We have a house in New Orleans now…and why we’re moving there

So, I own a house in New Orleans now. This is getting real.

Lots I could say about this part of our adventure, but I’ll focus on a  few key things:

  • Moving out-of-state isn’t easy, but totally manageable if you go with the flow. A lot of things didn’t go as exactly as planned in our whirlwind of buying a house and getting it set-up to rent on Airbnb until we move south for good this summer. Check out links here and here for more on this adventurous part of our tale. The process is definitely more fun if you accept what the universe is offering rather than insisting on your plan being the only way to get there. I’ve tried the latter approach before and don’t recommend it!
  • All the little things point to something that was meant to be. The link above about how crazy day of “oops-we’re-not-buying-this-house-let’s-buy-this-one-instead” has a lot of that. We ended up with a better home because of it. Here’s a couple more examples of how this was meant to be:
    • Everything has come together with the myriad appointments at the house we’ve had to have in handful of days between getting our keys at leaving town: cable, gas, alarm, housekeeper (for Airbnb turnover), handyman for some additional repairs we wanted done, etc. All not easy to coordinate, let alone in a way that didn’t have us trapped at the house waiting for people, but the pieces of the puzzle came together because we let things happen, and didn’t freak out when something went awry.
    • Many of my books we brought to help decorate the house are so inadvertently fitting of what we’re doing in New Orleans. There are copious books on Civil War history…because it’s in the South! There are books on our Founding Fathers…who bought Louisiana! There are books on the Napoleonic era…because New Orleans has deep French roots (to the point there are streets named after famous French victories in the Napoloenic era, such as Marengo, Jena, and Austerlitz). These are all areas of history I have loved through the years. They all happen to fit perfectly in New Orleans. Coincidence? Probably not.
  • Then there is our real estate agent. Yes, our real estate agent, Karon Reese. I grew up in a home where the residential real estate business was my parents’ primary income. I can tell the BS artists from the real McCoy. And my God, is our agent legit.
    • We found her on a seemingly random referral from the owner of a yoga studio where we took a class on an earlier trip to NOLA. The studio is in a splendid, old walk-up apartment converted into a combined yoga studio & living space. The owner is Karon’s daughter. Karon helped her find that space, and obviously came highly recommended. There are indeed no coincidences, because Karon helped guide us through every step of our home-buying roller coaster (including details I haven’t taken the time to list on the blog). It wouldn’t have all worked out, especially on the timing we needed, without her…and with way more work than she could have been reasonably expected to do for a rather modest home purchase.
    • Here’s the deal: for all that, I love her for more he genuine authenticity in welcoming us to New Orleans than anything else. There’s “thanks for being my client” and there’s “I’m thrilled you’re joining our community!” The latter is what we got from Karon, to the point I kinda teared up when I read the card that accompanied her gift to us when we closed on the house, and why we now consider her a friend.
    • Karon’s also a symbol of the genuine warmth with which we’ve been greeted in New Orleans. Yep, the weird, hippie Seattleites already feel at home in NOLA because people are so friendly and welcoming.
  • Here’s the biggest thing I noticed: we come alive in New Orleans. A co-worker and Facebook friend commented on a photo I posted from New Orleans noting how “alive” I look. Then there was this Facebook post from my bride:

    Up at 4 am, sitting on my porch listening to the thunder after a Deep, quality, dreamless sleep. The sleep that’s eluded me most of my life.

    My feet are filthy from stomping around in my backyard barefoot. I found some old cinder blocks back there, and decided to paint them and build a bookshelf out of them.

    I forgot to put on a bra or change my clothes yesterday.

    I couldn’t find a picture I liked for my bedroom, so I painted one.

    I’ve barely been on social media. I’ve been cooking. I’ve been cleaning, creating, decorating. Living.

    My brain works differently down here. It works better. Way better.

    I’m awake.

    I’m home. NOLA

Yes, this has been an interesting adventure. And that’s cool. But, our move is about something different.

People ask why we’re moving to New Orleans when they hear they news.

The answer is that post from my wife.

That’s why.

Because finding the place you can be alive and be the person/people you were meant to be is so very worth it.

I realized on this trip to the Big Easy, after reflecting on being there and my time at school in Virginia that I’m meant to be in the South. It’s where I feel most comfortable. I’m still not normal. I still don’t fit a stereotype, but it’s where I belong.

That’s why we couldn’t be more happy with both the home and the community that is waiting for us in New Orleans now.

Be the droplet of water, that ripples through the years

While buying and setting-up a house in New Orleans this week, something has been on my mind.

A fellow who swam at my alma mater passed away recently. He graduated in the spring of ’93, with a cohort of fellows who were the stuff of legend among the upper class Mary Washington College Eagles I joined my freshman year in Fredericksburg, VA the fall of the same year. His name was Josh Lontz. I met him though never had cause to know him well.

Yet, the emotion I’ve seen upon his passing from my fellow Eagles on a Facebook group for Mary Washington swim alums struck me. Our college days were from the pre-cell phone era, so old photos are now being posted in the group to commemorate Josh. The posts are emotional, amplified for me by the photos being from the pool deck and other scenes around Mary Washington and its swim team that I know and love.

I couldn’t quite put my finger on why this was all sticking with me. Then this morning, one of that cohort of fellows, Adam Owings, posted the below text on Facebook as a tribute to his friend Josh and some thoughts on why swimming still matters to him.

Many of themes will be familiar if you’ve been reading this blog. The power of being part of things you love. The fact there are no coincidences. The ability of a higher power in the universe to deliver, often at just the right time (and especially when you let it happen!). The powerful, formative, and emotional impact of being part of a team you love.

What Adam wrote resonated so much with me I asked if I could share it more broadly. He said yes. Here are Adam’s beautiful words:

Some things happened this week to remind me how much swimming has meant to me, and how much it still does.

It started with somber news: a college teammate and friend, Josh Lontz, died last Tuesday after a long battle with brain cancer.

At 6’8″, Josh stuck out in just about any crowd. And his height wasn’t the only reason: he was one of the most affable people I’ve ever known – in or out of the pool; an extroverted introvert. A gentle giant with a kind heart, open ear, and ready hand. I don’t know that I ever heard Josh speak an unkind word about anyone, and I don’t think I ever heard him curse.

He was as tall as he was goofy, and insisted there was one sure-fire way to make any movie better: more explosions.

He lived in Atlanta, with his wife, Alison. Josh was an urban planner and helped design the town (the town, people!) of Sandy Springs. I always thought that was so cool.

I wasn’t as connected with Josh during his last few years as I wish I’d been. He was never far in my thoughts. He was a good man. I should have told him.

I was thinking about Josh during my Saturday morning swim. How it’d be great to joke with him on the wall again between sets. The universe seemed to hear me. The guy in the next lane at Claude Moore asked if I was swimming Colonies Zone Masters this weekend at George Mason. (I’m not; it’s the third year in a row I’ve wanted to, but missed it due to family or personal obligations.)

We started talking. Turns out Bob swam at U.T. Austin in the 70s. We’d both gotten back into the pool following long hiatuses. He’d been a breaststroker and IM’er, like me. His team’s sports psychologist was Dr. Keith Bell; my coach and team used Dr. Bell’s swimming-specific psychology book, “Winning Isn’t Normal,” to turn off our brains and let our bodies do what we’d trained them to do: swim fast.

Bob and I agreed there was nothing quite like the contented exhaustion (and lingering smell of chlorine) that follows a good swim.

Like me, some of Bob’s closest friends today are his college teammates. And we talked about the remarkable positive influence the sport – and swimmers – can have, from childhood on. The first person I met when I moved to Pennsylvania in 1985 as a shameless-sack-of-bones teen was a kid on the swim team. Three decades later, we’re still friends.

I was flabbergasted by my connections and commonalities with Bob, nearly overwhelmed in the moment by a flood of emotions. The universe is a funny place. I kept swimming.

Friendship, camaraderie, and coincidence swam through my head during my daughters’ Saturday afternoon swim meet. While I would love for my kids to love swimming as much as I did and as much as I do – for the friendships and fitness and competition – they need to love it. I can’t love it for them.

They seem like they might be on that path: between the two of them, they dropped 21 seconds across three events; snagged two heat-winner ribbons; and won one event overall. They also smiled and giggled and joked and jabbered with friends, old and brand-new. And it struck me: they might know some of these kids for the rest of their lives.

Josh’s mom died last year. Reflecting on her remarkable life, he likened her to a water droplet. It was an apt comparison. She had taught hundreds (thousands?) of kids and adults to swim. If she were a droplet, and Josh were a ripple, then surely each of us is both a droplet and a ripple in the lives of others.

Josh’s words about his mom apply equally to himself:

“[He] lived and loved doing it. I was so very lucky to be part of this droplet put here into the water.

I am still part of this drop of water. It quenched so many and the ripples from it will be reverberating for many, many years.”

josh and adam

Adam (right), with his friend, Josh, (left).

My thanks to Adam for letting me post this. He’s one of those people that you meet over social media and wish you had had the chance to be friends in person. He’s a good man.

I think Adam would also join me in recommending those books by Dr. Keith Bell to anyone looking to get out of their own head and increase their performance. Swimmers in particular will like them, but the lessons apply in many ways. Adam’s post reminded me I need to load them on my Kindle. Great lessons, and great memories from those days on the Mary Washington College swim team. A team for which I’d still run through brick walls, for all the reasons Adam captured.

Those books are a drop that becomes a ripple. Josh was too. Adam’s post has now accomplished the same thing. I hope you find a way today, this week, or sometime soon to be the drop that becomes a ripple too.

Going with the Flow in New Orleans, Take 2


Seriously, this is important. A lesson I wish I learned *years* ago.

The last time we were in New Orleans, we had to go with the flow to find a house on the quick after the first home we planned to purchase failed inspection.

Take 2 on actually buying the home we want has been it’s own adventure.

After agreeing to buy this house — and after it passed inspection! — we decided to put it on Airbnb until we move down this summer to make some extra coin since New Orleans is such a popular tourist jaunt. To do that we shipped a pod of furniture and belongings south to set up the new house (leaving our current home rather sparse for now). We planned to close on April 8, with the pod scheduled to arrive on April 9.

We booked our trip back for the closing and then more fun started:

  • The first appraisal came back bad. So potentially deal-killing bad, the lender ate the cost of it and ordered a second one (after blacklisting the first appraiser). Our real estate agent has never had a lender do that.
  • The second appraisal was all good, except for the part where the listing agent showed up with the wrong key for the appointment. The resulting delay to reschedule put us at threat for not closing on time.
  • And sure enough, after a scramble to meet last minute document requests from the lender and lock-down insurance for the house (including flood insurance, because it’s New Orleans!), we were set for the financing…but without an exact date for closing.
  • Stephani (my wife), Sophia (our daughter), and I took off on a plane from our Seattle on our previously booked flight on April 6 not knowing when we’d close, Friday the 8th or Monday the 11th. And if we closed later, not knowing where we’d stay over the coming weekend since our Airbnb was booked through April 9. Oh, and we had to do umpteen things once we got on the ground anyway to get the house ready for rental on Airbnb before we’re scheduled to fly back to Seattle.
Eric E

This shot is from a recent ad campaign for my employer, but might as well be us trying to keep our shit together through all this.

The time between our last trip to New Orleans at the end of February and this trip has not been easy. At all. Bad re-acclimation back to a place in Seattle where our hearts  are no longer at rest. Stress for me from work. Just not good.

We’ve also got way too many big-ticket items on the list of huge stressors in life:

  • Buying a house.
  • Moving (out of state!)
  • Changing jobs
  • Changing careers

Each of those by themselves can be a huge challenge. In sum, well, they’re not a hoot.

Along the way we’re raising two teenagers, with all that naturally comes with that, for everyone involved. It’s life, but injected into a stressful situation. That’s been hard on all of us, especially our beautiful, mature, smart-as-hell daughter. She senses my stress and resulting energy, sometimes better than I do. That’s been really hard on her, which torments me.

Meanwhile, our son Joseph injected some fun into the mix  from college. First his car died in Montana (as in, an engine blew — or threw — a rod, so it was toast). We had buy him a replacement, with an eye toward three more winters in Montana, thus a used Subaru Outback. And who doesn’t want to spend several thousand unexpected bucks right before buying and setting up a new house  across the country?

[weeps softly]

Oh, and Joseph let us know recently he has to drop two classes from his maximum class load this semester because he was doing poorly enough they were going to lower his GPA below what he needs to maintain his ROTC scholarship. That means a couple classes over the summer to catch-up.

Smooth, Joseph, smooth.

With all that in mind, we landed in New Orleans and figured out: yep, not closing until Monday. But we were able to book another Airbnb as a back-up, and request that the seller, who had already vacated the house, give us a pre-occupancy agreement to get in the house on the day we originally planned to close.


Today is the day we were supposed to close on the house. We didn’t do that like we planned.

But, we did get the keys to the house. We moved in some sweet used furniture Stephani and Sophia scooped up yesterday. Our new master bed and mattress arrived at our new home today (thanks Amazon!). We bought a new washer and dryer, from a fabulously kind sales manager at Sears, which will be delivered tomorrow morning. We loaded up on household items we need for the new place (I’m here to tell you $450 at WalMart goes a long way!). Our pod of furniture and belongings arrives tomorrow afternoon. Our electric and gas bills are set up. The cable guy is coming on Monday afternoon, after we sign the closing papers in the morning.

Yes, there is still more to do, not all of it is likely to go as planned. It has been incredibly stressful. And hard in different ways on each member of our family. We’ve all had moments we wish we would have shown up better and had a different impact. Me especially.

But, it’s ok.

I’m typing this now on the master bed of a quirky Airbnb in a double shotgun house in New Orleans (look it up, they’re a thing!)with a powerful sense of gratitude.

Yes, this has not been easy. At times, downright painful.

But, we’re able to buy a home before we move so it’s waiting for us in several months. We’re in New Orleans now. Learning our new city. Enjoying being here (including this glorious dining establishment)! And getting things done at a good pace, even if the sequence isn’t what we expected.

Even the twists with Joseph have a silver lining: he’s learning lessons he had to learn on his own. He’s also showing real gratitude to us and other signs of maturity every parent wants to see, even if the path to seeing them isn’t always fun.

And while things often haven’t gone as planned with our home buying in New Orleans, and definitely not perfectly, they’ve been working out. In the past, things like a failed inspection on the first house we tried to buy and a missed closing date plan that threatened to play havoc on our travel and logistical plans would have put us in a total state of mind fuck.

Each in our own ways, Stephani and I had the ability to get wrapped around the axle when things didn’t go the way we hoped, expected, or planned. Living in the moment and going with the flow is a different experience, even if we — and I — still have a lot to learn.

Thank, God for that difference. Letting of what we plan to embrace what the universe is offering is so much better.

Things aren’t perfect, whatever the hell that is but, they are good.

That’ll do.