Tuesday, March 22 2022

open house week 2

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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everybody. Welcome to Tuesday. A grey overcast sky blankets the view outside my dim dining room. A flock of black birds glides between the barren trees. After yesterday's lovely weather, I'd expect the fickle Midwest forces of nature to pump the brakes on all the sunshine and happiness. We're back to a gloom and chill, at least for the next day or so.

I'll tell you what's not gloomy and chilly - it's this cup of coffee sitting right in front of me. Freshly brewed, dark as a stray cat. Bad weather has a way of making your regular homemade coffee tastes so good. Here's to bad weather - to second winter!

Sip. I feel more like myself today. I went through all the same motions of sending Rodney off to school, making coffee, writing, and trying to get some work done, but with all the house-selling swirling around my head, focus comes in short supply these days. Yesterday, if anything, was just a practice day. I sat in my seat. I had a little green dot next to my handle on Slack. But all day, I felt like I was just playing a character named "Alex Recker" on TV.

Also, a weird thing happened to my body just after lunch. I scarfed a couple of pieces of leftover Little Caesars, and immediately I felt a growing sense of dread. It started in my stomach and spread out to my shoulders, neck, and fingers. I tried sitting, stretching, and laying down, but I couldn't lower my heart rate or catch a deep breath. "I think my body just hit it's fast food limit," I said to Marissa, anxiously pacing around the room.

Marissa felt the same, but being more in tune with her emotions, suggested that this was just the aftershock of cleaning, traveling, and selling our house so quickly.

But then the most wonderful thing happened - we exercised. We got back on the Trainer Greg wagon, and with each dead lift I felt the ball of stress in my stomach dissolve and exit my body in purifying sweat. Marissa also made us a healthy dinner - chicken caesar salad wraps with a side of fresh fruit. It's nice to find a sense of balance again, but I think we should lay off the Little Caesar's pizza for a while.

Things move fast with the housing market. For this entry, I'm sticking with the series name "open house week", even though we've already accepted an offer. In three short days, we had fifty-ish showings, and we got eleven offers. Marissa and I scrawled each of the offers on sheets of legal paper and arranged them on the back porch table. On cue just before we began the deliberation, a gust of wind blew the papers into the yard. "Our offers!" shrieked Marissa. Going by her sense of panic, you'd think that gust of wind was literally blowing all of the offers off the table, but that funny little moment just shows how high strung we've been lately.

So here's something I didn't realize. Might be obvious in hindsight, but when you get an offer to buy your house, you can see the buyers' names. After we had made an impartial decision, I punched some of the names into Google, just to get a sense at who was interested in our house. I thought I'd find people like landlords, lawyers, grifters, or total deadbeats that just managed to fall into some money. But the silly exercise challenged my cynicism. There were professors that studied social justice, city planners invested in the development of Madison, nurses and healthcare workers that turned up in articles about combating COVID, and entrepreneurs that wanted to boldly spin up new businesses in the area. The reality was more humbling than I'd hoped. Suddenly, all these people seemed more deserving of our house than I was. Our realtor stopped by our house later in the afternoon. Marissa and I had to initial each of the offers we were rejecting. I felt a twinge of guilt each time I penned my name, like I was shutting the door on someone's dream.

"Don't worry about these other offers," said Tobi. "I've got another listing next week. A lot of these people will have another shot at living in this neighborhood." Tobi validated our sense of guilt, but she reminded us that picking an offer - a great offer at that - called for celebration. The three of us cracked open a midday beer before sending off the final acceptance to the new owners of our house.

But more on the actual open house week. We'd spend the weekend at my parent's. On the first day, we set out to get a "vibe check" for Arlington Heights - one of the neighborhoods we were considering.

What the heck is a "vibe check"? It's just some ironic millenial slang that we've incorporated into our process. To conduct a "vibe check", we simply pack the kids in the car, drive around, run errands, and go out to dinner. The goal is to do something routine and time consuming, all while subconsciously gathering data in the background.

Our first stop was Target. We bought some new shirts for Miles, and then we let the boys each pick out a toy. Marissa, a Target conniseur, was forthright with her criticism. "A terrible Target," she said quietly. "Dense. Confusing. Bad vibes."

I went to high school in Arlington Heights. Returning almost fifteen years later, I didn't think this would be a problem. But driving around the town, we couldn't avoid passing by the school building. I felt on edge walking around, like I was going to bump into someone from my past. The field trip showed me that high school was still just a little too fresh to consider living in the same town.

We grabbed dinner with the boys in the downtown area. I used to wander around downtown Arlington Heights as a senior between classes, but I couldn't believe how busy it's gotten. We had to circle the block to find a parking space. We crossed train tracks and walked around the block to reach the restaurant. The first Mexican restaurant we picked bounced us at the door with a 90 minute wait for a table. We got pizza instead. Rodney and Miles liked the old school crayon friendly table cloth.

What were the results from the vibe check? Arlington Heights has gotten so dense since I was last here. It feels more city than suburb. I don't think we'd find the space we need. Paradoxically, it also doesn't feel new enough. I don't think I could live in a town where I'd be constantly haunted by the possibility of bumping into an old classmate or teacher.

More on open house week tomorrow. That's what I got today - have a great Tuesday everyone.