Monday, August 30, 2010

Baggage

Ok, enough whining about not buying a house and how much real estate agents suck. Its time for me to share some serious stuff with you:

My new favorite television guilty pleasure.

Its called Baggage. Its on the game show network. It stars Jerry Springer and 4 rotating douchebags (or bagettes). Its so embarrassing to admit how much I like this show, but so necessary because you really need to start watching it. Today, if at all possible.

Each episode, one guy or girl has a chance to pick a date (cheap nasty hook up?) from three potential candidates. Each of the candidates brings with them three pieces of luggage; a small one, a medium one, and a big whopper mamma one. Each piece of luggage has some piece of embarrassing information about the person engraved on foam on the inside. The "baggage" is slowly and painfully revealed over the course of the show. The Chooser gets to choose which baggage they can't live with, and they slowly eliminate all but one on the potential dates.

The baggage is hilarious, and most likely completely falsified, but whatever. Its escapism, people. My favorite girl baggage so far includes "I pleasure myself on the highway," "I bring my dad, who's also my preacher, on dates with me" "I dated an 80-year old man" and "I like my men to dress up like poo bear." The guys are pretty awesome too, from dude is a bankrupt circus clown, to dude used to be gay (used to be? Really?), to several who admit to breaking up with girls for getting fat, to my very very personal favorite "I always keep chicken in my pocket."

I am not making that up. I seriously almost lost control of my bladder when this guy pulled a ziploc bag with a cooked chicken breast out of his pocket. He had one for his date too. Strangely though, he didn't make it to the last round. It was so considerate of him!

Besides the sheer mindlessness of this silly show, and the ridiculous amount of douchebaggery, and the fact that Prof enjoys it just as much (if not more than) I do, there is something else that makes this show resonate with me:

it was my life while I was still dating.

I mean, no, I never knowingly dated a dude who kept chicken in his pocket, but I dated some guys who had some massive sets of luggage. And the bags would slowly get revealed in sort of the same way until I just couldn't take it any more. Like the guy who lived with his parents, only had a part time job, and then hey, just so you know, a drug habit. Or the guy who had a kid, then I found out he cheated on his wife, and oh yeah, also, was an alcoholic. Or the guy who lived with his grandparents, was unemployed and oh yeah, had never had a girlfriend. At 40.

I could go on and on and on and on and on. And on. But I won't. I'm saving that for another day.

Anyway, in a weird way, the show reminds me how lucky I got. I'm not out there uncovering boy baggage and trying to figure out if its worth dealing with. I'm on the couch with Prof, laughing my ass off. Its a pretty good place to be.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Relo Nightmare Part 2

We withdrew our offer on the house.

You probably already guessed that was the outcome. We are so disappointed, and still wondering if we did the right thing. But how could it have not been the right thing? Everything was working against us. Time, permits, our realtor, their realtor, the relo company, common sense...

We stewed about the permit issue all day on Saturday. We had the same conversation over and over again, just worded differently. Or maybe not even. We just couldn't understand how something as seemingly simple as putting in an offer on a house in a market like this could have gotten so difficult, and screwed up. We also couldn't understand why the relo company wouldn't agree to our terms. And why both of the realtors involved thought that a verbal agreement trumped a written contract.

I will say again, I'm not stupid. Particularly when I'm investing a crapton of money.

So we stewed and stewed and on Saturday, then called our realtor and asked her to withdraw the offer. Technically, we didn't have to withdraw - since the seller hadn't signed out contract we didn't have an agreement that we were legally required to back out of. But, she wanted to make totally sure, so there was more paperwork to be filled out. So depressing. I mean, how many pieces of paper do I really have to sign to not buy a house?

We've spent most of the week wondering if we should have pulled out so soon (giggle) but the more and more we find out, the better I feel about it. Prof did a lot of reading about relo company sales and found out that a lot of people have gotten royally burned; but then again you can find stories like that on the internets for everything from cell phones to tastycakes. We also found out that its illegal to require the use of a certain company for deed and title searches - one of the conditions of the relo rider. We also found out that our realtor could have had their lawyer go to town on these guys, but we were never made aware of that option.

We found out later that there was more miscommunication between our realtor and the seller's realtor than we had previously thought. And again I wonder whether the outcome might have been different with a different realtor.

But, we've made our choice and are backing off for a little while.

No biggie though. The housing report that came out today said that housing sales were down over 25% in July. I think we might be able to find another house. One with a permitted deck, a basement that doesn't flood and a seller that is a human, and not a corporation.


Friday, August 20, 2010

Relo Nightmare Part 1

I hit my break point on Friday night.

I was off from work, so you'd think I would have had a nice relaxing day. Instead I spent most of the day on the phone with various people, including my insurance company who had promised to send out a guy to fix a broken window. I don't need to go into to many details here, because we all know what happens when a contractor is supposed to come to the house. No-Show-City. He didn't show in the morning, I called, they said a different guy could come out at 6:30 pm. 6:30 p.m. On a Friday. But, you know what, I really wanted to check it off the list, so I said ok. So I waited and waited and waited around my house all day, and at 7pm the insurance guy called to verify with me that they contractor had showed up. Yeah, not so much. No contractor. No window fix. No progress. But lots of frigging aggravation. (insert beginnings of migraine here).

So, I ruined my Friday night with Prof for no reason. But we tried to salvage it. He had picked up some good bread for dinner, I had garden tomatoes, basil and mozzarella cheese... So I packed up a bag and headed to his house for the night.

When I got there, the house smelled delicious. He had roasted some garlic to put on our tomato, mozzarella basil yummy bread sandwiches and oh. my. god. was I ready to devour them.
We got our plates together and got ready to sink our teeth into that summer deliciousness.

Then the phone rang.

And it was our realtor.

At this point, it was 9pm. There was nothing good coming from that phone call. And our sandwiches were just sitting there, teasing us as we digested the blow.

I've been remiss in updating our progress in the house buying process so here it is: We agreed to an acceptable price last week and Prof and I spent another 2 hours on Wednesday filling out another contract, with a very well thought out "buyer's addendum" so that we could make sure the seller's agent understood our conditions.

I don't know whether they understood them or not, but clearly, they didn't accept them.

Our realtor emailed us a bunch of things they wanted us to initial. "Oh, its no big deal, just a couple things we forgot to include..."

No big deal, my ass.

They ignored all of our very reasonable conditions, and had removed all of our edits to their contract. Which pissed me the hell off. But worse yet, they sent us a new disclosure statement. A disclosure statement that we had never before seen.

First of all, what the fuck?! This was the second contract we had put in for the house, and they were just getting around to showing us this newer, updated disclosure form? That in and of itself was reason enough to walk away. They were trying to pull something over on us, but they don't know who they are dealing with.

Second of all, what the fuck?! The disclosure pointed out that the deck (the deck that was a large reason Prof and I liked the house so much) was built without a permit. To most people, this isn't a big deal. To me, its huge. Decks not built to code are a huge liability. It also appears that some structural work in the basement was also done without permits.

You tell us this now? Two contracts in? After I've sacrificed days of vacation time to fill out contracts, sweat bullets over verbal offers, taken three migraine pills, driven friends past the house to show them where I'll be living at Thanksgiving and decided where all my furniture would go?

Prof and I were both stunned. First, we were stunned that they had withheld this information from us. Second, we were stunned that our agent hadn't communicated their changes to us. Third, we were stunned that someone would be making it so difficult for us to buy their property. You do want to sell it, right? I mean, did you not read the Huffington Post today? The headline at 7am was "Americans Rethink Homeownership." And here you have two people, who really love the house you are trying to sell and would really like to buy it from you, and you... Well, you are just not being very helpful. Actually, you are being a pretty big fing hindrance.

Maybe the permit thing can be taken care of, maybe not, but fact is, these people have been withholding important information from us for weeks, and waited until after we had negotiated a price and put in another contract to reveal that information.

So, here's where we are:

There's a house that we really like. It has a deck that isn't up to code and doesn't have a permit. It has a drainage problem in the basement that may or may not have been fixed by some work that was also done without a building permit.

The house is being sold to us by a relocation company, which means we are buying it "as-is" and have no recourse if there is a serious issue with the house. They adamantly insist that their chosen lawyer does the necessary legal work (sound fishy anyone?). They also adamantly insist that the inspection be done within days of a contract being signed (which of course, further weakens our ability to find any major structural flaws or other issues with the house).

We don't agree with their conditions, because its advantage big bad corporation. Prof and Susan get screwed if we agree to any of that. And we just simply can't take a risk like that.

By the time we got off the phone with the realtor, read the changes from the relocation company and calmed down, dinner was ruined. I mean, the sandwich was delicious and the roasted garlic made it one of the best things I have eaten this summer. But we couldn't enjoy it. Not really. Because there was a bitter taste in my mouth.

The gentle, bitter taste of getting slowly screwed by a big-ass corporation.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The offering

Its been an emotionally exhausting weekend. If there are three things I hate most in this world, its change, uncertainty and aggressiveness. And we had the trifecta this weekend.

Ok, fine. If those probably aren't really the three things I hate most in this world. I guess the three things I really hate most would be war, poverty and ignorance. But right behind that is change, uncertainty and aggressiveness.

We spent three and a half hours on Thursday at the realtor's office reading contracts, filling out paperwork and being totally exasperated. My realtor is a friend of the family - a sweet old lady who drives a Cadillac and recently had a pacemaker installed so is forced to hold her blackberry a foot away from herself to talk on it (lest it interfere with the pace-making). She is thorough, but very slow. And not very aggressive or pushy. Aggressive and pushy are traits I avoid in friends and acquaintances, but in a realtor, I should have sought them out just a tiny bit more.

So, with much frustration and eye-rolling across the table between Prof and I, we got the papers signed, photocopied and faxed. Because we have to negotiate with both the owners and a relocation company (why us!), our realtor wanted to give them at least a week to respond. Jeezus lady. We can't wait around for a week wondering whether we are going to own a house or not. We pushed back and agreed to Wednesday.

Then we left and did our part for charity by drinking all you can drink wine at a fundraiser for the local food bank. Lord, did I need a stiff drink after that.

I've been walking around in a sort of haze. We just did this thing that requires a major life commitment to each other. That, and a ton of cash, of course. All without all those legal protections you get from spending thousands of bucks on a big party with a bad dj and an open bar.

I have been doing my best to keep under control. To limit the anxious butterfly feeling in my stomach. To adapt the "whatever happens happens" ideology. To stay positive and upbeat. But I am too smart to be too positive. Buying a house together comes with significant risk, and living together will have lots of benefits, but its also going to be difficult at times.

On the rider we had to sign for the offer, it asked a question that read "why are you moving?" We wanted to put "not enough conflict in our lives" but decided to just leave it blank.

At least we can laugh about it before it happens. Wonder if we will still be laughing later, when the conflicts start happening?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Offer

We made an offer on the house today.

I'm off to have a mini-stroke.

More details soon.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

A theme

You've probably noticed by now that when things are going great, my blog posts are short, boring and infrequent. But when I'm tortured, you'd better have a lot of free time, because all I want to do is write about it.

I'm totally tortured right now.

I had trouble falling asleep last night, with thoughts of mortgages and houses and bamboo floors and buyers and renters all jumbling up in my mind, making me anxious and restless. And when I woke up this morning, the first thing I did was pull my laptop off the floor to see if our realtor had emailed back, or if the house was still on the market.

Not the most healthy way to kick off a gorgeous, sunny, low humidity Saturday that I should be spending on the water somewhere, instead of cleaning out the basement (which, who are we kidding, is SO not going to happen today).

Its so overwhelming. The steps themselves, no big deal: Do mortgage paperwork; then, put offer on house; then negotiate offer; then (this is where it starts getting me), purge possessions; then, clean existing houses; then, put house on market; then, take Prozac; then, live life on the edge keeping house museum perfect on the off chance someone wants to see it; then, have breakdown.

As I was making my tea, I started pulling crap out of drawers and throwing away. It made me feel like I was making progress towards the purge possessions item, and let's face it, that's a no regrets activity. Do I really need a drawer-full of doilies that my grandma gave me and I never used? Nope. Or the remote control cat-toy that's needed new batteries for five years? Nope. Or the refrigerator egg container that I never used because I couldn't figure out where the hell it was supposed to fit in the fridge? Nope, nope and nope.

So, I felt good and productive and useful. For like five minutes. Then I came out on my 3-year old beautiful deck into and sat on the steps and looked out over my backyard. And I got sad. Sad, sad, sad.

Unlike lots of people in this neighborhood, I never treated my house as a starter, short term house. I've got blood, sweat and tears in this place. My veggie garden that I've struggled with for years and years is finally fertile and productive. My trees are growing up; the trees that I transported in my Beetle and planted all by myself with no help from anyone. Its so peaceful here right now - birds singing, cicadas singing (do they sing?), sunshine... Yeah, I know the neighbors are douchebags, but they have been really extremely quiet recently, and its hard to want to move out when things are finally as they should be here.

And the thing is, I guess it doesn't matter. Everyone is sad when they leave a place, but everyone eventually leaves every place they are. I was sad when I left Washington State, and I hated it there! But I loved the little house I rented, and I loved the neighbors, and I loved the hills. And I love this place way more. Its 100% me. It oozes Susan from every crevice (sometimes literally). I've grown up in this house; learned to be an adult (kinda); learned to cook; learned to garden; learned to play guitar; learned to play banjo; learned to fix a water heater; and learned what's important, and what's not important.

But unless I want to be single for the rest of my life (which I don't - I think I sometimes get being single and being independent confused), I have to leave. And it could be next month, or it could be next year, but its going to be.

Change is hard for me. Even good change.

So, get ready. Lots more blog posts on their way...

Friday, August 6, 2010

iPod & Magic 8

Have you ever tried to let your iPod make a decision for you? No, cheater, not with the Magic 8-Ball app for your iPod Touch. Like, if you put the song mix on random and the next song that comes on as you are cruising down the highway is about a breakup, then its a sign that you should break up? Or if the next song is about being in love forever and ever and ever and ever, its a sign that you should stay together? Its not a very good method, actually. And its pretty limited to breaking up or being in love, since 99.998% of all songs are about one or the other. Notable exceptions to that rule are anything by The Presidents of the United States of America (featuring songs about amphibians, music equipment and tikis) and Geggy Tah ("you let me change lanes, while I was driving in my car").

I normally don't have an amphibian emergency, and am pretty good about changing lanes, so I'm pretty limited on the iPod decision making these days.

Until tonight. When I stalked the house Prof and I are thinking about buying, at 10 pm.

Well, stalking might be the wrong word. Since I drove down the street twice and sat in front of it in my bright green car, with two bright yellow kayaks on top. I was not, I would imagine, the least conspicuous thing around.

The late night visit was inspired by a slightly dismaying email from our realtor, who had talked to their realtor. Their realtor said "there has been a lot of activity on the house." And our realtor send us a different house we might want to look at, in a neighborhood we pretty much vetoed on our last time out.

I immediately felt sick. What the hell is a "significant" amount of activity? I mean, we looked at it twice in first week it was on the market. That alone is significant activity - people have gorgeous houses just sitting and sitting and sitting for months and months and months, and the house we like has "significant activity"? W. T. F.

Its a really great house for us, and it has 90% of what we want, and we could move in and hardly do anything to it, except paint. And even that could wait. But the problem is that we are simply not ready, and don't want to be rushed into a decision. But, we also don't want to let an awesome house slip through our fingers. But we also aren't ready. But we also may never find a house this good ever again.

I am in a serious quandary people. And its a mix of financial worries, relationship worries and individuality worries. How can you ever rectify those in time to get a damn house?

So, I drove by the house on the way home from Prof's tonight. Drove. Stalked. Whatever. And as I sat in front of the house, this really sweet Billie Holiday song was on the iPod - Getting Some Fun Out of Life:

"When we want to love, we love. When we want to kiss we kiss..."
"In a happy setting we get some fun out of life"
"Maybe we do the right thing, maybe we do the wrong thing..."

I listened to it for a minute and tried to take its advice, which I think is no regrets, do what feels right and figure it out. But it wasn't enough. On the way home, I got a couple of other songs that were along the same vein, but no definitive. No Crosby Stills and Nash "Our House." That, my friends, would have been a pretty strong sign.

Instead, I'm still confused.

Prof is trying to figure it out too. When I got home, I found that he had emailed me the online Magic-8 Ball. I asked it whether we should buy this house, and twice the 8-ball said "it doesn't look good." But when I asked it "Do you suck?" it replied "Yes!". So much for that method.

Maybe my cereal tomorrow will spell me out an answer. Though, I don't think my Kashi Super Fiber Twigs and soy milk really lends itself to alphabet messages.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Family Reunion x 2

Today, someone asked me how my weekend was. My response? "Like an episode of Curb your Enthusiasm, but not nearly as funny."

There are two ways to do things you really don't want to do: you can spread the pain out over a long period of time and bitch and whine and moan about shit for weeks on end, or you can jump in to the shit pile and get it all over with at once.

Prof and I chose to jump into the shit pile.

My Dad's side of the family's family reunion was Sunday. I didn't actually get invited to it; my mom (who had been divorced from my dad something like 18 years before he died) did. She's real slow at providing info, so I found out about it about three weeks ago. She wanted to go. Don't ask me why someone would want to go to the family reunion of her dead ex-husband, but there you have it. And I couldn't let her go alone, because that would have just been way too strange, so I signed myself up too. And I signed up prof, because I think we are far enough along in our relationship that he gets to suffer when I have to suffer.

But the suffering was not one sided, trust me. Prof's dad and stepmom have been on us to come for a visit for months. I've met them both at various Prof family get togethers, but apparently they wanted more one on one time with me. I can hardly blame them, since I am incredibly funny and interesting. But still, what a pain in the ass. They live 90 minutes away, and aren't the most normal or easygoing of people. I've been dodging it for a while "Can't. Kayaking." "Can't. Bad hair day." "Can't. Pulling fingernails out that day." But with summer winding down, it was time to just get it over with.

So we filled the weekend with a big pile of family shit.

We drove to Prof's hometown on Saturday and visited his Grandma, cousin, nephew, dad, stepmom and uncle. But it wasn't that easy. Dad and Grandma don't get along so well, and neither do Dad and his sister, and hence he doesn't get along so well with Prof's cousin, uncle or anybody on that side of the family. Can you say awkward? So, we visited with Grandma, who is 93 years old and probably was wondering where Prof's wife was and who the hell was I? There's not much to say about that. Talking to someone who is 93 and in a nursing home goes about the same for everyone all over the world. Then we went to lunch with his dad and stepmom.

I'm not normally exposed to truly neurotic people, so I was on my best behavior. Being on my best behavior is exhausting. Prof's dad and stepmom are special people, with very special ideas and habits. And by "special," I mean insane. Yes, there was the obligatory Stepmom rifling through her purse to make sure we all had hand wipes; cuz apparently soap and water isn't good enough. I'm not even sure these were your regulation handi-wipes: I think they were bleach wipes. But that was nothing really, in comparison to the key story. Dad carefully explained, as he gave Prof his copy, why he had made 20 spare keys for his house, and how he had decoy hide-a-keys in the yard. Decoy spare keys people. I couldn't make this up if I tried.

As I've gotten older, I've realized that even though my family had some serious issues, we were still generally normal people, with normal ideas and normal goals. And only real hide-a-keys in the yard. Its something that I've really begun to appreciate.

Until I heard about my great-great aunt's collection of "hair receptacles" at my family reunion. That's right. Hair Receptacles. What, you don't know what that is? Well, let me fill you in. A hair receptacle is a small jar with a hole in the top that women of the Victorian era used to put their hair in after they brushed it or pulled it out or whatnot. While arguably, this is better than what I do today (smearing it on the shower wall), its still gross. More gross because of what they did with it. Apparently, "hair art" was all the rage, and women would weave things out of their own hair, or put their hair in jewelry or give it as gifts or whatever. But really, who would collect that stuff?

My 2nd-removed family, that's who. The daughters of the woman (now deceased) who had started collecting this stuff were totally into it. Like, really into it. I think I had a look of horror on my face the whole time they were telling us about it, that I just couldn't hide from them. Guess I shouldn't be so judgemental. Maybe someone will one day think my lunch box collection is gross (only if you open the thermos' and take a big whiff). Hair receptacles. Who knew?

Surprising as it was, the family reunion (minus hair receptacle) wasn't as bad as it could have been. I avoided the 97 people I had never met, and caught up with the 3 really old people that I knew. Mostly, I talked with my mom and Prof. And ate lots of red-neck salads, and cake. Also got my copy of the family cookbook, and a family reunion t-shirt. The cookbook isn't veggie friendly (duh) and the t-shirt, which features a black and white photo of my great grandparents, is clearly destined for the rag pile.

Its exhausting work, being nice and pleasant and charming, for people you barely know. I much prefer belching and farting and telling rude jokes for people I know well. Hopefully, we can do that this weekend.