Thursday, December 31, 2009

On New Year's Eve....

1999:

-We were all semi-curious about Y2K and if planes would fall out of the sky and we'd revert back to "primitive" times.

-9/11 hadn't yet entered our vernacular.

-I spent the night with my two high school best friends. I got dressed up and wore a tight black shirt that my mom wouldn't have let me wear out of the house, a tight purple skirt, and shoes that were anything but sensible. We spent the night at Kate's house and watched movies and laughed and watched the ball drop.

-We snuck sips of champagne and wine when Mrs. Shine wasn't looking.

-I was a sophomore in high school and the idea of college scared the crap out of me. I never wanted to leave my friends. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.

-I lived 15 minutes from my future husband and had no idea what he looked like or who he was.

-I had never traveled outside the U.S., and had never even crossed the Mississippi River.

-I was anxiously waiting for the spring to come so I could get my driver's license.

Man....in the last ten years, a LOT has changed, and for that I'm so very thankful. Ugh, imagine if I was living at home with my parents still! I'd be very unhappy, of this I am sure. I love being independent and I'd be really unhappy if I still shared a roof with them, much as I love them.

In the last 10 years, I've learned to drive, I got in a bad car accident shortly afterwards, I came down with pneumonia in the middle of July, I met the love of my life, I graduated from high school AND college, and I've moved more times than I can count. I purchased a home, and I'm among a dwindling number of friends and family members who aren't yet mothers.

Ten years ago, had you told me what my life would be like now, I'd have run away in fear. Truth is, I still want to run away in fear! Most days I don't feel like the adult my driver's license tells me I am.

But still, I've got a damn good life. It's not the glamorous life I'd hoped I'd be leading 10 years ago, but it's beyond blessed. I have the most wonderful, caring partner in life (exactly what I was hoping for 10 years ago tonight). He's with me every step of the way. He's too good for me, but sssshhhhh......he hasn't figured that out yet!

I have a wonderful, caring family. We've had our ups and downs, but I was blessed with loving parents and a sister with a heart of gold. I have great in-laws who are so great. They're definitely not the scary ones you hear about so often! I have sisters-in-law and a brother-in-law who are just like regular old siblings to me. We are so blessed to all get along and love one another!

I have a warm, safe home. No matter where I was living, apartment, dorm room, or here, I was always aware that I had a warm place to sleep at night. Some of the kids I teach everyday aren't so lucky. God has always provided this for me, and for that I'm truly thankful.

My husband and I both have good, secure jobs. Today, that's a rarity and a huge blessing. We don't always love our jobs, and I'm hoping for a career change sometime soon, but regardless, employment is such a blessing to have these days.

The last ten years have been incredible for me. I traveled out of the country twice and saw things I never thought I'd see in my lifetime, let alone at 19! I've been to both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. I sang at Disney World in high school. I've peered over the edge of the Grand Canyon and was nearly swept away by a wave in California. I kissed the Blarney Stone. I waved to fish while snorkeling in the Pacific Ocean. I ate spaghetti in Canada and stew in Ireland. I learned sign language. I learned that the classics never die and that literature is meant to be savored. I let go of my inhibitions. I let go of people who weren't good for me and said hello to some women who are my best friends (nearly 10 years after we met)!

I was scared as hell to leave home and begin my four years of college. I never thought that I'd feel more at home in dorm room than I did in my childhood bedroom. I thought my high school friends would be my friends until the day I died. I never dreamed more secure, bonded friendships would replace them. Until 2002 I'd never been to a Steak n' Shake, and I sure as hell never thought I'd learn the menu backwards and forwards. I was scared as hell to leave college and come back home, but for completely different reasons than four years earlier.

I never thought I'd live to see the day when two of my favorite college professors would leave their offices, even temporarily: one to cancer and one to a new degree and career change.

I never thought I'd be in my 20s and considering "mommyhood" as seriously as I do. Hell, there are days when I say, "Screw it" and want to wait until my 30s when I'll be older and more financially secure....and older.

I lost my faith in God, and found it again in a non-denominational church in South Jacksonville. I learned that Christ is more than just a figure in a book and that He's ready to talk to me always. I learned that God has a plan for me and He's going to see it through whether I like it or not. I learned that if I want to make God laugh, I should make carefully laid plans.

I learned a lot about myself through teaching. I found that teaching English wasn't my calling and somehow teaching Computers came a lot closer than I ever expected. I learned that writing is my preferred medium of communication and that when I don't know what to say, a snarky, sarcastic, and/or inappropriate comment will usually do the trick. I learned that I love to make people laugh, and if God's plans and mine were parallel, I'd be on a stage somewhere, improving, acting like a fool, and enjoying the laughter I brought to people.

I've been give a damn good life. God has blessed me in so many ways during the last 10 years and if it was a loan I'd never be able to replace it. My life is drastically different from the way I imagined it'd be ten years ago (save for a man-slave..eerrr...husband, who worships me and loves me more than I could imagine) but I wouldn't change it for anything.

Tonight, I'm wearing purple again (honestly, it's just a coincidence!), and I won't have to sneak sips when Mrs. Shine isn't looking. I'll kiss my husband at midnight and look forward to the next 365-day trip around the sun. I'll plan some more vacations and parties and pester my friends into visiting Chicago (It's really lovely this time of year! You hardly even notice the 10 degree wind chill!) and drink some wine.

I'll look forward to good times, good drinks, good food, and good friends. I'm living in the moment more now than I did back then. I'll pray that the next ten years are just as wonderful as the past ten, and I'll look forward to all the surprises that will come our way, and in ten years I'll sit back and think, "Damn....ten years goes by so fast...."

2009 Year-End Survey

1. What did you do in 2009 that you’d never done before?
I traveled by myself for the first time, I bought a house, and I snorkeled in the Pacific Ocean.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? I didn't really stick with my resolutions, but my goal for the new year is to keep our home "company ready" so I don't have to scramble around to clean up at the last minute, or find excuses for guests to not stop by. My other goal for this year is to travel more, whether by train or car or hitchhiking.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? Look around, man! Christina JUST had her baby on the 29th, LOG gave birth in March, Courtney in June, Nikki in August, Katie in January....there's no need for me to have a baby because everyone else is poppin' those kids out like Pez dispensers! It's awesome being an "aunt" to so many cool kids.


4. Did anyone close to you die? Mercifully, no. I'm so, so thankful for that, especially this year.

5. What countries did you visit? None, but we did travel outside the continental U.S., so we were closer to Australia and South Asia than we've ever been in our lives.

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009? I'd really, really love for us to have a little more money to travel, even to some of the Midwestern states we haven't been to. I'd also love for us to host a few more parties and have friends over more often.

7. What date from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory and why? December 18th, the day we closed on our home!

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? I guess I'd have to say finally coming to a decision about what I want to do with my life. As far as "we" are concerned, definitely buying our first home and moving in and beginning this next chapter in our life together.

9. What was your biggest failure? I don't know that either of us have any regrets about this year or anything that we consider a failure. If there's something we had to do over, it might be saving a little more money so we can make more improvements on the house or to travel.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Aside from the usual, we were blessed this year because neither of us got sick or injured.

11. What was the best thing you bought? Our house! And some super cute pairs of shoes. :-)

12. Whose behavior merited celebration? Aunt Gail, Mom-in-law, Mary, and Cousin Liz, all who came over and helped us pack. And Graham, for being awesome on all our anniversaries and when I needed some extra support.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? A few people I managed to cut out of my life. Appalled, definitely. Depressed, not so much.

14. Where did most of your money go? Groceries, the house, a new washing machine, dryer, and fridge....so really, right back into us.

15. What did you really, really, really get excited about? Our trip to Hawaii (we spent the first hours of 2009 there, so I think it still counts), buying our first home and hearing our offer had been accepted, getting some new job duties (despite the extra workload). And, my trip to L.A.

16. What song will always remind you of 2009? "Donde Esta El Queso De Mi Padre?" by Graham.

17. Compared to this time last year are you:Happier? Definitely. Thinner? Definitely not. Richer? Not financially, but I am in so many other ways.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of? Travel, reading for pleasure, writing, and walking/running/bike riding.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Worry and complain. Life is short, man.

20. How did you spend Christmas? I spent Christmas Eve at Mass and with my husband, and we spent Christmas day with his parents and sister and Post-Christmas with my parents, sister, and extended family.

21. How will you be spending New Year's Eve? At home, with Graham. We saw "The Squeakual" earlier today and we'll eat dinner, nosh on some shrimp, watch the ball drop, and just enjoy being together.

22. Did you fall in love in 2009? I fell in love with Graham almost everyday. I know, I know. Gag you with a spoon and all that crap. But really, he's my best friend and he's constantly surprising me. Mild-mannered Clark Kent on the outside, but when it's just us, he's freaking amazing.

I also fell in love with L.A. and realized why Abi won't ever leave. I fell in love with Descanso Gardens. I fell in love with traveling all over again. And I fell in love with my family, who is incredible. I'm so blessed to be surrounded by so many wonderful people.

23. How many one-night stands? Plenty! All with Graham, of course. I'm so lame in my old age.

24. What was your favorite TV program? Glee, Grey's Anatomy, 30 Rock, and SATC.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? No, I don't really hate people. If I hate, I'm still managing to spend time on people who suck. I'd rather spend that time on positive energy.

26. What was the best book you read? Emma, by Jane Austen (I'm a sucker for the classics), and my Advent devotional/my Bible. Both really helped center me during Advent and helped calm me in the midst of moving mayhem. I really learned to put that trust in God instead of all on my shoulders.

27. What was your biggest musical discovery? Lady Gaga. LOVE her.

28. What did you want and you got? A job where I can write more and be a little more creative. A home. Special memories created with Graham and our family. A dutch oven (a Christmas gift). More charms for my bracelet. A gorgeous necklace from Graham.

29. What did you want and not get? "My way" with the house and the month of November.

30. What was your favorite film of this year? We didn't see that many new movies this year, so I'm gonna say "Up" in the new movie category, and "The Long, Long Trailer" in the favorites and It's-New-T0-Me categories.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old did you turn? I turned 25 and spent the day traveling back and forth between families. It was Mother's Day, so it wasn't "my day" which kinda sucked. Graham knew that I was bothered by it (more than I admit, and that bothers me, too) and rescued my birthday, but all in all it was just an "eh" birthday.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? More traveling, more reading, and more time together.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009? Comfortable.

34. What kept you sane? My trips, my friends, and blogging about food.

35. Which celebrity did you fancy the most? Eh, no one in particular.

36. What political issue stirred you the most? I was more stirred up by rampant ignorance. Liberal doesn't equal baby-killer, my friends....it's possible to be a liberal AND a Christian.

37. Who did you miss? My friends, who are scattered everywhere.

38. Who was the best new person you met? Hmm...probably Frank. He's in ICTC right now (long story for another time) and he djs for all our school events. He's a hoot. We're not friends, but he's an entertaining person to be around.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009: People are meant to live, not simply exist.

40. Quote or Song Lyric that sums up your year: "I've got better things to do than my to-do list, anyway."

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Life So Far

We've had a crazy few days, but it's been fun, and very worth it! We're still unpacking, but the upstairs is really starting to take shape and we're finding places for everything that needs a place.

Last night we got a visit from Brian and Robyn, and we were glad to host them, even if it was for just a few hours. We miss them when they aren't around, that's for sure. We exchanged Christmas gifts, and we got a super awesome bottle of wine with a wine chiller. We tested them last night and were quite pleased with the results. I'm excited to have it for parties and get togethers...and Thursdays and Wednesdays and bad days at work.

Today is Graham's mom's birthday. I won't say what number, but let's just say it's a big one, and we're glad to get the chance to celebrate together with the whole family.

Not much else to update right now, but I'll hopefully find the camera and post some photos of the new digs soon.

Friday, December 25, 2009

The move, and the last few days.

Throughout this process and the last two months, I've sworn up and down that I'll never move again. It's too much work and the process is nothing but a huge pain in the neck. However, I do have this to say: If I ever move again, I'm hiring movers again in a heartbeat. Best decision we made in the entire process.

Sunday was the annual Foley Family Christmas Party, and it was, as always, a great time. It's so much fun to get together with the family and exchange stories and presents and play a rousing game of Apples to Apples or Man Laws & Women Rules or Mafia (though not this year because Brian and Robyn were on their cruise....losers). Graham has some really terrific cousins, and everyone really gets along well, which unfortunately can't be said for every family. I'm glad his mom and her four sisters have such awesome kids. It certainly makes for a fun party!

As we were leaving on Sunday, Awesome Aunt Gail asked when--not if, but when--she could come over to help us pack on Monday. She showed up with her daughter Liz, and the two of them, along with my mom-in-law, sis-in-law (Mary), and Graham were packing machines. I was pretty useless. I was feeling crummy and achey and headachey and was starting to get overwhelmed. By the time dinner rolled around, I had a fever and was really starting to dread moving the next day. Graham ordered me to bed and I didn't really nap, but I did stay warm under the blankets and rest up. I was feeling okay by evening, and thanks to some instant soup from mom-in-law, I was feeling better about moving the next day.

On Tuesday morning, the movers arrived at about 10:15, took a quick look around and asked questions about what was going and staying, and then they just started hauling stuff out like champs. It was really amazing to watch. In two hours, the apartment was empty, and after a short lunch break, the movers met us at our house and in two more hours the house was full and they were back in the truck and on their way back to Orland. Crazy! I will always, always use movers in the future (IF I ever move again). Hell, next time I might even hire someone to pack for me, too! I don't care how much it costs. Not having to do it myself: Priceless.

Over the weekend, we unfortunately found out that the fridge the sellers left in the house didn't work. The compressor had pooped out, and since the machine is around 30+ years old, it was cheaper to buy a new fridge instead of trying to fix the darn thing. So, after the movers left, we went shopping and got ourselves a new fridge for the kitchen and a washing machine and dryer. We knew the latter two appliances weren't staying in the house, so we were expecting to replace those. The fridge was one of those happy accidents that happen all too often with homeownership.

I wasn't feeling awesome, but I was feeling much, much better on Tuesday night, and Wednesday morning was a complete 180 from Monday and Tuesday morning. When I woke up, all three appliances had been delivered already (thanks bunches, Grants!) and were nearly ready to use. The washing machine isn't hooked up yet...the hose they had was barely long enough to reach where it needed to reach, so they're coming back tomorrow with a longer hose, free of charge. AWESOME. I can wait to do laundry. It's never been a favorite chore of mine, anyway.

All day Wednesday was spent arranging and unpacking. On Tuesday night we rearranged our living room, so that was mercifully done, and the bedroom was kind of a hodge-podge of furniture and boxes. My kitchen? Not even close to being done! It was driving me crazy. Thankfully we'd had the smarts to get our bathroom set up and ready to go before the move, or it would have been a long, bad day.

Our house (SO cool to say that) has two first floor bedrooms, but we're using one of them as a formal dining room. Right now, it's also our staging area for the boxes that are yet to be unpacked. We spent a lot of time in there on Tuesday and Wednesday looking for things we needed and wanted. After a really long afternoon of hunting down boxes, I had my kitchen ready to go. That room is still a mess, but at least I was able to get the kitchen set up and organized.

Wednesday night we set up our Christmas tree! It was hurting both of us, but Graham especially, not to have a Christmas tree up this season. It was really disheartening to come home to our apartment and have it dark and sad looking, without even outside lights to make it look festive. While we don't have any outside decorations this year, we've got our tree and some indoor decorations to make our home feel like we've been here all season. I love looking at our tree, and seeing all our ornaments really makes it feel like we've made the right decision to build a home here and start our family on the right foot. (Don't go reading into things, folks! We've still got a lotta living left to do!)

On Christmas Eve we did a little more of the same. Unpacking, arranging, calling AT&T and asking them why our house phone line wasn't working....the usual. Graham and his parents moved a lot of the leftovers from the move into the house (the movers didn't grab anything that wasn't boxed) and we had a few more boxes to dig into, but ultimately it was a good day. We went to 4:00 Mass at what is most likely our former parish. I always love Christmas Mass at St. Turibius. The church is decorated beautifully, and the music and sermon really get into the heart of Christmas. There's no mention of money or donations, no talk of better serving the parish, just a good and spiritually fulfilling sermon with a great message. It's exactly what a Christmas Eve Mass should be.

After that, we drove around our new neighborhood and looked at the lights. These people really know how to deck their halls! Lots of lights and lawn decorations and all kinds of things to look into for next year. We made sure to critique the houses we saw, and we talked about the kind of outdoor decorating we'd like to do next year. Once we came home, I made dinner and I made cookies while Graham watched "It's A Wonderful Life" on television. After cookie baking, we watched one of my favorites, "White Christmas" on the couch with the lights off and just the tree lit up. Gorgeous!

Christmas morning was great. It was very, very chill. We laid in bed, watched "A Christmas Story" (one of my favorites, but I was drifting in and out of sleep and Graham was making a concerned effort to watch the movie and enjoy it), and then decided to open gifts. We "hung our stockings by the chimney with care" on the fake fireplace that was left in the basement. When we walked downstairs to see what Santa left for us, we got a big surprise. All the rain we got on Christmas Eve, coupled with the melting snow and still-frozen ground left a lot of seepage in our basement. Not a fun way to begin our Christmas! Graham spent a good 90 minutes working on water. We opened gifts, and it was a welcome distraction.

I spoiled Graham this year, and given all the stress we've been under I'm really glad I did. He's earned his Christmas, I tell ya. This year, Santa brought him a gps (woo, Tom-Tom!), a digital camera (I'd been eyeing that since late July), a neon Cubs clock, a Cubs garden gnome, a W flag (it killed me to buy so much Cubs gear), and a Pearls Before Swine day by day calendar. His stocking was filled with his favorite candies and a Christmas cd, and a Peanuts ornament and a Cubs ornament.

He spoiled me, too! I got a Barefoot Contessa cookbook--I love Ina Garten-- and an ebelskiver pan and cookbook for puffed pancakes, a gorgeous emerald and diamond necklace (he was paying attention when I was looking in the jewelry store!), both Glee soundtracks, and my yearly "Gone With The Wind" ornament, along with a shoe ornament that says, "If the shoe fits, buy it!" I like to think of it as my motto for life. When all else fails, at least you'll have cute shoes!

I made gingerbread panckes for breakfast (which was really more like lunch after our morning and late start), and after a couple showers and a Nutcracker ballet marathon, we spent the evening with his parents and sister. We had a delicious dinner, exchanged gifts, and oohed and aaahed over our new Weber grill from his parents. Summertime, you're welcome whenever you want to show your face 'round these parts! Now that we have an outdoor cooking aparatus, I'm really looking forward to dinners outside followed by some mean margaritas.

Now, it's 12:42 a.m. on December 26th and Graham is still down in the basement mopping and shop-vacing up our water from this morning. It's finally stopped seeping in, but there's just enough water down there to make this Christmas pretty low on the "Best Christmas Ever" list. The next few days will be fun, and we've thankfully got another week off before we go back to work, so we're sure to accomplish lots of unpacking and have some fun times while we're at it.

Once again, Merry Christmas, everyone! Hope you had a lovely day with those you love.

A Merry Christmas to you and yours

We did it! We're officially moved into our new home, and despite a handful of things left at our old apartment, we're living permenantly on Natchez and loving it.

I'll update later on about the move and the last few days, but for now, Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Pack-a-paloooza is over, and I need a beer.

Today was our major packing day. We initially wanted to move today, but Graham had the foresight to know that we'd either have to skip the family party yesterday, or stay up all night to pack. I'm glad to say we didn't have to do either and spent today filling boxes and wishing we had throw away all our stuff and started over.

Mom-in-law and Mary came over today to help, thankfully, and yesterday at the party Awesome Aunt Gail asked what time she could stop by to help! She brought her daughter Liz and all together we packed what was left of everything, which is pretty damn impressive.

Unfortunately, at some point I came down with a fever and a pretty ferocious cold, so I'm going to quit my blogging and get back to bed so I'm ready to go tomorrow. Wish us luck!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Preparing for the big move

Now that the house is officially ours, we're deep in preparations for moving on Tuesday. Our bathroom is clean, and the weird drawer liners have been thrown in the trash. The house also smells less like old person now that I've vacuumed and taken a bottle of carpet refresher to it!

Our living room slightly resembles a UPS store room. Boxes are everywhere, and it's only gonna get worse! Tomorrow we're holding a pack-a-thon and we're putting away anything and everything that's left. Unfortunately, there's a decent amount of "anything and everything", so tomorrow is gonna be a long one.

I've also got a doctor's appointment tomorrow. It's a followup that I've rescheduled a few times, and Monday and Tuesday were the only days they could fit me in before the office closes for a few days. Throw in some grocery shopping to get us through the week and you've got a day that I'm already calling "busy as hell" but I know it will be worth it in the end. Once we are officially in the house, we can unpack slowly and really make ourselves at home.

My parents, sister, and cousin stopped by yesterday to see the house, and so did Graham's mom and sister. No one had seen the inside except for my father-in-law, and that was in October! I didn't really get to talk to mom-in-law and Mary, but they really seemed to like the house. Mary is already talking about the parties we're going to hold, and mom-in-law really liked the yard.

My dad was really surprised by the house. I'm not quite sure what he was expecting, but he really, really liked the house. My mom was pleased, and my sister thinks it's pretty damn cool that we have a house of our own. While the basement is currently unfinished, my dad is already planning the basement renovations he wants to make. With two bars and a lot of raw space downstairs, he's thinking Super Bowl parties and pool tables.

Truth be told I wouldn't mind slipping into the Thanksgiving rotation with my family, or taking over Christmas for my parents. I'd actually really look forward to the challenge! We'll see how things are looking next fall, and whether or not the basement is painted and/or insulated (I think that's the most important step next to the painting, just because it gets so cold down there!) and we'll talk more seriously about holding a big family party. In the meantime, we've got a kickass yard to garden and plant, so we'll definitely be holding a summertime gathering or two!

Today we're going to the annual Foley Family Christmas Party. Graham's aunts take turns hosting the party each year, and this year it's being held at his Aunt Linda's but hosted by his Aunt Colette (she has a condo in Sycamore and it's just not big enough to hold everyone). It's always a good time, and it's a party I look forward to all year. I can't wait to see my cousins-in-law again.

Anyone free tomorrow to help pack? We'll provide beer!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Introducing....America's Newest Homeowners!



We did it! We closed today and "our long national nightmare is over." Okay, so I'm being a bit dramatic, but still. After 10 weeks of waiting and packing and being pissed off at the system, we're finally homeowners! (Home occupiers, as Graham likes to say, since we won't own it for the next 30 years. Whatevs, says I. Whatevs.)

As of this time last night, we still didn't have an final amount to bring with us for our closing costs. We were given a rough estimate based on disclosure documents, and we figured that if we brought a bit more we'd be safe. Around 11:00 this morning, I got a phone call from the lawyer's office telling us the final figure. It was considerably more than our estimate--nearly double what we were quoted. When I asked why the number jumped so much, the lawyer said, "Well, we're trying to figure that out." Long story short, someone didn't add properly (story of my life) and forgot to apply the proper credits to our closing costs, so thankfully they got right on it and our closing costs came down to what they were supposed to be.

We made it to the closing and actually got to meet the sellers. It was a little weird, but they're a perfectly lovely couple. They are actually the former homeowner's daughter and son-in-law, and they're selling the home for a woman who has to live out the remainder of her life in a nursing home because she needs around-the-clock care. She actually sent well-wishes our way, and said she hopes that we'll be as happy in the house as she was, and that if we have even half of the happiness that home brought her, we'll have a long, happy life there. And, considering that this woman is 90 years old, a long and happy life it will be!

Ultimately, meeting the sellers was a good thing, and they're a sweet, sweet couple. They're excited to see us make changes to the house--they even encouraged us to rip out the awkward hedges on the sides of the house! They're much cooler with someone making changes to the house than I thought they'd be.

We also learned that the woman who owned the house moved in back in 1964, so that definitely explains the dated decor! I'm fairly certain that the owners moved in and decorated and didn't change a thing for 45 years. If they have any friends in the neighborhood who want to stop by and visit and meet their new neighbors, they're going to be in for a huge change once we get started. I'm already envisioning ripping out carpet and pulling down wood panels, followed by a painting extravaganza! WOO!

After we closed, we went to the house--our house--and unpacked a few boxes. Nothing major, just some things we'll need soon. My bathroom box is all unpacked, and our bathroom is set up for the time being. The wine is chilling in the fridge for moving day, and we got comfortable with our new home and decided which bedrooms would become the office, etc. Tomorrow, we're going to take over a few more boxes of things we'll need right away (not gonna take any chances with a mover forgetting a box or having something important being in that critical "first in, last out" box) and clean the kitchen and basement. I can't wait!

I need to say thank you, thank you, and THANK YOU if you were one of the people who listened to me whine (when I really needed to wine) and complain about this process. It was a long, drawn out PITA but I think it's going to be worth it.

Today was a good day. The booze is chilling in the fridge, and our toasting flutes are ready to be used. Now we're sharing good news with everyone, packing, and mentally preparing ourselves to move on Tuesday.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Final Walk-Through = Success!

Today we met our realtor for our final walk-through of the house before we sign the papers to make it ours. It was a little surreal. We were sitting in the car across the street from the house, very aware that we're so close to it, but still pretty damn far.

We met two people in the selling camp, too. They're children or in-laws of the seller, and they were removing one final appliance from the basement before tomorrow (They took away what can only be described as a stove older than Jesus. They can have it!) and were in the house before the walk-through.

We prowled around and marveled at the space that we've got now that they cleared out all the junk. Extra floor space? Yes please! We also marveled at their horrible, horrible taste in paint colors, but more on that after this weekend.

So....tomorrow I get to leave work at 2:00 to make it to the title company to close by 3:00. EEK. HOLY CRAP. YAY.

Monday, December 14, 2009

And we thought we'd packed before!

Now that we have an official closing date, time, and place (woo hoo!), we've officially begun to pack. We lightly packed through November; putting away the knick-knacks, finding some long lost boxes to pack things away, getting our bikes out of here to give us some more space (thanks, parents-in-law!), and just trying to make ourselves feel better about "the big move" and really make ourselves think that we'd accomplished quite a bit.

Boy, we were wrong to the wrongest degree of wrongness.

Not only do we own a lot of crap, but we have a lot squirreled away in this little apartment and really made the best use of our closet space (we are closet space rockstars) to pack away what we had. However, now that we're officially moving out of here, we've got to face our crap in the face (err...what?) and really show our stuff who's boss. In short, we are packing machines.

Everything in the kitchen that can be packed away is packed away. Short of putting away everything and eating chinese for a week, we're down to bare bones (for the most part).

Our walls are bare. It looks like we just moved in again, which is weird. The stark white that I hated so much when we moved in is staring back at me and I can't stand it. The one thing that can be said for our new home is that none of the walls are white. The basement might be a fugly 1070s seafoam shade of green, but white it is not, and for that I'm thankful.

I've also packed away most of my shoes! I won't go into detail here about my shoe collection (it's practically my pride and joy....please don't lecture me on how sick that is) and I've got more shoes than all of Graham's nuclear family combined. Wanna know the truth behind the reason I haven't worn winter boots since high school and only recently found a suitable pair? I couldn't find a pair cute enough or worthy enough of my time, energy, money, and feet. As it is, I'm sure Carrie Bradshaw would slash my tires for the pair I've got, but at least my feet are dry and warm this winter.....a sensation I'd pretty much forgotten over the last ten years.

Our holiday stuff is pretty much ready to go. Thankfully it's still all boxed away from last year, so we just need to move boxes. No disassembly required here, folks!

As for the bathroom...well, let's say it's a work in progress. I've got my box of stuff for the new house ready to go for Friday. We'll stash it in the car, head on down to our closing, and have one hell of an afternoon scrubbing the bathroom, stashing away towels, and playing a rousing game of "Where the hell are we going to put all this junk?"

My dad is coming over on Sunday morning to get the ever-growing pile of stuff that we've always meant to donate but never quite got around to doing. Now that pile is taking on a life of its own. I'll be glad to see it leave, but I know that we'll be starting a brand new pile soon enough. Thankfully, we have a garage....summer garage sales, anyone?

This is the last week of school for both of us. Today was a crazy one for me--all my classes were loud. Hopefully tomorrow and Wednesday are better, but I'll be lucky if' I'm able to concentrate, let alone my students. I sort of dread this last week of the year because there's so much to cram in and it's really the week that if all hell chooses to break loose, there's nothing we can do about it. Oh well. I have an excuse, right? RIGHT?!?!?!?!

Friday.

Friday afternoon, we'll be homeowners. Our closing is set for 3:00 p.m. Friday. :-)

Friday, December 11, 2009

I never thought I'd say this....

BUT WE'RE GOING TO CLOSE ON OUR HOUSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Yes, it required an unnecessary number of exclamation points. Trust me.)

We got the call today. I emailed our processor a few times today asking if there was any news, and she said that she'd call as soon as she heard anything but we had to allow the full 48 hours for review. Then I thought, "Well, if the paperwork was submitted on Wednesday at 7:30 a.m. and it's Friday at 12:00 p.m.....hasn't it been 48 hours?" But my patience paid off because we got the call around 5:00 this evening that we are officially--OFFICIALLY, I SAY--cleared to close.

"Cleared to close." Those are the three most beautiful words I've heard in a long, long time. Shortly afterwards I got a call from our realtor who said, "So I hear you've been a little frustrated, eh?" Clearly I've got a rep. ;-) "Whatevs," I say. For the trouble we've been through, I'm proud of my street cred. Our realtor told me that there was some hold up because the seller's attorney never filed a court paper saying the seller had power of attorney (the beauty of buying an estate sale) so they had to, in his words, "Scramble to get the damn thing filed" before the end of the work week.

I called our attorney and left a message basically saying 'whenever' works for us and 'the sooner the better'. Our REA called the attorney as well and said to get it done ASAP. Now, we just need to wait for the attorneys to get together to pick a date, time, and place and we can get this crap wrapped up!

Tonight we packed. Not too much because most of the "un-necessities" are already packed away, but we did (well, Graham did) pack away a number of books, and we took some photos off the walls. I packed up a box of towels and some bathroom stuff so we can go to the house right after we cloes and set up a bathroom to use while we're over there getting things in order. (Note to self: Add toilet paper to that box.)

We've also got to sit down and make a list of things that need to get done right away, like changing the locks and cleaning. One of my top priorities is to get our bedroom painted before we move in. Ideally, we would have closed a month ago (a month ago tomorrow) and painted and ripped up carpet. But, when that didn't happen we had to postpone all our plans for homemaking. Now, everything is on hold until March when Graham's on intersession again. In my head, I've got big plans for March, mostly involving panels and ripping up carpet. BUT....I'm waiting until we close and get moved in to think about those things. I still don't believe we're actually closing. I won't believe it till I get those keys in my hand!

Right now, we don't have an official closing date, but we're looking at Wednesday--Friday. We're out of paperwork hell, so it's just getting everyone to get together. And naturally, you can bet your sweet bippy I'll be calling on Monday evening if we don't get a phone call before we get home!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A short update

Well, all the underwriter's conditions have been submitted. The seller got in whatever paperwork was needed, and the paperwork we had the foresight to submit the last time we got a set of disclosures was also submitted. Our loan processor submitted the last of the conditions this morning at 7:30 a.m. (whoa) and said that turn-around time is 24-48 hours. Ideally, we'll hear something by this time tomorrow night, but it's more likely that we'll know something by this time Friday night. On the off chance it's bad news, it could seriously ruin our weekend.

After my ridiculous calling and the emails I've sent to everyone in the banking industry (at this rate, I'm pretty sure Ben Bernacke is going to get an angry phone call from me) it seems that we're nearly at the end of the road. Of course, I thought that before and it blew up in our faces, so we're not getting too hopeful.

After speaking to the processor tonight, we are confident that this is the last step. However, it's not certain that the underwriter won't ask for another set of disclosures or more paper or a blood test. But, once the underwriter is finally happy, we should close. Is it possible we'll have an anniversary closing? Abso-freaking-lutely.

I sent one last email to our loan officer's boss. It seems that this is the only real way that anything happens, and if that's what has to happen then I'm totally and completely cool with it. Bosses don't like to be involved, so roping them into the battle gets this stuff done! I highly advise anyone else entering into homeownership to find out who the men and women in charge are and get their numbers on speed dial!

After talking to the processor tonight, I'm really nervous that the house of cards will collapse. She told me again and again how clients she's working with can't get loans from the bank and how unfair this whole process is. OH JOY. ::eyeroll:: Exactly what I wanted to hear!

So that's all for now. Hopefully the next time I update it will be with good news! I can't wait for someone to call me and tell me my closing date--for real this time. If I get another phone call and it's "More disclosures" and "We need more documents," I think---nah, scratch that--I know I'm going to scream.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

About the house...updates...kinda

No *real* news on that front. We were told last week that "hopefully by Friday" we'd know something one way or the other. I didn't call Thursday, and I called late Friday afternoon but wasn't surprised when there wasn't any news.

Yesterday and today I called. Yesterday there wasn't any news, and today I heard that the underwriting was finished, but we weren't given a clear to close because the underwriter had some conditional things to get cleared up, mostly on the seller's side. AGAIN there's a question about the seller's ability/right to actually sell the house, so our processor said she'd get the ball rolling. She'd called our attorney AND the seller's attorney to get that paperwork in. She also said that once the conditions are met there's usually a 48 hour turn-around. However, she spoke to the underwriter/person in charge of our file (whoever that might be) and said she's asked for a 24 hour turn-around. She was very clear in saying she couldn't promise anything, but that the 24 hour turn-around looked likely.

So that's where we are. I may never do this again. Definitely not with this bank, that's for sure. Graham and I have discussed at length how we'll never recommend our lending officer to anyone, regardless of how he's friends with the realtor and offers discounts to the realtor's clients, etc. This back and forth is just ridiculous. I'm exhausted with it all.

However, to anyone who does need to get the ball rolling on their home paperwork....give me a call! I'd be glad to yell at someone for you. I'm very good at it.

Our anniversary is next week, and thanks to all this stress with the house, neither of us are feeling like celebrating (especially if we aren't closed by our anniversary). Graham's cousin had her offer on a home accepted a month after ours was accepted and she's set to close on our anniversary. If she closes before we do, I can't promise I'll be happy about it. I'm glad they've finally found a home--hell, they were looking long before we even started--but it'll definitely be bittersweet that they've closed on their home and can move in and celebrate the holidays worry free and we can't. Jealousy is an ugly thing, man. I'm trying not to let it eat at me, but this is getting old and it's hard to not just be angry about the process.

If there's anything I'm really angry about, it's that our November was a complete waste of time. We were supposed to close and move in and start taking down panels in the living room and tearing up carpet. I'm frustrated because for at least a few months it'll feel like we're living in someone else's house. We won't be able to do anything to it because we'll have no time between the holidays and moving. All the small renovations we wanted to do--even painting--will have to wait until Graham's off in March, and then it's only 3 weeks that we have to do some of the projects we have lined up.

It won't be terrible (I hope), but it won't be what we envisioned. It won't be anything close to celebrating Christmas "at home" because we'll have boxes stacked up and piles of junk in the basement. We've started Christmas shopping, and moving while we're trying to hide one another's gifts should definitely be interesting.

Right now, I can't wait to get in there. I can't wait to box up all my stuff and move it and call the cable guy and just be done with feeling like we have to put our lives on hold. I probably won't hate the panels and old carpet completely until after Christmas and we've settled in and it's too late to do anything about it until spring.

So that's where we are. Nothing new (naturally), but we're closer than we were a month ago. Hell, we're closer than we were two weeks ago, and that makes a world of difference.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Best of 2009: December 2nd

For the rest of 2009, I'll be participating in the Best of 2009 Blog Challenge created by Gwen Bell. Check it out!


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December 2nd, 2009

Restaurant moment. Share the best restaurant experience you had this year. Who was there? What made it amazing? What taste stands out in your mind?

Again, I'm torn. Anyone who knows me knows I love food. I really do enjoy sitting down to a great meal and I'm a big fan of finding some good food. I don't always mind longer drives to find food, but Graham doesn't always see the point of driving further than we have to to get dinner, so we compromise.

Just the other day I went to Wildfire with some friends for our second annual "Chrismukah" celebration. We got to eat some good food--I'm still thinking about the creamed spinach--and exchange Secret Santa gifts. My friend Sarah gave me a White Sox ornament for our tree (yay!) and Up! on dvd. It was one of my favorite movies of this year, and I'm so glad to have it for my own. Ultimately it was a great day of food (oooooh, the food!) and fun conversation. It was exactly what I needed to relax.

And again, my mind goes back to Los Angeles and my trip. We didn't eat out much, but the few times we did are still really clear in my head. I'll never forget eating Popeye's chicken on Hollywood Boulevard before iO and enjoying my first taste of Popeye's in way too long. I'm pretty sure it's my favorite fast food vice. It was a little strange to be eating some slightly greasy fast food in downtown LA in a greasy spoon with some homeless strangers, locals, and a handful of tourists vacationing on a budget.

On the morning I left LA, we went to a small diner in North Hollywood for breakfast. It was decorated mainly for the tourists, I thought, with pictures of former movie stars and some random memorabilia to make you wake up and say, "Hooray! I'm in California!" The mood was bittersweet, because my trip had been far too short and neither of us were really perpared for me to leave. Personally, the reality of how far away we live from one another really set in and I knew that in a handful of hours I'd be thousands of miles away from one of the few people who really understand me when I say things like "Le sigh," and "I hate everyone," and "I really wish we lived in Massachusetts in 1862." The food was only so-so, the coffee was enough to wake me up and remind me that I had to get my stuff together to get to the airport before my plane took off, and the sun was shining just a little too brightly for my mood. Damn that non-stop California sun.

The last restaurant moment that sticks out in my mind is our 100th monthiversary in April. We went to P.F. Chang's after a long day and we enjoyed a really late dinner. It wasn't completely special or monumental, but it was great not to cook that night and be able to celebrate being together for so long.

Best of 2009

For the rest of 2009, I'll be participating in the Best of 2009 Blog Challenge created by Gwen Bell. Check it out!

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December 1st, 2009 (So I'm a bit behind, okay?)

What was your best trip in 2009?

I'm torn on this one. On one hand, I want to say that our belated honeymoon to Hawaii was the best trip ever (for the time being) because we were in freaking paradise together. We experienced so much that we're still trying to decide which was our favorite part of the trip--was it the snorkeling? The whale watching? The delicious food at Kimo's? The amazing hike into the rainforest? Swimming in a waterfall? GAH! It's impossible to narrow it all down. Ultimately, it was an incredible trip and I don't regret it for a moment.

On the other hand, there was my semi-impromptu trip to L.A. THAT was one hell of a trip! The simplicity of it was the best. "What do we want to do today?" The views and the beauty of that area of the country are truly spectacular. The ocean is incredible and I really liked being able to stick my feet in both ends of Pacific Ocean, in the same year no less! Descanso Gardens was beautiful, and The Getty Center was stunning. Those are numbers 2 and 3 on my list to see the next time we go back to California! Number 1, of course, is Abi! Without question, my favorite part of the whole trip were the discussions we had about everything and anything under the sun. We spent hours talking over tea and chicken and beer and wine. There are really fantastic phone conversations to be hand, but nothing beats talking to your best friend in person.

I'm really blessed to have gone on some fantastic trips this year, and I know the coming year will only get better! First, we get to plan our trip to Ireland (2011), and then there's Maine and Rhode Island (hopefully), and of course Orlando next November. I love to travel, and I can't wait to find out what adventures are laying in wait for us in 2010.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The never-ending cycle of underwriting.

Well, I just got off the phone with the loan processor, and I have decided that we will be in underwriting until the day one of us dies, which may be very soon.

I checked my email and saw that I got another set of disclosures from them. Because we didn't get the grant money, they had to write up our disclosures again and because we have a new set of disclosures, we have to go through underwriting...AGAIN. They also needed our most recent bank statements and pay stubs because those expire every 30 days and the oldest set is deemed irrelevant.

Glorious. We're seriously on the fence here and I'm tempted to cut my losses and just run from this whole pile. I'm sick of never hearing good news from these people. The loan processor has been pretty good, although we weren't told about updated bank statements and pay stubs until I called her this evening. In her email she just asked for us to sign the disclosures, so hearing about the new paperwork was kind of a fluke.

Tomorrow I'm calling the lawyer and asking him to throw his weight behind some of this. I'm also going to call the bank and get this shit settled once and for all. If that doesn't work I'm going to call my uncle and ask him to throw some of his weight behind the lawyer to get this settled. I want to speak to his supervisor. The man has to report to someone and I'm going to find out who it is and make sure they file some sort of complaint against him or something.

Closing this week isn't even close to a viable option. Even if we get a clear to close tomorrow, we still need to get money out of our money market account and transfer it to the savings account and make sure it has time to clear before we get the keys at the closing.

I'm so pissed and I want to make sure someone at the bank knows about it. If you're just stumbling upon this here blog and don't know me well (or at all, really), let me be clear: I'm nice. I'm really nice. I'm a good friend (I try to be, anyway), a hard worker, and I'm thoughtful, to boot! When I have a good relationship with someone, I fling myself into it heart and soul and give it my all.

However, you do not--definitely do NOT--screw with me. I don't take it lying down, that's for sure. I will put up with crap for a little while and once I've had it, I've had it. I can be nice and sweet and kind, but I can also be brutal. Hence, why I blew up at the lending officer over the phone, and why I have called relentlessly over the last few days to get answers and information. I have become a thorn in their side and I will make sure that they are sick of me and my calling and demanding answers. I have made sure that they know I mean business, and I'm damn proud of it, too.

I was okay with being nice at the beginning. I was very cool with letting them do their thing, but now that it's clear we are not a priority case for them, nor have we ever been, I'm glad that I have made sure they know we're unhappy. I want them to be glad to be rid of us and our application. I really, really want to make sure I get my point across that I will not be jerked around.

So tomorrow afternoon I'll make some more phone calls. I am really looking forward to sitting down at the closing table with everyone and making it clear that someone owes me a big fat margarita. Or six.

Well, it figures.

I just got off the phone with the lender. Our grant application was rejected by the state because we make TOO MUCH money. It figures. We were kind of expecting it because of how this whole process has gone for us. Why on earth would it go our way for once?

I spoke with the processor last evening and she said that we'd know "first thing in the morning" and that either way, we should be ready to close by the end of this week as that's our last hurdle.

I'm not really sure what I'm feeling about this. On one hand, it's disappointing. On the other hand, we were expecting this, so I'm a little relieved to know that the review process is over and that we are really close to closing this time.

Apparently, the state rules state that we can't make more than a certain amount in a calendar year, so from January to December, yes? But the state rules also say that the review committee can interpret their rules however they want to, so rather than looking at what we made in 2009, they're going by our 2009-2010 contracts, and according to those numbers we make too much. Oy. Unfortunately, it's too late to apply for any other CPS grants as the bank isn't under their "preferred lenders" and it's too late to apply for them anyway. The city's broke as it is!

The lending agent said he was extremely sorry, and he sounded sorry. The last time I spoke with him he had that 'big man on campus' air about him and was almost making it out to sound like I was the one who was overreacting because there seemed to be no way that we wouldn't get this money. Um...oops? He said he feels like a "first class heel" and that he'll know for the future that teachers probably don't qualify for the money. THEN he told me that he's only had one--ONE--IHDA application get approved. Um...that's something I would have liked to have known say, BEFORE we went ahead with this garbage? Oh well.

We have less money to play with up front, which sucks, but we'll get our $8,000 eventually. I plan on sending in the paperwork for that tax credit ASAP after we close.

I'm kind of relieved that it's all over. We'll hear from them again today, hopefully in the evening, to find out when we're going to close and get everything squared away.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Housing Headaches

I promised a home-pursuing update, and while we watch the game, I figure I can at least update ya'll and bring us into the present.

After we found out that we were out of the underwriting and audit phase, we thought we'd be in the clear, right? Man, we were super duper wrong. Turns out that because of new rules in place with CPS and IHDA, we *might* make too much money to get the grant. This = NOT AWESOME. I really just about lost my $&!# when I heard that.

A friend took me out to dinner that night because, in her words, "Angie needs a drink." And that I did. While I was stuck in rubberneck traffic on the way to her home, I decided to call our lending agent and give him a big ole chunk of my mind. I had to leave a voicemail (two, actually, and that news is nothing to anyone who knows me and knows my voicemail habits) but I got my point accross.

I started my conversation with the lender by wishing him a happy weekend, because there was no way in hell I was going to have one. I let him know I was furious with the knowledge that we might make too much money to get this grant, because that's the first question they asked us to get pre-approved. They knew our income. They had our bank statements and even a copy of my contract and papers from my boss to prove that I was employed where I said I was employed. How much more does one need?

Then I said that if we didn't close before November 30th (not gonna happen now, but I yelled enough to get my point across) that we'd lose the $8,000 tax credit and the $6,000 grant and that was $14,000 we had trusted in him enough to count on. "So G---, who is gonna give me $14,000? That's a lot of money to lose!" Then I added that we went ahead and paid our rent for December so it was really $14,800 that we were owed because he promised me we'd close by the end of November. He actually promised me on two separate occassions that we'd close by mid-November but that didn't happen.

I ended by saying that it was simple addition to figure out if we made enough money or not to qualify for the grant--all you have to do is add our salaries together. I mentioned that if I was that bad at my job, I'd have been fired, and that we'd take the weekend to think about our options and see if we didn't pull the plug on the whole deal because all the stress and headaches and not sleeping and foot dragging weren't worth it in the end.

On Saturday, I got a phone call from the lender. He apologized and said he'd get in touch with us first thing Monday morning. On Monday, we got a call from his processor, Lynn, who said that our file had been pushed to the front of the line for the first round of IHDA review (being a &!%*# and throwing a tantrum sometimes pays off, my friends!) and we were in the secondary review. She couldn't make promises--she told me that a few times--but it "looks promising". That was Monday night. Based on the conversation I had with her and the way she repeated phrases like, "I can't make any promises" and "It was a really nice thing of her to push your file to the front of the line like that," I'm thinking that she probably heard about my tantrum with the lender, and I'm okay with that.

Graham and I have gone back and forth with this: do we be nice and patient or do we get squeaky? Well, we were nice. We were more than nice. We bent over backwards to get them paperwork and forms and just about everything they asked for. We did our job, so where the hell are our keys, huh? Like Graham told Brian and Robyn this week, "They could have had Good Cop Angie, but they didn't play nice, and now they get to deal with Bad Cop Angie." True business. And Graham knows all too well that Bad Cop Angie will rain down hell if she doesn't get her way. (And he married me anyway! Willingly! Someone get that boy a CAT scan!)

So on Monday I'll call and see what's what. I also need to all our realtor and see what the hold up is for the seller. She needed to dig up some power of attorney form to prove that she can actually sell the place. If all else fails, I'm calling OUR attorney and asking him to put the squeeze on the realtor to get the closing done, and I won't fail to mention that he knows my uncle well. My dad's twin has worked at a title company for decades and the minute we told him our attorney's name he nodded and said he knew him well, and said that he was a good guy. I don't always like having to play the "family name" to get things done, but if I have to you damn well better believe I'm gonna do it! (Did you like how I said "family name", like we're the friggin' Windsors of Chicago?)

Well, that's where we are. It's *possible* that we'll close this week, but I'm really tired of hoping that it will happen. Everyone told me at first that "a week doesn't matter" in the grand scheme of things, but it's been two weeks already, and now we're looking at three. So what....will a month count? This has made it impossible for us to paint or renovate the living room until at least March, possibly summer. Moving in December was in the top ten list of Things I Don't Want To Do Before Christmas. It's killing Graham that we can't decorate yet. This whole process is making me crazy....literally.

On Monday I will call. On Tuesday, I will call. So on and so forth. We've started packing, and we have non-essentials stashed away. Our bikes and fall decorations and summer clothes are hidden at my in-laws' home. We've put away some books and some kitchen items (like that large salad bowl I know we won't use before the move) and all our knick-knacks (they're ALL put away! Praise the lord!). I'm making a mental list of things I want to get done ASAP when we finally get the keys...like change the locks, clean the bathroom, hug the front door...the usual.

That's what's new. It's entirely possible that we'll close this week...and it's entirely possible we'll close the first night of Hannukah. Either way, I want those keys, and the crazy white chick in me is prepared to do whatever is necessary to get them!

Let's go, Marist!

Graham's alma mater (high school) is competing tonight in the state championship (class 8A) against Maine South. Marist is 11-2 and Maine South is 13-0. The game is certain to be a good one, and it's a little exciting to see Marist on prime time television (UPN-Power 50, yo!) against a powerhouse school.

The last time Marist was in a state championship game was in 1986 where they lost to Buffalo Grove, and the last time Maine South went to a state championship game was....last year. Maine South hasn't lost a game since 2007. They've won 27 games in a row. Wow.

Marist took down Fremd high school in the previous game to clinch their trip downstate, and Fremd was undefeated as well, so that was really exciting. Graham and his dad went to one of their playoff games and had a great time, so Graham is really excited to see this game tonight.

While we're not joining the crowds at 115 Bourbon Street, we're enjoying the game while we pack and throw non-essentials into boxes. (We were actually able to empty out some of the kitchen today! Squee!) We'll pack here and there between halves and during commercials, so hopefully the last few boxes will be essentials like clothes and bathroom stuff. But for now, let's go Redhawks!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

The G's are sitting in the living room right now enjoying the National Dog Show on television. We watched the parade on TV like every year and I'm proud to say that I haven't missed a Macy's Thanksgiving parade in years. It's my favorite Thanksgiving tradition, just like mashed potatoes and Uncle Festus.

I'll be sure to post a house update later (it's a good story, I tell ya) but since today is our national day of giving thanks, it's only appropriate I make sure I show my appreciation and thanks for all the good, wonderful things in my life.

I'm thankful for my God, who reminds me everyday that even in my darkest hours, there's hope.

I'm thankful for my husband who has been so strong for me in the last few weeks. He's been strong for me when I couldn't be, and he's an incredible partner in crime and in life.

I'm thankful that we have a place to live today. No, it's not our house, but it's safe and warm and filled with love.

I'm thankful for my friends who will drop anything they're doing to listen to me whine and complain about the silliest, most minute of complaints and will--for whatever reason--still love me in the morning.

I'm thankful for my job. Both of us are blessed to be employed right now, especially when so many are struggling financially.

I'm thankful for my family. Even when I have nowhere to go and no one to turn to, I'll find support and strength with them.

I'm thankful for my in-laws, who have taken me in as one of their own and made me a part of the family.

I hope you stop and give your family members and loved ones a hug today! Give thanks for the greatness that you see in your life.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Just kidding..

Well, we're clear with FHA, so we can stop holding our breath there. They like everything they see, so realistically we'd be able to close, right? Wrong. Now IHDA wants more information. We need to give them our most recent paystubs AND a copy of my contract so I can prove how much I'm making this year. And the kicker is that we might make too much for them to approve it.

Figures. The reason we started working with IHDA is because they work closely with CPS teachers to help them own a home. What I want to know is how in the hell they can possibly think that 2 teachers in the city of Chicago make too MUCH for them to help out? Really? Never in my life have I looked at my pay stub and said, "Wow...I'm making far too much. Really, I'm overpaid."

Dang it. And I really thought that this might just be it. Naturally, we wouldn't be turned away for having bad credit or no credit at all, or because our debt to income ratio is too high. We won't be turned away because we have 4 cars and defaulted on our credit cards. No. There's a chance that we could be turned down for making too much money. Unfrigginbelievable.

Getting closer?

We got a call the other day that we are out of the underwriting/audit phase, so that's a big help to my frame of mind these days. We also got an email from our realtor asking if we were ready to close next week. I'm a little hopeful, but it's Friday and we've gotten word that there's ANOTHER form we have to sign and initial, blah blah blah. So we CAN potentially close sometime next week, but I'm so tired of hoping that we will and being told, "No, not yet." One of my favorite quotes in the entire world ends with the phrase, "Do flowers in spring say, 'Not yet'?" and that's exactly how I feel right now.

On the other hand, I'm feeling a lot better these days. The last few weeks have been rough, to say the least. I'm so grateful for the good friends in my life who have been more than understanding throughout all my crazy mood swings. Speaking of mood swings...Graham has been beyond patient with me throughout. I'm completely amazed by his patience and strength.

So that's where we are. Nothing completely new to report, but also nothing bad. But like I've been saying all along, there's no way I'll be resting or completely at ease until we're at the closing with those keys in my hand.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Stressed.

I worked from home today, and I'm glad I did. I really needed the break from the office and everything there. I was productive here and made some necessary changes to one of our school websites (a scholarship site, of sorts) and caught up on some paperwork and got myself ready for conferences tomorrow (boo). I'm glad I was HERE, because if I was THERE I probably would have been sent home or committed. Perhaps both?

Shortly after noon I called our lending agent and after a brief altercation with a phone monkey at the bank, I finally got through to the agent. Apparently, part of the hold up is that we are being audited by the bank. One in file mortgage applications is being audited by the bank to be sure that the underwriters did their job right. It's completely random, and it's entirely possible we could have closed tomorrow or Monday if we were one folder above where we ended up on someone's desk. Everything is "great" according to the lending officer, but this audit "could take a few days" or "up to two weeks", or even more if someone really sucks at their job.

The lending agent said someone would call us by the end of the day Tuesday and let us know where we stand. We'll see if that actually happens, or if I have to start making calls around 4 p.m. on Tuesday. He promised me--PROMISED--that we'd be closed by the end of the month, and possibly by Thanksgiving, but "definitely by the end of the month." Oh great. I looked at the calendar. There are 10 days this month where we can close--9 if you don't count tomorrow. That's a really brief window of time.

I told the lending agent we had to be out of our apartment by November 30th. I asked who was going to pay our rent for the month of December because we won't be able to move in time for the closing and everything that comes after it. What the hell are they thinking? That we can close on the 30th and move that same day?

I'm really pissed off. I'm probably going to have to take a week off work to move, unpack, and paint, rip up carpet, and remove wood panels from the living room. Not that anyone doesn't like a week off work, but I'd much rather that week be spent in Cabo or Maui than scraping tar off plaster walls.

At least this was random and as cruel as random is, it's not that anyone made a mistake or dropped the ball. It's just really defeating to get so close and still have to wait. We're not buying a short sale. We're not trying to clean up our credit reports and hide bad credit scores. We didn't buy a car or a vacation home or do anything wrong, and we're still waiting. Still. Waiting.

Ugh. I so badly want this to be done with. I cannot wait until we have keys, and I'm really afraid that this auditor will step in and not like something and we'll have to start this process all over again. If I need to go to the doctor for the issues that are developing with me--physically and emotionally--I fully intend on billing the bank and sending them an invoice.

We most likely won't have anything new until next week, so if you're the praying sort, just keep our emotional well-being in your prayers more than anything else. We're really struggling with this, and any support we can get would mean more than keys or help painting.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

We are NOT closing tomorrow. Le sigh.

Well, that's basically all you need to know, but I've always been verbose and I've found that writing out what's going on keeps me from ripping out the reproductive organs of the next person who rubs me the wrong way. So luckily for you...you get the full story!

Yesterday, the lending officer called Graham and said that the bank wanted their mortgage processing fee upfront, not wrapped into closing costs like we had planned, so "the sooner it gets to the processor, the better." He still sounded optimistic that we'd close this week, and said that everything was super duper, so we were still expecting to have our final walk-through this afternoon and close sometime Thursday. Awesome, right? Graham got the cashier's check from the bank on Tuesday afternoon and the banker said he'd pick it up sometime on Wednesday.

I made Graham promise me that he'd call or text or something and let me know what the banker said about closing. Well, he called, and what he had to say made me furious. Basically, it's like this: today is Veterans' Day, so the banks are all closed. The processor won't get the fee until tomorrow, and because the banks effed up so many applications over the last few years and just gave home loans to everyone, now they're trying to look like responsible adults in front of Congress. What it means for us is that they get to review all our paperwork AGAIN and give final approval over the underwriters and everyone else before we're clear to close.

I did not take this news well. Not at all. I started crying in my office and pulled myself together for a handful of minutes to take some photos of alums doing a lesson for the kids in our junior high, and then I decided to ask my boss if I could work at home tomorrow--I'd been trying to get to her all day, but her office door was closed and you can't just barge in when the door is shut. My original plan had been to work from home because it would have been easier for a closing date than trying to hustle home and fight traffic. After learning that we wouldn't be closing, I couldn't even accept the idea of trying to be at work tomorrow. I went into her office to let her know I'd be working at home and I had what can only be described as a minor mental breakdown. Hyperventilating, crying, and perhaps even a little cussing. She sent me home because I wasn't in any position to try and teach another class with just 15 minutes to calm myself down. Hell, she offered to drive me home because she was nervous I'd have a panic attack in the middle of traffic! So, I was home by 1:30 this afternoon because I was clearly not in any sort of stable emotional state to teach effectively.

I am so, so frustrated. We did everything right. We practically bent over backwards getting everyone the paperwork they needed. We attended friggin' homeownership counseling, for crying out loud! The bank had six weeks to get this crap together and the day before we're supposed to close we're told we can't because one more person wants to review our file "just in case." That's really the part that makes me nervous. It's gone smoothly so far and no one's found anything wrong with our paperwork--what if someone dislikes some blip on our paperwork, or they decide that the debt to income ratio isn't where they want it? What if they look at my student loans and decide that the $14,000+ I owe to Mohela for paying for my college degree is too much still? By the way, that is the most ironic part of all this crap--wasn't going to college supposed to help? Getting a friggin' degree was supposed to raise my income and help me become a homeowner. If they dislike my student loans or my oh-so-plentiful income, we're screwed.

UGH. It shouldn't be this hard. It shouldn't be this stressful. I haven't been sleeping through the night. Now we have just one week to pack and move out and at least paint the rooms so we're not tripping over furniture trying to paint. And there are wood panels glued to the walls in the living room, so we have to get those taken off and get the walls sanded down and painted before we can move in or we'll have dust and black tar gunk all over our furniture. GREAT.

Honestly, I don't consider myself a "violent" person (though my kid sister would disagree, and I've threatened to throatpunch and cut and slash some tires...that probably doesn't help my cause!) but had I been the one to take that news this afternoon, I can't say I wouldn't have lost my $#!% and read someone the riot act while beating them in the face with a wooden spoon. At the very least, I'd call The Bank and demand to speak with someone in charge and clearly state that their employees need a few lessons in customer service. What if we had been locked in a lease? Or worse, what if we were supposed to close at the end of the month and now we're out of our lease and stuck without a place to live? I'd totally bring my tent and sleeping bag to the bank's lobby and set up shop until they got their crap together. I'd probably be kicked out, but it'd be worth it. In my not-worth-anything-to-them opinion, it's just poor business practice. You can't call even a few days before and keep us posted? You can't make a final push for our benefit over The Bank? I can say right now that I'll never ever bank with them. Sure, I owe them my soul for the next 30 years, but they won't be getting anymore of my money or my business. I'd rather walk a little further than deal with them and their crap.

Welp, one more week of sleeplessness, I suppose. One more week of pounding down another beer in the evening and being stressed out. Oh goody.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Maybe maybe?

Our "target close date" is Thursday. We have been incredibly compliant throughout this process (if you ask me) and really, aside from the counseling session we didn't know about, it's been a really smooth ride. The most frustrating part is how long it's taken us. Six weeks seemed like a long time to wait when we signed the contract, but with so many first-time homebuyers rushing to get in under the deadline--which hadn't been extended yet--our real estate agent and lending agent said that the process would take time. Seems the market was flooded with first-time applicants thanks to that $8k.

We went into underwriting on Wednesday last week. I kept checking my email every hour on the hour on Thursday and Friday, hoping that maybe we'd get lucky and we'd get a clear to close from the underwriter. Even on Monday I tried to be a little less crazy and remind myself that there were two whole days between Monday and Thursday, so with a little luck, we'd be okay by Thursday and ready to sign our names a billion times at the closing.

Today we heard from the lending agent and all he said was that we needed to get a money order for some funds he initially wrapped up into the closing costs, but it seems that the bank wants some of their money up front (they're so nice), but we'll get some of it back at the closing or shortly afterwards. He's coming by tomorrow to pick up the money order, and while I didn't speak to him on the phone (my pesky job gets in the way of me being home all day), Graham said he sounded optimistic and that it's "looking good" that we'll still close on Thursday.

I really can't wait to close. I'm more anxious now than I was at the start of this process--to get so close and have something go wrong now would really be defeating. I'm trying to stay positive, but it's been a rough few weeks at work so the nerves and lack of sleep are really getting me down.

So, by the weekend, we'll either be first-time homeowners (mortgage payers, really), or we'll still be waiting to close. Either way there will be some pretty crazy emotions 'round these parts.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Columbus Day Camping Trip a.k.a. G Family Palooza!

Over the Columbus Day weekend we went camping with Graham's parents and siblings and sibling-in-law. It was the first time the family had been on a vacation since before Graham went to college...8 years ago. And, it was the first time that Robyn or I had been invited along on a family trip/vacation (again, because 8 years ago Robyn wasn't part of the equation, and I was still Graham's high school girlfriend).

The "seed had been planted" months ago. Mary realized that her birthday would fall over the weekend and it was her first available birthday weekend since she entered college, so she was really hoping that the whole family would be able to go camping to celebrate, especially since she's graduating from college this year and who knows where she'll be next year? At the end of the summer, Clinton Lake was the chosen campground since it was between Mary, Brian, and Robyn in Jacksonville, and Graham, me, and parents-in-law in Chicago. We all made the effort to be there, and I'm so glad we went. It was a fun weekend, and I really hope that we can all do it again sometime. Since there are so many photos, I'll try and let them do the talking and interject as little as possible.

Obligatory photo of Graham driving.

Awesome sunset as we were leaving.


We finally arrived...





Nike is cold and confused.






"Yo Mary, this CD is good and I'm gonna let you enjoy it, but Beyonce had one of the best CDs of all time."



Graham likes to wake up early and take pictures of nature.












There were deer all over the campground that weekend.

All the spaces in our camping area were reserved, but we were the only ones brave enough to actually show up.



This is my preferred method of fishing.





The honeymoon suite.









Nike gave up on walking, so Graham carried her.