Category Archives: relocation

New Latitude, Episode 4: Tossin’ and Turnin’ in Tucson

If you’ve been following my current blog series, New Latitude, you’ll know I’m moving 2,000 miles northeast, and that my offer on a house I’ve seen only via the internet was accepted. I don’t usually toss and turn, but buying a house like this, and moving across the country in the middle of a pandemic, can change a person. And I have no one to blame for my recent sleepless nights but myself.

Oh, and I also blame my upstairs neighbor, a young guy who plays loud music, has squeaky floors (and a squeaky bed), and owns a shrill alarm clock that wakes me up at five a.m., five days a week. I’m really looking forward to getting out of here, and into my own home, where I can sleep as late as I want to and play my own loud music!

Last week I closed on the house, and I’m now the proud owner of … well … we’ll find out just what it is that I’m the proud owner of in about four weeks, when I finally get to set actual eyes on the place.

I realize I’m one of the lucky ones, seeing as I’m retired, I’m healthy, and I’ve managed to secure an appointment for my first COVID vaccine. But meanwhile (or quarantinewhile), here are some of the challenges I’ve been dealing with regarding my upcoming move:

  • New date! The mortgage company changed the closing date and gave me about a week’s notice to get my banking act together. Inconveniently, that week included a federal holiday (MLK Jr. Day) and the U.S. Presidential inauguration (which I also thought might be a bank holiday). I needed an in-person appointment to withdraw my funds, and appointments that week were scarce! On top of that, my lawyer didn’t know the exact amount I needed to send him yet. I managed to secure an appointment on a Tuesday, learned the final amount on Wednesday, and the wire transfer went through on Thursday. That part had to be requested by me using an online form. The confusing instructions I was given referred to a “title company” but, being just a regular human being, I did not know what that was. I took a guess that it was the bank holding my mortgage, and pressed “send.”
  • Not signed? After I electronically signed one of the necessary forms, the person at the other end said it wasn’t signed, although it was … I checked … and I wasn’t able to sign it again. It all got sorted out eventually.
  • Am I insured? My homeowner’s insurance account listed two different effective dates. When I called it to their attention, they said it was just a glitch and not to worry. Right! Tell that to my pillow when I’m crying into it at night!
  • Misspelling! My realtor’s name was spelled wrong on one of the forms (the bank’s error) and needed to be retyped during the closing.
  • Whew! The wire went through, the forms got corrected, the closing was conducted on Friday via FaceTime … and after an hour of signing papers, I was congratulated on being a new homeowner! At least I think I was … it’s all a blur.
  • Vaccination Plans! I’d been hoping to get both COVID vaccines here in Arizona before I moved (I’m in group 1b) … then because of the delays in vaccine distribution, I thought I’d get the first one here, then get the second in New York. Luckily, I checked this plan with the hotline in New York and they said no, I’d have to get both in the same state. I was able to get an appointment for the first one in New York, even though I’ll have to drive 300 miles from my new home to the vaccination site.
  • Managing the Move: I then spent countless hours determining how and when to leave Arizona (and who would move me). I needed a spreadsheet and flow chart to time my arrival in New York early enough to factor in a 10-day quarantine (required by the state), settle into my new home, and then drive to my vaccine appointment.
  • Moving Supplies: Normally I would just go to grocery stores, ask for empty boxes, and drive to U-Haul for other supplies. But as we know, things are not normal. I ordered boxes, tape, and bubble wrap online and got to work packing, taping, and labeling. I ran out and had to re-order. May have to do it again!
  • Anti-COVID Supplies: I bought a good supply of masks (I’m planning to double-mask), sanitizer, gloves, wipes, etc. I also made a list of food and supplies to bring in the car, in order to minimize stops along the way.
  • AAA SNAFUs: I called AAA for route suggestions and a list of COVID-safe, pet-friendly hotels, and they were glad to oblige. Unfortunately, they snail-mailed the info to one of my old addresses. They also said they’d email me a copy. I never received either. When I contacted them again, they said they’d re-send the email with my correct address (but didn’t). When I called a third time, they finally got it right.
  • Snow Patrol: I’d probably be driving through snow, so I bought a snow brush and ice scraper on Amazon, ordered more warm socks, and checked to make sure I knew where my gloves and hat were hidden. We don’t use them too often here in Tucson, but we do on days like this:
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is winter-in-tucson.jpg
  • Car Headaches: My car dealership had recently recommended that I buy two new tires and change my differential fluid (they wanted to charge me $700). I decided to go to my trusted mechanics down the road instead. When they saw my car, they informed me that I do not need two new tires and that they could not in good conscience sell me any. Further, my differential fluid was very clean and did not need to be changed. I then purchased a tire tread gauge (curbside pickup!) and double-checked the tire tread depth myself — and triple-checked by taking the car to a second tire store (again, curbside service!) — and everyone agreed that the dealership was trying to rip me off. I paid $50 for some new windshield wipers and an air filter and felt just fine about never returning to my car dealership again.

For the record, I’m not holding any of these SNAFUs against anyone, because I know times are tough and people are overworked, underpaid, and doing the best they can.

And even though I’ve been tossing and turning, I’ve recently discovered a way to cope! And I owe my new attitude to three excellent documentaries. Which ones, you ask?

Well, I hate to leave you hanging, but this blog post has gone on long enough. Please stay tuned, because very soon I’ll be blogging about those three documentaries, and how they improved my attitude. See you during the next exciting installment of New Latitude!

New Latitude, Episode 3: Mouse in a Boat

If you follow “New Latitude,” my ongoing saga about moving, you were left with a cliffhanger last week. Would my mortgage application be approved? Well, the short answer is: Yes! It was!

But the long answer is: Yes … but I want to wait until I can get the COVID-19 vaccine before driving cross-country (or flying, if that’s what I decide to do) … which might be March or even later … so I don’t know yet when I can move … and I can’t even start packing yet!

I feel a little like a very small mouse in a fragile paper boat, about to set out on a wild journey without a compass, a paddle, or a companion (other than a slice of cheese). Actually, I don’t feel that way entirely, but the picture was so cute I decided to build my entire blog post around it! And in case you missed it the first time, here it is again!

Artist: Victoria Borodinova via Pixabay

In order to deal with the stormy seas of moving, I’ve discovered a few ways to stay afloat:

– music

– cooking

– TV-watching

– daily walks, and

– writing.

If you happen to be moving, remember to take a step back from all the planning and immerse yourself in something relaxing instead.

As far as writing goes, I’ve recently discovered a new Facebook group, “The Isolation Journals.” If you’re interested in writing prompts, or just want some interesting topics to ponder, you may want to join the group. It’s described as “an artist-led journaling community founded by Suleika Jaouad.” (Ms. Jaouad is a writer associated with musician Jon Batiste. I only know of her because I Googled Jon Batiste one night after watching him on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. That’s another way I maintain my sanity. Watching The Late Show, that is. Not Googling. Although that helps, too.)

I dipped my toe in The Isolation Journals a bit late (not until prompt #123, actually). Here’s that prompt:

How can your presence enhance the growth of your community?

I hastily scribbled a response and posted it to the group. I’ve already received two likes. Hey, maybe Jon Batiste will read my post!

Do you keep a journal? Have you moved or are you moving? I’d love to hear about your journey.

Happy winter solstice, everyone! And be sure to follow my blog so you won’t miss the next exciting episode of “New Latitude”!

New Latitude, Episode 2: Do’s and Don’ts

Previously, on New Latitude:

After having moved from upstate New York to Tucson, Arizona seventeen years ago in search of a decent climate and better job, I’d come to a realization. I’d had my fill of blue skies. I was sick of sunsets that bathed the mountains in rosy hues each night. I hated wearing sandals in January. Authentic tacos were the worst. And all those darned hummingbirds! I longed for upstate New York, where the winters are brutal, the summers are humid and mosquito-filled, and there’s only one hummingbird – the ruby-throated – to identify, if it ever shows up at all.

Ruby-throated hummingbird. Image by Susan Killian @ Pixabay

No wait … none of that’s true, except for the first sentence. Rewind!

What I really meant to say was this: I’ve loved living in Tucson, but the pandemic had called a sudden halt to my regular flights back home to New York State to see my family. Who knew when I could travel there again? Call me loco, but I decided to relocate – to Rochester, where I’d be within a day’s drive of my entire immediate family. Sure, winters would be less than wonderful, but I could at least gaze upon my family’s frozen faces in person, instead of on a computer screen. Besides, the lease on my apartment was coming up for renewal. It was time for a new direction, so I took my first baby step: “Zillow-surfing.” 

And now for Episode 2: Do’s and Don’ts (of buying a house)

Zillow-surfing brought me up close and personal with hundreds of houses, without ever having to set foot in them. I got to see the good, the bad, the ugly, and in some cases, the dirty laundry. Through Zillow-surfing, I made some major decisions, like:

rent vs. buy

1 bath vs. 2

¼ acre vs. 10 acres and a barn

fenced yard backing up to private woods vs. unrestricted view of the auto body shop next door.

Image by Harald Dona @ Pixabay.

Once I’d narrowed my choices down, I started to get excited. But the more excited I became, the more impulsively I acted. I guess I got carried away and ignored common sense.

If you, too, are considering buying a home, here’s some unsolicited advice:

  1. DON’T rule out renting an apartment before buying a house you’ve seen only on the internet. Photoshop can give houses an instant makeover that’s even more amazing than the ones you’ve seen on Fixer Upper.
  2. DON’T cancel your Disney Channel and Hulu Plus subscriptions in the hopes these sacrifices will enable you to afford a house above your means. You’ll soon come to regret your decision, especially if you haven’t seen enough of “Cuomo Prime Time” or “Hamilton” yet.
  3. DON’T fool yourself into believing you’re a skilled negotiator. You’ll just be disappointed in yourself.
  4. DON’T buy a house in a “hot market” city, especially if it happens to be during a “seller’s market.”
  5. DON’T waive an engineering inspection.
  6. DON’T commit to making up the difference between the purchase price and the bank appraisal.
  7. DON’T mail a sizable deposit to the seller without confirming you’ve written the check on the correct bank account — the one with sufficient funds — and not the other one, the one with only $33 in it.
  8. DON’T buy a house in the winter and plan on leaving the house vacant until spring. Pipes in vacant homes have been known to freeze and burst.
  9. DON’T buy a house during a pandemic without knowing when a vaccine will be available. You’ll want protection while driving cross-country, and I’m not talking about a bodyguard (although that would be nice).
  10. DON’T buy an 8-foot couch and two recliners immediately before deciding to move.

By the way, I’m guilty of all of the above.

Image by Gerd Altmann @ Pixabay.

Oh, and DON’T hire a moving van without shopping around. Luckily, I HAVE been shopping around, and the estimates differ wildly — as in a low of $2,800, and a high of — don’t laugh — $14,000. That’s not a typo! “Two Men and a Truck” wanted to charge $12,000 to $14,000 to move a two-bedroom apartment. That must be some classy moving truck they have. And speaking of trucks, did they think I just fell off a turnip truck?

Yeah, those are pumpkins, not turnips. Good eye!
Image by Sweethearts82 @ Pixabay.

On the plus side, interest rates are low right now, so I took the plunge. I bid on a house, and my offer was accepted. And don’t worry, I think I got a sweet deal, an engineer looked at the house before I bid on it, the bank waived their appraisal, the check eventually cleared, and I’m hoping the vaccine will become available soon … for everyone’s sake.

Yes, moving is going to be a pain, and yet I feel good about my decision. Sometimes you just have to take a chance and DO some of the DON’Ts.

Tune in again next time for the next exciting episode of New Latitude, in which I’ll reveal the outcome of my mortgage application! (It’s still a mystery to me.)