Set the Table!

Stepford wives, hair shellac and gingham, oh my!

I talked my best friend into entering photography at the state fair with me.  In a fit of inspiration and ambition, she went online the day registration opened and saw all the many, many other competitions at the fair.  One category said it had limited space, first come first serve and only 8 entries would be accepted. She grabbed a spot for us in the ‘Fanciful, Adult’ category.   For table setting.  Ok, why not?  I’m in.

I grew up going to county and state fairs, and I have vague memories of beautiful tables covered with vibrant table cloths, stacks of dishes, rows of sparkling crystal and elaborate centerpieces of dried flowers.  I remember the tables being the brightest, shiniest things in the enormous hall that all competitions are displayed in.  Every memory has the the top of the tables right at eye level for me, so I must have been 6 or 7 years old the last time I looked at those entries.  Based on my fuzzy memories, I thought we’d be setting a pretty table for 4-6 people and that it was a whimsical fun sort of thing to do.  The experience was so much stranger than we expected.  Putting fancy dresses and bowler hats on your pet lizard and thinking it’s serious business kind of strange.

First there are the rules to the table setting. You must supply a table no more than 3ft square and the table must be set for 2-4 people.  That’s a tiny table to put 2 people at much less 4.  But fine, we measured all the tables in both our houses and found one that qualified.  Next, you must construct a detailed menu for the meal.  Mind you, you won’t ever have to make any of the food or drinks on that menu.  Absolutely no food is allowed on any of the table settings.  So we decided on a princess’ tea theme and BF came up with a mouth watering menu complete with wine pairings supplied by Google.  Thankfully there’s no oral portion to the competition, because we still don’t know how to pronounce on of the wines.  It comes from Spain, and I think they export it to get rid of all the X’s in their language in one shipment.

The imaginary menu has to be displayed as part of the setting and it must be legible to the public from several feet away.  So we picked a fancy swirly font that was still easy to read, put a tiara on top and printed it out on irridescent gold paper.  It looked swanky and whimsical all in one go, so I thought we’d done pretty well.

Next came the settings. All the dishes that would be necessary for the menu you created need to be on the table.  I’d been at an estate sale a few weeks before and found a box of pink rose dishes for $5.  If we sort of shuggled things around, we could use those as the dishes, complete with tea cups and saucers.  We spent an evening trying out loads of combinations, and settled on something so over the top girly, I was sure we couldn’t have been the ones who made it.  Looking through the rules for what order wine glasses get set in, we found a layout of proper table setting for the formal category and decided we were quite happy not being in it.  There is (no kidding) an international standard for plate, silverware and glass placement that the formal entries are judged by.  We can’t agree across national borders on anything important, but we totally have international agreement on which fork goes where on a well set table.  When everything looked good, we took some pictures so we could do it again, and packed it all up into boxes for transporting.

A week before the fair, there are two 4 hour spots available for entrants to set up their tables in Salem.  Since I was camping that weekend, I raced off site at 8am, met BF and her husband at a parking lot halfway and we all raced down to the fairgrounds.

We walked into the cavernous hall and up to the volunteers doing sign in.  They checked BF in, but because their online form didn’t allow multiple names, they didn’t have my name.   They directed us to where our table would be and we headed back out to the car to get the boxes and table.  With all three of us laden with stuff, the volunteer led us over to our spot and gave us the admonition that only BF could set up.  Her husband and I could only supervise.  A little startled, we explained to her that we’d done it as a 2 person team which the posted rules allowed.  She tried to assure us that only one person could enter, but arguing rules with BF, BFs husband and me is maybe the most futile thing anyone on the planet could do.  BF had a copy of the rules in the box with all our gear that we handed over to the volunteer.  She reviewed the rules, checked in with someone else, then came back and told us we were right, we could have 2 people on the team, but the third person absolutely could not touch anything.  So BFs husband stood about 15 feet away watching us with some bemusement.  I have to give the volunteer credit, she was cheerful and working hard at being helpful the whole time.  Faced with the three of us early on a Saturday morning, that’s noteworthy.

We set up our pretty table next to the others that were taking shape.  I felt pretty good about it right up until a woman and her daughter came over to lend us their ruler.  They were setting up the little girl’s entry when they (I think it was the little girl) noticed that we’d forgotten our ruler and were very generously offering to lend theirs to us.  Because without a ruler, the plates and silverware can’t be exactly an inch from the edge of the table.  I had one of those grown up moments where I smiled at the kid and said “thank you” when what I wanted to say was: “What the hell kind of competition is this?! I didn’t forget a ruler!  Why would I need a ruler to set a table!  Who makes rules like that?”  

The kid and mom were awesome for noticing we’d “Forgotten” something and offering to help. But the feminist in my head keeps squinting through the aether at the mom and wondering whose idea it was to teach a little girl crazy formal table setting rules.  Why isn’t she in a science club on a Saturday morning?  And the rational part of my brain responds: “Kids are weird and maybe it really is what makes her happy.  God knows I did weirder things as a kid and none of those got me shiny ribbons”.  We finished adjusting the table, gave the ruler back and headed out through the smoke haze covering the Willamette Valley.

A week later, we came back to the fairgrounds to see how we’d done.   The rain and wind were so strong tents were being blown over, which made the population of the fair deliciously low.  We headed straight for the table settings and were disappointed there were no shiny ribbons on our pretty table.  I was irritated that someone had propped the menu up and knocked over the salt & pepper in the process, then I noticed our judging card and my eye started to twitch.

Every other competition at the fair has a plain, tiny white card next to the entries with the entrants name, the category and maybe the name of their entry.  Any feedback the judges choose to give the entrants is concealed behind the item.  Most of the time, there isn’t any feedback, but after talking with a friend of mine who’s a judge at a different fair, they’re careful to make the feedback encouraging and supportive because they genuinely want people to enter next year.

Table setting is whole different beast.  It’s so different, it may be a three headed marsupial from another planet.  In front of every table was a museum style display podium with an 8½ x 11” sheet in it.  Generally when I see podiums like these, they’re displaying a page that says something like “Leather coat worn by Flight Commander Yevgeniya Zhigulenko.   On loan from the Hermitage Museum”.  This time, however,  it had BFs name in bold pink script at the top, followed by a bulleted list of errors we’d made.  Honestly, I could hear the woman who made sheet saying ‘Bless your heart’ after every statement.  It was somehow worse that she’d taken hours to beautify the judging cards.  Every single corner of paper had a butterfly hand punched out and another butterfly glued somewhere on the center page as an accent.    

judging

I came back a few minutes later and looked at the entries that had won.  Which left me conflicted – were they actually as ugly as I thought or was I just mad I hadn’t won?  First place, well, it was weird and unappealing, but ok, I can see that everything was very precise and with a really simple menu, there’s fewer pieces to put on the table.  Second place just baffled and irritated me though.  For highlights: There was a hand stitched quilt as the tablecloth, the menu was mostly stew and the centerpiece was a cast resin pheasant.  The kind of statue people put in their west hills garden to make it look rustic.  After a little more forensics at the other tables, I’ve come to a few conclusions about the judge

  1. Disapproves of purple.  It’s a bad color.  Maybe a naughty color depending on how you read the comments.
  2. Approves of dusty blues and thin line plaids.  
  3. Approves of anything that looks like it would fit into a swanky forest lodge that’s been decorated to be “rustic”.  I’m pretty sure their version of rustic comes from Perry Mason reruns.
  4. Took the time to put category signs with more butterfly cutouts over every single table.  In addition to the judging sheets.
  5. Wears starched blue gingham dresses and high heels at 5pm every night while sipping a martini garnished with olives on chilled silver toothpicks.   On further thought, I think this is true regardless of the judges gender.  
  6. Loves table settings in a way that may require an intervention from friends and family.  Step away from the Martha Stewart books.
  7. Probably throws epic dinner parties when it’s not fair season.

We’re entering again next year of course.  It was just too weird to not do it again.  And I’ll take table setting over quilting any day – those people are crazy!

 

County Fair Oddities

Entering into county fair competitions can lead to some very strange places. On a whim I checked out the website for our county fair on a Thursday morning.  I thought it might be fun to go that weekend, so I clicked around to see what was interesting.   After the usual pictures of rides, midway games and farm animals, there was a list of competitions with links to their entry books.  I clicked a few of them out of idle curiosity.  

There at the top of each category booklet was the date the entries for all the competitions had to be turned in  and it was that same day by 7pm at the county fairgrounds.  For Multnomah county, that means Oaks Amusement Park, 8 minutes from my house.   Naturally, I spent my lunch break that day at the local MegaMart printing out my favorite photographs and buying card-stock to mount them on.   I spent 20 minutes in the hot midday sun using the back of my car as a craft table picking out flattering colors of card-stock and taping pictures on them to ‘mount’ my pictures. It looked… weird and amateurish, but it met the criteria in the Official Officious Fair Photography Booklet.  I made it back to my desk after my lunch break with 2 minutes to spare.  The second I finished work at 5pm I jetted across town to pick up a beach bag as my second entry.

You may be wondering why I had a beach bag waiting at home to enter in a county fair.  It’s because I wanted something completely insane again and making it was the least infuriating option.  Last fall I went to Hawaii for a week and I wanted a beach bag.   Nothing elaborate, just something cheery that would do what *I* thought a beach bag should do: hold my swimsuit, towel, wallet, sunblock, iPod, book and a water bottle in a reasonable manner.  You know where this is going right?   I want my wet swimsuit and towel to go in the bag without ruining my book.  I want my phone, wallet and iPod to be easily accessible instead of sliding inevitably  under every other damn thing.  I don’t enjoy looking like a harebrained idiot fishing for gold in the bottom of my bag when I try to pay for something.  Also, if I get my bottle of water out of my bag, I don’t want it to catch on the leg of my spare underwear and slingshot it across the tour bus to land on the tour guides ex-Army-Ranger head.  What?! It’s hot and muggy in Hawaii, sweat happens and I am not putting sweaty underwear back on after I go swimming.  

Anyway, you absolutely can buy a bag that does all the ridiculously unreasonable things I wanted, but they cost between $400 and $1,000.  If I had that much money laying around, I’d be spending a second week in Hawaii.  So I designed a bag that did what I wanted and got all the fabric from garage sales and goodwill bins.  It was a fun quest to find materials that were both pretty and not so icky I couldn’t bear to touch them.  No, I’m not being squeamish, the Goodwill bins can be a biological adventure requiring gloves.  I spent about $15 on supplies and even scored a batch of heavy duty zippers from goodwill.  The bag worked great on my trip, but that’s another story.

Off I rushed to the fairgrounds through the remains of rush hour with my pictures and beach bag.  I pulled into the creepy empty parking lot and considered driving directly back home.  There’s nothing quite like sitting in the only car in a vast lot and looking into an empty, silent amusement park at twilight.  Well, there’s nothing quite like it outside of the opening minutes of a horror movie.  I kept hearing Sam’s’ voice from Supernatural saying “And Clowns can Kill!” as I wandered around the empty amusement park.  Eventually, I saw a folding wooden sign with “Entries” blazoned on it and an arrow pointing to the main hall.   Hoping it was, in fact, the county fair competition entries instead of the lure to the gory first death scene in the movie writing itself in my head, I went up the stairs into the hall. Inside was stiflingly hot.  It felt like hitting a heat wall going through the front door – there was no air conditioning, or event fans.  the only air movement was from people walking around.  Perfectly normal, alive, not-zombie people were doing frantic setting-up things all over the place.  I stood there sweating and reading the 2 dozen signs posted, hung or draped around the building trying to figure out where I was supposed to be.

All around the giant hall, there were volunteers sitting at paper covered tables surrounded by oddly organized piles of handmade goods.  Each volunteer looked like some kind of feudal lord surveying their crafted competition fief – complete with a cardboard sign hanging vaguely overhead showing the name of their particular estate: “Preserved Foods”, “Quilts”, “Textiles”, “Unknown organic items that took 80+ hours of work to do something unrecognizable as art”, etc.  With every second, it looked less like a killer clown movie and more like Green Acres.  Queue new mental soundtrack.

I approached the lady of the Textiles domain and after hearing my petition to enter my beach bag, she told me my entry would go better with sewing.  I rambled around the hall until I found a trio of women surrounded by piles of cheerful, but unidentifiable, fabric items.  They sounded like they were having a fabulous golden girls reunion and asked what I was entering.  When I described it, they popped open their newspaper print fair manual and huddled around as the shortest one ran her finger down the columns until they found the categories my bag was closest to; hand sewn bags or a reclaimed fabric category.  There was also a reclaimed yarn category…which i didn’t know was a thing and I’m intrigued by.  The merry trio decided I should enter the reclaimed fabric section and filled out the paperwork for me.   

When they were done, the golden girls sent me to the photography table in the center of the hall.  Four big tables with one frantic volunteer in a green 4-H shirt in the center muttering and trying to figure out where her predecessor had put all the paper work.  I told her I had photographs to enter and without ever looking up from the piles of papers she was shuffling, she handed me a form with a big 4-H symbol on the top.  I asked if she had any not-4-H forms and her voice got even more vague and confused.  We had a strange circular conversation about whether I’d filled out paperwork which started and ended with me saying ‘If you tell me where the form is, I’ll fill it out’.   She finally looked directly at me and in an annoyed voice said ‘are you a member of 4-H?’  Since I’m closer to 40 than 14,  I told her no.  After a thoughtful pause I told her the women at the sewing area had sent me directly to her.

With that flash of irritation that happens at every volunteer run event anywhere in the world she rolled her eyes and pointed to where the grown ups are supposed to enter their photographs.  Remember the vaguely hung signs?  For photography it was behind a constructed backdrop where no one could ever see it.  Because photographers are supposed to be psychic – I didn’t know until that moment, but I’ll do my best to fake it.

Inside the hidden photography section was a volunteer sitting quietly at a table looking tolerant.  It’s the look people get when they’re embarrassed by their family, but saying anything at all would just make the situation so much worse.  There were 3 women trying to put entry labels on their photographs.  One woman was sitting just a smidge too close to the volunteer – shared arm-hair-space too close.  Two giant tables, lots of chairs and she needed to sit that close.  He was frozen in place with his arms locked to the paper tablecloth while carefully answering all her questions about the photo tags.  The photo tags, mind you, get your name in the space labeled bafflingly ‘name’, a 3-5 word description of the photo on another line and a standard code for the category you’re entering.  Then you fold it in half and use that modern marvel cellophane tape to attach it to your photograph.  They’re just not complicated and she was working soooo hard at asking him questions.

The other two women were at a different table and trying very hard to be brave: terrified of trying something new and babbling in fear sort of brave.  Neither of them had ever entered a photography contest and were egging each other on to get all the tags filled out correctly.  They tried to get me to help, but their fright at getting something wrong started infecting me and I resorted to telling them to ask the volunteer.  I’d never bloody entered a picture before either and I wasn’t nervous about being judged until I listened to the two of them.  I’d have felt bad about redirecting them, but I figure the two frantic women were probably still better company than the too-close woman.

I got my entries tagged and turned in and escaped to the much cooler breeze outside.   Back through the empty amusement park to my lone car in it’s giant parking lot.  Either everyone else in that building rode their bike, or there’s a parking lot on the other side of that park that I never did find.  Or I did walk in and out of a horror movie and no one in the building was real.  Probably not though.

We came back that weekend to play at the fair and I felt like a little kid hunting for my entries all over the main hall to see how I’d done.  Past the dozen handmade aprons, after the biggest zucchini competition and opposite the chocolate cake display I found my beach bag and it had a big blue ribbon it!  There might have been a little dancing around while my husband laughed.  Then I wound around the temporary wall maze covered with all the photography entries looking for my pictures.  There they were among all those other lovely pictures with a red ribbon on one and a white ribbon on another!  It’s amazing how those little ribbons can make an adult giggle and dance like a 4 year that’s just been handed a giant lollipop.  We spent several hours playing around the fair afterwards, riding rides, eating terrible food and maybe once, sneaking back in to admire my ribbons when no one was looking.  

There’s a 4 hour window on Sunday right after the fair closes when all the entries have to be picked up.  I raced away from a lovely BBQ with friends to pick up my entries before they shut down for the night.  The volunteers were trying to be polite, but they needed a sign at the door that just said: “We’re exhausted, we don’t care anymore, please take your crap and go so we can get home and sleep”.  When I collected my photos after it was all over, that same tolerant volunteer guy was there.  He made sure to let me know that my pictures probably would have done better if I’d matted them properly.  I explained about the cardboard and the rule book and he sighed that volunteer sigh and said he knew.  He’d already fixed the rule book for next year.  I wondered how long he’d had to be polite to too-close lady on entry day, but I couldn’t think of any way to ask that would have him laughing instead of tiredly flinching.  

Off I headed home with my $10 prize money, 3 ribbons and an odd mini cross stitch kit.  I’m hooked on using fairs as deadlines to get craft projects done now.  I get shiny ribbons for doing things I already want to do.  Why didn’t anyone tell my inner magpie about this before?  I think I’ll try the State fair while I wait for them to mail me next years competitors handbook for the county fair.

House Hunting Episode 4

Episode 4: It was supposed to get less weird when we found a house!  OR If you can’t be a good example, be a horrible warning.

We found a house!

Hallelujah!

Life can start happening again!

Oh, wait, this reality is just as bizarre as house hunting.  At least it’s less time consuming… that’s something right?  Right?

There’s this phrase that I love ‘If you can’t be a good example, at least be a horrible warning’.  Let this be a lesson to those who come after us.  The laws governing house sales and finance changed in 2008 and some of the after effects are looking-glass weird if no one explains them.  Ok, even if someone explains them, they’re still mock-turtle weird, just easier to accept as reality.  Here’s my disclaimer: This is the information as I understand it.  I’m not a mortgage broker or a realtor.  I’m just a person buying a house.  If you experience any of this, for the sake of your diminishing sanity: Ask all the questions!  No, don’t ask me, ask your realtor, broker and bank.

So, before you even started looking for a house, you got pre-approved for financing.  You did that, right?  You spent hours digging up last years W2s, figuring out how to print your bank statements (Who does hard copies anymore!), and pulling pay stubs before you went to the broker’s office.  Then you spent an hour or more answering questions, signing documents and generally verifying that you’re worthy to be their client.

A little while goes by and the broker tells you that you’ve been approved for a loan of ludicrous size and they send you a copy of your current credit score as a courtesy.  Actually, they’re legally obligated to let you have a copy – which is neat.  I still don’t have an explanation for the size of the ludicrous loans people are ok’d for: Sure, we could cover the size loan we were approved for, but we’d never eat anything but Ramen again.  What’s the fun of owning a house if your cabinets only have cardboard noodles and MSG in them?

Next, you spend a painful, emotionally distressing period of time house hunting.  It’s amazing how stressful just the thought of not having a home is.  I’ve been fortunate enough to never experience homelessness and just knowing that our house had sold and we didn’t yet have a place to move gave me a tick of stress that ratcheted up just a little every day.  The day I get the keys to our new house I need to make a donation to a homeless shelter – because damn, that was stressful and it was nothing in comparison.

Now, you’ve bid on the house, had the offer accepted (Hooray!) and everything that’s left is supposed to just be paperwork and details.  This process uses so much time and money from so many people it’s  like a flaming tar pit that you just sacrifice dollar bills and pocket watches to. There has got to be a more efficient way to do this now that we have computers. And calculators. And freaking email!  It feels like it’s all still getting done by abacus and pony messenger.

Now you get to talk to the Title company – they’re this neutral third party that makes sure the house you’re buying is something you can legally buy.  The Data Analyst in my brain screams that all of this information should be in a single database somewhere in the country since house sales are PUBLIC RECORD.  Title insurance should have become unnecessary 10 years ago – between the IRS, NSA and Homeland Security I find it hard to believe that ownership of any property is still in question unless there’s an active lawsuit.  Sigh…yes, I’m sure there’s real legal needs for it, but from an average house buyers perspective, it all looks incredibly stupid and wasteful.  The Title company also often takes care of Escrow accounts to cover property taxes.

Which brings us to Oregon property taxes.  Fun fact: Oregon property taxes are paid in November of this year for July of this year through July of next year.  So if you’ve ever wondered why escrow amounts always look strange: its because they are.  The good news is if you sold your house, the bank has to give you back the money left in your escrow account almost immediately.   They can’t legally keep it for a year…Which a bank did to us pre-2008 when that a**hattery was still legal.

Then there’s the mortgage broker.  The weird financial matchmaker for love-less loans and their hair raising paraphernalia.  This side of things, I think they were probably a good idea for us.  If for no other reason than I had a person with an accessible office that I could send all my questions to and get answers..  The mortgage broker handled getting all the documentation from us that the lender required.  So when they asked us for something I thought was weird, I could email or call and say something like ‘WTF do they need to know that for – it’s creepy!’

The first time I saw the list of documents from the broker, I freaked out a little bit because it’s creepy from a privacy standpoint.  They want to know way more than I’m comfortable telling.  Before I handed it over I made them tell me why they needed it.  It went something like this:

  • Most recent 30 days pay-stubs for each of you – Sure, they need to verify that we’re still making the money we were when they approved us for the loan
  • W2 forms for the past 2 years:  Ok, sure, they’re making sure we’ve continually made the money they expect for the past 2 years.
  • Federal tax returns for the past 2 years.  Not the summary sheet, the ENTIRE tax packet for the last 2 years.  Including contributions to charity, union membership, medical expenses and anything else you had to claim.   This was getting personal and a little creepy to me.  I don’t like sharing that information with anyone – it reeks of giving someone enough information to deny you a loan because they don’t approve of your political party or union or church.
  • Most recent 2 months statements from all checking and savings accounts.   This is what sent me over the edge – I definitely don’t think it’s any financial officers business where I ate dinner, what stores I spent money in or how often I go to the arcade.  We live in an age of debit cards so the details of all those purchases show up on our bank statements now.

I got the list first and called my partner in crime about it.  His immediate response was ‘No, that’s crazy.  That can’t be what they’re asking for’.  Except it is.  That 2008 law made changes that allow lenders to look for undisclosed expenses and unreported debt/income ratios.  They’re not supposed to care that I donate to Planned Parenthood or buy fudge sundaes way more days than is healthy.

That Federal tax return is so they can see undisclosed rental properties, self-employment, and spousal support that was recorded out of state.   The bank statements are so they can see if you borrowed against a credit card to make your down payment, got  a down payment from the seller without telling the bank, or if you got the down payment from friends or family that you’ll have to pay back.  So, there’s a pretty good reason for the bank asking for the documents, but I’m still a little squidgy about it.

Once you turn all the documents over, you wait. For WEEKS while paper acolytes pin each document to the sacred vault wall and perform intricate supplications to the gods of Wall Street and Hysteria for a sign that you’ve been approved to receive the holy grail of house buying: The Closing Documents.  I’m sure there’s more to it than that, but every time I called to ask what day we’d be ready to close all I heard was chanting and muffled drumming.  Once I thought I heard a human sacrifice screaming in the background but it was probably just someone getting a paper cut.  Yeah, I’m sure it was just a really bad paper cut.

Magically, one day you get a call and they tell you that you have to be at an office you’ve never seen before to sign papers and you have to get to the bank today (Right Now!)  to get a cashier’s check for the closing costs before they close.  The call to your boss that you’re going to be out of the office for 2-4 hours the next day has to happen too.  Cue the irritated sigh from my boss right here.  Actually I’m pretty grateful on that front: having a boss whose only irritated at the inconvenience is awesome.

The next day you sign a thousand times on a stack of forms the size of a bible.  This time the updates in the laws were fantastic.  All the forms had to be in a text size we could read.  On our first house, there were literally dozens of pages printed in 6 point font – not even kidding about that.  We spent hours in the too-hot, too-bright office of a set of angry angry brokers and lenders reading the tiny script on every page before we signed it.  Heh.  Good times.  But this time was way better.  We could read everything and there was a third the paperwork as last time.  After that, you wait 24 hours or so and get an email from the broker, the lender, the title company AND your real estate agent telling you that the sale has been recorded and you are officially the new owners.

Because the Portland market is still nuts, now all you have to do is wait to get the keys.  Because almost everyone is doing a rent-back on the house they’re selling.

So here we sit.  Waiting for the keys….. And Waiting….. Buying furniture that doesn’t fit in our current house and tripping over it until every toe and hip is bruised….And waiting some more…Then buying nerf rifles and using the furniture as cover for an indoor battle because being an adult is occasionally the best thing ever…  Then waiting some more……

Please, can I have the keys to my house now?

Do you know what happened to the girl who got everything she ever dreamed of?  She lived happily ever after.

House Hunting Episode 1

Episode 1: It’s not an adventure yet.

Adventures are what you call it when the experience is over and you’re resting comfortably at home with a cold drink by a roaring fire.  It’s not an adventure yet.  Between getting our house ready for sale, selling it and now hunting for a new house, I feel like I’ve dropped off the planet into a bizarre parallel world that eats all of my non-work time with lunacy and bafflement, occasionally laced with nausea inducing stress. Between email and texts I’m drowning in messages about house madness while I scurry around trying to understand WTF is happening in this new dimension.  I keep expecting the red queen to appear and screech ‘Off with her head”.  I’ve been watching our realtor, Toni, since we started this journey and I’m pretty sure she’s our White Rabbit. We follow her from house to house as she checks her pocket watch (cleverly disguised as a cell phone) occasionally looking startled and saying we’re late to view the next house.

Several months ago, we had Toni visit and give us a list of all the things we could do to make our house more likely to sell.  Over the next 3 months we worked through all of them.  Box up all our books and bookcases and move them to the garage.  Repaint 4 rooms.  Touch up all the trim.  Finish the flooring in 2 rooms.  You get the idea.  For 3 months its what we spent every spare minute on.  The …exciting… part of the journey didn’t start until our realtor called us a month earlier than we’d planned and and told us that our neighborhood had a bubble that was increasing house prices.  If we could have our house on the market in the next week, we could take advantage of it.  In a mad scramble, we (mostly Kris) got everything finished and beautified by Friday then packed up the dogs and evacuated the house for a weekend so realtors could show the house any time over the next three days.

Over the next week, 60+ people walked through our house and left a stack of realtor cards 2 inches high.  Monday through the following Sunday, with less than an hour notice, we had to have the house spotless, then evacuate until the realtors were done showing their clients around.  Some very kind friends of ours housed our dogs for the entire week because the dogs couldn’t be home while people looked at the house.  Our cats, however, could be home and were the star attraction according to feedback our realtor got.

Friday afternoon Toni asked if I’d be willing to spend an hour on Sunday with a potential buyer answering her questions.  Yeah, that’s as weird as it sounds.  The prospective buyer seemed really  interested and maybe she was just a bit eccentric but she really wanted to meet the sellers and talk about the house.  After some hesitation, I agreed.

Sunday afternoon, an elderly lady with a written checklist and a silent male companion appeared on my door step.  She sent him to look around the house while she sat at my kitchen table and worked through her list.  I’m not sure how or even if the man was related to her because the only words I heard him say were ‘Hi kitty’ as he reached out to pet our cat Blix and ‘Yep’.  The single ‘Yep’ was after he’d looked at the plumbing, furnace, electrical and garage and she asked if everything looked good.  Then he left.  She stayed for another 45 minutes asking questions.  It was less weird than I thought – she’s got a health condition and she wanted to know ALL the things you need to know about your house.  Exact dimensions of rooms (she brought a tape measure and the exact size of her bed), where all the plugins are, what are all the trees and plants in the yard.  It was all normal stuff and she was planning ahead.

Sunday night we had 3 offers on our house and it had been on the market 9 days. .

With an accepted offer, the clock started ticking in our heads for finding a new house.  We’ve done this before so this time should be easier.  Not easy, but easier.  Fewer shocks to the system anyway because we know what to expect.

Wow, we were wrong about that.  I think Portland stopped taking her meds because her housing market is schizophrenic.  Or maybe just psychotic.  Yes, I know what those words mean, and no, I’m not using them inappropriately.

Next episode: Our intrepid hunters visit the Portland housing discard bin searching for a diamond in the rough.  Wherein ‘Keep Portland Weird’ derives new depths of meaning.