Homeownership: A new era in my life.

Next Monday at 12 noon is when I will close on my first home. Possibly my last home too unless I win the lotto or something. This is it here:

Home sweet home.

It’s a three bedroom ranch with a finished basement and two and a half bathrooms. There’s a gas fireplace in the basement and a small wet bar. It’s eight years older than I am, but, unlike me, it’s in pretty good shape despite its age.

My entire adult life has been spent either living in someone else’s house or in apartments and now that I’m on the cusp of owning my own house it occurs to me that I have this odd contradiction about the stuff I own. I have a lot of stuff. A good chunk of it is still packed in boxes in the basement of the townhouse we’re currently renting until the end of May. Mostly books and kitchen stuff that won’t fit in the tiny kitchen we currently have. Also, there’s a number of additional boxes still in my in-laws basement from when we lived with them for awhile.

Some of those boxes contain Christmas decorations I received as gifts from back in my 20’s that have only seen the light of day once when I first received them and have been laying in wait for the day that I finally purchased my own house and had someplace to display them. That’s right, I have home decor that’s at least 20 years old with a few bits that are at least as old as my daughter. One is a porcellian horse drawn sleigh and another is a huge musical snow globe with a Santa in it. Non-holiday decor like some Sun/Moon/Stars wall sconces for candles are also in there. I’m really looking forward to having someplace to display them for the first time.

On the other hand there’s a ton of things I’ve never owned before that I’m going to have to purchase. Things like a ladder. At a minimum I’m going to need a step ladder and I’m sure sooner or later I’ll need an extension ladder. Another would be a lawn mower. I won’t need a huge one, but I’m going to need something unless I find a reasonable lawn care company.

I have had a dining room table before, but it was a small, round one that barely fit four people that I had to get rid of when we moved back to Canton due to lack of room for it. I’d like to get one that seats at least six people. I’ve got a power drill, but no bits for it. I may actually have to drill something in the future. I’m going to need a screen for the fireplace. It’s gas so there’s no real danger of sparks popping out, but I do have two cats that’ll be running around the joint. The fireplace also doesn’t have a mantelpiece and the more I think about it the more I think I want to add one. It’s a bit boggling to consider that I’m thinking of buying a mantlepiece.

That’s a lot of brick for what is a small firebox. You’ll note there’s no chimney for it in the first picture of the front of the house. That’s all for show.

I’m going to need to pick up carbon monoxide detectors for the first time in my life as well as replace smoke detectors from time to time. Hell, I’m going to have to learn about furnace filters and when to replace them and what size to get. I should probably buy a couple of fire extinguishers, which is something else I’ve never had to think about before.

A rake. We don’t have a ton of trees on our property, just one in the back, but it’s going to lose its leaves come fall. I have to remember when trash day is as I’ll no longer have a dumpster I can toss garbage into whenever the need arises. Also curbside recycling. Cleaning gutters will be something new for me. There’s that need for a ladder again.

It’s weird and exciting and a little overwhelming to think about. It all becomes my reality next Monday. I’m more than a little nervous about it. It’s taken me a long time, but I somehow managed to pull it off. Buying a home was one of the bigger challenges I’ve struggled with for a long time, but I believe I’ve done it without putting myself at too much risk. It’s a nice house. I’m hoping I don’t fuck it up too badly.

A Happy 16th Anniversary to my wonderful wife.

It’s hard to believe, but 16 years ago today we stood together with our immediate families and exchanged vows in a gazebo in a public park in Plymouth, MI.

Picture of Anne and Les exchanging vows.

That one moment I’ll always remember.

The day started out cloudy with some drizzle, but by the time the short ceremony was finished the sun had broken out. The same was true of our marriage. The early years had some stormy parts as we figured out how to become a family and the challenges that entails, but the sun always returned.

Anne, you have made me a better man, a better father, and a better person than I would’ve been without you. I love you so very much and I look forward to the next 17 years and beyond.

The great House Hunt of 2017.

I’ve not posted much lately because I’ve been busy shopping for a home. You may recall we tried home hunting back in 2014 and came very close to buying a house and then I got cold feet and called the whole thing off. I still think that was the right decision at the time because I’m not sure I could’ve afforded the payments at the time.

A little under three years later I’ve taken out a loan against my own 401K and we’re trying it again. So far we’ve actually made three attempts to buy a house only to have all three attempts fail. Which is an odd reversal of our first go at this because back then it took forever to find a house to make a bid on and we dropped it before they ever got a chance to consider it.

The first house we tried to bid on was, in my opinion, everything I was hoping for in a house. It had only been on the market a couple of days when we put in a bid on it, but apparently a lot of other people liked it too and the sellers went with someone else’s offer. I did not take this disappointment well and was moody and grumpy for the rest of that weekend. The second house wasn’t as nice as the first one, but it was pretty close and so we tossed out an offer. However, I didn’t get my hopes up because the listing had been updated to say that all best and highest offers had to be in by 5PM on the day we submitted which told me this house also had a lot of competition. It went to someone else.

Third time’s the charm, right? Not really. The third house we bid on wasn’t one I was particularly excited about, but it would’ve been a decent house. We’d need to purchase a stove, fridge, washer and dryer for it as — unlike the first two houses we bid on — those appliances were not present. It was clear the home had been bought to flip and it had some nice updates and the basement would’ve been awesome for LAN parties. Someone else had bid on it previously and it fell through so it was back on the market. Alas, the mortgage we’ve been preapproved for is an FHA and the sellers already knew that the appraisal of the home would be for 5K less than they were asking for so they wanted us to kick in another $3,000 above and beyond the down payment and closing costs to go towards the commission. Alas, that would’ve left me with no money to buy the appliances I’d need let alone afford to pay for movers so we had to drop the bid.

Part of the reason I gave up back in 2014 was the sheer stress of the process and it’s no different this time around. I hate everything about this, particularly the part where I don’t really know what I’m doing. We’re using the same agent we used in 2014 — Mike Mazurek — who has been really great at shepherding us through it and pointing out potential issues with the homes we’ve looked at. I think after making it through three failed bids I’m managing my stress a lot better. Which isn’t to say that I’m not still a big ball of nerves, but I’m not totally freaking out about it like I was at the start of this adventure.

So, yeah, that’s what we’ve been doing. It is my full intent that I will find a house that will be my last move ever unless I win the lottery or get kicked out. So it’s gotta be a decent house. Especially given that I’m a computer nerd with absolutely zero ability to fix up a fixer upper. I’ll try to post a little more often while we’re doing it and if anything interesting happens along the way.

Wishing my mother a Happy 82nd Birthday!

My mother, whom you can find over on her blog Momma’s Corner, has reached another milestone. Today she turns 82 years old and is looking pretty good while doing it.

Here’s a pic of her from this past Christmas Eve. Click to embiggen.

Mom had an eventful year in 2016 as she finally managed to sell the house in Otisville and moved in with my sister in Pontiac just across the street from the house my siblings and I grew up in. She’s since been keeping busy with her projects, feeding the zoo, and updating her blog at a pace that, frankly, puts me to shame. She even got an entry up marking this special occasion where you can leave your congratulations if you’re so inclined. As for me, I’ll be seeing her on Saturday when we gather to do the food and cake thing as is traditional.

Happy Birthday, Mom!

The Burning Question of Our Times: Where do you keep your ketchup?

When I got married I had to relearn how to do laundry. Growing up my mother did laundry every other day or so and, unless my recollection is faulty, she dumped everything into the machine regardless of color so that’s how I learned to do it. There were exceptions for things like bedsheets and comforters that took up a lot of room on their own, but otherwise there was very little separation. The first time I tried to do this after I got married my wife looked at me like I had suddenly turned into a neanderthal. I was retrained to separate out the whites as well as to generally put darker clothes and lighter clothes into separate loads.

My point is that a lot of the stuff we learned as we grew up we just accepted as the way things are done and when we’re confronted by someone who learned it a different way it’s a bit of culture shock. Stuff that I would never think of questioning how I learned to do it ends up being a surprise when someone says that’s not how you do it.

Take for example, where you keep your ketchup (or catsup if you prefer). Apparently there’s a raging debate on the Internet right now about the appropriate place to store it when you’re not using it. Do you keep it in the fridge or the cupboard?

U.K. supermarket chain Asda (I have no idea how to pronounce that) Clapham waded into the argument with a Twitter poll:

Asda Clapham sparks fierce debate after move to stock ketchup in fridge

The supermarket tweeted: “Where do you keep your tomato ketchup? Our colleagues at Asda Clapham have joined the debate by stocking them on shelves AND in the fridge.”

Asda’s Victoria Williams told the Daily Mail: “Tomato ketchup is a staple of many of our customers weekly shop but recent debate has prompted us to trial two areas to stock our great value own brand tomato ketchup sauces, so we can end the debate once and for all and give everyone what they want.”

The final poll results are below:

I have to admit I’m surprised there’s a debate about this at all. The answer is: Both.

I mean, look at this label for Heinz’s ketchup:

Click to embiggen.

See that circled bit? It says “For best results, refrigerate after opening.” So you store it in the cupboard until you open it the first time, then it goes in the fridge. Same thing for A1 Sauce. How is this even a debate?

All that said, one thing that doesn’t go in the fridge is Maple Syrup unless it’s 100% pure a.k.a. REAL maple syrup. The “maple flavored” syrups sold under brand names like Aunt Jemima (THAT’S RACIST!) or Log Cabin even say right on the bottle they don’t need to be refrigerated after opening. Yet invariably they end up in our fridge and it ain’t me or the cats doing it. Makes pouring that stuff really fucking annoying.

In fairness I should point out that I do put my malt vinegar in the fridge after opening it even though it’s completely unnecessary. I have no idea why. I don’t remember us ever having it in the house when I was growing up so I have no precedent for this. We did have worcestershire sauce back then and we generally kept that in the fridge even though it didn’t need refrigeration either. I don’t think I’ve had worcestershire sauce in the house since I started living on my own so maybe I transferred the habit from that to my malt vinegar.

Oh, hey!

So it appears I’ve not posted anything since the first. My apologies, but I’ve been busy figuring out how I might purchase my first house. Our apartment lease will be up at the end of May and I’ll be turning 50 in August (which just blows my mind) and I’m thinking if I don’t pull this off now it’s never going to happen. The good news is, I think I might have figured out a way to do it this time.

Of course, that’s not all I’ve been doing. I’ve also been trying to wrap my head around how crazy things are getting now that Donald Trump has become President. It’s a sort of an embarrassment of riches in that there are so many things to talk about with regard to his Holy Hairness that I can’t decide where to start and so I end up playing Call of Duty instead.

So this is basically a quick update to say I’m still here and I still plan to try and post more often even though I’m failing at that ambition so far. I did get a new webcam for Christmas that I plan to use for vlogging and/or game streaming in the not too distant future. I also hope to add in a Blue Snowball condenser mic soon for better audio quality.

In the meantime, here’s a pic of a cat toy I saw at Meijer the other day that was oddly familiar:

Does anyone under 45 even know who this is these days?

I think the men’s room air freshener at work is trying to kill me.

I have an enemy at work in the form of a small plastic box that sits high on a wall in the men’s bathroom and I’m pretty sure it’s trying to kill me.

Behold! The form of your eventual downfall!

Behold the form of your eventual lavatory room death!

Every time I walk into the men’s room this little fucker shoots out a stinging cloud of “air freshener” that always immediately flies into my eyes causing them to sting and burn and leaving me to stumble around blindly risking death by accidental swirly. Every. Damned. Time.

OK, not really every time, but often enough that it certainly feels like every damned time. Definitely often enough that I’ve contemplated smashing it with whatever happened to be handy. Which, being I’m in a men’s room when this happens, isn’t much. Suppose I could use my fists, but I’m not keen on banging up my knuckles. Instead I curse silently under my breath (yeah, silently, sure thing) and hope there’s no one in the stall I’m about to fall into.

You win this round, men’s room air freshener, but watch your back! Someday I will have my revenge!

Weekend update.

weekendupdateSo I’ve been trying to get back into blogging on at least a semi-regular basis. My goal is to not let multiple weeks go by without publishing something. I’m actually surprised at the amount of content I have managed to put out recently. Basically, anything I would normally share to social media that I would type more than 3 sentences about I try to turn into a blog entry. There’s been a couple I’ve scrapped because I just couldn’t seem to make anything coherent out of them, but overall I think this has been helpful.

I’ve been thinking more and more about trying vlogging. I find that I’m being incredibly self-conscious about it. I don’t want to record it in front of anyone, including my wife, which makes it hard to do considering she’s home most of the time. There’s also a question of what to do a vlog about and how do I want to present myself. Should I do an energetic rant? Lots of folks doing those. Should I try to do it conversationally? Should I let my goofy side shine or be serious? Fuck it, I’ll just play a video game.

My mother has finally sold her house and is currently living with my sister in the neighborhood we grew up in. I’ve mentioned before how odd it is to go visit and not only be in the house of our former babysitter, but be directly across the street from the house I spent the first 17 years of my life in. It’s also annoying because the field we used to play in got bought up and someone shoved two houses into it so what was once the closest we had to a park is no more.

Healthwise, I’m still fat and I haven’t gotten back into exercising with the warmer weather like I know I should. Still hovering in the low to mid-290’s weight. My right knee has been bothering me for several months and I’ve got a doctor’s order to get it x-rayed, but haven’t gotten around to that yet. It’s hard to get up the motivation to do something like that when, despite having insurance, I will have to foot the entire cost as we’ve not hit our deductible yet.

Other than that it’s work, eat, sleep, play video games. I lead an incredibly boring life.

Picked up a couple of toys the other day.

BDCM5000B

It’s a pretty big coffee maker. Still trying to find room for it on the counter.

Anne and I have been making due with a little 4 cup coffee maker for ages now mainly because I was the only one of the two of us to regularly drink coffee, but she’s since developed a taste for it. So we decided it was time to buy a full-size coffee maker and I figured if I was going to do that then I’d go all the way and buy one with a built-in bean grinder.

I ended up ordering a Black & Decker CM5000B 12-Cup Mill and Brew Coffeemaker from Amazon as it had a pretty good rating and was the cheapest of the models with built-in grinders. Not only is it pretty, but it has a bronze tone permanent filter that you just rinse in the sink eliminating the need to purchase new coffee filters all the time. It can still use pre-ground coffee as well and can be programmed to turn on at a set time. Naturally we went out and bought some whole store-roasted beans at Holiday Market, but we’ve not tried it out yet. Probably this weekend. We’re still using the smaller pot for morning coffee before work.

The other thing I bought was a replacement solar lantern for the shepherd’s hook we have in front of our apartment. Ever since we moved to Ann Arbor we’ve had some form of fake lanterns hanging outside our apartment and we’ve carried on that tradition (such as it is) at the new place. Alas, the battery finally wore out on the last solar lantern we had bought around Christmas time a couple of years ago. We had bought a new lantern that looked like a glass lighthouse, but someone recently ripped out the solar panel cap that had the LEDs on it.

So, I replaced it with this:

It’s much bigger than the old lantern and the battery on it is amazing. At its best it’s only supposed to last 8 hours, but so far it’s been running right until sunrise. Not bad for being about $35 on Amazon. It helps to make it easier for folks to find the apartment. Not just friends and family, but delivery guys too. The little yard flag in the background is new too. We’re just starting to amass a collection of those.

Someday I’d like to purchase some of the Luminara fake candles because the flame effect on those is amazing, but with those starting at $50 and quickly going up and given that we’ve already had one solar lantern destroyed by the neighbors, I figured this would do fine.

Happy 15th Anniversary to the love of my life!

On April 21st, 2001 I said “I do” to my best friend and love of my life, Annette Gribble.

Wedding picture.

The start of the journey.

Fifteen years later and we’re still making it work. It hasn’t always been easy, but we’ve made it this far.

I wish I could come up with something profound to say about marriage after this much time, but the truth is I’m still figuring it out as I go along. All I can say for certain is I love my wife more each day than the day before and I’m grateful she chose me to spend her life with.

Happy 15th Anniversary, sweetheart! Here’s hoping for many more to come!