Monday, we put on our house on the market. By that afternoon, our realtor received an offer for full price! We were thrilled!
We don’t anticipate any problems and expect the house to close by August 17th. Rich will stay an extra week to get everything packed. I’ll then fly back to Texas to accompany him as we drive across the country in his Dodge Dakota with our six cats and five birds in the back. The back of his truck has a canopy so we’ll open the window between the cab and bed of the truck so the cats can walk back-and-forth and "help" Rich drive.
Microsoft will be moving our furnishings, which is fabulous!
It’s hard, looking at the listing of our house, not to feel a little sadness about leaving it. We had many memorable days in the house from sitting in the hot tub on warm summer evenings, watching the sunset as bats circled above to watching a lightning storm from the balcony, seeing a deer and her fawn eat the acorns from our oak trees, listening to the creek as it rushes after a rain storm, picking herbs from my garden, cooking in the spacious kitchen, sewing in my green-walled hobby room, working side-by-side with Rich in the office, and so much more.
With the price of housing in the Seattle area, there’s no way we can afford a comparable house. Nevertheless, it’s a relief that our house and that Rich and I will be together in Washington starting in late August!
Using my free MetroPass from Microsoft, I took the bus to downtown Seattle on the Fourth. It was a gratifying trip along tree-lined roads, across Mercer Island and the sailboat-speckled Lake Washington, past Safeco Field (home of the Seattle Mariners), and Qwest Field (72,000 seats to watch the Seattle Seahawks), and through Chinatown. Anxious to see Seattle on foot, I got off at the next stop – in front of the Seattle City Hall. This dramatic, angular building featured a large glass-enclosed piece of art of iridescent disks strung on filament. Below is a picture. The neighboring buildings are reflected in the glass.
Walking towards the waterfront, I reached Pioneer Square, one of the oldest parts of Seattle; it’s famous for its underground tour of what was once the main roadways and first-floor storefronts of old downtown Seattle, including houses of ill repute, taverns and opium dens. The area also features 20 blocks of Victorian Romanesque architecture.
Seattle wraps around Elliott Bay in the Puget Sound. Its waterfront has piers and facilities for shipping, huge cruise (Norwegian, Celebrity, Holland, Princess) ships, Washington State ferries, site-seeing and sailing boats, and tourism, including the Seattle Aquarium, Odyssey Maritime Discovery Center, and a plethora of restaurants and tourist shops and attractions. It’s a hubbub of people – locals enjoying the day and the spectacular view of the bay, camera-toting tourists, students, joggers, walkers, and little children running up-and-down the wide boardwalk.
The weather, like the view, was perfect. Across the sapphire water, I can see snow-capped Olympic Mountains, Mount Rainer, green hills dotted with houses and ships and boats of every ilk. The Emerald City takes my breath away. My trepidations about leaving Texas and starting over have become a distant memory.
Walking further, I reached the newly opened Olympic Sculpture Park, developed by the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) and the Trust for Public Land. Once a hang-out for transients and highly industrial area owned by Union Oil of California (UNOCAL), the 9-acre park is a unique mixture of large outdoor sculptures, pathways, native plantings, and a pavilion and amphitheater in a Z-shaped configuration that connects three distinct parcels of landscape and goes over a multi-lane highway and railroad tracks.
I didn’t spend much time in the park because I wanted to share it with Rich in a few months. Instead, I headed back to Pike Street and the "market." On the way, I passed by the Growing Vine Street project, which captures storm water runoff from the neighboring building and uses biofiltration (exposing polluted water to sunlight, soil and vegetation) to biologically alter and absorb pollutants, thereby improving water quality.
There’s lots of science and a huge cistern involved in the project. All I saw was 8-city blocks, planted with amazing flowering bushes, vegetables, small sculptures, and pathways. There were patches of bright lavender, delicate old-fashioned pink and magenta roses, bristly artichokes, multi-colored dahlias, and peonies… everything that I can’t wait to plant in our next house!
As expected, Pike’s Market was swarming with people rushing up to tables of just-picked fruits (mostly cherries, blueberries, and apricots), vegetables, and buckets of flowers. Enormous bouquets cost $10-$20. Smaller bouquets, the size you’d buy in Texas for $20 or more, are just $5.
The market also features cases of fish, meat, poultry, dairy products, coffees and teas, dried pasta, candies, nuts, honey, baked goods, and locally produced lotions and potions. I bought some Moon Valley calendula soap along with their lotion bar, lip balm, and a salve with sweet almond oil, beeswax, rosehip seed oil, flax oil, aloe, comfrey, calendula, burdock, geranium, and rosemary extract. My skin already feels less itchy!
Encompassing many, many blocks and dozen or more buildings, the market is recognized as America’s premier farmers’ market and is home to nearly 200 year-year commercial businesses, 190 craftspeople, 120 farmers who rent table space, 240 street performers and musicians, and 300 apartment units, most of which house mostly low-income, elderly people.
Click here to take a tour of the market. It’s fun!
After many hours of wandering through downtown Seattle, I was happy to grab a bus back to Bellevue and spend the rest of the day and evening, reading, painting my toenails, watching TV, and worrying about Rich, who was overseeing the Fort Vancouver Fireworks Show in Vancouver (border of Washington and Oregon). I was glad when he called at 11 o’clock to say that his show went off without a hitch.
The word "posh" derived from the concept of "port out, starboard home," which was the preferred and more expensive way to travel between the Britain and India. When going to India, the left or port side was mostly in the shade. Going back, the opposite was true.
My experience with Microsoft, so far, has been equally posh. Along picking up the tab for me to fly to Seattle, they’re paying for a rental car and temporary housing. While I asked for a one bedroom/one bathroom apartment, I received two bedrooms/two bathrooms at the Verona Apartments, an upscale four-story complex in the heart of downtown Bellevue.
Bellevue is a very ritzy town to the east of Seattle, across Lake Washington with housing prices starting at half-a-million for a 1,200 square foot house. The prestigious, high-rise apartment complex across the street from mine – 989 Elements – offers a 385 square foot "box" for $879 to $895 per month. If you move up to a 1 bedroom/1 bathroom 680 square foot unit, you’ll need to cough up $1,364 to $1,886 per month! A 2 bedroom/2 bathroom penthouse (1,096 square feet) is $3,325 per month. For that price, you can easily purchase a house!
Below are some pictures of my apartment. From my small balcony, which is a block from Interstate 405, I can see the top of Mount Rainer along with several attractive office buildings with colorful landscaping.
Each of the bedrooms has a large window. The main room (living, dining and kitchen) have six windows so the apartment is very bright and pleasant. I think it’s also one of the largest in the complex. Fully furnished, it must be costing Microsoft lots of money. Posh. Very posh!
I’m writing this blog entry from the Austin Bergstrom Airport… seemingly moments before I depart for Seattle and the next chapter in my life. It’s hard not to cry thinking back on the past four years. It’s been an adventure that I so desparately wanted to end, but now have second doubts in light of the uncertainty ahead.
As I drove out of the driveway of our Round Rock house – for the last time – I looked up to see a full moon. Doubtful that I’d closed the garage, I circled back and double-check, taking one more look. Inside were my six cats, which I probably won’t see again for another three to four months, depending on when our house sells. It’s painfully hard to leave the cats.
This was the house that I despised, but now have strong feelings of loss. The first year we moved into the house – which seemed enormous with four bedrooms, three bathrooms, large kitchen, living and dining room, plus a cozy den – we ripped out a large swath of lawn upfront, put in French drains, sculpted a dry creek bed then planted Texas native flowering bushes, grasses, and groundcover. Our efforts rewarded us with months of red, blue, pink magenta, yellow, and orange flowers that daily attracted butterflies, dragon flies and humming birds.
Last night, as the sun was setting, I wandered down to the creek to see it one last time. Many inches of torrential rain, days before, had turned the usually lazy creek into a rapidly flowing body of water that overflowed the banks and had whipped up blobs of white foam. Many parts of Texas, including Round Rock, have been under flood watch for weeks. When the water recedes, I’m sure the contours of the creek while be changed.
This morning, as I got in the car, I could hear the sound of the creek crashing over our mini dam. Usually, by this time of the year, there is barely enough water to cover the creek bed!
Part of my relocation package from Microsoft including real estate assistance. On Tuesday of this week, we signed up a realtor to sell our house. While the plan was for Rich to return from his pyrotechnic activities in Oregon (he’s presently setting up the show) and quickly work to get the house ready to sell, the realtor called on Thursday to say that she not only felt we priced our house too low, but had a potential buyer who wanted to see the house.
Thursday evening, therefore, I scurried to make the house look as presentable as possible, including putting a new bedspread on our bed, draping curtains in the living room, sweeping, wiping, and sticking stuff in closets. I also met with the realtor to give her a key to show the house while Rich is away. It would be astonishing if we got a bid before the house was even officially listed, but miracles happen… and may be this is the miracle we need to validate our decision to leave the comfort of our big Texas house for a compact tract house in Washington!
Below is a bouquet of amazing orchids that my co-workers at Dell gave me the day I left. It was an amazing gesture and I will greatly miss them.