All right, here goes another round of year-end stock-taking and year-start (can you even say that?) planning/hoping/dreaming that fill up blogs and social media around this time.
We are still in our rental outside of town, still renting out our house in town. We had our first experience with rental turnover when our original tenants decided to move out. I was really anxious about not being able to find new renters fast enough, and getting stuck with paying both the rent and the mortgage for a month or more, which we simply did not have the cash for.
Luckily, things worked out. There is a huge shortage of rental housing in the valley, especially rental housing that is both affordable and in decent shape. Our place meets both of these criteria. As a result, the house was vacant for only about 8-10 days, which we needed anyway in order to paint and complete a number of small repairs.
Our current lease (as well as our new renters’ lease) goes through March 2022. So if all goes well, we will stay put until then. After that, who knows? In the ideal world, we’d like to buy a piece of land outside of town and build a small house or maybe put a yurt on it. I’ve been steeling glances at land listings on Zillow every now and then, just to see what’s out there.
However, I don’t know how we can afford to buy land and put a home on it without going into additional debt, which we are reluctant to do and may not qualify for anyway. It’s too early to think about selling our house; we just bought it 3.5 years ago and it hasn’t appreciated enough to even cover the real estate agent’s commission, particularly when you factor in the cost of renovations that would no doubt be required to make the house attractive to buyers.
Plus, we’re not sure we’re ready to part with that house in any case. We do still like it. It’s a great little spot in many ways. We might want to move back in at some point, or keep it as a rental. Even though we are not making money by renting it out, just covering our basic costs, it can still help by giving us the flexibility to live somewhere else, or travel, while knowing that our mortgage is paid for.
Speaking of travel, 2020 was probably the year when we traveled the least, out of all the years P. and I have been together. This was largely due to COVID, of course. We did not take a single road trip, not even within Washington State. The farthest we went was Omak. We did not even venture out to Wenatchee, not to mention Seattle.
Not that we normally travel a ton. As I wrote a couple of posts ago, our last international trip was back in 2012, the last time I flew in a plane was in 2015, and the last time we drove out of state was in 2016. But, it seems like most years we try to at least take a road trip somewhere not too far from home, camp for a couple of days, see the sights.
After this year of hunkering down, travel of any kind is high on our list, as it is for many others, I’m sure. Perhaps my overseas trip that was scheduled for last March-April and had to be postponed due to the pandemic can materialize this fall, once the COVID vaccine becomes widely available and countries reopen their borders to tourists.
And, with our new chicken coop and run nearly completed, it should be easier for us both to go on a trip together. With the new setup, we could have someone stay at our place or even just come over morning and night to open and close the coop and take care of feeding and watering. The run will be covered with bird netting to prevent our flock from escaping as well as to deter raptors, so our chickens should be safe in there during the day, and will be inside their secure coop at night.
Travel should become a little more affordable for us this year, too. We should be done with one of our two debt consolidation loans this February, freeing up $450 or so each month starting in March. That is a significant amount for us. We did incur some new debt in the second half of 2020, after I’d lost my second job and we went through what little we had in savings just to pay for daily expenses. But, we should be able to pay that off within a couple of months with a combination of this newly freed up income and an anticipated tax refund.
I’ve also started teaching my classes again – online, like everything these days. It’s not much, a class or two a month, and some months I’m not scheduled to teach at all, but it’s fun to be doing it again, and it’s a bit of a supplement to my main income, so that should help too.
Finally, I decided to try and start putting something in our savings account again. For too long now, we’ve been draining it without putting anything in, to the point that it now contains our renters’ security deposit and nothing else. A couple weeks ago, I set up a direct deposit of $100 from each paycheck, and can always adjust down if it ends up being too much – or adjust up if, miraculously, we realize that we can contribute even more.
But, enough about money. What else is new with us? Well, for one thing, it looks like we’ve finally decided to try for a kid or two… This is a huge announcement for me to make out loud, so to speak. It is something I haven’t written about at all in this blog, although P. and I have been talking about it for years now, and I’ve been open about it with friends and, recently, with family too.
Admittedly, we are making this decision pretty late. I’m about to turn 39 and for all I know I may not even be able to have a biological child but we won’t be able to find out until we’ve tried actively and unsuccessfully for at least a year. And, I’ve always wanted more than one child, so the second one, if it works out, would be coming very late indeed.
It’s scary to think of the risks, and of having a child in general and everything that this entails even in the ideal scenario. But, it’s also scary to think that, if we don’t do this now, we will never do it. It makes me profoundly sad to imagine a life where it’s still just the two of us, year after year, as the years add up to decades and stretch out – or fly by.
It’s not that P. and I don’t have a good time together, without anyone else. We often do. And, it’s a life that has a comfortable familiarity, that offers a well-rehearsed routine. We do argue frequently. And, P.’s health causes all sorts of challenges. These things definitely give us both pause when imagining a future with children, and we do often go back and forth on the decision, especially P. For all the ups and downs in our life together, we’ve also achieved a modicum of balance and predictability. Is it really worth upsetting it?
Sometimes I think that we should just leave things as they are. As a saying in my home country goes, “You don’t seek ‘better’ when you have ‘good’.” But, another local saying notes that “If you’re afraid of wolves, you won’t ever go into the forest.” And, a forest has so much to offer. Should we really let our fear of all sorts of hypothetical negative outcomes interfere with our hope for the good things that are also possible?
Why should we be the unlucky ones, whose child turns out to be a sociopath, or has a severe developmental disability*, or harms themselves or others, or dies young? Yes, all of these things are possible. Yet when I look at my friends and family, I see that, by and large, those of them who are parents have been very fortunate.
(*Don’t get me wrong, please, I’ve taken courses in disability studies, read the literature, etc., and I don’t think that a disability in and of itself is a misfortune. But, because of the way our society is structured, life can be very hard both for a child with a disability and for their parents, and doubly hard for that child when they become an adult. Few people would intentionally wish for this. And, developmental disabilities can make learning and communication challenging. Like most parents, my desire is to have a child with whom I can communicate fully and who is able to learn about the world and experience it in a way that is similar to how I learn and experience my surroundings.)
We aren’t that different from all these other people around us, really. We have pretty good genes. Our own childhoods were not too terrible – mine was fantastic, for the most part, really. We think we have what it takes to be decent parents, or at least not to mess up our kids in a major way. It is true that we’ve had, and continue to have, a lot of obstacles in life, but a lot of things have also gone ‘right’ for us (whatever that means, really), and perhaps this part of life is also something that will go right.
Well, now that I’ve put this out there, I feel like we sort of have no choice but to go through with our plan – or at least try to 🙂 I probably won’t write about it much again, unless I have something tangible to report either way. Time will tell. For now, life goes on largely as before, with hopes and dreams that, like waves, crash and rise up again.