44. Charmed

I’m in a groove! I feel as though my life is charmed.



Jordan and others warned me that housing is tight in Sebastopol and to keep my expectations in check. Instead I trusted in my incredible housing karma and set my heart on finding an idyllic country place with loads of charm, space and wonderful landlords—a home I would be happy living in for 3-5 years. By sheer serendipity that’s what I found, and without any effort. I intended to start searching beginning in May and to take my time—take all summer if necessary. In a coffee shop with Jordan on Sunday, while Jordan was reading the paper, I scanned the classifieds. An ad for a barn sounded intriguing so I called. The landlady told me they had placed the ad that Friday and already had 20 interested people who wanted to see it. She said she would take my information, but that she didn’t feel she could show it to anyone else until she’d shown it to the first 20. I gave her my name, then asked if she wouldn’t mind telling me a little bit about it. Fifteen minutes later she said she was going to put a star next to my name—that I sounded awfully nice. That night she called and said she would like to show it to me after all. I saw it that Tuesday and threw my hat in with five other people who all said they wanted it. I knew the minute I saw it that I wanted it, and I asked if I could fill my application out there, since I wouldn’t be home until late that evening. We chatted for an hour and I hoped that no one would be as charming as me or spend as much time with her. The next day I got a call that the place was mine.



Photo by Anne Dowie | www.annedowie.com

The owner is a professional photographer. She and her husband live in the city and bought the property a few years ago as a second home but it became too much. The place is incredible. It is a 1300-square-foot, 10-year-old barn on two acres with six raised vegetable beds, apple, pear, persimmon, quince, fig and walnut trees. It’s on a hill with sweeping views of the surrounding hills and farmland. I am five minutes south of Sebastopol down a country lane. There is a house and a cottage also on the property. The house is rented by a retired couple who recently moved down from Washington, and the cottage, by a professional woman who has lived there for 12 years. I can’t see either place from mine, but I’ll be glad to have the community. The downstairs has a Spanish tile floor and sliding glass doors leading out to a large deck. There is a small alcove kitchen, bathroom and enough room for my dining table. Upstairs there is a 1,000-square-foot open loft with a gas stove for heat. Two large, warehouse windows on each end bask the place in sunlight all day and from my desk I will be able to look out at the incredible valley view. I love lofts and am so excited about every aspect of the place. The setting and space itself more than make up for the small kitchen. Now that I can visualize where I am going to be, it’s going to be even harder to stay in the present. I can’t believe I’ve waited this long to move to the country! I think I’ve always been a wide open space girl at heart.



Of course, I hope that the scenic country road right out my front door will inspire frequent walks and a new commitment to exercising. That has always been one of my complaints about here—I hate that I have to get in a car to exercise. I was feeling out of control and polluted, so I embarked on a 21-day cleanse the Monday after Easter. I lost 7 pounds and more importantly reset my physical and mental health. It was a particularly good strategy for me to do during this period of transition. Moving is especially disconcerting for my obsessively organized personality, and feeling in control of my health and energy has helped me to stay grounded and positive. I am particularly excited for what country life is going to do for my soul.



I was feeling increasingly frustrated and confused about my relationship with Jordan until it occurred to me that the stress of moving might be the root of my discontent. In an ah-ha moment, I realized that it’s all in my mind. I could continue to focus on what bothers me, and have those feelings confirmed and continue to feel unhappy; or, I could focus on what I enjoy and have those feelings affirmed. Whichever perspective I adopted would be self-fulfilling. I laughed remembering how freaked out about John I was right after I married and moved in with him. Hmmm. Another major transition—there’s a clear pattern here. By chance, I opened Thich Nhat Hahn’s Peace is Every Step to the chapter on “suchness.” Everybody has garbage, but you can live together harmoniously if you understand it. I’ve decided not to worry about my relationship with Jordan until I have successfully moved and the dust settled. As soon as I made that decision, and took the focus off of analyzing Jordan and our relationship, I suddenly discovered myself feeling more in love and engaged than I have allowed myself to feel before now. I don’t know which is more exciting, the way I feel or the wisdom I gained in getting to this point.



I just deposited a check this evening for $6,500!! I decided to apply my superb housing karma toward finding good tenants for my home. I listed my house for $2,600, which was $400 more than either Cal Rentals or John told me I would be able to get for it, but the amount I needed to zero out my expenses. I found a group of four professionals I fell in love with. It’s a couple and two guys. One is a teacher, one is a social worker and the other two are civil engineers. They are excited to find such a nice place to live and are even going to maintain my garden. I feel good about finding tenants I believe will appreciate and care for my home, and I also feel good about helping professionals in public service be able to afford a nice place to live in this prohibitively expensive city. I had a Harvard MBA graduate email me, but that would not have felt nearly as satisfying. Trust. Be Mindful. Be strategic. It’s slow going, but little by little I’m seeing results, and I am determined to pay off my debt and rebuild my savings. It occurred to me recently that my debt is actually serving me by keeping my taxes low; that without it, I would not be able to survive right now. My new place is going to cost me $1200 a month, $1,000 less than I pay now, plus many of my other bills will be lower, including my car insurance which will cut in half!


Go figure, but we’re still chugging along. None of us are getting wealthy, but we’re making it; and all of us appreciate the value of any money in this economy when so many people are without work. We have some fantastic opportunities in the pipeline, exciting clients who love us and strategic partners who are selling us. The label designer I wrote the book for, (it comes out in June!!), is actually creating our new identity and is promoting us to all of his clients under the mantle of his design studio. We are also collaborating with a group of four women who do print work. It feels great to be collaborating with so many talented people and helping one another. Whoever sells a job pulls the others in as part of their team. Since we all offer complementary but distinct services, it allows all of us to promote our businesses as full service agencies.


I can’t wait for my new office! I just bought a ticket today to fly my dad out here in June to help me build a custom desk. I want a long table and need something elegant that will fit in with my living room furniture now that I will be living in a loft. I also want to design and build a custom bookcase and a few other miscellaneous projects. I was dreaming about a flat monitor now that my office is in my living room, which is also my bedroom, but I couldn’t justify the expense when I have a relatively new, perfectly good monitor. On cue, my monitor died, so now I have a sleek, flat monitor.


Okay, I’m happy, you get the point.