Wednesday, February 22, 2017

We are doing it again

We closed on our house. I got the HUD document and there was a $40 difference between what we were expecting and what we got. I can roll with that. It felt gooooooooooood to go to the bank and make a deposit.

Real good.

We are still in the house for another two weeks and the question I hear most often is, "Have you started packing yet?" and my answer?

"Heck No. I'm paying someone to do that for me."

Yeah, we are those people. When we had movers pack and move us from Washington, D.C., Husband and I wondered why we had ever done it any other way. {Because we were a poor, poor resident's family}.

Those moves with my husband holding the dresser, mattresses, and mirrors while hanging off the back of a trailer as it turned on two wheels- those days are long gone. THANKYOUJESUS. Those moves where Brother is driving back and forth into the night and we are loading things into trash bags because the new owners take over the house the next day? Yes. Those days. G-O-N-E.

We close on the next house in about two weeks and will move in thereafter. It is a craftsman house and we won't have to do anything to the house; "have to" being the operative words in that statement. We are going to move the washer and dryer upstairs and install a tankless water heater in the pantry to give us more room. These are things that we think will improve our quality of life.

The light fixtures need replacing, having been dated to circa 1990 and there is some wallpaper in a small bathroom that needs taking down, but these are not things that have to be done immediately.

What we have to do immediately is take the profit from this house and write a FAT check to the student loans.

The new house has a front porch that runs the length of the house and the front door is 22 feet tall. Well, maybe not 22, but it is taller than I can reach on my tippy toes. And it has a mail slot. Bennie loved opening the slot and peeking out into the front yard. I want to make it a statement door, like purple. Husband said his friends would make fun of him if I did that. We will see who spends more time at the house.

There is an incredibly awkward screened in porch upstairs on the side of the house. It's going to be off the girls room and I am already dreaming of turning it into a sleeping porch for them come the spring and summer. We will take off the stairs from the side and maybe install a rope ladder for fun?

Two two bedrooms upstairs will be where the kids live and they will share the one bathroom up there.  Downstairs has another two bedrooms with a bathroom in between. We are going to make one room a very large closet for the immediate future until we decide to either live here longer than I lived at the sorority house or if we are going to move again.

Step one: Student Loans.
Step two: Put our touch on the house.

The fenced in backyard is screaming for a swing set and three little kids to run around finding rocks and flowers. There are all sorts of things that bloom back there, none of which I know about how to care for. Fingers crossed that they are self-sustaining kind of plants.

And the coolest? Oh, the kids are going to start walking to school. Our new neighbors up and down the street send their children to Parochial and it is less than a quarter of a mile from our new abode. Lots and lots of Birdie's schoolmates live around the new house and it a Catholic-centric area of town-- and it always has been. People over in this area move into the houses that their parents owned and houses do not go on the market very often or last for very long. It's a very unique place to live and we will be fortunate enough to call it home soon enough.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Our first together house

When Husband and I were first engaged, I owned a little condo and he owned a little house. Knowing that we would much rather live in his little house instead of my little condo, I called "Bob the Realtor" and asked him to list my condo. Our wedding came and went with my condo being no closer to sold. Realizing we needed to sell ONE piece of property, Husband put his house on the market. About a week later, I got a contract on my condo and called Husband.

"Praise the Lord, I just got a contract on my condo!"
"Are you serious?!"
"Yes! .... why?"
"Because I just got a contract on my house!"
"Oh dear."

Off we go to find a house. It seemed that everything we wanted was nothing we could afford and everything we could afford was nothing we wanted. We were told to either raise our price or lower our standards.

I was already in a panic about the $160,000 price point we had erroneously decided upon.

House after house... nothing after nothing. We put a contract down on a house for $130,000-- $30k off the asking price, but someone else did the same thing, except with an additional $30,000. Fortunate for us, we didn't get the house. It was broken into twice and the bathroom flooded in the three years we would have lived there.

Coming back from Charleston, SIL had just heard about a house that would be coming on the market and gave me the contact information. I called and the owner could only show it that afternoon before she went back out of town.

As soon as we pulled in the gravel driveway, I knew the house would be ours. It had two large bedrooms, a pink tiled bathroom, small kitchen, and a bucket of charm. That little craftsman house was perfect for our new marriage and happiness exuded from it.

On the brick front steps, Husband and I sat down with the other newly married couple that was relocating to North Carolina and hashed out a price and stipulations on the house.

Once again, we would be homeowners.

Let's fast forward through the next month, because we were nomads- living in the little house before moving into the little condo before moving into the craftsman home. We lived on floor mattresses, in suitcases, and ate more Lean Cuisines and a Cheerios than a newlywed should.

Amongst one of the conversations with the owner of our future house, I mentioned there would be about 5 days where we would be homeless. At this point, the house was vacant and she said we could go ahead and stay there.

Y'all-- we were squatters. There were two suitcases, an air mattress, a Boy Scout cot, a 32" TV and a cooler full of beer. During the day, we would go to work, looking very professional and not at all homeless, but at night....

Oh, at night.

Husband trekked to the gas station that was up the street and pick up a 12 pack of beer, a bag of ice, and two Lean Cuisines. We would sit on the floor, toast with our plastic forks and watch TV in t-shirts before I crawled onto my cot and he onto his twin air mattress. That first night, I discovered a quarter of the springs were sprung in my cot and Husband had a leak in the air mattress.

Beggars and squatters couldn't be choosers.

That first night we were so excited about our new house that we danced in the den with the windows open and music from our car. All the lights were on and there was not a stick of furniture in the house. We fell asleep around 9 or so and stayed that way for about 2 hours.

SQUAK!
SQUACK!
SQUCK!
SQUAKKKKKK!

Somewhere in the night was a bird. A loud obnoxious, noisy, annoying bird that could not let me complete a thought without a SQUACKKKK!!!

Husband rolled over on his air mattress {HiSSSSSSS and more air escaped} and I rolled over on my Boy Scout cot {PING! went another coil}.

"Do you hear that?" I asked.
"Of course I freaking hear it."
"UGHHH. This is awful.'

SQUAhhhhhhCK!

Pass me a beer.
"Are you serious?" I ask.
Yes. If we are going to sleep, we are going to need some help.
"Fair enough."

Two beers later, we were back asleep through the SQUAKKKKSs.

That bird met Husband's pellet gun the next day and we slept like babies the next night.

We would close on three houses in 6 days and got to be on a first name basis with our closing attorney. Two and a half years later, we would be relocating to Washington, D.C. with our new baby and our perfect little home would be on the market for less than a week before going under contract.

The couple buying the house were where we were just a few years before: in a very, very good place.

Less one bird.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Closing

We are closing on this house in about 48 hours and I have been stalking the closing attorney for our HUD paperwork. It's a really long sheet with a bunch of itty bitty lines that basically say who is paying what and how much money we, as the sellers, are getting.

It is a very important document and I learned with the purchase of my first house just how valuable it is.

In March 2003, my 22 year old self went all around the small town where I was living to find a house to buy. Interest rates were the lowest they had ever been and my rent would be the same price as my mortgage. All twenty two years of me were about to be a proud home owner. The little 1200 square foot house I found on Elmwood absolutely fit the bill.

Looking back, I had no idea the house was so "small." It felt massive and I could barely afford to furnish it. I made a back room into an office with a computer on a folding table and bought some used cherry wood twin beds for $250 and asked if I could have the mattresses.

Those beds are in Bennie's room right now.

The house was a "FSBO" and my realtor showed it to me. A woman I worked with mentioned that I could cut out my realtor and save some money. Saving money always sounds like a good idea to me, so I called my dad and he explained to me how realtors get paid.

It was a good lesson.

Realtors work on commission and all those houses she showed me, free-of-charge, were her working towards me finding my house so she can get paid. In the end, that $2,600 would effect my mortgage payment by, ohhhh, $4 a month. $4 a month was worth my integrity and good name and I am thankful that my dad took the time to explain to me how realtors get paid.

After all, I was only 22 years old.

My parents drove up for the closing. At the attorney's office, the seller was on the far side of the table by herself and I was there with my entourage- parents and agent in tow.

Some numbers are hard to forget- I bought the house for $80,000. My mortgage was $518 a month.

Our taxes are $518 a month now. My, how life changes.

If you have never purchased a home, let me paint a picture- the attorney gives you a brand new pen and goes outside to chop down a tree. That tree will turn into a stack of paper and you will sign every. single. piece.

Upon the conclusion of the closing, your dead pen will be thrown in the trash, having expended all ink that it could carry.

As we neared the end, the attorney handed the seller a check and she stared at it with a funny look on her face. The attorney did not notice and kept shoving papers under my nose to sign.

My dad commanded the presence of all in the room, raised his hand and stopped the attorney. He looked at the seller, who was 8 years my senior.

"Are you okay?" he asked.
"Yeah, I mean... I just thought the check would be more than this." she responded.
"Do you want to call your father? I'm a daddy and I get it. We can pause this while you call him," he said.

"No. No. No, I shouldn't. It's fine. He's playing golf right now and would be really mad if I interrupted his golf game," she said. 

"Are you sure?" Asked dad.
"Yes, I'm sure. I have to meet some friends for lunch," she responded.

Fateful.... Last.... Words....

It's hard to see the forest through the trees when you are staring at a $70,000 check. Unfortunately for her, she thought she was getting closer to $100,000.

We had offered her a ridiculously low offer and she accepted.

Please don't ever wonder why we offer low prices on the houses we buy. Now you know-- my first house was $80,000 which was over 30% off the asking price.

When we left, my dad told me that this was a wonderful lesson for me in purchasing a home:

- you looked at a bunch of houses, found one you can easily afford.
- you had the opportunity to cut your realtor out of the deal, but came to the decision to pay her yourself once you understood how realtors are paid.
- you saw what happens when you don't pay attention to details.
- And you now know that you can always interrupt me if it is important.

"Every step of this, we did it with integrity and I am incredibly proud of you. Let's go see this new house of yours."

I would sell my turquoise kitchen about a year later and move back home to start selling insurance. I would be working on 100% commission and be on the bad end of people who would run me ragged and leave me high and dry. It made me appreciate the purchase of that house even more.

14 years have passed, almost to the day, since I bought that day I bought my first house and I am eternally thankful for the experience.

As I close this blog, I check my email one more time looking for the HUD document and it still isn't there. I am sure that the girls in the office are rolling their eyes that I am going to call again. But, they did not see that girl across the table with the funny look on her face when she looked at the check. The stakes are higher now and the mistakes are bigger.

I don't like those kind of surprises.

My first house-- pulled from the tax records. Looks like they changed the door and took out the hydrangea bush.

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Best Haircut I Ever Had

A few days ago, I posted about the worst thing I ever did to my hair. Perhaps now it might be worth mentioning the best haircut I ever had.

Sometime at the end of high school, I was at a baby shower for a friend of my parents. We were on the west side of town on someone's farm. The people were really nice and I knew not a soul. Being the youngest there, I mostly listened to conversations instead of partaking in them.

A man spoke about picking up some lunch at "the Pumpkin Center," apparently it was really tasty. Someone else mentioned that they popped over to "the Pumpkin Center" to pick up a few groceries. An older woman mentioned something about how "the Pumpkin Center" just repainted the sign.

I ask, "Is this place a real pumpkin patch?"

No- it's the only place to shop on this side of town between here and Thomson.

Okay, fair enough. Place to shop. Got it.

It seems like "the Pumpkin Center" was a central hub to this side of town. I wonder if they have a Blockbuster there?

Turns out, that nope- no Blockbuster, but someone did check out a video over there and had to pay a $2 late fee. Allegedly, the people at "the Pumpkin Center" really gouged on late fees. Another woman mentioned that the gas station at "the Pumpkin Center" dropped the price fifteen cents and she filled up both her car and her husband's truck.

"The Pumpkin Center" sounded like a hopping place and was certainly the center of life. Amongst all these people and conversation, there was a woman there who had the very best haircut I had ever seen. It was cropped, layered with a little Jennifer Aniston shag, and a wispy bangs.

It was beautiful.

And I'm always in the market for a new haircut.

Ever shy, I asked her when she walked away from the conversation, "Where did you get your hair cut? I love it!"

"Actually, my partner cut it for me. We have a beauty parlor over at "the Pumpkin Center."

S-C-O-R-E

I get the name of her salon and make a plan to get my hair bobbed in the coming days.

Thumbing through the yellow pages a few later, her salon is listed with the address "Pkn Ctr" -- I called her and asked to make an appointment. She said they weren't busy right now and I could head on over. A pencil in hand, directions on paper-- my car is hitting I-20 heading back to the west side of town and looking for exit 189.

Off I-20 at exit 189 and a left turn, I am on a two lane road with cracked asphalt and no site of man's imprint on this green earth. Trees for miles. I drive.

WHOOOOOOOOSHHHHHHHHHH

I fly past a tin roofed gas station on the left side without a second glance. A few miles later, I start to think about that gas station. Maybe I should turn around and ask for directions. I do not want to be late, nor do I want to miss this haircut. Someone might get there before me and take it.

A U-turn on a dirt road and a few miles backtrack, I pull into the back side of the gas station. Rounding to the front, I pull into a makeshift parking spot and step out.

On the windows were signs painted for "Fresh Bait" and "Best Fried Chicken Livers" and "Back Room Movie Rental."

There were four pumps with inexpensive gas and cashiers behind the yellow counter with 40 teeth between the two of them and coordinating shade to the counter. One had a cigarette dangling from her chapped lips and the other had blush from her nose to her ears.

Cars zipped by this forgotten gas station and upon closer examination, there was a beautiful orange pumpkin freshly painted on that tin roof. Somewhere in the distance, a banjo was being tuned.

"The Pumpkin Center" was not a shopping center that thrived on this side of town. It was a gas station in the middle of nowhere- and I was there in the middle of it.

To get my hair cut.

Most people would have turned around at this moment, but y'all-- you should have seen this haircut. It was perfect.

To the right of the convenience store was Betty Lou's Barber and Up Do's.

Okay, the name is an exaggeration. I think.

$15 on fried chicken
$12 on a haircut
$11 to fill my gas tank

I have spent less than $40 and got more compliments on that cut than I ever have before. When asked which fancy, overpriced salon I went to, not a lie was shed from my lips:

"Don't you know? I have to go out of town to find a girl who can help me with my hair."

Friday, January 27, 2017

First Reconciliation

Years ago, back when my grandfather was still living and had the majority of his faculties and my brother was still a Catholic, the Bishop came to town. Brother took BigDad to the Mass that evening. At the end, the man in the funny hat announced that if anyone wanted to make confession, there would be priests stationed around the church to receive and give penance. My grandfather, fast as lightening on that walker with tennis balls on the end made his way third in line with the Bishop before Brother could even get out of the pew. Brother, sheepishly, stood in line- perhaps ten or twelve back from BigDad. The line drew down by two and my grandfather was next.

BigDad stepped out of line, turned around, extended his skeletal arm and pointed to my brother. The wrist flipped over and that long pointer finger pointed to Brother and beckoned him forward. Brother turned around to see if BigDad might have been pointing at someone else, perhaps his equally elderly sister or, maybe the postman.

Anyone else? No? No? Oh... okay... he must mean Brother.

Brad stepped out of line, walked forward and BigDad, in his not-so-quiet whisper said, "SON! You need to go ahead of me. This is Confession and you need to be absolved of your sins."

"BigDad, I'm happy to wai--"

He stamps his walker on the marble, reverberating through the crowd. "Son. Don't argue with me on this. You're a single, young man and surely there are sins you need forgiving."

You know what Brother did? He didn't argue and stood in line before his 91 year old grandfather. You know what else? No one in line argued with him that he had allowed a twenty-something man to cut in front of ten other people.

You didn't argue with BigDad when it came to his Church or his Grandchildren.

The Bishop was receiving Confession on the main altar of the church, under the bright lights, surrounded by ironed lace and marble, three stairs above everyone else. The altar is the stage of the church and everyone could see who was giving their confession. Good lip readers might even get a hint of the scandalous behavior of fellow parishioners.

And it was Brother's turn.

It is in this moment that I was counting those little Catholic blessings that I was not in his shoes.

Brother walks up the steps and sits down next to the Bishop, stumbles through the opening prayers and acknowledges in his head that he is about to confess high school, college, and most of his twenties.

These are the sins that priests live for; the good ones. The sins they probably retell at the annual priest Christmas party while serving red wine and wafers.

The Bishop looks at Brother.
Brother looks at the Bishop.

"Son, are you ready to confess your sins?"

"I am."

"And what are your sins?"

Brother swallows. The perspiration from the heat of the lights is upon him. He speaks:

"You know... the usual."

Brother had a way of executing one liners with such perfection that you had to accept them for what they were: the truth.

The Bishop chuckles, nods, and looks back at him.

"Fair enough. Your penance is four Hail Marys."

"Bishop, you better make it five... just in case."

That's Brother.

---

Parochial is serious about being, well, a parochial school. Birdie made her First Reconciliation the other day. When I was a kid- this happened at school, during school, behind those screens where you can hear the priest and the priest can hear you, but there was no eye to eye contact.

ThankYouJesus.

Fortunately or unfortunately, things are different today. There is a little more pomp and circumstance to the affair. Mama gets to make a confession before Birdie is presented to make hers. Upon learning this, I call my fellow mother friend of a second grader and say something to the effect of "Woah woah woah... ain't NOBODY told me about this when I signed her up for Parochial three years ago. Gammit."

Time to start a list.

#1: I said Gammit on the phone while complaining about having to make my confession.

I asked Husband if he would rather go and I'll keep the kids so that he can spend quality time with Birdie before this great day.

He said he isn't Catholic yet so that doesn't make sense.

Gammit.

#2 I tried to get out of Confession by guilting my husband.

Hell.

#3 I said "Hell"

In jest, Husband asked me if I remembered the Act of Contrition prayer. I said I did....

O My God I am heartfully sorry for what I have done and what I have failed to do...umm... something something sin no more and avoid the near occasion of sin, AMEN!

It was then I learned that "heartfully" isn't a word. It is "heartily" and that those something somethings were only about 8 more words.

Homerun parenting.

Birdie didn't have homework last night because of First Reconciliation and I cheered.

#4 Laziness. Laziness in regards to my daughter's education and, let's be honest...
#5 Laziness in regards to her Catholic Sacraments

We get to church and I am not being prayerful, rather I am texting on my phone

#6 Texting in church

and Birdie is being a 7 year old girl. She gets corrected.

#7 Not being that nice to my kid

This list is getting long and I've only been counting for the past six hours.

There were 67 children and 67 adults who had to make their confession. Children were called in a random order and they were able to choose the priest that they want to see. Birdie was in the first group called and she started looking around. Kids started heading towards us and I said, "Birdie, make a decision right now or I'll make it for you. Where are we going?"

She had this deer in the headlight-saucer eyes as she looked. More people started heading towards us and we were going to have to wait... to.wait. I grab her arm and pull her to a door.

#8 forceful and demanding to we could get outta here without having to wait in line.

Winning in parenthood.

I walk in and an old man sat waiting to hear my sinful deeds from the past five years. Birdie sat on the other side of the door, with the fellow sinners- waiting for them to be excised.

"Forgive me Father, for I have sinned... it has been four, no wait- five years since my last Confession."

#9 I accidentally lied to the priest... SIX years. It had been six years since my last confession.

{averaging a sin an hour on this day since I started counting and it's been six years x 18 waking hours in a day x 350 sinful days in a year = uh oh. uh. oh.}

Upon completion, he smiles, we talk and he says, "Are you ready for your Penance before I absolve you of your sins?"

"Yes sir."

"One Hail Mary. That's a good prayer for you."

Father, you better make it two. Just to be safe.