Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sunny Side Down

My house search has lasted well over a year. (See what happens when you do short sales?) Yesterday I got news from the bank. I could have the house…if I was willing to tack on $20,000 to the asking price. They said other homes of its size in the area are selling for that much. I wanted to protest, “But those homes are attractive! They’re 5-year-old open floor plan homes, not 20-year-old tri-levels with brass fixtures. No one wants carpet in their bathrooms! No one dreams of vacuuming around a toilet bowl or laying down plastic because it's potty training time! And by the way, who was your decorator, Rainbow Brite? Every room is a different color!” Was the house horrible? Of course not. Seeing as I have about as much fix it know how as your average 3 year old, I wasn’t about to move into the moldy house or the house that looked fine save for the gigantic hole in the bathroom floor that led, for all I know, to Narnia. The home was move in ready...

As long as you were willing to move into a semi-ugly house.

When I went through with a clip board I thought I wouldn't have to change much---it just needed painting, new light fixtures, new faucets, different shower surrounds, to have the bathroom carpets replaced with tile, to have the kitchen counters replaced since there was a built in blender, create direct access to the deck, fix the garage door, install closet systems, seal the garage floor, stain the cabinets, seal the counters, and tame the back yard.

Or as the bank would put it, a weekend project.

The $20,000 extra the bank wanted from me already had plans. I was going to spend that money over three or four years to de-uglify the house, putting my own touch on it while also removing the punch hole left in the master bedroom door which was probably put there when the owners realized they could no longer afford the place. That, and I was going to use some to pay for my trip to Ireland.

But that’s another blog.

All the way home I was sad. I couldn’t decide whether or not to eat the contents of my fridge or do kickboxing. Since eating everything would require cooking, and, as my friends pointed out, I have a wedding to attend in a few weeks, I chose kickboxing. I got a great work out. Every time I punched or kicked I pretended I was fighting one of those bloated, bailed-out bankers. When I got into the library this morning I tried to distract myself from my sadness by actually working. It didn’t help. There's not a lot of thought involved in planning summer reading. I don't know why we bother to categorize programs by subject matter. Honestly, most of us are just looking at the price, and there should only be three price levels:

Programs that will only happen at COO

It took me a whole 5 minutes to click on each individual entry to see who cost what. Afterwards I had to ask myself, "Should I go with Art Works, or should I go with Art Works?" It's a good thing I like Art Works because they're going to live at CEN this summer.

And with that out the way, I started thinking about the house again and wondering when they would return my cashier's check.

Maybe I should change my approach to house hunting. Instead of looking for a home, perhaps I should instead be searching for a man. After all, in most every fiction book written since 1950, the cure to all of a woman’s problems is getting married. Thus I have crafted the following ad:

"SBPF seeks (legally) employed SM with no criminal record who likes to drive and owns a <15>home with 4 bed/3 bath, 2+ car garage, and tile roof in the EGUSD. No HOA, underwater mortgages, pools or facial tattoos. Must not say anything when I suddenly decide to go on big, expensive trips at the last moment, stain the cabinets black or insist on my mother visiting for long periods of time. In exchange I will pretend you're surfing the Internet for news when you lock yourself in your man cave, will keep my mouth shut when you replace our dining room table with a pool table, will be nice to your friends, even the stupid ones who will eventually get you killed trying to win a bet, and let you play sports without fussing about you getting hurt, though if you play rugby you will need to install an outdoor shower and buy an additional washing machine."

Think I'll get any answers?

I wondered if this was my fault. To a point, yes, it is. But then I started thinking back to all the homes I've loved before. There was my initial short sale home, the one I just had to have. It's still on the market, though now it's a foreclosure. There's the nearly identical yet in much better condition short sale across the street. It, too, has also been on sale over a year. There was the home I was outbid by $30,000 that I didn't get. There was the home I overbid by $36,000 that I didn't get. There were homes I don't even want to think about anymore, yet I feel bad because some members of my family (the guy members) are saying I'm just not trying hard enough. When my brother I.C. was in Japan he sent me a postcard: "I threw a coin for you into a well so you could get a house. The well threw it back."

I love my family.

So here I was thinking that everything was my fault. Then I remembered a book by Barbara Ehrenreich called "Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America."

The premise: we're told the key to success lies in being happy, cheerful and positive. (That, and a perfect toe touch while wearing a 14 inch skirt.) But instead of cheerfulness being something we choose, it's become mandatory. You must be happy at all times. If something bad happens to you, if you don't get what you want, it must be your fault. Somehow you brought it into being. Because you can bring anything into being just by focusing on it. Why, if I really tried, I could overcome my snowballs chance of winning a gold medal in men's hockey, an NBA championship, or a Heisman trophy. I just need to put it on my to do list and create a story board on my wall.

And when it fails to materialize, it will be my fault, too, LOL.

Ehrenreich doesn't believe the hype. She states, "I never think delusion is OK." She wrote this book following a diagnosis of cancer. People kept telling her that she would emerge from her experience a better person if she would be upbeat and work on her attitude. Which I really don't get. It's cancer, not a winning lottery ticket. Why would she be better for it? (And if I ever get sick with something bad, before any of you tell me I'll come out at the end of it acting like Mother Teresa or the Flying Nun, you might want to make sure there's nothing within my reach that I can easily pick up and throw at your head.) Ehrenreich got treatment, and far from being a better person, she says the experience made her nastier. It probably had something to do with being smothered in a sea of pink ribbons, bears and races. The incident got her thinking about American pop culture in general and how it promotes this idea of optimism. The flip side---forced optimism has the power to blind us from facts. How can you not buy a home if you're told you were meant to be a home owner? Why won't you invest in the stock market when it can only go up? Why is it that you're just not patient enough to wait for what is coming to you?


My realtor, she was optimistic about me going through with the house deal. Me, not so much. Maybe this has to do with math being one of my top subjects (as long as it wasn't taught at 8 a.m. or after a heavy meal). The figures told me I could afford the long as I cut out vacations, buying clothes, buying books, cable, Internet, phone service, eating out, and I traded my dream of getting a dog to owning a pet rock. Possibly I would have to forgo having two kidneys at once.

I really like having two kidneys.
On the bright side of things, but the time I buy a home I can skip the mortgage and just pay for it cash...
Or just marry a stranger like women on reality TV.

I figured if someone can post the Calle Oche video on Grand Central, I can post this video. I love Tamia's music. She was diagnosed with MS in 2003, but that has not stopped her from making great music, and I felt this was perfect since there is now a stranger in my house. (My house! Mine!)



  1. Impressively eloquent! I "had" a house like yours, once, but I couldn't convince the bank I could afford it. The person who bought it cut down the big beautiful tree in the front yard. Sigh.

  2. The bank would likely let me afford it...for the moment. Guess I'll just have to be satisfied passing by it every now and then.