On the Yellow Brick Road

Week 44 Back in Minnesota

We are all together for a long weekend

Trudy, Benjamin, Catalina and myself are all together in a hotel in St. Paul MN this weekend.  They came up to pick a place to live, sign the lease, and get the kids registered for school. They came by the office on Friday at lunch so we could go out with my co-workers and friends to the Rack Shack for BBQ.  Benjamin and Catalina made a good impression on the people who meet them. 

Trudy, Benjamin and Catalina spent the day looking at the four places I had scouted out as places to live.  They liked the two houses better than the apartments which wasn't a surprise to me.  In the end we decided on a house in the Highland Park area.  We are only about two miles away from Highland High School which is where Benjamin and Catalina will go to school.

Topeka house front

Well since we lowered the price to the point where we are now underwater we are getting showings.  No one has left any feedback from the showings so we have no idea what any of the people who have come to see the house think.  They probably are waiting for us to lower the price even more.  We have also lowered the price for renting the house as well.  We haven't had any renters show up yet.  Hopefully something happens with the house because we are not going to be able to make house payments and rent at the same time for very long before we have just walk away from the house.

My own mental state

I have found myself very anxious about the future and what is going to happen with the house.  I am also anxious about all of us living together again.  Fortunately I am now very aware of these feelings are where they are coming from so it makes it possible to deal with them. 

Week 43 Back in Minnesota

Selling/Renting the House in Topeka

Well the price on the house was dropped more than three weeks ago and we have had exactly two showings.  The last showing the feedback that came back was that the kitchen was too small for price we were asking.  Fortunately the agent who showed the house happens to the be the top seller in the agency our agent works at.  So we got some more feedback from that agent.  The bottom line is we have to drop the price and push ourselves 'underwater' to sell the house.  Trudy just wants out of Topeka and the house.  Personally I hope we get a renter, so we have a chance at salvaging something out of this mess.  On the renting front we didn't have any nibbles at the price the house was set at so they lowered the rent down $100.  Hopefully that brings in some people to look at the house. 

Places to live in the Twin Cities

I have found two apartments that we can live in without to much trouble.  Both of them are inside the high school attendance area that we want the children to attend.  That is very good because it means they will get to know kids in the neighborhood and be able to make friends within the neighborhood they will be going to school with.  I have one house to look at as well.  House vs. apartments both have their pros and cons.  In the end I am leaving it up to Trudy, Benjamin and Catalina to decide what they want to do.  I will lay out my pros and cons for living in a house vs. apartment and the locations.

Having said all that I don't see how we can carry making a house payment and rent at the same time.  Trudy thinks she is going to be able to put together something that is within her professional circle, not necessarily a full time pastoral position, but a set of part time jobs that uses many of her professional skills.  I hope so because without that we are going to be in deep trouble very quickly.

Good news

Trudy, Benjamin and Catalina are coming to the Twin Cities next week.  They are coming to pick a place to live, for us to spend some time as a family, and for Benjamin and Catalina to be registered for school.  Trudy might go and do some professional contacts while she is in town as well.  I am looking forward to being with them.

My mental state

I should mention the negative side first.  I am very angry at myself for making so many bad decisions about Topeka.  Those decisions include thinking that I was doing the right thing because it was a "God thing" to do.  The decision not to speak up to Trudy when I knew that Topeka was too small of a city for me to find real work in and if things dried up we would be stuck.  The decision to buy more house than we needed.

When I think about how people at Trudy's former church are 'moving on' and the synod is 'moving on' for very long a deep rage starts to well up in me.  There have been no real consequences for them. How dare they get to move on?  How dare they get to create so much damage in my life and get to move on when I have to suffer with the consequences and they have none.

I am also sad because of how much this sets me back financially.  This will have an impact on Benjamin and Catalina and their future.  We won't be able to help them with college like we might like too.  There just won't be the cash flow to do it.  And I am so frustrated because there is nothing I can do about any of this.  I am stuck.

On top of all of that I have been learning how to not use my past coping mechanisms.  Not having those coping mechanisms available to me (no matter how unhealthy they were) makes these situations harder because I am still learning new healthier coping mechanisms. 

As I write this I can feel the physical response to my anger and anxiety in my body.

In spite of all of those negative emotions and reactions the good side to all of this is that I am recognizing them for what they are.  I am coping with these feelings and reactions in new ways.  One of the ways is to name them and live with them instead of numbing them with some unhealthy coping mechanism.

For instance I went out last night to see my friend Moses Oakland play at a pub in White Bear Lake.  Listening to the blues helped me relax and took away my own blues.  I am about to head out and go to the my regular Saturday morning jam.  It is such a pleasure and ego boost to be able to play with out musicians.  I always come away feeling so much better after I have spent my Saturday morning there.

I will also be playing guitar at church on Sunday.  And the music is for "Fiesta Sunday" which reminds me of the music one of my uncles use to play in his Pentacostal Spanish speaking church.  I have to listen to the tape he gave today so I really get into the music before Sunday.

The big difference thought is going to individual and group therapy every week and learning about myself.  The fact of the matter is that I have been the walking wounded for a long time.  We are just now starting to clean out those wounds.  This is going to be a slow and sometimes very painful, messy and "smelly" (think infected) process.  But I can't live with the alternative.  I won't live with the alternative anymore.  I am starting to see changes in me.  I like those changes.  I want more of these changes.  They are good changes and I am going to get healthy.  Healthier than I have ever been.

Week 42 Back in Minnesota

Last week week was the first week in 41 weeks that I missed writing in this blog.  I have a great excuse for not writing, I was way to tired from having too much fun .  Last week I went to two blues shows, one on Thursday night and another on Friday night.  I also went to the Sat. jam.  By the time I was done with all three of those events I was dead for the rest of the weekend.  I guess I am getting close to 50 years old.  

Selling/Renting the House in Topeka

We did find out our house is rentable.  In fact we heard from at least two professionals that we should not have a problem renting it at the price the agent set it at.  It is just a matter of time.  There isn't a lot of 'rental inventory' for a house our size and price range.  People who need a house are size are executives usually from more expensive locations and will want to live in a good school district.  These are all good things for us.

We have only had one house showing since lowering the price.  Zillow hasn't caught up with the price change on their charts but the price has dropped another $6k.  Trudy is ready to drop it again because she just wants out of the house.  We are quickly approaching a point where we would have to pay money to get out of the house.  After this whole fiasco about moving to Topeka Kansas is done we won't be able to buy a house when we move to the Twin Cities.  Trudy and I came to that realization a few weeks ago.  It is a bitter pill to swallow.

Of course we did get caught up in the whirlwind of the housing downward spiral.  We also got caught in my bad decision on insisting on buying a house based on how much money we had from the sale of our previous house in Minnesota rather than the house we needed, another 1800 to 2000 sq. ft. house.  I haven't figured out why I broke my own rule about buying the house we did in Topeka yet.  It would be simple to say it was because I was being greedy or because of the prestige of having a big house.  But the more I learn about my own mental illness I am coming to learn that it could be for all kinds of other reasons.

Looking for a place to live in the Twin Cities

So I have started looking for places where we could live here in the Twin Cities.  Obviously we have to rent a place.  We are also concentrating on an area around the St. Paul Highland Park High School.  We think this is the best place for both Benjamin to finish out his high school experience and for Catalina to start her high school experience.  The general location is here (sorry I haven't set up embedded Google maps on my website yet).

We have some requirements that make finding a place difficult.  We definitely need three bedrooms and two bathrooms would be best.  Also the landlords have to be ok with two cats and a medium sized dog.  All of those requirements quickly eliminate a lot of rental property.  The first few places I found were not acceptable.  There were too small, had no A/C, or were just to dingy for our family to live in.  I did find two very nice apartments that would work out very well.  They are close to where I work and have some great advantages.  I also found a house that would work.  It plenty big enough.  There was extra storage space in the basement.  The landlord was ok with pets, with a big non-refundable deposit.  It had a couple of minor issues - one of which the landlord would resolve and the other one we could either live with or resolve ourselves.

So now it is just a matter of timing and whether or not the places are available when we need them.

Realities of new place to live in the Twin Cities

The fact of the matter is the house we had in Topeka Kansas is huge.  It is not quite a McMansion but it was more house than we needed (see my comments above).  We are going to be downsizing in house space and we are going to be renting for sometime to come.  Those are hard realities to live with.  I knew we would be downsizing in how much space we would have in a house because we were moving back to the Twin Cities and homes are more expensive.  Also we are moving into St. Paul which is more expensive per square foot that the suburbs.  I don't think I was prepared for how much we would be downsizing.  In the end we will have about 40% of the space in any new place we live in St. Paul.  That is alot smaller place to live than what we had before.

Also we will be renting.  I was not prepared to have to rent.  I was working off the assumption, until a month ago, that we could get enough out of our house for a down payment for a house here in the Twin Cities.  I will be honest the loss of being a homeowner is very hard blow to take.  If I dwell to much on that fact, I end up becoming very angry about our move to Topeka and wishing we had just stayed in the Twin Cities all those years ago.  But wishes are not reality and my anger will not change anything.  It will just consume me.  So I do my best to let it go and live with what is rather than what I wish it could be.

Next steps

Once we have something firm on the house, a renter or sale on the table, Trudy and kids will come up to the Twin Cities.  We will make a final decision on where to live, sign a lease, register the kids for school and plan on when I come back down to make the move.  Of course that also means making sure we have the help driving the trucks that we need as well. 

How I am doing with all this ambiguity

A year ago I would have been climbing the walls with all of the ambiguity that is going on right now.  The fact of the matter is I would have been trying to control the situation by trying to control the people around me.  I would have been constantly calling people and hassling them to get things done quicker.  I would have been trying to get up to date information all the time.  I would have been an emotional wreck.

Right now I am doing ok with the ambiguity.  I have no control over anything.  I have idea who, when, or what will be the fate for our house in Topeka.  It is frustrating and yet I can set it down most of the time.  I have no idea where we will be living when everyone will be living up here.  That is scary because I want us to have a nice place to live.  But until the first thing is resolved, we can't know what will be available and we won't be even able to know what to choose from.  I don't even know who will be able to help us with driving the trucks or if we have people to help us drive the trucks.  Will I have to make the trip twice and unload one truck load and then come back down with an empty truck to refill it again.  Who knows.

I am doing ok with my anxiety.  I am engaging in one bad behavior - I am eating too much.  But compared to my other unhealthy behaviors that one is minor.

I have found over the past few weeks the work I have been doing both in individual and group therapy is changing my thinking and behaving in small but critical ways.  I am actually catching myself before I start down the road to mania or depression.  I am able to change my thinking at key moments and refocus myself in healthier ways.  These are first steps towards getting healthy.  We are starting to deal with some of the old wounds and infections that have left me so hurt all these years.


I am ready for this year of being on my own to end.  I don't know what it will be like to live with Trudy, Benjamin and Catalina again.  Honestly.  I am guessing it will take a year to get use to it again.  It will take a year to develop new patterns of living together again.  I am sure I will have old stresses and fears to face plus new ones.  The difference now is that I am starting to really get healthy.

Week 40 Back in Minnesota (Not)

Well I am not in Minnesota this weekend, 4th of July weekend because I am in Topeka Kansas with Trudy, Benjamin and Catalina.  This is probably the last time I will be making a round trip back to Topeka Kansas.  We did not sell the house.  We have re-priced the house down (again).  You can see the change on Zillow soon.  Trudy and I both just want to see her career get restarted and that is not going to happen in Topeka.  We also want Benjamin and Catalina to be in their new school this year.  It would definitely be better for both of them to start out this year at a new school.

While talking to our real estate agent yesterday she told us that it is very likely that our home could be rented and at a profit.  She gave us the name of someone in town who manages rental properties for people who are just looking for investment properties or folks like us who have a home and need to rent it.  So we are looking into that option as well.  We hope to talk to him before I leave next week.

As for the actual move it looks like Trudy and the kids will come up the weekend of July 22nd to look for rentals or sign a lease based on my narrowing down options.  They will also get signed up in school and registered for classes.  If Trudy has time she will check in with the synod offices and let them know when she is available to start working with them in August.

Then I may just ride back down with them to Topeka to help start the packing and loading process.  Roger (my brother), Ramon (my brother in law) and Mark (a dear friend) have all said they may be able to help us with driving the trucks.  Yes I said trucks.  It is likely we will need two rental trucks plus the van to move our stuff.  That is after we 'get rid' of what we don't need.

As for my therapy that is going very well.  I have noticed that I am dealing with anxiety and stress better than I did before.  I don't bury it as often and I am learning to live with it in the moment.  I am sometimes very anxious and scared because I haven't prepared my 'defenses' against all possible outcomes but by living in the moment I have found that I am happier and calmer afterwards.  My therapist has said those are good signs.  I have a long long ways to go and the progress helps me keep at the journey.

Week 39 Back in Minnesota

If you have followed this blog at all you know that we are trying to sell our house in Topeka, Kansas so that Trudy, Benjamin and Catalina can move up here to Minnesota and we can all start our new life together.  Our Yellow Brick Road, not paved in gold, is leading us all to Minnesota. 

In trying to sell of our house we have been dealing with buyers who come across as brats, low ballers, the fact that 27% of sales in Topeka

We have come to realize we will not have enough money after we sell our house in Topeka to have enough money to buy another house in Minnesota.  To say that I was angry and frustrated about that fact would be an understatement.  From my point of view the worse financial decision I have ever been involved in was agreeing to move to Topeka Kansas.  I let my desire to support Trudy's career override my natural cynicism and pessimism about life and believe that the 'process' would work.  I was a fool.

The end result of that decision is that it set me back financially almost 20 years.  Does that mean everything about being in Topeka Kansas was bad?  No.  I wrote about that more than ten weeks ago.  It just means that from a financial point of view, the decision to move to Topeka Kansas start a chain of decisions and events which lead to our current situation.  I am not even including the current recession.  If we did not have to move right now we would be trying to sell our house in the middle of one of the worse house selling markets ever known.  Being in a place with so few opportunities forced us into this situation.  That is why in my opinion the decision to move to Topeka KS is the root cause of my current financial situation.

Now that Trudy and I have accepted this reality, all we want to do is sell our house in Topeka Kansas.  If we sell it and have two thin dimes to rub together after the sale that would be fine.  And we won't be poor, we just will be reset.

It also means years of renting again.  And maybe that is a good thing for a number of reasons.  The housing market in the Twin Cities still looks like it is in a free fall.  The fact of the matter is that my Bi Polar has taken a serious toil on my marriage with Trudy.  Planning for a long term future together is not a wise move at this point in time.

All of this sounds like bad news.  And it is bad news.  But the good news is how well I am dealing with it.  I came to accept this reality in a few days.  I was very angry when I first talked about all this with Trudy.  Over the past few days I have come to be at piece with the situation.  I have looked at my bad decisions which lead to this situation.  Trudy has owned her own bad decisions.  We have shared them with each other.  We have shared our own joint bad decisions.  In some ways this has improved our relationship, in a small and incremental way.  In the past, we would not have been able to talk about any of this until it was an absolute crisis.

Also I did not try to take control of the situation.  I just admitted to myself and Trudy I don't know what the right answer is.  I will explore possibilities after we talk about them.  If they dead end then I will move onto the next possibility.  But I will not try and control the situation.  Acknowledging my lack of control has triggered my anxiety and also my sense of peace after the anxiety passes.  These are all things that I am learning in therapy and I am applying in my day to day living.  Incrementally I am getting better.

If you are reading this blog because you also suffer from a mental illness, like I suffer from Bi Polar Type II, then realize being on the right medications and seeing the right therapist and doing the homework your therapist asks you to do before your next session is very important towards getting better.

So what have I learned from this.

  1. Don't deny my basic nature.  I am a cynic and a pessimist.  I am good at considering the downside of a situation.  I should have spoken out more and asked the hard question "What if things go badly?  What are our choices?  How do we protect ourselves from this?  What if the synod/congregation are full of it?"
  2. We should have bought a house that was about the same size as our home in Minnesota instead of a house which cost about as much as the one sold our house for in Minnesota.  In other words we should have either put the extra money into paying off on a less expensive home or invested the difference in some funds and pay the capital gains taxes.
  3. If we had considered that we might only be in Topeka for three years, then we should have just rented a home.
  4. We shouldn't have taken a home equity loan so we wouldn't have to pay PMI.  It would have been better to just pay the PMI.

Applying those same learnings to our current situation and I am not in a big hurry to buy a house right now.  The Twin Cities housing market looks like it still has a ways to fall.  Also things could still go badly between myself and Trudy and I don't want to be selling another house in less than three years because we break up.  And we are going to have to save $s to put aside money for a down payiment.  The fact of the matter is that the next few years are going to be hard.

From my devotional this week:

There was a man all alone;
   he had neither son nor brother.
There was no end to his toil,
   yet his eyes were not content with his wealth.
“For whom am I toiling,” he asked,
   “and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?”
This too is meaningless—
   a miserable business!

Ecclesiastes 4:8 (NIV)

The opposite of contentment isn't ambition; it's disillusionment. The Book of Days Living in the New Rebellion