Thursday, January 23, 2014

Moving Update

Since we last visited, things have picked up. Sort of....

1) The moving cubes were delivered on Monday. They were loaded Monday night. 

2) Both cats tried to run away. They've done SO well at transitioning to being indoor kitties, but I think the movers scared them. They both returned quickly, though. 

3) The cubes left yesterday. 

4) We found out for sure (we kind of expected this) that we can't move in until after than we thought and we had to reschedule our flight. Now we're trying to coordinate the delivery of our stuff, and Ikea delivery (which includes our beds) and the cats' departure and arrival. 

I'll post again (hopefully soon!) with more updates. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Kingdom of Love Waiting to Be Reclaimed: Thoughts on The Last Phase of the Search

Over the past year we've done a lot of thinking and talking about where we'd like to end up in the city. You can read more about it here, if you're interested:

The Search (for our new home) Begins- This is where we first started discussing neighborhoods. It's funny to look back at our initial options.
The Search (for our new home) Continues- We got ready for our big trip in August.
The Search (for our new home) Narrows (Part 1)- I sort of went over priorities as far as what we were looking for on the trip.
The Search (for our new home) Narrows (Part 2)- I recapped and ranked each neighborhood we visited on the trip. It helped me process things a lot to do this way- listing the pros and cons and rating them accordingly.

And now here we are! I really meant to write more of my thoughts as we went along, but I just haven't gotten to it. Peyton left on New Year's Eve and I've been solo parenting two kids who've been sick for about half of that time. I also wanted to go ahead and do some "year's end" type posts I like to do on my regular blog.

But, a lot has happened in the last couple of weeks. It all seems like a blur and yet it feels like time is moving in slow motion.

We knew going in we were trying for Clinton Hill or Fort Greene. We also knew we'd extend our search to Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Park Slope, and Prospect Heights if that became necessary.

Right after Peyton got there, we found a listing for an apartment and Peyton said "I think that could be our home". It was in Clinton Hill, but near a border area so it was less expensive, but still safe enough we felt like. And it had a YARD. It was more like a concrete slab, but a patio. I was so impressed and loved it. Well, we found out real fast that it was too good to be true.
447 Classon Avenue

Apparently, one thing some brokers do is list things that aren't even really on the market and when you inquire about them they push you toward other similar (or not really similar) properties they are listing. Also, some brokers just have too many listings to manage and aren't able to keep up with them all so they stay on a site for a while after they've been rented. I was sad we weren't getting it, but I knew we were just starting.

Initially, we looked at a few other things and nothing seemed to really fit our needs at all except the co-op in Clinton Hill. I wasn't at all ready to say no to it, but I felt a pull that it wasn't yet time. There are TONS of benefits to it (an elevator, doorman, courtyard, possibly the chance to know our neighbors better than in a brownstone, the community feel, the SPACE AND STORAGE). At the same time, in my opinion, it's an eyesore. If I was going to be living in Brooklyn I really wanted the brownstone-stoop-tree lined block experience.

Then we found this in Prospect Heights and this in Clinton Hill and went back and forth debating the pros and cons of each (proximity to parks/amazing library/laundry place vs. living in a neighborhood we loved). We debated it a bit that night and Peyton messaged brokers about seeing them in the morning. I secretly prayed one would fall through. They both did and I was really disappointed again. I figured surely one would work.

We searched and found a few more things, kept the co-op on the table (we had, at that point, payed the fifty dollar application fee and our broker had taken down the listing, so we knew we weren't going to lose it), and missed another listing I was really interested in. After that, we decided to broaden our search a bit. We still had one potential apartment in Fort Greene and we found one in Carroll Gardens and one in Park Slope we thought might work.

We decided that Carroll Gardens was too expensive for what it was. It was spacious, but the area wasn't as aesthetically pleasing as some and I felt like if we were going to go that route, we might as well stay with the co-op. We loved the one in Park Slope, but all along we felt like the neighborhood wasn't the best fit (it's just not as diverse as Clinton Hill/Fort Greene) and additionally the space was a good bit smaller than what we were looking for and not well laid out.

So that left us with the one on Adelphi Street in Fort Greene. Again, I wasn't sold because the block wasn't as pretty as some others, but I felt like it was a strong possibility. Peyton visited and measured the spaces and it looked good.

The next morning I found a beautiful apartment on a gorgeous block in Boerum Hill that was listed for a hundred dollars more than the top of our price range. I had Peyton contact the guy and was so excited because it was close to SO many things (a nice park within three blocks, a library that was a five minute walk and a public pool that was ten; a short bus trip to Brooklyn Tabernacle and a fifteen to twenty minute stroll to the Fort Greene farmer's market on Saturdays). It seemed IDEAL. Not to mention it had in-unit washer and dryer. The guy called Peyton and told him it was actually two hundred dollars more than what it was listed for. Three hundred bucks a month over the top of our range- not doable. I cried that time. Peyton found a (very!) similar one and inquired about it and it turned out to be another one that had "just rented that morning, but let me show you some options in Carroll Gardens and Park Slope" (aka a fraud). I got upset again.

That morning, Peyton revisited Adelphi Street in Fort Greene and was shown a property on Downing Street in Clinton Hill. We knew from the listings both were good options and we decided we'd either settle with one or go with the co-op. Peyton seemed to like the Fort Greene one more because there was a park across the street and it was a more comfortable environment (while Downing isn't unsafe at all, you do see homeless people frequently as well as unsavory characters and there's more trash around). However, we agreed Downing was prettier from a housing/architectural standpoint. When he visited Downing, he also realized that the storage/space was much better and it had an in-unit washer and dryer, something I had become so undone about that morning (and something I had really not thought was even on the table for almost all of this process). It was higher than what we had decided we'd pay AND someone else was looking at the apartment AT THE SAME EXACT TIME and saying she wanted it. Whoa. The broker took Peyton aside, though, and told him that he had priority because she was showing it to him first. They contacted the landlord and settled on a price we were comfortable with and it seemed all that was left was formalities. We thought we were home.

Y'all know how this story ends. The next day the broker told Peyton they wouldn't rent to us because we had children and I was blown away by it and truthfully, really hurt. Annie asked me what happened (I had told her I thought we had found THE apartment and showed her a picture) and I told her that it just wasn't going to work out for our family. I'd never tell her the reason, but I just felt sick at my stomach thinking that someone would turn us away because of her and her brother. Even though the laws are the same, it's obviously very, VERY different from being discriminated against in other ways, but it was the first time I was never allowed to do something because of the size of our family.

We obviously ended up talking ourselves into the co-op. Actually, I was really undecided and sort of wanted to keep looking. Peyton was set on the co-op and while he really, really wanted a brownstone, he's just more practical and had rationalized it more. Honestly, when it comes down to the wire, he ends up making decisions a lot of the time. Mostly because he's just more opinionated than me (never thought I'd marry someone like that!). Anyway, this was something I wanted to stand my ground on, but I also just wanted to let someone else make the final call. I was texting Ashley and Carrie about it and I told them that I didn't want to automatically let Peyton decide like I usually do and sweet Carrie (who knew how stressed I was) told me "I think when you're so stressed you want to jump out of your skin, that's a great time to defer to your husband".

She put a winky face next to the sentence, but I honestly think the Lord used her to speak to me in that situation. I had been holding in the tears (after hours of crying that morning) and I just burst into sobs. I knew it was going to be okay to go ahead. Ashley said something similar and it was if my friends were giving me permission to let this go. It seemed like so many people were pushing for the other and saying we could make it work and I know they were ALL doing it out of love for me and because they knew how important it was for me, but in the end I think I needed someone other than Peyton to tell me that it was okay to "give in" and go with the co-op.

I still cried a few more times and the weekend was stressful because for a bit we got worried we had somehow lost it, too. But overall, I have such a good feeling about it at this point.

Obviously, I have done exactly none of the leg work, which ironically occurred during the great "polar vortex" of 2014. But I will say that this process has been exhausting. Being away from Peyton hasn't been easy, but the solo parenting has, most days, been easier than I anticipated. I credit it all to God's grace and to the kids somehow sliding into this really neat stage where they entertain themselves and each other well and play almost like peers. But the actual process of house hunting has been brutal and I never really expected it to be such. Probably because I didn't realize how much I cared.

At one point during the process, Peyton made me aware that CBS was going to stream Bruce Springsteen's new album that was yet to be released as part of a promotion for The Good Wife, which would contain three songs from the album. We listened to it together, twelve hundred miles between us, and had such an enjoyable time discussing it. These lyrics to my absolute favorite track seemed so fitting. Even though it's a love song, it seemed right for the moment.

Well I woke last night to the heavy clicking and clack
And a scarecrow on fire along the railroad tracks
There were empty cities and burning plains
I am the hunter of invisible game
Sadly, that brownstone was the invisible game that I'm now convinced was completely elusive. In all of Clinton Hill and really all the areas we were comfortable with, I don't think it really existed. Maybe after months we could have found it, but it wasn't there when we needed it. And the truth is, I need my family together more than I need any kind of beautiful home.

Strength is vanity and time is illusion
I feel you breathing, the rest is confusion
Your skin touches mine, what else to explain
I am the hunter of invisible game
I've only cried a few times exclusively because I missed Peyton. But when I read these lyrics, I did. Your skin touches mine, what else to explain? That is why I love Bruce Springsteen. His music makes me fall in love all over again and his poetry is just so intimate without being disturbingly erotic.

Now pray for yourself and that you may not fall
When the hour of deliverance comes on us all
When our hope and faith and courage and trust
Can rise or vanish like dust into dust
Now there's a kingdom of love waiting to be reclaimed
I am the hunter of invisible game
Maybe the most poignant of all. I've said over and over that Peyton and I are in the best place we've seen yet in our marriage. And I just said that our children are in the best place they've been in their relationship with each other, which is quite the statement because they've long been incredibly devoted siblings to one other. But....I wake up every morning, literally every morning, since we decided on the co-op, and have this HUGE excitement about this adventure wash over me. 

 I know there will be days where it is so, so terribly hard. And that's okay. I'm ready for them. I ate frozen mozzarella sticks by myself for dinner last night and they were so incredibly delicious. I thought about the year I nursed Graves despite his dairy intolerance (it was truly of the hardest things I've ever done). And I looked 2014 and a city of eight million people twelve hundred miles away in the face and I told it "you ain't got nothing on this girl". It was a stupidly powerful moment.

But, I know one thing I want from this is that I want to experience it in a way that is hard for me, in my natural abilities. I could go up there and let Peyton have his dream, but do it kicking and screaming and that would be worthless. I want to let this year be a fresh start with some things. I want to be purposeful and intentional, but less uptight. I read through some of Peyton's letters to me from when we were dating (after a teary Invisible Game listening session) and I thought about what a FUN girl I was then. In some ways, anxiety had a hold on me in a way that it doesn't now, but in other ways I was just much more carefree. I want to be her again...

“ . . some moment happens in your life that you say yes right up to the roots of your hair, that makes it worth having been born just to have happen. laughing with somebody till the tears run down your cheeks. waking up to the first snow. being in bed with somebody you love... whether you thank god for such a moment or thank your lucky stars, it is a moment that is trying to open up your whole life. If you turn your back on such a moment and hurry along to business as usual, it may lose you the ball game. if you throw your arms around such a moment and hug it like crazy, it may save your soul.” 
― Frederick Buechner

Now there's a kingdom of love waiting to be reclaimed!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Letting Plan B Settle with Me

Yesterday's post? 

Originally looked like this: in I had it uploaded and typed out and was just waiting for the confirmation from Peyton to post it. 

Is it the prettiest brownstone in Brooklyn? No. But it's the one I thought was going to be our and it felt like, for so many reasons, a perfect fit for our family. 

I'm going to blog about the whole process, but this was the hardest part. We thought we had it. We had negotiated down to a price we were comfortable with, had the cats okay'ed, and were first in line for it. It felt done and I saw it being our home. 

We found out the next day that because we have children we weren't going to get it. Peyton sent a polite email to the landlord reminding him that the same law that protects black people and Jewish people was also created to protect our children. Even though ethically he didn't think what they did was wrong. You know, being a Libertarian and all. But we knew we had lost it. 

I was so deeply disappointed. Honestly, it's been a long time since I've been so devastated and there have really only been a handful of times that I have. Even when I didn't get things I wanted- a part in a play or a spot on the cheerleading squad or whatever, I don't know that it stung this much. I know I've felt this way before when I was younger when I had relationships with boys go sour. The last time I felt something like this was I was pregnant with Graves and we thought, very briefly, we were going to lose him. 

Obviously, that was a good bit worse of a feeling and I feel stupid as shit even making the comparison, but it really hurt so badly. I was so, so disheartened. 

I think some of it was that living in a brownstone had become a big part of my New York dream and sort of a part of what I saw as my future "New York identity". I think, as I sought to find ways to claim this dream for myself, living in a brownstone  living on a "sunny, tree lined block" as all the listings say became a big part of that. I told only Peyton and my closest friends this at the time, but part of me also thinks I got a little too caught up in the perception of things and in other people's opinions. 

I wanted a cute place for people to come visit. I wanted to put pictures of the kids on a stoop on Facebook every other day. I wanted to live in the place my dad raved about when he saw the pictures. I agreed with everyone who swooned over the stoops on Instagram, even though it was completely illogical for our family in so many ways. 

Ultimately, we gave it our best. We basically tried every listing for a brownstone in Clinton Hill/Fort Greene and even allowed ourselves to expand our search outside of the neighborhoods we've loved and been devoted to since August. And we were met with resistance at every turn. 

I took about half a day to sort of mourn the loss of a dream and come to terms with it and I think I'm at a good place now. I know there will be days where I gaze at those brownstones and wish we could have that experience. But, there's so much to be thankful for. 

First of all, I thought of something the other day. ANN PEYTON wasn't our plan A, but she was His. That sweet, precious little girl who saw me in tears and kept saying things like "We can wait for it, you don't have to cry, Momma" and then a few minutes later, "I really think we can find a pretty apartment". What beauty was birthed out of something that seemed to not fit our needs and desires at that point. And what a small thing this is compared to her precious life. 

Secondly, as I said, the co-op is so very advantageous from a practical standpoint. It has elevators (as opposed to the two story walk ups we were seriously considering and the FIVE story walk up we entertained the possibility of momentarily). It's gated and has security guards and honestly, because of that I feel like is probably the safest place in Clinton Hill (which is not at all a "scary" area, but some parts I'd say are "edgy"). It's also...GATED, which is a huge benefit with a very active toddler. I won't be walking out my front door and being right on the street. My mom pointed out that maybe the Lord placed us here for Graves's protection. Additionally, we don't have the concern of trying to deal with space heater type things and the burns that could potentially happen. We have more space than we imagines and a really ideal storage situation. Also, LAUNDRY IN THE BUILDING. Hallelujah! Lastly, we don't have a grumpy landlord who dislikes kids. That's probably the most important thing to me. While I wanted to fight for that apartment we lost, I know ultimately I'd really HATE living in a place where people don't value children and families. I'd honestly be heartbroken to give my money to such a person. The co-op actually has CONCRETE walls and the other night I just really had to tell the Lord thank you for putting us there when the kids were still awake at one in the morning and were still pretty damn loud. I thought to myself maybe those brownstone jerks were right. They'd probably be better off renting to some drunk, fratty millenials than our preschool set. It may seem trivial, but I'm glad that in a time of HUGE transition and upheaval for my children, their volume level and subsequently their activity and excitement level won't be something I'm constantly asking them to change. 

Thirdly, it's truly ironic we ended up in the co-op because back in August, we stumbled up on a block party that was actually put on entirely by the co-op for its residents. I think it's one of the first things that had us so enamored with the neighborhood and to this day; I think it was formative in our decision to live there. Sort of a full circle thing really.

Which brings me to my final consolation. I'm so thankful we found a place we could even afford in Clinton Hill. It's a pretty hip area and fast becoming out of our price range entirely. I think for a moment I lost sight of the fact that we weren't guaranteed any housing option in the eclectic neighborhood we so loved. And honestly, I became entitled and lost sight of how fortunate we are to even be living in this city, let alone our number one choice of desired neighborhood. It's all sort of humbling from that perspective.

And more than that, I get to have the experience of a lifetime with three of the most amazing people in the world. If it were four walls and a roof in Brooklyn and nothing else, I'd have much to be thankful for. 

"In the days of despair you can grow hard
Till you close your mind and empty your heart
If you find yourself staring into the abyss
Hold tight to your loved ones and remember this
This shield will protect your sacred heart
The sword will defend from what comes in the dark
Should you grow weary on the battled field
Well do not despair, our love is real"
["This is Your Sword", a new Bruce favorite]

The Search (for our new home) Has Come to an End...

....and our big adventure is about to start.