Sunday, September 30, 2007

One reason I fell in love with my almost-house - The Patio

I love patios, and the house I am almost buying has a very sweet one (see pics) that overlooks the back yard - my own little half acre. And the owners are even going to leave the charming retro patio furniture which I love.

I'll have morning-glories climbing up the awning-supports - big pots of flowering things in bright summer colors on the actual patio - and flowering shrubs planted beneath it.

I will be a sweet place to sip morning coffee, read the Sunday paper, enjoy a BBQ with friends. The aluminum awning means I can sit there and be safe from spring showers and summer sun.

It is odd. I have spent a fair amount of time today thinking about that patio and feeling thankful for the settledness that it is starting to represent to me.

One of the tenants in my existing building came to see me about perhaps renting my place when I move. His apartment is in a rather unusual and more public part of the building (long story) and it turns out that here, in this ritzy-ditzy little white-collar town, he has had his apartment robbed twice already.

Time to move on down the line.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Buying a House is like having your underwear in Macy's window -- withe a BIG sign saying it is yours

Purchasing a house involves such a deep exchange of information between so many people -- the buyer and the seller, the mortgage broker or bank, the attorneys, the real estate agents, inspectors, credit bureaus, appraisers, insurance providers and on and on --

I am from New England, a land unto itself. A politically liberal but informationally conservative land. We do not share intimate financial details easily. We are not, by nature, public about our bank balances. We would imagine it to be rude to be asked by a stranger -- so how many bathrooms do you have? We cannot imagine allowing a stranger into our homes to find fault with things and to then report those flaws to all and sundry. The very thought of discussing an infestation of bees or, worse yet, termites, makes us cringe. The inner machinations of our lives -- if it is whether or not we ever forgot to pay a bill or whether or not that was a carpenter ant crawling up the shed -- well, it just goes against our grain to share that willy-nilly.

But selling and buying a house slits open that little pouch of privacy with shrubbery shears. Suddenly everyone sees or has a right to see ones most private information. Releases are signed that will allow anyone who is vaguely connected with the process to peer where one might not imagined them peering weeks ago.

It was in the midst of one of those conversations this afternoon that I had a great surprise. I was calling several insurance companies to obtain quotes for home and auto insurances. At the last minute I threw in one that had been used by my parents, even though they are in a different town from the one in which I am buying a house. In the course of conversation, the lady with whom I was speaking asked how I had heard of their firm. When I told her, she asked their name --

"Oh sure! I remember your mother!"

"You do?? She passed away about 12 years ago now."

"Honey, I have been here for 34 years, I remember lots of folks -- but no one could forget your mother -- she was an adventure, she was, and a delightful one. Her name was Frances, right? Loved gardening? "

"That's Mom all right!"

And for as moment, the stranger grilling me for information became a friend of the family -- someone I could relax with. It was a touching moment, one that came as a bolt out of the blue in a very stressful day. I got to thinking about Mom and her gardens, and me and mine. I knew she would love the house I am buying.

The day eased up after that -- that moment of grace snapped me out of the whirlwind and set me down softly on the earth. And very good earth it is, too.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Life continues to move right along

I had placed a number of my mother's more valuable antiques with Skinner auctions of Boston on consignment. They offer the items, market them to their established audience of dealers and collectors and then auction them for a reasonable percentage of the take. Last Thursday and Friday were days during which they held one of their "Discovery" auctions (translation: miscellaneous items, as opposed to themed items like an auction that was all Primitive Americana, for example. ) Anyway, while the auctions are going on in Boston, they are also being simulcast on the Live Auctions section of Ebay. While I did not want to attend the actual auction, I could not resist peeking in a bit each day and watched some of the items go.

I have been hearing a lot that the auction business, and the antiques business in general is not what it used to be, and that seemed fair as I watched item after item go for less than it had been appraised to sell for -- not just my items, but most of the items in the auctions -- with some exceptions.

Decoy ducks (of which I had none) seemed to do VERY well.

Then, Friday, the grandfather clock that my Mom had went up for sale. I had been promoting it independently by contacting various museums and historical societies that I thought might be interested. And -- holy moley -- am I glad I did. Suffice to say it came in way over its estimate, and would have made my mother giggle with glee. It took a lot of bids before the sale was final.

I do not know what the total amount for all the items was yet, and I do still have a number of items with them for future auctions through December, but I am happy that the clock's success will carry the load for other items that may not have scored so well. Skinner has been a very helpful organization and I am pleased that I selected them.

I will go check out "my" house again this coming week -- some people need to see it who will be doing some work on it, and I need to get some measurements. I'm looking forward to the move, as it is the culmination of such a very long search. There comes a time in all our lives when we need to just plain move along. The move won't solve every problem in my life, but that is not the reason to move.

I am moving in the direction of my bliss. And it feels great.

The sellers are being lovely, and since the home was most recently occupied by their father who is now in assisted living, and since they are all grown with their own homes, they have no need to keep many of the basic home gardening items like rakes, shovels, wheelbarrows, hoses, trowels, and the like, and have offered them to me for free as they know I am coming from apartment life. They also have said that if there is any of the furniture that they left to stage the house that I need to let them know and it is mine. There isn't a lot, but there are definitely things there that will make the transition easier, and I am very thankful to have encountered such considerate sellers. In return I have stopped them from sending professional cleaners into the house as it is fine as it is, and I am just going to have a ton of work done - painting, floor-sanding, roofing, etc -- so I will be making an immediate mess anyway. They have been very kind, and I am trying to think of a way to thank them -- there are two adult sons and a daughter. Any ideas?

I go back and forth in this stressful time, alternately wanting to jump for joy and throw up. I am 57 and buying my first home all by myself. It is just such a big thing, you know? Mostly, when I am not feeling anxious and flipped out -- and who wouldn't -- it is an exciting time, full of touching miracles.

I go to sleep every night saying "Thank you, God". I wake up every morning saying "God, where is the coffee!" :-)

Fortunately God has a sense of humor.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Getting there, getting there I woke up this morning at 3.30 am so that I could be on the road at 4.30 am to drive to Massachusetts for a 9 am inspection of my possible house-to-be. The good news is that the inspection showed some problems, but not unsurmountable problems. And the sellers seem willing to be flexible. So.......I handed over a deposit and we are now "under contract for the house". All I have to do is formally get the mortgage (already in the works) and pay a ton of money. I am bracing myself for what will be a huge sucking sound every time I open my wallet from now til at least January.

I am anxious, and a bit scared. I have never owned a home before. But I have had great advisors helping me along, a super realtor and fine friends. So despite the anxiety, the knotted up tummy, the feeling of being overwhelmed -- you know what?

I'm happy.

I took a close look at the front door today. It'll be perfect in red.

I drove back to NJ and ran into my landlady of the past 10 years, a dear woman who could not have been a better landlady. I told her I was buying a house and we both got teary and hugged each other. She is happy for me, but wishes me well and is flexible about my end date here as she knows I want to overlap for about a month while work is being done on the new place.

It's funny and ironic that the very same week that this home became available to me that my old house (the one in which I grew up) became available for sale. For a long time I had thought I might want to live there -- but this time when it was actually possible to do it -- I shook my head no and moved on.

I want MY house.

To ravage the familiar old lyrics:

My house is a very, very fine house
with a great pooch in the yard, life used to be so hard,
now everything is easy cause I'm home.

Well, almost home -- on the way home.

Thanks be to God.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

L'Shana Tovah!

Happy New Year to all my Jewish friends, and welcome in to the sweet year 5768. The blowing of the Ram's Horn which is called The Shofar is traditional during this holy day which begins the High Holy Days that culminate in Yom Kippur ten days from now.

May the coming year be sweet and wonderful for us all.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Oh, I'll paint the door bright red!

OK this might be my house. I found it last week. I never heard back from the bank about the one that needed so much work. So now -- I found another one, made an offer and they accepted my offer. The inspection is later this week and I am crossing everything I have that it goes well. 3 bedroom (2 up, master down) large livingroom, eat in kitchen, 2 closed in porches (3 season rooms they are called now) one of which I will convert to a 4 season dining room, 1/2 acre lot, mostly fenced, large patio with awning, 2 full baths, basement completely finished with stove/fridge/sink as well so it is like a summer kitchen. Lots of light 2 car garage with breezeway..well cared for with a kind of retro charm.

I am just handing this over to God to work out -- otherwise the anxiety would have me breaking out in hives.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Farewell, Luciano

At age 71, Luciano Pavarotti has left this world. The man who made everyone love tenors passed away from pancreatic cancer. No tenor has ever matched his sheer joy. With Pavarotti one did not have to be an opera expert, or even to know the language of the opera. Luciano managed to communicate the feelings inside the words, inside the music.To remember some of his performances :

Luciano sings Shubert : Ave Maria

The famous : Nessun Dorma from Turandot

The Three Tenors _ carreras, Domingo, Pavarotti sing Nessun Dorma

Luciano duets with Barry White : My First, My Last, My Everything

Luciano duets with James Brown : It's A Man's World"

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The wolves

I found this on the net this week --

There was a Native American elder who saw the destruction of his people and said to his grandson, “There are two wolves inside of me. Only one will prevail. One wolf harbors hatred and feelings of revenge. The other is full of great love and forgiveness.” The grandson asked, “Which wolf will win, Grandfather?” And he replied, “The one I feed.”

Monday, September 03, 2007


OK I am so fed up with this was in Iraq. Then today I read the Rolling Stone article titled The Great Iraq Swindle
How Bush Allowed an Army of For-Profit Contractors to Invade the U.S. Treasury

Here are some excerpts -- PLEASE go to the full article and watch the video as well. Lord have mercy. We will reap the seeds of this greed for generations. Most military contractors in Iraq get a "Cost Plus" deal -- meaning they are paid not only for what they OVERSPEND, but 3% on top of that. They are incentivised for abuse. The below quotes from the article are only the tip of the icebeg. I am angry enough to chew nails and spit bullets.

"Like most contractors, Custer Battles was on a cost-plus arrangement, which means its profits were guaranteed to rise with its spending. But according to testimony by officials and former employees, the partners also charged the government millions by making out phony invoices to shell companies they controlled. In another stroke of genius, they found a bunch of abandoned Iraqi Airways forklifts on airport property, repainted them to disguise the company markings and billed them to U.S. tax­payers as new equipment. Every time they scratched their asses, they earned; there was so much money around for contractors, officials literally used $100,000 wads of cash as toys. "Yes -- $100 bills in plastic wrap," Frank Willis, a former CPA official, acknowledged in Senate testimony about Custer Battles. "We played football with the plastic-wrapped bricks for a little while.""

"In perhaps the ultimate example of military capitalism, KBR reportedly ran convoys of empty trucks back and forth across the insurgent-laden desert, pointlessly risking the lives of soldiers and drivers so the company could charge the taxpayer for its phantom deliveries. Truckers for KBR, knowing full well that the trips were bullshit, derisively referred to their cargo as "sailboat fuel.""

"At the very outset of the occupation, when L. Paul Bremer was installed as head of the CPA, one of his first brilliant ideas for managing the country was to have $12 billion in cash flown into Baghdad on huge wooden pallets and stored in palaces and government buildings. To pay contractors, he'd have agents go to the various stashes -- a pile of $200 million in one of Saddam's former palaces was watched by a single soldier, who left the key to the vault in a backpack on his desk when he went out to lunch -- withdraw the money, then crisscross the country to pay the bills. When desperate auditors later tried to trace the paths of the money, one agent could account for only $6,306,836 of some $23 million he'd withdrawn. Bremer's office "acknowledged not having any supporting documentation" for $25 million given to a different agent. A ministry that claimed to have paid 8,206 guards was able to document payouts to only 602. An agent who was told by auditors that he still owed $1,878,870 magically produced exactly that amount, which, as the auditors dryly noted, "suggests that the agent had a reserve of cash.In short, some $8.8 billion of the $12 billion proved impossible to find. "Who in their right mind would send 360 tons of cash into a war zone?" asked Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Oversight Committee. "But that's exactly what our government did.""

"Take the case of the Basra Children's Hospital, a much-ballyhooed "do-gooder" project championed by Laura Bush and Condi Rice. This was exactly the sort of grandstanding, self-serving, indulgent and ultimately useless project that tended to get the go-ahead under reconstruction. Like the expensive telephone-based disease-notification database approved for use in hospitals without telephones, or the natural-gas-powered electricity turbines green­lighted for installation in a country without ready sources of natural gas, the Basra Children's Hospital was a state-of-the-art medical facility set to be built in a town without safe drinking water. "Why build a hospital for kids, when the kids have no clean water?" said Rep. Jim Kolbe, a Republican from Arizona. Bechtel was given $50 million to build the hospital -- but a year later, with the price tag soaring to $169 million, the company was pulled off the project without a single bed being ready for use. The government was unfazed: Bechtel, explained USAID spokesman David Snider, was "under a 'term contract,' which means their job is over when their money ends."


Still no news about the house.
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