Saturday, April 5, 2014

Insomnia and the Next Right Answer

I have big news and I’m not sure to share it by referring to Parker Palmer and the Quaker notion that “way will open,” or by saying that my husband and I are moving on to “the next right answer,” a phrase used by Dewitt Jones (a former National Geographic photographer) in his video Everyday Creativity, or with my husband’s suggested headline “Insomnia Pays Off,” or to quip that it was easy for Jesus to tell his disciples not to worry about tomorrow, and to be fine with the fact that while foxes had dens, he had no place to lay his head—after all, he got to store his stuff (carpentry tools included) at his mom’s house—or to write that all this happened because our water was turned off for the day.

So I’ll start with this: Until two Mondays ago the word Manchester most easily called to my mind British soccer, followed by the name of a branch library in Kitsap County where I reside. But the Monday our water was turned off for planned neighborhood improvements, my husband, youngest daughter (who was home from college on spring break), and I went on a driving excursion through the southern part of the Kitsap Peninsula stopping short of the bridge to Tacoma, checking out the towns of Port Orchard and Gig Harbor, cruising past homes that had views or incredibly low prices to recommend them.

We drove into the village of Manchester southeast of Port Orchard, with its smattering of commerce: library, post office, restaurant, public boat lunch and waterfront park, the houses stacked on the hillside looking out onto incredible water views that include the Seattle skyline, Cascade range, Mt. Rainier, Bainbridge and Blake (a state park) Islands, and thought we could be at home here.

Port of Manchester with Seattle Skyline in the background.

One house we saw was tiny on a tiny lot and would need an addition that would take it to the property line setbacks. Another was a manufactured home on a rutted dirt lane surrounded by junkyard homes. Driving around we saw a great mix of home types, a lot of new construction, it was an area worth investigating: both for us to live in and for our home renovation business.

Water view from a house in Manchester for sale.
The house for sale that inspired our trip to Manchester.

It would be a waiting game: wait until we finished remodeling our house, had put it on the market, had an offer and a contract in escrow. Once all that was in place, we would see if there were any houses on the market for us to buy that had what we wanted: a low price, a water view, a location near the renovation work that is going to be our new livelihood, and then we’d need to move pronto!

While waiting, in addition to painting the house, I spent much of the week gifting furniture to community members on Buy NothingBainbridge (there are gift economies cropping up all over and you can read more here) still planning to downsize to a house about half the size of ours.

Jesus asked some of his potential followers to give away everything they have. Easier said than done, especially since I’ve been the one with the big house, the stable life, the recipient of many things: much of it sentimental, some of it practical, some from parents, some from children, some my own collecting. I parted with much of it before moving to Washington, and with even more in the last months, taking photos of the items I want to remember, and sending them on with love and thanks that they will be used and appreciated elsewhere.  

If you read my blog regularly you know I have insomnia and you know I troll Redfin real estate listings to self-soothe, finding places I might live. Last Thursday night was no exception, unable to sleep, I launched my browser, but not finding any new listings, I remembered that months ago looking for comps for the waterfront property we’re fixing up, my husband came across a listing for a waterfront rental.

Were there any rentals in Manchester? Yes, one “Amazing View Manchester Home” that also accepted pets (we have five cats, two on loan from our daughter). I bookmarked it, and on a whim, at 1:30 a.m., emailed the listing to my husband. Before I’d even walked up the stairs the next morning, Kevin was on his way down, computer in hand to meet me: “I think we should rent that house now,” he said. “We could use the money from the sale of our house to fund our business, we could move over there gradually, and you could get some sleep.”

And in that moment, as Parker Palmer writes in Let Your Life Speak “way opened.” I called the property manager Friday morning and we scheduled a showing for Tuesday afternoon. Kevin and I toured the property at 1 p.m., we were halfway to home, pulling into the Costco parking lot, when the manager called at 3 p.m. and said the owners (a retired minister and his wife) had approved our rental application including our five cats.

We’re landlords ourselves, but for the first time since 1987, we will be renters. And I am so grateful. I recognize the incredible blessing, that this is truly “the next right answer,” the one that comes from continuing to look at a situation from different and unexpected angles.

Now I know where I will live for the next year. I know once we finish up our home on Bainbridge Island, that the remodeling my husband and I will do in the next year will not be in our home. I know that I will not have to reclaim a huge yard from years of neglect.
The rental house, like our current home is blue, situated on a corner, and on a street named for a tree.

I know that we will be moving closer to the county seat, closer to the veterans we are hoping to employ, closer to a larger pool of distressed homes that we can have a positive impact on…

We will be within walking distance of the local library, and I plan to volunteer there, leading writing workshops if there’s a need or desire. Who knows what way will open there for us to continue to define a vocation and life that though it includes a Seattle view, does not look to Seattle for employment or definition.

The house itself is the size of our current home, and I gave away a bit too much furniture, but I kept our outdoor chairs, and we’ll be there this summer lounging on the second story deck, its clear paneled railing offering a safe place for our cats to be outside and sunrise and Seattle views. I can see water from the kitchen window and the driveway. The vista is wide open as the future.

The deck from the rental and water view (Seattle behind the tree).

The day after we signed our lease, our nephew (who’s worked on our house the last two summers) who is graduating from college in May called to say he is definitely coming to live and work with us for a year beginning in late June. He’ll be our first full-time employee and thankfully, we’ll have plenty of room to share our lives with him.

Husband and nephew finishing kitchen remodel last summer

There’s even a place to park our boat, which has been nonoperational since we moved to Washington. We’re going buy an electric motor (our gas one is broken), because the community boat launch is less than half a mile from the house. And who knows, we might be able to see the orcas from the water when they travel toward Vashon Island.

There’s much more to say, but this post is already long, and I’ll be too busy to blog as we are now in “go mode” working hard day and night to finish our Bainbridge house as fast as possible and pack up.

We pick up the keys to our house in Manchester on Monday. I’m so excited and there’s so much to keep track of that I still can’t sleep. But my husband is right: insomnia does pay off, sometimes.

Until I blog again: Here’s to the next right answer.

Our rooftop turf...who will enjoy this next?

1 comment:

  1. This is exciting, Cathy. :) I'm glad you foxes have found a den for the coming year!

    You have "rooftop turf" on your current house? That's pretty incredible. A great selling point for your home, I'm guessing?

    Hugs to you, Cathy! Peace be with you!