Getting Unstuck

Pooltable in doorLast Sunday we contracted with movers to carry another load of stuff from our old house to our new house–stuff from the garage and the basement, including this pool table.  Our other helpers had taken off the base, but it still took quite a bit of maneuvering for the guys to get the table out of the old basement bulkhead entrance.  Then when we got to the new house, it got stuck in the bulkhead entrance here.  It was just that much tighter.

Carve OutWell, they pulled it back out, and then Margy and one of the movers got creative: they chipped and sawed away at the bulkhead framing, to make a little carve out, and finally, with only a small cracked corner, the table made it into the basement!
Along with the rest of the stuff that we hadn’t really been sure would fit into our smaller space.  Now it is leaning against the wall, until we have a chance to unpack enough boxes to clear a space for it.

Not that everything is out of the old house.  This has been a slow process, and there are still items that we are planning to give away through Freecycle, and Margy still has a few boxes to sort and shred, and then we’re likely to have a dump run.  But it is happening, and it is almost done.

A larger feeling of stuck-ness has been in getting the radon levels in the basement to an acceptable level to our buyers.  Our contract was signed on January 26, and we’ve been in due diligence phase since then–two months.  We’ve gone through 5 radon tests, at least as many visits from radon mitigators, drilling eleven holes in the floor to see what was going on, three more “drops” to the system, many hundreds of dollars, and an exhausted feeling that we’d be stuck in this bad movie forever.  I didn’t even have the energy to blog about it all.

But, today, we got the results of our latest radon test, and it passed!  The realtors are preparing documents, and we expect to have a signed contract by 5 p.m. completing the due diligence phase and setting a closing date for April 14th.  I almost didn’t dare to write that down, the last weeks have been so discouraging.  Who could have guessed it would be so difficult?  But it seems we are finally unstuck and moving forward again.

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Rain

RainI woke early in the morning, anxious about yet another radon test at our old house, as the rain was coming down and the wind was all stirred up. We’ve had two failed radon tests, before and after upgrades to our mitigation system.  The other day, the mitigation folks were checking on why the radon levels had doubled after their upgrades, but everything  seemed fine, and their instant test meter was showing no problems.  They suggested that perhaps it was an anomaly, and we should retest.

I had read online that radon tends to be at its worst in the winter and/or when it is raining. So I wondered whether that had affected the tests.  According to the mitigation folks, it shouldn’t matter that much.  But both of the tests happened during stormy weather, the last one including a rare winter thunderstorm, with an inch of rain and high wind levels. Now, here we are again, testing, with the rain pouring down, and the sale of our house to these buyers resting on the outcome. Why was it raining once again?

But then my heart took me to a deeper place this morning. I realized that deep in my subconscious I was still attached to that old myth–that when good things happened it was a sign of blessing or favor from the great Mysteries, the Spirits, the Divine benevolence. And its counter:  I believed that when bad things happened it was a sign of abandonment or disfavor.  So I was troubled with the Rain and Wind, the Thunder–Why are you not helping us? I thought. I was wondering if the Rain and Wind were angry with us.

But then, they brought me to a deeper reality.  That myth of blessing or abandonment is the quintessential American myth.  But it is not really true.  Otherwise, what does that mean for the people who have faced many troubles–so much bigger troubles than radon or house sale troubles–are they abandoned or in disfavor with the spirit?  What of every child who has lost a parent, or parent who has lost a child? What of the people who lost lands and cultures to the genocide of the early explorers and settlers? What of the people who were torn from their own countries in chains? What of those who are torn from their homes today, in the wake of war and terrorism? It is not the Spirit who has abandoned them, but perhaps their fellow human beings.

The Spirit remains present with us through everything.  Whether we face happy outcomes or troubles.  Love enfolds us in its widest embrace.  That is the truest reality.  Whether we pass or fail the radon test, the Rain and Wind and Thunder are still our guardians. I have to let my small heart open wide, to move beyond the idea of prayer as an attachment to things going my way, or the easy way, into prayer as an entryway into perceiving that all-embracing Love.

And in the light of that Love, don’t we want the best for the people who are hoping to buy our house?  Don’t we want them to be safe and have the best possible outcome for their home search, even as we hope it for ourselves? If there is a radon problem in the house, don’t we want it to be solved for them? And radon, or a house sale, are so small in the great scheme of things. There are so many bigger challenges that are facing our world today.  Challenges of water and air for all people. Challenges of climate change and war and xenophobia and oppression.

This journey is rooted in an intention–to live in a more beneficial relationship with the earth and all beings. Each step of the way can be imbued with that intention, and can bring us closer to that vision. Along the way, reality will be reality, and if that phrase, “all will be well,” means anything real, it is not dependent on test outcomes or house sales. Now it might be time to take a walk in the rain.

 

 

We’re Here!

Boxes in the kitchen

Yesterday, the movers came and lifted our boxes and furniture into trucks and over to our new house.  I directed traffic at the new house.  Margy and I slept here last night, exhausted and aching in every muscle, but happy to be really living here.  I woke early in the morning with moonlight shining through the windows.  Then I took a walk at sunrise, starting by circling the perimeter of our land from north to east to south to west–and–I heard a cardinal singing!  This bird reassures me that all will be well, and offers such beauty and joy.  I am so glad to know that the cardinals will be our neighbors here.  On that happy note, I walked through the neighborhood over to the Evergreen Cemetery trails.

After breakfast, I started unpacking boxes in the kitchen, and immediately began doing more downsizing. As I put things away into fewer drawers and cupboards than we had before, it became much clearer that some things just aren’t necessary.  We didn’t have time to actually sort through most things before the move.  And we didn’t actually move all of our possessions.  There is still the whole basement, and outbuildings.  But we have a few weeks before we have to vacate the other house, so we are doing it in two stages–and that’s a good thing.  There is no way everything would fit here, and we hadn’t finished sorting in the basement.  As it is, our basement here has a lot of boxes in it already.  I think it will be easier to sort back at our old house, now that we are in this space.

The evening before the move, we sent our cats to stay with our favorite cat-sitters.  The cats have never been away from home before, but we figured it would be less traumatic to be off site while everything was being carted away. They arrived at our new home this afternoon, and are sequestered in the downstairs bathroom, with their litter boxes.  They are feeling rather scared and cranky.

Meanwhile, back at our other house, after $1000 of radon remediation work, the radon was tested between Wednesday and Friday, and came back WORSE than before.  That certainly didn’t make any sense, and our realtor has been in touch with the company who did the work, and they are returning to the house on Monday to see what is going on. This has us rather scared and cranky because radon levels are a deal breaker for our buyers, and we don’t want to have to start over in the process of selling our house. Plus radon will likely be an issue no matter who we sell to. If anyone knows any magic or practical tips for dealing with radon, let us know. Until all of that is settled, we feel very vulnerable.

It helps when I remember that our move isn’t merely a move from one house to another–it is part of our search for greener housing, and that change is more difficult than we might expect.  Our whole social system is currently set up to exploit the earth.  Margy and I have been really lucky to be able to undertake this search, and yet it still depends on our being able to sell our old house at a decent price, so we can afford solar panels for our new house.  But, I remember that we are among hundreds (thousands?) of people who are trying through our personal actions to live in greater harmony with the earth.  Each step is a part of the great shift in the human relationship with with our mother earth.  Beings of the earth, help us on this journey!

Helpers!

Our moving date is Feb 26.  Yesterday we began packing in earnest.  I rarely take the Monday holidays off work, but I was able to this time. Surveying the situation felt overwhelming, until two wonderful helpers came over and started putting books and record albums into boxes.Empty bookcase

Their energy gave us energy, and between the four of us, we packed over 35 boxes!  Today I am back to ministry work, but next week I will be taking unused vacation days from February 23rd to March 2nd in order to do the final packing push.  Other folks have offered to help us during the three day packing spree before the movers arrive.

This help is such a marvelous thing!  There are so many moments when we feel overwhelmed by the weight of all we have to box up and carry to a new home.  We did a fair amount of sorting and recycling and giving away, but at a certain point–and I think we have reached it–we just have to put things in boxes and not worry about the de-cluttering project until we arrive at our new place. We will have a few weeks overlap, so we can leave some things here that we want to go through more carefully, or give away.

Painted closetMeanwhile, at the new place, Margy has been painting the closets and cupboards, so that they’ll be ready for us to fill with our clothes and dishes. (She took this picture after her work on one closet.)

AND we still have more radon mitigation work to do in our old basement.  The tests came back too high, so we renegotiated with the buyers, and we are paying an air quality company to come this week to expand the current radon mitigation system.

Our realtor also made an important discovery. Our boiler has a barometric damper, and he noticed it was in the wide open position, even when the boiler wasn’t running. This means it would have been constantly drawing air from the basement up into the chimney, creating negative pressure that could literally be sucking radon into the space.  He also noticed that the weights were positioned incorrectly for the type of damper, so we shifted the weights, and adjusted them so that it closes when the furnace is off and opens a small amount when it is on. At some point, we may have someone come out to calibrate it more exactly, but for now, we hope this will help with radon mitigation. We have heard that the buyers are planning to replace the heating system, so it doesn’t make sense to put a lot into it now. It is a bit of a catch-22.  If we can’t get the radon levels down to acceptable numbers, the sale of the house won’t go through.  So, fingers crossed.

A colleague who has moved a lot suggested I might think of moving as a spiritual practice. There are so many ways that this makes sense.  There is so much outside of our control.  And yet there is so much work that we have to do to make it happen.  This balancing act between vulnerability and effort is such a metaphor for all of what is important in life.

I come back to Gratitude for the helpers who enter our lives, and enable us to keep on this journey.  Some of the helpers are those we enlist professionally for a fee.  But most are kindhearted souls who we are privileged to know, who make such a difference.

Sorting and Packing

Packed in BasementYesterday I began sorting and packing in the basement.  Here is a pile of stuff all packed and ready to go to our new house!  I also made an area for things we didn’t want, and at the end of the day I put several boxes in my car ready to go to Goodwill.  But here is what is left to do:

Still to Go

It was a bit overwhelming to even think about how to get through all this, until I just decided to start in one corner, which happened to be our camping equipment, and do that, and then when that was done, to move on to the next area.  I guess that is a good remedy for many overwhelming things in life–start someplace and take it one step at a time.

Since I had the day off, it was a good chance for Margy and I to confer on various items–we got through Christmas decorations, and baskets, and pots for planting:  What can we get rid of? What do we want to keep?  Then, I would put them in boxes and seal and label and put them in the packed-and-ready corner.

Meanwhile, Margy was sealing cracks in the concrete floor.  When we first bought our house, the basement had tested too high for radon levels.  A mitigation system was installed–you can see part of it in the photo above–the white piping goes down underneath the floor to draw radon from the soil.  The piping goes up through a closet into the attic and out through the top of the roof.  A fan in the pipe in the attic creates a negative pressure to pull the radon gases through the piping, so it doesn’t seep into the basement.  But part of what makes it work is to seal all the cracks in the floor.

We haven’t been much concerned about it for a while.  Since we don’t spend much time in the basement, it has not mattered so much to us.  But our home buyers are having their home inspection done this week, including a radon test.  We are hoping the extra effort to seal the cracks will ensure the mitigation system is doing its job, and the basement levels will pass the test.

Radon is a big issue for housing all across the United States.  Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas, but if humans are exposed to too much, it increases our risk of lung cancer.  This can be an issue for very energy efficient houses, because they are more tightly sealed, which makes for less air flow.  Have you had radon levels tested in your home?