It’s Been a While…Life has Changed #COVID-19

Gosh, has life changed. Yes, I fell off the blogging wagon in the past months; discovered listening to podcasts, concentrated on teaching online, focused on a couple of new clients and planned our major, permanent move – to New Hampshire.

It’s a late winter and start to spring like no other in our lifetime. As of this writing in Ext-front1-20200219March 2020, our new normal includes hashtags #COVID-19 #socialisolating #quarantine #coronavirus and many more related to the #COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the world, infecting tens of thousands and claiming thousands of lives.

Not since September 11th have we felt this surreal sense of daily living. Everything has changed while we try to create some semblance of normalcy.  Once again, we are seeing and hearing stories of selfless humanity: neighbors helping neighbors with errands – dropping off food and supplies. Yesterday, I literally rang a neighbor’s doorbell and almost ran away.

#Socialdistancing is another hashtag trending. Humans naturally want to connect. The dichotomy of living in a small, New Hampshire town and in the Philadelphia region is startling. Dealing with #socialdistancing in Cherry Hill has been at times annoying, hilarious and a little scary. I went to Home Depot to pick up moving boxes. A woman in her late 60s or early 70s started chatting with me about the current state of affairs. She kept moving in toward me. You know how you feel when someone ‘invades’ your personal space? That space has expanded and she was well short of the six-feet recommendation. So, I backed up and wrapped up the pleasantries with her fairly quickly. As for #Wolfeboro, I left there to come back to Cherry Hill before New Hampshire was hit by the virus; now, our friends there are also isolating and schools, businesses, houses of worship are closed or severely restricted to the public.

#Washyourhands is something we should always do. Now, I am washing my hands so much, I need to double-up on the hand cream. Last night, while drying one of the only wine glasses I have not packed here in Cherry Hill, the glass shattered; I gashed a finger – bad enough that Doug drove me to an urgent care site in the neighborhood. Every staff member was masked (except behind their work station area – which I thought was odd); the x-ray technician was not masked, nor the x-ray receptionist. I was out of there in an hour.

MtWillard-Us-Aug2019We’ve been urged to get fresh air when we can. I’ve taken some walks and have noticed more people than usual walking, running, biking. (It still boggles my mind that kids do not wear helmets when biking). The receptionist who had to walk me back to the urgent care treatment room had just come inside from what she called a break to get some fresh air. She reeked of cigarette smoke. She lamented how the inside air gets so stuffy that she needs to step outside. Did she really think I did not smell the remnants of her true reason for a break outside? The scenario was mildly funny.

While we continue to pack here, the process of getting to the closing table with our buyers has been somewhat hampered by #COVID-19. Township offices are closed and staff down to a minimum with most working remotely. Since I have community connections after all these years here, I was able to reach a few people to move things along. We’ll see shortly the whether March 27th closing takes place – or how long it might be delayed.

Meantime, we adjust, cope, forgive, laugh, hope, pray, exercise, plan and proceed with our new normal. May you and your family be well.

Wolfeboro Project: 5 Winter Wonders in Wolfeboro

Wolfeboro Project: 5 Winter Wonders in Wolfeboro

IMG_2824Our ‘what’s next’ journey at our Happy Place is its second winter season; and as with most home ownership, it’s all about the big bucks. (If I didn’t laugh about it, I’d cry.) These five winter wonders are a mix of fantastic and homeowner dilemmas which I know will make many smile or cringe – or both.

  1. Best Plowing Ever

n the Philadelphia area, the whining, road-preparation and bread-and-milk-runs, begin days in advance of a predicted storm. In New England =- and specifically in the Lakes Region area, winter weather is taken in stride. Most often we hear, “What do you expect? It’s New England!”

There’s no salt-solution spray on the roads in advance of a storm; little road salt used (probably because of extreme cold); and sanding is common. Now, the plowing, local, state and community – is absolutely incredible, For example, in the midst of the March 2017 blizzard, our community plow team (shout-out to #CommunityLandscapeCompany, Wolfeboro) plowed our two neighborhood streets four times – in white-out conditions. This recent January storm, the plows hit our streets numerous times before the storm (to clean up and widen snow-clearing area); during the storm to keep up with the foot or so that fell; and several times after to take care of drifting snow, icing, etc. Fantastic!

2. Mailboxes be Damned

On the flip side of great plowing, mailboxes and the posts they’re on are casualties . Ofttimes, plow trucks will back into or clip the mailboxes that are nearly covered with plowed snow.

3. Schools are Open

 

During extreme weather, yes, schools are closed here since buses, teachers and staff do have trouble getting out for various reasons. Once the storm passes and roads are clear, the next day, these students are back at the bus stop and schools are open (Perhaps with a delay).

It seems schools do NOT close in advance of a storm as they often do in the Philadelphia area. And a little ice and an inch or two of snow will NOT close schools here. It’s great to see kids skipping to the bus stop.

4. Timing is Everything

When it comes to home improvement, timing can be everything. In the midst of the ferociously cold weather here in late December and during the New Year holiday, we noticed a gash in our driveway birch tree. I dug up a business card of a local tree business, Billy’s Best Deal Tree Service. Bill called us back the same day; came out and took a look on a Sunday afternoon; gave us a fair price for  tree removal; called us the night before he was coming; and showed up EARLY the next day with a bucket truck, chipper truck and a crew of three. In just over an hour, the tree was safely taken down and the remaining wood cut into manageable pieces for our use as firewood in a year. Yay, Bill! Thank you!

5. Things Happen in Threes

For Christmas, Doug got me a new sofa for the Happy Place living room. Yay! No more 1984 flowered couch with a $2 yard sale (but new) slipcover over it. The couch made my neck hurt. Our gorgeous LazBoy sofa just warms up our living room – which some day will be renovated along with the kitchen.

One evening, Doug was bopping around in the dark and bumped into the end table by the new sofa. A glass thermometer, filled with some sort of alcohol shattered. Yes, all over the new sofa. Fortunately with rapid cleanup and luck, there is no stain. All is well.

The birch tree happened next and that is all good.

Now, the 1980s harvest gold refrigerator has died. Dead – no cold, no freezing. So we are in the midst of dealing with that. We have a mini-fridge and a chest freezer, plus some coolers all in action in the meantime. We’ll survive.

Ya Gotta Laugh

The funniest thing that happened in Wolfeboro was during a stop at the Harvest Market. Everyone talks and says, “hi” at the grocery store – even if you don’t know anyone. On my way out with my two reusable bags – one from #RavitzShoprite, a woman coming in remarked,” Shoprite! You must be from New Jersey!.” I responded,”Yes, I’m from New Jersey and it’s time for the “Can-Can Sale.” She said she really misses Shoprite. Funny!

So, what’s next? It’d be great to get through the next couple of months with nothing to worry about. Hold your breath! Long live Happy Place!

The Wolfeboro Project: Thank you! (It’s Not Over, Yet)

Summer in our Happy Place has sped by. And as the world and our society shifts, evolves and develops, so too does our second home here in Wolfeboro. More than the home, though are the wonderful people who make a house a true home.

Our screened porch project took many weeks; from April until after the end of July we had our contractor crew, electricians, roofers, gutter installer and our garage door installer in and out of driveway. They became part of our extended family – if only temporarily. While the final numbers on this portion of our renovation have been eye-opening and sometimes eye-popping, we have been so happy with the results.

Spending quiet time, family time, reading time and just being in our porch oasis is everything we hoped for. Thank you to these skilled workmen who were always pleasant; they cleaned up; corrected any problems along the way and offered insightful ideas on how to make our porch so beautiful and comfortable: Craig Howland, Howland Siding and Insulation and Larry, George and Terry.

When I met the owner of the garage door company, Nick Leighton, Overhead Door Options, I was in the middle of a nutty work day. He actually gave me a hug at the end of our meeting saying, “It looks like you need a hug.” We were still in the midst of having the porch completed and he understood our concerns about this 70s home and our continuing project.

To top it off, Nick’s price was better than other prices we checked out; his installer, Jason was truly a pro; and the doors arrived and were installed on time and on budget. Oh, my! And the house looks amazing – despite other improvements still needed (siding, paint, etc.).

We’re now in the midst of mediating an invasive species – Japanese Knotweed. We have 2700 square feet of the plant on our corner property. Ephraim Baker is doing a terrific job so far; we hope to start considering some plant cleanup so our corner property looks less wild.

Beyond our home, the people we have met and spent time with this summer are overall – so amazing and lovely. I have been working in town and get to see Wolfeboro residents as well as so many visitors and tourists who actually lean in to hear recommendations for restaurants, museums and more that Wolfeboro and the Lakes Region offers during the season. One of my co-workers told me I should work for the chamber of commerce because my knowledge of the area was so impressive. It’s hard to believe I have soaked up so much knowledge about the area during our years of vacationing here and now owning a home.

Our new friends have been so much fun; from Thirsty Thursday on the Winnipesaukee Belle with co-workers and friends to Tom and Cami’s staff party at their island home; the Ossipee Boys Concert, Cate Park concerts, our Katie’s Kitchen friends: Patty, Bruce, Grace, Joyce, Joe, Bonnie, Roger – and so many others; co-workers Mary Ann, Cindi, Louise, Julia, Ellen; Olympia Gym pal Roxie – and others there who were always so nice – including staffer June; our Springfield Point friends, Laurie, Mona, Randy, Susan; Winterhaven friends, Missy, Doug – and new friends Joann, Charlie as well as Penny, Paul; and Cate at Wolfeboro Corinthian Yacht Club and some of our Alpine Meadows neighbors – the list is getting longer.

Our family and friend visits this summer have been tons of fun and those visits go way too fast. From Doug’s mom’s 85th birthday celebration week and the family in town for that and their vacations – to our friends Jarrod and Leah visiting to Adam FINALLY getting here and visits by my mom, brother Steve and wife, Sue – there are not enough thanks – and hours in the day – to enjoy everyone.

While this post is meant to be a Wolfeboro Project update, it is a bit of advice to people who are considering a second home or a move to a small town: embed yourself in the town. Listen, learn, share – and be an active participant. Embrace the local culture; adapt to how your new community does things since it’s probably different from your other town.

I’ve been to local community meetings, the library, town hall, non-profit group events, museum lectures about the region and more this summer. I’ve chatted with the police chief and officers, fire department staff; went to the library and public safety open houses; I wish I had done more.

The thing I am embracing is – this is now our life. We’ll be here seasonally as we continue to work (with visits throughout the fall and winter as we can). Our Wolfeboro Project will continue – and we’ll learn the lessons of home renovation, living in a small town and basking in this beautiful place we call home: Wolfeboro, NH.

The Wolfeboro Project: The Ugly Truth

The Wolfeboro Project: The Ugly Truth

Porch addition051417Damn that #HGTV! Between #FixerUpper and the other home makeover shows I’ve watched for the past 10 years, I thought I was savvier than most. Frankly, I know nothing about home improvement.

Today marks one year since we closed on what I continue to call my ‘Happy Place.’ It’s

obvious to us now, we’re looking at a 10-year project. Unless we come into a bucket-full of money, we’ll renovate what we can ourselves and plan and budget for the major projects.

After just a year invested in this project, here’s my best advice if you’re considering a fixer upper:

  1. Be sure the bones of the house are in good shape: unless you’re buying a ‘knock down,’ be sure you have a solid home – from the windows and floors to the roof and walls.
  2. IMG_0390Location, location, location still rules; if you love you view, neighborhood, home site – almost everything else is cosmetic.
  3. Break projects down into smaller, manageable chunks. Doug managed to re-do the guest bathroom in a weekend. But we made sure in advance, we had all the necessary items including a new vanity and fixture, flooring, lighting, most major accessories, paint for the walls and cabinet, etc. We could not have completed the update in a weekend if we did not have all the items and supplies.
  4. Pick your battles: it’s easy to disagree about a project. Realize not everything will go your way. Compromise, compromise, compromise.

All this as I work in my office listening to a comedy radio channel blaring outside and our three artisans are literally hammering away at the screened porch addition. Doug is really admiring the craftsmanship (yay); I just want it to be done. Patience, Brenda.

We chose our contractor mainly because Doug really liked him. I yielded since Doug had a background in construction. So he is able to talk construction language with the contractor – which is hugely important.

Once this addition is done and we can enjoy New Hampshire days and evenings on the screened porch – then we’ll breathe a while – and figure out what project is next.

The fixer-upper truth may not be pretty, but we keep our eye on the prize knowing it’s a long game and worthwhile.

The Wolfeboro Project: Survival Tips

The Wolfeboro Project: Survival Tips

When you take on a new house project – especially a fixer – your tip list grows quickly. Despite bouts of fear and sticker-shock, we are still on the road to a home we already love in a town we are quickly growing more and more attached to.

Let’s get right to the tips – based on our missteps, lessons learned and a sprinkling of luck.

  1. Three Ps remain the mantra: patience, persistence and perspective – making measured, informed  decisions result in the project moving along at a pace that works with your budget and schedule. Trust your gut – if you have a shadow of a doubt on a decision, think it through again.
  2. Stick to the plan: we decided to work on this house from the outside-in. While we continue to talk about the ultimate interior renovations, other than some paint and a few window treatments, we are not planning a major investment on the interior until the outside is in shape – or close to it.
  3. Under-play your fixer – your family will be pleasantly surprised. We have told our families that we have a lot of work ahead; deferred maintenance are the words the Realtors used in describing the house (former owned didn’t do much at all to improve or even maintain the house). When our families visited the house this past month, they practically scolded us for describing the house as we have. They, too see the possibilities and  good bones of the house. Their collective responses amount to, “You made the house sound awful; it’s really lovely.” Of course, it’s not their project – but it is good to know we are not crazy and we have their support!
  4. Small-town, small steps. Figure out your possible DIY projects. In a small town – or any town – you can find someone to do anything for you – but you will pay in time and of course, money. Getting on a contractor’s small-town schedule takes finesse; be flexible and communicate with each contractor.
  5. Be specific: when  dealing with your contractor’s estimate continue to do research and ask people for help and advice. Doug reached out to his brother for advice since he had done major remodeling; we compared and contrasted details in estimates and asked contractors to provide more details. Be sure you have a timeline – or at least a finish date. Your two month-long project can stretch to months and months if you do not stay on top of details.
  6. Don’t be afraid to say, “No:”we nixed one project one of our contractors quoted because of price and the cross-over with another project and contractor. When in doubt put the brakes on.
  7. BREATHE: remember why you started this journey. Every day I love and enjoy this house and this town more. Every little DIY task or decision leads us to what will become our very special place. We continue to enjoy the lake, hiking, biking, boating. water-skiing, sailing; town concerts and cultural events; the local gym and shops; amazing lobster, ice cream and food that just tastes better here; getting to know people in town and spending time with them and becoming part of this community.

Those are seven tips for now; there are probably many more to come. With a full month under our belts here, we are heading back to our other home shortly. That will bring the inevitable culture shock (I haven’t waited a traffic light or been in a traffic jam for weeks!). We have a better idea of what to expect at this Happy Place; we have some big projects coming up at this house and we’ll be popping up for brief stays throughout the coming months. Being on this journey with an amazing husband and great family and friend support leaves me content and ever-hopeful of what this home will be in a few years.

The Wolfeboro Project: 3 Bids and a Headache

The Wolfeboro Project: 3 Bids and a Headache

At the beginning of this journey, I realized the three Ps: patience, persistence and perspective. Now, I just need a cocktail.

The good news is we love, love love the Long Stack house and its potential. We thoroughly enjoyed spending the July 4th holiday at Long Stack and experienced Wolfeboro in all its red, white and blue glory. We took a couple of swims at Brewster Beach in between working, cleaning, fixing and shopping. Plus we had lovely meals and of course a few runs for ice cream.

We’re managing two homes that are more than six hours apart. Any major life change involves adjustments, but sometimes, I’m just so confused! Thank goodness I took photos of some of my clothes in the Long Stack closet or I would not remember where some of my clothes are. I did the same thing with the kitchen pantry. So, if I wonder whether I need cinnamon at Long Stack because I have two containers of the spice here in Cherry Hill; I just go to the photo. So not only do I have cinnamon at Long Stack, I have a container and a half here in Cherry Hill. Oy!

Today’s title refers to the contractors who are preparing bids for landscaping and a screened porch we plan to add to the deck. Three contractors spent about an hour-and-a-half each with us at Long Stack considering and measuring for the project. One landscaper (the others I reached out to did not return calls or emails) is preparing an estimate for clean-up work necessary around our nearly two-acres of property.

Did I forget to mention the septic issue? About $500 later, our septic is more-or-less cleared out. There was a bit of a stoppage (it was constipated, my sweet husband quips) – fortunately, nothing major. It seems our septic tank had probably NEVER been cleaned out in 40 years! Are these homeowners crazy? It’s hard to believe people can live in a house and think that nothing needs to be cared for. Fortunately, that has ended with us in the house.

Meantime, we still have no decision on a new washer-dryer and refrigerator. Every time I open the fridge or press the ‘on’ button for the washer, I think I’m going to see sparks. Hopefully, my fear and loathing will subside.

We have begun to seriously think about getting out of the Cherry Hill house. It may take a year or two, but enough already; between the upkeep and crazy-high taxes, it’s time.

For now, I look forward to a month in New Hampshire – working and some vacation time  – while hoping that our son can check on Cherry Hill and make sure nothing happens while we are at Long Stack. Cross your fingers for us – we need some good luck.

The Wolfeboro Project- Two Months In

The Wolfeboro Project- Two Months In

One step forward; two steps back – or so they say. Patience and persistence have been a challenge because this thing they call ‘life’ gets in the way. And it’s difficult to manage two households from six-plus hours away. We soldier on.

Our last visit to Long Stack was over the long Memorial Day holiday. In the meantime we have:

  • had outstanding handyman Rick take care of a laundry list of minor fix-it and safety issues including fire-proofing the garage and weed-whacking our tall front lawn grass.
  • had the radon remediation crew back to fix the electrical snafu they caused when installing the fan system that keeps the air flow going through the house to avoid radon build-up in the air we breathe.
  • contacted; scheduled; unscheduled then rescheduled three contractors to give us estimates on building a screened porch on the deck (more on that in a bit).
  • contacted and talked with two landscapers who will give us estimates on landscaping a six to ten-foot perimeter around the house.

All this from 350 miles away. It’s exhausting. The new normal of taking care of two homes, plus a business and family obligations is something I am wrapping my head around. And my head hurts – a lot – more often. I keep reminding myself to breathe and know things will work out. This is a long-haul project – there is no hurry.

The contractor schedule crashed and burned this past week. Doug has been serving on a criminal trial jury. That is challenging enough except the trial that was likely going to end with a verdict last week, ground to a halt when the courthouse transformer blew up and plunged the building into darkness. Repairs were made on a Thursday; but officials kept the courthouse closed Friday, too – which then cancelled our plan to head up to Long Stack on Sunday.

Yes, I know no lives were lost and no blood was shed; as they say, never let a good deed go unpunished. There’s my terrific husband NOT gyrating his way OUT of jury service and dutifully fulfilling his civic duty; and he ends up on this case that is now dragging on. The high hopes are that the case will indeed come to a close with a verdict – or not – this week. Then we’ll high-tail it north this coming Friday.

But wait; there’s more! Our long-time friends who ironically have a lake house up north; weeks ago invited us for July 4th weekend. The plan is we’ll spend a couple of nights with them, then enjoy our Independence Day (literally) at Long Stack where we will both work our jobs from our north offices.

And we have rescheduled the three contractors; we’ll call the landscapers this week to schedule appointments and I can tackle my daunting DIY project: scrubbing out the fireplace grit. (Borax + Dawn detergent + water + goggles + wire brush + plastic sheeting; scrub-scrub-scrub) And I found this nifty article about the cost of renovations.

Keep your fingers crossed that the wheels of justice squeak along; the case ends and we can again own our star-spangled independence.