may 2012

The weekend was kind of a blur for me, especially because I was really not feeling well, but most of our non-essential stuff got packed into boxes and then moved into our first Pod. We initially thought we would move everything into the Pod ourselves, but when we realized that we would have around 150 boxes plus some random furniture, we figured it would be worth it to hire some movers to do that part for us.

They showed up on Sunday morning, and two hours later our house, which had been completely stuffed to the gills with boxes and clutter, was suddenly very empty. The Pod was almost completely full floor to ceiling, and we felt a like we'd taken a big step in getting the house ready to sell. We're using the same company to do our final move a month from now—they were fast, efficient, and relatively cheap.

My parents came to watch Will while we focused on the moving stuff, and because of my illness I don't really feel like I got to see them at all—whenever I was feeling well enough to be out of bed, I was packing and getting all the stuff for the first Pod arranged for the movers. But Will had a great time with them, and knowing that he was being taken care of allowed Julie to focus on the move stuff.

The only big things we have left to do before we put the house up for sale are to get the carpets professionally cleaned, arrange the remaining furniture so that it's as inviting as possible, and get a handyman to take care of a few little nagging things. All of that is scheduled for this week, so we're hoping that a week from now our house will be on the market. The constant parade of potential buyers will be its own special little hell, but we're hoping we've done all the right things and are going to pick a price point where we'll get some serious offers quickly.

I'm feeling halfway human again for the first time in about a week, although I can tell that it's still going to be a few days until I'm fully recovered. This was a nasty bug—fever, nausea, and a severe cough that was probably the worst symptom of all because it kept me awake for hours and deprived me of much needed sleep. I even resorted to taking cough medicine, which I don't think I've done since I was a kid, and it was just as horrible-tasting as I remember it. It helped a couple of times, but there were also a couple of times when it seemed to have no effect whatsoever.

It's an odd time of year to be getting sick with something like this, but I think it must be going around—several of my colleagues at work also seem to have been afflicted by it. I'm guessing that all the stress with moving and starting a new job didn't help much, either. But hopefully it's behind me now and I can get back to tying off all the loose ends at work before I leave at the end of the month.

Still haven't watched a single episode of the new season of Mad Men yet. I think it's the two hour premiere that I can't get past—I really like to ingest these episodes as whole chunks, but I don't have the time or the mental focus to sit for an hour and a half (the actual content of the episode once you take out the commercials) and work my way through it.

Our house looks better, inside and out, than it ever has in the twelve years that we've owned it, but it already doesn't feel like it's our home anymore. We've tried to keep things as stable as we can for Will, although he's pretty adaptable—his room is the one room we haven't touched at all, other than to clean the carpets. We still have some work left to do to get the house ready to list, but we should be able to do it by mid-next week at the latest, which means we should have two full weekends to show it off to buyers before we have to pack up the rest of our furniture.

It would be nice to get a quick offer or two and have it under contract by the time we leave for Atlanta, but with no furniture and no occupants, the only thing we should have to worry about managing remotely is the lawn service to keep the grass cut and the flower beds free of weeds. And we have neighbors who will keep an eye on the place for us, even though there won't be anything inside worth stealing at that point. But it would still ease our minds to have the house under contract by the time we vacate the premises at the end of the month.

I'm working at home today even though I'm feeling better than I have in a couple of weeks. Yesterday wasn't great, but I rested a lot and I think it finally made a difference. Saving time on the commute today will help me get a few last details wrapped up with the house before we have our real estate agent take one more look at the house so he can schedule a photographer in preparation for listing the house later this week.

Today will probably be the last time I ever mow the lawn at this house, which is just another one of the million little things I've had to do in the past six weeks that has made me overly emotional about our decision to leave Baltimore and head south. I know it's the right thing to do, but it's scary going into the unknown and leaving behind a life that has been pretty happy for us in Maryland, especially over the past few years as we've gotten more recognition in our jobs and we were finally able to add a little one to our family.

Intellectually I have all confidence that I will become just as important and knowledgeable in my new job as I am in my current one, and I know that we can make a nice life for ourselves in Atlanta, too, but the emotional reptillian response is fear and doubt. I'm not really ready to leave this place even though I know that it's time. I'm already missing it more than I ever thought possible—my friends, my coworkers, the landscape, the places we go, all of it. I guess I was finally feeling like I actually belonged here, and now I have to go and figure out how to belong somewhere else.

I think today might be the first time that my entire team has been physically present in the building at the same time in over a month. A lot of that is my fault—I've been working from home, sick, and taking vacation to do stuff related to selling the house a lot in the past few weeks—but I've got two other team members who have been out pretty frequently as well.

With all the things that I'm aware of on the calendar in the next month and my intution about other things that might cause unscheduled absences, I'm guessing that there will maybe be five more days when all five of us are here on the same day before my last day of work.

This might be the worst season of Deadliest Catch yet. I've long been a fan of this show, but this season it just doesn't feel like the same program. They're spending virtually no time with the two best boats (and the two that have been with the series from the beginning), the Northwestern and the Time Bandit, even though both of those boats have the best stories this year in terms of the history of the show—each of these boats took one of the sons of the captain who died two seasons ago, and whose boat was the only other consistent boat from the beginning of the show.

Instead, producers are spending far too much time focusing on two boats and captains who were just introduced last season, and neither of whom is very likable or has any compelling storylines. Perhaps this is fallout from a couple of seasons ago when the veteran captains threatened to boycott the show after a contract dustup between the network and the Time Bandit owners for a spinoff show, but whatever the cause, it's a mistake.

The Northwestern, the Time Bandit, and the Cornelia Marie (the boat run by the captain who died two years ago) are the reasons that this show became popular in the first place, and the emotional connection that fans have to those crews should continue to be what drives the producers. I couldn't care less about these new crews, and their overexposure relative the the boats that I've followed for years is turning me off.

There are far too many people who don't seem to realize that I'm not going to be at my job three weeks from now who are involving me in far too many discussions that it's no longer appropriate to make me the point person for. I'm not intending to sit around doing nothing for my final weeks here, but I'm also not intending to do the work that I would have done over the next three to four months over that time, either.

We're listing our house today. Should be an interesting weekend...

Because we were expecting a lot of traffic the first weekend the house was on the market, we made plans to be out of the house all day on both Saturday and Sunday, boarding the cats for the day and planning outings to keep Will occupied.

Saturday we had five showings, which we thought was a pretty good number considering that the house had only been listed the day before. We left the house just before the first showing at 10, ran a couple of errands, and then took Will into Baltimore for lunch and a walk around Hampden. It was only about 1:30 when we finished with that, and he was getting pretty cranky, so we decided to drive back towards home and hope that he fell asleep in the car. He did just that, so we ended up driving around for a couple of hours to let him get some rest, and then we took him for ice cream and to Walmart to look at the fish.

The final showing of the day was from 5-6, but we were hoping they might finish early. But when we drove past our house around 5:20, there was still a car in the driveway, so we took Will on one last littel adventure to a local park, where he spent half the time going down a corkscrew slide and the other half flirting with an 11 month old girl and her mom.

As of Saturday night we only had one confirmed appointment for Sunday, but we were still planning to spend the day out of the house just in case. We figured showings might be lower than normal for a Sunday because of Mother's Day, but we were hoping we'd get at least a few. As it turned out, however, no one else booked a showing, and the one that was scheduled from 1:30-2:30 canceled in the morning for a "family emergency" (which we assume was code for "we forgot it was Mother's Day").

Still, we had a pretty fun day with Will—we went into Baltimore again to visit the aquarium and then came home early in the afternoon to crash and catch up on some sleep after an exhausting couple of days.

No word yet on whether any of the people who saw the house on Saturday are interested enough to make an offer, but we're optimistic that we'll get something in the next week or so. Without a holiday, next Saturday and Sunday should be packed with showings, and I don't think it will take long for the right person to find the house. Ideally we will have it under contract before we leave for Atlanta, but if not, I don't think it will be on the market for too long. Fingers crossed.

We got our first offer on the house last night, and we're pretty happy with it. We're doing a counter to see if we can make it a little better, and we're also hoping that another showing this morning might lead to a second competitive offer, but even if there is no second offer and the first offer isn't sweetened a little bit, we'll strongly consider taking it, because it would be really nice to have the house under contract before we leave. It would also mean no more showings, so we could go back to actually living in our house for the next couple of weeks instead of always having it in a state where we could clear out and allow an agent to do a showing with half an hour's notice.

There's part of me that would like to wait until the end of the second weekend to see all potential offers, because I believe that we would get a ton of showings on Saturday and Sunday (it was just bad luck that our first Sunday was Mother's Day, and we had zero showings even though we had five on Saturday when the house had been on the market for less than 24 hours), but part of the reason we did all the work we did (and a lot of that was Julie because of my illness at the end of April) was not only to get the price we wanted, but also to get it in a state where it would show well and sell quickly. And because it would be a big relief to Julie to have the house under contract while we're still in Maryland, I think we'll take the best offer we have in the next couple of days.

With all the house activity (lots of back and forth from work to home to clear the kitties out for showings, and a couple of long meetings with our realtor), I haven't had much time to play Diablo III. I have played a little bit now, but my first character hasn't even gotten as far as the test characters I created during the beta, so there's not a lot that I haven't already seen during the beta.

I was a huge fan of Diablo II and its expansion pack, but I don't think this game will grip me the same way that one did. I'm sure I'll still play through the first couple of difficulty levels with at least a couple of characters, but it will be much more leisurely. There are nice graphics and feature updates, but really, it's kind of the same game with a new skin—it doesn't have that sense of newness that the last version of the game had for me, and that will likely make it less compelling over time.

Still, it will be a nice distraction until the next Warcraft xpac is released, and since most of my Warcraft friends are playing D3 as well, that's a better game choice if I want to hang out with them online. Still looking forward to seeing how the story plays out, and seeing what new character type will become my favorite class, but again, I don't think this will grip me the way its predecessor did.

While we were waiting to hear back on our counter offer from the first offer we got on the house, we got another offer that was virtually identical to the first. The second couple clearly loved the house and were highly motivated—they saw the house at 10:00 on Tuesday morning and had an offer to us by 3:00 that afternoon, and they had just been outbid on a different house the week before.

We then got word back from the first couple that their lender wasn't going to let them sweeten their offer at all, which made our decision on which offer to accept very difficult: the first couple made their offer first, but it took them two days to do so after seeing the house (which is still a quick turnaround, especially when you consider that they saw it on a Saturday, so they really got us the offer the first business day after seeing the house), but the second couple's offer was slightly better in terms of money and they got us an offer about as fast as they possibly could have after seeing the property.

We were really agonizing about which offer to accept, because they were both good, when our decision was made for us: the first couple went to a different lender to see if they could get a better package, and they came back with a number pretty close to our original counter offer, which was much better than the second offer. They also came back with a closing date two weeks earlier than their original offer, which saves us half a month's mortgage payment. So we signed that offer on Wednesday morning.

We still have to get through the home inspection and the appraisal, but we're not expecting any major issues there, and so even thought the formal closing won't happen until the end of June, the only thing that could happen after we leave (given that the appraisal and inspection go as expected) to hold up the sale is their loan not going through. But they have been preapproved for the right amount and for this specific home, so the odds of that are pretty low.

Nothing is settled until it is completely settled, but we're optimistic that this will be a pretty smooth process, and that come July, we'll have a much better sense of what our budget will be when we start our search for a permanent home in Atlanta. We're committed to a six month lease, but once we have the finances in order, we're going to start searching, and if we find the home that's right for us, we're going to pull the trigger, even if it means we have to pay both rent and mortgage for a few months.

When we had one of our days out last weekend to leave the house available for showings to potential buyers, we ended up spending some time in Hampden, and instead of having lunch at my perennial favorite, Golden West, we decided instead to eat at Cafe Hon. I'm not a fan of the food or the owner, but we were curious about whether Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares makeover had made a difference.

To my surprise, it did. I got a burger mostly because I had gotten one on a previous visit and it was terrible, so that was my best point of comparison, and it was much better than before. The burger I had last time was clearly a preformed patty that was probably frozen, while this one was handmade and flavorful. It also came with caramelized onions that added significantly to the experience; the only thing that my prior visits to Cafe Hon had implanted in my brain was that the food was generic and unmemorable, but I'll remember the distinctive taste of the caramelized onions (they were almost like a chutney) for a long, long time. Julie got a mushroom cheese melt which looked pretty good and which she also grealy enjoyed compared to her previous visits.

The decor hadn't changed as much as it looked like it had on the television show—it still felt very much like the old Cafe Hon—but there were two distinctive murals on the back wall near our table. I'm still not sure I would go out of my way to recommend this restaurant to people, especially when one of my favorite Baltimore restaurants is just a block away, and I still have mistrust for the owner, but I wouldn't tell people not to go there if they asked. And that's a huge change from how I felt before this most recent visit.

It's been over a week since the finale aired, so I don't think I'm going to be spoiling anything by talking about this season of Survivor. Like most recent seasons, it was pretty predictable and pretty sucky, but at least this time they didn't bring back players who had already played once or more. Still, Kim's victory was the kind of slow, grinding, inevitable win that is dull at best and painful at worst.

It doesn't seem like the contestants who make it to the final half of the season have any personality or guts at all, which means that whichever alliance of whatever sort is biggest at the merge picks off everyone else and then starts to eat themselves, usually with the consent of the weaker members, who accept their early departures with a kind of "oh well, someone had to go and I guess it's fair that it was me because our leader is so awesome that if she thought it was my time to go, it must have been" attitude that makes even the blindsides totally boring.

This has been my favorite reality show for a long time (although I like The Amazing Race almost as much, and it has a much nicer vibe than Survivor—you can actually root for many of the teams on that show), but I don't know how many more seasons like the last few I can take. I suspect I'll watch it out of habit for at least a couple of seasons more, but I used to get excited about watching it, and now it's turning into just another show.

Still haven't watched a single episode of Mad Men, but TiVo has saved them all for me and won't delete them until I tell it to. I think at this point I'm going to save them for after we move to Atlanta—I'm going to be in our new rental place by myself for several days without cable or internet before Julie arrives with Will, so TiVo'd shows are going to be the only entertainment I have access to.

Because of my institution's commencement ceremony tomorrow and the holiday on Monday, I'm going to do what I've done pretty much every year for the last ten years and take a single day of vacation on Friday to get a five day weekend. I'm anticipating that I'll use most of that time to pack for our upcoming move, which is kind of a sucky way to spend all those days off, but it's also nice that these days off happen to fall when they do—otherwise I'd probably have to take all of that time in vacation days in order to make sure all my stuff is packed.

So weird. Ten days from now Baltimore's just going to be a memory for me, and Will likely won't remember her at all...

We've had the home inspection now, and although the inspector was ridiculously picky compared to our inspection when we bought the house (and I was happy with the level of detail our inspector went into), the buyers have only asked for repairs on a few things, and hopefully we'll agree on a number and sign that today.

There are still many ways that this could go wrong between now and our settlement date at the end of June, so I don't want to jinx it too much, but so far this has been a remarkable smooth and speedy process. We still have the home appraisal next week, which is the next major hurdle, but after that, there's not a whole lot more we can do—we just have to hope that everything goes well on the buyers' side.

When we were planning our home search in Atlanta, we were thinking that, with the time it typically takes to sell a house and then look for one and buy it, we'd be in our rental for at least six months, if not more. But if we have the money from this house in July and can set our downpayment and monthly payment budget, we might be able to start our search in earnest by the end of July, and if we find the right place quickly, we could be in it before the initial six month term of our rental lease expires.

The rental lease goes to month-to-month after the first six months, so if it takes longer than that to find our permanent home, it's no big deal. That means we can ride out any potential pushbacks to our settlement date, and we can also wait for the exact right house to come along. I would like to get resettled as soon as possible, both because I hate being in transition and because it won't be until we find our permanent home that we pull the first Pod out of storage, which has all my collections, etc. But it's nice to know that we can set the pace for that.

Our second Pod, which is what we will pack the stuff that we'll need for the short term in Atlanta, arrives today, and the movers come on Sunday to put all our boxes and furniture into it. We're in pretty good shape, mostly because of how much stuff Julie was able to get prepared for the first Pod (I was pretty sick in the two weeks leading up to that weekend and wasn't able to help a whole lot).

We thought two Pods would be plenty, but now that we see all the stuff that's left, we're getting a little concerned that we might not have enough room for it all, so when we're packing, we'll prioritize the stuff we have to have and leave some margin for things that we'd like to bring (like our grill) that, if they don't fit, we can leave behind and replace once we get settled in Georgia.

So not a very fun holiday weekend for us. But still, come Tuesday morning when they come to pick up this Pod, I'm sure we'll feel pretty good about all that we've accomplished in the last two months.

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who, when meeting a friend for dinner, will immediately enter the restaurant assuming that their friend a) is already inside or b) will join them inside when they arrive, and those who wait outside to meet their friend.

This all works out fine so long as the person you're meeting is the same kind of person you are. But apparently most of my friends fall into the former category, and I fall into the latter. This results in situations like last night where, even though both of us were early, my friend arrived first, and so he sat inside waiting for me for 20 minutes before calling to see where I was while I was simultaneously sitting outside wondering just how late he was going to be.

We have no real furniture left in the house now after packing up the second Pod and sending it on its way down to Atlanta. Our computers are on folding tables, the tv is sitting on two plastic crates, we're sleeping on air mattresses, and Will is sleeping in his Pack N Play. We do have a couch and a kitchen table, but those are not going to travel with us—we're giving them to Goodwill on Friday.

All in all, it's not that bad. Will has adapted remarkably well, and given how much stuff we don't have that we had a month ago, we're still able to keep up about 80% of our daily routine without too much trouble. Yes, air matresses are as comfortable as a real bed, the extra couch is not as big or comfy as the couch that we sent down to Georgia, and the tables we have our computers on wobble irritatingly when you type anything, but for a week, it will work fine.

This is basically how my life will be in Atlanta for the first week as well, except the only thing I'll have to sit on is a cheap collapsible chair that we used to take with us when we sold photos at art festivals. But my computer will still be on one of these cheap tables and my bed will still be an air mattress until the end of next week when the furniture that we shipped on Tuesday gets down to our rental place.

Even though we still have a lot to do once we get down there—I start my new job right away, we still have to finish selling our house, and then we have to find a permanent home—it will be nice to have a significant part of the transition behind us.

The family that is buying our house came over last night so we could show them little maintenance things that are easier to see in person than have described over email (the different setting for our hot water heater, how to start up our grill (which we are leaving for them because we don't have room to pack it) how to swap the screen in our front door for glass, etc.).

We were also really curious just to meet them, too. We didn't know too much about the people behind our two competing bids, but we were hoping the winning bid belonged to a family, because our neighborhood is a great place for kids, and it we aren't going to be able to raise Will there, we were hoping that another family with young kids would be able to. It turns out that they have three young daughters and another on the way, so I'm sure they'll fit in perfectly (especially because there is a family two houses up with three kids who seem to be about the ages of their three current children).

While we're happy that someone else is excited about moving into our house, and we hope that they and their kids will grow to love the neighborhood as much as we did, their visit was another one of those emotionally difficult things that make the reality of what's about to happen even harder to deny. I've got my farewell party at work today, too, and even though tomorrow is my last day, I can't imagine someone else sitting in my office with my title, or never seeing some of the people I work with who have grown into friends outside of work, or no longer being able to say that I work for Johns Hopkins.

Right now I'm bottling up all these emotions because there's just so much to do between now and Saturday when I have to drive down to Atlanta, but they still come bursting out at random moments and I'm sure once the move is done and I can unwind a little bit, I'll have a nice crying jag about all the great people and places that we're leaving behind (I have no idea how I'm going to make it through my party today). I'm excited about Atlanta, but I love many, many things about our life here, and even if we build a great new life in Georgia (which I'm confident we will), it's still tough to say goodbe to Maryland.

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