Thursday, August 27, 2015

Not Settling Today

So today was supposed to be our settlement on the farmhouse. Our first time sitting on the seller's side of the table. Our first time receiving a check at settlement instead of paying through the nose. But it's not happening today.

We tried to move it up to yesterday even, so that we can move on with our refinancing of our new house as well as some other things. But nope. It was going to be today. But it's not happening today.

Typically when you accept an offer, the buyer has 30-45 days to pull their lending together. These buyers have had 52 and counting. They are getting VA financing. And they are apparently on round 4 of the VA asking for "more information," where each round takes about 7 days. So settlement has been delayed and it's not happening today.

They thought it might happen tomorrow, but that's not happening either. Then they said to keep the next 7 days open. "Hopefully." We have no idea what's going on and we're so frustrated.

Every day it sits there, it's costing us money. We've financially and mentally prepared to settle this week and the delay to some unknown time is stressing us out so much, we both have physical manifestations from stress.

Our realtor tells us we should be happy (because at least the deal isn't off), not frustrated. Easy for her to say. She gets the same commission either way. Meanwhile our cost keeps going up and up. We're already selling at a loss PLUS giving them closing costs help. And now it's delayed and costing us more. We asked if we can ask for compensation for every day of delay, especially considering the fact that they've had 52 days to do this in the first place. But she said that will only delay things further.

And today, we drove by, as we do, to make sure everything looks good. Well, someone put graffiti on the barn. Again. AGAIN. We've already painted over it once. And now there's a big, black cross spray painted on it. If we'd settled yesterday, this would no longer be our problem. But no, we didn't settle yesterday or today, nor are we settling tomorrow.

We don't know when we're settling, so everything feels like it's in limbo. Everything is up in the air. We don't know how to commit to anything right now. We were supposed to settle and then go up to New England to take the kids to a Portuguese festival. We'd be there right now. But because of all this limbo and waiting, we're stuck. Lost days at work (and remember, no paid vacation for contract work), no chance to get out of town (due to the possibility of settling tomorrow that we just found out isn't happening), and limbo with everything else.

Our realtor (I could write a post about her alone - oh, the aggravation of dealing with people with poor communication skills!) told us to "keep the next 7 days free." Yeah, because that's how life works. We have WORK. We have schedules. We have our own business. We can't just leave our schedule wide open for a full week waiting on the who-knows-when date that they'll be ready to settle.

In the meantime, we hope the feds don't raise rates. Because that would really suck. We've spent the past few weeks visiting banks and talking to lenders to figure out the best way to refinance our new house once we settle on the farmhouse (whenever that is). We're trying to do it before September, but that's not happening now.

I know these are first world problems and we have A TON to be grateful for, there's no question. Clean water. Good health. Beautiful home. Safe neighborhood. Freedoms. That being said, I was thinking yesterday how utterly unfair things have gotten. Our parents generation were able to graduate college and get into a home in their 20s. You didn't need graduate work. You didn't have tens of thousands in student loans. And you could work and qualify and show responsibility and get into a home without jumping through umpteen hoops to prove yourself. You could start your life together!

My parents were debt free (no student loans, no mortgage, no car payments) and living in a paid off home by 40. We were 30 when we bought our first home and even then we entered that mortgage with the additional mortgage of student loans. We've paid off 42% of that debt, so we're almost halfway there. We thought we'd pay them off before our kids start college, but that's clearly not happening, so pretty soon we'll be helping them with college costs while continuing to pay our own.

It wasn't like this a generation ago. We're past the age my parents were when they were debt free and we're nowhere close, and more debt is coming. I can't even imagine being debt free. Given where we are in our 40s, and with our children starting college soon . . . who can do it (besides the 1%)? We don't want our children to deal with these kinds of stressful burdens. We've spent most of our marriage stressed by this sort of thing. We want to be able to help them. And then there's retirement to think about! Gah.

And we're not extravagant in our lifestyle. We have a beautiful home, that's true. We're able to afford it because we live in a place where the cost of living is low. We don't go on big vacations or drive fancy cars. We do stuff on the cheap, go to the beach off season, and drive 17-year-old cars that sputter blue smoke and don't always start. And I am so NOT a spender. I hate shopping and hate spending money and rarely do. We are savers, no question. I continue to wear clothes I bought myself in high school (true story) and I am a master at making leftovers stretch with innovative and delicious meals and sides. Waste is not something we do.

We've made choices that include me not working so that I'm able to be home with our children and homeschool. We walked away from mainstream medicine to start an alternative medicine clinic - a conscious decision to put freedom and flexibility above a big income. We wouldn't change a thing, to be honest. We don't regret a single decision.

I just see how much things have changed in one generation and I worry about our children's generation and how they're going to be able to afford it. The income inequality in this nation is a huge chasm. Breaks for billionaires and struggles for the middle class. Bailouts for the rich and penalties for the poor.

Other countries tax more, it's true, but they also provide healthcare, vacation, and college educations, because those things are valued. It makes sense! Not only is it emotionally and physically healthy, but of course those governments have a vested interest in keeping people healthy - that's their bread and butter! People paying taxes is what keeps their governments running, so it behooves them to keep their citizens healthy and educated. Something has gotten screwed up here where the value is on the almighty dollar and only the very rich are rewarded. This is exactly why Bernie Sanders is speaking to so many people's minds and hearts. We're fed up. Enough is enough.

Okay, that almost took a political turn (Feel the Bern!) and that wasn't my intent. My intent was simply to say it's been a stressful past year plus and though today was going to be a big step in resolving some of that stress, we aren't settling today. We're waiting. Again. And we don't know for how long. And it's so frustrating.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A Musical Journey, One Year Later

I was going to write this post a few days ago, before my birthday, but I didn't get it done in time, so here it is, two days later than I had hoped. I'm going to say "better late than never," and you can choose whether or not to believe that.

So, 364 days ago, Stacy gave me one of the best gifts I've ever received. And if you've ever been fortunate to receive one of Stacy's thoughtful gifts, you know what high praise that is. If you've forgotten, here is a recap. She contacted over 40 of my friends and family and encouraged them each to present a gift of music to me as a way to share what they felt was important to them, or would have special meaning to me. I received contributions from my wife and kids, brothers, parents, cousins, grandmother, in-laws, teachers, college and med school friends, and childhood buddies. The variety is amazing. Seriously, you wouldn't believe the eclectic mix that it is. To give you an idea, here is a partial list:

Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros
Richard Marx
Jason Mraz
Patty Griffin
Michael Jackson
Joshua Radin
The Beatles
Weird Al
Civil Wars
Bruce Hornsby
Various American Idol contestants
Flying Colors
Dream Theater
Steve Earle
Bruce Springsteen
Taylor Swift

I had so much fun listening to them all, and I sincerely listened to EVERYTHING. Not only did each of you take the time to pick something personal and specific, but Stacy also put in a tremendous amount of effort to put this together, so I really wanted to finish it all before my next birthday. Thank you again to her and to everyone who contributed. It was a great musical year for me.

I tried to write a personal message to each person who contributed to share my thoughts. I think I actually did, and if I didn't, please forgive me. And then tell me how horrible I am, and I will be sure to share my thoughts.

Now, for some musical discoveries of my own (which sometimes distracted me from the other music I should have been listening to). Consider it a thank you gift.

Dirty Loops

I didn't know what to think of the name, but they were described as having influences from jazz and jazz-fusion, funk, electronica, pop and disco. How's that for genre specific? I discovered them when I was looking up some information about "Forever Young" by Alphaville and saw that this Swedish funk group did a cover. So, naturally, I looked it up. Holy crap! These guys are incredible. They mostly did covers and have a big YouTube following. Then David Foster at Verve picked them up and they're finishing a world tour. Oh, and they have an original album, too.

Listen to this cover and you'll see why I was blown away. The bass player is incredible. The drums are so tight. And the lead singer reminds me of a Swedish Stevie Wonder, in a good way. Seriously, check him out just after his piano solo at the 3 minute mark or so on the first video and then again at the end of the second. He also kind of looks like Harry Connick, Jr. Just sayin'. Enjoy.

(An original from their album)

The Beatles/Beach Boys

Stacy and I saw "Love and Mercy" (mostly for John Cusack) and were blown away. First of all, the acting and story were incredible. I thought we'd get a healthy dose of beach music era Beach Boys (which may have tried my patience--apologies to my father, but it's the truth), but we were treated to both a complex, poignant portrait of Brian Wilson and the demons he dealt with through the years (both metaphorical and literal), as well as an intimate look at his creative genius and process as he worked on the "Pet Sounds" album. (As an aside, one of the most inspiring aspects of the movie was watching Melinda Ledbetter, who later became Brian's wife, help him start to break free from the psychological prison Dr. Eugene Landy had put him in.)

In the movie it mentions that Wilson was inspired by "Rubber Soul," and in turn, The Beatles were inspired by "Pet Sounds," which spawned "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."

So, being shocked at these revelations, I did what any music lover would do. I listened to "Rubber Soul," followed by "Pet Sounds," and then finished with "Sgt. Pepper's." Do it. Song by song. It's an insightful musical journey.

This isn't on any of those albums, but the song stuck with me for weeks after the movie. Another gift to you. You're welcome. ;)

Monday, August 24, 2015


We're definitely noticing that we have teens. In part because they're getting taller. In part because they're outgrowing clothes and shoes left and right. In part because I can't even remember how long it's been since we've asked for a kids' menu. In part because Mark and I are able to go on dates knowing that the kids are old enough and mature enough and skilled enough to handle being home by themselves. In part because in a matter of months, we'll have a 16 year old and a 13 year old. Seriously.

But mostly, I think, it's because of how much more running around we're doing for various activities, opportunities, jobs, internships, and social gatherings. There is a natural uptick that happens in a family's activity level as well as the scribbles on the family calendar when your kids get older and we are feeling it for sure.

Here, in no particular order, is a spattering of various things our teens have been doing these past several months (and I'm trying to save, for their own posts, most pictures from our CA trip and from having foreign exchange students here).

That uptick? These pictures show it. Our calendar shows it. Our odometer shows it. :P My at-times frazzled brain shows it. How quickly we fall asleep when our heads hit our pillows? That shows it, too. It's a full, exciting, wonderful life, that's for sure.

Kate, at her internship at our local indie bookstore - SUPER exciting for her!

Games, games, more games with Max's good friend Aaron
A day around town as a group of fun teens

Dressing up at the Ren Faire! Isn't he handsome?!?

These girls became fast friends at writers' camp! SUCH a great time!
A great week at chess camp with a very nice instructor

These girls had A LOT of fun around town together

My handsome boy - so sweet.

So many games :)

Kate, doing a reading at writers' camp
S'mores with friends!

Friends at writers' camp

Writing, writing, writing

Having a good time laughing and making s'mores
Cute girl and cute dog

Happy teens!

Beta testing a game design

Kate and Peyton - roommates and friends!
Writer friends!

Max, giving a speech after being presented with his 2nd degree black belt

Working at the Ren Faire!
Patrons at the Ren Faire
Camp counselors together!

Another S'mores night with friends
Off to Writers' Camp - sad to leave Scout

Hanging out at the park
Another fun day around town together with a great group of friends
Super excited to adventure with our monthly D&D group!

Besties on the swings

As Max says, "She's such a TEENager!" :P
Yes. More games!
Hanging out with friends at our town street fair - an annual tradition

And, of course, lots of playing with Jack!

Computer games as a group

Watching something (Gilmore Girls? Movies?) as BFFs

Me and my handsome growing boy!
Fun with Scout!

She makes us so happy!

You guessed it . . . more games
A cute picture of adorable Scout for good measure :)

More D&D
Grand adventuring to be had!

Ready to take our crazy group of adventurers on a campaign

Wii - there was some awesome "Just Dance" dancing going on that day, too!

Hanging out and playing games
Always laughing, these two
With Shannel and Shavon

With Kirsten and Avery

Wii Fun!

Me and my girl

The Rat Girls!

And with Mary and Alena at A's baby shower