Posts from the ‘The homefront’ Category

Hello Thirty-One

My birthday was on Sunday, just a couple of days ago. I turned 31, which doesn’t seem like a particularly remarkable age. I already did the big three-oh last year, so now I’m just glad that I’ll be in the low end of a decade for a few more years before ruing the onset of the forties. It is a prime number, which is kind of interesting, but that’s pretty much it.

I really love birthdays; it always feels like such a special day to me, one that only happens once a year and must be savored due to its infrequency. This year was a little bit different, though. With so much going on and being so busy, it was a little hard to remember it was coming up and to ramp up the excitement for it. By popular demand, I did decide to have my signature birthday party again this year. While it was a bit of work to pull a party together in the midst of packing and moving, it did finally draw attention to the fact my birthday was coming up and helped me finally get into the spirit.

The “Slash Bash,” a devastatingly clever name born out of inadvertent punctuation, is a birthday party/fall festival/masquerade ball that I’ve thrown every year or so for the last ten years. In fact, I believe 2012 marked the tenth anniversary of the first Slash Bash I had back in college. The attendees have changed throughout the years, but it’s always been a fun time to celebrate with my friends. This year it was also a bit of a going-away party, too. I wanted to thank my friends for the years of friendship and wish them well as we move onto a new chapter in our lives.

While there might not be that much that’s notable about turning 31 in general, there is indeed one notable thing about this year. It was ten years ago, around the time of the first Slash Bash, that DH and I got together. While we’d known each other for a couple of years through our campus ministry, it wasn’t until the end of our Sophomore year that we started talking more. We both stayed in town for the summer doing various things before the semester started, and we got to know each other a bit better during a summer Bible study. Then when Junior year started, we began spending a lot more time together.

I remember him helping me with decorations and such for the Slash Bash at the end of October before my birthday. We were hanging out a lot; it seemed ridiculously obvious that we liked each other. But we weren’t going out on dates or anything, just hanging out a lot, so that made it less definitive to determine if our relationship had changed into something else. I suppose we were both a little shy to talk about it, but finally when he kissed me for the first time, it seemed pretty evident where things were going. :p  That was probably the best birthday present ever.

Except the pair of flaming Vans I got that year. Those were ridiculously awesome, too.

Happy “Anniversary,” BT3. May God allow us many, many more.

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And the winner is…

So which house did we choose?

  • House Number One, with fabulous kitchen but on a busy street?
  • House Number Two, with just the right amount of room but more or less pretty average? or
  • House Number Three, with a little less space but fantastic bathrooms?

We went with House Number Two!

House Number One just wasn’t quite awesome enough to counteract the busy street, so we ruled it out pretty fast. We did go back and forth between Houses Two and Three for quite a while. If we’d only seen one or the other we would never have had a problem going with either one, but they each had some great qualities, making the decision pretty difficult to discern. We tried asking our Magic 8 Ball and flipping a coin, but in the end we decided that it wouldn’t hurt to have a little extra space and went with House Number Two.

I really enjoy houses and real estate, which probably comes from my parents who would build houses to sell or for us to live in when I was growing up. I never lived in a house my parents didn’t build until I went to college. I also got used to moving to a new house, albeit only a few miles away, every few years. I sort of like moving to a new place and fixing up a new home, though the process of moving from our first home has proved to be significantly more monumental than hopping apartments. But at least we have a nice place to land when we get into town in a few weeks, and hopefully we’ll be able to make it a home while we get used to living in a new place.

House hunters, rental edition

With our house under contract and our move imminent, DH and I decided to make a whirlwind trip out east to find a place to live once we arrive. Inspired by my friend’s search for a home in her new location, I decided to share our ups and downs of finding a rental in a brand new location with only a couple of days to look.

We had a few criteria for a new place–some non-negotiables and a few desirables with which we could be flexible. First, since our pup was coming with us, we needed a place that didn’t mind a well-behaved, five-year-old, adorable dachshund with a lot of personality. Since he has a serious case of stranger-danger, we opted to search for a single family home with a fenced yard where he could chase squirrels and sniff in privacy to his heart’s content.

We don’t have a huge home now, but we didn’t want anything smaller than our current digs, particularly since DH works at home and needs an office space. A garage or carport would be nice so I didn’t have to scrape frost off my car on cold mornings, but we could live without it. Since my new job is, unfortunately, a mile away from the metro, I will have to drive to get there; therefore, we wanted a place where my drive time wouldn’t be miserable, maybe 30-45 minutes in traffic, while staying on budget. We could choose to afford something more expensive, but we’d rather save a little money if we decide to buy in the future.

Given these criteria, we felt pretty flexible to just see what the DC area had to offer. I decided that, since I was starting with little or no working knowledge of the area, a scatter-shot approach would be best–see a variety of places and locations upfront, then narrow the search from there. Starting a few weeks before, I began looking at available properties online through places like Zillow, Craigslist, and individual property management sites. I then made appointments to meet with people to see houses in a number of neighborhoods so we could get a feel for each area and what the commute would be like to my new job.

DH and I for some reason decided that a red-eye from Colorado to the east coast on Friday night/Saturday morning was a brilliant idea. Actually, it didn’t turn out too bad, though we were quite exhausted when we landed, got our rental car, and drove straight into DC for our very first appointment.

Our first house was an “updated Craftsman” with some “great updated features,” which meant it had been renovated in a couple of places (one wall of the kitchen and the master bathroom) and completely ignored everywhere else. Among other things, the exterior door in the basement was hanging on two of three hinges, the stairs were as steep as a ladder, and it seemed that the previous tenants had forgotten to pack half of their stuff when they moved. The two so-so upgrades weren’t even remotely capable of salvaging that train wreck. Fortunately we were able to laugh as we hopped in the car and moved on to our next appointment.

We stopped at an Open House that had been advertised on Craigslist. Evidently Open House was literally that…whoever was renting it seriously just left the door unlocked for people to wander inside completely alone. It was incredibly creepy, like we were trespassing. The outside was very carefully maintained, and the main living areas were actually quite nice, though the whole house was dated and smelled like old people. The basement was a dark, utilitarian cavernous space with a “rec room” that was a dark, cold, inhospitable cave with tile floors and wood paneling. While the location was fantastic, the overall impression of this house was less favorable.

Day two began with a gigantic, 4000 square foot house that was on a huge, beautiful wooded lot but was just too big and had been cheaply updated. We moved on to what we thought would be our hottest lead of the entire trip–a nicely updated home in a great neighborhood at a great price. The owner wanted a short-term rental until the spring when he’d put the home on the market to sell. We thought that would be great for us, since we also might be interested in buying before too long. Plus, the numerous pictures he sent of the home were fabulous. However, we were a little surprised to find that it had just been rented for one month by a couple with two small children. They had literally moved to town two days before and were tasked by the owner with showing us the house. There was another awkward situation. The house was really great, as indicated by the pictures, but the situation with these tenants, the timing with our move, and the awkwardness in general made it a big if. Plus the location didn’t seem quite as convenient to work. While it had a lot going for it, we decided it was like a hot, crazy chick who looked good but had too much drama. We sadly let go and moved on.

The rest of our three day trip proceeded in a similar manner; each day we’d have showings, scout for rental signs as we went along, make calls, then, armed with new information about neighborhoods and locations, head back to the hotel each night and scour the internet for properties that fit our narrowing scope. On day two we saw four places, and on day three we squeezed three more house showings in at the last minute, thanks to some really on-the-ball and motivated agents. With all the homes we saw, good and bad, we finally narrowed it down to our shortlist of three homes.

Home number one was a spacious brick colonial with a brand-new kitchen with really nice, cherry cabinets and stainless steel appliances. There was an ample yard with a fence all around, and it was in a really good location. The downside–it was on a pretty major street. That would make parking a moving truck difficult, and we just imagined constant traffic noise from inside. However, for the price we got a lot of house for our buck and were a few miles closer to work.

Home number two seemed, at first, pretty far out of town. However, we gradually realized that this area was actually more convenient to work, as it was on the same side of town as my job and didn’t involve getting on the Beltway at all. In moderate traffic it only took 33 minutes to drive to work (though rush hour would be anything but moderate), and there would be multiple alternative routes for getting there.

This was a very spacious house without feeling too huge. It was on nearly a 1/3 acre lot with lots of trees in a nice, quiet neighborhood. The yard was fenced, though kind of steep. While it wasn’t super fancy everywhere, the bathrooms were clean and more modern than some we’d seen, and the master bed had its own bath and walk-in closet. The kitchen was very updated and large with stainless steel appliances and lots of cabinet space.

Since we liked the neighborhood so much, we decided to call about a second house we saw for rent there. So, House Number Three was the second house in this area. It was a one-story ranch, smaller than house Number Two but still ample space for us. It had a slightly nicer yard, though it lacked fence across a small section, something we could deal with. The kitchen wasn’t fancy or huge, but it was nice and clean and functional with nice appliances and counters. The basement was finished with a really great utility and storage area. And this house had, by far, the absolute nicest bathrooms of any home we’d seen anywhere on our trip.

So, at the end of our trip as we drove to the airport, we wrestled with the decision of which house to pick. Should we go with:

  • House Number One, with fabulous kitchen but on a busy street?
  • House Number Two, with just the right amount of room but more or less pretty average? or
  • House Number Three, with a little less space but fantastic bathrooms?

On — er, I mean off — the market

I was going to write up a thoughtful post about what it’s like to have your house up for sale, but before I could, our house sold.

Yeah, crazy.

After we returned from Europe and I had accepted the job, it became clear that we were definitely going to be selling the house. We spent a fair amount of time sprucing up the house to get it ready to list, and my parents had also done quite a bit while they were house sitting to make our list a lot smaller. While our house is far from dumpy, every house experiences entropy and energy must be put into the system to keep it spiffy. Once those items were done, we were ready to find a realtor.

Our friends moved a few months ago and recommended their agent, so we called her up almost two weeks ago. She came out to meet us and take a look at our house; then she went to study comparable sales in our neighborhood and come up with a suggested list price. The next day she sent us her findings, and we were a little surprised at how optimistic her numbers were. We’d been expecting the worst given the downturn in the market, but it’s ticked up a little in our area, and there just aren’t that many homes for sale in our neighborhood, making for a classic supply and demand scenario. We decided to go ahead and list with her.

We spent that weekend filling out some annoying paperwork, and then a photographer came out early last week to take some nice photos for our online listing. Once all of that was put together, our house hit the market on MLS early Friday morning. By Friday afternoon, we’d already scheduled a couple of showings for the weekend, and before it was over five different people had come to look at it.

DH went up to the mountains on Saturday, probably his last opportunity to do so while we’re here, so it was just the dog and me as we prepared the house for the showings. I got everything as clean and tidy as possible, and it was really looking spiffy. The problem is that it’s impossible to actually live in a house that is that spiffy! Life just happens, and even if my house is clean and picked up, there is always something on the counter or clothes to be washed or artifacts of some activity we were doing that day. I really hoped it didn’t linger on the market, because keeping it that benign was going to be a lot of work. My friend had a perfect saying about selling a house: “It’s like wearing a bikini to the beach; you have to keep it all sucked in and pretend it’s that way all the time.”

Ten minutes before the first showing, Murphy and I hopped in the car, and it started pouring down rain. While our house is the same in the rain and sunshine, a dark and dreary day will unavoidably make an impression on a prospective buyer, anyway. But it was what it was. After the allotted hour, the dog and I came home for a few hours before the next showing, then went out again. This time the sun was out, and the house seemed be in rarefied form with the golden afternoon sun showing through our west-facing windows.

Murphy and I returned after that outing, finally in for the day. It was very interesting that the dog ran into the house barking like crazy; somehow he just knew people had been in there and possibly expected them to still be there. He very much knew something strange was afoot. Later, DH called on his way home; our agent called to ask about something and mentioned that one of the families that saw the house really, really liked it. That was optimistic, we thought. At least somebody liked it.

The next morning, we had showings scheduled for 9:00 and 12:30. Since we were supposed to be at church during those times, we decided the dog was going to have to come with us and hang out in the car while we were in the service. Fortunately, it was a cool morning, so he was quite comfortable hanging out there for a few hours. After church, we went out to lunch with friends, as our house was being shown again.

While we were eating, our agent called, telling us we had gotten an offer. Not just that, but the people who had “really really liked it” yesterday were planning on making an offer, too. We were a little startled…it had only been on the market for two days, and we already had people wanting it, nay, almost fighting for it.

There was drama all afternoon; the first people gave us only a few hours to respond and chewed out our agent over the phone when we didn’t accept their first low-ball offer. They responded quickly with a full-priced offer, though, but only gave us three hours to respond (for the record, that’s ridiculously short). The second people were trying to get their offer in before that deadline, promising it was going to be a good one. We hated to turn down a full-priced offer without an actual better offer in hand, but for some reason we were rooting for the other guys (and not because they were going to give us more money, either–probably because their agent didn’t chew ours out over the phone :p). They made it in time, and we were able to accept their offer for MORE than asking price.

We were absolutely astonished. God definitely provided in the speed of getting it sold as well as giving us a little extra, too. We are so thankful to have that hurdle crossed, though it’s definitely not over until it closes. We’ll pray that nothing unexpected comes up in the inspection and closing process. And besides all that, I don’t have to keep it ridiculously pristine for showings anymore!!! Let the packing and ramshackle stacking of boxes begin. :p

Around the block

Sunday, DH and I checked off one of the most significant items on our 101-in-1001 list.

About 4 years ago, DH purchased a 1956 Chevy pickup truck to restore. When we bought it, it was supposed to run, albeit not that elegantly. After the seller rolled it off the trailer in front of our house, DH and I got into it to make a quick trip around the block, but we made it about three feet before the drive shaft broke from the rear differential and hit the ground. It took some clever maneuvering and some black magic with a coat hanger to get the truck into the garage where she sat for the last four years awaiting some TLC.

DH has diligently worked to repair all the things he wasn’t expecting to repair. However, due to the cramped quarters of our suburban garage, these unexpected tasks, and the busyness of life in general, progress was a little slow. But with a large amount of progress done and just a little more left, a truck-related 101-in-1001 item seemed obvious. Therefore, given that current state of repair, we decided our goal would be to drive the truck around the block.

Not only did the list spur us on, but faced with the possibility, yet not certainty, of moving if I got a job elsewhere, we decided that having the truck, as charming as the old rust-bucket is, filling up half the garage might not be a selling point for most buyers. Ideally, we could park it at his parents’ house for a little while until we better knew what our situation would be. Since we were planning a trip to visit our families around the Labor Day weekend anyways, we decided it was time to buckle down and get her running so she’d be a little more mobile to get on and off a trailer.

DH did a wonderful job finishing up the last bits of work on the drivetrain in the last couple of weeks. The transmission was acting up a bit, so we weren’t willing to risk backing her down the driveway and into somebody’s house in our neighborhood. But with the transmission in neutral and a wench on the trailer, we got her all settled in for her trip. Our trip “around the block” would have to wait a bit longer.

We got an early start, and though she was a heavy load, our trusty new pickup did very well hauling her over 1000 miles without adding a lot of time to the trip. We got lots of thumbs up along the way, too. Just about everybody appreciates a good looking piece of machinery, even if she’s a little rough around the edges.

Finally, when we reached our destination it was time to put her to the test. DH and his dad rolled her off the trailer into the field. DH got her in gear (this was not trivial), and we all piled in (including the dog in the back) and took a short ride around the farm. I think the word DH used to describe the ride was “Cadillac,” however there might have been a bit of sarcasm there. But as rusty and bumpy as it was, it was satisfying to experience the fruits of our labor.

Restoration progress may be on a temporary hiatus, but with a large hurdle crossed, we look forward to the next phase of work. While there’s still a lot of engine and drivetrain work, hopefully it will include some more fun and visible progress. DH has spent a lot of time getting greasy underneath the truck, so maybe we can start working some things shiny up top.

Warning…objects in mirror are rustier than they appear!

So cross another big item off our list. Believe it or not, this still isn’t even the biggest item to be accomplished in the near future! Better stay tuned for this exciting event!

Four weddings and two funerals….and a baby shower

Well hello there. I guess it’s been a few days since my last post. Evidently being unemployed keeps me incredibly busy. :p

It’s been just over two weeks since I started my time off. Since then I have, among other things, done some projects around the house, taken the dog on some walks, planned a tentative vacation itinerary, gone out of town for a job interview, prepared a talk for said interview, made travel arrangements for another out-of-town interview, done some running/exercising, made a trip into the city to donate some stuff to a school for a friend, and made two apple pies. Among other things. I have had absolutely no trouble filling my days with activities. But some of the biggest events that I have been involved with these last few weeks were weddings, funerals, and a baby shower.

Earlier in my twenties, I entered a time of life that I called the “Wedding Bell Curve.” At first I knew a few people getting married early in college; this quickly escalated into a number of years of peak wedding activity, including my own, but has tapered off as I’ve entered my thirties. Now I have entered a new time of life that is the “Baby Bell Curve.” This is what one might call an occupational hazard of the first activity. Needless to say, this logically follows the previous statistical curve, and I am currently in the baby peak and in the far tail of weddings.

However, this summer there has been a statistically significant perturbation of the wedding curve. There have been four weddings this summer in our church, and I’ve been to three of them, plus three wedding showers. Two of these weddings have been since I have finished my job, and I’ve been a little bit involved in both of them. I was asked to play violin during one service, and DH did the AV for the second one this last weekend, which lead to me helping with some sound and video setup before the service. While this was minimal involvement, getting ready for a wedding and partying afterward was still tiring work!

However, this was quite a juxtaposition to the other two events that I have helped with recently. Early last week, we had a funeral at church for my friend’s mom, who was still quite young but passed away due to some health problems. Her memorial service was at our church, and I was able to actually come help with food for the reception afterwards, something I was never able to do previously. Then another gentleman, one of the founding members of our church, passed away Sunday. He would have been 92 next month, and he certainly left an amazing legacy of service to society and to the Lord. I just came home from his service a few minutes ago. After these experiences, I really appreciate the hard work of the men and women who normally do this; it’s quite a task to serve that many people after a funeral, but it’s incredibly appreciated by the friends and families. While I’m glad I got to help alleviate some of that burden this month, I’m quite tired now! It’s also emotionally taxing, even if you aren’t that close to the person, maybe a couple of degrees removed. I remember that you can’t take life for granted and I appreciate the time I do have with people now. I also empathize with the families going through this time of grief.

However, I can’t sit on my laurels and blog the rest of the day. While weddings have abounded this summer and life on this earth has run its natural course for a couple of individuals recently, new life still begins every day. So tonight we’re getting together again to celebrate a new baby due in a couple of months for a girl in our church. Finally, another baby shower! I am helping with the set-up, so I’ll need to leave again before too long. But it’s been such an interesting summer–particularly an interesting two weeks–celebrating life and death and new life together that I knew I wanted to formally formulate a few thoughts about them and share them here.

I’m certain God has let me experience all these things at this particular time in my life for some reason or reasons, and hopefully I’ll be able to appreciate what He’s taught me now or later or both. I am, after all, at a critical point in my life story as well. Maybe He’s giving me some precious perspective about life in general and how the choices I make now will influence the course of my days from now on. It’s not just about what job I’m doing or where I am living but how I live in my life situation, what legacy I might leave behind when my days are done. My time in school has prepared me to begin a “real” career now; likewise, I may one day soon enter my own “baby bell curve” and start a family. Plus, the time I have invested in my relationship with God and learning about serving Him in this previous era of my life will equip me to go forward to advance His kingdom in ways only He could conceive. Whatever the next step, it will be a big change, but hopefully one I am prepared to take…one step at a time.

August Challenge–Use up your pantry stash, revisited

It’s the beginning of a new month as well as a new era in my life. There will be many challenges going forward, but to start things off I’ll begin with a new Monthly Challenge.

Now that I’ve got some time on my hands, I’ve decided it’s time to address the burgeoning state of my pantry and freezer. My first pantry stash monthly challenge about a year ago was a great success, but I have been a bit busy since then and entropy has a way of taking over, especially when you’re not looking. This is a great time for this challenge for a few reasons. First, as I said, I have plenty of time now to focus my attentions on the problem and to be creative in my meal planning (I have to spend more time on Pinterest? Well, if you insist…). Second, I am, after all, not working at the moment, and while we are financially prepared for a short-term reduced income, saving money is always a great thing to do. Plus, if I do happen to take a job out of town and have to move, I’ve at least reduced the amount of food sitting around so we won’t have to toss it or awkwardly try to pack it.

I spent an hour or so yesterday afternoon going through the pantry and freezer and writing down what I had and making note of things I would like to use up. I’ve already got some ideas, and I’m going to get started by making a stash-busting dinner tonight and probably tomorrow, too. At least I’m off to a great start!