Sunday, April 6, 2014

Losing, and Beef and Guiness Pie

So that house we were almost done buying?  Poof.

The appraisal came in at $50k less than what we had agreed to pay, and after a lot of gut-wrenching speculation and conversation, we decided to cancel the contract and invite the sellers to renegotiate.

They weren't interested.

I'm a mix of sad and frustrated.  Sad because even if it wasn't the perfect house, it was right in a lot of ways.  There was room for the kids to grow.  It was right in town, walking distance to everything.  There was a park down the street.  Nice neighbors.  Newer, and not requiring a lot of maintenance.  Even the rooms were the right color.

Mad, because I feel like we were hoodwinked.  Even if the appraisal was off, how could it has been off that much?  And if everyone else is going to have the same experience, why would they do this?  How will anyone get a mortgage for more than the house is worth?

The strangest thing is that the experience reminded me, to a lesser degree, of the way I felt after our miscarriages.  You do so much planning.  You throw away the things you no longer need in order to acquire new ones.  You start imagining furniture where you think it belongs.  Perhaps you imagine yourself biking (taking a stroller) through your new neighborhood, talking with your new neighbors.  You think about the way the breeze will feel at night when the windows are open, what the train (baby) will sound like when it rumbles by in the night.  You start packing.  You tell everyone what your new address (due date, etc.) will be, and they all congratulate you.

And then suddenly your changed plans go back to unchanged plans.  You tell yourself that you're not going to tell anyone next time, not until the end is inevitable.  Because it hurts too much to go down that road backwards.

Even the advice and words of comfort sound bizarrely familiar:  Maybe you were lucky; maybe you dodged a bullet.  Not to worry, you'll find another house.  It was Fate.

Of course, losing a house-to-be is not the same as losing a child-to-be. Unlike in pregnancy loss, we had some control over this process, at least until the end, when we were left wondering whether we should have taken the risk we took.  And you can always try to find another house, when you can't always have another child. Even if you do, the child that comes doesn't replace the other(s) that might have been.  The ghost children haunt you sometimes; thankfully, there are no ghost houses.

Still, I haven't gotten much better at losing things over the years.

I've always loved the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop, but especially the vilanelle "One Art," which feels appropriate here:
The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.
If we practice it, write it, perhaps we can gain mastery over losing, no?

If only it were that simple.

We'll figure something out.  Maybe we won't move after all.  But in the meantime, comfort food was designed for times like these.  I made these pies a while back during a blustery weekend in March, when everyone else was pretending to be Irish.  Maybe you'll find them comforting, too.

Guinness Pie

1/3 c. flour
1 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
good sized dash of paprika
1 1/2 lbs. beef for stew, 1" cubed (or seitan)
4 slices of bacon, diced (you can use veggie bacon for flavor, but add extra oil to saute, or just add some smoked paprika to oil before sauteing your protein)
1 bottle of Guinness Extra Stout (or whatever you've got)
2 1/2 c. beef or vegetable stock
4 carrots, cut in 1/2" rounds
1 onion, diced
8 small Yukon gold potatoes, quartered
1 bag of frozen peas with pearl onions
Biscuits (yes, I really used the ones in the pop-n-fresh package, but make sure they're not too big or they won't cook correctly)

Preheat oven to 350.

Mix together the flour,salt, pepper, and paprika.  Rinse the beef and pat dry with a paper towel, then roll the beef cubes in flour.

In a large dutch oven, cook the bacon until crisp, and set aside to drain, reserving 3 T. bacon fat.  Add the beef (seitan) to the bacon drippings, and brown on all sides.  Return all the beef and bacon to the pot, add the Guinness, scraping up the brown bit, then stock, onion, carrots, and potatoes.

Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes.  Stir in the peas until just heated, divide the stew among eight oven-safe soup crocks or similar dish, and top each with a half of a biscuit. Bake 350 for 20 minutes (or until biscuits are cooked through--or be stubborn and bake your biscuits separately).
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  1. I think a lot of the feelings evoked cross over, even if the experiences aren't the same. I remember when we lost a bid on a house while we were in the middle of treatments. I felt so much rage toward the house owner for not choosing us when we were already hurting in other places so badly. It felt like doors were being slammed in our face with everything we tried.

  2. Ugh! I'm so sorry. I'm guessing that the homeowners bought their house during the bubble, and just haven't faced the fact that the house isn't worth what they thought it was worth. People can be very unrealistic when it comes to accepting that they made a poor financial decision and then moving on. I have friends that spent almost a year negotiating with a family who wanted to sell their house but needed time to come to grips with their losses. It worked out in the end, but was hard on everyone.

  3. It is amazing to me how similar the loss of a house and a pregnancy feel... at least to me. I told myself the same things, too. Don't fall in love, don't get your hopes up, don't make plans. And it still hurt. There is one house that I still dream about, even now that we are living in a home that I wouldn't even imagined as a possibility back then. I wish you the best of luck finding a home that brings you joy and has all the 'must haves' on your list. Unlike infertility, if you have enough money and time, something is bound to happen. Fingers crossed.

  4. It's an apt analogy in the type of emotions such a loss evokes.

    I'm sitting with you, abiding. Just breathhing and now-ing with you.


  5. Oh, Justine. I am so sorry to hear this. I would call if it weren't so late, but I am sending hugs your way in the night.

  6. Oh, that's a huge bummer! I think your analogy is pretty spot on. Buying a home is a huge emotional and financial investment.

  7. Been stalking your blog for a while - not commenting - but just keeping up with you, and your gorgeous writing and everything going on. I meant to comment on the car accident post - I had one too a few weeks ago. Minor. No injuries. I felt like a fool because it was my fault and totally preventable. I hope - and pray - that you wind up getting an even better more fitting house . That's what you say when something like this falls through, when you lose, right? And even though it can't compare to living with the ghost babies, I understand the feeling of loss. I really truly hope that the best house ever is around the corner. Thinking of you - even when I don't say much here. xo

  8. Ooh what a disappointment. I am so sorry. I think your analogy is apt.
    You did make the right decision (of course!) and you will find the right house in time.

  9. I am so sorry. I'm stunned the appraisal was so far off. You are correct how similar those feelings are, even if the situations are different. Abiding with you as you figure out your next steps.

  10. I don't know where you live, but in Vancouver here, houses go for more than they're appraised all the time. I wish we could buy a home. Oddly, I miss things that I never had to begin with. I'm sorry it fell through. I know that kind of disappointment is hard to shake.


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