My real (estate) obsession

Ever since my dad died, I’ve been obsessed. Every day, I pull up real estate listings and study the photos, map out houses, calculate mortgages and research schools. My dad left us some money – enough for us to leave this sodden hell hole and move back to Maryland. But I’ve jumped the gun a bit.

To move back East, we need several things to happen. First and foremost, we need my husband to get a job there, because we don’t have enough money for him to retire. And his prospects will greatly improve once he takes the CPA exam, coming up in January. Second, we need to sell our house, because we don’t want to support two houses. When we moved to Seattle, we couldn’t sell our house in Maryland, so we rented it and took a big loss each month on the mortgage. We don’t want to do that again. Third, we have to wait until we can make a down payment on a new house and have some money left for emergencies. Because my dad did a half-assed job on a do-it-yourself will, his estate is tied up in probate, and may take two years to settle.

Nevertheless, I’m spending much of my working hours looking at houses for sale in Maryland. I conduct searches, pore over the pictures, and send them to my husband, which I’m sure gets annoying after the first six or seven.  I know that by the time we move, we won’t be able to buy any of the houses I’m looking at now, but I’m so excited about the prospect of going back home that I can’t help but look.

What’s so great about Maryland? Well, for one thing, we loved it there. We lived a block from the Chesapeake Bay and we loved walking down to the water on the weekends, hanging with the neighbors on the pier or attempting to go out on the boat. We only took that glorified buoy out twice and had problems both times, but we had a boat and a body of water in which to drive her.

We also had friends there – a whole bunch of friends who promised to babysit back when I was pregnant. We plan to take each and every one of them up on their offers when we get back. Most importantly, the people there were genuine. Seattleites are super nice on the surface, but they turn on you if you try to develop a friendship. With the exception of two women, all of my friends here are from somewhere else, and the two from Seattle have both lived elsewhere.

We love the weather in Maryland – real seasons, including warm days from March to October. When my daughter wakes up here, she asks, “Is it not raining today?” and it breaks my heart. I hate that all she’s ever known is rain nine to eleven months out of the year. I want rain to be the exception, not the rule. It snows in Maryland and although I’m not a fan, snow is a kid’s paradise, and I want our kids to experience it.

There’s the kids’ education to consider, too. Here’s a nice surprise: I looked up the school rankings by state and Maryland was number one. I’m thrilled about that. Seattleites would rather have less competitive schools and “a better work/life balance.” Someone actually told me that. When their kids enter the job market, I can guarantee that not one interviewer will ask them about their work/life balance. Suffice it to say that our East Coast values differ greatly from the values here.

Last but not least, there’s family. When we move back East, we’ll live three hours from my husband’s family and four hours from mine. I want the kids to grow up seeing their family more than once a year. I want the kids to learn about their cultures — Greek, Cuban and Southern.

You may ask, “What the hell does this have to do with the blog, Maria? I thought it was supposed to be about relationships.” All of these reasons – even weather – come down to relationships. We want the kids to grow up in a place where people are genuine, whether they like you or not. I don’t want them to learn to pretend like the people do here.

We want to be among friends. When we lived in Maryland we saw our friends all the time. Here I’ve gone a year without seeing a close friend who lives 35 minutes away.

Drier, warmer weather means people get out and interact with each other. I think the weather plays a big role in keeping people isolated here. People keep to themselves in the fall, winter and spring, and in summer, it seems like there are more people here because you actually see them.

And then there’s family – my BFF and my new birth family, my husband’s mom and his huge assortment of cousins. My husband and I suffer here from a lack of close relationships and the kids suffer because aloofness is the norm.

We miss our people – those who made our lives so rich when we lived back East, the new family we’ve discovered, and the old family we had to leave behind. In light of that, is it any wonder that I can’t wait to get back? Who knows? Maybe we will get there sooner rather than later. And when we do, I’ll be prepared.


Damning the demons of Dad doubt

old_man-2Ever since my dad died, I’ve been thinking about what I did for him, what I could have done, and what I should have done.

When I called my aunt to tell her my dad was dying, I told her that the doctor had recommended a pacemaker but Dad’s living will forbade it so we didn’t do it. “A pacemaker?” she said. “Why didn’t you get a pacemaker? Pacemakers save lives.” The day I made that decision, Dad had been flirting with reality for a while already. His living will said that if he wasn’t expected to make a full recovery, I shouldn’t allow the doctors to use any “artificial means” of support. And I looked it up. Pacemaker was at the top of that list. But when I talked to my aunt, all the doubts came back. read more

Politics, Paranoia and the Past: The things I’ll miss most about my Dad

I didn’t know what I’d miss about my dad — the calls during dinner, long rants about President Obama, tales from the geriatric dental world. But what I do miss comes as a surprise.

Last night we ate at a sushi restaurant – the kind where a conveyor belt slides little plates of food by you and you pick up what you want. The kids love it. My five-year-old loves to grab the food and my two-year-old likes to cheer “That one! That one!” until his sister gets it.

old_man-2On our way out, I thought that I’d like to tell my dad about the place. When I was a kid, he told me about eating at the Automat – where the food sat in little compartments and you’d put your coins in to get them out. I think he’d like to know that the concept was alive and well, sans the little compartments, at the sushi place. He would never have eaten sushi but I know he’d love hearing about it. But now that he’s gone, I can’t tell him. read more

There’s nothing like a power struggle in the morning

Bad dayThis is how it all started. My daughter wanted to take a toy into camp. Camp has a no-toys rule, but the last time I told her she couldn’t bring her toy, she clung to me and wouldn‘t go in until I let her. Then, when I picked her up in the afternoon, she left the toy on the floor at camp when we left.

So today she wanted to bring her My Little Pony “Princess Celestia” in. I let her get to the door and asked the camp counselor to explain the “no toys” rule. The counselor gently said that toys get lost or hurt at camp. Did she want her toy lost or hurt?

“No,” she said and handed the Princess to me. The counselor said, “I think that’s a good choice you made.” I bent down and kissed my daughter goodbye. Everything seemed normal and then she clamped her arms around my leg and wouldn’t let go. read more

Bye-bye naps, bye-bye nappiness

Crying babyOh my God, the screaming. “I DOOONT WAANT TO! I DOONT WANNA TAKE A NAP!” and the shrieking, over and over and over. Well, kid, I don’t wanna sit here, either. With each shriek my ear drums rattle, and I can just picture them getting weaker in my mind. I wonder what will do more aural damage – the countless heavy metal shows I

saw in my youth or sitting here in my 40s, listening to a two-year-old scream. My preference would be to leave him alone to his screams but the little bugger learned to climb out of his bed and now I have to babysit him so he doesn’t climb out and break his head. Or worse, escape his nap. read more