Whew, 2020 has gotten off to a WILD start, and I’ve found myself just wanting to pause and journal to take a sort of snapshot of this time. A LOT has happened, and I want to be able to look back at this post to remember the craziness and the goodness that’s filled up the first part of 2020.
This photo was actually taken on New Year’s Day, which feels like at least a year ago even though it was just months. We took a hike with Piper on the Sonoma Coast and on our way back our car to have a little picnic and champagne, a man with a giant camera in his hand told us he’d gotten a great shot of us on a vista and handed us his business card in case we wanted the photo.
I immediately was like, “Uh-huh, sounds not creepy at all,” but John went ahead and reached out, and this is what he sent us. It makes sense that he was able to tell who we were and track us down because we were pretty much the only people out there with a dog (in hindsight we realized dogs weren’t allowed on that trail … whoops). I was blown away when I saw this shot and was immediately brought to tears by the kindness of a stranger who didn’t have to stop us and share this with us, but who did it anyway.
Based on that experience, I figured 2020 was going to be full of beautiful surprises, and well, it has been, to some extent at least!
Buying our first home
About a week after the New Year’s hike, I came across a house on Zillow that was charming and sweet, in a town closer to where John works than where we lived at that time. Not thinking much of it–mostly because we had found and toured, and even made a couple offers that led to disappointments, on plenty of houses since moving here last summer–we set up a viewing with our amazing realtor.
It was a yellow duplex in a quiet roundabout neighborhood with a little park in the center, which made up for a smaller backyard. (Although, we were just happy to potentially get a yard, no matter its size! After living in a second-story condo for 8 months with a tiny balcony, and with a dog, even a small yard sounded like a BIG luxury.)
The rest of the house was… quirky. And colorful. But not as quirky as some of the other houses we’d had our eye on. We almost bought a house that needed some SERIOUS, serious work. I’m talking there were holes in doors, weird devil worship symbols painted on the garage walls, mold in one bathroom, and a completely missing kitchen. Like no counters, no appliances, nothin’. That’s buying in California for you! We were drawn to that whole “worst house in a GREAT neighborhood” thing, but I am so-freaking-glad it didn’t go through because man oh man, I don’t think I would’ve done too well with that much of a fixer-upper on our first go-round.
A little bright paint and dirty carpet in the bedrooms was something we could absolutely work with, in comparison to our other options especially. We toured the home on John’s lunch break (and he was jazzed that it took him a hot 9 minutes to get there from his office in comparison to the usual 30-minute commute to our condo). It had some little hiccups like the past owners having two very sheddy, smelly dogs and some outdated details, but overall, it was a good size for us, had a garage for John to homebrew beer (a must-have in our search), and I saw the potential that some paint and updates over time could have for it.
Luckily, too, it had been on the market for a couple of weeks and the sellers were wanting to get it off their hands fast, so they’d already reduced the price. We sent in an offer and to our shock (especially after many high hopes on past houses that didn’t work out), it was accepted the next day!
We did a 30-day close, so we quickly began planning all the things: letting our current landlord know we were leaving, booking movers, starting to pack, getting quotes from painters and floor people. I knew we needed to do two things before moving in: removing the grimy old carpets from the bedrooms (the rest of the house has sheet vinyl floors that’s in decent shape and we’ll keep for the time being) and painting the whole interior. As charismatic as a green living room and pink, blue, and beige bedrooms were… they had to go. Plus those were the biggest projects and I figured it would be easiest to do them while the house was empty.
After closing on the house, we had a week until we needed to be out of our condo, and two weeks until we were supposed to go on a trip to Ireland and Scotland (which was eventually cancelled last minute due to Coronavirus… we’ll get there in a bit). In the course of that week before moving in, we ripped out the dirty carpets ourselves to save some money (I don’t think I can ever have carpet in a house again after seeing what can get trapped in it), got the interior painted white, and deep cleaned the whole place, which was left filthy by the last owners.
(Side note: Can I just please lay out a blanket request to kindly clean your homes before moving out? At least just wipe the crumbs off your counters and maybe vacuum up the dog hair? Thank you very much.)
It was a stressful and yet such an exciting whirlwind of events, and as overwhelming as it was at times, I am SO so so grateful for the timing, because one week after we moved in, the country was on lockdown.
Coronavirus realness hits
Okay, so the whole time we’re signing new house documents and packing up our lives, we’d also been planning on heading on a trip with my family to Europe to celebrate my sister’s 30th birthday that we’d booked before buying a house. There are mutterings of this thing called the Coronavirus, but I firmly boycotted the news and told myself it was just like a stronger flu, no real biggie.
HA. The week after we moved into the house, we were settling in at the same time as we were finalizing details of the trip, at the same time as my mom (who was coming on the trip) kept sending us article after article about this “deadly” virus that was taking over the world. Oh mom, you’re so worrisome sometimes! …
… Then three days before we were set to leave, the U.S. announces all travel from Europe is banned. Cool. (Technically, the UK and Ireland were still okay to travel from, but with how quickly the first ban happened, we were NOT about to take our chances.) As the trip coordinator, I promptly began reaching out to all our tours and Airbnbs and airlines to cancel all the things. Thank goodness, we were refunded for almost everything.
But wow, again, thank you perfect timing for saving us big time. If we’d been there when the travel bans started, I can’t imagine scrambling and trying to get home amid the international travel panic and stopped up customs lines everywhere. Thank you, GOD. Seriously. Big ups to that guy.
The other bummer was that John’s mom had graciously planned to come stay at our house and watch our dog while we were out of the country. She got to town Thursday–at the very least, even though we’d canceled our trip, we figured she could see our new house and maybe we could get some wine tastings and local sight seeing in for a few days–and then there was talk about shutting down travel from California on Friday. So she basically flew all the way here to just have dinner with us before heading back home to Texas the next morning.
She said she was just so happy to at least get to see us (and Piper) and the house, but I felt so bad. That was when I started paying more attention to the news and I realized: huh, looks like this isn’t just a stronger flu… This is actually really bad. We started social distancing and John began working from home the next week. Talk about a GREAT time to nest and settle into our first home! I mean, that’s totally been the silver lining, especially since our dog Piper ended up getting hurt shortly after.
Piper’s knee surgery & recovery
I remember very specifically seeing a young boxer, maybe 6 months old, at my apartment complex when I lived in Dallas with a cone and a bad limp and yet SO much bounding energy even though he was clearly hurt. I asked the owner what happened and she said it was a torn knee ligament that he’d gotten surgery for and he had many months of recovery ahead. I remember clearly thinking: Oh my gosh, that looks awful. I hope Piper never has an injury like that.
Be VERY careful what you think, y’all, because somehow I reverse-manifested the exact same injury into our lives. (Kidding. Sort of.) I’d actually like to blame my husband because his family notoriously has bad knees (he and his siblings have each had multiple knee injuries & surgeries). But unfortunately, as much as we consider Piper our dogter, I’m pretty sure genetics don’t work like that. And the truth is that it’s actually MY fault.
Piper is an Australian shepherd + blue heeler, which means she’s a herding breed through and through. She is a NUT when I take her on runs, and usually has a few minutes of barking at me, biting the leash, and nipping my legs to try to get me “under control” before we get into a good pace of normal, non-crazy running. The few minutes of nutso usually make up for a pleasant run the rest of the way.
Well, I took her on a run on that first weekend of quarantine and she began her jumping fiasco a few steps in, before tripping and getting totally laid out flat on the ground. She popped back up and wouldn’t put any weight on her back left leg for a few seconds. I walked her back to the house and she seemed to be walking normally, but I think it was just her adrenaline from the excitement of getting to go on a run.
I ended up taking her on the run still, chalking the leg thing up to a little tweak from the fall, and when we got home and cooled off, she had a very apparent limp on that same back leg. Ugh.
We monitored her and didn’t do anything other than easy walks for a week before taking her to the vet. They prescribed some anti-inflammatory meds and said to not do any activity, even walks, which we adhered to for another week without the limp getting any better. Finally, we took her back two weeks after the fall to get x-rays and yep, she had a torn ligament in her knee.
GREAT. Fast-forward a couple more weeks, after a consult with an animal surgeon, we scheduled her to get surgery last Monday to repair the ligament. It was something that the doctor said could have waited, and she would’ve been fine to hobble around for a few months, but so much of her life is activity-based. And so much of OUR lives revolves around doing things with her: daily walks, hiking, camping, even just sitting outside with her to get fresh air or playing fetch.
Without surgery, she could have regained up to 30% of normal activity, and with surgery, her odds of normal activity were 95%-plus. She’s only 5 and has several years ahead of her, so we knew it was a must to get the injury fixed.
And we figured, while the world is shut down and we’re both working from home, it’s the perfect time for her to do this surgery and recover. It’s not ideal to buy a house and get dog orthopedic surgery within a couple months of each other, but it seemed necessary. And once again, the timing actually was oddly pretty perfect.
The surgery, however, was way gnarlier than I’d expected. She came home with a 5-inch incision (20 stitches) inside her back leg and wouldn’t walk to even go outside to pee. I had to carry her and we basically force fed her meds for the first few days. One week post-op, she’s now doing SO much better. We removed her fentanyl (painkiller) patch over the weekend as instructed by the doctor, which brought back some of her appetite and energy. She’s also way less swollen and bruised around the incision. It was like a Frankenstein leg last week and now it’s a little more… dog-like. Thank goodness.
I was worried there for a sec and was convinced I broke my dog completely the night we brought her home from surgery. Not so, though, and like all things, time is the best healer.
She’s set to get her stitches out late this week and should be able to ease into more normal activity like walks in about 5 weeks. We cannot wait! It’s been so strange not taking her out to walk or play multiple times a day like we’re all used to, and something that sometimes used to be a bother is now something I think we are all craving to get back to again.
Looking forward & embracing slowness
Funny enough, between stay-at-home orders and a recovering pup, I’ve felt this freedom more than ever to just lean into the slowed-down pace, on weekends especially. I feel super lucky that work has been normal, actually even busier at the beginning of all this because my clients are all digital entrepreneurs who suddenly needed to shift their messaging and pitches to match the global climate, so I had plenty of content to work on with them. I know that’s not the case for everyone and feel really thankful.
Now it’s back to more of a normal pace for work, but weekends are quieter still. We’re fully settled into the house and love our new space. The little backyard has been a Godsend and I am so grateful to have a bit more room and the freedom to make this space totally our own!
John’s brewed beer twice already, and I planted some veggies in a couple garden boxes that came with the house. We have a list of projects to slowly tackle on the house over time (and once our emergency fund recovers from unexpected dog knee surgery, ha!).
Before COVID-19, if I spent a weekend doing nothing other than reading, sleeping in, catching up on shows, painting, baking, and basically doing things that aren’t deemed “productive,” I’d have this massive sense of anxiety and self-judgment for not doing more. But now, there’s nothing more I really CAN do. And so I’ve been almost forced to embrace the rest and the quiet in a way that feels really peaceful.
Have you experienced this at all, too? It’s something that’s been a bright side to all the sadness and brokenness in the world right now, for me at least. We’ve done what we can to support small businesses we love in the small ways we’re able to, and for now, we know the only other thing we can do to “help” is to just stay put. To be still and know that there’s going to be an end, even if we can’t see it right now.
It’s sort of like Piper’s recovery, or the projects on the house we want to do. There’s no firm “completion date,” but I know we’ll continue making progress if we just stay the course, make smart decisions, and take care of ourselves and each other. With a crazy kickoff to 2020 and lots more change to come still, I’m sure, that’s been giving me to much assurance and peace of mind these days.