So. 2019 really sucked, didn’t it? If you were one of the fortunate few to breeze through 2019 with a minimum of fuss, I tip my toque to you. Please teach me your wisdom, adorable Baby Yoda!
Because seemingly everyone I know had a 2019 fraught, if not with outright peril, then with unhappiness, and endless little obstacles to that elusive happiness – present company very much included. Small things that, much like the snow that is currently sifting down outside, repeatedly coalesced into a giant ball of grief that threatened to roll me up and sweep me straight on off the mountain of life. Wow, did I ever struggle this year.
To get into a forensic analysis of the bad would take all day, so I won’t. I find dwelling excessively on the past to be counterproductive, and besides, it’s New Year’s Day, and I’ve got crap to do! But I also always attempt to learn from my stupid mistakes, and it’s safe to say there really wasn’t an area of our lives this year that wasn’t touched by stupidity.
Our cat, Weegie, died at the end of 2018. Hating ourselves for what we could not control, we carried our overwhelming heartbreak into 2019 and beyond. We missed – MISS – that cat terribly.
Toward the end of the winter we hired a contractor to carry out what we knew were going to be disruptive renovations to our two-bedroom, one-bathroom condo apartment. The work was supposed to take two weeks. Instead it took two-plus months, a ludicrously stressful time during which we essentially camped in our apartment. There was no flooring, no kitchen and no bathroom. Also occasionally no hope. I’ve no idea how we struggled through that ordeal.
In the spring we experienced some professional hardships, which, in addition to the kick to the ol’ self esteem, seriously impacted our finances. We cancelled a planned trip to Disney World, slashed our family operating budget, and cut way back on anything not deemed a necessity. We went nowhere, bought nothing, did nothing.
Then in the early fall, just as we were beginning to get back on our feet, issues that had been percolating at the condo – board mismanagement, doubled condo fees, ongoing, make-work construction projects, disgusting neighbours banging in the women’s change room sauna – came to a head when our pleasantly odd (but quiet) across-the-hall neighbour moved out and a couple with a very young child moved in. And they were NOT quiet. Not ever.
Before we embarked on the renovations, Mr. Finger Candy and I discussed our hopes for what would come after. Specifically, we were hoping that we’d start to feel a little more positively about our apartment, and once again regard it as a home instead of, as I wrote in a letter to our property management firm, a place we were merely trying to survive.
Spoiler alert! Our hopes did not come to pass. The situation at the condo was suddenly unbearable, and when the board began executing some wildly unpopular bylaws over the rights and democratic objections of the owners, it could not be more clear that it was time to move on.
That weekend I attended my first series of open houses with my mom. That was a sobering look at the sorry state of Ottawa’s current real estate market, a wildly overpriced free-for-all of (mostly) junky mid-century bungalows in need of an electrician, a plumber, and maybe even an exorcist.
But it was during one of those open houses that I actually met the woman who would go on, just a week later, to become our agent. She listed our condo on October 31st – yup, Halloween, and our wedding anniversary – for what I thought was perhaps a smidge too high. I was cautiously optimistic that we’d get such an amount, but also girding myself for weeks, if not a month, of active showings and other acts of real estate unpleasantness.
Turns out I needn’t have worried. We had a request for a showing about four hours after the listing went live. The following morning the showing took place, and about three hours after that we received an offer for our asking price, which we accepted, the end. And that’s how our condo sold in under 24 hours! That one still boggles.
Then came the hard part, the packing up of nearly 15 years of life, and then, of course, deciding where to move it all to. Oh yeah, and we also had a deadline, the buyer’s possession date of December 2nd, so no pressure there!
After attending quite a few showings, we were growing a bit dispirited. There seemed to be only 12 houses for sale in our price range and desired neighbourhoods, and all of them needed major work and/or a spiritual cleansing. Especially the one with the power lines draped over the pool.
Then this house came up for sale. It was cute, had a fantastic updated kitchen with a cozy adjacent family room, tons of built-in storage, a private backyard, four bedrooms, a finished basement, and just that vibe about it that we had found home. It was also in a great neighbourhood close to tons of amenities, and a quick drive to Mr. Finger Candy’s office.
So of course we ignored it and went back to looking at the same 12 junky bungalows and splits we had been looking at before. That’s S-M-R-T Smart right there, kids!
You’ll be glad to know that we came to our senses some days later upon realizing that the cute house with the great kitchen in the good neighbourhood that was close to Mr. Finger Candy’s job was precisely the house that we wanted, and needed. We had just come through a year of unending hell, on the condo front and in just about all other respects as well, and we deserved to reclaim our happiness in a place that we could call home. Now we just needed to win the damn bid!
Following a flurry of what felt like very high stakes real estatery (our agent, a truly lovely, British accent’d beast, had an actual strategy in place for presenting our offer, which was one of 13!) the homeowners accepted our offer! We were now the owners of the home! It was thrilling and wonderful and oh holy crap, that’s a really big house. The enormity of it all was, well, enormous.
The end of November and pretty well the entirety of December were a non-stop goat rodeo of meetings with lawyers, agents, movers and anyone else who could assist in transplanting us from one place to another. And packing. So. Much. Packing. It all would have been MUCH easier had we been able to book an elevator at the condo for our actual move-out date, as opposed to three days earlier, necessitating a complicated and expensive double-move that had us shuffling all of our possessions into my parents’ garage for a week, but when was anything at the condo ever easy? It’s precisely why we moved. I almost would have been disappointed had the condo not fucked us over, just one last time. 🙂
The week we spent in limbo at my parents’ house – Mr. Finger Candy called it the beginning of our “urban nomadic lifestyle” – was rather fun, though. Camped out on our mattress on my parents’ livingroom floor, it gave us a lot of weird, but welcome, family time. We helped my parents put up their Charlie Brown Christmas tree, we watched a lot of episodes of Austin City Limits with my dad and Hallmark Christmas specials with both, and we helped them cut the ribbon on their new lighted Christmas village featuring the Griswold family homestead and Cousin Eddie’s RV. Like their daughter, my parents clearly have non-traditional taste in holiday decorations.
We took possession of our new home December 4th and immediately set about to tending to the priorities – white Christmas tree, and a bit of exterior holiday illumination, front and back.
To say we’re pleased with our new home would be a wild understatement. We are positively delighted with the place, and it took next to no time for it to feel like ours. Behold the cozy and comforting power of holiday decorations!
Most importantly, though, moving here had what I was hoping would be the desired effect – a reset on our lives, and a reset on a truly terrible year. We’re different people today than we were even a month ago – better people, people of action, even – and I credit the awesome – and kind of awesomely fun – responsibility of homeownership for that. For pity’s sake, Mr. Finger Candy’s already turned into one of those freaks about his snowy driveway, I’m swapping cookies with the neighbours and we’re both buying so many peanuts for the backyard squirrels, they’re all going to keel over from excessive oil intake. We sort our garbage. We do our laundry during non-peak hours. We shovel the driveway after the plow comes by! Well, I don’t shovel the driveway – that’s my husband’s weird new quirk. 😉
Heading into the new year, I feel so very fortunate to be here, in this beautiful home at this time. A wise friend commented some months back that perhaps this whole move situation would jump start my new destiny, and she was right. To drag ourselves out of our mutually reinforced funks and confront who we really wanted to be, instead of who we were just pretending to be, we needed to take the leap out of our comfort zones, while simultaneously finding a comforting home base to call our own. Tall order, but I think we’ve managed pretty well.
To 2020. May we all continue to chase, and capture, that elusive mistress Happiness. We deserve it.