Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Rest of the Story (So Far)

I knew when I found my new home. There have been way too many coincidences to ignore; as a matter of fact, a few too many to believe, but I suppose sometimes those omnipotent beings need to hit us upside the head before we accept what's staring us in the face, you know?
I visited all four of my finalist cities twice, looking at houses each time. I had ruled out the Pennsylvania towns and was concentrating on Hannibal and Ste Genevieve, Missouri. I let my head lead my heart and had decided to settle in Hannibal because the arts community there was, by far, the most organized, progressive and successful of all that I had researched. So, off I drove to Hannibal again to find a house (I had only seen one on my first visit, and it was haunted, but not in a bad way). I revisited the haunted house (the ghost only showed herself on major holidays and then just as vision coming down the stairs as if to join the festivities) and a few others. They were all over my $100,000 limit, and I wasn't loving any of them. Honestly, the haunted one came closest...what does that tell you. It was 107 degrees when I got back to my motel room. I looked around at the shabby room in a town that was touching my head but not my heart and said out loud, "I HATE Hannibal." What a relief to admit it. I got back in my car and drove 3 hours south to Ste Genevieve, calling on the way to make an appointment to see "my" house again Sunday morning.

I had done a little more research and found an Episcopal mission (meaning no full time priest). Turns out there is a full time congregation and they meet in the cutest historic building that had been moved from somewhere to the grounds of Chaumette Winery. You gotta love the Episcopalians, we will get as close to alcohol as possible! So...

9:00 am: I walk in this house and all I can think is, why have I been looking anywhere else? Truly, I felt as if I could breathe for the first time in a month. It was as if the house, like a puppy, jumped up and said, "Where have you been? I have missed you!" Well crap! Just typing that has brought tears to my eyes. I still didn't write a contract because I still needed to be hit over the head, remember?

11:00: I drive out in the beautiful rolling hills to the sweetest little church.

Sidebar***I don't think I told you, but my realtor (another coincidental story for another day) on my first trip had arranged for me to have lunch with several of the local artists. It was perfect! Four vibrant, interesting, well spoken and welcoming women.*** Well, back to church; the service was nice and I decided I was going to have to go to coffee hour. I'm shy in that particular situation for some reason (maybe someone dropped a coffeepot on my head as a child?), but this was important, so off I the WINE TASTING ROOM! Hot diggity dog (refer to the previous note about Episcopalians and alcohol)! Wait, there's more. Lunch is served, prepared by the winery's fantastic chef. Wait, there's more (do you hear the pounding on my head yet?)...At this communal meal, everyone is as pleasant and welcoming as can be and they tell me I must talk to Barbara, who knows everything about Ste Gen's historic district. So, I wander around to find Barbara. Also a lovely lady. A woman joined our conversation, asking where I was from. "Kentucky," I said. Barbara asks, "Are you an artist?" "Yes, why?" I've heard all about you; you had lunch with my good friend Lulu a few weeks ago!"

Let's go back to that first checklist: 1. Community (Arts...check; church...check...small town...double check!) 

I know, this is long, but I'm on a roll. Sooo...wait, there's just a little more...When I returned home, I cranked up the computer and turned on Pandora. The first song I heard was by a group, Son Volt (never heard of them before I started this quest), singing a song titled "Tear Stained Eye" - here are some of the lyrics:

We'll hit the road, never looking behind
Can you deny, there's nothing greater
Nothing more than the traveling hands of time?
Sainte Genevieve can hold back the water
But saints don't bother with a tear stained eye

Cross my heart, it's true. Spooky and blessed at the same time, right?

“Coincidences” like these are why I know that if you open yourself up to the improbable, and listen to that "still, small voice" or, in my case, the bullhorn blaring in my ear, the answers do come. You just have to listen and believe what you think you hear. 

Okay, that's my story. I hope there weren't so many typos that this rambling story didn't make sense. It's the story of my little miracle. Since I've moved, every day holds another and when I go to bed at night all I can think is, Thank You.

And, oh yeah, thank you for these pictures because they're just so darn funny!

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Good Elf is Hard to Find or What I Did This Morning

Things I Have Done Today
aka the "To-Done List"
1.     Made coffee for the first time in my new house; drank and added a 200-calorie    donut.  Yum.
2.     Watched a new, dark green, waste receptacle delivered
3.     Rolled receptacle to rear of house, put it next to bright blue receptacle.
4.     Called Republic Services for a how-come-why re: 2 (above)
5.     While listening to the Republic phone rep researching the surprising addition of a second trash bin, I attempted to open my email.  I have been experiencing a connectivity problem that seems to be with my router.  The Elf Geek Squad did not fix the problem last night, so I re-diagnose the problem and begin to reboot modem and router.
6.     Rolled my bright blue receptacle to curb.  No answer available for 4 (above), so I was allowed to choose which to return.  I kept the green in deference to my neighbors as it is camouflaged in the dark green back yard.  The blue? Not so much.
7.     During the last (very noisy) rolling, I decided to start this list so, at the end of the day, I’ll know how another day slipped through my fingers.
8.     Plugged modem in.  Waited for all the lights to start. I will now plug router in.
9.     Hung a few things on my peg board.
10.  Found laundry essentials brought from KY that I have not been able to locate. Needing to do laundry, I replaced the essentials last night.  Say it together, “Of course you did!”
11.  Dealt with email. Was sidetracked by email from the Met, watched their video, downloaded an app about altering photographs. HEY! It’s my job; I’m a visual artist!
12.  Spent 5 minutes with the app, which is cool and free.  It’s called “Faking It” and I recommend it for fascinating reading (after you take the quiz which, of course, is the hook), it’s the other photos and the how and why they were retouched is the most interesting part.  I had to stop myself of I would have read about each of them and frittered away more of the day.
13.  Opened snail mail.  YIKES!!!!! There is a letter from my insurance agent the Travelers has inspected (I haven’t seen any inspectors) my house and re-appraised the replacement value from $233,000 to $403,000, which will be an annual increase of about $700.  Let me say this again, YIKES!!!!! I called the  agency and reminded them that I paid $75,000 for  the house and it is not logical for my insurance premium to be higher than my  mortgage.  My representative was out, but she had already questioned the inspection.  I spoke with the head dudette and she agrees that $403,000 is too high.  She will request a copy of the inspection and get back to me.  I may canvass the neighborhood for comps. Someone must have told Travelers' that my house now looks like this:
I give!  It’s 10:00 am and I’m worn out from keeping this log.  Can we just concede that I am busy but not doing what I had intended to do.  This is why I am not unpacked. Phew! I’m glad I can show this to all the guys that have been working on the house and rolling their eyes every darn day at the unpacked boxes.  Oh! Here comes the FedEx man with another box!  Woo-diddly-hoo.  I’m back.  I asked if FedEx had gotten the Amazon contract and Mr FedEx said they had.  I am glad I solved that mystery.  Now, on to the mysterious MIA geek elves…AHA! Another mystery solved!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

In the words of Robert Hunter,

Sometimes the lights all shining on me,
Other times I can barely see
Lately it occurs to me
What a long strange trip it's been

Marketing Your City/Company/Organization

Because of my recent experiences researching many locations, at this point I’m going to make a few suggestions for this kind of marketing in general.  Tailor the information AND its presentation to your audience.  In the case of artists and engineers, if anything has a date on it, keep the date current.  A letter dated 2008 will be noticed, and you will be judged for “uncraftsman-like” behavior.  Also, if you are promoting opportunities, don’t include a brochure touting an annual event that is not current.  It makes one wonder.  One more thing: answer the questions you are asked.  If you do not understand the question, ask for clarification.  If asked the same question again, assume you did not answer sufficiently the first time, do not sigh and repeat the original answer.  Yes, this happened to me, several times.  As you can imagine, it is very frustrating to need information and not be able to get it.  Here’s an over-simplified example:

          A: Why is the sky blue?
          B: We often have rainbows here.
          A: Cool; why is the sky blue?
          B: Not that it rains here that much.

So, the arts group is not the best (YMMV), but the town and its residents are pretty darn cool.   Oil City lost most of its major industry in a very short time, so there are lots of buildings and houses available.  I started thinking that I might buy a storefront and make an apartment to go with it.  To cut to the chase, I put in an offer on a two-storey brick house that had been zoned commercial/residential.  It had a fantastic florida-type room facing the street and a huge adjacent dining area that could be combined as a studio/gallery/store.  The house needed a little work, but the asking price was $59,000.  I ended up withdrawing my offer for various reasons; it didn’t meet all of my listed needs.
Serendipity Raises its Hand
I drove to Oil City; it was about 6 hours, so it seemed reasonable.  The last town you pass through before Oil City is Franklin.  OMG! It is one of the cutest towns you have ever seen.  It is a little like the Truman Show town, but not creepy at all. 
The first person I planned to meet there was with the Chamber of Commerce.  As I walked up the steps to her office, she was escorting a visitor out.  I was introduced to the visitor who just happened to be the realtor, Dawn Beith-Caiarelli, I had an appointment with later in the day.  Dawn was a veritable fountain of information; she had grown up in Franklin and moved away to recently return, so she saw both sides of the town and, as almost everyone I met, was a grand supporter of Franklin.  BIG rivalry between Oil City and Franklin.  Huge.  We toured the town and a few houses I was interested in and she walked be a few blocks to City Hall to meet the one-woman force of nature that is Ronnie Beith.  Did I mention that Franklin is known as “a small town with great festivals?”
From what I understand, that is a result of the efforts of Ronnie and her late husband and their support of the arts.  Everyone I spoke with in the county (yes, even in Oil City) asked me if I’d met Ronnie Beith yet.  So, back to my check list; community? Check!
AND, the Episcopal churches in both cities have Tiffany windows.
Next, I research a few other places, just in case I might have missed something…


Friday, October 5, 2012

"Before Pictures"

Several folks have asked, so, if you'd like to see my new home before I started making it really "mine" here is a link:
The previous owner also owned a  bookstore; you'll understand why I tell you this when you see the photos.  He's now off to sail the world with his dog, Sophie. 
Everyone has a dream; what's yours?

Proverbs 24:27 Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house.

The Great Search

(Continued from my July 1 post)…As I made my many notes and lists, I narrowed and prioritized my list of “must-haves” so I could consistently judge the places I was taking a second look at.  Of course, everyone will have different criteria, but this ended up being mine:

1.    Community.  I want to live with others, not apart from.  You know what I mean; many places are gorgeous and fun with lots of things to do, but you would always be a visitor.  You might be a resident, but, without a lot of really hard work you would never be an “us” you would always be a “them.”  Every community has neighborhoods.  The neighborhoods I looked for were not geographic, but social: arts, town, and church.
2. Affordable housing.

3.    Artistic opportunity and acceptance.

4.    Within 2 hours of an ocean.

5.    Close to a major airport. 

You know how, when faced with a stack of resumes, your first pass is eliminating those that don’t meet your criteria?  I did it with locations, based on #2, affordable housing.  The list was based on artistic opportunity, so housing would cut the widest swath through the list, and boy, did it!  Truthfully, I did not expect “affordable” to be as affordable as it actually was.


I was browsing on Trulia when I input Oil City, PA.  Oil City has a well-publicized artists’ relocation program.  The program’s description includes low-interest loans and notes that there are many available inexpensive homes that need a little TLC.  This is an understatement; livable, sizable houses are available for less than $50,000.  Really!  If you move up to $75,000, you get more livability and less to do.  What’s the catch?  Bathrooms.  For this price you generally get one.  On the other hand, for this price, you can add a second.  More money, more house of course.

So, it was time for my first field trip.  I made contact with the artists’ relocation program and in a few days I got a package in the mail.  Stay tuned for the next installment and make sure you have your permission slip signed....


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Psalm 84:3, The swallow has found herself a nest

 Here I sit, in my new home, fascinated by the play of
colors I chose and architectural elements that are some
of the bones of the house.   It is unfortunate that in this view
I also see the fewest unpacked boxes.  I feel guilty that I have not
kept everyone informed, but I have realized that I have apparently
reached an age after which only one major thing can be done
at a time.  For instance, I can write or I can unpack.
For two days I have forced myself to unpack, not so you'd
 know it. I have a soon-to-be-glorious two-room studio:
I do have an excuse for the mess; the movers dropped my inexpensive
particle board cabinet that held all of my folded fabric.  BOOM.
No more cabinet (and no insurance because it had not reached
the truck).  The most challenging part of this episode is,
how do I arrange it all so that it works even better than before?
I really am just touching base with all of you.  I still intend to share most
of the adventure, but for now I must go to the kitchen and rearrange
stuff so the plasterers can finish.  The wall color is actually in the plaster,
and it is lovely.  Wow, I just looked at the second studio picture; it
looks like one of those find-the-urn or where's-waldo puzzles.