Friday, June 25, 2010

Home is where the mob is

The last time I looked at houses with a boy, we broke up the very same night. Its true. I couldn't make this kind of stuff up if I tried. I think when we really thought about what life would be like in the future, our irreconcilable differences over children and religion got in they way of built ins and crown moulding.

So it was a bit scary when we scheduled and appointment with my realtor to look at houses (but not nearly as scary as what we would see). I think we are both having a hard time with giving up what we have now and buying something in an area we don't know well with the uncertainty of what its really going to be like to live together.

At my suggestion, we are targeting houses about midway between his house and my house. My commute will get slightly longer, but I'll be closer to good restaurants and culture than I am now. The downside for Prof is that he will be further away from work, and good restaurants and culture. That's a problem for him, and it would be a problem for me too frankly. Who wants to give up the convenience of having the best Thai restaurant and ice cream place 3 minutes from your house, just to be with some girl who will nag on you all the time? Sounds like a losing proposition to me.

So, Midway Town is a collection of neighborhoods in what used to be the middle of nowhere, peppered with strip malls. Five years ago I would have never considered it to be livable, but a new park and YMCA make it a little better and its the best option available. The neighborhoods are randomly scattered - some adjacent to industrial type areas or warehouses and some fancy developments smack next to trailer parks. It is totally bizarre.

Prof and I carefully selected 4 houses to go look at, using the list that our realtor had provided. They were all in neighborhoods in different locations, with different features and way different square footage. I think one had maybe 1500 square feet, and the biggest one had close to 4,000 square feet. They were the same price. More on that later.

Once we picked the houses though, both of us started having some serious doubts. I mean, yeah, we can go look at houses an not do anything, but its scary. We are initiating a big thing here, and talking about buying a house in a kinda lame area that neither of us really want to live in. Hard to get excited about that. I started it. I got really grumpy and negative early in the week. Thank god Prof was still positive and upbeat. He talked me out of my grump and I was ready to go again. Then the next day or so, Prof got in a grump about it. I tried to be positive and upbeat, but it didn't work because I was still feeling a bit unsettled. It really brought me down. I felt like there was no way out. I can't move there, he can't move here, I'm not doing this back and forth thing anymore because its totally killing me so what's the point? Maybe we should just quit.

Those thoughts are absolutely absurd, but, that's where I went with it. Its so easy to overreact when you are feeling uncertain about a choice you are about to make.

We got our wits about us by the time house shopping day rolled around. I mean, we are snooping in four houses and don't have any intention of buying anything yet. What's the big deal?

House #1 was a 70's colonial deal on a huge lot, with a pool. The house was a bit too 70's - we'd have to knock walls out to make it livable. And all the bedrooms were painted some sort of purple. So, on to the next one, which was new and much smaller. It was in one of those neighborhoods that is nestled next to a little manufacturing area. Neither one of us liked that, and Prof thought the houses were too close together. If we had to though, I think we could have bought it and worked with it. Third house was unremarkable except it smelled like dog and was so close to the highway that you could hear the constant buzzing of traffic. Nope. We got out of there pretty quickly.

Then on to the final house, which I actually liked the best from the pictures. It was huge though, nearly 4,000 square feet, but had this great big wrap around front porch and was a really reasonable price. Too bad it was a Russian mob house.

I swear to you. This place was absolutely insane. All the furniture had been cleared out - I think it was a foreclosure or short sale or something. The front entrance hallway was the size of a hotel lobby. It had two rooms on either side, one with blue carpet and curtains, and one with red. It had a huge stairway to the second floor - but something about it made you not want to go up there. I'm not going to belabor the point, but this was a creepy house. It had two stairways, 5 bedrooms (one with no windows) and a finished basement. That locked from the OUTSIDE. Who has a room that locks from the outside? Man, this place was horrible and we just wanted to get the hell out.

Then we saw through a window, a sliding glass door that we didn't see from the inside of the house. Where the hell is that sliding glass door? We went into the room next to it, and no door. Nada. This place had a room we could see from the outside of the house, but couldn't find from the inside. Something very unusual was happening in this creepy house, if not criminal.

Mob house notwithstanding, I think we both feel better about the area and the houses. We mostly agreed on stuff that we liked and didn't like, and general neighborhoods. Its going to be a slow process, but maybe we'll find more creepy houses I can blog about.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer Solstice

Happy Summer everyone!

Today is the first official day of summer, but it feels like summer is halfway over. Classes have been over for more than a month. My garden is rocking, owing to the fact that I finally broke down and hired someone to cut the grass for me, so I actually have time to like, weed and fertilize and water and sing to the plants. I've whitewater kayaked every weekend since Memorial Day. And there's only two months left before school starts again, and the weather turns and its dark.

Funny how I can worry about how dark it is in the fall on the the longest day of the entire year. What's wrong with me!?

Summer always goes just way too fast. Instead of the days slowing down, they speed up. Instead of long evenings on the back deck sipping iced tea, I'm running from place to place and trying to make up for the fact that I'm never home on weekends.

And did I tell you that I started taking weekly banjo lessons?

Apparently, my life's dream is become a character on Deliverance. I'm currently learning a song called "Bile Dem Cabbage Down." I think it has something to do with boiling cabbage, and maybe the Great Depression, which I think is the only time you should ever have to boil cabbage for any reason.

I have no idea why I've gone on such a rant. Too much daylight, perhaps.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Fun with Finance

Its starting to get real. This whole living together, buying a house situation. I'm trying really, really, really, really hard to not let it freak me out, but it is a BIG DEAL. A REALLY BIG DEAL.

The last time I bought a house, I made the decision on my own. It was new construction and slightly out of my price range, and the lady put the screws to me. "That one is the only one left that backs to open space. It might not be available tomorrow. I've got other people coming later to look at it. If you give me a check for 200 dollars, it will hold the house for you for 30 days."

And that's how I came to own this particular house. Impulse purchase. I spend more time agonizing over whether to get diet coke, coke one or diet vanilla cherry coke at the grocery store checkout line. I didn't really take into consideration what my boyfriend at the time wanted, or even let him look at it before I put the deposit on it. My decision. My house. My money. Me, me, me. You want to move in? Great. You pay me. I gain equity AND get the tax write off.

But being both girlfriend and landlord had some drawbacks. And of course, we all know how it ended (with him asking me to be a groomsman in his wedding, of course).

This is different. I care what Prof wants. I want him to be happy, and I want me to be happy, and most of all I want this to not be a financial disaster for either of us. And every once in a while, I can feel this upwelling of panic that I immediately squash back down.

Once we sign papers, putting the two of us together forever as owners of a four bedroom, 2.5 bath house, its over. We are forever committed. For good or bad, our credit and finances will be mixed. Honestly, if you ask me, buying a house is more of a commitment than getting married, and I'm really looking at it that way. If I wasn't in this, I wouldn't be doing it. If I didn't think that Prof was the best person for me in the whole universe (ok, maybe at least within a 30 mile radius), I wouldn't be doing this. So its scary because it is COMMITMENT, and long term and all of those things I hate.

But its also scary because its financial. We are going to have to figure out who pays for what, and make it fair. He makes more than me, but I'm an heiress (ha!) and have more cash reserves to put down on the house. How do we make that fair in the long run? What happens in the event that it doesn't work out? I mean, it has to be considered. It would be ridiculous to take this much risk and not consider the possibility that it might not work out long term.

So, after having "get financial planner" on my New Year's Resolution list for something like 6 years, I finally did it. This week, I am the proud new owner of a Primerica financial advisor. We met for almost 90 minutes yesterday and I laid out what I have now (pathetic. I don't think that my fleet of kayaks actually counts in the "assets" column, which is truly tragic), what I will have when Dad's house gets sold, what I want to do with this house and how many exotic vacations I want to go on. He gave me homework, which totally blows. There is a reason people don't do this, and its because it requires talking to your human resources section to determine exactly what the disability insurance covers (good luck, those people are idiots who think the Aflack duck is a turkey).

Getting my financial house in order is making me feel much better about the future and I'm really glad I finally got off my ass and made an appointment. The next couple months are still going to be really difficult (notwithstanding talking to human resources), but feeling like I'm on firm financial ground is really going to help when Prof and I start merging our assets.

(no, I did NOT say merging our asses, get your mind out of the gutter. I don't even know what that means, but I know you were thinking it).

First round of house visits coming next week. Oh my god, my stomach just turned. Anyone got any spare anxiety meds they can share?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Pychic Cookie

Last time Prof and I went to the local asian grocery store I searched high and wide for a bag of fortune cookies. Eventually, after some hand gestures from the non English speaking clerk (helpful ones), I found them at ankle level near the refrigerator with unidentifiable meat like substances.

They were a good investment. Just sweet enough to keep the evil sweet tooth and bay, and interesting enough to keep boredom at bay.

I'm heading to the river tomorrow, and am feeling sorta frazzled (as I always do when I overpack my weekends). I grabbed a cookie and thought "let's see what the cookie has to say about my river trip tomorrow."

And damned if that cookie didn't say "you will have a good trip."

Spooky. I hung it on the fridge, to make me smile tomorrow at the ass crack of dawn when I'm desperately rummaging for a lunch to pack and wondering why I didn't go to the grocery store.

Perhaps I should find some more difficult questions to ask the cookie next time.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Salvation Army can Suck It

Once upon a time, in college, I ripped a contact and got so mad I punched a cinder block wall. Granted, back then, a new pair of contacts cost me two weeks of salary at my part time, on-campus job, but that shouldn't have been enough to make me crack my knuckles on the wall. I don't remember what else was going on in my life at that time, but it must have been something. The contact pushed me over the edge that I had been teetering on.

And that's how I started my day today. Not with contacts, but with Salvation Army. Who, as I mentioned above, can suck it.

A couple weekends ago, mom, me, Prof, mom's boyfriend and my brother got all the furniture out of my dad's house that was in good enough shape to donate. Its solid stuff. Old and seventies like, but solid and in pretty good shape. I absolutely wanted poor people to have that furniture and pitched a fit when anyone talked about just taking it to the dump. It took all day, and by the time the day was over, I was at my brother's throat (a story for a different day) and it was time to get the hell away from my family. But, I was pleased with what we had accomplished that day.

So, I called Salvation Army and arranged a pick up, and waited two weeks for the designated pick up to happen.

And it never did.

Prof stopped by dad's house on his way home yesterday and called me late in the afternoon. "Salvation Army didn't come." Ok. Well. Lots of stuff can happen during the course of the day, so I didn't pitch a fit. I was sure they would be there today. Good thing I didn't take the day off work to sit there with the stuff and wait for them.

At 8:01 this morning, I called their service center to find out what the status was. The guy on the phone, who either had not yet had any caffeine or was just a natural born ass, told me that in fact, they were there, but decided not to take the stuff. No other reason was given. Not that it was too old, or too dusty, or too brown, just that they decided not to take it.

I was told on the phone when I scheduled the pick up that taking stuff was up to the discretion of the driver. I understand that. Salvation Army can't sell a couch with dog pee on it, or a table with three legs (unless its a 3-legged table, but you get my point). No problem. But we carefully picked out furniture that was serviceable and labeled it and dusted it...

When I hung up the phone with the guy, I started crying. It was just 8:04 am and tears were just rolling down my face. I had to close my door at work and grab my box of tissues. Was I crying because Salvation Army snubbed me, those bell ringing bastards? No. I was crying out of self pity and frustration. Everything with dad's house has been such a struggle and I'm trying to do the right thing and I keep getting thwarted and don't know where to turn next and the whole process is taking so much longer than I thought it would and I feel guilty all the time that I'm not there scrubbing the floor with a toothbrush and patching drywall and I want to not have to deal with anything having to do with my dad anymore.

That whole thing just hit me in the face and I couldn't stop it. Even though I'm in charge, the situation seems largely out of my hands. Family is involved, decisions about every little thing seem to be made by committee and we are all getting testy with each other. And now at the bastard bell-ringers.

Of course, I called Prof immediately, but I was inconsolable. I just needed to vent. He was great of course, but I didn't want to hear supportive things. "Its temporary." "We'll get through this" and "I'm here to help you" just didn't do it for me. What I wanted was a punching bag, and more tissues. And something stiff to put in coffee.

Starting your day off with a good cry doesn't really set you up for a good day. The crying gave me a headache, and my eyes have been stingy all day. I just felt like I couldn't smile or laugh or joke. I was morose. Managed to get to the gym for Pump class, even though what I wanted to do was eat comfort food and sleep. Lifting weights helped put me back in a better frame of mind (I used to reach for a cigarette, now I punish my body with exercise). And when I got back from the office, there were flowers on my desk and a simple note from Prof to say he loved me. Then I cried again. He's going to get some sort of award someday.

Tomorrow will be better.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

8 men and a girl

"What was your motivation to start whitewater kayaking?"

"Ironically, it was to meet boys."

That got them laughing.

This weekend, I found myself the sole female member of an 8 man kayak training group. And unlike most men who like outdoor sports, these guys mostly lacked ridiculous amounts of body hair and didn't smell so bad I wanted to wear my nose clips all the way down the river. I pitched a mini-fit when I found out the group arrangements - I had agreed to help with the training course in part because I wanted to hang out with my chick kayaker friends who I never get to see. Hanging out in an all guy group was not going to allow me to chill with my girls, and giggle and make fun at the guys. I was left to giggle and make fun at them all by myself. But don't worry, I did quite an excellent job.

I don't know whether I was being punished for something, or whether the organizers thought I was the only one uniquely suited to handle the testosterone. I hope its the latter, but you never know.

It was good that I was there though. Even though I'm not the most motherly person in the world, that nurturing instinct takes over sometimes when I see someone struggling. Man, I can totally sympathize with struggling to stay upright in a whitewater boat. There were two or three in the group that weren't doing as well as the others; the were hesitant and timid and I could see a wild look in their eyes. I found myself constantly checking in with them and encouraging them. They all lived through the weekend and all came out smiling at the end.

I really enjoyed helping to teach these guys, and introducing them the sport that I've invested so much time, money and effort into. There is some talk of me going for an instructor certification, but I think that's some time away.

This weekend got me really excited about kayaking this summer and really wanting to go back for more. The only bad thing is that weekends of kayaking take me away from the Prof, and weekends are the only time we really get together. And I kinda missed him while I was away.