The Year of Heavy Lifting

What a stressful year 2015 has been.

On the plus side, I joined a fun band and played a bunch of shows and good times were had.  I moved to a new house with 20 acres of land, a heated workshop, and a barn that I will be perfect to convert into a studio.  Work was insanely stressful, but we built a system, and we launched it, and now a major global hotel chain is running on our software 24/7.  That has it’s own type of satisfaction at the end of the day but I’d be lying if I said I would do it all again.  Too much personal time missed, too little work/life balance.

On the negative side, my oldest friendship ended and I don’t know why.  I got a text message saying we weren’t friends anymore and that was that.  All efforts on my part to find out what upset him or caused that to happen have been ignored.  I doubt I’ll ever understand that one.  People are so strange.  Life is short.  Why anybody would do that to anyone is beyond me.  

But I’m feeling healthy, sleeping well, and I feel like I passed through some sort of life transition this year and the future feels unfamiliar and new, which I like.  There is still one more “heavy lifting” task ahead of me from this Year of Heavy Lifting, which is to finish renovating and selling my old house.  It should be ready to list in January of next year.  We are patching and painting and cleaning and replacing old flooring and putting in new light fixtures and things like that.  I built a small deck in the back.  It’s amazing how many things you always mean to get around to but don’t until you are going to sell.  Between unpacking into the new house and working on the old one I feel like I’m pretty much constantly busy.

Busy is good.  As long as it has a purpose.  And I feel more of a sense of purpose now than I have felt several years.  I am looking forward to finishing the album I’ve been working on in dribs and drabs for a year and a half.  I’m looking forward to outfitting my new studio.   I’m looking forward to playing more live music with my band and solo.  I’m looking forward to gardening and hiking and working at my new 20 acre homestead.  I have a tractor.  I used it to clear the driveway of show this week.  How cool is that?   

I haven’t seen the new Star Wars movie yet.  I thought about going to a late showing last night after spending the rest of the evening working on the old house, but the floor I was installing took too long and I ran out of time to make the last one before 1:00 AM.  I wasn’t about to go that late.  

Since moving into what my workmates call “The Compound”, life has been quite different.  We haven’t even been there two months and the following have already transpired:

– a night of tractor repair featuring an alcohol-influenced 2:00 AM snow blowing test run

– the finding of the decaying bodies of two dead red-tail hawks

– the construction of a 1000 foot long fence

– The canine killing of a shrew, a mouse, and a pocket gopher

– four sightings of the two barn cats

– turkeys, deer, woodpeckers, rabbits, etc, just walking around like they own the place

– learning just how incredibly annoying satellite Internet service is (it’s truly terrible, HughesNet is a joke but it’s basically the only option that has any bandwidth to speak of)

It’s a lifestyle change…  Here’s how it happened.

For a few years now, we’ve been talking about moving but never able to agree on what a move might involve.  I like live music (playing it and going to shows), working in downtown Minneapolis and taking public transit to work instead of driving a car.  So, suburban/urban locations are my preference.  We bought a house in Apple Valley, which is where I grew up, and I have always liked the fact that despite having no particular charms of it’s own, it’s relatively convenient to get just about anywhere I want to go.  It’s safe, schools are good, it’s clean, nothing to complain about.  There is even a big 2000 acre park where I can hike and kayak.  Esther, on the other hand, doesn’t much care for suburbs.  If she is going to live somewhere with a high concentration of people (and she has, namely, Brooklyn NY), she wants interesting restaurants and shops and inspiring surroundings.  There is nothing particularly inspiring about Apple Valley with it’s Ruby Tuesday, Applebees, Target, and the like.  Sure, there’s one good Thai restaurant, but otherwise I agree with her critique.  I also enjoy inspiring surroundings, but, well…  There’s a trade off.  Picturesque surroundings are all well and good, but they are usually found in inconvenient locations.  Convenient locations are fine but the surroundings are rarely picturesque.  And since dogs became a big part of our lives, she has been clamoring for more space for them.  Something like 5 acres.  With some woods.  Near water would be nice.  It seemed unlikely we would find a place to move that would satisfy both of us and, honestly, this was the topic of many a heated conversation.  

I laid down my criteria for what I wanted and she laid down hers and there wasn’t a ton of overlap, but if there was a property that fit both of our lists, I decided I would consider it.  One thing I insisted on was something I have wanted my entire adult life: a separate building to use as a recording studio.  I wasn’t all that terribly in love with the idea of moving but if I could actually stay close to the Twin Cities and get a recording studio in the process, well, I decided I could try to be open-minded and maybe something would pop up that I would feel was worth all the hassle.  I mean, Esther and the dogs would benefit, I would benefit, what more could you ask for?  Tt seemed like we were asking a lot but still, we set up some Zillow searches and alerts and started trawling through listings.  And more listings.  And more listings.

 “Here’s one with 5 acres…  But it’s all grass, no trees”

 “This one has 34 acres, but it’s an hour drive to work”

“6 acres with a stream!  Good location!  But the house is practically falling down”

“This one is perfect!  But it’s WAYYYY too expensive.”

On and on and on.  We eventually got a realtor and got pre-approved for a mortgage in case we actually found something.  We dragged the poor woman all over Minnesota to see properties as far apart as Big Lake and Nininger and still, no dice.  On the one hand, the number of near misses we were finding assured me that the goal was attainable but on the other hand, I was pretty skeptical that it would be attained without accepting some sort of major compromise.  Something on the list had to give.  Less land or further out or worse house or something.  But then I clicked a listing on Zillow and saw “The Compound”.  20-acres.  Multiple out-buildings, including a heated shop and a beautiful barn that would make a perfect studio.  Geothermal heating and cooling.  In our price range.  Nearby transit station with express bus downtown.  Only 10 miles farther away from my office than our current house.  Trees.  Beautiful lot.  Seclusion.  Quiet.  Two suburbs nearby with all the usual suspects (Chinese buffet, Menards, Goodwill, book stores, Carbones pizza, Cub Foods).  Clearly there must be something wrong with it.  I was skeptical enough that I didn’t even invite our realtor to set up a showing until I drove out there first to scout it out.  I couldn’t believe what I saw and I sat in my car in front of the property thinking, “Wow.  This is it.  This is seriously it.  Whoa.”

The rest, as they say, is history.  We officially visited the following day.  Our realtor lost her mind over how amazing it was.  We followed suit.  An offer was immediately made.  Full price.  No haggling when you find exactly what you want for less than it’s worth.  It was accepted.  No drama.  A closing date was set.  We signed, we moved in, and every day since has been a discovery.  We keep saying things like “I had no idea I wanted this.” and “This is so great.” and “Can you believe this is happening?”  The dogs love it.  They run and run, and chase things, and come in the house dirty, and they get tire themselves out and they sleep.  The cats now spend time in the same rooms as the dogs.  There is peace.  To stand outside on a clear night is a miracle.  The sky has more stars than I ever remember seeing.  It’s so quiet you can hear an owl hooting miles away.  The house has twice as much living space, we have barely begun to properly leverage it.  We had to buy walkie talkies just to keep in touch with each other.  

And I got my studio.

Initially it may seem like a “barn” isn’t a great idea for a studio.  I think barn and I think of a drafty, dusty, old building for animals to live in.  But this barn is different.  It’s wired up, electrified, lighted, wrapped and sided.  There are two stories inside plus a loft area that just need some insulation, drywall, and some sort of heat source to become a year-round workspace.  Plus it’s good looking.  And there are two doorways on the upper level that are just begging to open out onto a couple of decks.  I’m reading up on studio construction techniques now…  Mwahahahahahahaha….