Thursday, October 29, 2009

When Graham's away...

Angie will....not do much of anything, truth be told. I've been a bit of a slug the last 24 hours. If you had asked me a week ago if I was dependent upon my man, I'd have probably hit you square in the jaw. "Of COURSE I'm not dependent on him! Are you HIGH, Clairee?"

But after the last 2 afternoons and evenings, I've realized that I'm far more dependent on him than I realize. Oh sure, I can cook for myself and do the dishes and clean the bathroom. Lord knows that if I didn't have Graham my butt wouldn't be any smaller. Graham being away reminds me of "my single days" (may they rest in peace) and the year I spent at the boarding school being a mom to 30 teenage girls when I had no freakin' clue what I needed in my life--probably not the best career move, in retrospect. At the boarding school, I had so much time on my hands, it was ridiculous. Weekends were the worst. When I worked Fridays-Sundays I couldn't leave the building, so I did a lot of sitting. And reading. And thinking. I thought about my upcoming wedding and about where the hell I'd be working in just a few months because the boarding school was kicking me out. Mostly, though, I thought about how lonely I was. Unfortunately for Graham and those patient enough to stick with me, I was pretty pathetic. My coworkers and I didn't really mesh, and while normally that's not something I'd take issue with, they were my only neighbors, my only real connection to life outside the boarding school. For whatever reason, two of them especially couldn't quite get past the fact that we all worked together and didn't need to like one another, but should at least get along for the better of the girls. Because they clicked instantly and I ended up in the dust, and because I really didn't have friends in the Chicago area at the time (all my friends from high school and earlier had moved on) and Jacksonville was an extra hour away from the boarding school, I spent a lot of time alone.

I was miserable that whole year. The last few months of 2006 and pretty much all of 2007, save the last few weeks, was the worst time of my life. I was lonely all the time and I really let it get to me. I'm not one to care what other people think of me, but I really started to dwell on it. What was it about me that made my coworkers not want to hang out with me? Did I smell funny or something? I did everything I could to get out and meet people: I took dance classes, I attended various churches and bible studies in the area, I even wandered around a local residential college and spent time in their library and dining hall in the hopes that someone near my age might strike up a conversation with me. It didn't really work, but dammit, I tried.

I was so glad to finally move away from the boarding school, my coworkers, and that entire situation. I felt so much healthier once I'd left it all behind me. I was back living with my parents for a few months and while that wasn't completely ideal, at least I had people I could talk to when I was bored or excited! At least I could have a conversation with someone.

Since we've been married, we've been away from one another for an extended period three different times. The first was shortly after our first anniversary when I went on a retreat with our 8th grade class last January. The next time was just last month when I went to L.A., and obviously this week makes #3. I never realized before how quiet this place is with no one to share it with! The apartment seems a lot bigger without Graham here.

He'll be back (hopefully) by 12:30 Saturday afternoon, so it's really only one more day without him. Friday promises to be pretty busy for me, so here's hoping the time passes quickly so we can get back to our normal, boring, ho-hum routine with one another.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Plugging Away

Life continues in our little corner of the universe. We've been busy with work and such, so there hasn't been much time to update.

Graham is officially on vacation as of Wednesday evening. He had 2 days with students this week, conferences on Monday, and has been enjoying his break so far. He's gathered some more paperwork for the lenders and FHA in regards to the house, and we just found out there's one more hoop we have to jump through and yet another dotted line to sign. Basically, because all the banks shot themselves in the foot by giving loans to people who couldn't afford them a few years ago and have since lost money on those deals, they're trying to prevent such a scenario from happening again. This time it involves a lot more paperwork and a "home ownership counseling session" we have to attend. Joy of joys! We're expecting it to be a lot of "pay your mortgage on time" and "don't avoid phone calls from the bank", etc. All we need is to get a piece of paper signed stating that we went to the session and we're good. Unfortunately for us, we can't just get the paper signed, we actually have to attend this stupid thing. Figures that with one more hurdle, we'd come across someone with ethics who won't just sign the paper and send us on our way.

Had we known about this session a week ago, we'd have gotten our act together to attend this week. We found out earlier this week and were only able to get our paperwork in today. That = suck. So now we have to fill out another few papers and meet with them *hopefully* next week, but likely the week after (Graham is going out of town, and according to the paperwork both of us need to attend the session). So...we basically have 7+ days to get a little more paperwork together if and when the bank calls (and we've been warned--they will call). It's not that we've done anything wrong, it's just that everyone and their banker wants to be sure they don't get stuck with a billion foreclosures again, so because they weren't responsible enough to say "no" to people who couldn't afford a loan, we have to prove we're responsible enough for them. Totally backwards. Why aren't these banks being forced to attend sessions on saying "no" to potential customers, eh? Figures that the homeowner-wannabes get yanked around.

But, things are still progressing and when we have news we'll definitely share.

In other news...Graham is going to Minneapolis for a few days next week! He's attending a science teacher conference and is flying out Wednesday and returning Saturday, just in time for Halloween. He's going to have fun attending science experiement sessions, etc., and I'm going to have fun eating girl food! I'm going to make all my favorite foods that he can't stand during the time he's gone, and that means pasta with cream sauce, broccoli cheese soup, and cheese stuffed chicken! WOO HOO!

This weekend we'll try and update with new photos and trust me...when house stuff happens, you'll know.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Locked & Loaded

Today we moved another step further in the home-buying process. We met with our lender this afternoon and signed a boatload of paperwork and officially locked in our interest rate. We're locked in at 5% which is an incredibly far cry from the 14% + our parents had. Incredibly, that was the norm for the late 1970s and '80s. These days anything above an 8% is considered high. When Dylan said the times were a-changin' I wonder if he was including home-buying in that equation.

So ultimately, we're a step closer to holding the title and keys to a home. Crazy but true! Now we need to wait for the attourney review of the contract ant all the papers, and then we do a hell of a lot of praying that everything goes smoothly until the closing.

Our lender is a really nice guy and went through all the paperwork with us and did a good job of explaining everything. Since we're first-time buyers, we've got a lot to learn in a few short weeks, and he's been great in explaining all we need to know. Last night I woke up and had a small bout of "OH MY GOD WHAT IF THE BANK TAKES IT ALL AWAY AND WE'RE SCREWED AND HAVE NO HOME?????????????????" I asked him to be honest with me and explain everything that could possibly go wrong and all the "what ifs" that are left. Basically, he said that as far as the "3 C's" are concerned, we're pretty golden. The first C: Credit. He's reviewed all our paperwork and feels confident that we're in a good position and that there won't be any red flags during the filing and working with the underwriter. That's a good thing to know.

The second C: I can't remember what it's called, but it basically boils down to the loan, and we're pretty set as far as that's concerned.

The final C: Collateral. That's pretty much out of our hands. That C belongs to the house, and the only red flag that might be if something comes back in an appraisal that doesn't look kosher. At that point, the bank, lender, realtors, and seller would have to work something out so it all gets fixed. I had a friend go through something similar lately--the bank was fussing over the appraisal because of some things that needed to be fixed or finished. My friend had worked it out with the seller that she and her husband would fix those things and the seller would knock down the price of the house, but because banks are banks, they were being nitpicky. In the end, all they had to do was adjust the wording in a contract or on a form or something, and they were able to close on their target date. If we can be that lucky, we'll consider ourselves lucky!

Man...this is nervewracking stuff! How do people DO this all the time? Or more than once? I probably won't rest easy until I'm holding the keys...and even then! It's going to be a hell of a long month, that's for sure....

Just keep praying for us that all goes well and continues to go well! We've been really blessed so far, far more than we deserve. Hopefully those blessings will continue over the next few weeks and into the holiday season--nothing like moving on Thanksgiving weekend!

We'll continue to update as things progress...but if I remember correctly according to our agent, this is the point where it all slows down and is completely out of our hands, so there may not be daily house updates like there have been (which you're all secretly thankful for!) but we'll deal.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaand, we're back!

Long story short: the camping trip was great. We're tired, but look for an update with photos later this week. Right now, we're showered and exhausted and heading to bed.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Home Inspection: Complete!

Yesterday we had our home inspection done. One more step down!

Overall, everything looks good. There are some minor fixes that might need to be addressed before the FHA inspector comes in and gives the all-clear, but that's in. For example, the upstairs bedrooms don't have light switches, but pull chains. That's not a problem for us, but according to the inspector the FHA people might not like it and most likely wouldn't approve it, so we need to come up with a fix and put in light switches. Also, at least half of the electrical outlets in the house aren't grounded, so they'd need to be replaced. The caveat is that we're buying the home "as is" because it's an estate sale so the seller probably won't be willing to fix some of those things for us. We might be able to negotiate the price or get a credit or something in return, but we're not sure. Maybe they'll even let us get in there and take care of that stuff on our own so there won't be any problems with the FHA inspection.

The biggest issue that arose during the inspection was in the attic/crawl space. I had noticed that it was chillier upstairs than downstairs, but I figured it was an older home and it was just taking a while for the heat to get upstairs. When the inspector opened the attic access panel, he saw that all the insulation had been ripped up by an animal, most likely a small rodent. All the insulation had been pulled to one end of the attic or the other. Very weird. Most likely it was done by mice or something--there were small droppings in the attic, but there was no evidence of rodents anywhere else in the house and espectially with mice, you'd know if there were critters around.

What we think happened was that a few mice squirrels or whatever got into the attic and created a little mice commune for themselves, and after the people moved out, so did they. No people = no food and no warmth! Whatever it was hasn't been there in quite some time.

So really....we're looking at a little money to replace some attic insulation, get some new outlets, and get some light switches put in. Not a terrible inspection at all! I'm going to do some research on the FHA regulations and see what I can find, if anything. Also, we're going to talk to our agent and see if he can negotiate anything with the seller's agent. We're already going to lose the washer and dryer (not staying in the home) so if they can work something out to get us a credit or will take care of those small fixes, it'd really help us out.

That's all for now. Don't look for any updates until Monday or Tuesday--we're going camping for the weekend! It's gonna be a good time.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

(Home) Inspector Gadget

This afternoon, we're going to have our home inspection done. We're meeting right after school at the house, and it's supposed to last about 2 hours. After that, we'll know if the house has anything major that needs to be repaired. Because we're buying the home via estate sale, the seller most likely won't fix any repairs unless they're small, so we're preparing to ask for a credit back. However, we could be surprised and have a seller who's willing to fix the things we want fixed.

I'm trying to mentally prepare myself for the inspection. I know they'll find things that will be wrong and need to be fixed. I know that it won't technically be a clean bill of health, but I still have a feeling I'm going to be upset if the list is longer than I expect it to be. We'll make it work, but I'm not gonna like it.

Hopefully, the inspection will only turn up small fixes that we can take care of or the seller will take care of those things for us. If it turns up something really huge...well, we'll worry about that when it happens.

Monday, October 5, 2009

So, remember that "home buying" dream we had?

It's sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo a reality!! OH EM GEE!

To recap, check out alllll our back and forth home buying posts. Basically, we went out on Thursday and saw 2 homes we really liked. We put in an offer on each, and we got a counter on one home followed by an acceptance! We are MOVING! To a HOUSE! That we will OWN! (Eventually.)

We put in our earnest money last night, in fact. We heard from our agent and he said "the sooner, the better" and we just slipped it into their mailbox last night. They got all the paperwork drawn up, and the seller signed this afternoon. We signed this evening, and our home inspection is scheduled for Thursday.

It's all moving pretty fast, but I know that in the next few weeks it will all sloooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooow doooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooown and we'll be waiting on the lenders. As long as everything moves along as best it can, I'm okay with waiting a few weeks. It's going to take me that long to pack!

Our agent has been great, and he was really aggressive in finding us a house. He was honest with us from the start, and after a few outings, he knew what we were looking for and was able to find us homes we could seriously conside moving into. We found 2 we really loved and it was a toss up as to which one we'd pick. We'd have been happy with either one.

Now, we just wait for our inspection and get all our paperwork to the lender. After that it's our of our hands, but it's a good thing.

And now, home sweet home (tentatively):

Target closing date: November 12th. So, who's up for a painting party? We'll pay you in pizza and beer!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Good morrow, fair lords and ladies...

At the beginning of the summer, I "casually" hinted that I'd like to go visit Bristol Renaissance Faire. Graham and I were there in August 2001 right before he left for college and neither of us had been back since. I enjoyed my experience the first time and anyone who knows me and knows me well knows that I'm always up for a little Shakespearean action and a throwback to the good ole 15 & 1600s...

The entrance to ye olde faire....

The Mud Show: The Greatest Show IN EARTH!

It's not theatre in the round, it's theatre in the ground!

Man, those jokes never get old....

This crazy lady likes to hang out at "My Playce".

It's not a faire without a vegetable-throwing stand! Note the sign on the left...

"Do not participate if you are easily offended!"


My trip to the faire wouldn't have been complete without a turkey leg the size of my head.

And look! A boat!

The guy on stage was hurling stuff at people. Clearly it's a theme at ren faires.

Graham and I have a photo with this lady from August 2001. It's one of my favorite photos, and I was truly pleased to see that she was still alive 8 years later. Graham wasn't too keen on taking a photo with her, but as far as I see it, it's tradition! Now we're two for two with her. I don't know her name, but she's a pretty cool gal.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Short update

On Thursday afternoon we saw 3 more homes. Our agent is a rock star and is really trying to help us get into a place before the November 30th deadline comes up. He's all about getting us that tax credit!

He couldn't meet with us, so he gave us the addresses to the homes and then gave us the codes for the key-lock boxes out front so we could wander and see the houses. I felt a little weird about that, but I guess it's okay to do that....?

The first home--Long--is a bungalow. We both really liked that one. The attic is unfinished, but gimme some drywall and light fixtures and that's half the battle! In the meantime, it'd be storage. The kitchen was nice and big, and it has a dining room. It's a 2 bedroom, 1.1 bath house. It needs a bit of a spitshine, but nothing we're afraid of handling ourselves. The one negative is that in parts of the basement, Graham can't stand upright; he needs to stoop. He's totally not cool with that. It has 2 staircases down to the basement, and the first staircase, the "main" one, I suppose, is low. I even had to duck, and I'm nothing close to tall. So that's a drawback.

The second home was cute and a good "starter" home, but we felt it was priced too high for its size, and for that house you're paying more for location than for space. On the other hand, it did have a big ass windmill in the backyard. No, really. It looked a lot like this:

We've seen a lot of homes and we've seen some weird stuff, but that was just ridiculous.

Ultimately, we ruled out the second home, just because it's too high for the size of the home, and our agent wasn't expecting them to come down much on the price.

The third home we saw was right down the street. We'll call this one Natchez. It's a good house, and it's a Cape Cod. Nice neighborhood, lots of space, and sorta-finished basement. It has 4 bedrooms and they're all finished which is a definite plus. AND Graham can stand up in the basement, so he's pretty excited about that.

The one bad thing about that house--and it's purely from a home buyer's perspective--is that nothing has been removed from the house. All the furniture is still there, and the drawers are still filled with stuff. The closets still had clothes inside, and under the basement stairs there were still old pairs of shoes hanging out, waiting to be worn. It was creepy. If I had to guess, I'd say the house hasn't been on the market that long. It's definitely an estate sale, and from what I can tell the deceased home owner either has no family to remove his belongings, or they just didn't care. I honestly felt like I had broken into someone's home and they could be back any minute. I mean, the man's work nametag was still on the table by the door! Good ole Stan.

So, we like Long and Natchez. I prefer Long because it's a house we'll stay in for years (as is Natchez). It's got a pantry and a dining room. The garage needs a new roof, and Graham can't stand up in parts of the basement, so those are some negatives.

Of course, because I like Long, Graham prefers Natchez. There aren't any rooms to finish off like on Long, and he can stand in the basement without wondering about head clearance. It doesn't have a pantry or a dining room, and the kitchen is a touch smaller. Both homes have eat-in kitchens, so at least we have a place for a table and chairs.

I don't think we'd "save money" doing renovations for either home. Both have unfinished basements, and the Natchez kitchen is completely tiled--walls, floors, ceilings, everything. We'd do some work on both bathrooms, but ultimately I think we'd put in the same amount of money to fix up/make each house our own, so it's just a matter of what projects we'd like to tackle.

We're going out tomorrow to see each house with our agent and get a little more info on the furnaces and property taxes, and then we'll go from there. It's exciting and exhausting, but I'm glad we're looking for a home. We've been wanting a house for a long time and like I said with the first house: it sucks that it didn't work out, but the one thing we found was that we CAN afford a home and a mortgage, so it was a blessing even though the first house fell through.

I will say that as fun as house hunting as been, I'll be very glad to move into our house and STAY. I love our apartment, and I really love that we were able to move in and stay for nearly 2 years without having to pack up and remove stuff from the walls and fill in holes in the walls so our dorm parent doesn't get mad at us....all that moving back and forth during college and after college really tuckered me out. That being said, we always knew this would be temporary, so it'll be really fun to move and STAY PUT.

Stay tuned, I suppose...

Friday, October 2, 2009

Slowing it down....

This weekend really gives us a much needed break from "real life." Granted, I had my break last week when I went to Los Angeles, but I still feel like I've been running non-stop for 2 weeks straight.

Tonight, I'm decorating our apartment for Halloween. It's my favorite holiday! Tomorrow I think we're just chillin' here and getting some stuff done around these parts, and Sunday is still a toss up. It's definitely a little chilly here in Chicago, so I don't really mind sitting on my couch, wearing comfy pants and a sweatshirt, and just enjoying a cool, fall evening.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Robyn & Brian's Wedding Day: The Party

I love weddings, but I love wedding receptions even more. I love to get down and groovy and dance. (And because I use "get down" and "groovy" that tells you what kind of dancer I am....) And, let's just say it: I love the wine and the beer and the cocktails and the champagne....Graham likes to tell me that I've "got a reputation" now, but as far as I'm concerned, my reputation is that I am FUN at weddings. So there. :-)

Rebecca and I after dinner. I've already got what I call "goofy eyes".

Somewhere along the line I put down the camera. Thankfully I found it in time for their first dance.

Brian with his mommy.

A MacMurray College tradition: the gentlemen of Omega Theta Psi dancing it up to "Bye Bye Bye" by Justin Timberlake and those other guys.

And, because my dad-in-law is my dad-in-law, Irish dancing from the Foley women. (Funny story: I was drunk as hell by this point and I knew exactly what was going on when the DJ called all those ladies up there, but super-sober Aunt Gail didn't understand why she was being hauled out onto the dance floor.)

Me and the bride. (Duh...)

"The Kids": Graham, me, Robyn, Brian, and Mary.

Brian & Robyn's Wedding Day: The Main Event

My friend Shanda was nice enough to take photos during the ceremony as I was "indisposed" at the moment....clearly.

The bridesmaids all lined up before the chapel doors opened.
Brian's here, and Robyn made it to the altar. Let's get this party started!




Time announced man and wife: 4:42 p.m. (I had my cell phone with me during the ceremony.)

Robyn & Brian's Wedding Day: Pre-Ceremony

Before the ceremony, we met at the chapel to finish getting ready. Robyn and her mom went to get their makeup done, so "the girls" showed up a little early.

Danielle and Amber finish getting their dresses on, which was a little difficult for Amber because we found out a little too late that one of her hooks were cut out during alterations. Whoopsie!
My new sister! One of the last pictures of Robyn as a single lady. Beyonce, where you at?

Mary loves to rock the socks. She's never without an extra pair.

It was at this point Robyn realized she forgot to put her garter on. Mary is a total trooper and took one for the team (as always).

Before the ceremony, I took a picture of the two of us before we got all sweaty standing on the altar (and before I was too imbibed to rememberize how to take a photo like this).

Robyn & Brian's Wedding Day: Morning

Brian and Robyn's wedding day was a long one, not because it was a bad day--far from it!--but it started with an early morning and the ceremony wasn't until 4:30 p.m., so it was a long day just because my rowdy self didn't get some sleep the night before.

We met early on at the hairdresser. Robyn was allowed to sleep in so we started with the bridesmaids first.

Mary gets cutiefied!

Robyn talking to Brian (I think?) shortly after she arrived at the hairdresser.

Mary talking to Boyfriend Josh after her hair was finished.

Robyn meditates while MOH Danielle gets her hair all twisty.

And then it was Robyn's turn!

Almost done! There are no photos of the finished product (till later of course) because I was busy getting my hair done. Naturally.

Coming up....pre-ceremony photos!