back and forth - pretty simple right?! Ha! Inside of 30 seconds, Ryan and Pete (my 2 trusty companion coaches) and I look up to find complete and utter chaos. Tennis balls flying all over the place. Kids running back and forth, and the screaming, lord almighty, the screaming (did I say this was a boys & girls mixed team?). Let me just say, there is a whole separate decibel level that little girls can reach that boys can’t begin to touch. One look at Pete & Ryan and I could tell we were all on the same page - time for laps! Those kids were some of the fittest in the league by the end.
Let’s just say that first practice is a thing of the past. It only took all season, but we can now warm up properly. No more flying baseballs strung throughout the field. Oh, we still have our occasional “shaking head moment.” Quit climbing the dugout fence. No! the bats are not swords OR light-sabers. And do you really need to go the bathroom for the 4th time during a game! Really?? All joking aside, these kids have come a long way. Hearing them call out plays in the field - music to my ears - “1st or 2nd!” or, “Any base, any base!” Plus understanding that a 3rd out means they get to bat again. Which of course is their favorite thing - hallelujah!
A big Thank You goes out to Assistant Coaches Ryan Orr and Pete Cakebread. Plus thank you parents! And additional thanks for the parents who taught their kids AC/DC’s TNT. When you have a dugout full of kids singing “TNT it is dynamite” you can’t help but smile.
Sometimes you can choose your Family
Under any circumstances, losing a family member is difficult to deal with. Even more so when the person is a recluse and didn’t have anything to do with your family. Scott and I are dealing with this now. His birth mother was seldom in his life and would pop in and out on occasion. She chose to distance herself from us although we made several attempts throughout the years to contact or visit her. I only saw her a couple of times in our 40+ years together. Our wedding day was one occasion. She never met our daughter Kendra and only saw Kelsey once. It makes me sad to think she never witnessed any of those important “firsts;” Christmas & Halloween, steps, teeth, bike wrecks, you get the picture.
A neighbor, Victor, called Scott to notify us Geri had passed away. Victor found Scott’s info in Geri’s belongings, the girls photos in her wallet and was quite shocked to find out Geri indeed had family. She always told him she was alone and had no one.
In our time with Victor, we discovered a charming, gentle individual who took Geri under his wing and watched out for her for the past 14 years since her husband Denny passed away. Victor helped with lawn work, running errands and grocery shopping. Scott and Vic traded stories about their upbringing and the similarities were astounding. Vic’s Mother was absent from his life while growing up and he had no relationship with her as an adult. I think this is one of the reasons Victor and Geri had such a special bond. Listening to Victor’s stories about Geri gave us some peace to know she found someone with whom she could communicate and trust.
Victor, his fiancé Julie, neighbors Chris and Fran shared meals and companionship and became her surrogate family. It was Fran and Vic that found her after she passed away. Scott and I traveled to Spokane upon the news and were nervous and skeptical of what we would find. After hearing other people’s horror stories of issues over survivorship and legal “stuff,” we found these people to be kind, warm and inviting. Geri knew she was in failing health and she communicated to Vic her final wishes, which we were able to carry out with his help. On a warm, partially sunny day in May we traveled to a beautiful waterfall at Hawk Creek Campground on Lake Roosevelt where the Columbia and Spokane rivers converge to say our final good byes. We were truly blessed to have family; Geri’s sister’s family, cousins and our new-found family members Victor, Julie, Fran and Chris in attendance.
Huggie Time - Letter From The Heart - April 2018
My 4 year old son likes to have “huggie time”. For those that don’t know what huggie time is, let me tell you; you step back, open your arms up really wide and run full speed into the other person’s arms, then squeeze super tight. This is something he and I usually do and once in a while he will throw dad a bone and let him have huggie time as well. It’s kind of a mom and son thing.
Usually done at home, not out & about or when I drop him off at daycare or preschool. He especially likes to have huggie time when his little chores come up. I will ask “Wyatt can you please pick up your toys?” and the response I get is “first we must have huggie time.” He will step back, open up his arms and run full speed ahead yelling ‘HUGGIE TIME’, and I say it back maybe not as loud but it makes him happy plus if I don’t we will have more huggie time’s until I do. Of course this is not a bad thing. “Ok Wyatt huggie time is over please pick up your toys, NOW” but then I get “one more huggie time?” Can you see the cycle that he is starting?
Frustrated mom because I have stepped on another match box car or a lego, dad laughing because he sees the angle the 4-year old is going for, and a messy house, but of course he will get one more huggie time. You probably are all thinking, ‘wow the 4 year old runs the home’ but would you give up “huggie time”?
Here is one reason I will never give up “huggie time”…during Super Bowl weekend they always do these heart felt stories of the team’s fans, and one that stuck was the Philadelphia Eagles fan…’Dutch Destroyer’. He was a 10 year old boy that lost his fight with cancer last year who got to meet the team and hang out with them for a day. As I watch this segment on ESPN, mind you with tears in my eyes, I sit back and look at the floor think, wow our house is a disaster. But you know what, after watching him run around with his head cut off trying to stay out of the hot lava, jumping from blanket to blanket, and watching that segment it doesn’t matter if the house is a total disaster. He gets to be kid and like so many, they don’t get to be.
Yes he will get his toys picked up, yes mom will be frustrated, and dad will be chuckling in the back ground but at the end of the day, he gets to be a kid and mom gets lots of hugs, excuse me “Huggie Time”.
To be honest I probably will never turn down a huggie time because soon he will be too old and that phase will end or life could change at the drop of a hat. I would rather remember the huggie times and the messy house then not to be able to take advantages of the hugs. What is the saying you see on Pinterest…”Sorry the house is messy we are making memories” and those are great memories to have.
Tear It Out Tear It ALL Out! - Letter From The Heart - March 2018
The time comes in every couple’s life when they stand glumly at the threshold of their bathroom and say, “Out. It’s all gotta come out…”. That was the case in hubby Dave’s and my life finally one day. I have to say that being a professional realtor/broker for the past 30 years, I’m really quite good at telling people what they need to do to update their homes and perfectly terrible at seeing the same thing in my own home. It came as rather a shock one day several years ago when I was brushing my teeth that I was staring down at the very same 4” white tiled countertops and shiny brass light fixtures (installed w/such pride back in 1995) that they were the exact ones that I had been recommending to clients for several years to tear out and update. Whaa??
No matter - a little updating is no big deal. After all, Dave and I built our own house, remodeled other houses, built misc shops & barns and are big do-it-yourselfers because, I admit it - neither of us really like to go on vacation or have any ‘real’ hobbies (& not just because we live on a farm w/animals to take care of. Ok, so 90% because we live on a farm with animals to take care of). So tearing out walls is kind of our thing. We can always accomplish that between chores.
In the scheme of things, it’s just a bathroom after all! Step One: figuring out what to replace everything with. Plus it’s so much easier than the old days when I had to pore over random magazine pictures to figure out what I liked. Now I had Pinterest! And Houzz! And Google! And all right at my fingertips any time of the day. Or night. Ok! So...Step One took 3 years to complete. When you can’t stop scrolling because by the time you finalize the 23rd detail, the first 3 details were no longer what you wanted after all. There was always something better. More beautiful. More just-righter! Aughh. I hate indecision so I’d just put it away for months at a time. Until my hubby reminded me that no decision really was a decision. And as a matter of fact he said, he was just fine with the old bathroom just like it was anyway. Well, that certainly spurred me to action, so I started showing him pictures all over again of different ideas which prompted pretty much the only reply I’ve ever gotten to the question, “What do you think of this?”
“Looks fine to me honey.” Huh. That seemed pretty noncommittal. Maybe I’d better just keep looking. Until the first weekend of January 2017 when I heard a horrendous crashing noise in the bathroom and came upon Dave, sledgehammer in hand, calmly dismantling the long countertop of the vanity. The doors were already off all of the cabinets. “Aackk!! What are you doing?? I’m not ready yet!”
“Well you are now,” he said.
There was no going back. I ran for boxes to empty everything into that was now spilling out of the cabinets. Kind of embarrassing really. Does anyone really need 5 pairs of tweezers (who even knew??). Is makeup still good if it’s only been expired for 6 years? Gah, 3 garbage bags later, I had it pared down to 5 (big) boxes of stuff for me and 1 (little) box for him. This is what we love about you men – such simple needs. We had the bathroom completely gutted by the end of the day. Yep, we’re pretty good at tear-out. We figured out the Timetable In Our Minds – average bathroom remodel: 2-3 weeks when hiring a professional, so we figured 6-8 weeks since we’d be doing everything including tiling & building the cabinets ourselves. We figured we’d splurge and hire out part of the rough plumbing.
Let’s see, that was January of 2017. What is it now? March of 2018? And we’re getting close, really close! One must always remember in the Timetable in Your Mind you must allow for: Birthdays, farm work, getting groceries, grandlittles (my fave!), unexpected extra good weather (who’s inside during good weather on a farm??), your real outside job, holidays (especially Christmas - that really takes time. Tip: start your project right after Christmas so you have plenty of time before the holidays roll around again. Oh...wait). I think back fondly on the first few weeks when it became obvious it might take a little longer than the Timetable In Our Minds, and our youngest daughter would come home to visit and make funny jokes like, “You guys probably won’t be back in here before Easter!” And we’d laugh and laugh…
Upside? I think Dave & I have rekindled that old competitive romantic-camaraderie. Like when we realize we both have to use the facilities at the same time and take off at a full-out sprint for the ½ bath (& only toilet on the main floor). We’ve kind of progressed to a mini-home version of the WWE at this point – less camaraderie and more all-out war but it IS exhilarating. We did have to set a few ground rules, ie: no grabbing someone by the back of the shirt & yanking them back so hard that all the buttons pop right off as the perpetrator hurdles over your fallen body just to make it there first. David.
But anyway, we’re sooo close – after all, it’s not like it’s going to be Easter before we get back into our bathroom! And I laughed and laughed…
Cows, Cats, Kids...Or Ho-Hum! - A Letter from the Heart - February 2018
Since I am a buyer’s agent one of the main components of my job is to show homes. I LOVE looking at homes, so this is one of my favorite “tasks” when working with buyers. Much of the time the homes are somewhat cookie cutter and “same old, same old”, but now and then there will be that special home, the one that makes me almost want to put my own home on the market and go for it. Actually, showings are kind of like that too…usually pretty uneventful, but sometimes…well, let me just share a few examples of the not so ho-hum showings.
There was the time I was showing acreage property to a couple and a herd, a BIG herd, of cattle which was WAAAYYY across the field when we walked through the gate started running straight for us. The couple I was with were farmers and did not seem the slightest bit concerned. I, on the other hand was sweating bullets, heart pounding. These were big cows and there were lots of them! My mind was racing…”if I take off at a sprint now, I would probably only have to beat one of these two and I would be safe” and then “no, maybe cows like to chase the runner?” and then “It would probably look kind of bad if I ran and let my buyers get trampled”. So, I finally decided to just play it “cool” and position myself in the middle of the couple as we walked the property (a little awkward, yes, but better safe than sorry!). The cows charged up snorting and slobbering but luckily did no harm, in fact they kind of left us alone once they realized we weren’t going to feed them. Crisis averted, but my heart rate stayed in fight or flight mode until we were safely on the other side of the fence again!
Then there was the time I was showing a gorgeous new construction home to a nice young family. Their little boy was cute as a bug and just full of energy. It was dark outside, so we stepped on the deck to get a peek at the back yard. All of a sudden we heard the little boy screaming at the top of his lungs. He had slipped back inside and gone straight for that tempting little blue shut off valve for the icemaker and turned it on full blast. It is incredible how much and how far water will shoot out of one of those! He was drenched and the beautiful floors and cabinets were too! We ran in and immediately got it turned off, but we had nothing to wipe up all that water. I took off my cardigan and used that, the husband took off his shirt, and the wife ran out to the “blue house” by the street and came running back in with huge wads of toilet paper. We finally got all the water sopped up, but then we had to pick up all the tiny white flecks of toilet paper that were left behind. Took forever, but it was like it never happened. Note to self, “keep a towel in the car”.
Another time I had a showing at a home we were told was empty, but when we opened one of the bedroom doors upstairs we noticed a lump on the bed, which turned out to be person. Yikes! Once I pulled up a long driveway on a country property with my clients and the soon-to-be (menacing looking) ex-husband stepped out on the porch and said there was “no way in hell he was going to let us look at his property” must have been an ugly divorce! Beep! Beep! Beep! We’re backing up!!! One of the most dreaded snafus is when a family pet (especially a cat) sneaks out. I’ve discovered that cats can’t be caught unless they want to be. Oh, and alarms, nothing like a blaring siren to put a person in panic mode! The more I write the more fun memories pop back into my head. I definitely prefer the ho-hum showings to the above, but the exciting ones are definitely more memorable!
A Realtor's Story - Taking A Ride on The Seller Side - A Letter from the Heart - January 2018
It was the summer of 2007 and in the span of four months, my wife and I both graduated from college, got married & started new jobs - and because that just wasn’t enough, we decided to buy a house too. Our first home was a 2-story, built in 1958. It was like stepping back in time in this house – “retro” we liked to call it. Orange formica countertops, yellowed pine cabinets, and black-iron stamped hinges. One upstairs bedroom even had green shag carpet - yes, we had a disco room! But the topper was the upstairs bathroom. It sported a pink toilet, pink bathtub, and baby-puke green tile. Heck, the head of the shower was about shoulder level when I stood in the tub. But we were young & eager and knew that with enough elbow grease we could make this a home!
So we moved in & couldn’t wait to get started on our first project. The bathroom was the winner - we gutted it down to the studs - #demo-day! I still remember looking at that empty shell trying to envision the end product - no vision. Luckily for me, my wife had vision and with the help of our parents (thanks mom & dad!), we came pretty close to completing that vision. Over the next 8 years, the projects never stopped: new roof, new windows, new deck, new front entry porch and back patio complete with my manly fire pit, just to name a few.
In the summer of 2015 it was a time for a change, and we decided to move from Idaho back to Oregon and I began my new career in real estate. Our house in Idaho went up on the market. We were nervous, excited, hopeful, but mostly scared out of our minds. I was pretty confident - since I now had my real estate license, I “knew” more than the average man on the street, right?? Wrong. The Idaho market was a whole different market than the one I was working here in Oregon. We waited for that first offer to roll in. The house was seeing great activity, but no offer. We were starting to get concerned and turned to our Broker for advice - she reassured us to just hang tight. Finally, after 45 days on the market we had our first offer! A couple of counter-offers later and we were under contract. The first hurdle had been crossed. We were on to the home inspection, and after two long weeks of being on pins and needles, the inspection came back with no repairs needed! That was one big sigh of relief and the excitement started to set in. Hey, this was easy!
Until it wasn’t…. it all came crashing down. We were just two weeks away from closing when everything fell apart. The buyers purchasing our home were selling their current house, but their buyers backed out two weeks before closing! That in turn led to the termination of our sale. Painful - we were so close. We went back on the market with an aggressive “Price Improvement”, commonly known as a price reduction… Bring on that buyer! Instead, Mother Nature decided to step in and devastated my hometown & the Kamiah Valley with a wildfire that destroyed 50 homes, 75 outbuildings, and over 50,000 acres of land. Except for our house. It wasn’t touched. Yay… The entire town of Kamiah and surrounding communities came to a screeching halt. With that came another aggressive “Price Improvement”. We were now into the winter months with limited activity and the town of Kamiah struggling to recover - the market was slowww. Spring came, and still no offer. With that yet another “Price Improvement”. Are you starting to see a theme? Was a foreclosure or short-sale in our future? We decided to try one more “price improvement” before crossing that bridge. With that final price reduction, we had reduced our sales price close to $50,000 – true pain. Fingers crossed. Let’s get this house SOLD!
Well we found the bottom of the market with that final price reduction. Two weeks and one counter-offer later, we were back under contract. The home inspection passed again and everything was falling right into place. Was this the time? Finally - closing? Of course, not! These buyers had to sell their home back in New Jersey and had a pending offer BUT their home inspection didn’t go as planned and they went back on the market. Aughhh, would this rollercoaster never end?? They assured us it was a good market and they would resell quickly and luckily it did. They went back under contract two days later. Here we go again! Three weeks later, they passed the home inspection. The appraisal was completed on our house in the following two weeks, and luckily came in at value with no lender callouts.
This was it. Our family finally closed on the sale of our Idaho house on February 10th, 2017 (a day in infamy) after two long years. It was a mixed bag of emotions at the signing table. We were so happy to close this chapter in our lives and finally move forward. While this was a tough ride for our family with the amount of “price improvements”, multiple hiccups, and Mother Nature, we realized that it was the first home we lived in when we got married. It was the place we brought our babies home from the hospital, the place they learned to walk and talk. The place we worked on and transformed and loved. Despite the struggle, it has good memories, and we are so thankful for our friends and family that helped us with house projects and supported us through the long months.
I shall always have a deeper appreciation and empathy for buyers and sellers going through the process of buying or selling a home. I’ve learned that a good broker is worth their weight in gold and that a sense of humor (along with a little Tylenol and a good bottle of wine or three) goes a long way. Many obstacles, stress & frustration can be avoided(!) with the right people in your corner – thank you to all my Corner People!
Now we are on to the next journey. As I nervously watch my wife pinning new house plans on Pinterest...
The Lucky Leprechaun - A Letter from the Heart - Year End 2017
After several years of dragging my feet, I finally relented and purchased a travel trailer with my husband Scott earlier this spring. I was reluctant to give up the convenience of our beat-up Coachman Motor Home: The Lucky Leprechaun (dubbed so on the first rainy camping trip with my then “future” son-in-law Josh). The Leprechaun has been a big part of our lives since 2001. It was given to Scott by his good friend John, when he passed away from cancer.
Epic stories lie between the cheap warped paneling of the walls, leaking vents and every piece of fallen glitter on the outdated orange carpet. We enjoyed many pre-dawn trips to Newport or Netart’s Bay to dig for razor or horse neck clams. It served as home base for Stayton’s Relay For Life when Kendra and I served as Team and Luminaria Committee Chairs. For many years, we spent the Labor Day Holiday at the adorable little campground behind Marion Forks Fish Hatchery. Like most camping trips, it’s all about the fire pit, setting up camp and the camp food. Our camp outs aren’t much different. I inherited my Grandmother Vera’s love and recipe for homemade Clam Chowder. I prefer “One-Pot Wonders” for camping and started the pot to cook. I think Josh was about finished with his second bowl before he piped up and said he had yet to see a clam in his chowder. Everyone started looking for the clams in their soup too. OOPS! I forgot to bring clams for the chowder. So much for a well-stocked pantry in the Leprechaun. It’s also amazing how resourceful and creative one can be if you forget to pack Maple Syrup for Pancakes. FYI, a warmed mixture of peanut butter and Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup makes a pretty tasty substitute.
FaerieWorlds. Costumes. Glitter. Celtic Music. Mythical Creatures. The World of Froud. The things my daughter can talk me into all because of the love of the movie The Labyrinth and the Star Wars saga. My first indoctrination to the festival was a parking attendant in a sequined mermaid costume with seahorse pasties wishing us “Faerie Blessings!” Immediately turned to Kendra and said, “if I see naked people you are so dead…”. We laughed it off and continued to go for the next 8 years, always promising to bring the Leprechaun and stay the whole weekend. In 2013 and 2014 we made good on the promise also bringing our friend Harmoney and my niece Samantha.
There were times we prayed the darn thing would start to get us home. At times, we prayed it would stay running. It had a habit of acting up (dying in intersections). I got good at keeping my foot on the brake and gas at the same time to make a left turn if I had to stop at a traffic light.
RVing is a learning experience. The first thing we learned was to make sure all the cupboards are closed and latched when traveling on the twisty road to Hebo. Kendra can attest to the bump on the head by a weighty camp lantern. I learned an itty-bitty RV fridge comes with a $1500.00 price tag. I learned to swing wide while taking a turn. But most of all I learned that even though I had to give up the Lucky Leprechaun, no matter where we go, we will continue to make memories as a family and I will continue to forget what to pack, even with my list in my hand.
Now, what do I name the new trailer? Maybe I will wait and see what transpires at FaerieWorlds next year… Leslie