Friday, May 30, 2008

Two Questions

1. How do I make my text also a link? For example, in the book list below, how can I make the titles into the clickable links below them (so the list isn't quite soooooooo long)?

2. Recently, a comment has been posted and then deleted by its author. Twice. And I find it strangely disconcerting (rightly or wrongly). It just nags at me. In neither case has there been any follow-up, like a comment following saying something like "sorry, I double-posted, so am deleting the original." A deletion on the basis of a double-post is not disconcerting, but I have no way to know if this is the reason for these deletions. If you have posted and deleted, can you let me know if this is the reason?

I admit, this may be my neurotic tendencies talking. I love comments. I really, really love them. And I really appreciate those who take the time to write a comment, even if brief. So in no way do I mean this to come off as discouragement for anyone leaving me comments. Please continue to do so, and let me know if you need to delete anything.

Reading List: 8 Categories, 8 Books For 2008 (8 x 8 in 08)

Okay, so I'm going to need to give myself an extension until June 2009, but I FINALLY completed my reading list for 2008. I already have books starting to go on a potential '09 list!!

Here it is: 8 CATEGORIES, 8 BOOKS EACH

From My Bookshelf-- Never Read ~or~ Started and Never Finished
1. Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain by Maryanne Wolfe
2. Daniel Isn't Talking (a novel) by Marti Leimbach
3. The Virgin Homeowner: The Essential Guide to Owning, Maintaining, and Surviving Your Home by Janice Papolous
4.
Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew by Sherrie Eldridge
5.
Ahab's Wife: Or, the Star-gazer (a novel) by Sena Jeter
6. Black, White, Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self by Rebecca Walker (this may be a re-read...I can't remember whether or not I finished it)
7.
The Fruits of Our Labors: The Bicentennial History of the First Unitarian Church of Worcester 1785-1985 by Walter Donald Kring
8. The Ultimate Guide to Pool Maintenance by Terry Tamminen



Fictional Classics and Well-Knowns
1. A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith

2. Jane Eyre by Emily Bronte

3. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

4. Tin Drum by Gunter Grass

5. Life of Pi by Yann Martel

6. One Flew Over the Cukoos Nest by Ken Kesey (this is likely a re-read, but if so, I remember the play more vividly so would like to explore the book some more)

7. A Street Car Named Desire by Tennesee Williams

8. Animal Farm by George Orwell



Parenting
1. Becoming the Parent You Want to Be by Janis Keyser and Laura Davis (a re-read for the fourth or fifth time because I love it that much and it is dense so there is always more to "get..."plus, I am out of practice)

2. Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline by Becky Bailey

3. Conscious Discipline by Becky Bailey

4. Connection Parenting by Pam Leo
5. Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

6. Everyday Blessing: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting by Jon and Myla Kabat-Zinn

7. Buddhism for Mothers: A Calm Approach to Caring for Yourself and Your Children by Sarah Napthali

8. The Lost Art of Listening: How Learning To Listen Can Improve Relationships by Michael P. Nichols (indirect relationship to topic, but I still felt it was important)



Related to My Vocation
1. Practicing Resurrection: A Memoir of Work, Doubt, Discernment, and Moments of Grace by Nora Gallagher

2. Waking Up To What You Do by Diane Risetto
3. The Kingdom of God is Within You by Leo Tolstoy

4. Walk in the Light & Twenty-Three Tales by Leo Tolstoy

5. Emerson: The Mind on Fire by Robert D. Richardson Jr.

6. How Then, Shall We Live? Four Simple Questions That Reveal the Beauty and Meaning of Our Lives by Wayne Muller

7. Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence

8. Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross



Poetry and Fiction
1. Hardheaded Weather: New and Selected Poems by Cornelius Eady

2. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

3. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

4. Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

5. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

6. The Boat by Nam Le

7. America, America by Ethan Canin

8. Lady of the Snakes by Rachel Pastan



Nonfiction
1. Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely (on economics)

2. Driven to Distraction: Recognizing and Coping With ADD From Childhood Through Adulthood by Edward Hallowell, M.D. and John Ratey, M.D. and/or Delivered From Distraction by Edward Hallowell

3. Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights by Thom Hartmann

4. A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-Face with Modern-Day Slavery by Benjamin Skinner

5. The Zen of Listening: Mindful Communications in the Age of Distractions by Rebecca Shafir

6. Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships by Sean Barron and Temple Grandin

7. Can't Remember What I Forgot: The Good News From the Frontlines of Memory Research by Sue Halpern

8. Nim Chimpsky: The Chimp Who Would Be Human by Elizabeth Hess



Children's Literature (any genre or age level)
1. Goldie the Dollmaker by M. B. Goffstein

2. Punk Farm by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

3. The Giver by Lois Lowry
4. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle (I am pretty sure this is a re-read, and that I read this as a child, but I don't remember it)
5. When a Monster is Born by Sean Taylor

6. A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms by Paul B. Janeczko
7. Be Quiet, Marina by Kirsten De Bear
8. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick



Biographies and Memoires
1. Waiting: The True Confessions of a Waitress by Debra Ginsberg
2. Lucy's Story: Autism and Other Adventures by Lucy Blackman
3. I Had No Means To Shout by Mary Jane Gray Hale and Charles Martel, Jr. Hale

4. The Beautiful Struggle by Tanehisi Coates

5. The Woman Who Can't Forget: The Extraordinary Story of Living with the Most Remarkable Memory Known to Science by Jill Price

6. Step by Step: A Memoire of Hope, Friendship, Perseverance, and Living the American Dream by Bertie Bowman

7. A Remarkable Mother by Jimmy Carter

8. Things Seen and Unseen by Nora Gallagher

Shout-Outs

You may have noticed I don't have any links, including links to other blogs, on the sidebar of this blog. Long story...but it is an OCD thing.

Anyway, it seems I at least ought to periodically post some shout-outs to those folks with whom I am keeping in touch. So here is what is up with some of the folks "in the neighborhood."

  • My friend Sara introduced me to "flat traveling," an idea with which I immediately fell in love. Check it out: http://learningumbrella.homeschooljournal.net/2008/05/29/flat-traveling/ Turns out, though, it can be a bit of a disappointment in practice if you don't do it with folks you know who actually follow-through. So basically I've decided I need to secure myself a pal for my kidos in each state and elsewhere around the globe...sometime in the next couple of years ;-). Good thing my kids aren't quite old enough for this yet. It's bought me a little time LOL.

  • My mom is introducing me to some fun animation set to music at http://ragtagsf.blogspot.com/. I never got into animation much, but this stuff is beautiful and interesting, and yes, appeals to me.

And lastly, some "posting anytime soon?" shout-outs:

  • My oldest sister hasn't posted for a little while, probably busy with the end of the school year and travel to VT and all. Last I heard, she was promising tips on moving. In the meantime, if you haven't visited her site (at least not recently), check out her new project, a rainbarrel: http://awfulbrothers.blogspot.com/2008/05/say-say-oh-playmate.html.

  • My "little" brother (http://www.sunthroughleaves.blogspot.com/) and his wife (http://www.chickadeescout.blogspot.com/) are probably doing the newlywed bliss/lovebird hide-away time, or maybe they are traveling (I never did ask them about post-wedding plans), but before the wedding my brother did post some thought-provoking conversation starters on polar bears, government, and responsibility. And his wife-- also before the wedding, of course-- has been posting some great photos including of some delicious looking food she and my bro have whipped up and some of the plants in their lives.

  • My dad is a "weekend poster" and seems to have been too busy with the wedding and related travel, work crunches, etc. to have posted too recently, but I really, really appreciated his post on what a college education should be about: http://colin-quodlibet.blogspot.com/2008/05/what-to-learn-in-college.html. By the way, I heard a piece on NPR about a book discussing and critiquing universities as businesses as much as educational institutions, etc. Sounded interesting.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Not done (aka: dangerously blogging while angry)

An addition to my writing of a few minutes ago. I just read the comments on the news cast website, and I am all the more horrified. Here is my most recent post on my message board.

Post Four: You know, the comments on the news video...VOMIT! More parent blaming for the child with the disability...more wah, wah, we adults lose it because we aren't allowed to discipline and we have no idea how else to relate to children with disabilities other than to discipline (punish) them into submission. More, no one understands how bad it is for teachers and how this child is surely the devil himself.

Not to mention more excusing the teacher's behavior with the notion that teachers are overworked and underpaid. BELIEVE ME. My wife was a preschool teacher, the most overworked and underpaid of them all. And at one point in a preschool with HUGE discipline issues. But being overworked and underpaid still is not a justification for abuse of a child. It is just not.

I appreciated the person who commented, "Did she really think she could bully him into better behaviour?" Well, given the way we have historically misunderstood and mistreated people with disabilities, it is possible she thought she could. But she was WRONG (and unprofessional and abusive).

Someone commented on the news cast website:
"The teacher explained that this student had been a major disruption in her classroom all year: yelling, touching and bothering others, rolling around on the floor, etc."

All of these are actually types of behavioral communication that make sense for a child with aspergers. It is a discipline issue until the teacher figures out what the child is trying to communicate and responds appropriately. The behavior will stop when the need is met. The child is trying to regulate his neurological system. The child is trying to communicate with other children when words fail him. The child is trying to respond to his environment when it overwhelms him. That's hard work, but all this he has had to do all year under the duress of this emotionally unsafe classroom environment.


I just can't get over it.


Saying (as one person did in their comments) "the teacher explained that this student had been a major disruption in her classroom all year: yelling, touching and bothering others, rolling around on the floor, etc." about a child getting evaluated for aspergers is like saying about a child being evaluated for visual impairment: "the teacher explained that this student had been a major disruption in her classroom all year: running right up to the chalk board while the teacher was writing, running and bumping into other students, putting her hands on the walls when walking down the hall, sometimes even causing other students' artwork to fall."

This Is NOT Okay

So a couple days ago, one of the parents on a message board I frequent posted a link to this article:


Here's a photo of this little guy, lest we run the risk of thinking of him as a hypothetical.

Of course we all-- meaning all the moms on the message board who read the story-- went straight up in arms about it.
Here is some of what I said:

Post One:
I am sitting here sobbing at the thought.
Literally, I could see this happening to my son. I am TERRIFIED of putting him in school.

What does the teacher think this is, an f'ing Survivor episode?!!

Seriously, that was so emotionally damaging for this boy AND all the students in this class. And really, those two little ones who voted against the crowd...you have got to be impressed because at that age, how hard would that be?! Incredible.

Post Two
(After someone wondered whether the teacher was engaging in a misguided attempt to teach him natural consequences-- as in, if you behave in a particular manner, you will upset other people and they won't want to be around you):
If it was a natural consequence of his behavior, then I am sure he was already experiencing it.

Where did the IEP come into all of this? That's what I want to know. Because if the kid had an IEP as a result of aspergers, then there likely had to have been some kind of plan to address these types of issues with this kid.

Post Three
(When someone reminded me that there wasn't yet an IEP in place): Right. I got so wound up about this that I started forgetting some of the details. Still...

Then someone reminded us of this, from the original article:
"Barton said her son is in the process of being diagnosed with Aspberger's, a type of high-functioning autism. Alex began the testing process in February for an official diagnosis under the suggestion of Morningside Principal Marsha Cully. Alex has had disciplinary issues because of his disabilities, Barton said. The school and district has met with Barton and her son to create an individual education plan, she said. His teacher, Wendy Portillo, has attended these meetings, she said."

Of course what this teacher did would have been awful no matter what student was the victim: a student of any age, with any disability or none at all. But this teacher attended the IEP meetings. She knew what was up. This is disabilism. This is horrific!!
And now, listen to the tape (go to the following link, scroll down to the video box, and click on "watch this story"):

How on earth can the school district say this doesn't meet the standards for emotional abuse? This is absolutely NOT okay, and as for me, I am taking this very personally. Because this is a blow to all human beings who have any sense of decency at all, not to mention all of us who have children and especially those of us with "disabled" children.

But the worst of it is the fact that the damage has been done, to this child and to all the other children in that classroom. Serious damage. It will take a lot of hard work to help these children heal these wounds. The only silver lining I see is that this child is learning in a major way (albeit under unfortunate circumstances) that his parents will protect and stand up for him. May all children come to be so blessed.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

From My Brother's Wedding

My brother was married today. For him and his wife, I wish blessings and love and growth and joy...and all the best of marriage.

My brother asked just before the wedding if K. might bring up the rings. I told him-- and I think wisely-- there was a near certainty that this would go haywire, but that with M., there was a good chance he could pull it off without too much craziness.

I did not overestimate my son.

(apologies for my funky camera issues)

Though he had trouble being a guest of the wedding, sitting quietly and attentively (he still did pretty well, I think, for an extremely active barely-three year old), he was a good ring-bearer. He took his job VERY seriously. He had the rings in his pockets, which he dutifully did not touch until I sent him up to the front of the room to hand them over. When he arrived at his destination, he dug in his pockets-- undistracted by the patient, loving laughter-- until he located each ring, one at a time, and gave them to S. and H.

It was so sweet to see him complete his job with success. And I know he felt like a meaningful part of things because of that moment.

G. and I were talking the other day about how many people before they know M. well underestimate his capabilities. I am sure this is largely a function of his communication delays. He also has such a different neurological approach to life, and his overall processing of information can be sporadic and unique in nature. But let it be known that I think M. is brilliant. In so many ways. He really is.

M. pays attention to everything. It is not obvious at all, but he watches and listens and catches everything going on around him. He has an incredible memory. Even several months before he turned three, he recounted to us events that had occurred a half year earlier. When he is focused, he has a very mechanical, problem-solving mind. He has a most excellent spatial sense, especially considering the challenges he has with his vestibular system, muscle tone, sensory processing, and motor planning. Way to go kid, and congratulations S. and H.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

From Baby To Young Child

Tonight G. asked to put the kids to bed by herself, for fear that if I came upstairs with them, I might actually fall asleep myself. She didn't want me to do that because she wants me to go back to work eventually so that I don't have to work much, if any, of tomorrow: my sabbath.

I had to email our real estate attorney, so I stayed downstairs to do that because it was a long, hard morning for various reasons, and I can't muster the energy or motivation to go back yet.

We still cuddle our kids to sleep. I believe letting babies "cry it out" is an emotionally damaging course (babies can't reason and can't keep time, after all), and the emotional needs that cuddling at bedtime once filled have not disappeared with age. Heck, I still like to cuddle with G. before we go to sleep.

Unfortunately, I think M. knows that I am here. I also think he is not as tired as he might be usually at this time because he took a longer nap. So he started the bedtime routine like a wild man: climbing around the bed and laughing hysterically and talking and shouting out (presumably to me): "Hello?! Hello down there!" K. of course enjoyed the loud, anti-bed riot and joined in. So then G. was upstairs handling two wild, rioting children under less than ideal circumstances.

I thought about just leaving, but it wouldn't likely make a difference unless I said something, which would get the kids even more stirred up. I considered going up to help, but I knew that would feed into future riots. M.'s at the age where he can manipulate (and I would like to stress that babies canNOT, no matter what your parenting books tell you...this is common knowledge in the world of child development). I know M. was trying to get me upstairs. He was trying to either push G. to the point where she'd call me up to help in desperation, or he was trying to get me sucked into a game.

So I sat downstairs listening to G. patiently spend a half hour or forty-five minutes trying to settle the kids calmy before finally she said in a stern, loud voice, "That is ENOUGH. Both of you stop it."

The kids did stop, but M. disolved into tears.

Here is where it gets tricky. M is not a baby. He just turned three, and despite some "delays," is quite capable as a three year old. He can manipulate. But children don't manipulate to make our lives hard. In fact, sometimes they manipulate to get their perceived needs met when they know they don't have a way to get their needs met otherwise. Like adults, children resort to manipulation often in response to feeling powerless.

On the weekends, my kids go long stretches without seeing me. Though I came home early today and we spent most of the afternoon together, I can't say my exhaustion was good for any of us. M wanted *me.* He felt a strong need to be close to me, and honestly, I don't blame him. Though he is no longer a baby, his sense of self is still closely tied to me as one of his mothers. Besides, even married adults who spend time apart frequently say they want to come home and spend time together...as human beings, we often miss those people we are close to when they are away.

So, from my perspective, in an act of compassion, after M. had been crying with G. for over a half hour, I walked upstairs. G. heard me and called out, "Please don't come in." And I don't blame her. She is the stay-at-home parent and carries more of the parental responsibilities. She has to put the kids to bed without me on a not-so-infrequent basis. So to her, if he gets the message that he can get me to come to him by rioting or crying at bedtime, this could mean mayhem in days to come when I am not here at bedtime or at naptime.

But it is so hard to sit here and listen, knowing that despite the fact that this is manipulative, M. is trying to meet an emotional need. The transition from baby to young child is so much harder than people speak openly about in our society. The closest we come in polite society (aside from the knowing nod between parents of kids who are around the same age) is talking about the "terrible twos," but even that simplifies the struggles as a child's problem when in fact it is a complex emotional relationship in which the balance is completely out of whack. There is such little recognition of the emotional dance of parent and child.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Anxiety

Let me be a little vulnerable here.

I've had a lifelong relationship with slightly-higher-anxiety-than-the-average-bear. Bear in mind, I am going to put a spotlight on that here, so please don't take this as a truly objective or wholistic perspective. I cannot be objective, nor does the spotlight allow for a wholistic perspective.

In my second year at university, I finally had my first no-doubt-this-is-what-is-going-on-here panic attack. I experienced it as something rather debilitating, and it has taken a lot of work on my part not to live in that space perpetually.

It's been interesting to observe myself during this cross-country move, to watch how I've responded to the inevitable anxieties of such major change.

I'm realizing now that my anxiety is somewhat cyclical in nature. When under stress of most types, I will go through periods of feeling clear and being able to respond to my anxiety without getting swept in. These are productive periods, happy times, and periods when I am able to empower others effectively while maintaining a healthy sense of boundaries. I am able to take a compliment, and generally process negative and positive feedback in the healthiest way I can (though I tend to do best with small, informal doses at one time, dispensed in loving, gentle, and personal formats). I go into "planning" mode. I am decisive. I am able to see my own vision-- for anything I'm working on-- and map out a way to get there. I communicate lovingly and effectively overall. I am in touch with my "better self."

Then, something will happen, and the anxiety will sweep over me again. All stress feels too much to bear. I cry and am irritable. I feel unclear. I can map out a way to get somewhere, but I feel doubtful about where I am headed and the steps feel so shaky that I can't tell if I am on the right footpath. I become frightened of my own inadequacies, and I can't thus empower others because it is too scary to give up control. And yet, I am too paralyzed by my own fears to do anything. I procrastinate. Negative feedback, even in loving, gentle, small, and personal doses, throws me off kilter. I can't find my footing. I lose my voice. I become out of step with my community.

On the outside, I can sometimes go through an anxious phase and even manage to maintain some semblance of normalcy. But as soon as I am "caught," I feel trapped and even more afraid. I don't like being vulnerable like that, so I push others away. I am ungracious, unforgiving, defensive, and restless.

I resort to coping skills that serve me in some ways, diminish me in others. I use my sense of humor. I put off my biggest tasks and do only very small bits. I sleep. I vent to my wife. I avoid human contact.

Again, I've worked a lot on this over the years. I go to therapy weekly. I attend to my prayer life, to the extent that I can manage at this time. I have taken herbal supplements like Saint Johns Wort and also used Rescue Remedy as a homeopathic treatment. I've taken courses in meditation, and I practice little skills when I don't have time or energy for something more intensive.

I am most conscious that I need to be careful to role model healthy rather than unhealthy coping skills to my children, that I need to be careful that they aren't exposed to the full extent of my anxiety, and that sometimes I just need to "get over" something and do it (like actually talk to a server at a restaurant rather than having my wife do it because I am feeling socially anxious) so that I am more comfortable and so are those folks around me (especially the kids).

But because of the immensity of change in my life this year, I find that just as soon as I start to catch my breath, something pushes me back under water and I can't quite find the strength to pull myself out as easily as years when I've had a little less going on (hah! when was that?).

I am learning, through this experience, those things that help me find success:

Internal


  • My prayer practice. If I can't attend to my prayer life in full, I ought to at least find time to do a very small amount each day.
  • Recognizing that most folks struggle with their own perceived inadequacies, anxieties, and so forth. That is, normalizing my challenges rather than using them as further tools for my own isolation. This also helps me in the sense of ministering to others.
  • God. My therapist told me a little while back that when I get into "what if" thinking, I should have a word that I can use to finish that sentence to help me keep out of my own spiral of anxious thoughts. So now when I hear myself starting to say, "what if," and getting catastrophic in my thoughts, I say "what if God?" It instantly helps to soothe me. **Note: I've never shared this with anyone before, so you can imagine what a private practice it is for me. Not sure I would take too kindly to someone else trying to say it for me LOL.
  • Empowering others and being gracious, even when I don't feel like I can. I've found that this can start another type of spiral. A much more positive, healthy one.
  • Being clear about ownership. I own my power, and my therapist has helped me understand that my cycle of anxiety involves a point (usually very early on) when I decide to let others define my worth, the worth of what I do, and the power of my contributions. I inevitably not only give away my power, but I also choose to "hear" only the negative, only those non-affirming things. Even when I am arguing against them in my mind, they eat away at me because I don't own anything positive. And so ultimately, I am not just giving my power to others, but also giving my power to those things that don't affirm my worth. I do this because it is familiar-- it's a long-time pattern of thought for me-- and what is familiar is always less scary than what is unfamiliar. When I do this, I get so scared. I am not able to affirm other folks in their goodness or in their power. How can I possibly affirm goodness and power in others when I can't even find it in myself? I find it really helpful to own in myself a sense of competence and worth, and then to use that sense of self-worth to help light the candles of others (remember that when one candle lights another, it does not diminish that first light). When I do this, and I feel others reaching out to me in diminishing ways, I can set my self apart from that behavior, often without setting myself apart from the person.
  • Assuming competence. Placing trust in my self, my intuition, and the value of my contributions is critical. When I am in a place of self-trust, I don't need to worry. I know that one way or another, a wave can rush over me without pulling me under. I can trust that I know where I am headed. I can trust my own instinct and tools to get me there. AND, even better, I find myself assuming that about others too. I can let the birds fly without trying to control where they are going and how they get there.

External

  • A mentor. I am considering paying to see a spiritual guide. I know those unfamiliar with such a practice will wonder why one might get paid for it. But like therapy, I think it can compliment my other work. I realize now that I had a spiritual guide (of the kind I didn't pay)-- someone who had the skills I am learning to develop-- back in my old state, but I don't here. A mentor would help me in life's constant discernment that I feel is critical to growing in healthy ways, both personally and professionally.
  • Compliments. The other day my assistant told me I was "one of the highlights" of her year. As I debate about whether regularly praising my kids will slow their development of internal rather than external motivation, I am realizing how much I benefit myself from praise. Because I am prone to anxiety, and I easily get into distorted internal thinking, it helps to have benchmarks...affirmations...that help restore me to clearer thinking and yank me out of my distorted internal dialogue.
  • Recognition of my best self. I am realizing how much I benefit from living in an environment where others see the self that I am not always able to see, and are able to help me hold that understanding constantly through all the trials and tribulations of the life's work I have taken on: my marriage, my vocational call, and my call to parent. I am really missing my friends and colleagues and all the folks at the foster care department back in my old state because this is exactly how they related to me. Some people are motivated by constant feedback, both positive and negative. That's how they learn. Because the negative becomes so amplified for me, I benefit more from the motivation of an understanding of how good I am. I benefit from regular reminders that accessing that self is not as hard as I work it up to be. One of the things that has sustained me through this trying and exhausting year was one of my last conversations with my former supervising minister. He, who had become a beloved friend and colleague, as much as a supervisor, looked me straight in the eyes and said "Just remember how good you are." I truly could not have made it this year if I couldn't hear those words in my head, affirming my best self. And I know he believed it because there was not a moment when I didn't feel that way with him, even in the handful of times he gave me directions or corrections or even constructive criticism (which he only gave when absolutely necessary...he knew that I was critical enough of my self for the both of us). And he spoke always highly of me among our shared and separate colleagues. I try to take this approach with those I supervise now. It is a basic part of learning theory that we learn best when we feel safe. I assume that we will all be growing in our lives and that we can grow best when others see the people we are becoming.
  • Knowing where I stand. When my wife comes to me and affirms my place in our family, and then gives me some gentle, loving, constructive criticism, but is direct with me, I avoid the spiraling inventions in my head that grow out of my anxiousness. "Is she going to lose it someday and not be able to tolerate this any longer? What then?" "How long was this bothering her before she ever told me?" "Is this worse than it seems?" "Does this represent some greater ill in her perception of our marriage?" "Is this a bottom line thing for her?" "Does she feel like we can make it through this?" I was always the kid who physically felt like she had to vomit when called to the teacher's desk. In my mind, I was going to be caught in something awful I didn't even know I did. Tears would well up in my eyes before I even arrived at the desk. That's why for me, (1) spontaneous feedback helps-- because then I don't start cycling into the anxiety before I even have heard what needs to be said-- I don't cry my way to the desk, (2) gentle, loving feedback helps because I don't start questioning my place and worth as I am prone to do, and (3) direct feedback in small doses helps because it requires less interpretation and leaves less room for distorted thinking. Back when my former supervising minister and I began working together (and he knows this because I later shared it with him), his quiet-nature often brought out my anxiousness. He would be completely still and silent as I spoke, and I would start going a million miles a minute in my mind: "I wonder if he is mad. What if he didn't like what I just said. What if his silence is a sign of dismissal." etc. I quickly began to learn the way my internal dialogue was distorting reality to a point of paralyzing anxiety, and it was completely unnecessary because he had a great respect for me and my work.
  • Contact with others. I am finding the more social contact I have with others, as much as it sometimes *gives* me anxiety to have it, ironically makes me less likely to get into my out-of-control, spiraling cycle of anxiety. I think moving into a more walker-friendly area of this city, and into more of a neighborhood will be *tremendously* beneficial to my mental health. Even my house-warming party I think will be helpful. Next year I am also going to keep tighter office hours with my assistant, so I can spend less time alone in my office. Additionally, I am going to try to spend more of my lunches at the staff lunch (folks generally eat at the dining table together at noon), since being on a different level of the building than all but my assistant contributes to my feelings of isolation and lack of coordination with others here.
  • And beyond just contact with others, I do best in an environment of routine and activity. Nothing hugely fast paced (I am finding myself having a very hard time adjusting to the pace of the east coast...and even my wife, who grew up out here, is saying the same thing about herself), but for example, when I went to water aerobics twice a week with one of my wife's co-workers, it really did me a lot of good. I've got to find that sense in my new life here as much as possible because that is how I thrive.

I am finding that when I assume others have fairly similar needs, the quality of all my relationships, both personal and professsional, is deeper, more sustaining for everyone, more loving, more compassionate, more joyful, more powerful, and more healthy. And it makes me more effective in my ministry to boot. Interesting stuff.

And Another Video Interlude

http://www.collegehumor.com/moogaloop/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=1812947&fullscreen=1

Some more college humor. I thought it was funny even though I am not at this stage in my life, and I do not have kids in this stage in their lives. Watch it for a good laugh!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Video Interlude

I have some posts started but unfinished about more globally interesting topics than me buying a home...but while I go through the anxious phase in anticipation of everything to happen in the days to come, here are some video interludes.

A little trip down memory lane...and a great song, from the perspective of FUN:



And speaking of a flashback, a little more on topic (houses and finding out what could be wrong with them), remember:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYHMsDMZziY
(embedding is disabled on this video)

Yes, a bargain will make people do anything, won't it?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

"This Property Protected By Jesus Christ"


While dropping M.'s signed IEP off at the school district office, I noticed this sticker on the window of a car parked next to me. I feel like I've seen this before, but it has been long enough that the whole idea was quite novel.

I find the wording: "Warning: This Property Protected By Jesus Christ" a bit irreverent. Jesus isn't concerned with your property. In fact, Jesus himself said *you* needn't be concerned with your property.

That said, the rest of the text is simply evangelistic, and I don't see that as a bad thing. The idea is, "you might think what you want is material in nature, but in fact, you want something much deeper, something more intangible, and you *can* have that." Doesn't seem to be a bad message after all.

This hole you feel deep within, it can't be filled with material things.

On Sticks In the Car and Delights of Motherhood


This is what I always wanted, ever since I was a little girl. To be a mother.

I am a mother now, and I love the little delights this brings. My kids went to the park the other day and wanted to bring home some stray sticks with which they couldn't stand to part. Now, I get into my car, and while driving to work, find a stick on my dash. It's like a "your kids were here!" sign etched there. And it made me smile.

Cars and Me

Warning: graphic injury pictures below.


...we are not getting along lately. That cut just above my lip is much deeper than it looks. G. found it quite worrisome at first.





What happened is that while I was opening my car door, a gust of wind came and blew the door into my mouth, slamming my lip against my teeth. Hard. This was it before it started swelling.

This happened a couple days ago, during the same month that:

  • I lost my car keys on Beacon Street in Boston-- apparently, for good-- and was stuck there with G. and the kids and no way to go home for several hours.

  • The engine light went on in one of our cars, inexplicably for two days.

  • A tire blew on one of our other cars while G. and the kids were driving to NY (thank goodness they arrived at the side of the road safely)...then...

  • the car wouldn't start again after G. had a donut (spare) tire put on it.

  • The van's whirring sound grew louder.

I don't know that I really believe in divine messages ("signs"), but if they exist, this could be one. I'm gearing up for going as car-free as I can in this city. I know it won't be like back in Seattle, where G. and I happily and intentionally went totally car-free (sold our cars and got right out of that business!). But I am really going to try to do what I can.

Your Guide to Home Inspection Preparation

I know, I know...hearing about my house-hunting adventures is probably getting a little old.

Just indulge me. If we buy this house, it will all be over in about a month. Inspections begin in less than 36 hours. The clock is ticking. My blood pressure is rising. And I am responding in my usual manner: CONTROL everything I CAN control.

Your Guide to
Home Inspection Preparation
In Three Easy Steps
(note: most advice is taken directly from
The Virgin Homeowner by Janice Papolos)


Step 1

Gather together the following: A loose leaf notebook and dividers, blank paper with holes punched, brightly colored tags with strings on them, and the book The Virgin Homeowner, by Janice Papolos, which I reviewed below. Also get your camera, and if your camera is not digital, some film. If your potential-house has any special conditions, such as a pool, get some study materials on that as well. And finally, on an optional basis, get sticky tabs of some sort to mark important information (see below).

Read The Virgin Homeowner. If you don't have time to read it all, read the section on home inspections. If you can squeeze it in, try to also read each section on the major components of a home: heating and cooling systems, plumbing, etc. But definitely, definitely, read the section on home inspections. Preferably, read this before you hire an inspector. The book will have more detailed guidelines.

If you have picked up a supplemental resource, such as my book on pools above, read up. If you don't have time to read it all, read enough to get basic familiarity with the system and its major components, to develop a list of starting questions, and to get some basic vocabulary. If you don't have time to read that, skim through it to get what you can.

Step 2

Get out your notebook, dividers, blank paper, and if you have them, your sticky tabs. Make a label for the loose leaf notebook if desired. I chose to affix my sticky tab dispensers to the notebook and to make a color-code index. My sticky tabs are post-it flags I can use to draw attention to anything I write about work that needs to get done on the house. Each color represents the time period in which the task needs to get done:

  • Within 6 Days
  • Within 60 Days
  • Within 600 Days (~2 years)
  • Later than 600 Days, On a Regular Schedule Such as Annually, or "Not Needed but Maybe Someday"

Then, create dividers of your choice related to subject matter that will be covered in the home inspection. Mine are:

  1. Bathrooms, Kitchen, and Plumbing
  2. Electric
  3. Heating and Cooling
  4. Appliances, Warranties, and Utilities
  5. Fireplace, Fire Protection, and General Safety
  6. Roof, Foundation, and Basement
  7. The Healthy Home: Ventilation, Pest Management, and Toxins
  8. General Interior
  9. Garage
  10. General Exterior
  11. Landscaping, Exterior Water Systems, Driveways, and Walkways
  12. Pool

I also chose to use this notebook to store all documents related to the purchase. If you do this, bear in mind that you may need a loose leaf notebook fitted for legal sized papers, as papers you sign at the closing may be legal size. Additionally, you may have to upgrade to a thicker notebook depending on how many papers you acquire. Based on our first home purchase experience, I am guessing that a 1.5 inch notebook would have been the minimum needed. I am hopelessly hoping for fewer papers this time around. My last tabs are:

  • Referrals, Pre-Closing Papers, General Documents, Etc.
  • Finance
  • Closing Papers
  • Other
In each section of the notebook, I placed approximately three blank pages for note taking and drawings during the inspection. Notice that I chose dividers that have a "sleeve" for storage. Keep in mind that your inspection isn't just a time to make sure "everything is up to snuff" and to come up with some negotiation points for a reduced price. This is your chance to become fully acquainted with your potential house and to become educated about its condition and care. It is also a time to create your list of work that needs to be done on the house, and set priorities. And finally, it is your chance to document details that are important in the condition of the house.

Bringing a camera to the inspection is a good idea. You can take pictures to document, to help you remember certain details, and to generally admire, among other uses. If you can, place a "time and date stamp" on the photos so you remember when you took them. Slip the photos in the sleeves. You can use the sleeves for other items that come your way during the inspection, and later on, who knows, you could even use it for paint chip samples (just keep in mind that the inspection is the WRONG time to be thinking about selecting paint colors).


Step 3

Mark three brightly colored tags for major water shut off locations: the main water, the hot water, and the outdoor sprinkler system water. Again, an inspection is a chance to get ready to care properly for your potential-home. You are paying an inspector not just for the details on the condition of your home, but also for education on how to care for it.

I also am bringing extra tags to my inspection in case I want to mark anything else I am likely to forget. For example, I may want to mark switches on the furnace that will guide me in its operation.

And that's basically it. Now you are ready for your home inspection.

By the way, the usual rate for a home inspection ranges from around $200-400. In my area, the average price hovers around $300. However, we are paying $495. This is because the inspector we interviewed about whom we felt most confident, and who promised us the most generous amount of time for the inspection, smf who seemed most adept at educating homebuyers (and even turns down home inspections when buyers can't be there), and who is a member of the "American Society of Home Inspectors" (ASHI) charges that much.

Unfortunately, I also learned today that pool inspections can be quite pricey. For a complete pool inspection (visual examination, leak test, and dive), I was quoted $790 today! That's approaching double the cost of my home inspection, so I am not sure what I will do about that!!?

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Anyone Looking To Buy a Home Should Read This


The book is called The Virgin Homeowner: The Essential Guide to Owning, Maintaining, and Surviving Your Home by Janice Papolos.

It has both positive and negative reviews on Amazon. Here is the review I wrote today:

I *adore* this book. I first bought the 1997 version (I hear there is a new one?), right around the time we closed on our very first home in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. The house was a 1963 ranch style home.

Another reviewer mixed this up with a novel-style book. In fact, it is a narrative-style. I am a "reader," so I appreciated the narrative spiced with good humor admist all the technical bits. Like the author, I was moving from a city I loved to a town I liked but did not love. It covered a lot of ground and helped me feel less alone in the emotional experience of first time home ownership (particularly involving a relocation). The narrative style made it a very quick read for me, despite how inadept I am mechanically.

What the book gave me primarily was an understanding of how the systems of homes work, and what all that meant for me as "the average inexperienced homeowner." You can't get that in a how-to and fix-it book. Generally, those books look very narrowly at systems and their failures. This book gave me a basic foundation to actually *understand* the how-to and fix-it books.

There may have been pieces of information missing, which the author might want to consider adding to a future addition, such as what a previous reviewer mentioned about the question of whether to wash air conditioners annually. But I found the author provided a good basic guide to maintaining a home. Advice included everything from what type of firewood not to burn in a fireplace to how to how to pest-proof a home.

The author also advises her readers on how to find quality home care professionals, how to establish good relationships with these professionals, and what type of regular contact is necessary with these folks. In the case of "when things go wrong," she gives a basic guide as to what to look for, what to do for immediate steps, and when to call a professional. This includes everything from a sink clogging to a furnace not giving off heat. She gives good "starter" advice on purchasing replacement equipment when it comes to the major components of a system: toilets, water heaters, air conditioners, and so forth.

When I sold my first home, there were even a few tidbits in the book that helped me with that process too.

Now I am finding myself in the middle of purchasing my second home, this time in New England. Though this book is geared to the "virgin" homeowner, I am still finding it to be a very helpful guide.

So far it has been useful in figuring out the right types of questions to ask as we've been hunting for our new home. This last week, we put an offer down on a house (a 1920s colonial), and in the coming week, we'll be doing the inspections. I am pouring over this book right now, soaking up so much stuff I once knew but have forgotten.

And I feel waaaaaaay more prepared this time, having this book before my home inspection, whereas last time I didn't get it until closer to our closing. It has already helped me hire an inspector with whom I feel I can place total confidence, and I feel like I have been asking the right questions and seeking the right kind of information this time around to really know what I am getting into.

The section on home inspections has some great little tips that will really be useful for me in making the most of it, and now I am re-reading all of the "home systems" sections.

I already have a list of great questions to ask about my home's systems during its inspection, and I know exactly the types of things I will be looking for in the report...and how anxious I should get about each possible problem.

Not only that, in both the case of purchasing my first and second homes, the book has helped me avoid major anxiety attacks during critical moments in the process. Even the author's occassional affirmation that you will be in a financial panic any time you buy a home is helpful.

I only wish I bought this book much earlier the first time around. For such a small book (the perfect size for a book of its type), it contains an amazing amount of information, as well as helpful and supportive narrative.

For what it is worth, though I am gushing about this book, I can see a few limitations. For instance, in the child-proofing section of the book, I think the author's advice is presumptive about parenting style and overly limited in scope. She also recommends some products in that section that I have used and found to be unhelpful or "cheap" in make. Nonetheless, the book overall is a complete and total gem!

You Know What?! I Am Good At This!

Every once in a while, it is good for a person in a marriage to be challenged into decision-making without over-consultation with the other party.

Buying a house is, in my opinion, a decision best made jointly. But there was a lot of prep that went into making it possible for me, during G.'s trip, to follow through with what I understand to be our shared desires, without G being here in person. There wouldn't have been time to do it any other way.

I learned yesterday and today as I:
  • viewed the house,
  • decided on an offer price,
  • put down an offer,
  • began collecting more information about mortgages and making initial decisions about home loan programs,
  • received information about the bidding war and made a decision to change our offer price,
  • received more information about the bidding war, and made decisions about addendums to the offer

...that I am more capable than I'd been giving myself credit for lately. I received a lot of little affirmations regarding my ability to be astute, to be sharp and flexible at the same time, to ask the right questions, to study a situation and act on it in the best way I can for my family, to track down the information I need when I need it, and to think quickly.

And here is the other thing. I learned just how much G. trusts me. I learned about her ability to relinquish control when it is a well-informed and necessary action, and to have faith that even if things don't work out perfectly, that I have acted in our best interests to my fullest knowledge.

I am proud of myself. And oh my goodness, do I love G. soooooooo much. She is incredible! She is a strong, thoughtful, sharing, diligent, and trusting person with whom to share my life. Though the nitty gritty work was largely my own today and yesterday, it is the work we have done together, and the search process we have been on together for a new home for about a year now, that resulted in the events of today.

I pray for continued happy endings to each segment of the journey as we make our way to our new home.

What a Day!! More House Updates

Well, we got it right.

Our final offer and the offer of the other buyers were almost IDENTICAL, down to the closing date.

We had these two small advantages:

1. They liked our letter :-).

2. We had offered a higher down payment, making things a bit more secure. Actually, I put in for a higher down payment than our own agent had first suggested, as I wanted to make this a competitive offer and had a strong feeling, given the high interest in the house, that this kind of thing might be coming into play.

So they leaned toward putting us in first position.

Only problem is that we had marked that we were going to do a lead inspection. In our state, once an inspection is done, it goes on state record and by state law you MUST get the lead removed. From their perspective, the concern was that if the sale fell through at some point before closing, they'd be stuck with a lead record on file at the state and obligated to deal with it.

So they asked if we would be willing to put off the lead inspection until after the closing. Eyyyyeee! This made me nervous.

If we said yes, that we would put it off, we'd go into "first position," they'd accept our offer, and the other buyer would be the backup. But, it would also mean there would be no possible negotiation for shared cost toward lead abatement, and worse...that we wouldn't be able to back out from the house if we find out the abatement would add up to $50,000 or something! Once we buy it, we are after all, sort of stuck with it.

If we said no, that we needed the inspection done pre-sale, it would mean they'd put our offer in as a backup offer and accept the other buyer's offer. So, quite possibly, we wouldn't get the house.

I quickly called a de-leading agency and got a cost range that is typical for houses of this age and type in this condition in our area. Of course it can vary, widely, so I asked about best and worst case scenarios.

Then I called the foster licensing office, and they said they are not currently requiring de-lead certificates. The woman I spoke with basically indicated that we'd be okay. She just warned me that I would be legally liable if any child in my care got lead poisoning (and they DO do regular lead testing here on all children by law).
She said to make sure that all potential sources of lead were as encapsulated as possible, and to check through the house during the other inspections and make sure that as many things as possible were updated, ranging from replacement of doors and windows to no peeling paint, etc...I think we should be okay on that front (the house has almost all new windows, etc.). We should even be able to avoid an inspection entirely.

So we told the sellers that yes, we'd hold off on the lead inspection, if we end up doing it, until after closing.

They also asked us if we knew about the fact that the roof is old (we had a good feeling it was) and if we knew about the asbestos in the basement (we did...it appears that it is likely all encapsulated). We said yes, and then we received word that they would be accepting our offer.

At 10 minutes before 5pm, I got the fax signing off on our ammended offer. But they also added "All home inspections are for informational purposes only," and were asking for our initial of agreement.

Wow! We weren't expecting that. Talk about elation followed by complete confusion. Say what?!
We pressed the pause button.

I went and talked to our agent in person. Basically, the sellers have a backup offer, and more folks eager to write offers. The house has been shown non-stop since going on the market. They don't feel that they need to get involved in a bunch of petty negotiations after inspection.

Honestly, even if they didn't put that sentence in there, they'd have a total and complete upper hand in negotiating because of the interest in the property and the secure back up offer. So even without the statement added in, its not like successful negotiation is much of a possibility for us in any case.

That said, though the bid document does later state that we have the right to withdraw our offer based on an unsatisfactory inspection within a two day period after the inspection, I felt that the add-in sentence was contradictory, and I didn't want any legal questions to arise about whether one nullifies the other. So before intialing, I wrote in: "However, buyer has the right to withdraw offer based on any unsatisfactory home inspections." Precedent in real estate law should cover the rest. I just felt that my addition to their unexpected addition was a safety measure.

Of course, if there is a major issue (like say, if there is termite damage to the house), as my agent explained today, we'd still try to negotiate it. The fact is, if this was discovered, the sellers would have to take care of it, whether we were the buyers or not. They'd have to disclose the finding to the next buyers, and it's not like a bank would fund a loan for a house with termite damage, so the next buyers aren't likely to pick up the sale at that point. So, *that* kind of thing-- the major stuff-- we'd still be in a position to push a little.

But anything else that might come up during inspection, we have to decide whether it is worth the low-for-area-and-condition-of-the-house sale price or if we will need to pull out.


As seems to often be the case in selling and buying homes, it now "all comes down to inspections."

Awe, more nail biting.

I am sooooooooooooooooo now on the edge of my seat.

All that said, this does take the anxiety of more negotiations ahead nearly out of the picture. After some reflection, I am realizing that knowing the seller's bottom line actually puts us in a more secure position.

Plus, this should go quickly...we wrote into our original offer that we'd do inspections within seven days because we felt it showed in good faith that we wanted this to move fast. Only seven more days, and we'll know if we can move forward or not. Then, if we can move forward, all we have to worry about is financing...and THAT, we will indeed!!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Please send us good housing thoughts...

The latest:


The house has had showing after showing since officially going on the market. There is one other offer already. They had the advantage knowing there was already an offer on the table, so who knows what they put in...we did up our offer in response to that, but will it be enough???


They were going to meet about all this just over an hour ago, but I have heard not a thing. So, my heart is racing, just POUNDING.


I want to hear something!


(Also, our landlord called and said since she knows we are actively looking to put down an offer somewhere, she is going to start showing the house to renters rather than offering us the three month lease we'd all agreed on. I am starting to feel a lot of pressure building from all corners. Acck. It does not feel good.)


If you are willing, please send us good thoughts, visualize us in this house, whatever you are comfortable doing for us. Just being surrounded by your positive hopes means a lot to us.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Just a Few Houses Down

Just a few houses down from the house we put an offer on, there is this house:

MLS # 7 07 2 1030

(To see this listing, go to http://www.remaxadvantage.com/search.asp?search=standard&agentid=104861, scroll down to where it asks for the MLS number, and plug in the number but take out all the spaces.)


The listing price is $122,000 more than the listing price on the house on which we have our offer. When I saw that, I felt pumped! "Talk about a great deal we're going to get" I thought. And the houses looked about the same size, so I was thinking they are comparable. Now I have a chance to sit down and actually look.

So, to keep my head on my shoulders, below is what a person gets for $122,000 more than what we are offering on a house just down the street by a short row of houses that all look about equivilant. I am not placing a value judgement on the following. Sometimes something will be both a pro AND a con (for example, more space equals higher utilities, more to maintain, and more to clean, but also means some room to grow, etc.) With old houses like these, a lot of times it is also comparing apples and oranges. The price comparisons are interesting, but may or may not tell the whole story. Each house has its own character.

For $122,000 more on the same street...
1. 1,000 more square feet
2. An additional bedroom, and ALL bedrooms are large.
3. 0.2 fewer acres. A yard with nice child-friendly landscaping...but no pool either.
4. Granite countertops
5. Natural gas as the fuel source
6. A partially finished basement, with a fireplace (but as far as I can tell, this is the only one)
7. Three sets of stairs to climb...four levels
8. A narrow staircase
9. One fewer garage spaces, but two more total parking spaces
10. The same number of bathrooms
11. Clapboard rather than vinyl siding
12. Water seeping into the basement in either house, sump pumps in both
13. No appliances, except for the range
14. A storage shed
15. A seller whose sale is subject to buying a new home-- in other words, sale is "subject to seller finding suitable replacement housing"
16. A walk up attic
17. A security system
18. A house that is two years older

Now here is something that blows my mind: with that kind of square footage, why are they paying $2,646 in taxes when I would be paying $3,247? Doesn't something seem to be terribly "off" here.


I talked with my dad tonight, and he took the opportunity to forewarn me about the cost of upkeep for pools. I knew that they would be an extra cost, but I didn't think it would be as bad as he made it sound. Like I wasn't already worried enough about the higher mortgage than our previous house and the higher taxes. (And the fact that G. is not currently working.) But my dad knows relatively first hand about pool care, since his parents have one. Ugh.

Time for cold feet I think. I ALWAYS get it.

But my dad and I laughed about it and said that the "best I can hope for right now" is that my "offer does not get accepted." I think I'll be freaked out both ways: if I get it and if I don't. Ah, the joys of house-hunting.

Galileo

First, one more picture from work. It is not a good one, but it's a little slice of nature anyway.



Various notes...

House

1. Our offer is in on the house. Within 24 hours, we'll know whether it has been accepted (but even if it is accepted, of course, that doesn't mean we're in the "clear" because then there will be inspections and further negotiation, etc). I think we put in a very competitive offer. Someone could still beat us out, but we were trying to also be as gentle as we could be on our bank account despite the good chance that this will be a bidding war in the end. My agent said she'd call if she heard anything at all about another offer coming in so we could re-write our offer if desired. No call yet, so baited breath...

2. With the offer, I submitted the letter. I asked my agent about letters, and she said they were a fine thing to do, and that sometimes personalizing the offer helps. After reading it, she said she could go either way. On further discussion, we eliminated only this: "We will present to you the best offer we can afford..." We kept the letter exactly as-is otherwise, and went ahead and put it in with the offer.

3. If all goes well, we'll be moving next month.

4. Things I am thinking about now:



  • Giving notice to our landlord

  • Pool safety and also pool covers-- options. Also, caring for pools, salt water system conversions, etc.

  • The lead inspection-- how to minimize costs related to lead abatement.

  • The utility bills. For heat and hot water, given the use of oil and single zone heating, we are looking at a huge monthly bill. We're wondering if converting to gas is possible in this house, but I didn't notice a gas line. Maybe at least converting to zones? Electric? What's the cost of all this? When can we do this? It is anticipated that next year's oil will go up to $7/gallon! Those predicting the fossil fuel economy is crumbling before our eyes, starting with oil, just might be correct yet!

  • Other environmental-economical issues on the domestic front: Is biking/bussing to work now an option (it is a flat and straight shot, but I am a little concerned about safety because the streets out here are crazy and the drivers are crazier). How far is the nearest grocery store from this house, and can we walk there with a wagon...what kind of sidewalks or lack thereof would the route involve? Can we get a wood stove and start stockpiling wood for next winter in case there is a fossil fuel crisis? Can one build a small raised bed vegetable garden on a small plot of concrete...and how does a novice with no natural gardening abilities go about getting started with such a project? How much does a push mower cost and where can we get one so we can replace our old gas mower (which we liked a lot for our former large lawn)?
  • The roof-- how much life is left on it and what to do next and will this become part of the negotiations.

  • Dog poop-- where will our dog go poop? *That* is the question.

  • Neighborhood schools-- will I ask to visit our new neighborhood school and consider a placement for M. there next year in the preschool he gets via his IEP?

  • Tax money. We could use some for closing costs, etc. Have we received any yet? What is on its way? What will we be waiting for, for a while?

  • How to stay focused at work with all this going on! I can't stop my mind from going a million miles a minute right now. Eeek.

  • How will I cope with the disappointment if this doesn't work out? If our offer isn't accepted or if things come unraveled in negotiations?
  • And where or where is my trusted Virgin Homeowners Manual? I love that book and want to dig it out before inspections, which I need to get working on scheduling right away if our offer gets accepted tomorrow because we set our deadline for seven days.

Other

Remember the band Queen? Remember Brian May? Did you know he is Dr. Brian May, astrophysicist? I heard him on NPR today http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=90273890, and I loved hearing him talk about the way his worlds intermix. What a joy!