coming out of my shell

coming out of my shell

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Oy Vey, and I Really Mean It

Yeah, the house purchasing crappola continues.  For point of information House #2 is owned by the VA and House #1 is owned by Fannie Mae.   No real human beings seem to be involved on the seller's end beyond the listing agents.  The listing agents must not be motivated by commission otherwise their lackluster performances make no sense.  Perhaps they get a flat fee from these large government organizations when they work for them, and that is why they do not seem to care?  Or maybe it is because the organizations are so large and impersonal that they do not make decisions quickly?   It is hard to say.  Like John Snow (Game of Thrones) I know nothing.

House #2 (VA):
This is a truly great house and we like it best; however, it is a little too big for us and has been sitting empty for a few years.  Consequently, it needs a significant amount of work, and the purchase price is more than House #1 (which is move-in ready).  When we first looked at it and decided to put an offer down we could see all the rooms had to be painted and it needed new carpeting throughout.  We also saw amazing potential both inside and out.  Great house.  After inspection, it became clear it needs new roof, new a/c, and the pool area would need a LOT of work: big bucks.  We were willing to get the additional repairs and refurbishing done, but we needed the VA to come down in price somewhat to make it worth our while.   It would have been a show of good faith on the part of the sellers.  Last Friday, after waiting nearly two weeks for their response, they finally got back to us with a measly reduction.   They made the statement they would rather put the house back on the market than come down anymore on the purchase price.  We got the message.  Since we are retirees on a fixed income that meant the house would quickly become a money pit for us.  We were still considering it, though, because we like the house.  Then Divine Providence intervened and our path became clear: the deal breaker for me was the following.  Last Friday we went with our lovely real estate agent, TM, to House #2 to look at it one last time before making a decision.   The neighbors out back know our lovely real estate agent, TM, because they go to the same church.   When we went out back to the pool we were talking to TM and the neighbors were in their pool and heard her voice.  They then started talking to TM through the fence from their yard.  Well, I have lived in the country the last 24 years without close neighbors.  I am loud, crass, and working class and so are most of my friends and family.  We cannot be repressed, nor would we want to be.  I am not used to neighbors hearing what I am saying in my own back yard.  Some of T and my most spectacular arguments have been outside on the deck up north.  I like arguing outside.  I do not want to whisper when I am playing with my grandkids in the pool.  Ick.  This soured me on House #2.   I do not want to live there.  I do not want to spend all our discretionary retirement income fixing it up.  Too bad, so sad.  Moving on now.

House #1 (Fannie Mae  - the house we thought we had before we left NYS):

This house is a little smaller than House #2, but the lots in the subdivision are bigger and houses are further apart.   The houses on either side do not have pools, so “they” will not be sitting outside in the blazing Florida heat listening to us, even though I KNOW “they” want to.  We are simply not interesting enough to risk sunburn and dehydration for.  The house behind us has a small pool far enough away that they would have to walk all the way to the fence (outside their pool area) to hear what we are saying.  The lot is totally fenced in on all sides out back.  I will never have to see or even meet my neighbors beyond a quick wave and a  “Hi there” if I do not want to.  Yes, these are the things I worry about.  Welcome to my neuroses.  I am a big nut, I know, but it is hard for a country girl to get used to suburban living.  If you are also a country girl, ya’ll know what I mean.  Yes, I just spoke Southern.   I am Southern now.  Deal with it.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, House #1 went back on the market last week and the listing agent called our lovely realtor TM wanting to know if we would like to make an offer.  Of course at first I was angry; Angry is my middle name.  Hot-Head is the name I took for Confirmation.  If you say my first name first, middle name second, Confirmation name third, and my last name last you get a pretty clear idea of whom I am.  And I only used the word “whom” because my spell checker forced me to. 

I digress.  It quickly became clear that House #2 was not going to happen, so we made yet another offer on House #1 – offering the same terms/price that our previous contract had agreed upon.  They immediately got back to our realtor and accepted it.  There was no haggling and no counter offer.  I was caught off guard; astounded really.  I was looking for a fight.  We went to see House #1 and noticed that the sliding glass door was stuck and asked them to fix it - they did it the next day.  We asked for proof of title (to make sure they actually own it now) and they provided it immediately.  It has new a/c, new water heater, and new carpeting throughout thanks to our previous two offers/negotiations.   The roof was new in 2008.   We can move our stuff in without having to do any major repairs or refurbishing beforehand (we will paint rooms over time).  So we are going for it.  Or maybe this is a dream, hard to tell these days.  We should have a signed contract today. 

We have not forgotten that Fannie Mae cost us money, inconvenience, and anxiety in the past few months, but we always wanted this house to be our retirement home.   In fact, this is the third offer we have made on it.  The first time we walked away from it because they would not come down from their initial absurd asking price and also would not make some necessary repairs when the old water heater broke.  The second time they did come down in price to our liking and fixed the things that were wrong, but then it turned out they did not have title and could not sell it to us.  (I still can’t get over that, by the way, it boggles the mind.)  Hopefully the third time works. Hopefully we are not just brain-fried old suckers opening ourselves up for more hurt.   The only downside is our lender needs to start from scratch with this offer – she is unable to just reopen a closed file, so it may be as much as 30 days before we can close and move in.  But at least the reason is on our end and not the sellers.  Sigh.   But (again, hopefully) perhaps there is an end in sight.  This has been nuts. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day: Honoring My Father

My Dad served in the Pacific during World War II aboard the troop supply ships U.S.S. Starlight, and the U.S.S. Wharton.  He enlisted in early 1943, and he was discharged late in 1947 after serving 4 years, 8 months, and 3 days. He was a Machinist Mate 1st class, and he participated in the Battle for the Liberation of the Philippines in January 1945.  One of the hallmarks of this particular battle was the Japanese introduction of kamikaze pilots.  Kamikaze is a Japanese word meaning "divine wind" and these suicide pilots sank 17 U.S. ships and damaged 50 more in the battle for Luzon in the Philippines as they flew obsolete planes into American ships, hoping to do considerable damage to the U.S. fleet. 

As a machinist, Dad worked below in the ship.  He remembered hearing a kamikaze plane hit the ship next to his, which sunk as a result of the attack.   He said it was extremely loud and the ship he was on shook so much that he thought it was his ship that had been hit.  I can only imagine the claustrophobic fear he felt in those long, lonely moments thinking they were trapped in the belly of the ship.  When he realized it was another ship that was hit, he ran up 3 flights of stairs to see what was happening.  Men from the damaged ship were jumping into the water to escape the fire on board.  My father volunteered to help rescue them and spent the rest of the day pulling men both living and dead out of the Pacific.  

One rescued man was burned over 90 percent of his body.  Although he did not know the man, Dad volunteered to stay by the man’s side.  For three full days and nights he stayed with the stranger, changing his bandages and simply not leaving the man alone with horrible pain. 

After the war ended my father also volunteered to be present for the atomic bomb testing at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands, which began in July 1946.   When asked why he would do such a thing, he replied that it seemed like it would be an interesting experience.  He also said it was beautiful.  

He received the following medals: The Asiatic Pacific (with 4 stars); the American Area Medal; the Victory medal; the Philippine Liberation Medal (with 2 stars); and the Navy Unit Commendation Medal.

My Dad died of congestive heart failure on Veterans Day, November 11, 1996, immediately after he finished singing “It’s a Grand Old Flag” in front of his cronies at a senior citizen’s luncheon.  He finished his song, stepped down off the stage, and immediately had a fatal heart attack.  It certainly scared the other old folks, but it was the kind of death I would have wished for him – quick and painless.  Not a bad way for an old sailor to go!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Theatre of the Absurd

Life is so strange; sometimes I can hardly believe it.   If I can be thankful for anything in this Comedy of Errors called “Retiring to Florida” it is a chance to perform in this Theatre of the Absurd called “Buying a House in Florida circa 2014.”  Quite the story, and I have been cast in a truly great dramatic role.  "All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up."

House #2
Our current housing opportunity is fraught with waiting.  The listing agent (representing the seller, who is the Veterans Administration) is a turd…seriously.   I yearn to ask him why he never returns our realtor’s calls.  Is it because he is, in fact, a turd?  Or is it a brilliant realtor tactic to break us down by making us wait and wait for his response and thereby force us to become desperate enough to accept any counter offer he makes?   I really want to know, because if it is a tactic at least I can then understand his lack of responsiveness.  I might eventually be able to respect his ruthlessness.  Real estate is a game one plays to win, after all.  My fear is that he is just lazy and uncaring. And that is so boring.

House #1
Last Sunday our realtor called to tell us that the listing agent from the original house we came down here to buy (the one that Fannie Mae never really owned….) would be going back on the market because they now have title to the house, and they wondered if we were still interested in making an offer.   An offer?  Really?  For crying out loud, we had a contract; a contract they kept extending and then unilaterally cancelled over a month after we first expected to close.  And they cancelled it three days before we moved down here, long after we sold our house up North.  How do I detest thee? Let me count the ways.  

OK, I am now pulling myself together (slight pause while she pulls herself together).  Now that I have publicly ranted and indulged my anger and frustration I need to consider:  Do I want to become a hateful and bitter victim?  No, I do not.  If I change into a hateful and bitter person because of the acts of another, then the bad guys win and I lose.  Been there, didn't do that.  Not gonna happen now either. I refuse to be unhappy because a few other people are either dimwits or have sold their souls to the devil.  And I think that is the crux of the matter.  Putting aside homelessness, boredom, anxiety, and anticipation, I just bottom line refuse to be unhappy. This long, frustrating process has taught me that I am not in control of anything except my reactions. Our goal is that we will find a great house to spend our retirement in.  And we will. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Concrete Jungle

This is Florida where there are new housing developments popping up all over.  One day you are driving down a country road enjoying the view and thinking, “Hey, Florida is actually pretty out here in the country.”  The next day you are shocked to see that all the trees have been felled and a new development is being built.  The land is lost and will never be the country again.  The natural world is replaced by suburban gated communities with restrictive Home Owners Associations telling everyone how many animals they can have, what color they can paint their houses, and what kind of plants they can plant on their property.  All the houses look alike.  I thought Floridians were mostly conservative Republicans?  I thought conservative Republicans were against oppressive big government?   Why do they choose to live like this, without personal freedoms?  Where are the rugged individualists?   Or have the rugged individualists all become Libertarians?  These are the things I wonder now that I have been retired for six full months!

And now a few words about our current living situation: The Concrete Jungle, aka RV Vacation Resort.  In truth, it is quiet and pleasant to be here.  There is a total vacation vibe.  Everyone is taking it easy.  The RV’s and trailers are parked herringbone style, fairly close to each other.  This is a large park with a lot of units, and across from us is a row of small, prefab houses that are referred to as cottages.  The cottages were once rentals.  The resort is slowly selling them off.  A few of the owners may or may not live in their cottages year round.  When we first moved in (early April) there were a lot more RV’s parked in unit spaces.  By May 1st, about half have moved out – theoretically to go back north?  Some have left, but continue to rent the unit space and leave their RV parked here.  I am not sure what the draw is about this place.  It is backed up against a Publix grocery store and strip mall on one side.  The other sides are surrounded by the ubiquitous new housing developments.

There is a clubhouse, pool, and administrative complex in the middle of the park.  The office manager is British.  She is kick-ass efficient and keeps everything running smoothly.  She is also da boss.  I so wanted to like her.  But, we pissed her off right away when we first arrived because we tried to get both cars in under only one gate opening.  My husband loves the challenge.  We managed, but it really made her angry.  She wanted us to be punished.  She scolded us soundly.  I think she might have waved her finger at us, too.  I felt rebuked and ashamed for our transgression.  My husband, T, being a former lost boy and all, thought it was funny and wanted to do it again.  He was not sufficiently obsequious or sorry.  She knew.  She can tell when you are bad to the bone.  Other residents seem to have an electronic pass that opens the gate.  We did not receive one.  I can only imagine why.  We have to punch the *&^%$! code in each and every time.  I have seen her flirt with some of the old men who come in to hang out with her or to pick up their mail.  “Here comes trouble!” she will say in her slightly higher and more feminine “nice voice.”  I have never seen her pal around or joke with a woman.  I tried to be funny with her once, but only ended up laughing at my own joke a little too shrill as she stared a hole through me.  I might have even displayed some facial heaves as the air became thicker...very awkward. She reminds me of a couple of office professionals I have worked with over the years.  She controls the atmosphere within her sphere and only dispenses good vibes on her favorites – the ones who suck up to her regularly.  The rest of us are beneath her notice.  Thank you, God, for not making me her supervisor.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Still Waiting, Dammit!

Ok, now it is beyond waiting. It is about control. I have none. I want some. What is a woman to do? I am afraid the answer to that is “get cranky.”

I like to do things on the spur of the moment; the lack of planning makes everything more fun. Yesterday at 2:45 pm I came up with the brilliant idea of driving into town, picking up E (who I happened to know was home from school faking illness) and going to the theater to see the new Spiderman movie at 3:45. It takes 35 minutes to get from our trailer to their house, then 15 minutes to get from M&MV&E&N’s house to the theater. We could do it! I had faith in us.

My husband, T, agreed and we jumped in the car and headed to pick up E.  Unfortunately, T must have been on slow motion drugs yesterday afternoon because he consistently drove under the speed limit. We have a GPS and it tells us what the speed limit is, and what speed we were going. I could not believe it. He must have known how important it was to get there on time. I felt the need to shout out the speed limit to him so that he would know. As you can imagine, he REALLY seemed to like my help in that regard. The other drivers on the road were purposely driving slow, too. Bastards!  I cursed them roundly, and not quietly.  I screamed: “I hate your guts!” to a school bus filled with children.

I messaged ahead to give M instructions to have E come out as soon as we drove up so we would not have to go inside. I did not want baby N to know we were there because 1. It would break his heart when we left right away, and 2. It would slow us down to interact with him. I called again when we were punching in the access code at the gate for their housing development. Why, oh why do so many Floridians live in gated communities? Coming to a stop and punching in the numbers and then waiting forever for the hateful gate to slowly swing open cost us at least 20 seconds. E did not come out immediately when we drove up 20 seconds later. So I called again. M messaged that E was going to the bathroom. Fine. I guess they do not plan ahead either.

It took forever to get from E’s house to the theater. OK, maybe because I insisted T take a new “short-cut,” and I miscalculated how short the cut was, whatever. We arrived at the theater at 3:50. I ran to the ticket counter, E and T trailing behind. What is it with slow motion drugs, I wondered? Don’t they know how to run?

Previews were being shown and there were only seats left up front, so the ticket person suggested we pay a bit more and go to the 4:00 3D showing. I glanced at E&T to see if they wanted to go to the 3:45 non 3D (as planned) or the 4:00 3D showing. I sincerely thought I heard them say, “No, we want to stick with the plan – go to the 3:45 show.” I paid for the 3:45 tickets. When we got in they stupidly were trying to veer into the 3D cinema entrance. I yelled at them that it was not the one we were going to. I could not believe they were wasting more TIME. With what I can only call shock they informed me that they both had told me at the ticket counter that they wanted to go to the 4:00 3D movie instead. Sheesh.

We walked in and took seats in the 3D theater. We had about 7 minutes to kill. I immediately began to relax. T went to get snacks for all of us. You can drink beer and wine in this theater, plus they sell fries with cheese sauce. So, snacks are pretty great here. Then sweet E turned to me with frightened eyes and asked what we would do if we got arrested for going into the wrong theater? Ouch, the heady responsibility of being a grandparent!  I reassured her I would go out and tell the authorities we were in the 3D theater, and I would pay the additional $6 cost. Good thing, too, because we did not have 3D glasses…

I walked up to the nearest authority (a tall, skinny, pimply faced 16 year old boy) and confessed our sins. He shook his head at me sadly and told me that was not the way we were supposed to do this. My eyes glazed over as I successfully managed not to punch him in the head. Over the right ear would have been good, I thought. He gave me 3 pairs of 3D glasses and I returned to my seat.

T then came back with a tray full of food and drink. E had fries with cheese sauce, a humongous box of cookie dough candy, and a Sierra Mist that was at least a foot tall. T got fries and a glass of white wine. I am on a life-long diet so naturally I only got wine. As he went to sit down the tray tipped and HIS glass of white wine spilled over and onto him, the tray, and the floor. We moved up to the next row, cleaning up as best we could. The floor, however, remained sticky.

Spiderman was great! It was fast paced, and included lots of fighting, lots of crashing and plenty of yelling. Just what the doctor ordered. I was refreshed. I worked out a lot of anger issues watching Electro get his butt kicked by Spidey.  Although I felt kind of sorry for Electro because it was not really his fault that he turned bad. Sigh. My nerves are shot. I may need to go see the Captain America movie today. Alone.