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012503_real_home_loan-1Ok, so the title of this post isn’t exactly positive.  Actually, my last few posts on here haven’t been positive, which is not normal for me.  I’m usually a really upbeat person, and even though life isn’t always sunshine and roses, I try to see the best in each situation.  And, well, I guess if you read through the posts, you will see that even on a bad date, I find ways to make it funny.  Or, when dealing with bad neighbors, I try to see the silver lining in starting the home buying process.  So that’s a good thing – turning a bad situation into something positive is still in keeping with the way I try to live my life.

Last Monday I had an appointment with a lender that a colleague of mine is using.  He absolutely loves this woman, and couldn’t speak more highly of her.  The list of documents that I needed to bring with me to the meeting was daunting, to say the least:

  • teaching credential
  • employment contract
  • 3 months of paystubs
  • 3 months of bank statements
  • 3 years of tax statements
  • 3 years of W-2 forms
  • rental agreement
  • social security card
  • passport

Whew!  I had to bring the teaching info because I was trying to get one of the special loans that my city offers to teachers.  I found an accordion divider that held everything perfectly, and was proud of how organized I was.  There was a slight moment (or hour) of panic when I couldn’t find my 2008 tax forms, until I realized that I e-filed last year, and had it all on the computer.  I tore my files and drawers apart looking for it, but hey, at least those are totally organized now.  LOL.

So I walked into the office very confidently on Monday, knowing that my credit score was good(ish) and that I had all of the necessary documentation with me. The office isn’t too far from school, and although they kept me waiting 15 minutes, I still felt good about the meeting.  CM greeted me and apologized for the delay, explaining that she had been out of the office a couple of days the week before, and was trying to catch up with everything.  Not a problem.

We headed to her office and began the process of filling out the loan application, reviewing my documents, and seeing what type of loan I could qualify for.  All of a sudden CM says, “girl, you make too much money!”  WTF?!  I have NEVER, EVER heard that phrase uttered regarding my income.  I’m a teacher, for God’s sake.  Is she nuts?  When I asked what she was talking about she said that I make too much money to qualify for the teacher home buyer loans.  How the heck is that possible?  Yes, I finally earn a decent salary, but I’m not making the top of the payscale yet.  Something seemed strange.  Then she mentioned that I also made too much to qualify for my city’s new home owner loans, as well.  ???  I had never heard that those programs were tied to money.  You’re either a first-time home buyer or you’re not, right?  What does money have to do with it?  Does  this mean that doctors and lawyers wouldn’t qualify either?  Because I can guarantee you that they make more than I do in the first few years of the profession.  Again, this info made me doubt her.

She did say that I could qualify for one type of loan offered through the teachers’ retirement system in California.  Ok, good.  They could give $55K, but it required that I had at least $3K of my own money.  Why?  I had already told her that my parent said they’d give me $10K if I really needed it.  When I asked if the money had to be my own, or if it could come from my parents, she said, “no, it has to be yours.”  When I asked her what difference it made, she said, “well, they’ll know if it came from your account or someone else’s.”  Really?  If it’s in my account, I think it’s mine, right?

Then we came to the part of the application where they were asking ethnicity. Her computer was set up in such a way that she had a screen that she could look at, but she had a 2nd screen that was facing me.  She began to check “Hispanic,” and I immediately corrected her saying, “I’m not Hispanic, I’m Italian.”  And she said, “well, maybe we should keep it as Hispanic, because you might get more money that way.”  I was FLABBERGASTED.  I told her that I wanted her to mark Caucasian, because that’s what I was.  I mean, here is the same woman who not 5 minutes before told me “they” would know if the money was mine or my parents’ yet she was now asking me to falsify my ethnicity to get more money?  Wouldn’t “they” also find out about that?  While we’re at it, why don’t we just put down “Native American,” since there’s probably even MORE money for them.  It’s ludicrous.

At that point she’d lost me.

She ran my credit, and the score was a lot lower than the one that I had run on myself.  I guess my car loan finally showed up, and at the beginning of any loan, it lowers your credit, until you establish a good payment record.  She said, “boy, I wish you’d talked to me before you bought that car because I would’ve stopped you.”  I told her that even if I had talked to her, I would’ve bought the car anyway, because my lease was up and I needed a new one. At that point I just wanted to see what the numbers said.

She  told me that I’d have to come with $20K of my own money and that I qualified for a $325K loan.  Now that may be a lot where you live, but in the Bay Area, that’s nothing.  Seriously, I can’t get a nice condo for that amount in any part of the city that I’d want to live in.  And I don’t want to downgrade where I live and find myself in an unsafe situation.  There are problems with where I live now, but at least it’s safe.  And I don’t own it, so there’s no long term commitment.  Plus, the mortgage payment would be $2100 (including $300 in HOA fees), which is a lot.  If I’m going to pay that much on a mortgage, I want to live in a really beautiful place.  After she told me this terrible news, she also said that because of my credit, I’d need to buy $13K in points to cover the closing costs.  Ok, so I have to come up with $33K of my own money on a $325K loan?  That’s 10%.  These days, people are putting 3% down.  Where are those loans?

I left her office telling her that I wanted to wait. That I didn’t have the kind of money she was talking about, and I needed to discuss all of this with my parents.  But really I just wanted to get out of her office.  She seemed so shady and I really wanted nothing more to do with her.  At all.

So here’s where I am: I’m going to stay here for the next several months and pretend that I’m paying $800 more in rent than I am.  I’m going to put that $800 in my savings account and save up some money.  Plus, it will mimic what my mortgage payment would be like, minus the HOA fees.  It will be good for me to see what my lifestyle will be like with that sort of mortgage payment.  I’ll be able to realistically see if I can really afford to buy something.  I know that by not buying this year I’m losing out on $8K in tax credits, but that’s the way it goes.  Maybe there will be a tax incentive next year, too.  And if not, so be it.  This is not the type of decision that I want to rush into.

By waiting for a while I’ll also be able to build up the credit a bit more, which will help with the amount a bank is willing to loan me.  I also want to consult a few other lenders/mortgage brokers to see if what this woman was telling me is accurate, or if she was out of her mind.  I want to make sure that I go to someone who is trustworthy and who has integrity, neither of which I felt in this woman.

They say that everything happens for a reason, and I think it’s better for me to wait right now.  I don’t want to move around the holidays.  Also, I just found out that I can’t get out of my 1-year lease, so I am stuck here until next October, unless I break the lease.  Which I’m totally willing to do, but I think I’d rather not have that added stress during the holidays either.

So, for now I’m still a renter.  Still dealing with noisy neighbors, but things have calmed down next door a bit, so I think I’ll be able to live with it, for now at least.

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Music2Loud Ok, so let me say first of all that I don’t consider myself an old curmudgeon in any way.  I’m a fairly tolerant, open-minded person, but I do like to have a sense of orderliness and peace around my home.

Recently FavNeighbor and her hubby moved out because they bought a condo.  I was so thrilled for them, but so sad for me, because they were amazing neighbors.  We had similar schedules, similar expectations, and similar lifestyles.  We liked to keep our duplex neat and orderly and we were friends with each other.  We got along so well, and I guess I sort of forgot that it’s not always that way with neighbors.

The place was vacant for a few weeks, and I spent that time wondering who was going to move in next door.  It is important to like and trust the neighbors that you share a common wall with.  Not to mention the fact that our backyard is a common space, as is our basement.

Very few people had come by to see the place, and I was worried that the management company might start to get desperate to rent it out.  My fears were warranted, as it turned out. I should mention that the management company was anxious for me to sign the new lease to my house.  I was glad to do it, especially because I found out they weren’t going to increase my rent.  I was really dumb not to wait to see who was moving in next door, especially because my lease wasn’t officially up until September 30th.

Tuesday I arrived home after a “koffee klatch” with Ish, to discover a bunch of plants, a medium-sized dog, and a bunch of backpacking equipment in the house next door.  No people.  I wondered what was going on, since I hadn’t been told that anyone was moving in.

Later in the evening, two people arrived.  One guy in his mid 20’s and his father, who I found out was 45.  Both men had long hair and a bit of a hippie vibe, but I wasn’t judging them by their appearances.  They seemed like nice people, and I found out that the son was an artist from Santa Cruz who moved here because this city has more of an artists community than Santa Cruz does.  (I knew we had some great galleries in this city, but I didn’t know it was such a hub of artistic talent).

Anyway, the father then proceeded to tell me that he used to do drugs (as evidenced from his lack of teeth – he has maybe 7 in his whole mouth) and had spent some time in jail.  Again, I believe that everyone makes mistakes and everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt.  I also learned that they were going to leave at midnight to pick up the younger guy’s girlfriend and her dog.

So, just in case you aren’t following this, that makes 3 adults and 2 dogs living next door in a 1-bedroom unit.  Definitely a sign of trouble.

The first couple of nights went fine.  They were quiet, friendly, and I thought that things might work out.  Thursday night painted a whole different picture.

Thursday night they decided to start drinking, playing the music incredibly loud (I had all my doors closed and could hear it clearly), and were hooting and hollering.  They were hanging out on the front steps, and the vibe was just really low class and trashy.  I know that makes me sound snobby, but so be it.  I work too hard for what I have and care too much about my home to live next to something like this.

So, I wrote a letter to the management company explaining what was going on, how unhappy I was, and why I wanted to change my lease from 1-year to month-to-month.  Lots of my co-workers are in the process of buying condos or smaller houses since the real estate market is down right now, and I started thinking, “maybe I can afford to buy something, too.”

I got an email the next day (Friday) from the management company explaining that they had talked the the neighbors and assuring me that they would cease and desist with the noise.  The thing is, the noise was only a small symptom of a greater problem.  The main thing is that these new neighbors simply don’t know any different – they’re used to living like this and I’m sure they see nothing wrong with the way they live or the noise they make.  The fact that so many of them are crammed into a 1-bedroom unit should be an indication.  Plus the fact that the son is the only one with a job.  Now, I know that the economy is tough right now, but they don’t strike me as the hard-working sort.

The neighbors obviously realized that I spoke to the management, and that fact was confirmed when I heard the father say, “wow, she pretended to be so sweet, but she’s actually a fucking bitch.”  Nice.  It’s going to be just wonderful living next door to this, right?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I’m at the place in my life where I want to live in an area where everyone cares about their home as much as I do.  My area isn’t like that.  My area is full of traffic, homeless people, and down-and-out sorts.  I’ve made huge improvements to this place, and I love my duplex, but if I’m honest, I don’t live in the best neighborhood.  By any means.  So maybe it’s time for me to move on to something better, somewhere nicer.

My mom always says that everything happens for a reason, and maybe the reason these people moved in was to show me that it’s time for me to look into buying a condo.  It would be a stretch, but I could probably afford something small.  I don’t have any money for a down payment, but there are new home buyer and teacher programs in my city that may make buying a place more affordable.  Plus, this is the time to buy because prices are down.

I pulled my credit score on Thursday and was happily surprised to discover that it’s gone from “poor” to “good” in the course of 3 months.  My Experian rating is 706, which isn’t stellar, but isn’t terrible, either.  I’m starting to get a bit hopeful that maybe I can join the ranks of homeowner.  So, I’ve contacted a real estate agent, and I’m waiting for his call.  I’m excited to see what might happen.

Things might be a bit uncomfortable for me at my current home, but with the idea that I may be moving onward and upward, I’m feeling positive.

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Ever since I started my weight loss blog, I’ve been writing much less frequently on this one.  Because weight loss is my main focus (almost like a part-time job), it makes sense that I have more to write about that topic than any other.  Still, sometimes I feel badly that this blog, the one I started blogging with, gets pushed back to second-class citizen status.

One thing that seems appropriate to write about here is how I’ve been doing on my quest to “get a life.”  Last August, I wrote a post where I vowed to take back my life and stop living to work instead of just working to live.

I’m happy to report that I am now a reformed workaholic.

It wasn’t easy.  At first I felt like I was really sloughing off on my duties at work.  “I really should go to the play this weekend.” “The students would really like it if I went to that football/basketball/soccer game,” etc.  Instead of feeding into this guilt trip I was laying on myself, I just said no.  I took myself off of the numerous committees I had been serving on and kept only those that I felt were the most important.

Did I feel like I was out of the loop?  Yes.  Did I crave being “in the know” the way I was when I served on lots of different committees and attended tons of school events?  Sure, sometimes.  But that feeling of being slightly out of the dialed in group was well worth the time and energy I found now that I wasn’t spending so much time and effort at work.

It was a strange year for me because CTLB, my best friend at school and one of my best friends in life, left.  I felt a lot lonlier than I had in the past 4 years, when were were “joined at the hip.”  But before you start feeling too sorry for me, I do have an amazing group of friends at school, and we all eat lunch together every day, so it’s not like I sit alone in my classroom and grade papers while I eat a stale sandwich.  (That would never, ever be me, by the way).  We also had a new principal this year, and that made for a lot of changes.  Good changes, but still, there were a lot of things going on this year that left me feeling out of sorts a lot of time time.

But my life outside of the work day was fantastic!  I found that I had tons of free time, and I used it to try new activities, reach out to old friends and make some new ones, spend lots more time with my family, and just enjoy myself by doing whatever I wanted to do – riding my bike, reading a great (or trashy) book, watching movies, cooking, etc.

It seemed idyllic until the school said they were looking for someone to teach a “summer school after school” class.  I saw dollar signs and knew that if I taught the class I would have the money I needed for a down payment on my new car AND I wouldn’t have to work this summer.  So, beginning after February break, I gave up 60 hours+ of free time and taught the class.  (This may not sound like a lot, but this is on top of teaching 5 other classes.  Not to mention grading and prepping for 6 classes).  It is something that I’m glad I did (for the money), but will never do again.  It’s just not worth giving up that much of my life.

All in all, I loved having my life back.  I felt like I was a better teacher because I could look at things from a well rested, happy point of view.  I plan on doing more of the same this coming school year.  Actually, it should be even better because I’m only teaching one honors class, which will dramatically cut down on my paperload.  Can’t wait.

Ok, enough writing, time to get out there and LIVE!

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Today was the perfect summer day!

The weather was 85 degrees – warm, but not too hot.  Earlier in the week the weather was really overcast, cloudy, and sort of cold.  Not conducive to feeling like you’re on summer vacation.

I started the morning with a WW meeting.  It had been more than a month since I’d gone, and let’s just say the absence showed up on the scale. (To read more about the meeting, check out my weight loss blog).

After WW, I straightened up the house a bit and then went to get the car washed.  The poor thing was disgusting, and I hate driving around like that, especially when the weather is nice.  I always feel so much better when the car is shiny and clean.

Then I headed to my parents’ house to pick up my dad so he could go with me to the nursery to buy some summer flowers for my house.  My dad is an expert gardener and always helps me plant new flowers.  I chose some really beautiful flowers that should do very well.  My house is shaded by two huge trees, which is nice for keeping the heat at bay, but not so great for choosing blooms – most of the flowers I love need full sun.

Window box - this is the view from my front door. Purple colius, yellow begonias, a spider plant (previously planted) and baby's breath ground cover

Window box - this is the view from my front door. Purple colius, yellow begonias, a spider plant (previously planted) and baby's breath ground cover

Front view of the window box

Front view of the window box

Close up of the window box flowers

Close up of the window box flowers

Pots of impatiens for the front stoop

Pots of impatiens for the front stoop

Flower pot and window box

Flower pot and window box

Full front view of my house (on the right)

Full front view of my house (on the right)

Once the flowers start to really take and are in full bloom (within a couple of weeks, I think), I’ll make sure to post updated pictures.  I love flowers, and I think this is definitely one of the harbingers of summer for me – planting the flowers in the front of the yard.  I love going out every other day (or so, depending on the weather) and watering the plants – there’s something very nurturing about it.  Just like cooking. It’s part of what makes a house a home.

After the flowers were planted, I made lunch for my dad and then brought him home once we had finished eating.  I love spending time with him this way.  He’s in his element outside, and he has so much expertise, so it’s really nice to be able to learn a bit from him about one of the things he loves.

When I got home, I decided that I’d take a short bike ride to the library to pick up the books I had requested.  Nothing is better than getting that email notification from the library telling you that you’re books are on hold.  Love it!  I didn’t realize that I had ordered quite so many books, though.  I had 9 hardcovers to fit into my bike basket!  Luckily it’s big enough, so everything fit – just barely.  It was great to bike the 2.6 miles roundtrip because it was just enough of a workout to get my blood pumping and make me feel alive.

Now I’m about to get ready to go out to dinner at Thea, one of my favorite Greek restaurants, with one of my old high school pals.  I’m so glad that she and I reconnected a few months ago because I really missed our friendship.  The thing is, nothing really happened – we just lost touch after high school as it’s so easy to do.  Thankfully, we found each other on Facebook (gotta love social networking sites!) and have gotten together about once a month ever since.

All in all, a wonderful summer day – I hope to have many, many more just like this one.

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Lately, I’ve been hearing that question a lot.  This is the first summer where I haven’t signed up to work, and I couldn’t be happier.  I’m looking forward to actually getting one of the full benefits of teaching – an entire 2-month period of time off.

My mom in particular is worried that I’ll get bored.  She knows me too well, because when I get bored, I start to spend money.  What better way to ebb boredom than to go shopping, right?  Well, not this summer.

This summer I plan to do nothing.

And by “nothing,” I mean that the plan is no plan. Nothing too specific. Mornings spent reading the newspaper while sipping coffee. Walking. Working out. Swimming. Biking. Lots if activity & focus on weight loss. Keeping the house super clean and organized. Feeling like every day is a Saturday, even when it’s Tuesday.  Thursday morning WW meetings. Seeing friends. Buying produce and flowers from the farmers market every Friday. Overusing my Netflix queue. Music in the Park. Cooking healthy, delicious meals for myself every day. Laying in the sun reading a captivating book. Shopping, but trying not to spend too much $.  Starlight Cinema.  Buying a new car in August when my current lease is up.  (I’m thinking a VW Beetle convertible would suit me perfectly).  A tiny bit if tweaking my current curriculum. And lots and lots of writing on this blog and BellaOnTheBeach.

Summer afternoon, summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.

— Henry James

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Is today really Monday?  Aren’t Mondays supposed to be yucky and awful and hard to deal with?

Today has been a fantastic day!  From the time I got up (early, before the alarm!) all the way until I got home, things have been going great.

Not only did I have time to sit down, read the newspaper, enjoy a cup of coffee and my breakfast at home, but I also got to work earlier than normal.  This is quite a feat for me, since I’m usually running to my classroom just in time to beat the 5 minute bell.  Unlike other jobs, teaching requires that I be there exactly at a certain time, with hardly any leeway.  It was so nice to be able to get to my room with plenty of time to prepare for the day ahead.  (Usually I make sure that I have everything ready, including writing the next day’s agenda on the board, just in case).

My classes went wonderfully, despite the fact that my honors students had a research paper due today.  Usually the days that papers are due are the ones that cause major stress for my type-A, overachieving students.  Today most of them were completely prepared and calm, which really helps set a nice tone for the day.  Plus, they’re really enjoying the new novel we just started, which is always nice.

Then, after lunch, I was surprised to discover that I got paid a day early!  Considering that I only get paid once a month, getting my check a whole day in advance was awesome.  I was able to come home after a few errands and pay all of my bills early.  It’s so nice to feel organized and ready for the month ahead.

I even had a bit extra this month, so I treated myself to some new makeup from Sephora.  Speaking of which, I’m not sure how you are, but I’m a really loyal to certain brands of makeup, and making a change is a really big deal for me.  For several years now, I’ve been using Bare Escentuals.  I like the lightness of the feel of the makeup on my face, but I am getting sick and tired of the mess it makes in my bathroom.  Seriously!  There has to be a better way to deal with the loose mineral makeup!!  The thing that fueled my wanting to switch is that last week, in a moment of rushing around the bathroom in the morning, I dropped the container with the foundation in it, and… SPLAT!  POOF!  Clouds of mineral makeup all over the bathroom floor, all over my shoes, all over everything!  UGH!  As if my mornings weren’t hectic enough already.  Couple that with the fact that I feel like the makeup looks a bit too “powdery” on my skin, and I made the decision that as soon as I got paid, I was making a change.

So what did I move to?  FMG raved about how much she loves Stila.  So I went to Sephora last week to check out their products and found some wonderful options for my skin.  Today I ordered:

  • Illuminating Powder Foundation I love that this powder is packed and not loose.  Plus, it really does give the lightness that I liked in the Bare Escentuals with none of the mess.  I also really like the brightness that it gives to my face.  They aren’t kidding about the illumination!  It also has an SPF of 12, which doesn’t hurt.  (Now before you jump all over me about how I need more than just a 12 SPF, I know I do.  My moisturizer has an SPF 25, plus my skin is olive and doesn’t burn easily, so I’m covered already.  This will just be a nice little added protection).
  • Illuminating Tinted Moisturizer I don’t usually use a tinted moisturizer, but I got this as a sample from Sephora a little while ago, and LOVED it.  It gives your skin a really beautiful, dewy glow, without a heavy feel.  It’s perfect for those weekend days when you aren’t going to be doing more than running errands or walking around the farmers’ market.  Since I’m taking this summer off, I figured this would be a nice item to add to my beauty bag.  It has an SPF of 15, which is a decent amount of coverage for my skin (see above).
  • Convertible Color I like the idea of a cream blush, because I think it gives a really lovely, light bit of color to your cheeks.  If done correctly, it can be so much more natural than powder.  I bought it in Peony, because in my “research” on youtube, I think it will be a great color for my skin tone.  I’ve heard nothing but good things about this product, so I’m really looking forward to trying it.

After my online shopping spree, I made a healthy, delicious dinner myself and ended the evening with a nice dose of one of my guilty pleasures, Gossip Girl

Today was simple, yet perfect.  Gotta loves days like that.

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This week I was able to take a couple of long, luxurious baths using my bath “chill pills” that I got from Hydra when I went with my sister earlier this month.

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The best thing about taking a bath, to me, is that it is the ultimate form of relaxation.  You don’t have to worry about all of the million other things you should be doing.  Once you hit the water, all you think about is that moment, enjoying the bubbles, the scent, and the warm water.  It’s good for the soul.

I also think it’s something really good to do for yourself.  It’s a nice way to care for yourself, giving yourself a few stolen moments of peace and tranquility.

When I take baths, I always do it at night, for some reason.  I guess because the pace of the day is starting to wind down, and things move at a slower speed.  The laundry list of “to do” items have hopefully been completed, and all that’s left to do is relax and enjoy the evening.  At least, I find myself choosing evenings when this is true.

Before this week, it had been literally 6 months or more since I’d taken a bath, but I think I’m going to make this a weekly ritual, maybe on Sunday nights.  I really can’t think of a better way to get ready for the upcoming weekly craziness than to take some time out and enjoy the quiet and calm a long soak in the tub brings.

In fact, I think I’ll take a bath tonight, after the Oscars.

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