Asheviller: Ron and Valerie Move to Asheville…

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Tue
29
Dec '09

I Got 41% On My Pop Quiz!

This morning I had an appointment with my new Asheville cardiologist, Dr. Usedom (pronounced You’s-dom, like you’re from New Jersey and asking “Where you’s goin’?). We had an in-depth 45min conversation about my heart and I was happy to receive a third opinion that seemed to be more optimistic than the ones I’d received from my Seattle cardiologist and surgeon. Dr. Usedom wants to up my dosage of carvedilol to see if I can tolerate it. Right now I can get dizzy and see black if I quickly stand up (orthostatic hypotension) and that could get worse with an increased dosage, but carvedilol is the medicine for rebuilding the heart and more is better. We’ll try it and see. I won’t use the chain saw (like I did yesterday) for a while until I know how it affects me.

My heart rate has been steadily dropping since my surgery. It was in the 90′s in October, high 80′s in November, low 80′s in December, and this morning was 79 at home and 70 in his office. That could be a sign that my heart is pumping more efficiently. More blood pushed per beat means that my heart doesn’t need to beat as often to push the same amount of blood out to my body. One way to check that is to have an echocardiogram. I figured that I’d need to schedule one for late January, after we returned to Asheville, but they had some cancellations and were able to fit me in, today, right after my appointment.

As we all know, the technician is not allowed to tell you what they see. But, I’ve had enough echo’s done over the last couple years that I know what they’re doing and what’s on the screen. When she was measuring the SV (stroke volume) and EDV (end-diastolic volume) I looked up and saw EF=41% on the screen! Hooraw! Seven weeks ago my EF (ejection fraction) was 25-28% and my cardiologist was talking about a pacemaker. Heart-failure territory is anything under 35%. Normal is 50%-65%. I ain’t normal, but I ain’t diein’ either. Now, Dr. Usedom still has to review the test results and make his own measurements and conclusion, but for now, I have my hopes up that my heart is mending and that 41% is a good number for a pop quiz that I didn’t even study for.

P.S. When I took off my shirt and laid back for Dr. Usedom to listen to my chest, he asked, “Where’s your incision?” He knew I had my surgery done robotically but probably sees so many 10″ sternotomy scars that he didn’t expect to see nothing but a few little scars on the right side of my chest. Thank you Dr. Siwek!

Fri
25
Dec '09

Merry Christmas from Asheville

Thu
24
Dec '09

No Popcorn for Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas and all through Camp Bell, not a kernel of popcorn ceiling was unpainted, not a single shell. We finished painting our ceilings today! A Christmas miracle! 1800 square feet of popcorn ceiling is done, kaput, vamoose, not to be repainted again until the year 2045. Once every 35 years is more than often enough for that thankless task. It does look good, though, especially in the family room where the soot from the fireplace had darkened it. Worth doing. Once.

We finished about 3:30 and got cleaned up hoping to find a place for dinner on Christmas Eve. Oops. Every place Valerie called was closing at 4:00. We thought that the new southside Thirsty Monk might be open but when we got there it turned out they were only open for beer, not food. Luckily, Five Guys Burgers and Fries across the street was open, so that was our Christmas Eve dinner. That’s okay. We were starving and it was good! For Christmas dinner, tomorrow, we’re doing something special, going to the Grove Park Inn for their Grand Buffet. Of course, the weather forecast is for freezing rain and a buildup of ice overnight. Hope we can get there.

Merry Christmas Eve to everyone! 

Oh, if anyone wants to buy a used Wagner Power Roller, ours is for sale. We’re never painting another ceiling, ever, ever, again.

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Wed
23
Dec '09

Happy Festivus!

It’s December 23. Happy Festivus for the rest of us! In case you’re not up on pop culture from the 90′s, here’s the story behind Festivus…

P.S. We signed the contract with our builder, Steve Williams. He’s taking the plans to the city of Asheville permit office this week. Rumor is, from a reliable source, that the mayor of Asheville has told all of the departments not to do anything that would prevent money from coming into Asheville. Translated, that means…don’t hold up the building permits. We shall see.

Tue
22
Dec '09

Red Stripe Snowman

Red Stripe Guy

We’ve seen lots of snowmen over the last couple days. There’s even a HUGE igloo in our neighborhood. This guy was in a front yard near downtown. I spotted him while walking Serena when Valerie picked up groceries at the nearby Greenlife (her favorite Asheville grocery store). That is a Red Stripe in his right hand. I guess since he can’t go to Jamaica without melting, he’d have a little bit of it here. Can you tell that they’re a little “artsy” in Asheville?

Sorry for the quality of the picture — it was taken with my phone.

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Mon
21
Dec '09

Sold

May the wonderful house in the wonderful neighborhood at 13404 184th Ave NE provide Jonathan Shapiro and Lauren Williams with at least as many good times and great memories as she did for us. And, may Jonathan and Lauren love and care for her as much as we did. We will miss her.

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Sun
20
Dec '09

Which Holiday Character Are You?

This quiz is on the Greenville, SC, television station’s website. I thought it was cute…and fairly accurate.

Which Holiday Character Are You?

Both Valerie and I are closet George Bailey’s from It’s a Wonderful Life. Who are you?

Sat
19
Dec '09

Snow Days in Asheville

The Christmas weather in Asheville is just like Seattle’s. Last year we had a freak snowstorm (actually a series of snowstorms) hit us in Seattle during Christmas week. It pretty much shut everything down. On Friday, the same thing happened, here, in Asheville. We had 10″ of snow dump on us Friday and Saturday. And they all told us that it hardly ever snowed here, and when it did, not so much…Huh!

Snowy Camp Bell There's a mole in here, somewhere! 

A couple of observations in the differences between Asheville and Seattle…

1. Within 24 hours we had a city snowplow clearing and salting(!) our street — and our street is a dead-end, not a through-way. We didn’t see a snowplow in Woodinville for over a week. And, how dare they use that poisonous fish killing chemical on the roads to speed up the natural process of melting.

2. Our neighbor ran out while the plow was circling our cul-de-sac and gave the driver a Christmas baked-good wrapped in foil and a bow. Southerners are friendly (hand deliver holiday gifts to people doing good deeds). Seattleites are polite (wave at them through their window).

3.  The mailwoman, unable to get her truck up our street before the plow came through, WALKED her route and delivered our mail on foot. Given that last year we didn’t receive mail for 10 days because of the weather, I think the postal union steward in Seattle may want to have a talk with her and her peers.

What did we do through all this? We didn’t go out (Southerners look to be just as crazy on the roads as Seattleites). We stayed home and painted. Still lots to do but we’re making progress.

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Thu
17
Dec '09

The Dates are Set

We fly to Seattle on Wednesday, January 6, arriving around 9pm. We’ll pack like crazy fools for eight days. The moving truck is scheduled for Friday, January 15. We’ll stay at a nice hotel (Heathman or Willows Lodge) on Friday night. We’ll visit friends on Saturday and leave on a redeye Saturday night. On Sunday morning, January 17, we’ll officially be Ashevillers.

Wed
16
Dec '09

Two Transplants (and not the Heart Kind)

Last Saturday we were at the Asheville City Market and saw a sign for wild salmon. One of the things Valerie says she’ll miss of Seattle is the fresh fish – particularly wild salmon – so we went up to the booth to check it out. It turns out that The Wild Salmon Company sells wild (not farm raised) salmon that they personally catch in Alaska over the summer and flash freeze. They sell mainly in Asheville at the farmer’s markets but also at a few other southeast cities. You can read about Heidi and Steve’s adventures in this WNC Magazine article. To make it a small world, Heidi used to live in Woodinville! She and Steve relocated to Asheville a couple years ago, although they probably spend half their time on a boat in Alaska. For those of you who watch the show, Deadliest Catch, Steve was on the first two seasons when he worked on a crabbing boat.

When we were at Happy Tails yesterday to drop off Serena we were telling the receptionist who we were and where we were from. She asked if Serena was social with other dogs and we started describing Marymoor Park. A guy walks out of the office and says, “I know that park. Hi, I’m Dominic, the owner. I used to live near Greenlake in Seattle.” It turns out his sister owned Happy Tails but she died, unexpectedly, a couple years ago. He decided to quit his job as the audio technician for ACT Theater and take over the business. He’s now a happy Seattle to Asheville transplant who made an interesting career switch.

P.S. Coincidentally, while we were there a reporter for the Asheville paper arrived to do an interview with Dominic about Happy Tails. Here’s a link to it…

Tue
15
Dec '09

Roller Coasters and Merry-Go-Rounds

Today was a sad day. We signed and mailed the closing papers on the sale of our house. Shangri-La, as Barry named it, will be transferred to Jonathan Shapiro and Lauren Williams on Monday (we have until January 21 to move out). We sat in the car for 15 minutes staring at the FedEx envelope wondering what the Sam-Hell we were doing. I actually debated whether to mail it or not. It was a pretty emotional moment in time. We kissed the envelope goodbye before we put it in the box. What made it worse is that we had just dropped off Serena at Happy Tails Country Club for her 6-hour interview. No dog. No house. Just us, sitting in the car with our future, literally, in our hands.

 

“You know, when I was nineteen, Grandpa took me on a roller coaster. Up, down, up, down. Oh, what a ride! I always wanted to go again. You know, it was just so interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited, and so thrilled all together! Some didn’t like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it.”

We drove the 50 miles down to the Spartanburg, SC, Costco to buy stuff to stock up Camp Bell. We stopped at 12-Bones on the way back before picking up Serena. She passed her interview (except for scaling the 5′ door and escaping her kennel during quiet time) and is welcome to stay at Happy Tails while we return to Seattle to pack and move.  

Tomorrow I’ll book our flights, schedule the movers, meet with our architect, and we’ll stop at the Charles Schwab office to talk about getting a construction loan/mortgage.

Target dates for being back in Seattle are January 7-18.

Roller Coasters and Merry-Go-Rounds.

Sat
12
Dec '09

A Little of Everything

Our friends Luis and Jolie visited Tuesday evening through Saturday morning. Luis’ mom lives in the Raleigh area and they visited her for a few days before coming over to Asheville and then heading back there for a few more days. While they were here we checked out the Gingerbread houses at the Grove Park Inn. The top 10 finalists in each category were simply amazing. Valerie was considering entering next year until we learned that many of the entrants spend 600+ hours working on their houses. That’s a bit much and hard to compete with. We also went to the Biltmore to see the decorated house. It was nice but I don’t think really remarkable – except for the 35′ tree in the banquet hall! Now, that’s a tree. We’ll try to go back for the Candlelight tour where they have choirs singing European carols, vintage ballroom dancers, and dramatic Christmas readings. That’s the nice thing about the annual pass, we can go as often as we want.

Today. we’re back to painting the bedrooms, hallway, and bathrooms of Camp Bell.

The escrow company has FedEx’d our closing paperwork. It should arrive on Monday. We sign and FedEx it back. The buyers sign and on the 21st we become renters of 13404 184th AVE NE. Incomprehensible.

We met with Steve Farrell, our architect, and Steve Williams, our builder, to knock out a few details and discuss the path forward. We may go for permit this month just to get the ball rolling and could start construction in late January. We need to meet again early next week. Still lots to do. 

We stopped in at one bank that our builder has worked with. I wasn’t too impressed with them and will talk to a couple more this coming week about their construction/mortgage programs. Interest rates are at an all-time-low and we’ll never see money this cheap again. Need to take advantage of it and lock in before rates go up to pay for TARP and Obamacare.

We and Serena have an appointment on Tuesday morning at Happy Tails Country Club to see if Serena would be a good fit to stay there while we go back to Seattle in January to pack and move. They seem to be pretty thorough and don’t take just any dog – and that’s a good thing! Our decision as to where we leave from and where Serena stays for our 2-week Seattle trip will be made after our visit.

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Mon
7
Dec '09

Wagner Power Roller

We’re painting the interior of Camp Bell and are beginning with the bedroom and hallway (popcorn!) ceilings. Valerie and I spent the last few days prepping (scraping, filling, sanding, caulking) and yesterday I started painting with a Wagner Power Roller. I bought it because I knew the popcorn was going to require lots of paint to properly cover and all the dipping in the pan with a regular roller would be very messy and time consuming. Well, this thing does make painting a ceiling much easier. When you need more paint you just press the button and it sucks more paint out of the can and pushes it into the roller. That makes it very easy to properly cover a rough surface such as popcorn.

But…any time that you might save doing the painting you lose in cleanup. What a mess. You have to hook this thing up to a garden hose and run water through it, then you have to have it suck water through it in two directions, then you have to disassemble it and manually clean all the parts. It took me over an hour to get all the paint out.  I almost gave up and threw it (and $80) in the trash. The best approach is to not do your painting over multiple days. Prep everything and then paint and paint and paint until you’ve done all you’re gonna do. Then do one cleanup. That’s what we’ll do when we paint the living, family, and kitchen ceilings. For the walls I think we’ll paint with a regular roller the old fashioned way and sell the Wagner on craigslist.

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Sun
6
Dec '09

What Now?

So what happens now? Well, closing is still scheduled for Dec 21 and so far, so good on that. The buyers have closed on their house in Baltimore so their only other outstanding contingency is the appraisal. As long as it comes back more than the selling price it’s all a done deal. We’re supposed to get our paperwork FedEx’d to us next Tuesday. We’ll meet at Shelle’s office to sign and get it notarized and FedEx it back. The buyers will sign on Monday the 21st and on the 22nd we’ll be 30-day renters of 13404 184th Ave. That’s weird.

Some time the first week of January we’ll head back to Seattle and spend two weeks packing so that the TBD movers can load up the week of January 18. What we don’t know is where Serena will stay and where we’ll leave from. One option is to drive to Indianapolis and have Serena stay with Valerie’s sister or mother. We could then fly Southwest from IND to SEA. The other option is to find a caring, reliable, trustworthy, qualified dog sitter in Asheville and then leave from here. We’re going to the vet on Monday and will ask them for recommendations.

I’ve been reading the online reviews of the major moving companies. All of them are highly negative (except for ABF’s). Basically people think they hire convicts off the street who steal their stuff, pack it poorly, throw it in the truck, drive it cross-country on bumpy roads, loose it, damage it when unloading, charge them extra, hold their stuff for ransom, ignore their complaints and never reimburse them for damage and loss. I’d love to use ABF, as we did for our first load, but this load will be mostly furniture which won’t pack well in a tall truck and will require lots of blankets. We’re just going to have to chance it and use Mayflower or Allied.

Thu
3
Dec '09

You Know You’re an Asheviller If…

We bought our annual passes to the Biltmore, today. I also stopped in at Asheville Cardiology, filled out the new patient forms and scheduled an appointment with my new cardiologist for December 29.  We had our heating oil tank filled, subscribed to the daily paper, and have been busy working on Camp Bell. I think that makes us Ashevillers.

Oh, Asheville Cardiology is IMPRESSIVE! It encompasses an entire building. There are 29 cardiologists and they do everything heart related including stents, nuclear imaging, and pacemakers. They even have an ambulance entrance. It’s one-stop shopping for heart care. There were at least 40 people in the waiting room (as is typical, I was the youngest and most in-shape looking). Their location is now programmed into our Jeep’s GPS.

Wed
2
Dec '09

Millions and Millions of Pine Needles

We spent all day, yesterday, blowing and raking pine needles from our back yard. The resulting pile at the street is at least six feet high and twenty feet around, and we still have more to add. We have ¼ acre of yard and most of it’s grass but the back third is covered with branches from our neighbor’s pine trees. They’ve been dropping needles and pinecones for many many years and there were several inches of them built up with this year’s fresh layer on top. The City is scheduled to come by our neighborhood on Monday to vacuum up fall yard debris (last time for the year) so we needed to get this job done asap. We ran out of daylight and energy and didn’t finish but, wow, what a difference! Our yard is now significantly larger and we got some good outdoor exercise. It’s supposed to rain tomorrow and snow (WHAT?!) on Saturday so maybe we can finish up on Friday.

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