Tuesday, July 05, 2011

One Decade, One House

Occasionally I like to indulge myself in longish personal journal entries, like this one.

In June, we hit the 10-year mark in our current home in Provo, Utah. This is the longest, by far, that I have ever lived in one house continuously. My parents have lived in their current Bountiful house for 33 years now, but I lived there for only six years continuously with them, although if you count my pre-mission (1986), post-mission (1988), post-Boston (1992), and post-divorce (1997-98) times with them, the total is closer to eight years.

First I must admit that I’ve always actively disliked Provo/Utah County, so it’s ironic that I’ve lived here the longest of anywhere in my life (followed by Southern California, which was also about ten years total, but in three different houses). The reason I still mostly dislike Utah County is basically that it’s too culturally Mormon for my tastes. As a kid, I thought my Bigelow relatives from Happy Valley were a tad conservative and otherworldly, especially compared to the worldly, sophisticated, somewhat black-sheepish leg of the family up in Federal Heights. After 10 years, Utah County doesn’t seem as bad, I have to admit, although I’d still much rather live on one of the coasts, if I only had the career and salary and mojo to do so (and the wifely approbation).

What I like about this house:
  • It’s almost paid off. We did a 15-year mortgage and refinanced it once, so we still have nearly seven years left, but that should go pretty quick. (Very scary to think I’ll be 50 years old by then…)
  • It has plenty of room. Right at this moment, we have 13 people staying under this roof (three Chinese students plus my wife’s sister and her family from California), but the house absorbs them well. I love having the large family room on the other side of the house for the kids, plus another smaller family room in the basement. The yard is also plenty big, and there is plenty of storage space in the home.
  • We live right across the street from my mother-in-law, and that has been nice. We often share meals, and she has pinch-hit for us numerous times by watching kids for a little while, etc. We sometimes help her move things or solve computer problems, but she overall probably does more for us.
  • We have terrific views of Rock Canyon right above us and Mount Timpanogos to the north.
  • The neighborhood and local schools are pretty good. It’s one of those LDS wards with only two or three nonmember or inactive houses within the entire boundaries, so there’s lots of social cohesion and people helping each other out, etc.
  • We’re only a couple blocks north of BYU, which is overall good except when we get caught in football traffic. We make pretty good use of campus, going over for plays, sports, concerts, museum exhibits, etc. I despise some things about BYU (mainly cultural bone-headedness), but I also like some things. I believe being this close to BYU also makes it better to sell and rent houses, if we ever need to do either of those.
  • We’re pretty close to decent shopping and restaurants, and we’re also quite close to Provo Canyon, Sundance, and Park City.

What I don’t like:
  • Even with a 40-year-old house, we’ve chosen to spend our extra money more on traveling than on remodeling. We did a major remodel of half the basement, stripping down to concrete and studs and adding new walls to create an extra bedroom and storage room, but otherwise we haven’t done much, mainly just some painting inside and out. As a result, we still have popcorn ceiling with sparkles in it; awful wallpaper in a few places; acres and acres of green-moss carpet that’s high in quality but very dated (and deteriorating progressively faster now); some hideous old light fixtures; ugly linoleum that is wearing out; yucky old lace curtains; and dark faux-wood paneling in the family room. Part of me would like to remodel, but another part would rather continue to spend extra money on other things. I think putting in much new stuff would just make me anxious, because I hate it when new stuff gets beat up and dirty; a big part of me would rather not have new stuff to begin with, because it’s just depressing when it starts falling apart. We’ll probably do some more things eventually, but in recent years we’ve mainly been replacing tons of appliances (within the past five years, practically everything except the air conditioner and clothes washer), and we need to do a new roof within the next year or two, which will be a huge expense.
  • The yard is nice in some ways but also much higher maintenance than I’d like. The old lady who used to live here made her adult children come and do the yard, and sometimes they even won city awards for it. We still get lots of exotic tulips in the spring, and there are tons of trees and shrubs and hedges, plus plenty of lawn to mow and many flowerbeds to manage. We end up spending several hundred dollars per year to have all this stuff trimmed and pruned, and we still look pretty shaggy most of the time. There’s a nice wooden fence that we don’t maintain, as well as a big wooden patio that’s starting to buckle from tree roots, as well as a slanting deck with a ridiculously wide flight of stairs down into the yard. All this wood will have to be renewed or replaced sometime, and we’ve already had to remove three smaller trees and will probably have to remove a couple of gigantic trees at some point. Overall, I’d much rather live in a condo without any yard concerns at all, which I consider a big stress and waste of time and money. I worry and fret over the lawn the whole summer long, because large patches are always dying from grubs or heat or something. The yard is my single biggest reason why summer is my least favorite season. The kids get some good use out of the yard, I admit, but I’d much rather just live near a park or common area that I don’t have to personally maintain.
  • The master bedroom is a problem in this house. Part of this is our own fault, because we keep the main family computer and the best TV in here, so people are constantly in here. We also keep our desk in here, and it’s not a very big room to begin with. There’s a spare bedroom right next door that used to be a baby nursery, and we really need to turn it into a study and move the desk/computer in there, but right now that room is pretty full of Ann’s stuff. I would like to replace our old queen mattress with a king, scrape off the sparkle-popcorn and wallpaper, get rid of the awful drapes, redo the adjoining bathroom with its smelly old shower, recarpet, etc. If and when we ever do get serious about more remodeling, I think the master bedroom should be our first target.
  • The house is a long way from the freeway; it takes us about 20 minutes to get down there.
  • While I feel safe and secure in this ward/neighborhood, it’s also too retirement-aged, conservative, homogenous, and Zionish for my personal taste. There are many Mormons in our ward who are so conformist that they almost seem like Stepfordian robots to me. However, there are also a handful of creative, independent-minded individuals, and the balance is gradually shifting toward younger families with less rigid attitudes about some things (although some of the young ones can seem pretty Stepfordian too). And let’s face it, I’ve never been one for meeting my social needs much via ward or neighbors; rather, I get plenty of social interaction through workmates and my extended families.

I have to admit, our new elders quorum presidency is a hoot. The president has long hair and a beard like Jesus and wears blue shirts and red University of Utah ties, and one of his counselors has a full head of wild curly locks that go down well past his shoulders. These two guys are almost comically out of place in our ward, as far as appearance, and I’m really glad they didn’t start conforming to the Utah Mormon look after they were called into the presidency. As for me, I enjoy wearing a beard, colored shirts, and sandals (in summer) to church. I think the Utah Mormon male dress code is ridiculous and refuse to uphold it, even as part of Elder Packer’s dreaded so-called “unwritten order of things” that stake leaders have been mentioning lately. I refuse to own even a single missionary-style business suit or white shirt, and if someone ever asks me to shave for any reason, I will tell them, in effect, to mind their own business.

Overall, I must say I feel blessed by our house. It’s overall comfortable and peaceful, a haven that I enjoy more often than not. Even though settling permanently in Utah County is pretty much the exact opposite of what I’d hoped and dreamed for myself, I can’t really complain. Besides, now that I’m middle aged and on the gradual downward slope to retirement, I don’t feel like I have the vision or drive to drastically change anything. But who knows what the future holds?


Alb said...

Overall, I think your tone on this was pretty positive so I won't be packing my bags anytime too soon.

Audi All Road Quattro Turbo said...

I enjoyed your post. It’s a lot like college – we should absorb everything we can but ultimately you need to take what you’ve learned and apply it.