Thursday, October 28, 2010

The House, part one: Homebuying

We’ve come close to completing a room in our house just for me. An office. Gray walls, with girly purple and tropical blue-green trim, black switch covers, brushed nickel accessories. A huge window behind my computer monitor, a whole wall full of bookshelves. Soon there will be a futon, for guests, or for me for reading with a kitten in my lap. Custom made curtains, sewed together by a teacher and friend (and eventually, hopefully, matching throw pillows, just because Jeff hates them). 

Having reached this milestone, I’m looking back on where this poor house was when we started. 

The first time I came here, you could barely see it. The front yard was fenced in by a chain-link fence covered in ivy. The driveway was home to two falling-apart cars (one a Pontiac, the other a Saturn, for what it’s worth). The patio was covered – couches, a dryer, a dining room table. The yard, littered with the debris of humanity – a tile saw, a washing machine, children’s toys, a lumber rack for a pick-up truck. The garage, stuffed full, of recyclables and garbage and outgrown items. Even inside, one could barely see. The first visit with Alisha, my amazingly patient real estate agent, we ducked through the rooms, uncomfortable while we were clearly intruding upon a family gathering – mama, papa, tres ninos, una tia, la abuela, sitting around the television, dwarfed by an enormous entertainment center. This family, renting from their extended family, from some cousins, supposedly. Rooms, stuffed to the brim, walls covered (with family photographs, prints of portraits of saints), floors covered in clothes. It was an awkward visit to say the least.

I said I’d take it. 

We couldn’t afford any other house on the market; this one was cheap, having been on the market for almost a year and having dropped in price by $80,000 to the measly price of only $110,000 (it’s public record, it’s not like you couldn’t find out if you wanted to). 

My second visit there was for the home inspection. I pitied the guy, having to “inspect” the house while it was occupied, still full of family. I watched the mother of the family walk outside to find dirty dishes in a dishpan on that table on the porch, only to bring them inside, wash them in the crowded sink (in the middle of the counter, also covered with dirty dishes), to feed her children out of them. Signing important paperwork on the family’s dining room table, sticky with sugar, the residue of children. Speaking in hushed tones, discussing the house’s regrettable condition, hoping not to offend la familia.
The house was so crowded that the home inspector found the house to have three bedrooms, one and a half bathrooms, little else of note.
When the family moved out (initially leaving behind all the debris in the yard), we found that the house actually has two full bathrooms – and even a basement – the entry for which had been covered with furniture, or clothes, or something, so the home inspector didn’t see that it was there. 

The buying process was a nightmare. I don’t think it could have gone any worse. We had to apply for an FHA loan, so more inspections were required – all of which the house failed, of course. It needed outlet covers to hide exposed wires, the whole garage was considered “unappraisable.” The roof needed a special inspection; at one point, rather than replace the old roof, they simply added a new one on top of the old one. Eventually the new roof settled, so the upper roof doesn’t sit in a straight line, creating worries that the roof sagged. As it turned out, this was a good thing, in a way; the contractor decided that, if anything, we had TOO MUCH roof for our little house. 

The owners themselves were another story. The husband, in prison, for selling cocaine and illegal weapons possession. The wife, unable to speak English, unable to read or write even in Spanish, her native language, signed her name as “ + “, so she couldn’t be the only signer; a power of attorney was required, necessitating another visit by the notary. It would have been easier had he been in jail; notaries can go into jails, easily, but prisons are another story. Add to that, the prison was an hour or two away, and it’s more complicated still. For what it’s worth, he’s out on parole now, released the day after escrow closed, with a list of conditions a mile long. 

Of course the loan process couldn’t be easy, either. Despite claims that my loan officer was really, really good, I felt like I had to do half the work – I was supposed to verify that an account was closed (even though I had already done that). I had to verify several large deposits into my account (aka, one time financial aid deposits that I had already provided documentation for). Hell, I had to call one of Jeff’s former employers – from before he even moved to Chico! – to get them to call her to verify his employment. Sorry, Dr. Traver, but I did that in the middle of your Victorian Lit class one day. 

Close of escrow was shoved back time after time, for one thing or another. Loan issues, inability to get signatures because of language barriers, agreed-upon repairs delayed because of contractor issues. Said contractor added all the necessary outlet covers…except one… so an extra trip by the bank’s appraiser was required. Ultimately, we moved in, prior to close of escrow , after we convinced the loan officer with yelling, crying, and threatening to move all my business away from the bank, that we were going to be homeless if we didn’t move… we finally did. 

I regretted it for maybe the first six months.

More to come. 

Monday, October 25, 2010


Sometimes we come across people who surprise us; who, like an iceberg, have put up an icy facade, yet with more hiding beneath the surface that we initially expect. The sexy blond 20-something who also sings opera, perhaps, or the bodybuilder with a fondness for fondue and kittens instead of beer and bulldogs. I can think of at least one person specifically who is like this, who looks very much like she "should" behave one way, but who instead manages to behave both the way she appears as well as in a much deeper, "meaningful" way (as far as society would define it, anyway).

Other times we encounter people who are not so deep; they are not "icebergs," where only a fraction of who they are shows through at the surface. They turn out to be the blue-cold people their surfaces portray, more like icicles hanging from a frozen gutter - simultaneously fragile and dangerous.

I encountered one of these people today, one of those icicles, and it made me sad. We had been friends, and had some sort of falling out. I've written about this before, and I apologize; I don't have many friends, so losing one causes perhaps more anxiety than it would for others. Anyway, another acquaintance (of mine, who doesn't know this person) asked me, "Does she hate you?" He meant it jokingly, but it startled me. I had to tell him I have no idea; I have no idea why we aren't friends, or what her feelings are towards me, or what happened to sever the communication.

I reached out to this person today, to offer congratulations, a wish of good luck, and a tidbit of advice about an upcoming event... and was surprised...

Surprised because all I got was the icicle - the pointy end, at that. Words like "professionalism" and "sincerely," "appreciate" and "honestly," which make me think the person is not interested in being professional, acting with sincerity, expressing appreciation, or being honest.

I worry, now, about the outcome of the aforementioned upcoming event, as it could put me in closer contact with the iciclegirl... and I seem to have lost my mittens.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Down day

Having the down sort of day where I wonder why I bother. Why bother trying to have friends, when, in my experience, as soon as you get close, as soon as you trust, they decide "oh, sorry, we can't be friends anymore," or something happens and you drift apart. With Facebook and other websites doing such a "good" job of connecting people, it's not like you can sever ties as easily as you once could... Instead of the feuding parties accidentally getting invited to the same party, you get them commenting on the same status, or photo, or whatever. "Oh, wait, maybe I should take down all these photos and erase that person from my online life completely."

As if I can do that. Yes, you were my best friend for more than 10 years; let me pretend that connection never existed. Or you, we were hardly friends for what, a year, before you got rid of me, or your boyfriend did, or whatever; I wear other-than-white socks now, because you made me notice, and think they were cute, and that maybe I could/should wear them, too.

Maybe I should do a pre-emptive strike, and cut all my strings first. Ditch Facebook, delete the blog, stop doing anything remotely friendly.

Some days the risks of friends outweigh the rewards.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


I'm never sure how to help people who are looking for advice, particularly because I can't always tell if people want help or simply want to talk about their lives and know if someone's listening. The last person I seriously tried to advise about anything isn't speaking to me anymore; whether directly because of my advice or not, I'm not sure, but it can't be good.

The weather's getting increasingly fall-like here, finally. Still hit 85 today, but 85 is better than 95, so I'll take what I can get.

I'm looking forward to Jeff having a birthday party (his b-day's a month from today) and to Thanksgiving. I've really been missing my husband's family lately.

An old man was across the street (visiting our blind across-the-street neighbor, I assume). He didn't seem to believe me when I told him that I own the house now. The blind (well, he's "legally blind," so I guess he can see a little) man who lives in the house thought that some Hispanic family, including a woman who works "at that big drugstore out there... [he pointed north]" lived here. I'm fairly sure no one who's ever at our house fits that description. Just an interesting encounter. I found it amusing that the man didn't believe me when I told him I own the place. Believe me, there are days I want to give it back to the Rodriguez family, trust the day I dropped $90 on baseboards and trim. That's no fun at all.

But it's MY crackhouse. And that's something.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Calm yourself

Much relief came today upon finding out that Jeff won't need any kind of oral surgery after all. His home-remedy of taking a scalpel to his own jaw seems to have cleared up the problem he was having, so now he's back on track to get as many cavities filled as our insurance will pay for this year.

I was supposed to take a test tomorrow for a position as a public safety dispatcher for the local police department. As much as I'd love a new job (and the slight pay raise that goes with this position), I've decided to forgo this particular opportunity. Given my history with anxiety and general panic-y-ness, I didn't think a stress-filled position like this one would be a particularly good environment.

On a side note... sometimes family creates much more stress than it's worth. I'm so fortunate to have great in-laws like my mother-in-law, Cindy; my sister-in-law, Janet; and both of Jeff's grandparents (alright, alright, and his dad, too. LOL). That's all I'll say on that topic for the time being.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


I'm an epic failure at home improvement.

Though I suppose, if nothing else, I'm good at swiping my credit card at various home improvement stores (Home Depot today, though usually Lowe's) so that Jeff can continue working on all of our projects.

I'm a much better supervisor. He's currently putting primer on the walls of my office. I can't wait until it's done. I look forward to having a COMFORTABLE place to go to play WoW or read or do whatever.

Other than that, a mostly-lazy weekend. Yesterday I planted flower bulbs. I hate that I did all that work, and there's nothing to show for it but some empty plastic wrappers - but as they say, good things come to those who wait, right? I look forward to having a circle of daffodils surrounding our baby Japanese maple, and for the Monet's tulip collection (pretty shades of white, purple and pink!) blooming under the neighbor's stupid grapefruit tree.

There was family drama this morning. Things I thought had kind of gone away. Sigh.

Guess I'm pretty disjointed today. A little blue. Looking forward to seeing progress, though.

Friday, October 8, 2010


Tonight I picked Dianna up from work, we grabbed some pizza, and came back to my house where she and I entertained the kittens while Lynn started working (so graciously, oh my gosh, seriously, I can't thank her enough) on the curtains for my office! I'm so excited - there will be enough left over for matching pillows. I wish I had a sewing machine. Maybe someday, as it isn't in the money-cards right now.

Because we had company over, my cats are completely cracked-out hyper. Running all around, nibbling, clawing, who knows. Lunatics. Good news, though - I spent three and a half hours around them and hardly got kitty-sick at all. I've got a wee bit of a sniffly nose, and my right eye itched (it's always the right one!) for a little while, but other than that I've been really good. That's such a great sign!

Work was not so great today. Yesterday I did a whole heap of work to help another employee - not really to help her out, but mostly to help her out the door, ifyouknowwhatImean. She had a heap of filing to do, and I got it all in order for her, so all she had to do was go take it to the filing cabinets, and get 'er done. Does she do that? No. I don't know why I actually expected her to suddenly turn into a competent employee. Instead, she filed maybe 1/5 of the paperwork, then spent the remaining FOUR HOURS of her day making new folders, which shouldn't have taken her more than half an hour, tops.

I guess sometimes I just need to set the bar lower.

Did I mention that I have a job interview in a few weeks? Sigh.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Apparently I've been so dehydrated lately that my scalp has just itched non-stop. Pretty gross. A good metaphor though.

Got some good news on the job front - not that I "need" a new job, as I'm well paid at the one I've got, but after more than six years, it's time to move on. Anyway, a few months ago I applied for two positions with the city. Last week I took the test for a job as "Police Records Clerk" with the local police department. I needed a 70 to pass the exam; I scored a 93.6! Hooray! The top 20 scorers out of probably 80 or 100 test-takers get an interview, then they select the top candidates for a background check. Keep your fingers crossed for me! Next week I test for the "public safety dispatcher" position they're hiring for. I'm not as hopeful for that position - not because I don't think I'd do well on the tests or be unable to otherwise qualify, but I have a feeling it would aggravate my anxiety.

What else is going on? Hm. Girls' night in with Dianna on Friday! Hooray! That'll be fun. Any movie suggestions, readers? I haven't seen most movies ever - I lack the attention span. I much prefer TV shows, my favorites being House, Bones... mostly those two, lol. I watched The Office for a long time, but now that Jim and Pam are together, I seem to have lost interest. My favorite movie is probably Garden State - I love the soundtrack, and think Zack Braff is absolutely adorable. It might be time to rewatch that one soon, it's been a while.

(yay for being in a pretty good mood, huh!?)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I've lost track of what meme day it is.

I must be really bad at this, if I can't count. Hah. I'm either supposed to put in a photo of the last thing I bought (groceries, not exciting at all) or of my favorite place to eat, which I don't have a photo of. Sorry.

I love my kittens. Just putting that in there. I was worried that I wouldn't, or that they wouldn't love me, but Molly's pretty much a whore who will sit on everyone (except maybe Alex), and Wrench won't really sit on anyone (except maybe Alex).

I'm looking forward to Thanksgiving, and seeing Memaw and Bapaw (Jeff's grandparents) and then having orphan Thanksgiving with the leftovers. I'm reading the book Urban Tribes: Are Friends the New Family?. I've really enjoyed it thus far, as I feel like it's legitimized the way I live (or at least am trying to be)- far from my family, but with a handful of close friends. Having friends has always been a struggle, but I've got some great ones now (whether close by like Dianna or far like Renee!), and am slowly getting used to the fact that they aren't going to just ditch me.

It's time to hang out with the kittens, I think.


Monday, October 4, 2010


I got my husband to admit that the bone chip that was plaguing his gums did not just fall out on its own.

He used the scalpel from his dissection kit to score the bone chip, then tweezers to pull it off. He said it hurt immensely, and then nothing.

Sigh. I love him, but he makes me so angry! (Insert Desi-Arnaz-type "LUCY!" here!).

Monday opened with a trip to the DMV - yuck! An extra $31 for my registration because they didn't cash the check soon enough - I swear (no, really!) that it was post-marked in time. Next year, check goes straight to the DMV.

The meme I'm supposed to be doing asks for a song that fits my mood lately. I haven't been able to get Miranda Lambert's "The House that Built Me" outta my head for ages now. Since I'm in the process of remodeling a house with my husband, and haven't always had the best relationship with my folks... yeah. Here's a link to it.

Have a great Monday. :)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Copycat, sure, why not

1. What is the best dish you can make?
Do toast, hot pockets, bagel bites, or fish sticks count? No? Well, I made a nice sloppy joe concoction the other day. I really don't cook.

2. How often do you change your sheets?
Honestly, since we moved, I haven't gotten around to putting sheets on the futon. (This is a terrible excuse, as we moved... last December).

3. What is the longest car trip you have ever taken?
From Chico, CA, to Couer d'Alene, in northern Idaho, and then back a week later. I don't remember how long it was. It felt like days. All I really remember is Oregon being really ugly, and having strange dreams after falling asleep to Marilyn Manson.

4. What is your favorite fruit?
Currently, raspberries.

5. Would you rather have breakfast for dinner or dinner for breakfast?
Breakfast for dinner. We do that regularly. I love me some waffles. :)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Day 6: Pet?

My husband and I got married here in Chico, CA; since I'm from Pennsylvania, this meant that not all of my family could come out for the wedding. We decided to honeymoon on the east coast so that everyone could meet him.

Because we love going to zoos and aquariums and stuff, we went to both the Philadelphia Zoo and the National Zoo in Washington, DC. The National Zoo still had a bunch of pandas from China. While we were at the exhibit, we ran into a British family. The daughter kept saying, in an adorable little-British-girl voice, "Mummy, I want a panda!"

Thus the panda is my choice for "Animal I'd like to keep as a pet." Because that girl was adorable, and we still use her voice around the house occasionally.

Other, more relevant news: Jeff may not have to have oral surgery? The bit of bone that was sticking out above his gums is no longer sticking out above them, mostly because it's no longer in his mouth at all. While he claims innocence, I imagine that he was wrenching around in there with pliers or a chisel or something and got it out. Long story short, he says he feels much like the lion after the mouse removes the thorn from its paw: tiny sliver removed = immense relief. Further, his gums now close over bit of jaw bone that was sticking out. He's going to finish his course of antibiotics and then head back to the oral surgeon to (hopefully, fingers crossed) get out of having to have surgery at all.