A reluctant office lady who still gets zits, but already has gray hair.

Tag Archives: homeowning

I wrote this post like a week ago, but was holding off on posting it because I thought I might like to add pictures.  Then, my home computer got some sort of Trojan that made it (and I’m not exaggerating here at all, this really happened) play an audio clip of someone crying and praying the Our Father.  I don’t understand how these things happen, since I bought this computer in August and I didn’t realize that people still got computer viruses, let alone that they did weird things like this. 

Anyway, no pictures.  Use your imagination.

So since I’ve written last, winter happened.  Christmas was a thing, and then New Years and Valentine’s Day followed, and there were other days that occurred as well.  It was cold forever, and I spent the entire season moping about how cold it was and operating at about 20% efficiency, which, although I haven’t verified this, is about as efficient as I estimate my 30 year old furnace to be.  I was productive enough to shower, go to work and occasionally even feed myself, but not much else happened in the way of looking for new jobs, improving my home, or writing in this blog.  Which brings us to right now.

Today, I had a venti iced coffee, and it has left me with a venti urge to Get Back on That Metaphorical Horse.  Not a real horse, though, because they’re huge and terrifying and why do humans need to ride animals at all when we have cars?  This is 2013, no one needs to ride a horse.

So, as I’ve mentioned, I own my home.  I know, whatever, a lot of people own homes, and this is not a huge accomplishment.  My house was pretty much in move-in condition when I bought it almost 5 years ago, and I have done very little to maintain it, but every time something has happened, it has happened with great drama. 

I’ve mentioned the GREAT CEILING LEAK OF 2010, and then there was the lesser Ceiling Leak of 2012, which occurred when part of a fan blew off of my roof during a thunderstorm, causing a large hole through which rain poured in.  I was able to find an amazing roofing company who fixed it for 100 dollars.  Can you imagine that?  In my head, I’ve conjured up such a horrible image of contractors wherein they see that I’m some defenseless young girl with a checkbook and they overcharge me because I am vulnerable.  To date, this hasn’t really happened. 

There are some things in the house that I have fixed myself or with the help of a dear companion.  I replaced a ceiling fan with an overhead light (solid B+ work, I only had to re-do it once because I didn’t twist the wires tightly enough).  I added thresholds between the carpet and hardwood (probably more towards a C+ job, since I knew nothing then [or now] about staining wood.)  Elissa and I (although mostly her) replaced the dimmer switch for the recessed can lights in our kitchen because the previous switch required a comical amount of manhandling before it would stay on without flickering, and sometimes, if you laughed or coughed or yelled too loudly, it would switch off altogether.  I don’t want to admit how long I lived with that faulty switch before actually doing something about it, but I will just say that it’s a Whole New World we’re living in now that the kitchen lights turn on exactly in the fashion we desire.

Generally speaking, I’m happy with my house. It’s in pretty good shape and I’ve decorated it satisfactorily. I bought it when prices were low, and I think that even if I sold it today, I’d still be able to make a bit of a profit.  It hasn’t been a money pit by any means, and I feel good knowing that it’s ‘good debt,’ which is a thing that homeowners say to feel smarmy about people with credit card debt.  (This is conflicting for me, since I am in both of those demographics.)

The backyard, however, is the thorn in my side.  Every summer since 2008, I have attempted different things to make the backyard more appealing. 

It’s not even a huge yard.  We’re talking maybe 25 ft by 60 ft?  It’s a small area, but it’s enough to make me insane.  I bought a rhododendron (it died), I bought a chinese lilac (it died), I bought 2 small eucalyptus-looking shrubs, which are marginally still alive, I guess, but they look pretty bleak and they’ve got weeds all tangled up in them.  Meanwhile, there are randomly-placed unsolicited perennials that appear yearly, along with some suspicious-looking succulents.  There also used to be wild onions, but I think my fat dog ate them into extinction one year.  There’s one of those plastic ponds, with some kind of cemented-in filtration system that has never worked, to my knowledge, so I just scowl at it and empty it yearly.  And then it fills back up again with moldy rain water, and the dogs drink out of it when they want to throw up.

 Part of my problem with the backyard is just discipline.  I have no intrinsic motivation for landscaping, and I don’t have the right tools, so I never really gain any pride from it.  It’s not like any of the other things I’ve learned, like painting, or mild electrical work.

It’s hard labor, with weird mismatched rusty tools.  I have an electric lawnmower that I inherited from my parents, and I have a manual reel mower that I bought on my own, and mowing the lawn with either of them is terrible in its own unique way. 

Here’s how it usually goes:

  1. Spring starts and I’m committed to maintaining the yard and I mow the lawn.
  2. Maybe this occurs the next week, and sometimes, in the most ambitious summers, even the week after that.
  3. Then it rains or we go out of town or we have to work late or something else happens.
  4. Then the grass is too long for my little sissy lawn mowers.  And then there’s too much dog poop, and it would get stuck in the blades of the mowers if I tried, and this is when lawn morale sinks and I just wait for the grass to die.  This is almost certainly before June 1. 

Well, this year is the year, folks, because I AM HIRING SOMEONE.  2 SOMEONES.  And they are going to mow my lawn and pick up dog poop.  And you know what?  I don’t feel guilty about spending this money, because this will make me happier.

Here’s my reasoning.  There are 2 of us, living in a low-priced home, with moderate debt, and decent jobs.  We’re not super-rich, but at any given time, either of us have enough money in our accounts to spend 30 dollars on dinner or make-up (this is me) or wine or records (this is her) or any other random frivolous purchase that comes to mind.  And we do spend that money, probably more often than we should.  So the funds are there.  I think it’s just time to face the fact that doing-it-yourself doesn’t mean you have to do EVERYTHING yourself, especially when that really means that it just doesn’t get done.

Everyone knows that when the inside of your house is clean, you feel better.  Walking through freshly-vacuumed rooms unencumbered by mountains of mail and clothes (Currently, because winter weather just ended last week, 3 of my dining room chairs are covered in layers of jackets and coats that we’ve worn in the past 2 weeks) just makes me feel calmer.  Otherwise, it’s easy to just let it all swallow you.  What I didn’t realize until just recently is that the backyard is the same way.  It’s not a pet or a child or something that commands my constant attention, but it needs to be maintained, and if I can’t do it myself, then I need to hire someone to do it, so that it doesn’t swallow me.  Also?  I want to have company sometimes, and having an overgrown poop garden for a backyard is embarrassing. 

So I guess that’s all that’s new.  I am vaguely optimistic about a job thing that is happening, but since I don’t really know how long I’ll have to wait before something happens, it’s not really worth mentioning.  All I’ll say is that I think that good things are happening, even if they are happening at an incredibly slow pace.  Maybe by the time summer comes around, I’ll have more to report.

Also, since I wrote this, I had a guy take the pond out.  The whole experience was pretty underwhelming, and basically, the company sold me (actually Elissa) a coupon for 8 HRS OF HANDYMAN WORK and instead of letting us work this (mildly drugged-looking young) man’s fingers to the bone for 8 hours to do all of my bidding, he just propped up our leaning fence and took out the pond, putting maybe an hour and 45 minutes in.  But we thought those jobs would take longer, and it didn’t seem like he could have done much else, ability-wise, so maybe it went as well as it could have.  At least our fence isn’t leaning anymore and the pond is gone, but maybe the guy missed the point of taking out such an eyesore, because he left me a new eyesore, a large pile of dirt and rocks where it used to be.  Overall, it’s a wash.  I’ve been thus far unsuccessful in finding a new landscaping company to come out and give me an estimate on cutting the lawn regularly and cleaning up the pond drama.  I imagine landscapers to be an aloof sub-culture of people who can’t be held down by ‘appointments’ or ‘offerings of weekly cash payments.’  If we could all be so lucky…

(Also also, never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that some day, I’d write over 1600 words about a patch of grass.)

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So yesterday was one of the worst days I’ve had at this job yet.

If you’ve read my About This Girl page, you know that I work in the online education industry.  I worked for 6 years at a big-name for-profit college company, but left when they started laying people off and freezing raises, because I wanted to leave on my own terms.  Also, my job as a ‘team lead’ was incredibly stressful, and I felt like the time was right.

My new job is at a cyber-school and I took a substantial pay cut to take it, but at the time, it seemed like the best choice and that I was making an investment in a more stable career.

Well, it turns out I was pretty wrong.  My new company is low-budget, pretty unstable, and it’s managed/owned by someone who is probably very intelligent, but not particularly tech-savvy and not particularly business-minded.  Also, he’s kind of a jerk who treats everyone as though they have no idea how to do their own job.  I have a lot of feelings and opinions about him, but I’ll abbreviate them in the interest of time.

My particular position is administrative, mostly.  I have some lofty title that may lead you to believe that I have more responsibility/authority than I do, but I’m basically responsible for pushing buttons all day.  There are a few variations on this:

-Some days are busy and I have to push more buttons than usual.

-Sometimes, there are priorities and I have to push the buttons in a different order.

-Sometimes, I’m not given all of the information that I need, so I have to deduce which buttons to push.

-Sometimes, for reasons outside of my control, I’m unable to push the buttons due to tech problems, so I have to explain this to various people inside and outside of the company.

-Also, unfortunately, sometimes I push the wrong buttons and I have to apologize thoroughly and sincerely to everyone involved.

At first, I was really mad when I found out how data-entry-focused this job was, especially because I wasn’t exactly wonderful at it.  I started at the busiest time of year, and I made typos, because I’ve never had a job like that before.  I felt really self-righteous, telling everyone who asked that I used to MANAGE people with jobs like this, and that I felt totally bamboozled by the interview process.

Eventually, it slowed down, and I realized that I have quite a bit of downtime, which I should probably appreciate, after living an all-job-all-the-time lifestyle for about two years.  I’m still looking for a new job, but not as actively, and, like I’ve mentioned, I’m still trying to come up with a game plan for how to change my situation.

Then, about 2 weeks ago, one of the managers here came down and said that one of his employees had given her 2-weeks notice and that he would need my help in her absence.  It sounded sort of occasional and casual, but the new responsibilities involve performing quality assurance (QA) checks on our online courses.  Since QA can be a bit of a resume buzzword (and I’m looking for more skills!), I was actually pretty excited about this possibility, because I want to make myself a more marketable candidate.

A member of his team gave me a half-hour training session, but she didn’t really tell me the scope or regularity of the responsibilities and I just sort of pushed it to the side, since the button-pushing demands of my own job had escalated and I really didn’t have time to do anything extra.

This all seemed fine, and I was still pretty gung-ho about the new work until yesterday, when the stereotypical hothead small business owner called all of us into a meeting and basically said that I’m accountable for the QA of all of the courses, effective immediately.  And it didn’t even seem like it would be effective immediately, as much as it sounded like it was already effective, as though if he found errors in any course, I would be personally accountable.   As if this wasn’t infuriating enough, he proceeded to say several times to me in his standard-issue condescending tone, “Do…you…understand??  This is important.”  The manager whose team is actually responsible for the content of the courses said nothing to indicate that I hadn’t really started doing these quality assurance checks or that the training I received was nowhere near thorough enough to be fully accountable.  He just sat there quietly while I was instructed by the owner that I have 2 jobs now.   For the same shitty pay.

This meeting put me behind schedule, but instead of working from home last night (for free!), I decided that I had already dedicated enough hours of my day to this guy and his crappy company, so I decided to paint the kitchen ceiling, because I needed to do something where I could control the outcome.

(To be continued…)

 

P.S.

When I think of the insane owner, I think of this scene from A League of their Own, not because he makes me cry (he doesn’t) or because he yells in my face (he doesn’t), but because sometimes I feel like asking him if anyone ever told him he looks like a penis with a little hat on.  There’s no crying in cyber-school, after all.


I know I’ve been talking about coming up with a job plan, and I have sadly no updates on that, but I have come up with a house plan!

A few weeks ago while I was working from home because of my leaky roof, I found my dream house on craigslist.  Let me tell you about its glory!

It had 4 bedrooms, one of which was a huge finished attic. (So much room for activities!) It had new hardwood floors, a dishwasher, a double sink (this is very important to Elissa, but I’m indifferent to the number of sinks because THERE’S A DISHWASHER, WHO NEEDS A SINK EVER AGAIN?), a first-floor half bath, a new furnace, a nice patio, 3 parking spots.  Let me tell you, this house was A+ and I spent a good 2 hrs walking around my own house trying to inventory all the things I would need to do to (in my non-real-estate-educated head) sell it in a hurry.  I was going all HGTV in my head and theorizing the best way to stage my house. This was it. I was going to sell the house and move to…the other side of my own neighborhood, and there was no way I’d ever be convinced otherwise. 

 

Of course, Elissa was at work during all of this and was completely unaware that I had found the home where we will grow old together.

Also, I wasn’t really looking for a house, because E’s in grad school and I’m looking for a new job, and everything’s just a little too unclear right now to go around getting a new mortgage.  Additionally, because of the (totally reasonable, in my head) price of this house, I would need both of us to be on the mortgage, which is probably a grand idea for our next house (I have all kinds of opinions on this subject!), but we should probably at least be engaged-to-be-gay-married before then.  Why buy the cow, put a ring on it, etc.

Oh, also, we don’t have tons of savings right now for inspections, closing costs, etc.  When E came home and joined me in basking in Our Forever House’s splendor, she reminded me that approximately 60% of the houses in our neighborhood/this city were built the exact same way, and there will probably be one available to us when we are ready, but we just aren’t yet.  She was right, and I’ve spent the past 2 weeks making peace with the idea that someone else is going to live in Our Forever House instead of us.  I’ll probably still drive by it now and then on my way to Aldi, though, because you don’t need a new mortgage to be a stalker.

 

So my new plan is this:  

  1. Refinance!  Another portion of my work-from-home day was spent making phone calls that it is awkward to make while cubicle-bound, and one of these calls was to the mortgage broker who helped me get my first mortgage.  People have been saying ‘you should re-finance!’ to me forever, but I’ve pretty much ignored all of them, because it sounded complicated, like I would somehow be personally involved in doing large amounts of math.  Also, I knew that I’d have to talk to people on the phone, and that I’d have to fill out paperwork, and both of these things are pretty unappealing to me.  Anyway, the guy explained that as long as I stayed in the house for 3 more years, refinancing would be worth it, and I’d be able to pay down my loan faster.  If I was going to sell in less than 3 years, though, it wouldn’t be worth the cost to re-finance.  In three years, I’ll be 31 (how did this happen to me?), and E will be done with school, and we will hopefully be able to make large financial decisions.  Moreover, I will have paid down my house more, so I can potentially (gasp!) profit from its sale, which would be a totally cool and unexpected side effect, since I never really planned to stay there that long.
  2. Fix up my house.  About a year ago, I went through a fit where I wanted desperately to buy a new car, but I didn’t actually need one.  My car is six years old, but it barely has 60,000 miles on it, so it certainly has a lot of life left in it.  Also, since it’s paid off, it’s kind of awesome to not have a car payment.  The solution was for me to clean all the junk out of my car and vacuum it, and it made me feel so much better.  Obviously cleaning and vacuuming my house will help me, but a few coats of paint and spackle here and there, and craigslisting some stuff that has just been sitting around will probably make a world of difference.  This will also make it easier for me to sell when the time comes, and will help the next 3 years seem more bearable.
  3. Save money and pay off debt!  With E working full-time now, we will suddenly have more money, and while making more money can lead to spending more money, I want to try my hardest for this to not happen.  When we do want to buy a house, I want our financial path to be clear of weird old looming bills or unexpected expenses.
  4. Live happily ever after, etc.