Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Puppy hunting

Pending the inspection, Charming and I have accepted the counter-offer on a really fabulous little colonial and are about to enter back into the process of inspections and financing and whatever other crap comes with buying a house.

So naturally that means that one of my biggest worries is what kind of dog to get.

I love dogs. I grew up with a Shepherd/Collie/roaming milkman mutt, then a Rhodesian Ridgeback, then a Jack Russell and the bastard offspring of the Jack Russell – a Jack Shit (Jack Russell x Shih Tzu). I’m that crazy person who beelines for strangers’ dogs on the street so I can pet them and love them, usually while totally ignoring the owner.  

I kind of tend to want every dog I see. I want the cute fluffy little orange and white thing, and a Boston Terrier, and a Pug (ohmygod a PUG!) and a Dachshund and a French bulldog and a Boxer and a Rhodesian Ridgeback and a mutt of any sort, or probably a lab mix. But mostly, what I really want, is a Pit Bull.

A May law in Maryland declared all pit bulls – pure or crossbred – to be inherently dangerous. The law made landlords liable for any dangerous animals they allowed on their properly. So immediately landlords began banning pit bulls, and thousands ended up in rescues or being euthanized for no reason.

Even though the courts decided last week that the standards couldn’t be applied to crossbreeds (because they’re too hard to identify), it’s still a huge problem because “pit bull” isn’t actually a breed. There are three breeds generally referred to as pits - American pit bull terrier, the American Staffordshire terrier and the Staffordshire Bull terrier – and they’re still hard to identify.

My mother shakes her head and clucks at me in that Jewish-mother way of hers when I mention getting a pit bull, and I remind her that pits actually used to be called “nanny dogs.” They were known for their trainability and protectiveness, and were the first choice for family dogs. On temperament tests, the American Pit Bull Terrier actually scores in the top 5 of all breeds.

So long story short, people don’t want to have to take responsibility and be good dog owners – they’d rather just blame the dogs instead. It’s absolutely a case of nurture over nature – if someone abuses the dog or teaches the dog to be violent, then yes, it could end up being a dangerous dog. But if the dog is treated properly, they make absolutely fantastic, loyal companions.

Which is why I’m madly in love with Avery. And Dash. And Snow.  

Poor Charming. He doesn’t realize that we may very well end up with all three. :) 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Too good to be true?

After months and months and years of whining and complaining and stressing, things are finally starting to go well. And to be quite frank, it scares me.

Basically since graduating from college, my life has been nothing but uncertainty, crappy jobs (car sales AND door-to-door sales, enough said), stressful moves, relatives dying, and a whole lot of disappointment, primarily in myself.

But now, just as I officially enter my late 20s, things finally seem to be panning out, more or less exactly as I envisioned. My godforsaken Masters is complete, I’m engaged to the love of my life, that exciting thing I mentioned Friday is still in the works, and we just got some good news on the house hunting front, which I’ll hopefully be able to share very soon.

Which all, of course, makes me wonder when the other shoe is going to drop. (Fall? I can never remember that saying correctly.) I kind of want to gather up Charming and my family members and lock everybody in a safe, padded room just to make sure nothing really horrible happens as payback for all the good stuff. Anybody else ever feel like that? Or have any recommendations on where to get rubber bouncy walls?

I’m just so, so happy and grateful right now for everything that is going well. And to everyone who has put up with/supported me along the way. The Thing From Friday could still end up not coming through, which would be a huge disappointment (and a bit of a slap in the face), but if it doesn’t, another opportunity will. Because I’ve worked my butt off for it, and I’ll make it happen.

Sorry for all the humble-brag-iness, but it is such a nice change to wake up without a two-ton elephant perched on my chest every morning. Now if only we could get those damned elephants out of Congress…  

Friday, August 17, 2012


I have a big thing coming up on Monday, and I’m both super-excited and absolutely terrified I’ll jinx it. Suffice it to say, if things go well Monday, things will have finally fallen pretty much fully into place after many, many years of stress, stress eating, hysterical fits, and more stress [eating]. So fingers crossed, and I’ll update when I can J

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with the story of how Charming is the least successfully-sneaky person in the world.

Obviously, I was a teensy bit annoyed with the boy for taking my celebratory graduation trip WITHOUT me, and I expressed some of my frustration to him. So he decided to plan a surprise graduation party for me.

I’ve never had a surprise party before, and with the exception of the awesome pink two-wheeler I got for my 10th birthday, most of the surprises I’ve gotten in my life have been not so great. Surprise! You’re the only one at work today because this company went out of business! Have a great day at school today, and surprise! Your great-grandmother died last night. Surprise! I said I’d be home Wednesday night, but really I meant Thursday.

I’m a bit leery of surprises, so I pick up on little details when there’s even the remotest possibility that one might be in the works. Like when Charming was getting ready to buy my engagement ring. He planned out this day of shopping for us with his parents and brother that involved splitting up so he and his dad could go to the “fly shop” while his mom and I helped his brother find some new clothes. Fortunately for him, I got sick and couldn’t go, but I wasn’t too sick to Google fly shops in the area and figure out that there weren’t any. He did manage to hide the ring itself from me for two weeks, but I knew the proposal was coming our next weekend away.  

So I started to get suspicious when Charming insisted for the third time before he left for the infamous fishing trip that we’d have crabs with my mom and stepdad the day he got back. Charming gets along with them just fine, but he doesn’t exactly go out of his way to hang out with them if he doesn’t have to.

When I decided to test his determination out and suggested we just take a day trip to the beach to celebrate instead, he threw in a visit with my grandmother as a trump card.

I tried nudging my friend R to see if she’d give, but no luck there. Even my grandmother managed to deflect my careful prodding, although looking back, “I might have something going on” is not much of an alibi, Grandma.

Then while talking to him on the phone one night, he mentioned he’d talked to my mom to get a final head count for crabs. Oops, you know, if all 4 of us would be eating them, or just 3 of us.

I was pretty sure at that point, and finally managed to weasel confirmation out of my mom.

Heather: “I know you guys are planning something for Saturday.”
H’s mom: “What? James told you??”
Heather: “Nope, but you just confirmed it!”

Even if I hadn’t figured it out well in advance, I’d have probably been suspicious when Charming and I stopped to pick up five dozen crabs on the way to my mom’s. My, mom, what big eyes you have… And if not then, when I saw the half dozen or so cars parked on my mom’s yard. Or, you know, when several of the guests arrived after us.

But even with the thoroughly-ruined surprise aspect, it was an awesome party, and I may have set a personal best record for zero to drunk-off-my-ass in about half a Mexican Martini. Mmm tequila. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Back on the [house] hunt

So I mentioned last week that we put an offer in on a house. Unfortunately, we had the inspection yesterday and things did not quite go as I’d hoped.

It started off okay, with me taking diligent notes. Retaining wall is starting to shift, there is a crack approximately one foot from the stairs on the right side while facing the house. Slight gap between the stairs and the interior part of the retaining wall, and original retaining wall stones can be seen on the far left edge. Will need to be watched, but not necessarily replaced, esp. not right away. Suggests fence at top to prevent falls.

Alright, we’ve got this. Little changes. I was practically smirking when I informed him that yes, of course we’d budgeted for new stairs off the back sunroom and a new railing for the walkout basement stairs. And obviously we’d cut all that vegetation in the back yard down. We’re responsible, conscientious buyers, duh.

Then we moved inside.

Banister on stairs is nice, but not installed properly- fingers catch near the top. Small closet door outside master bath broken. Seals broken on windows, will need to be replaced pretty quickly. Approx. $300-$400 per window. Tiles under carpet could be asbestos. Framing around windows has been replaced – be careful of leaks. Sink in master bathroom drains slowly. Toilet is loose. Bathtub has copper pipes (yay!) but makes funny gurgling sound while draining. All electrical sockets are two-pronged and painted – will need to be replaced.

Hmm. Okay then. Did we account for new windows? That could get pricey. Someone at work offered me the number of her electrician – and that’s a good investment anyway, don’t want any fires! We’ve got this.

By the time we got down to the living room, my notes were getting shorter. Floor dips near basement. Water damage to ceiling. Termite damage to floor. Little spots = roach droppings.

Somewhere around page 4 of my notes, and 3 hours into the inspection, we moved down to the basement. The callous I get from holding my pen wrong was hard and pointy and aching and I was trying to do rough calculations in my head while the inspector was adding things like “more termites!” and “dead mice!” and “pervasive mold!” to my list.

Finally, the inspector turned to me and asked “Do you have any questions?”

Fortunately he was a fellow gun-toting Jew, so my “Am I fucking stupid for considering this?” didn’t seem to shock him.

I sat down with the mold inspector (who recited the names of several different species taking up residence in that basement) and we went over the costs of gutting and treating the basement. Minimum $20,000 - $25,000, and that’s without putting the walls or ceiling back up afterward. And assuming the moisture isn’t coming in through the foundation, because then the whole house would have to be waterproofed and we might need to install a sump pump.

By the time the lead inspector started listing the locations of all the lead paint in and outside the house, my eyes were fully glazed over.

The Redfin agent present for the inspection was on the phone with our regular agent when I came back upstairs. He glanced over at me, and then said “Well, to be honest… she looks a little… distraught.” Very astute, for the guy who never once offered me the only chair in the house, even though I spent 15 minutes glaring daggers at him.  

I got on the phone with our agent and told him we’d likely be backing out of the deal, but I wanted to talk to Charming first. If you’ll recall, Charming is still fishing, so I called the agent back an hour later and told him to just scrap the deal. There was no way. Not for the agreed upon price, and probably not even if the seller came down $50,000, which she’d need to do. I wanted a house with projects, not a whole several-month-long project house.

So my Pinterest board is once-again in a state of waiting, and we’re back on the prowl for the perfect house. This time, hopefully with less rabbit stench and mold. 

At least I have more time now, since my Masters' degree is done! :D 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A little bit frazzled

I’m quickly coming to realize that nothing tests a relationship quite like the home buying process. And by that I mean makes you want to inflict serious bodily harm on the person you love most in the world.

Or maybe that’s only if said person goes away fishing for a week while you’re struggling to work full time, finish a graduate degree, interview for other jobs, arrange a home inspection, come up with $5700 cash you don’t really have and being forced to take several hours of unpaid leave because you’re still a temp, all while said person is using paid time off to fish. Without access to reliable cell phone service. Hmm.

He was supposed to go away for four days so I could finish my last major paper in peace. He was not supposed to vanish off the face of the Earth for 8 days while I potentially fail to complete my last major paper because I’m too busy tying up a million loose ends on that HOUSE WE DECIDED TO BUY.

I just… can’t even.