Well, if you have been wondering what has been keeping me from updating my blog these days, one of the many things on the long list is the fact that on August 1rst we moved out of the city and into a nice little house apartment in the suburbs. It's the first floor of a little house not too far from school.
This however, was not the original plan. The plan was to move into an apartment complex only about a half mile away from Westminster, a place called Chestnut Hill Village. We had visited there and really liked the model they showed us, so we put down a small deposit and filled out the renter's application. We were approved and all was set for us to move in on the 30th of July. I had asked if we could see the unit we were going to move into, but for some reason we were not allowed to see it. It was May at this point mind you, so I figured it was simply because the current tenant would still be there. But when July rolled around and they still would not let us see our unit or any others, a few red flags went up. They wanted us to sign our lease a few weeks before we moved in, but I told them that unless I saw the actual unit I would not be signing anything. They told me the soonest I could see the unit was the day we moved in on the 30th. At that point, having already put in a deposit and paid the application fee, figured we would show up on the 30th and take our chances. Luckily it didn't get quite that far.
One week before the move, my wife is looking at Rent.net and looking at the place we were to spend the next year of our lives. Rent.net has a section where people can leave comments about their experience in a community. Much to our surprise, there were at least 100 comments left about Chestnut Hill Village, and there was not one single positive comment left by anyone other than their own management. Every kind of negative comment you can imagine was listed, from rats and cockroach infestations, to poor security (one person claimed to have been mugged in their own foyer!), and really poor service and repairs. My wife immediately started freaking out, as did I, and we decided that we should see if we could find somewhere else to live in the week we had left.
After a few phone calls and a look through the schools housing listings, we found this neat little place in a nice neighborhood that needed some work, but would make us feel a whole lot better than how we felt about Chestnut Hill Village. Deposit or no deposit, we just couldn't live there. Just to confirm that the comments we had read were not aberrations (100 aberrations?) and that we were not overreacting, we contacted people we knew that we found out had lived there before and came to find that all the stories were true. Everyone we spoke to suggested we run, and that is what we did...
Moving out of the Philly apartment was no fun. I really had no idea how much stuff we actually have, so my initial prediction of a quick and painless move quickly went out the window.
We had to book the elevator in our building quite a few weeks in advance in order to insure we'd be able to use it on our moving day. But unfortunately everyone else was moving that day too, so even at 5 weeks ahead of time, the entire day was booked. So instead of a Saturday afternoon, we were forced to do it on a Sunday. Not my ideal, but we had no choice. So after booking the elevator for the two hour allotted time slot, I went online to reserve a U-Haul truck.
Everything seemed in order when the day of the move came. After church my wife and I went to the U-Haul in our area to pick up the truck we reserved, only to find that the company had ridiculously over-booked the weekend. Under normal circumstances this would not have bothered me too much, being that I am so even tempered and all. However in this particular situation, having booked the elevator over a month beforehand, timing was of utmost importance. So, in what was for me an unusually forceful manner, I made our needs known to the person at the counter of the U-Haul place, and also his superiors at the front office over the phone. Those who know me understand that for me, being forceful does not include a raised voiced, but actually a slightly softer voice with a bit of an edge, accompanied by the subtlest of stern looks, which has become known in my family as "the black look". I've never considered myself to be intimidating at all, but if you ask the folks who have been on the receiving end of that look, apparently its a knee buckler... who knew? But I digress...
After a little "sweet talking", we were able to get another truck from a different location in enough time so that we did not lose our elevator slot. The truck was slightly smaller than expected, but it turned out to suit our needs just about perfectly.
I had a couple of friends stop by to help me load the truck with the "big stuff". They were not able to stay long, but we didn't have much stuff anyway, so I didn't think it would be a big deal after the two hours of elevator time had passed and my buds had to take off. Fortunately the person who booked the elevator after us apparently didn't need it. They never came looking for it. This worked out well because it was 3 hours after our time was supposed to be over that had I brought the last load down to the truck and had it all strapped in. We then packed up one of our cars and made the trip to the new place.
I don't know how it happened that I didn't think this far ahead, but eventually we actually got to the new place, and there I was with a full truck of furniture and only myself and my wife to unload it. It was already after 9pm, and the move that I thought was only going to take 4-6 hours had trumped that time by a long shot. And the night was still very young.
So I busted out the cell phone and began calling anyone I knew that might be able or willing to help us out. But it was late on a Sunday night and I did not get through to anyone. I was already very tired and rather frustrated at all the happenings of the day. I made one final call to the man I worked for over this summer, and by God's grace, he came over and helped me move the larger items out of the truck. I cannot describe the feeling of relief I had when I hung up that phone. I was renewed. So much in fact, that I unloaded most of the truck by myself, and when my boss showed up, there was only the largest pieces left to be moved. I was still very thankful. I don't think I'd have been able to do what I did without knowing help was imminent.
So we got all our stuff inside the house. That is, after Natalie and I went back to Philly, packed up both of our cars with what was left and made the last trip to the new place after cleaning up the old apartment. It was 4am before the heads hit the pillows - a very long day.
Now I told you all that, just so I could tell/show you this:
Like I said, when we moved in the place needed a little work. Natalie likes to say the place was "unlivable", but I wouldn't go that far. When we got here, all of the rooms looked like this:
You can't really get the fine point attributes of the room in this photo, but one of the things I like to point out is that the former tenant was a smoker, and if you look close in the above pic, you can see where there was something hanging on the wall. There is a nice outline of a mirror or picture that shows how the smoke seeped into the wallpaper. And with all that smoke, you can be sure there was a nice nicotine scent that wafted through the house and was especially pungent when you first walk in the house. This was also partially made worse by the silk curtains that were once white, but had been stained to a delicious cream color. Unlivable? no, but it wasn't pleasant.
The worst part about about the place was the wallpaper. It was just plain awful and ugly. It was a textured paper that felt like it was made of felt, and it was in every room but the kitchen and bathroom. Here's a close up:
Isn't it yummy?
Well, a little elbow grease goes a long way.
First Natalie pulled off as much paper as she could with just a scraper. We found that not only was the top layer of paper absolutely heinous, but that there was a long history of heinous paper that went back for generations. Here is a peek at that stage:
Then we got down to business a scraped off all the paper with razor blades and "Diff". Here is a shot of the finished bedroom sans the wallpaper.
don't let the green paint scare you - that is what was at the bottom of it all. 4 layers of paper and some dark green paint. Stylish!
But it does turn out nice in the end. Here are some shots of the first two rooms we've finished:
We are pretty happy with how things are shaping up - two rooms down and two to go.
Now, you might ask yourself - "Doesn't Greg only have one year left of school?"
And that is a great question. Yes I only have one year left, and after that I'm off to NJ for an internship and a possible job as an assistant pastor. So, why all the trouble for such a short stay?
Well, the answer is simple. I love my wife and want her to be happy while we're here. It was pretty much my idea to leave the city and the apartment she loved, so I'll do what I can to make this home for her.
And besides, it's a great deal for my landlord - He gets free labor and is reimbursing me for the materials we use, and after we leave, he can raise the rent!
I'll post more pics as the rooms get finished.