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This is a continuation of the purchase and occupation of our house in Mount Vernon, WA.  

 Accident had a Silver Lining

Even though I had a GREAT job at Dell, and amazing co-workers, I was anxious to move back to the Pacific Northwest. In early February, I had another phone interview with Microsoft. Even though I’d driven a stick shift for ten years or so, starting in my late teens, I never got the knack of driving Rich’s KIA.

On the morning of the interview, the roads were a bit slick from a recent rain as I drove to work. I saw a car getting on the freeway, and instead of downshifting to slow down, I slammed on the brakes. The KIA skid across the freeway, and got hit by a box truck. Because I was only wearing a shoulder belt, my body was thrown into the passenger seat, but my left leg got stuck under the seat, snapping my pelvis in four places, and breaking two ribs.

If I’d worn a lap belt (which was broken in the KIA), I would have most likely died from the impact because the driver’s side door was smashed in at least a foot. In addition, I was wearing a heavy black leather coat a friend had given me so the only cuts I received were on the top of my head. The rest of my body was protected by the coat.

To make a long story short, Rich ended up working from home for IBM to take care of me. After three weeks, I was back to work for Dell. But, because I’d fractured my pelvis, I was confined to a wheelchair for ten weeks and had to work from home. A week after my accident, on Valentine’s Day, my new cherry red Honda FIT arrived. The KIA was completely totaled, but ironically, we got more from the insurance company than if we’d sold the car!

Not deterred by accident, by April, I was applying for jobs at Microsoft once again, and got an interview with Microsoft Learning in May 2007. I flew to Seattle, nailed the interview, and got the job. The last Saturday in June, I flew to Seattle with two huge duffel bags of clothes, a new laptop, and a few beloved items, including a teddy bear named Bisque that a friend gave me when I was in the hospital.

The offer from Microsoft included an apartment in Bellevue and rental car until my FIT arrived from Texas. I moved into the apartment and started working at Microsoft on July 1, 2007. Rich stayed behind to finishing fixing up our Texas house.

It was listed a few weeks later, and sold within the day! Rich rented back the house for a month until he could get everything packed. In late August, I flew back to Texas, to help Rich load what was left inside the house into a small trailer. We then tossed our six cats, four birds, and clothing and food for the three-day trip into Rich’s truck.

Because it was late August, we knew that we couldn’t stop for any length of time being the back of the truck wasn’t air conditioning. To try to keep the cats and birds cool, Rich concocted a passageway from the air-conditioned truck cab to the back of the truck. Plus, the windows were opened in the cover to increase airflow. Even so, stopping for 10 minutes for gas would dramatically heat up the back of the truck.

During the trip, the cat would go back-and-forth between the cab and back of the truck.

Our first stop was Amarillo, TX. When we arrived, we drove around for an hour until the sun started setting. Still too hot to keep the cats in the back of the truck, we got a hotel room that faced a parking lot at the back of the hotel. Rich then opened one of the windows of the room and removed the screen.

I’d grab a cat out of the back of the truck, run across a landscaped area, and then hand Rich the cat through the open window. We’d passed four cats through the window, when the manager of the motel came outside to empty some trash. I pretended to feed the birds in the back of the truck when he came over. He was intrigued by the birds, and probably didn’t look through the cage to see two sets of green eyes staring at him.

After he left, I climbed into the back of the truck, grabbed the last two cats, sprinted across the lawn, and “threw” them at Rich through the open window. Once the cats were inside, we locked them in the bathroom with their litter box. Success!

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The next morning, we strolled through the motel hallway, with a cat under each arm. And happily, it’ll cooled off overnight.

We then continued to race across the states, stopping just long enough to get gas, run into a bathroom, or grab some fast food. We also changed our route as we went, avoiding areas where the temperatures were high. We stopped in Casper, WY on the second night, and were planning to stop in Missoula, MT the third night, but all the motels were sold out because of a University of Montana event.

Fortunately, an employee at one of the hotels offered to call another hotel, and secured a room in a town an hour away. We arrived, closed to 10 o’clock at night, we immediately, climbed into bed and conked out. By the time we reached Wyoming and Montana, the temperatures were in the 60’s and 50’s at night so we didn’t have to worry about the cats.

By the afternoon of the fourth day, we’d reached Mount Vernon. I helped Rich unload the truck, then drove back to my apartment in Redmond (I’d moved from the Microsoft-funded apartment in Bellevue to an apartment in Redmond in early August).

Rich lived in Mount Vernon while I lived in Redmond until December 2007, at which time, we moved into a house we’d purchased in Kirkland.

And because of my accident, Rich had proved he could be productive working from home. When it came time to move to Washington, his managers give the thumbs-up for him to work remotely from Mount Vernon, and then Kirkland.

Weekend Get-Away and Garden Mecca

For the next few years, we primarily went to Mount Vernon on the weekends to unwind, bike, hike, kayak, and garden. During the spring and summer, we grew insane amounts of vegetables, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and apples.

Rich’s daughter Stacey also made use of the house, living there for one summer, and storing her stuff in the house when she worked on the tall ship Lady Washington, and later Argosy, Catalina Express and commercial tugboats in California.

My mother’s house in Sherwood, OR was two stories and by 2012, she was having extremely difficulties going up-and-down the stairs. As a short-term fix, we moved her bedroom downstairs into the family room. However, her downstairs only had a small half-bathroom, and the family room was dark because a covered patio outside the sliding glass door blocked the sunlight.

After learning she was spending more-and-more time in bed, we decided to move her to our Mount Vernon house in late 2012 and then have Visiting Angels come twice a day to get her out-of-bed, dressed, bathed, and feed. She was very happy in Mount Vernon in that she was on the top floor with a nice bedroom, full bathroom, large kitchen, dining room, and living room that looked out onto a wetland, Skagit River, and Burlington in the distance.

After 18 months, however, when she could no longer walk because of advanced arthritis, and refused to use a wheelchair. We had no choice but to move her into assisted living. After the initial shock of the move, she started to get used to the routine, then opted to stop eating. In October 2014, she passed away after being rushed to the hospital the night before.

Calm Before the Storm

During 2015, Mount Vernon because a weekend respite from the hubbub of our lives in Kirkland, Rich working at Microsoft (as a contractor), and me at Microsoft (contractor), and later Fluke (contractor and full-time employee).

During the week, Rich started working on the final home improvement project in Kirkland, in preparation to list it in 2016. I busied myself, packing pictures, collectibles, and “stuff” we didn’t need.

In late February 2016, when Rich’s contract with Microsoft ended, he started spending full-time on home improvement projects, including completely remodeling the Kirkland house family room, laundry room, and master bathroom, and replacing worn boards on the deck.

During this time, we moved the packed boxes from Kirkland to a storage facility in Anacortes, halfway between Coupeville and Mount Vernon. We eventually moved all our furniture and “stuff” to the storage facility and Mount Vernon.

In May 2016, the Kirkland house was listed, and sold within the day. By this time, we were living full-time in Mount Vernon, where I commuted down to Everett to Fluke.

We enjoyed four months of not packing or remodeling, and then in October 2016, the tenants in our Coupeville house move out, and we started remodeling it, slowly moving all the “stuff” from our storage unit to our Coupeville house. By the end of March 2017, about 75% of our “stuff” had been moved. It was then time to return to Mount Vernon to dive into a dramatic refreshing the house.

Four month later, by the end of July, we’d accomplished the following upstairs:

  • Repainted the kitchen, dining room, and living room
  • Replaced the carpeting in the dining room, hallway, master bedroom, and on the stairs
  • Refinished the parquet flooring in the entry way and upstairs
  • Added baseboards where it was missing
  • Replaced the blinds in the dining room
  • Scoured and polished the kitchen cabinets, replaced the garbage disposal
  • Removed the wallpaper from the middle bathroom, painted, re-caulked, and refinished the backsplashes
  • Repainted the master bathroom, re-caulked, and refinished the backsplashes
  • Painted some of the doors to coverup issues with the wood

Downstairs was a disaster with dark brown paneling, ghastly laundry room with multi-layers of flooring, dingy laundry tub and toilet, and a very old wet bar with bright orange Formica. By the end of July, we’d:

  • Removed the indoor-outdoor carpeting (horrible work with black foam padding that was glued to the floor)
  • Replaced the flooring in the family room, hallway and laundry room with high-grade laminate
  • Painted the paneling in the family room, hallway, and laundry room
  • Replaced the wet bar with new cabinets, sink, and small refrigerator, and pretty countertops
  • Replaced the lights in the family room
  • Built a wall in the laundry room to hide the plumbing
  • Removed the laundry tub, and added a vanity and new toilet, mirror, and towel bars
  • Painted the paneling in the laundry room
  • Painted the doors to cover up issues with the doors

We had a large deck off the kitchen, but part of it collapsed under the weight of a large, climbing rose. When Rich tried to fix the damage, he discovered most of the deck was rotted. He spent at least two months taking down the old deck, and building a new one. In addition, he added a mini patio and rock work to create a nice area beneath the deck.

When I wasn’t helping Rich, I was outside, dividing bulb (taking some to Coupeville), weeding, moving plants, trimming, and trying to simplify the landscaping.

By the third weekend of July, after advertising the Mount Vernon house for a few days, we had vetted and chosen a tenant. August 1st, they started moving into the house, or at least, decide where they want to place their furniture.

The tenants are a retired couple who love doing gardening. They decided to make the downstairs family room their master bedroom because they like the large space. Their daughter and 23-year old grandson are going to be in upstairs, which has three bedrooms. While we anticipated a multi-generational family moving into the house, we didn’t expect three generations!

We’re excited that our Mount Vernon house is now leased, and will be enjoyed by two people who look forward to caring for the yard. We hope they stay for many years and enjoy the many benefits of living in Mount Vernon from migrating trumpeter swans to the sound of trains in the distance.

Check out the before and after pictures of Mount Vernon.

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