Sunday, August 8, 2010


First of all, just let me begin by saying, "Okay, Coach LeBeau, I heard you."  The Defensive Coordinator who guided our defense to our last three Super Bowls and won two of them was inducted as a player into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last night.  Long overdue, it was awesome to see him in a light I never have before (talking:  I've never heard much from him), and it was beyond awesome to see that the entire Steeler team, coaches and ownership was on hand for the induction.  You could tell it meant a lot to him.  He's given a lot to the game; he deserved this moment.  Old enough to be my father and therefore a grandfather figure to the young men who came with him from Latrobe, he ended his acceptance speech with a resounding testament to what his mother always told him, which is that age is just a number.  Wow, almost as though he'd read my blog and was responding to it.  Of course, I have to do whatever the Steeler coaches tell me to do, so I will bear that in mind as I contemplate the next phase of my life.  But, I'll be sure to take my vitamins just to bolster the cause!

However, the next phase is in the plotting still, not really the doing.  I look at the new listings my Realtor sends me everyday, marking the ones I like and the ones I love.  Finding available houses in the area is not the problem, but trying to figure out how to secure the one we love the most (a foreclosure with a Frank Lloyd Wright flair sitting on a little over an acre) while still owning this one is the trick.  And then how does one sell this one with six dogs milling around?  I watched my neighbor down the street try and do it a year ago.

That family is actually the reason we are here.  The woman, who passed away a couple of years ago, was friends with my agent and, after an exasperatingly long search for a lot large enough to give my pack room enough to roam, she suggested we try this neighborhood, where she lived with her nine dogs.  Within the month, I had the keys to this house, which had been owned by a vet and was therefore highly Dog Friendly.  She fed the deer long before I did, so you would have thought we'd be fast friends, but nothing could be further from the case.  Her nose for gossip and the gospel, and my family's troubles being perfect fodder for sanctimonious tongue wagging kept us divided.  Then there was that time Marissa went along with her boyfriend to vandalize their truck because of some silly teenage feud with their son.  Nothing that couldn't wash off with a custom wash, paid for by Marissa's allowance, and they handled it pretty well (although I was thoroughly mortified and wanted the ground to swallow me whole), but it didn't make for very good neighborly relations through the years.  Nonetheless, I was sorry to learn she had been sick and passed, as a fellow animal lover.  So now her son and widowed husband tend to all those dogs and clearly wanted to do what we do, which is begin anew some where else.  They held a massive estate sale to clear away their excess and stage it for sale, and then there the house sat.  After a month or two they reduced the price.  And still it sat.  It's a decent house, a large lot.  She was a Realtor, so they probably know what to do to market it.  But, still the months went by and nothing.  They switched listing agents.  Nothing.  Finally the signs went down and they live there still, sans a lot of their furniture.  I am mindful of that as I look around at the six dogs remaining to me.  One of whom, at 15, is aging fairly rapidly, which makes her a little unpredictable behaviorally and definitely prone to the occasional accident, and another whose nickname is Seabiscuit.  If you're not a dog person, one look at him with his powerful head will stop you in your tracks.

That's one challenge.  The next is physically hauling all of them back east - along with two cats.  I worry that Noelle, my 15-year old, will not be up for it.  But, even without that worry, how the hell does one handle six not particularly leash trained dogs at various rest stops across over 1,000 miles?!  Then what hotel operator in their right mind is going to let us stay there?  I guess it could be worse.  I could have chosen Philadelphia.  At least I am on the western side of the state.  To combat at least a couple of these transport issues, I got the brilliant idea to buy an used RV.  Right.  If money were no object.  Used, they still run about $35,000.  I literally was looking at a house that was only $4,000 more than that (and should have bought it too - it's under contract now, and I am kicking myself).  I know you can rent RV's or buses, but I'm pretty sure there would be a problem if they found out I'd be hauling half a zoo in their vehicle.  Greg is less worried about this end of it than I am.  That's probably because he can control them better than I can.  I'm the Disneyland Mom, the one who lets them all get away with things that he doesn't.  They obey him better than me.  And we've discussed sending me back there first with most of them so he can finish some of the smaller things with this house that are "dog damaged". 

That's one aspect of it.  The next is: send me where?  As I stated earlier, finding listings is not the problem in Pittsburgh.  To say it's a buyer's market is probably an understatement.  And, once this house sells based on what this market will bear, buying a home that's at least as nice as this one is not an issue.  I have to say, I'm super excited about some of the houses there. They're what I've always fantasized about owning, and that's just run of the mill stuff for the area:  formal dining room, hard wood floors, stained glass and basements.  I got a kick out of Greg early on when I showed him one of the houses that caught my attention and his eyes got big and he said, "Wow, it has a basement."  Texas born and bred, he's never lived in a house with a basement.  He finds them extremely novel.  What does seem to be fairly novel for an older area, however, are bathrooms.  We can live with one full bath if we have at least a half bath to augment it.  What I'm not sure my husband and I can do is survive sharing just one commode.  Add Marissa home from college for the next few summers and then all the guests I hope to have and the idea fills me with dread.  We had a trial run recently when Greg and Amazing Handy Man were working on the bathrooms and we were down to one operational facility.  Just trust me:  it wasn't a happy time.

Then there is the issue of garages.  I am a Subaru driver.  Have been since 1995, will be until the day someone pries my license out of my hands.  I love my Subaru.  She takes care of me.  I work to take care of her.  So, the idea of parking her on the street is abhorrent to me.  Unfortunately, one of the areas I really like in Pittsburgh, Mt. Washington, has a lot of sweet, affordable houses with one bathroom and street parking.  There was one house there I loved so much I was trying to convince myself I could do it when Greg and Marissa both brought me back to reality and asked me to visualize parking my Forester on the street every night.  That pushes me out towards areas like Ross Township, Shaler (which I don't really understand why it's called that when the mailing address is Glenshaw) and Crafton.  Which means I'm a commuter most likely in a town not known for its ease of commuting.  But at least my baby will have the shelter she deserves. 

But, anyway, I strayed a bit from the original point:  cash flow.  How do we buy a house there so we can clear out the impediments to selling the house here when we need the money from the house here to buy the house there?  It's like being stuck in a maze.  I have toyed with what I call the Get Me There House.  The house I eluded to earlier would have been just that.  Cheap, yet not gross (trust me, there are a lot of absolute steals, but you'd need a HazMat suit to walk into them), that I could snatch up, live in for a year or so, then buy the real house and keep the first house as a rental.  Problem there is two-fold:  we're living on the cash I would use to do that since Greg's out of work (and yes, that causes some tension), and do I really want to move all this stuff and all these critters twice?  Plus, we'll need a fair amount of savings once I launch because then we'll both be out of work in a city not brimming with jobs.

I looked at rentals.  Again, the dogs become an issue.  And, ironically, while houses are a dime a dozen to buy, there didn't seem to be a lot to rent, at least not affordably.  Which bolstered my keeping a rent house idea because it seems more people want to rent there than own.  I've been in contact with one woman with a town home on the North Shore who lives in Dallas now.  She flat out told me she can't sell it, so she's renting it.  She'd roll with a couple of the dogs, but not all of them.  I saw a great house listed for $2,200.00 a month.  Criminy, if I could afford that, I could just buy a second house.  So, that idea's fading.

When I found a house we all three totally love in Ross Township, already empty and ready to go, Greg thought he could convince our bank to give us a bridge loan based on my retirement as collateral.  I didn't think it would work, but he was so sure of himself I let him try.  I was right.  They were mightily interested until he told them he wasn't drawing in any income.  That caused several days of an icy chill in the air.  I knew exactly what would happen, but when it actually happened, I was angry.  If he had just held on for a little while, I reasoned, I could have gotten all of us what we wanted.  But, finally I thawed a little.  What is, is.  I can't change it, so continuing to be mad about it wasn't really getting me any where.  Now we're trying to think outside the conventional box and get creative.  I try to remind myself we're not on a specific time frame.  There are lots of choices now, so there will be in a few months if that's what it takes.  But, there are days I'm better at that than others.  As I read reports from training camp, I wish I could be there.  As I get emails from the Penguins organization about the completion of the new arena, I wish I could see it.  As I watched the entire Steeler team sitting in the stands yesterday in Canton, I vowed never to miss another Steeler inductee as long as I live.  I confess it, I'm getting anxious.  I am beginning mentally to think of myself as belonging there.  And I'm homesick.


  1. Okay so I admit I've only read a couple sentences of this entry so far, but I read your questions concerning getting the dogs across country. If we plan it right, the night stops that is, I bet you I've got a friend somewhere near enough to let us stay the night so no hotel/dog worries. Of course, this would take a lot of far in advance, careful planning & very kind words on my part, but I bet I could make it happen.

  2. Is it bad that I'm sad that you're going to the Burgh, but so damn happy at the same time?

    I'm happy because I know that's where you want to be, and I think it will really help with Greg's healing. Also, OMG a friggin' BASEMENT? That was the first thing I asked you about.

    Then there's the obvious: I can VISIT PITTSBURGH!!!! DURING FOOTBALL SEASON!!!!

    And this might be the dumbest idea ever, but can you fly the zoo from here to there? I mean, there's got to be a way to make it a shorter trip for them, right?