Adventures in the Big City

Hello, folks–I am once again connected to the digital world!  I had intended to show you pictures of my apartment today, but we were too busy having adventures today to finish furnishing it.  We won’t add much–just a table and chairs and a lamp.  There is a gigantic Salvation Army store in the area, so we will pay them a visit tomorrow.

In the meantime, I am no longer homeless, and for the first time in my life I am living in a home owned by someone else.  It’s great–we feel like we’ve outsourced home ownership!  We have gone from living in a town with two traffic lights, to living in the fourth largest city in the US.  (Technically, we live in a suburb, but we’re just outside of the city limits).

Naturally, such a transition would bring with it some adventures.

So, today, I am going to entertain you with some stories of our adventures in Houston.  I have to tell you, last summer, when I was at the marina in Ludington, I never imagined that a year later, I would be here!

Story #1: Fun With the GPS

My parents were nervous about driving in Houston.  So they had us take the lead.  Rob has driven through Houston once, and I have twice–but, other than that, Detroit is the only city any of us had experience driving in.  While it’s smaller that Houston, it’s set up in such a way that one can’t help but get lost.  Detroit is enough to scare anyone out of city driving.

But, we were good.  We had the GPS on our Smartphone going, and we’d even bought the larger data plan.  We would take 59 in, then get on the tollway, which would take us straight to El Dorado Blvd, which would be our new address. 

The first problem occurred after we drove up the crazy overpass to enter the tollway.

“EZ Pass Only” the sign said.  The tollway no longer had tollbooths.  During the two months that we were frantically emptying out the house, Texas’s DOT was busy removing the tollbooths and computerizing their system.   As we do not yet possess EZ Passes, we had to quickly find a way off of the tollway, and find a road going in a similar direction.  We took the last exit, which led us to the beltway.  Instead of flying above all the rush hour traffic, we were caught in the thick of it.

We were sure we saw my parents enter the tollway, but they, too, bailed at the last minute.  Our GPS gave us a more complicated route, then it died because the battery couldn’t charge fast enough.

Fortunately, every road in Houston goes in the same direction, so we guessed, until we saw something familiar.  We temporarily lost my parents, who were following their GPS, but eventually we all ended up on El Dorado.

Story #2:  Anybody Home?

So, around 6:45, we arrived at the apartment complex.  We slipped through the gate, behind someone, and parked in front of the office.  The door was locked, with a sign up saying, “Will Return at 8:00.”

Still frazzled from the drive through Houston (did I mention it was 102 degrees that day, and our car has no air conditioning?), I could have cried.

I called the number on the sign, but only got management’s voice mail.  We were prepared to meet my parents at their hotel, when I found a way, through the phone system, to contact maintenance’s voicemail.  The super called me up within 10 minutes, and said he would make some calls.

While we were waiting, Rob decided to take a ride on his tall bike.  He attracted a lot of attention, and one resident–who talked just like us–approached, looked at our license plates, and congratulated us on getting out.

Finally, about 30 minutes later, the manager arrived and I got to sign my life away.  There are some very important rules at this apartment complex.  Here are some that you need to know about:

–These apartments are not infested at all.  We have agreed to make sure that we ourselves are not infested, and to call the exterminator if we happen to be.

–We have agreed not to make mold.

–We can have our trash picked up 3 times a week.  I’m just going to pretend I don’t know that.  That would enable me way too much…

–We have agreed to eat the white chocolate-macadamia cookies that are baked in the office every morning.  Okay, we didn’t put that in writing, but we shall do it anyway.

So we got moved in to our apartment, which didn’t take long because we didn’t bring a lot of stuff.  You’ll get pictures tomorrow, but I will tell you that it is perfect.  It’s not too big, has a cute kitchen and a nice balcony/patio, and we can use grills, the laundry room, and either of the two pools.  Which we’ll be doing a lot of, since it is crazy hot.

Story #3:  Real Food

In Harrison, Michigan, we had a Spartan store and a Save a Lot.  They were both overpriced and had little-to-no selection.  Our small independent store was better–and on the other side of the path through the woods–but the selection was still poor, and the produce were always past their prime.

For real food, we had to drive an hour to Mount Pleasant, where we could visit Kroger and the food co-op.  There was a small farmer’s market on weekends, and the Amish store was on the way.

Now, we live 2 miles from a Kroger.  I went there today.

First, keep in mind that I have been craving real food for some time.  We have spent the past 2 weeks living with relatives, who knew that they would not see us until Christmas.  So they made us their tastiest, sugary treats.  Before that, we had been in survival mode, eating our fair share of Hot N Ready pizzas.  Junk food has affected my waistline, energy level, and mood.  It got to the point, on the way down, where I skipped dinner, because I couldn’t stomach any more garbage.

So, here I am, at Kroger, in Houston.  (There are many Krogers in Houston–this one was in Clear Lake).  It was huge.  Like, Texas huge.  Which makes sense…

But it was WHAT they had, that was impressive.  They had sushi, a bulk foods section similar to the one at the co-op in Michigan, a huge natural foods section, nearly all produce available organic, cheap seafood (in Michigan, it was prohibitively expensive), and a large variety of grassfed beef.  They sold kombucha (the real kind, that you have to be 21 to buy) at the grocery store!  There were vegetables for sale that I had never heard of.  So, of course, I had to buy them.

Which brings me to my next issue.

With the veggies, were cactus leaves.  I have never eaten a cactus.  Now I have the opportunity.  Why would I want to go my whole life without eating something, knowing that I have the choice to do so?  So, of course, I bought one.  I have e-mailed my foodie (and Houston-dwelling) friends, hoping for some suggestions on how to prepare it.

Soon, we will eat a cactus.  I will let you know how tasty it is.

Story #4: My Morning Walk

I woke up this morning, feeling guilty and negative.  I was analyzing my past behavior, and feeling unworthy.  I tried to rationalize it, saying to myself that I had been suffering this winter, and that is why I acted selfishly at times.

The rationalizing didn’t work.  Then I read a poem that a friend wrote on their blog, about staying in the present moment.

It dawned on me that my reality now involves taking a walk through palm trees every morning.  EVERY morning, even in December.  That I am surrounded by birds, flowers, and really cool looking lizards (and no cockroaches or snakes!).  By moving here, and making this my reality, I have basically forfeited my right to whine and feel sorry for myself.  What’s done, is done.  I’m not proud of my past, but I’ve learned.  Because I’ve learned, I can teach.

No matter how much of a screw-up you are, if you wake up and see palm trees in the morning, you don’t get to complain.

So, here are some pictures from my morning walk today.  I think we chose a good neighborhood.  Don’t you agree?

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Home Sweet (Temporary) Home

Today, we are technically homeless.

And life is good.

We emptied out the house, had the inspection, and loaded up out motor home to tbe gills. Before you think that we are the ultimate minimalists, know that we have a storage unit in Michigan, that we will deal with when we come back at a later date (It’s purgatory–I hope we end up getting rid of everything in it!) and a cartop carrier full of goodies.

We drove the motor home all the way to the state park in town, about a block away from our house.  It was fun to be a tourist in our own town!

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I had a fun afternoon yesterday, after the inspection was over–Beanie and I logged some quality time at the beach.  This morning, I took in a walk along the lake, and took plenty of pictures.  I want to make photography a part of my morning routine.  I am not necessarily good at it yet, but I like the idea of looking for and trying to capture beauty in the world around me.  I am ready to stop using stock photographs.

 

The next week will be filled with visits with friends and family, and hopefully lots of time enjoying the great outdoors.  I want to take this time to detox from the craziness that has defined life, for the past 7 months (and especially the past week!).  For that reason, I will be taking a digital break, until July 30, when we leave for Houston.  I have struggled with balancing online and offline time, for quite awhile, and as life got crazier, I spent more and more time online.  Even without Facebook, I was wasting a great deal of time, using the Internet to try and escape from reality.

Now I want to experience reality.

I will return, more focused and ready to share my adventure with you. 

More Detours

Well, folks, I am writing this.  Which means that I am not at the cottage on Thunder Bay.  So you know the end of the story. But let’s go back to the beginning.

Yesterday morning, I called the mortgage company.  I got a rather snotty lady, who told me that, first the deed-in-lieu process had not yet been started for me, because I had not answered their questions.  Second, she said that nothing could be provided in writing until 30-45 days from now, when the process is completed.  Thinking a little less than rationally, and acting a little less than dignified, I explained that we would be homeless if we did not get something, and asked if there were someone that the apartment manager could call, to confirm that we were going through the process.  The lady reminded me that we had not started the process, because I had not answered the questions.  I said, “Well, what do we need to do to start the process?”  She said that she would see if my case manager were available.  She was not.  However, after some run around, I answered the questions.  And, after some begging and pleading, she told me that I could conference call with the apartment manager and a representative from the company.

I hung up, and called the apartment manager.  She and her assistant said they would be happy to conference call.

After some Googling, I learned that conference calling on a Droid is relatively easy.  I called up the mortgage company, once again, and after spending some time on hold, I got a different lady from the Deed-in-Lieu department.  She much much more friendly, and said that she would see if my case manager were availble for the conference call.  She wasn’t, so this lady agreed to do the call.  I called up the apartment manager, but then the mortgage company was not on the line.  She helped me to figure out how to merge the calls, and we were conferencing!

I let the apartment manager ask the questions, and I have no idea if the answers were satisfactory, because she hung up first.  I will probably find out today, if they were.  Afterwards, the lady from the mortgage company said that my case manager has sent in the title, to check for liens, and I will be notified in writing when it comes back clear, within the next 2 weeks.  (It will come back clear.  I’ve made some idiotic financial decisions, but I’ve never taken out an equity loan on my house).  At that point, we will schedule an inspection, and we will need to remove all personal belongings from the property.  Which means that the moped garage, the beds, bookshelves, etc. that we intended to leave with the house, must also be removed.  She said that we will be fine to proceed with deed in lieu, as long as the title comes back fine.  She gave me my case manager’s extension.

So, today it’s up in the air.  I went through all the emotions, worrying that I was going to cause my family to be homeless.  But there is always a path.  There are a great deal of individually-owned duplexes and homes on Craig’s list, in the area where we want to live.  And if that doesn’t work, there are the scary RV parks (one was less scary than the rest–it was just cramped and lacked trees.  But it was on Galveston Bay, which is a plus).  There are also extended stay hotels, which have the added benefit of maid service.

Or we could move in with Sandy or the Hoombahs…(just kidding, guys!  Maybe….Any other readers in Houston??)

So, all of that went down in the morning.  And we made it to Beanie’s therapy appointment only slightly late.  Her therapists are quite eager to see her, since she only has two more appointments there.

Then, as we came back into town on the way home, the exhaust pipe on our Volvo station wagon severed.  Mercifully, the catalytic converter still functions, although it is beaten up from dragging on the road.  The part we need to replace is inexpensive, but it won’t arrive until Monday.  (Such is the case, when you drive an import in Michigan.  Rob does a lot of work on it, because there is only one mechanic we know, who will work on imports at all, and he is quite booked).  So, no trip up north.  We’re bummed that we won’t visit the cottage before we leave, but it is nice to have some time to work on the house.  We’re borrowing my parents’ car and trailer today, so we can start getting rid of the large items we were going to leave.  They will pick up Beanie tomorrow, and keep her for three nights.  We have to prep her for the week she’s going to spend with them every summer, after we move!

So there we are.  Still crazy, still in this house, and it’s still all up in the air.  But I’m learning to roll with it.

Vintage Cartoon of a Frazzled Woman Pulling Her Hair Out clipart

Last Week’s Trip (and a GREAT minimalist house!)

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(the sign on Chris and Kelly’s piano.  I thought it was appropriate)

Ask that your way be long.
At many a Summer dawn to enter
with what gratitude, what joy –
ports seen for the first time;

–From “Ithaca” by Constance Caverfy

That stanza from the “Ithaca” poem ran through my head, as our plane descended last Sunday, and Houston came into view.  I had an aisle seat, but I leaned forward to see this new place, that was to be my future.  I blinked rapidly as my eyes filled with tears.

Everyone else on the plane was returning from a vacation at Disney World.  I was beginning a new life.

I was greeted by my brother-in-law, Chris, and his wife, Kelly.  They had done the legwork, to make this change possible, and I stayed with them for the two nights I was there.  (We will be staying with them again, next week).

Chris and Kelly at a roadside fruit stand.  Do you think Texas is ready for two brothers, with waxed mustaches?

Chris and Kelly at a roadside fruit stand. Do you think Texas is ready for two brothers, with waxed mustaches?

Two Mrs. Rosselits are better than one!

Two Mrs. Rosselits are better than one!

Look at all those masts!

Look at all those masts!

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Out to eat at Boongoddle’s…

The dog could come along, too.

The dog could come along, too.

All right, so let’s talk about their house.  We always suspected that Chris and Kelly didn’t have a lot of stuff, and now we have confirmation of it.  The refreshing thing is that Chris and Kelly don’t consider themselves to be “minimalists,” because they don’t consider their lifestyle to be countercultural.  They just have what they need and what they want, and that’s all.  Intentional living is a way of life for them, not something new that they are trying to embrace.

So let’s take a look!

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From the outside, it’s a cute house in the suburbs.

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But look at their backyard garden!

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The sunroom

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Very simple bedrooms.

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The parlor/music room.

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A delightfully simple living room

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And a very unique shower!

We had a wonderful trip, discovering a new city.  And, as you read this, we are on the road, planning to stop in Little Rock tonight.  We are seeing many states that we have never seen before, and we will share our adventures with you tomorrow!

Keep chasing those dreams!

My First Business Trip (and an adventure, of course)

Hello, everyone!

Every year, the Michigan Transition Services Association has a 2-day conference, and this year, I was able to go. That’s right, folks, I am on an honest-to-gosh business trip–my first one ever! I definitely feel like I’m moving up in the world.

If you don’t live in Michigan, then you don’t know that it has lots of cute, touristy towns that make you feel like you’re a family back in the 1950’s, on vacation. This conference is in one such town, Frankenmuth, Michigan’s “little Bavaria.” Everything here is “old fashioned” German, and the town is perpetually decorated for Christmas. Tomorrow, we’re going to take Jelly Bean to Bronner’s, which is an insanely large Christmas store.

All the rooms that weren’t ridiculously lavish (and expensive) at the hotel where the conference is being held, were already booked, so I got us a reasonably priced room at the Springhill. This morning, when I left, I knew which direction I needed to go, and that the conference was at the Bavarian Inn, which is the hotel with the indoor waterpark. I didn’t know my way around town, since I haven’t been here since I was the Bean’s age, but I knew we weren’t far from the conference. So I departed.

And that is where today’s adventure begins.

After a couple of blocks, I passed the Bavarian Inn restaurant.  There definitely was not a hotel there, and the parking lot was rather empty, so there was certainly no conference going on.  So I continued down the road.  The buildings were becoming further spread-out, the right lane ended, and I was approaching a sign that read, “Auf Wiedersehen.”  That’s not good.

Then, on my left, I saw a large, cutsie German building, with lots of Christmas decorations, and a very obvious waterpark inside.  Hurray!

Hurriedly, I grabbed my iPad and walked inside.  No sign of any conference.  So I asked the girls at the front desk, if the transition conference was being held there.  They said it was not, then asked where it was held.  When I answered they said, no, this is Zehnder’s hotel, the other hotel/waterpark’s arch rival. The hotel I was looking for was behind the restaurant, and down the road.  I thanked them and made my way back to the car.

Before I go on, there are a few things you need to know.  First, I was driving the Saturn, which has manual locks and windows (and transmission, much to my delight).  Second, since we were in the “big city,” Rob had locked all of the doors, except mine.  And third, I’m not in the habit of locking doors or taking my keys out of the ignition, when I park.

It was the perfect storm.

Still hurrying, I pulled the handle on the driver’s side door.  Locked.  In my rush, I must have locked the door, but forgotten to grab the keys.  Shoot. 

I walked back inside, and asked if there was anyone I could call, to get the door of my car open.  I already felt bad, because I was giving the hotel no business (although it was an adorable little kid paradise–we will have to make a trip there sometime!), and asking favors of them.  I expected to get the number of a towing company or something similar.

Instead, the receptionist calls maintenance on her radio.  He says he’ll be there in 15 minutes.  When he isn’t there 20 minutes later, the girl calls again, then says she’ll drive me to the conference in the hotel’s van, and that I can call her when it is over, and she’ll pick me up.  Then, we can deal with the keys.

I took her up on the offer, arriving  just in time to enjoy some egg casserole and coffee, right before the keynotes speaker.  I made sure to stop by the gift shop and pick up lots of fudge, for the staff of the rival hotel to have in their break room.

I enjoyed the conference, got a ride back to the hotel, gave them the fudge, and was able to get back into my car, without having to call a towing company. 

Overall, it was a most excellent day.

The Germans should be better recognized for their hospitality…

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January’s Adventure: Riding in a Flying Machine to the Exotic Land of Wisconsin

For Rob’s Christmas gift, I got us tickets to see “A Prairie Home Companion” in Madison, WI. We’ve enjoyed listening to this show on the radio for years, and we’ve heard rumor that Garrison Keillor might be retiring this summer. So we definitely needed to go see it!

Wisconsin is just across Lake Michigan from us, so it isn’t a bad drive when the car ferries are running. However, they are not running this time of the year, which would make the drive very annoying.

So we decided to take a flying machine.

Rob flew a lot, as a kid, but I’ve only flown once before. The three of us flew to Florida, when Beanie was 22 months old. Both Beanie and I got stick on pilot’s wings, to comemorate the occasion.

This time, Jelly Bean (still recovering from the flu), stayed with my parents, who dropped us off at the airport. We got there early, to take off our shoes and do the whole TSA bit. It went a LOT faster than the last time we flew–and they were much more relaxed, joking around even. We packed light, with a briefcase for the computers and a small rolly bag, so we could do it all carry-on and save $50. However, they weren’t too excited about us carrying-on Rob’s straight razor…So we checked that bag.

Even with that adventure, we were ready in plenty of time. And our flight was running late.

They had wifi, but it wasn't working...

While we were waiting, I saw on our boarding passes that there was a sushi restaurant at the Detroit airport, where we would have an hour-plus layover. Sounded like dinner to me! Now the plane just had to hurry up.

We ended up boarding 20 minutes late, then the de-icing took forever. This was killing me–we’re talking sushi here! There was more waiting after we arrived in Detroit late, and we ended up getting there (and having to run to the other side of the airport) 10 minutes after the next flight started boarding. We got there right before they were going to close the gate.

So it was Pizza Hut for dinner, in Madison.

We had a nice hotel suite, where we spent most of Saturday, relaxing and catching up. (Those of you with kids know how wonderful it is, to have a conversation without the little one underfoot!).

Our room had a balcony and a nice view.

Yes, he wore his sock garters.
Our show was at 9:00. It was a late show, rather than the actual show that was broadcast, which had sold out before we could get tickets. With this show, all the seats were sold out, except for the balcony seats. So we sat in the nosebleed section. The show was at the Overture Center, which was a very neat place.
When we arrived, we were immediately greeted by a cash bar, selling drinks and plastic “Overture Center” sippy cups. Apparently, if you have a sippy cup, you can bring your drink into the theater! So we enjoyed Martinis during the show.
The show itself was very good–it was music-heavy, because the musicians were having such a great time, and because I think Garrison was getting a bit tired. Robin and Linda Williams, a bluegrass group, were there, which was neat because we have seen them in Mount Pleasant, near our house. Everyone was getting so into the music, that the show ran over by nearly an hour, and I ended up having to slip out and tell the cab company that I would just call when it was over.
I did call, but we never did see our cab. It was absolute chaos downtown, with everyone looking for a ride back, so we ended up finding a cab and making it back to our room by midnight.
We stayed up and talked for awhile, then got a few hours of sleep before heading to the airport in the morning, for our 6:50 flight. There were some neat sights at the Madison airport.

I know a thing or two about those...Our plane?

On the flight back to Detroit–which left on time, thankfully!–we were treated to a wonderful sunrise. There was a break in the clouds, and we saw the sun rise over the shore of Lake Michigan. It was an absolutely awesome sight, and I think we were the only people on the plane who noticed.
Best of all, we got to Detroit early, with plenty of time for a sushi breakfast. It’s good any time of the day, folks! Theirs was all cooked, but it still wasn’t bad.
To get to our next flight, we had to go through the trippy tunnel at the Detroit airport. This tunnel has psychadelic lighting on the walls, and kind of surreal music playing. I’m never sure what to make of it. But this is the first time we haven’t had to run through it (and most people are running through it).
Our seat on the last plane (in the back of coach, of course!), gave us a great view of the bondo-ed up wing. And during our 30 minutes in the air, we were treated to lots of disconcerting noises and lurches.
But we obviously made it back in one piece.
Next month, Rob will become old enough to run for President. I suppose I should get to work, planning an adventure for his present…