Sunday, June 29, 2014

ANOTHER FINE MESS...

June-uary has settled in on us here in the great North-wet.  And not just in Washington, but extending six hours east to our sometimes vacation home in North Idaho, where we just spent the past three days watching it rain.

I had not been there in two years, although Hub goes in the winter to feed his snowboarding addiction. We bought the property eight years ago and for the first few years I loved going; we made the trip about once a month for several days at a time, longer in summer.  When I was working full time at a sometimes stressful job, had errant teens and college boys giving me fits, and a mother sinking further into dementia, it was a very welcome respite from the every day struggles that were my life at that time. I loved the solitude of that little house on the short, quiet street.  No internet, no TV, no obligations.  It is 1/2 mile from the base of Silver Mountain in a small town that is struggling with economic setbacks, due to silver mine closures (and lately the systemic consequences of a generally crashed economy).  Still, we believed it had such glowing potential as a tourist and recreational mecca, that we told ourselves that certainly one day soon it would be a boom town and our real estate investment would net us a nice little payday.

Well, not yet.  Over the years, kids grown, mom gone, career over, I found I was less and less drawn to make the trip.   My life at home was moving into a slower, happier pace and I had enough I loved at home to want to hang around.  Going to Idaho felt like an obligation and the house took on the form of, well, an albatross.  Our initial thought when we bought it (before the crash) was to hold on to it for a couple of years, maybe three, and then sell to the highest bidder -- one of several investors driving around town scooping up properties.  Except the investors left, the resort development stalled, housing prices plummeted and we were stuck.  Ugh!

We've tried listing it as a vacation rental with VRBO which ended up meaning we had to pay personal property taxes and comply with a bunch of silly city ordinances about off street parking.  So we went to short-term rentals which worked for awhile, until our management company changed hands and a crazy embezzler took over and started to double and triple charge for so-called "maintenance" issues.  We had to watch every statement and contest charges and fight for every dollar owed us.  We fired them.  We found a new management company who has only been able to find one relatively long-term renter, and since December it has sat empty again.

So this trip we went over to meet with a new property manager.  She refuses to do fully-furnished vacation rentals ("too much work") and will only do a long-term rental of an EMPTY house.  So, we'd have to clear out all of our belongings unless, as she put it, "you are willing to have everything you have here lost, stolen, or destroyed."  She did not speak highly of the average renter.   "A house this size will rent to a family with kids.  They will jump on your furniture, color on that solid mahogany buffet, and break your dishes.  They will steal your towels and their dog will dig up your yard.  However, I don't allow cats."  Wow.

I looked around and remembered the weekends our sons and their friends came with us to paint the whole interior of the house.  Lots of laughs and empty pizza boxes resulted.  I looked around and remembered the friends (our 'Tribe') who have joined us for summer bike trail rides, trips up Silver Mountain on the gondola for concerts, winter snow-sport vacations.  I looked around and remembered the times we've offered the house on our church auction and netted a bit of money for the Fellowship and a vacation destination for our friends.  Mostly I looked around and knew the story of every piece of furniture (mostly my mom's things after we cleaned out her house), and wall art, and dish in the cabinet.

I looked around and remembered the hours and hours Hub and I had sat planning and sketching the remodel we would do to add a bathroom and a porch and an upper deck.  I thought of the picnics in the yard, the chats with neighbors, the attempts to become part of the community.  I looked around and realized I actually love that little house.

It's really too bad that this community, nestled in the considerable natural beauty of the Silver Valley of Idaho, is still stagnating on the very far edge of a slow economic recovery.  Most of the Uptown buildings remain vacant (in spite of wisely converting to a mining theme over the Bavarian Village motif fancied by some decade-ago City Fathers who had taken a trip to Leavenworth and came back with the derivative idea for their own little town.)  The streets need refinishing (pothole alert!), the homes look sad and neglected in many parts of town, the Gondola Village looks more like the Gondola Ghost Town since the bank has taken ownership of the condo/retail development.  The water park is mostly empty, as is the championship golf course.

Still, there are lots of events on the mountain and people in and out.  Mountain bikers and trail riders were jamming the parking lots this past weekend, bars were full of happy patrons, a pig roast in the park looked to be attracting a small, but enthusiastic crowd.  There's a new brew pub which we quite liked and an old favorite restaurant that still serves great food with a friendly staff and comfortable, attractive decor.

We just wish that the house was someone else's dream deferred.  Hub and I meet with a financial guy periodically who tries to keep us on track so our money doesn't run out before we do.  Frequently at these meetings I would refer to the house as an "investment".  He was patient with that characterization for a good long while, but once he got to know us better and was less concerned about offending me, he set me straight:  Apparently an investment assumes relatively low risk of loss, with moderate gain; a speculation is a significantly higher risk "gamble"that a big payoff could occur, but could actually go either way rather easily.  "The house was a speculation, Donna." he said.  Point taken.

So, we are hanging in there for now.  We've decided to keep our furnishings intact, listing it as a short-term rental, hoping vacationers will find it an economical home base for exploring the valley, that  mining engineers or medical personnel at the nearby hospital might find it to be a fine place to spend a week or a month or six when they are in town on temporary business.  And we will use it too.  It's ours to enjoy and share until the investors return and the Big Real Estate Lotto Payday comes to pass.  Any day now.

At least, that's the view from here… ©

Friday, June 13, 2014

A NEW BLOG!

Trumpet Fanfare!  I'm writing a new blog for Yoga Circle Studio, called Circling the Mat.  We went "live" today.

I'm pretty psyched about this great opportunity to share my infinite wisdom about all things Yoga.  I realize this is a practice of many thousands of years in the making -- that's why it is so exciting for me to have mastered it in only five years!

It could be, of course, that I was asked to write this new blog based on my many missteps, stumbles, and topple-overs in class and that hearing from one mere mortal plodding along the yoga path may give others encouragement.  "Wow, I'm not as bad at this as she is!"

Whatever…I'm just happy for the gig and for the challenge of writing on basically one topic -- one that I love -- and I still get to tell my own story about it.

So, if you want to check it out, go here:  www.circlingthemat.blogspot.com

Maybe you'll be inspired to join a class.  Maybe you'll learn something about the ancient art and practice of yoga.  Maybe it will just make you laugh.

At least, that's the view from here…. ©


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

GARDEN 2.0

Well, I'm at it again.  As you may recall, at the ripe old age of 62, I started to show a real interest in gardening last year.  I posted photos of my "kids" -- the tomato plants lined up on my sunny deck.  I named them, coddled them, talked to and sang to them.  (I got several golf-ball sized tomatoes and was THRILLED!)

I planted some other veggies too, in our one raised bed, and we started a fairly large landscaping project in our side yard that had been an expanse of flat lawn for as long as we've lived here.  We bought trees and shrubs and perennials.  We were oh so delighted!

Everything wintered over fairly well, I thought.  We lost a few perennials but the big (and more pricey) stuff seems pretty happy -- except for one Japanese maple I've been trying to diagnose.  I'm about to give up and take some cuttings to the University Extension Service for a consultation.  I DO NOT want to lose that tree!

We built two more raised beds this spring and filled all three of them with seeds and starts and they are growing!  I find this to be miraculous again, as if I never noticed that food actually grows from the ground rather than from the Farmer's Market stall or Costco cold room.

But upon closer inspection the other day I found that not only was the Maple having an infestation of something (spider mites?), so is my honeysuckle (aphids I think), and lupine (I suspect slugs), and my favorite Bleeding Hearts, upon which I believe a mole or vole or some such underground tunneling creature has decided to make a meal of the roots.

I went through a day of deep discouragement.  I spent almost as much time running in to the computer to diagnose the situation as I did enjoying working in my garden.  It dawned on me that this is why true gardeners are at it nearly constantly.  It's a big science project -- water and nutrients and pest control and all different for each plant!  I'm not so good at science.


We went to the local garden art fair this past weekend and I realized that what I love about gardens is  the beauty of them -- the art of the thing rather than the science.    So, I am going to find out what grows relatively easily and without too much fussing and plant lots of that.  Then I'm going to strategically place beautiful, whimsical garden art here and there for contrast and interest.  Brilliant, right?  No watering, no pest-shooing, no fertilizing….just a place of serenity and beauty.

Well, that's the plan for today.  But my lavender is about to burst into fragrant purple abundance, the broccoli is growing like crazy, the beans and peas are climbing, even the pepper plants look happy.  And the tomatoes -- I didn't name them this year, but they seem to be thriving nonetheless.

Maybe too much perseverating isn't healthy for me.  Just take a tough love approach and let nature take its course.  And plant a few works of art to delight the eye.  Yep…

At least that's the view from here…. ©

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

SLACKER

Grrrr…..stuck in neutral.

Can you relate to this?  I woke up today full of energy.  The to-do list looked so manageable I even added to it; the whole ding-dong day stretched before me as if time would stand still and just wait for me.  I did the dishes, glanced at the paper, picked up a book, threw in some laundry, watered the houseplants…it wasn't even 7:30.  Really!

Then I met a friend for breakfast and we talked and laughed for nearly 2 hours.  Then my intention was to go to my Yoga class, but I found I was distracted and antsy (didn't that waitress give me my usual decaf?).   The chirpy voice in my head reminded me:  "It's a 20 minute drive to the studio.  Hub took your Yoga mat from the car to haul stuff, so you'd have to borrow a studio mat.  Yuck!  Besides, you have tomorrow and the next day and the next and the next to go…." (Can you tell this is where it all starts to go wrong?)

Some entity not of my body takes hold of the wheel and turns in the opposite direction, heading to the thrift store, because suddenly my mission to find a cheap table to paint for my meditation garden has become Job One for the day (not even on the list.)  I turn up the radio and praise my spontaneous and devil-may-care attitude!  Yoga, schmoga!  I'm a free spirit, high on caffeine and surging with garden art creativity!

At "Le Village" I find a funky, little, beat up, $6.00 table that will be perfect for my purposes!  I'm only 2 miles from home.  I can quickly turn around and get back to the to do list and maybe check out the new wellness center for women only blocks from my house -- maybe even do the noon Yoga class there!  No harm, no foul!

But, I'm already heading south and I've been meaning to get a new hummingbird feeder and maybe a couple of lawn chairs….Before I know what's happening I've spent over an hour and $85.00 inside Fred Meyers.  It's nearly noon, and there is no way I can make it back to the Yoga class, so I stop at Starbucks, because that Evil One tells me I haven't had enough coffee yet today.

Home, I see the "to-do" list sitting where I left it, but the chores look decidedly less than inviting at this point.  I eat a few Hershey Kisses (oh! more bad!) and sit down at the computer.  I mess around on Facebook for a while, watch a couple of YouTube videos, check my email 2-3 times, sort through some bills, look out the window, read a poem, update my Netflix queue, see what it would cost to order HBO, look out the window again, make a list of stuff to research on Amazon -- then do the research, shove some piles of papers and receipts around on my desk...Decide to write a blog post.

Here I am, doing just that….at 2:00 p.m.   Now I'm thinking of lying down and getting a little reading in, and maybe a nap, before I think about what to cook for supper.  I'm still reading Grain Brain and Buddha's Brain and Game of Thrones (decapitated brain).   I DESERVE a "veg" day, right?   It's all cloudy and chilly outside and so cozy on the sofa with my afghan.  Who even thought that "to-do" list was a good idea?  Who is thinking clearly at 6:00 a.m. anyway?  Certainly not me, obviously!

I've got nothing profound to say about this slacker tendency of mine.  Some days I'm a whirling dervish of energy.  Some days I'm not, but I figure I can salvage today by taking care of at least one thing on the list…

I'll get to that right soon.  I'm sure of it.

At least, that's the view from here… ©