Sunday, December 20, 2009

Winter wonderland...

This Southern Girl isn't used to a lot of snow, but I have seen some. Nothing like what hit the area yesterday. It was lovely to watch. I knew it snowed, but I truly didn't know how much until I went out this morning to dig my car out. Holy cow. It was pretty though. I'm very impressed with the apartment management. They were at it early with a bulldozer to clean roads and parking areas. My snow shovel is in storage! I will remedy this, but in the meantime, a neighbor who was finishing up, loaned me hers. Then a good Samaritan came along with a bucket and a much bigger brush than mine and helped me out. We got it cleaned and then I moved it over a bit to make it easier in the am, though I'm hoping to catch a ride with a co-worker who lives here as well.

Then an elderly neighbor came out to clean his car. I returned the favor and helped him. He had a broom. He would have used the shovel, but he's older and very stoop shouldered and no way could I let him do it all by himself. Before it was done, two other ladies came to help as did too other guys. In the meantime, two other neighbors were helping a couple of other older residents. It was truly a tribute to the season and to people with everyone pitching in with what they had to help folks unbury their cars. Then the bulldozer guy came back and pushed all our piles out of the way. It's above freezing now, so it shouldn't be too bad tomorrow.

Today it's a sunny gorgeous day. Christmas cookie dough is chilling in the refrigerator; Christmas cards wait to be finished. All in all a good way to round out the weekend of record setting snowfall.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Moving forward...

It has been so very nice to not have house related bills to pay this month. In light of finally separating from Texas with the sale of the house, I'm moving forward with the adventure in Maryland. That has involved quite a few things.

The biggest decision was deciding to sign a new lease at my apartment. Yes, I decided not to move. I looked around and found several that were probably "better" than what I have, however, when all was said and done, the bedroom sizes weren't bigger and in one case the living area was smaller. Found several really lovely kitchens, but the trade-off wasn't really worth it. In the end, not one that I saw said "move here!" That coupled with the fact that the thought of moving just curled my toes led me to the conclusion that I should just stay. A decision which just seemed even more right when I was offered a very nice discount to renew the lease.

When making this decision, I decided if this was going to be home for awhile, then I'd make a few changes. So far, the biggest changes are in the bedroom. That room does not heat or cool well at all. Trying to help this out, I've hung insulated curtains in there, though not over the whole window because I enjoy the view. I had to hang rods from the ceiling because the windows are literally wall-to-wall. So, If I'd hung curtains over the whole window, it would have been funky and would have taken most of my view. Kitty Cat seems to enjoy lounging behind them.

I also had a ceiling fan installed in the bedroom. I was told I'd have to pay for the installation, but figured it would be worth it. I selected a nice one from Home Depot. Nice in that I like it; it was one of their "lower end" models but a reasonable price. Three globes and it came with three CF light bulbs. It took a bit to connect with the electrician, but he was a really good guy. Since this building is old (40+ years) and there was no light in the bedroom, the wiring had to run up the wall from a junction box placed on one of the outlets, over the ceiling and to the fan. It doesn't really look bad, but I wouldn't care if it did. I love having the fan in there and having an overhead light is just so very nice in the morning. The electrician also provided a remote for me. So far, I haven't been billed. I don't think I will. The apartment complex has vacancies and I think they are throwing this in since I signed another lease and also because I'm trying to find a way to cool that room down. I'm not questioning it.

The other big thing I did was finally getting new furniture. I'm excited. I'm getting a new love seat and a recliner. I'll donate my current furniture to a local charity. Because I selected the fabrics, I haven't received it yet, but I think I'm only about a couple of weeks from it coming in. As much as I love my current furniture (love seat, over sized chair and ottoman), the new furniture will be much more streamlined and will really open the room up.

Since I've been here a year, I'm starting to see ways to re-arrange and re-organize, especially my office. That is the next project.

Sunday, August 2, 2009


And, this time it's final. The closing was last Monday. I did lose, however, I didn't owe anything at closing and for that I'm extremely grateful. Basically, within three days of re-listing the house, we had two offers. This was a bizarre experience. Offers were coming in above asking with the request that we pay closing costs. However, these were first time buyers, going FHA, trying to get the $8,000 credit. Apparently, closing costs or very little closing costs, can't be rolled into the loan if you want the credit. The house appraised below what they offered. No big surprise to me, it appraised where I thought it would. So, offer became the appraisal value. But, the first buyer (the one that backed out) still wanted me to pay basically all of their closing costs. Ummm... no. The second buyer wanted EVERYTHING, including the payment of the HOA dues (not the HOA transfer fee but the dues). I wasn't that desperate. Turns out when we said no and told them what we would do, his agent agreed. Seems she always asks for everything. Umm... big turn-off especially when the other offer was serious from the get go. They truly only wanted the refrigerator and a portion of their closing costs paid. That was it. Their offer was $1, 000 above the appraisal and FHA didn't buy that. So, it came down. My awesome real estate agent and friend, said then $1,000 less on the closing costs and they said okay.

There was a hairy moment or two with the inspection, but it was basically stupid stuff. I'm sorry, if the light bulb is burned out, replace it. This wasn't the buyer, but the inspector. Apparently, they couldn't be there during the inspection, which was news to me. I thought you could. At any rate, all was well. I had re-turned on the electricity and water, but not the gas, so I had to do that to finish it off. Big pain, but I'd want to make sure the gas worked too.

Then the papers got to me the Friday afternoon before closing. I noticed something amiss with the closing statement so I went through it with friend and real estate agent Friday night (I was right), then took it to the credit union for notarizing where needed, then stuck it in FedEx for overnight and prayed it got there before the 9:00 am closing. It must have, because by Monday afternoon I was no longer a home owner. Big Sigh.

I then had to make sure all utilities were disconnected, call my fabulous yard guy (we did pass on his info to the buyers) to discontinue the service, and cancel the insurance policy. I still have final bills for those left to pay, but then I'm done. I can now manage just one household.

We did it just in time. Three more foreclosures have occured in the neighborhood, which brings the value down further. More rentals. Friend says he's glad I'm out of there. This time I trusted my little voice to sell and while I didn't make money, it was the definitely the right thing to do.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


The house is NOT sold. The appraisal came in at less than the offer, which wasn't a shocker for me. Buyer made the new offer, but still wanted me to carry all of the closing. I offered to carry three fourths of the closing. Apparently, with a family member facing foreclosure (more information than I needed) and prices down, she decided not to buy at all. So we're told. My real estate agent thinks there's a good chance the buyer will come back in about 30-45 days with an even lower offer. Which is so not right.

So, we're dropping the price. The appraisal won't change so there's no point in leaving the asking price where we put it. We'll see what happens. I hope I get another offer, but this has been rough. Last week I thought I was done and now I'm back to where I was. I believe things happen for a reason, but the reason for this is just hard to see.

Monday, June 29, 2009


I'm happy, sad, a bit nostalgic and a bit shocked. In exactly one week, my Texas home sold! Closing is this Thursday. That means the last house payment has been made and tonight I had the pleasure of canceling the utilities. So, one bill left for each of those. That will make bill paying, among other things, so much easier. I love to watch the shows on HGTV and worried that the house was empty. They say houses that have furniture and/or are staged sell quicker. I guess not in Texas, which is totally fine by me.

I was also pleased that the offer was fair - I didn't get taken to the cleaners. I'm actually coming out okay. A little loss, but nothing really hurtful, plus I figure in the long run I'm coming out ahead. No more property taxes to pay, pest control to do, lawn care to arrange, HOA fees to pay, or anything house related. Right now, I'll just enjoy renting. One day I hope to have my own house again, but I have no idea where or when and I'm okay with that right now.

It's been a long road, but I'm at the end of it now. I'd wondered off and on (especially after bad manager stepped down) if I shouldn't have hung out a little longer at the job. I'm taking the quick sale of the house as a sign that I shouldn't have - that I made the right decision. Now, I can just move forward.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Up for sale...

Yes, the house in Texas is for sale. It was official last Sunday. I had briefly entertained the idea of keeping it and heading back there in a couple years, but decided that wasn't the best thing to do. Yes, I own the house and there are lots of pluses in that. However, the job here is good. The memories there, not so good. I gained one really excellent friend from the whole return to Texas fiasco, but that doesn't require I live in that house.

I also don't want to limit myself to that area of Texas. It's not bad, but if I do wind up back there, I'd rather do it with a clean slate. My visit back to view the repairs reinforced this. It was a hard decision to make and kind of sad. I enjoy owning my own home. However, I also enjoy the freedom that renting provides. Not just in the maintenance aspect, but in the ability to move aspect. It appears that I still have a bit of wanderlust left in me. I know that someday I'll hit the spot that I'll stay (hopefully) and be able to retire, but until then I kind of like knowing my options are open. That I could go where I want to... maybe. It all depends.

Until then, it will make life much easier not having to take care of a house from afar. So far, three showings. Cross your fingers for a quick sale.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

From almost the middle of nowhere.....

This posting is coming from small town Illinois. My Mom and I have come to finally go through my Dad’s childhood home and decide what goes with us, what goes to charity and what is a decision for another day. It was something my Dad wanted to do before he died, but he was just too ill in the end. So, here we are. So far, so good. My Mom adjusted the “goals” a bit, but that’s okay. My plan was to come, evaluate the furniture, get anything in it out of it, and get it ready for the movers. Basically, that’s what we have done. She, though, also made it a goal to go through some of the other stuff and “clean it out.” Ugh. There were many children in this family and many of them brought things to their Mother. They were stored out in a storage area. It’s strange. Going through the things here is not just going through my Dad’s life, but through almost every brother and sisters and his mother’s. We found an odd fur hat. Excellent condition. Makes me think of a lodge hat, but who knows. We found two Navy hats. Two of the boys were in the Navy. We wonder if they both belonged to one or if there is one per Uncle. We’ll probably never know. We found oodles of blankets, mismatched dishes (some China), an old fur (fake) coat, a couple of down comforters. Lots of little odds and ends. We could spend months here, but we can’t. So, we try and focus and know we’ll probably be back. Most of it is still good, but not really anything we want or need. This afternoon we took eight large trash bags, plus a couple of small boxes to the local Goodwill. It was quite a drive, but it was worth it. Hopefully, someone can make use of what we don’t need. The rest will head out with us.

The house here is pleasant, but not luxurious by any means. However, we have what we need. The biggest pain about coming is doing the bit of clean-up required after any house has been vacant. The worst is getting rid of the spider webs. I hate creepy crawlies, but I’ve gotten good with the vacuum’s wand attachment. Not every nook and cranny has seen me and the vacuum, but most of them have. The others I’m learning to deal with and really, for a three year gap between visits, it’s not that bad.

We hadn’t realized it had been three years. The last time, we left a day early. I think it was just too soon after my Dad’s death to come. Every visit before had, of course, included him. We did not come here without him. This time, we’re doing better. We’re laughing at the poor little refrigerator’s fan, which sounds like a motorcyclist diving through town. The A/C unit outside doesn’t sound much better, but at least it works. Earlier, we discovered we had a bad fuse. The weather’s been pleasant, but the humidity in the house was reaching some high levels. The range is old and if we could put new insulation in the oven we would. As it is, we can use the stove, but not the oven. The microwave could qualify as an antique, but it works and that’s what counts. All in all, believe it or not, it’s been pleasant and relaxing. Small towns are. This is technically a Village. I’m guessing some where between 500 and 1000 residents. It’s literally a bedroom community - all houses, one tavern, and a small post office.

How, you wonder, is this blog posting being done. Before I left for this trip, I got a laptop - a MacBook. I’ve never used a Mac before, but so far, I’m not having any problems. It’s also my first wireless PC. Before coming, I looked for wireless networks. Bless the McDonald’s in a near by town. They offer free wi-fi and that is how this entry is being posted -- Via McDonald’s free wi-fi. Go Mickey D’s.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Moving forward...

A couple of weekends ago, I made a day trip to Texas. The purpose was to see all the repairs that had been made to the house. A few days before, the new driveway had been poured. It was still marked off, but looked great. The outside repairs were done and they even re-sodded in places, though I spotted some dead spots in the yard. I'm not worried about those though as I know the grass will fill it in. The flower beds were looking a little sad, so I told my yard guy to go ahead and mulch the flower beds and around the trees. Finally pulled up the remains of the little peach tree. It had done so well and then just overnight it seemed to die. After all the cracks in the walls and ceilings had been repaired (I believe they had to totally replace the sheet rock in the ceiling in the entry hall) they repainted the whole house. I think they did a better job on the re-paint than they did when it was first built.

I had briefly considered the some what flighty notion of holding on to the house and moving back there. Eventually, I'll need to be closer to my Mom. However, seeing the house confirmed what I had already decided. As much as I liked that house and the area, between it and the job, mostly the job, there are just no really happy memories there. Even if I move back to Texas one day, I don't want to tie myself to that area or that house. So, once all of the little repairs are finally finished (there were one or two items remaining), friend BA will put it on the market for me. It just feels right. Cross your fingers. If I can't sell it, I'll rent it, but I'm really hoping I'll be able to sell it. It looks like brand new on the inside and thanks to the repair work has a life time warranty on the foundation, which in that area should be a selling feature. They were in the process of repairing two other houses and several more standing by in addition to those already repaired. I can't even imagine the bill for the builders.

The trip. The really good part: I got to have a hamburger at one of my favorite hamburger places and visit with friends. I caught an early flight out of BWI and was supposed to leave DFW at 6:25 pm and be back in my apartment by 11:30 pm. Nice plan. Too bad the weather had different ideas. Storms. So, delayed, then delayed, then canceled, then rebooked. I got home at almost 4:00 am on Sunday morning. It took me almost a week to recover. However, it was worth it. Hopefully, I'll repeat the day trip shortly (without storms) to sign papers to sell the house. Wouldn't that be lovely? Then I truly move forward.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Squirrel Yoga

Good grief. It's been a month already since the last post. A couple of weeks ago, it was a rather dreary weekend. As I looked out the window, I saw a squirrel nestled in between a large branch and the tree trunk. I got the camera. Never easy trying to grab a shot through a window. While I was taking his picture, he decided to show off and stretch for me. He hung by his back legs and stretched his front legs. No kidding. Squirrel yoga. I'm surprised I got this picture, but I did.

Leaves are starting to bud on the tree, so shortly I probably won't be able to see the critters in the tree.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Death Valley....

No, not the desert. Here lately, there has been a surge of emergency vehicles showing up at the apartments. Last weekend, three fire engines (including the really big, long one) were across the street. I found out yesterday someone thought they smelled gas. Good to know it's taken seriously.

Then on Friday, an ambulance showed up in front of my building, along with two police cars and one other unidentified emergency vehicle (it was dark). I did see them bring someone out, but that's all I could see. They didn't leave right away. I knew it probably wasn't good. It wasn't. This complex has about 600 units. Many of them are rented by senior citizens. Very senior citizens. I've seen cards on the bulletin board home nursing help. Well, one of the ladies on the first floor (who I think recently turned 89) passed away Friday night. Hence, the ambulance. Apparently, another resident of my building passed away earlier in the week.

The neighbor I was talking to said this is unusual. She also mentioned that the local authorities/emergency folks have dubbed this complex Death Valley. There's a nice visual. Seriously, I'm not surprised. I knew a lot of retirees lived here and with age comes the inevitable. I do think it's kind of odd that I lived across from an assisted living facility in Arkansas, which also had it's share of emergency service visits, and am now living somewhere again with the potential for the same issues.

I think I'd seen and chatted with the lady who passed away. I know I've seen her sister, who is actually older and somewhat frail. I think though what a blessing the two of them could live here till the end, so to speak. Apparently, they'd lived here for years and used to manage some of the social activities. The mix of retirees and still working appealed to me. I just hadn't thought about the downside.

Sunday, February 1, 2009


The news here, as with a good deal of the country, is that we got snow, which then turned to ice. This is the winter view from my apartment (looking left). It was pretty, but also treacherous. The snow wasn't a problem. But, after it snowed, it sleeted, which left sheets of ice everywhere. Fortunately, the roads I drive to work are emergency routes, so they and the bridge I cross, were clear. And, to make matters nicer, a co-worker in the complex drove those two days, which saved a bit of gas. Not to mention work as there was probably anywhere from a 1/4" to 1/3" of ice on the cars.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The End is Near....

Or rather, Vindication X 3! The picture to the right is one of the holes that was dug in the repair of my foundation! Actually, it's also one of the holes that served one of the two tunnels that was dug under the house to place piers under the middle of the house. All together, 32 piers have been placed under my house and two tunnels were dug to access the middle of the house.

Are you surprised? I was. I had received notice from builder's nitwit that my foundation would not be repaired and also advised that I would not receive the offical plan of action since we had been "communicating." He listed three things as a plan of action that were no where close to a plan of action. One was "fix cosmetics." Umm.... no. Details, please. Of course, I e-mailed exactly what I expected from a plan of action and advised that what he sent me (he who has never been in my house) was most definitely not a plan of action. I didn't hear anything back for a couple days. He then sends an e-mail asking me to call him as he has an update. Grrr. I send him an e-mail asking him to send it via e-mail. The update - they received more results from the soil survey and my foundation does in fact need to be repaired. He attached the engineers drawing for the repairs, i.e. where the piers and tunnels would be, etc, advised who the company and the engineer were, said he would send information on the company and offered to set up a conference call with the engineer to answer any questions I might have. This was one of the best communications I've had. It was also the week before Christmas.

The next thing I know I'm getting a call from the foundation repair folks scheduling January 12th as the start date for the repairs. In case you haven't guessed already, I had received no information on the company, etc as nitwit had said he would. Fortunately, the lady from the company answered all my questions. Then there was a mini saga (which I will someday write about) over getting a key to friend B who has been an absolute angel helping me with all of this and who is the photographer of the picture. I could not have managed this without his help. I would not have given a house key to nitwit builder rep. Ever. In fact, nitwit left me a voice mail the Friday before it began (notice he didn't e-mail as I requested) saying he would be there on Monday and advising they didn't need access to the house and basically puzzled as to why I would have someone there representing me. I truly wonder what he would do if it were his house. Anyway, B was there and has done wonders with nitwit. I now even get daily e-mail updates from nitwit. For the curious, they did need access to my house. In fact, the plumber beat nitwit there the first morning (they do a plumbing check before and after foundation repairs) and today to do the leveling.

The one sad thing in all of this is I wish I could be there to see for myself. Turns out I'm totally fascinated by the repair process, as is B.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

My Christmas and New Year's have been pleasant and uneventful. I'd thought traveling on Christmas day would be pleasant and it was. The only downside was getting up at three o'clock in the morning and losing an earring during my travels. The plane left MD on time and we boarded on time in Dallas, only to have to wait for maintenance paperwork, to have the crew repeatedly count passengers, and then request two passengers move to the middle of the plane for "balance reasons." We left about 45 minutes late for a flight that only takes about an hour. In the end, we were only about 30 minutes late. Baggage arrived timely and we headed home. It never really felt like Christmas and I'm not sure if that was because I flew on Christmas Day (I've driven home on Christmas day before) or because I just never truly ramped into the Christmas "spirit" this year. Doesn't matter - it was a good day. We had our now annual Christmas seafood dinner; a small affair of just me, my Mom, my brother, and his wife.

No big plans while I was at home. My Mom wanted to show me the cabin she's working on at our farm. It is a nice space in what is an addition to the shop that has been there my whole life and then some. We were bandying about ideas for what space should be where when I asked the big question - where's the bathroom? My Mom and brother both burst out laughing. There isn't one. There's what will be a nice kitchen, smallish dining area, living area, study/office and bedroom, but no bathroom. Plans are in the making for attaching a bath house. I've seen the "compound" idea on a couple of shows on HGTV, but they were located where the weather isn't so fickle. LA has somewhat mild weather but the winters can be crazy with mild one day and downright cold the next. Not to mention thunderstorms and 100 plus degree days during the summer. Mom assures me she has ideas. Guess I'll trust her on this one. Right now it's only a space to spend a couple of days should she want to. I expect one day she may live up there, but hopefully by then the bathroom concept will be worked into the cabin concept.

On Monday, we headed to the DMV to title and tag my very first car in LA, which my Mom still occasionally drives, since registering it in MD just wouldn't be the best idea. LA is a state that also charges sales tax when you register a vehicle. Since we bought the car in LA, we took proof that we had paid sales tax - the receipt for the car. My Dad, you see, created a folder and just about anything associated with that car until I took over is in it, plus some stuff after it headed back to LA. Then the guy at the DMV says there is only eight years worth of records in the system. I'm not surprised as the car is well over eight years old. He also says that the receipt showing sales tax paid isn't good enough, we must show it was registered in the state of LA. The website didn't say this. No mind, we'd taken the folder (I didn't think we'd need to, but my Mom did) and, of course, a copy of the original registration was in it. The DMV guy was in awe. Granted the car is worth so little now that paying tax on it wouldn't have been all that much, but it was the principle of the thing.

I flew back on Tuesday. I enjoyed my visit. BC has grown and it's now even inching it's way back on to my list of possible places to live and work. It would eliminate holiday travel and let me sleep holidays in my very own bed. The flights back were good, but there was a little hitch. The cargo door got off the track in S'port and we left about an hour and half late. I originally had a two hour layover in Dallas, but as I was verifying the gate, the flight status was now boarding. I still had to make it to the next terminal. I caught the train and moved as quickly as I could. I was one of the last people to board. I just knew as I walking down what seemed like miles of jetway by myself that I'd get there and find the door closed, but it wasn't. I wasn't sure my suitcase would make, but it did. So, all was well. It's good to be home.

I hope 2009 is a good year for all.