Tag Archives: Life

We are officially looking for a home to buy.

CalvinonAdulthoodIt’s taken entirely longer than I ever imagined it would, but Anne and I are finally in a position to start looking for a house to buy. Having read umpteen million horror stories of first-time buying experiences over the years it goes without saying that we are a little intimidated by the whole process, but we’re jumping in with both feet because there’s really no other way to get started.

Ironically enough, our opportunity springs from Anne becoming unemployed. Her previous employer had an Employee Stock Purchase program as its form of retirement savings and as she is no longer employed there she had to option cash it out, which she did, and after taxes and penalties it’s just enough to make a 5% down-payment on a house of $150,000 or less. So that’s what we’re looking for.

We started browsing homes online Wednesday night on Zillow.com and I have to say that it’s amazing how quickly a real estate agent will get back to you even after 8PM. The first three homes we filled out “we’re interested” forms on called or texted me within 10 minutes of us hitting send. One of them already has a pending offer on it, which is a shame because it looked perfect online and was close to work. Another one had just listed that day and already had 11 offers so if we were pre-approved (we’re not) and ready to make a fast decision (we’re not) then it was an option. We passed on it. The third one in Whitmore Lake we’re scheduled to go look at this evening after work. Of the three, it’s the one we were least excited about — it’s an old house built in 1940 — but we figure it doesn’t hurt to look so we will.

All of the agents are, of course, trying to lock us into using them for any additional searches and that brings up the first problem we’re facing: How do you know which agent is willing to put up with us long enough to find a good deal on a home? A coworker suggested I ask each one how many homes they would have to show us before they got annoyed. I have a feeling we’re going to be a particular pain in the ass because A) we need something that’s ready to move into as I’m far from a handy man and I won’t be able to afford a contractor anytime soon, B) being that I’m buying a home so late in life I have every intention of making it the only home I ever buy… unless I win the lotto, C) I’d prefer to have city water/sewer and a finished basement, though that’s not a deal breaker if it’s a really good buy, and D) I’d prefer to avoid places with Home Owner Associations.

Our lease comes to an end in May and we need to let the apartment complex know if we intend to renew it a month ahead of time and that’s the second problem we’re facing. Rent is likely to go up (jumped nearly $200 last year) and if we try to do a 6 month or a monthly it’ll be even more ridiculous. So do we sign up for a year and then break it when we find a home? I think our agreement includes a clause allowing us to do so if we buy a house, but I’d have to double check it to be sure. We’re going to go into the office and discuss it with management soon.

So, yeah, the next weeks and/or months are sure to be filled with joy and peace as we undertake what I understand to be one of the more stressful life events you can engage in. Change is always fun, but if we don’t do it now I don’t think we’ll ever own a home of our own. Feel free to leave your horror stories of first-time home buying in the comments and, if you have any advice, that would be good too.

Three signs that I’m still not an adult.

I am 45-years-old which puts me squarely into the category of Middle Aged Adult, but it’s often easy to forget that because there are Things That Adults Do which I have yet to master. Here’s three of them:

1.) Own and display art. My parents weren’t exactly art connoisseurs, but the walls of the home I grew up in had its fair share of artwork — both personal and commercial — along with decorative sculptures or hangings purchased on a whim somewhere along the way. I also have several friends who have various bits of art that compliment their homes nicely.

My apartment has walls bare of anything that isn’t a clock or a calendar or a coffee mug rack. I keep telling myself it’s because I live in an apartment and they have rules on what we can do with the walls, but the truth is that even if I had a house of my own I wouldn’t know what to hang on it. I have no art appreciation skills at all. I don’t go to art museums very often (like once in a decade) mainly because I look at it and utterly fail to understand why it’s of any significance. I can give a generic “I like that” or “that’s shit” comment, but really I can’t think of any painting or sculpture that made me feel anything other than mild disinterest.

2.) Do handyman stuff. Again I like to blame this on living in an apartment, but when it comes to fixing things like my car or hanging up a whatnot shelf I am in way over my head before I even begin. I realized this the other day when the damaged front bumper of my Honda started to rub up against one of the wheels when driving at speed. Someone in our complex backed into our front bumper a little while ago and I’ve not gotten around to dealing with the insurance company to get it fixed in part because it was just ugly and not affecting operation of the car. Being mostly plastic it flexes in the wind and has gotten weak enough that it was banging against the front wheel. Plus the airdam was loose and flapping and occasionally scraping the ground.

I was going to have our mechanic take a look at it, but my cubemate suggested I could just zip-tie it up myself. At which point I explained that I didn’t really have the tools or the space to do it. So he had me go by his place and he did it in about 20 minutes. It’s not a permanent fix, I’ll still have to get it repaired, but it’ll do for now. As I watched him work on it it seemed like a simple enough thing to do, but I’d be damned to say I would’ve known where to start with it myself.

I get the same feeling whenever anyone talks about home maintenance stuff they did over the weekend. “Yeah, I had a busy weekend.” they say, “I mowed the lawn and edged it with the gas trimmer and then I fixed that leaky faucet and painted the trim on the house and built the dog a new dog house with his own wading pool and then I completely stripped down cleaned and rebuilt my truck’s transmission and then patched the foundation near the back garage door that cracked when I dropped my overly huge and manly testicles on it.” To which I’ll reply, “Yeah, I had a busy weekend too. I got a new high score in Call of Duty: Medal of Warfighter Soldier Dude.” They’re always impressed with my accomplishment.

3.) Take vacations where I actually go somewhere. I blame this at least partially on working as a contractor for 20+ years where it is rare the company you work for offers vacation time at all. The few contracts that did usually only offered a week a year and it also doubled as sick time which they called “Personal Days.” Since having been hired as a Real Employee by my current employer I get three weeks a year for time off. This one isn’t entirely my fault as my wife’s job isn’t as good as mine and although she does get time off after working X number of hours, it also “Personal Days” and has to be used for sick time and she doesn’t get as many days as I do. This makes it rare that she has enough time at a time when I have time that we can actually take time off together.

Above and beyond that, however, is the fact that I’m not a very good planner or saver. I’ve not been to Disney World since I was 17 and went with my parents and siblings. I’ve wanted to go back for years and they’ve opened another two whole parks since I was last there (Epcot had just opened the last time). That’s an expensive trip even for just two people and even if we had the time we just don’t have the money. I’m always awed by people like my parents or my in-laws who take real vacations to places other than the living room couch and I often wonder how they did it. Truth is I know how they did it, but I still feel like I don’t know because I can’t seem to replicate it.

There are other things that occasionally remind me that I’ve still not quite made it to adulthood despite my age, but these are the three most common things that trigger that feeling. They are all things I grew up thinking adults inherently knew how to do and that, sooner or later, I’d develop the same ability. Perhaps there’s a class I missed somewhere along the way that would have taught me all these things. Not that it matters, I probably would’ve goofed off during it anyway.

This Is Water. A commencement speech by David Foster Wallace.

This video has been making the rounds on the social networks so it’s possible you’ve already seen it, but on the off-chance that some of you haven’t I’m posting it here as it’s some of the best life advice I’ve ever heard:

THIS IS WATER – By David Foster Wallace from The Glossary on Vimeo.

In 2005, author David Foster Wallace was asked to give the commencement address to the 2005 graduating class of Kenyon College. However, the resulting speech didn’t become widely known until 3 years later, after his tragic death. It is, without a doubt, some of the best life advice we’ve ever come across, and perhaps the most simple and elegant explanation of the real value of education.

We made this video, built around an abridged version of the original audio recording, with the hopes that the core message of the speech could reach a wider audience who might not have otherwise been interested.

Read the full speech here.
-The Glossary

I find that this resonates with me on a personal level because it’s how I try to live my life. I couldn’t tell you when or where I learned this, but somewhere in my 45 years on this planet I’ve managed to find ways to alleviate the boring tedium that makes up the vast majority of our daily routine. Often by being a goofball.

The video gives an example of standing in a busy supermarket checkout lane and the inherent frustration that can provoke. I’ve experienced such situations countless times and most of the time I’m able to remind myself that I’m not the only one standing there and that many of them may have significantly more troubles than I do. I always try to make any harried cashiers I deal with smile if at all possible. Usually through an attempt at wit, or at least an approximation of it. Same thing with waitresses at restaurants. I try to live by the rule that the last person I want to piss off is the person who is handling my food.

It’s easy to get the impression from my ranting here on SEB that I don’t like people, but the truth is I love people. We are an amazing species capable of astounding acts of beauty, bravery, and plain old simple good heartedness. The things we can accomplish when we use our brains and work together seem to be unlimited, which is why I get so frustrated with those folks who refuse to use their brains and act as though they are the center of the Universe. Note I didn’t say they were incapable of using their brains, but refuse to do so.

That said, we all have our off days where using our brains is just too much effort and I try to keep that in mind when interacting with others as well. Life can be tough and none of us are getting out of it alive, but while we’re here we can choose how we deal with it and our attitude about it. I vent a lot here, but when I’m out in the real world I try to make at least my little corner of it a little less of a pain in the ass for myself and everyone around me. I may not always succeed, but I try.

A small update on my whereabouts.

keep-calm-and-fuck-cancer-15I’ve not posted anything in over a week and I apologize for that, but I have a good excuse. I was waiting, along with the rest of my wife’s family, for the inevitable to happen. Last Thursday my father-in-law lost his battle with pancreatic cancer.

This is the third time in my life that I’ve watched a family member slowly subcomb to the insidiously slow death that cancer brings with it. The first time was when my biological father died of it 40 years ago when I was five years old. He was only 55 at the time. I wasn’t old enough to really understand what was happening, but that didn’t stop the experience from leaving me a little emotionally messed up for awhile.

The second time was my grandfather back in my 20′s. He at least made it into his 70′s before passing. I wasn’t there for the bitter end and, because of other obligations, only saw him a few times over the months that he suffered from the disease.

My father-in-law was diagnosed with cancer almost 10 months ago and he lived a lot longer than his doctors expected him to. I, along with my wife and her family, were at his bedside at the end though I suspect he had vacated well before that point arrived. He didn’t look like the man who had welcomed me into his family with open arms despite the fact that I’m an independent Liberal atheist and he was a moderate Republican episcopal. He was literally a shell that was holding onto life for as long as it could manage even as various parts of his system were failing. It was not an easy thing to experience, but then that’s something that far too many people are familiar with. Then the situation was compounded by learning shortly after his death — while viewing and funeral arrangements were being made — that the wife of a longtime friend of mine had passed away from cancer on Saturday.

Lets just say that it wasn’t a good weekend. Needless to say, I’ve not had much inspiration to write anything during this time. Though I intend to try and get back into writing more often in the near future. It seems I’ve been coming across things that I want to blog about more often as of late so I’ll try to actually get around to doing so.

That’s what I’ve been up to. What about you guys?

A small update for Valentine’s Day.

Yep, I’m still around. My back problems have almost faded away completely after nearly an entire month of recovery, which is a record I hope I don’t ever break in the future. I started physical therapy this week in hopes of strengthening the core muscles that were the problem. Sitting for extended periods still hurts, but it’s more of an annoyance than the debilitating problem it was.

If nothing else, I think this episode has given me the motivation to finally get serious about losing some of the excess weight I’m carrying around. I’ll be pulling the elliptical out of the corner of the living room and getting back on it at least three days a week on the instruction of my physician.

Beyond that, I keep coming across things I think I’ll blog about only to decide I really don’t have anything all that significant to say about them. It’s odd, but as I’ve gotten older I seem to find it harder to get the outrage that fueled so many older entries going. Or perhaps I’m just getting to be apathetic about the stuff that used to rile me up. Probably a little of both.

In honor of the day I present you with this:

Oh look at how the time has passed…

Been awhile since I last blogged anything so I figured an update was due. Part of the delay has been lack of anything to say, but another part is the fact that I’ve been flat on my back since last Wednesday with a sore back.

Every so often the muscles that hold me upright in my lower back go on strike and it’s often several days before they’re feeling up to working properly once more. This flare up has been one of the more severe I’ve had in awhile and has kept me away from my computer. Even now I can only manage to sit upright for short periods of time.

So, once my back stops complaining and I come up with something to blog about I’ll be back here in front of my keyboard hammering away, but for the moment I’m going to lay down again for a bit.

Happy New Year 2013! And some small commentary.

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2013New Years Day has always been a weird holiday for me. For much of my childhood I didn’t really understand what folks were celebrating. It just seemed like an excuse to drink and eat a lot and stay up way past your normal bed time. Not that that’s a bad reason, but the celebration always seemed to be way more than necessary for reasons as simple as that.

At the age of 45 I now realize it’s a celebration of having made it to the new year at all. Life can be rough and each year brings with it new trials and tribulations that makes arriving at the dawn of yet another year something very much worthy of the celebrations we engage in. It’s a time to remember those who didn’t make it this far and to hope for a brighter future for all of us to come.

Compared to past years, 2012 went pretty well for me. It was my first year as a full-time employee at my current job. I’ve been a contractor for most of my career — over 20+ years — and it was great to finally be a “real” employee for a change. It was also the year we said goodbye to Melvin, the Official SEB Cat. We enjoyed his company for eight years and he was as good a cat as you could hope for.

I am hopeful about 2013, but we already know that bad things are on the horizon. My father-in-law has terminal cancer and we expect he only has a few months left before we have to say goodbye to him for the last time. I am arriving at that age where losing loved ones is no longer an unexpected event, but a natural consequence of the passage of time. It’s a phase of life we are all destined to go through, but not one I look forward to. The are other smaller challenges ahead as well. This year I really need to get serious about dropping some of my weight as I am waking up with a sore back near daily now. I’ve been hovering at just under 300 pounds for too many years and it’s starting to get intolerable.

It’s going to be another year of trials and tribulations, but there will be plenty of victories large and small to celebrate along the way. If I should be lucky enough to surmount the troubles and ride the highs to find myself at the dawn of another new year in 355 more days I will once again pause to remember and celebrate my good fortune. Happy New Year to you and yours. May it have more to celebrate than to mourn.

Young Jasper

And now for a bit of positive cat blogging.

Given the downer nature of the last couple of entries about cats I thought I should take a moment to do a positive one.

One year ago today is when Jasper stumbled into our lives. When I brought him home he looked like this:

Today, he looks like this:

Amazing how much difference a year in a good home can make, eh? He’s grown up into a beautiful, good-natured cat who loves to talk to you whenever he gets the chance. We met by total chance and I think both of us were pretty lucky it happened.