On New Year’s Eve 1998, I was standing on top of a building near the Space Needle with my friend, Alissa and a couple of other people to watch the fireworks from the Needle. I didn’t know that on New Year’s eve 1999, I’d be standing near the needle with my fiance’, Alissa, ready to share what would be the first New Year’s kiss for either of us.
A year later, I did know that life would look a lot different by New Year’s Eve 2000. I was engaged and looking forward to a July wedding.
On New Year’s Eve 2003, I didn’t know that by the end of 2004 my parents would have moved from L.A. to Washington and that Alissa and I would be homeowners.
Two years later, I did know that by the end of 2006, Alissa and I would be parents.
That’s how life goes. Sometimes you see change coming. Sometimes you don’t.
Which brings us to New Year’s Eve 2013. We had moved earlier that year, giving up our condo in favor of a rental house. We had hoped for a longer term arrangement, but in November, we learned that it was not to be. The owners were moving back and we would be faced with the prospect of another move long before we had hoped.
Of course, by New Year’s Eve, we had a plan. Alissa had been talking to a close friend (our families regularly celebrate Thanksgiving together, as well as most other holidays). She and her husband had one rental property and were interested in another, except that they really didn’t like the process of finding tenants. She asked Alissa a question that she had several times in the past when we were looking at new housing arrangements.
“Would you like to live in Shoreline?”
Shoreline had always seemed to be out of our price range. It’s adjacent to Seattle and is full of very attractive upper working and middle class neighborhoods. We had thought we’d stay in the Lynnwood/Edmonds area, as we had started putting down enough roots that we would occasionally run into a familiar face at the grocery store or something.
We’d always said no, but this time, we start praying and talking and talking and praying, and boy was Shoreline attractive. It’s home to our church and our small group. It’s closer to the city. Our kids would enter school with friends they already knew. Annie, in particular, was friends with at least 3 other first graders at her school. For that matter, we had friends we already knew in the neighborhood. How would we handle getting the kids to school? My mom had handled this in the past. Well, they could bus from our friends’ house, and we’d coordinate afternoon transportation. Could we afford the rent? They had their eye on a short sale, one that they had tried to buy as their first rental. It hadn’t worked out, but it was back on the market.
In December, our friends had put down an offer. But it was a short sale, and a short sale means waiting.
The year flew by. There was a father-daughter dance, and the Super Bowl and little league and chickenpox over Spring Break and Easter and birthdays and a dance recital and lots and lots of baseball.
Before we knew it, it was summer. We knew for sure that we had to be out of our rental by the end of July, but it wasn’t until late June that the bank accepted our friends’ offer on the new place. And then it took several weeks to get a closing date.
We began doing math and looking at moving scenarios that didn’t involve moving directly into the new place. That meant storage units and temporary housing and double moving costs.
Which brings me to the title of this post…
At some point, Alissa asked me if I thought we were going to make it. Were we going to have a smooth landing?
My answer was something to the effect of this.
“Well, we’re probably going to land like a drunken albatross.”
You know how albatrosses land right? They’re big majestic sea birds that are famously bad at landing.
At the point I said this, a smooth landing was a theoretical possibility. But I know us. And I know how these things tend to work out for us. And I know my adage that nothing that goes smoothly makes for a good story.
For the record, I do not look for ways to make things go less smoothly just to generate better stories to tell.
I don’t have to. It just happens.
It’s a gift.
So how did we move. Well, we ended up staying with my mom for four weeks. It’s probably the one glimmer of cost-effectiveness in the whole exercise. And all our relationships remained healthy and in tact. We’ll call that a win for Team Viertel.
As moving day approached, our orderly move got less so. The week before the move, was our church’s version of Vacation Bible School. Of course, it’s volunteer heavy, so Alissa and I agreed that I’d volunteer and take the kids while she became an awesome, distractionless packing machine at home.
I want to backtrack a bit, however. I mentioned prayer. As far as spiritual disciplines go, I readily admit that prayer is not my strong suit. I have a tendency to pray more during times of crisis and then slipping back to a less intentional model after the crisis subsides.
We prayed a lot during 2014. Should we hold out for an answer on the short sale or set our sights on a house that would close in 30 days? Should we definitely enroll our kids in the new school or wait and see if we ended up in the old school district? Time and again, we were faced with the question of whether or not to wait or to opt for the safer, more secure route.
When does faith move into crazy territory? I mean, on one hand, the whole scenario as it was presented to us was, literally, a God-send, at least from our perspective? It was certainly improbable. So when you consider that we were starting from a place of faith, how much more faith does it take to follow through?
Well, when the ticking of the clock and the turning of the calendar begins to dominate your consciousness; when you literally don’t know if the deal on your future home is going to go through even as the moving van rolls up to take your stuff to storage, well it was enough to test my faith. I know some people are used to that kind of uncertainty, either by choice or by circumstance, but I’m not.
And so it was, that on a Saturday in late July, we found ourselves scrambling through last minute packing as the moving van rolled up. We knew that change was upon us, but we had no idea what that was going to look like.
It was time to take off.