Monday, October 19, 2015

Pride and Prejudice of Buying a Home

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a family in possession of a good amount of stuff must be in want of a house.

Since this is a universal truth, my family has decided to start house-hunting. We're lucky because we aren't in a hurry and don't have to make any rash decisions yet. But as we've toured home after home (after home after home), I've come to the conclusion that dating and house hunting are pretty much the same thing.

So in the spirit of Jane Austen's love stories, here's an inside look at the home-buying process:

1. "[The home] is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me." Especially when there are stains on the wall like those seen during the last CSI episode. Or toxic mold crawling out of the bathroom. Or the body-sized hole cut out of the concrete in the unfinished basement. Not tempting. And the ones that are handsome enough to tempt us are snatched up before we could say "snatch it up!"

2. “An unhappy alternative is before you.... From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you again if you do not [buy a home in the tree streets], and I will never see you again if you do.”  There are too many choices to consider, and everyone has a surprisingly strong opinion about them. Never buy near the lake. Never buy near a mountain. Never buy in a desert. Never buy next to the ocean. Never buy an old house. Never buy a new house. Never buy if you'll have a long commute. Never buy if you'll have a short commute. Never buy if you want to be happy. Ultimately, we'll buy when and where it feels right. Until then, we get to be conflicted. It's fun.

3. “Do anything rather than [buy a house] without affection.” You see a cute house and think, "This could be the one (insert several heart emoji's here)!" Then that wonderful, beautiful house goes and gets a contract with another buyer. A buyer that isn't you. A buyer with more money and a nicer car. The attractive homes in the areas where we really want to live are sold before the sellers have a chance to dust off their hands after hammering the signs into their lawns. Did the buyers even try to meet the house in person? It's like marrying someone you saw in a picture online. We've walked through enough homes that were gorgeously photogenic but left us all sweaty with nightmares  in real life, so it's risky business.

4. “Happiness in [home buying] is entirely a matter of chance." There is so much pressure when you go on a date with a house. You only get a few minutes -- one single good or bad first impression -- to decide if you could get along forever. Moving too fast could make you regret your decision down the line, but playing hard-to-get could leave you in the cold without a home.

5."It is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the [house] with whom you are to pass your life.” This is a conundrum. You need to know the house will pass a safety inspection and won't crumble in an earthquake or start on fire while you sleep. But if you see every little flaw in every single house, you'll never buy one. There's no such thing as a perfect house. And one important difference in home-buying vs. dating is that you can always buy a fixer-upper, rip it apart, then turn it into the almost-perfect house for you. You can't do that with a date. Or, at least you really, really shouldn't.

6. “The most incomprehensible thing in the world to a [buyer], is a [seller] who rejects his offer of [purchasing the home]!” We haven't made any offers yet, but I believe Jane Austen was on to something. Your house has been sitting vacant for a year, it needs major renovations, and your asking price is too high. Take a lower offer and be done with it. It helps us all in the long run. Then I can afford to renovate those CSI walls, bring in the remediation cavalry to get rid of mold, and fill in the body-sized hole in the concrete, turning an eyesore into a contributing member of society again. And you don't have to keep paying property taxes on your over-priced home.

As Jane Austen said (more or less), “[home-buying] is indeed a maneuvering business.” It's a dating game with lots of pressure and big decisions involved. Sometimes an ugly house might be a diamond in the rough, and the hot house everyone wants is actually hiding the pits of despair behind those brightly painted walls.

When the time is right, and the place is right, and the house is right, it will all work out. We'll eventually find the one. If not, living at Mom's isn't the end of the world. Hey, multi-generational homes are coming back in style anyway, so maybe we're on to something here...

Thursday, April 17, 2014

How to not plan a dream vacation

This is not a real contest. Any resemblance to a real contest is purely coincidental.
If I could pick any vacation in the world, I’m not sure where I’d go. But if I had to plan one, and it was a life-or-death decision I had to make right this minute, this would be my dream vacation process of elimination:

  1. Must be close to home. As you know from {this} post, I have a slight flying problem. That kind of puts a kink into planning a fantasy jaunt to a new place.
  1. I already live near the beach, so squeezing myself into a swimsuit just to get sunburned on the beach in Hawaii isn't as exotic to me as it would be to someone in, say, land-locked Lebanon, Kansas. Plus, I’d have to fly there.
  1. I've lived in snowy mountains most of my life, so finagling my frozen feet into winter galoshes isn't as glamorous to me as it is to people who've never shoveled four feet of snow off a long, icy driveway. Like all 24 of those people living in Furnace Creek, California.
  1. I've even been out of the country a few times, which was great except you have to fly there (see the aforementioned quandary about flying).
  1. And camping? Let’s just say there’s nothing natural about spending the night out in Nature.

My husband’s idea of a dream vacation is wearing the same pair of nasty pants for a week while hauling all of his belongings on his back, shlumping his way through the five-million degree heat in the Grand Canyon. It doesn't even have to be the Grand Canyon. Anywhere that’s full of wild animals and poisonous plants and is also far away from doctors and civilization would work.

When we first got married, my husband wanted us to be a Backpacking Family (notice the capitol B.F. – that’s serious stuff.). He envisioned the two of us and our plucky young children looking exactly like the closing credits of The Sound of Music, enjoying mosquito bites and ticks and scary bears as we check out the world at the top of a cliff in the middle of Nature. Except we would most likely not be wearing lederhosen and dresses.

Because I don’t have a dream vacation of my own, that might just be what happens to us. I’ll be hauling cans of Spam up a steep cliff while my nasty pants are hiking by themselves in front of me. Knowing my pants, they would probably beat me to the top and I’d be left alone in the wilderness. Pantsless with my cans of Spam. In all that unnatural Nature.

But, hey, at least I wouldn't have to fly there (see the aforementioned quandary about flying). It might be a dream vacation after all.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

I'm fluent in Southern

When I first moved to The Swamp, where alligators roam free and people keep giant spiders as unwanted -- yet maintenance-free -- pets, I didn't speak the language. They don't teach southern in public schools out in the wild west. You have to go to ritzy private schools for that.

So I had to learn the hard way. Some people send their kids to Immersion School, when you have to hear and speak a language all the time to learn it fluently. But my School of Hard Knocks Immersion School wasn't easy, and I was at the bottom of the class.

When I went to get my driver's license the first week we were in town, the conversation with the guy behind the counter went something like this:

Him: Way tame hen hit. Eye no summon from ewe taw. They Oz mans.
Me: Pardon me?
Him (repeating whatever he just said).
Me (feeling like an idiot): Could you repeat that?
My husband: He said he knows someone from one from Utah. The Osmonds.
Me (blushing like crazy for needing a translator): Oh. Yeah. The Osmonds are great.
Him: What? Did youth ink eye have a pretty schack scent?
Him (under his breath so I couldn't hear): Sheeze amen talk ace.

That's how my first few months as a southern belle went. I hoped people just assumed I was going deaf. In the fashion world, some people wear fake glasses as an accessory. I considered buying sparkly fake hearing-aids in a lovely puce color, so everyone would just nod and say, "Sheikh ant ear russ."

But, Immersion School really works. After a while, I didn't have to ask people to repeat themselves more six-hundred times. I never got the accent down, except for an occasional y'all. But at least I can finally understand when the grocery bagger asks, "Plat stick or pay per?"

Seriously. This is eight roost oar he. And I worked so hard learning southern that I can now have ace hen solve bride.
You would, too, I bet. If ewe wormy. :)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

a tasty cheesy fries recipe with a side of lazy

Tonight we had cheesy fries for dinner. With grocery store sushi on the side. And also some cubed watermelon.

Here's the recipe, it's pretty simple:

1. Open a bag of frozen french fries. Seasoned fries would make this meal even more gourmet.

2. Put tinfoil on a cookie sheet. This is so you don't have to do the dishes later. This should probably be step one, but I think it will still work as step two.

3. Spread frozen french fries all over tinfoil.

4. Pre-heat oven to whatever the fry bag says. This should probably be step one, too. But it will still work as step four. You'll just have to wait longer for dinner.

5. Stick them in the oven and wait for about 18 minutes, or until fries look done enough to eat.

6. Sprinkle cheese all over the fries. It probably doesn't matter what kind you use. Unless you really don't like Gorgonzola cheese. Then you probably shouldn't use it. Same with Muenster or Neufchatel because they just sound kooky.

7. Using a spatula, scoop some fries and melted cheese onto a paper plate This is so you don't have to do the dishes later.

8. Open a container of grocery store sushi. Place several on each plate.

9. Open a container of pre-cubed watermelon. This is so you don't have to cut an entire watermelon and then have to clean up that mess, too. Place several on each plate.

That's it! Now you have a meal that nobody in my family will complain about. Except my husband. So it was lucky he wasn't around for dinner tonight. Which was also the main reason my brain told me to try it.

The best part about this recipe is that you won't break a sweat doing it. Unless you are naturally sweaty. Then you might perspire. But that would just add a little bit of what we Southen' people call extra salt. And it's good for the soul.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Keeping it real -- the brows, at least

The other night my husband and I were watching Gator Boys. All those Downton Abbey fans are missing out. Guys catching and kissing gators are so much more fun to watch than a bunch of stuffy upper-crusters catching and kissing each other.

Anyway, a commercial came on, and the woman who was trying to sell me something had lovely eyebrows. Perfectly plucked and expertly colored arches. Just in case you didn't know, I kind of have a thing about eyebrows. Because mine are all mine. Original. Peer-pressure-lessly unplucked for the most part.

Sure, I'll pull out a few kooky ones on occasion. And though I'm blessed to not have a unibrow, I do yank a few out between my eyes now and then just to be certain.

I never thought much about my eyebrows until about 7th grade. I was walking down the deserted hallway in my middle school with a girl I didn't know too well. Don't ask me why we weren't in class or better yet, why we were together. It's classified information. But there we were, strolling along, when she says, "You know, you'd probably be the prettiest girl in school, if you plucked your eyebrows."

I laughed in an awkward I'm-not-sure-if-that-was-a-compliment-or-an-insult kind of way, and our conversation moved on. But I couldn't stop thinking about what she'd said. I would only be pretty if I plucked my brows. I wasn't pretty because I had eyebrows. I had a bushy, ugly eyebrow problem.

Don't go blaming my parents -- it wasn't their fault I had a bushy, ugly eyebrow problem. Sure, they are the ones who gave me the bushy, ugly eyebrow genes, but my mom had offered repeatedly to train me in the ancient art of self-torture. She was an eyebrow-fu master in her glory days. Except for that one time she accidentally plucked one eyebrow and not the other one before her yearbook pictures. Aside from that, she was a woman I could trust when it came to beauty tricks and tips.

But I didn't want to pluck. For whatever reason, I was attached to my eyebrows. They were part of me. It was like, I was that girl with the eyebrows.

There was this little rebellious side of me that said, "Hey, just because Seventeen Magazine says a girl should pull all of her eyebrows out, smile through the pain, and then draw them back on with a pencil, doesn't mean I have to do it, too." I didn't want to be everyone else. Even if doing so would make me the prettiest girl in the school.

Maybe it was Liz Taylor's fault. Or Audrey Hepburn's. Could be Brooke Shields. Or maybe it was the fact that boys still seemed to like me despite my upper-eye facial hair. I couldn't see what the problem with natural brows was.

So I said no. I still say no. Even though I'm certain that lots of woman today look at me and cringe as they think, "You'd be much prettier if you'd pluck your eyebrows."

When I saw this woman on the commercial -- the one with the perfectly plucked and expertly colored arches -- I said to nobody in particular, "She has really nice eyebrows." Because they were. And I can still admire them, even if I choose to let mine grow free-range.

"They're not real," my husband said.

I shrugged. "They're still pretty."

"But they aren't real," he said again.

"I know. But they are nice eyebrows."

"But they aren't real."

As the Gator Boys came back on, wrestling and kissing those alligators, I smiled. I don't have perfectly plucked and expertly colored arches. But man, I like keeping it real. It's much less painful.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

When you move to a new apartment

When you pack for a move to a new apartment, you’ll realize how much stuff you really have.

When you realize how much stuff you really have, you’ll want to get rid of everything except the beds.

When your husband hears that you want to get rid of everything except the beds, he’ll put a stop to that craziness because apparently a family needs stuff like clothes and dishes and things like that.

When your husband puts a stop to that craziness, you’ll start packing and discover a surplus of universes being formed in dust balls under the dressers.

When you discover the surplus of universes being formed, you’ll sneeze.

When you sneeze, your eyes will itch, and you’ll go searching for your snorkel mask, to keep the dust universes from tickling your nose.

When you search for the snorkel mask, you’ll remember you already packed it, and it’s at the bottom of a precarious pile of boxes.

When you remember that you already packed it, and it’s at the bottom of a precarious pile of boxes, you’ll search for a tissue to sneeze into.

When you search for the box of tissues, you’ll remember that you already packed it, and it’s at the bottom of a precarious pile of boxes.

So you’ll continue packing while giving yourself whiplash from all that sneezing, until dinner time. Then you’ll go into the kitchen to make some gourmet grub.

When you go into the kitchen to make some gourmet grub, you’ll remember that half of your food and most of your kitchen utensils have already been packed, and they’re at the bottom of a precarious pile of boxes. So you’ll order pizza.

When you’re done eating the pizza, and packing the boxes, and moving the boxes to your new apartment, you remember that you now get to deep-clean your old apartment.

When you deep-clean your old apartment, you’ll blubber and bewail and boohoo, too, because you know that the new apartment isn’t going to as clean as you're old apartment, but you can’t leave the old apartment messy because that would reflect on your own upbringing, and what kind of a person leaves an apartment dirty anyway? And also, you don't want the old apartment people to charge you extra for anything.

When you finish blubbering and scrubbing, you’ll move into your new apartment.

When you move into your new apartment, you’ll stare at all of those boxes that need to be unpacked and realize how much stuff you really have.

When you realize how much stuff you really have, you’ll want to get rid of everything except the beds.

And lucky for you, it’s now all conveniently packed up for Goodwill to come and get it.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The post in which I kick Aunt Flow to the curb...

My ten year old was begging me to take him swimming. I put him off. Made excuses. Hoped he’d forget about it.

He forgets to hang up his clothes. He forgets to make his bed in the morning. He forgets to take off his underpants when he wears a swimsuit. But he couldn't seem to forget the Olympics-worthy belly flop he’d been perfecting.

After hearing me make another excuse about why we weren’t going swimming, he said, “Mom, why can’t we go to the pool today?”

I wanted to put it delicately. I'd told him about That Time Of The Month a year or so before, but I still didn't want to scar him for life with Too Much Mom Info—he’ll have plenty of time to be traumatized by it later when he’s married. When his wife cries for no apparent reason. Or feels fat in everything. Or gets pimples even though she’s long past puberty.

Finally I said, “We can’t go swimming because my Aunt Flow is in town, with her long red hair.”

There. Crystal clear. He had to understand what that analogy meant. I waited to see his reaction to the unfortunate news.

“Really?” He frowned.

“Yeah,” I said, glad he understood. “And we’re going to be surfing the crimson tide for a few days, so I’m just not up to going swimming right now.”

He raised an eyebrow. “How long is she going to be in town?”

“All week.”

He wrinkled his nose. I’d traumatized him. Too Much Mom Info.

Then he sighed. “Is she going to stay with us, or is she going to get a hotel.”

Maybe my crystal clear analogy wasn't so crystal clear after all.

After traumatizing my son with the truth about Aunt Flow -- how she wasn't very nice, and she made me crabby and crampy and bloated, and that the crimson tide was far, far away from the University of Alabama -- I decided to put my foot down. To lay down the law. I'm done with Aunt Flow.

Next time she comes to town, she's going to have to get a hotel room. She's not welcome here anymore. I won’t even offer to pay for it. And she can surf the crimson tide by herself. Maybe she’ll drown and I won’t have to worry about her anymore.

One can always hope…