On the Yellow Brick Road

Week 33 Back in Minnesota

On Sunday after church I went to look at some of the neighborhoods where we are thinking about buying a house here in St. Paul, MN.  A couple of the neighborhoods I took off my list right away because they just didn't seem safe or were just to run down.  I plan on checking out a couple of other neighborhoods this coming Sunday as well.

This past week Trudy had to turn down a house showing because she decided to take down the Fat Head in Benjamin's bedroom and repaint his room.  His bedroom really needed the paint job and probably should have been done sooner.  Now it is done.  She has also contacted someone who has taken down wallpaper in other parts of the house to take down the wall paper in the two small 1/2 bathrooms in the house and repaint those bathrooms.  Hopefully those changes will be enough to move us to offers.

Work has been going very well for me.  You can read about my work journey in the project management articles.

More personal stuff on the next page.

Week 32 Back in Minnesota

Home Buyers or How to be a brat

I have to open this weeks blog with some of the crazy stuff that we are hearing from home buyers.  Now this is the third home we have sold in the our marriage.  The other homes were sold in much easier sales markets and I get that it is a buyers market right now.  Having said that some of the things people are leaving for comments are just whinny and over the top demanding.  So look at our MLS first and then read this sample of actual quotes:

  • Buyers like the locations but thought the home was to dated for the price
  • They really want all four B/Rs on the same floor.
  • There are things they like about it and things they don't. They really want all 4 B/Rs on the same floor because their children are very young. House needs updating and no fence. Room sizes are nice.

So my favorite one is wanting all four bedrooms on the same floor.  What I am suppose to reconfigure the house, like a Lego building, so all the bedrooms are on the same floor.  What a dingbat comment.  Or "has no fence" well buy the house and put in a fence.  We have teenagers and we don't need a fence.  Or "house needs updating" is just code words for "we want ceramic tiles in the bathrooms, kitchen, granite counter tops, & stainless steel appliances, etc."  If those areas needed to be updated when we bought the house we would have updated them but they were all in great shape.  To replace them when they didn't need to be replaced would have been an act of vanity and a waste of money.  Almost every article I have read states that those kinds of updates to a house are never recovered when the house is sold.

Trudy and I have looked at some on line listings for homes in the Twin Cities.  The things that have eliminated homes for us are items like too close to railroad tracks, inspector information that causes us concern (electrical or plumbing), or not enough full bathrooms (1 full and a 1/2 bathroom).  Of course Trudy and I are practical people and don't tend to be vain.

That is enough on the topic of silly home buyers for this blog.

Being Independent and enjoying my independence

It has been 32 weeks since I moved back to Minnesota.  Eight months of living a split life.  As strange as it may seem I actually enjoy my time here in Minnesota.  I enjoy the freedom that I have doing what I want at night and on the weekends.  Our marriage counselor was right, being apart would be helpful.  I was too tangled up with Trudy and her life, especially her professional life.   I didn't have a life of my own and that was a mistake. 

So when we are all together again one of the things I will be doing is integrating this new life of independence with a life of being dependent and being needed by others so that my "self" is nurtured by what "I" need and what the "we" needs.  The "we" being Trudy and I; Benjamin and I; Catalina and I; and all of us together.  I am guessing it will take at least as long as the time being apart has been to make that happen.

So yesterday I did something I haven't done in at least a decade, I went to first day opening of a movie.  I went to see Thor.  I went by myself and enjoyed myself.  It was a good comic book movie.  Kenneth Branagh is such a good director that it is hard to imagine that he would make a bad movie.  He did a very good job with the material he had to work with.

Last Sunday I went to the 2011 Road to Memphis

Both of those events would have been very hard to do if I was living with my family.  If I had gone and done them I would have felt guilty even if I had "permission" to go.  All because I have the idea that I have to spend all my non-working time with my family.

I still miss Trudy, Benjamin and Catalina very much.  I want to be together sooner rather than later.  I just know I will have to adjust to a new situation when we are together again.  And I look forward to the day when we are together so I can start working on making those adjustments.

Well it is time to head to the Sat. morning Jam!


Week 31 Back in Minnesota

So we continue to have house showings, here is our MLS listing, at our house.  Unfortunately no one has come close to making an offer yet.  I know that eventually we will have a someone come through that will fall in love with the house and make an offer.  I just pray it happens sooner rather than later.  Speaking about praying this is one of those selfish times when I wish my grandma Catalina was still alive.  When that woman prayed God listened and answered her prayers.  I know God answers all prayers but it seems the answer to her prayers always seemed to turn out really for the best.  For instance my becoming a Christian (read about that here).  God answers the prayers of the righteous.  She seemed to be a righteous person (someone right with God).

This has been a pretty good week for me.  I always have problems right before, usually the day before, I have to come back to Minnesota.  It is kind of 'early homesickness'.  I will be honest, I cry because I don't want to be away from Trudy, Benjamin and Catalina.  My 'homesickness' lasts for about an hour or two and then I am fine.  In fact once I am in Minnesota I am in Minnesota now.  That is one of the changes between now and the way things were when I first got here.  I use to 'long' to be back in Topeka KS.  I didn't accept the reality of being here in Minnesota.

Now I not only accept the reality of being here in Minnesota, for the long haul, I have found ways to enjoy my time away from Trudy, Benjamin and Catalina.  While I am here I am only answerable to myself for my time.  As long as I get to work on time and do my job I can pretty much do what I want with the rest of my time.  That frees me to do a lot of other things.  Since I have been here I have been to at least two blues shows a month (.

It has been seven and half (7 1/2) months since I started working in Minnesota and some how we are all still together.  This week at work I started transitioning to my new teams.  This transition was in the works since Jan. when my boss and I talked about the fact that I could not handle three teams.  If we had been all together in the Twin Cities I might have had the emotional cushion to handle three teams.  But with my Bipolar I might not have been able to handle it. 

The fact of the matter is I have to spend some of my emotional capacity to work on my stuff to get as mentally and emotionally healthy as I can.  I have a great opportunity to do that right now.  So backing down from some of the stress at work is exactly what I need right now.

Well it is time to do a bunch of chores to get the house ready for another showing.

Week 29 Back in Minnesota

27% of home sales in Topeka were foreclosures or short sales

Ok if you read last weeks blog post, Week 28, you know we found out that 27% of all home sales in Topeka Kansas were foreclosures or short sales.  What is jaw dropping about that information is our previous agent never mentioned that to us at all.  And the local news outlets have never reported those kinds of numbers at all.    Makes you wonder who is in whose pockets in Topeka.

Fortunately a most excellent friend of mine said - just because I am taking a 'haircut' in Topeka doesn't mean everything is bad.  People are taking worse 'haircuts' here in Minneapolis.  So maybe once our home sells in Topeka we will be able to balance out ok here.

In all honesty, I almost don't care about the money anymore.  I just want us all to be together.

Even though I had the flu on Sunday and stayed home from work on Monday and have been coughing for most of the week, this has been a good week.  I am doing very well.  I am enjoying my job.  I am enjoying the parts of my life in the Twin Cities which are really good.  It is great to have friends like Dale and Cindy who are letting me stay at their place.  Their sons are really excellent to me.  I feel like a long lost weird uncle which is nice.

Trudy and I have been having some excellent conversations on the phone lately.  It is exciting to hear about her work both as a interim pastor and also her work organizing on the KNI issue.  I am very proud of her.

Benjamin is doing very well in school.  One of his classes is about web site design.  He has been learning about CSS lately, which is a good thing because I know very little about CSS .  I am going to have him help me with this website by improving the CSS on the site.  He is excited to help out the old man.

Catalina is also doing very well in school.  In fact she is doing so well that she got 100% on the state math assessment test.  I am not sure what that means except that she is very good at math.  We already knew she was very good at math.  Actually she is quite the scholar and musician.  Hope to get another concert when I go home this coming week.

As for myself as many of you know I have Bi-Polar type II.  I now have a regular therapist who I am seeing every week and I am in group therapy which is helping so very much.  It is great to have people to work with that hopefully help me get healthier.

Well it is time to take care of chores for the weekend.

Week 28 Back in Minnesota

So this week we got some disappointing news about housing prices in Topeka KS.  Our new agent was honest and upfront with us, it turns out that +25% of all sales last year in Topeka were foreclosure or short sales in Topeka.  Not only didn't our previous agent not tell us that but the newspaper has never published any articles about that kind of home sales numbers in Topeka.  Our house is not underwater but it does mean that if we can sell it for our new price we will lose 50% of the equity we put into the house.  That will be a real loss as opposed to a paper loss.

After I got that lovely news I wrote something like this on my Facebook page "Friends in Kansas are great. But moving to Kansas was the worst financial move I ever made. Set us back at least 10 yrs."  And a dear friend wrote back "I hope that other aspects of your time in KS at least made up for some of the financial set-back."

And so I thought I would explore the negatives about going to Kansas, the positives about going to Kansas, and maybe in the end I can start to lay aside my negative feelings about Kansas.

The negatives always come easier for me

  • Career - Before going to Kansas my career was firmly involved in doing engineering work.  I am now firmly involved in doing IT work.  Quite frankly I enjoy engineering work more.  Engineers are easier to work with.  Engineering managers are easier to work with.  The stress levels in IT are much higher than I ever experienced in any engineering firm which is strange considering that no one will die if we fail at what we do.
  • Salary - Every year we lived in Kansas (5) I basically lost about $20k in salary a year.  That doesn't include bonuses, stocks, retirement, and other benefits.  The cost of living in Kansas was not that much lower than in Minnesota.
  • Home Equity - This one is a new one and a total suprise.  We were told "Oh Topeka doesn't have boom-bust housing markets.  We just have flat or 3% growth rates".  So we figured ok we might take a 3% or 5% hit on our equity and have to wait 9 months to sell our house.  It turns out that isn't true.  In 2010, +25% of the home sales in Topeka were foreclosure or short sales.  People in our neighborhood sold their homes for -$60k under what we were asking.  We had no idea until this week. 
  • TLC - Watching what happened to Trudy at her first call.  That was devastating.  I can't imagine ever being that involved in another congregation that Trudy is called to again.  In fact I am not sure I will ever been that involved in any congregation again.  I have seen it now at three congregations in three different synods.
  • I hurt Trudy - I didn't support Trudy at all in the crisis she was having at her congregation.  My actions in fact made it worse. I have damaged my relationship with her and I don't know if it will ever be repaired.
  • I hurt Benjamin and Catalina - I let my own anger and frustration spill over to my relationship with Benjamin and Catalina.  I know that Benjamin is still very angry with me about something that happened last year.  I know that Catalina is very worried about me because of some of the off-the-wall anxiety she saw me going thru with Trudy.
  • I stopped playing my guitar - I tried to recreate a monthly jam session at my house and that never really worked out.  In fact it got depressing because I would send out the word, set everything up, have food and drinks ready and no one would show up.  I would ask if people would rather meet at a different time/day and nothing.  So I stopped playing.  It isn't fun to play by myself.  I needed a goal.  And since I was the only guitar player at church and I am not that good - I could not be leading anything at church.  So that was not an outlet for my playing.  So I stopped playing.
  • Gained weight - I gained over 40 lbs while living in Topeka.

The positives

  • Pastor Trudy - When Trudy was doing what she was called to do and in those moments - leading worship, doing funerals/weddings, running meetings, and working with small groups of people it was wonderful to see.
  • Benjamin - Watching Benjamin growing from a boy to a young man.  In the last six years he has become a confident (sometimes overconfident) young man.  I am very proud of his achievements and the fact he tries things I would never have tried at his age.  He is very good at debate, math and science - which is no surprise.  The things that surprise me is that he is also great at acting.  I have seen him in a major role and he was wonderful.  He is also doing very well in his efforts to becoming an Eagle Scout.  In fact I am sure if I hadn't been here in Minneapolis this last six months it would be done by now .
  • Catalina - Watching Catalina grow into a beautiful young lady has also been a joy.  She has grown out of the shadow of her older brother and become her own person.  She no longer hides behind anyone.  She boldly steps into her own space with confidence of her own.  She is also very good at math, science, English, literature and also music.  She has become quite the musician.  I wish we could afford to get her piano lessons now.  I think she would enjoy that.  Catalina has really become in many ways like her namesake, my grandmother Catalina - a very loving and approachable person.
  • Boy Scout Troop - I don't know who got more out of the Boy Scout Troop when Benjamin first joined - Benjamin or me.  I am so glad I went to every meeting and made some great friends there.  I am also glad that I went on so many camping trips.  It made some of the darker days in Topeka go much better.
  • Uncle Bo's - How can a blues club be a positive thing?  How about it was my place of community.  It was the one place in Topeka where I felt accepted and appreciated no matter what.  It was the one place where Trudy and I could let our 'hair down' and not worry about being judged or evaluated by anyone.  It was a place where there was great music.  A great crowd.  Great staff.  And the person from Uncle Bo's who most of all I will miss...
  • Suki - I have to say Suki became one of the constants in my life in Topeka.  She always made me feel welcome whenever I saw her.  She is like the big sister I never had. 
  • Blues Festival Heaven - Being in Kansas meant having access to three major blues festivals in June in Kansas, one in Oct. and a bunch through out the summer.  Plus it was generally only a day's drive to any other major blues festival in the Midwest.
  • Career - My first IT job sent me off to get training at a Scrum Master and to be certified as a Scrum Master.  Because of that I was able to get the job I currently have.


I guess I still can't decide whether or not Kansas was a good thing or not.  And it wasn't all bad.  That is true.  There were good things that happened while we were there.  And now it is just time to move one.