Friday, May 27, 2005


Yesterday there was a terrible squawking outside. After I realized that it didn't appear to be getting settled anytime soon, and I noticed that all three cats were about ready to break their way through the screen door, I decided to investigate. It wasn't at all difficult to find the baby robin that was the source of all the racket. Apparently he'd managed to make it safely from nest to ground, but couldn't quite figure out how to regain the air. There's not many outdoor cats around here, and he had a parental chaperone, so there wasn't too much I could do for him other than leave him alone. Later I got curious, so I did a little research and learned that robins generally fledge at 13 days or so, but aren't competent flyers until approximately 10 - 15 days later. From my perspective, that seems like really bad design, but obviously no one asked me, and we have robins each year, so what do I know?

Some things you may not know about me:
* I went to grad school for three years.
* I paid for said schooling with loans.
* When I graduated, I was clinically depressed, young, and stupid. The combination means I managed to screw up my credit pretty badly.
* We currently pay as much each month for my student loans as we do in rent.
* For awhile, we talked about not legally marrying so that Pukka wouldn't be tainted by all of this.

So when we started really working on this whole, "We should buy a house" project, the first thing we did was go to the bank. We talked to a very nice man there who ran all of the numbers and checked our credit scores and told us everything should be fine and we were pre-qualified.

Without another worry, we set about looking for our house. And as you know, we found the house. Meanwhile, the bank changed names, and the very nice man no longer works at our bank. In fact, his replacement no longer works there either. His replacement's replacement is named Tym. For the record, that's his real first name because I don't like him well enough to come up with a pseudonym (or even change the spelling).

Our "friend" Tym called us on a Friday about a month ago and told Pukka that they would be unable to qualify us for any mortgage package because of the amount of my monthly student loan obligation. Never mind that they had known this information since January. Never mind that we had signed papers from the bank documenting that they had known this information in January and were fine with it. Never mind that we had made an offer on a house and had spent the last two weeks believing it was ours.

And of course, it was Friday, so there wasn't a whole lot to be done about it in terms of talking to anyone at a different bank. It was one of the crappiest weekends of my life. I'm pretty darned good with our money now, but I have a lot of guilt about how I've handled things in the past. Especially I have a lot of guilt around how we're now over $75K in debt for a degree I'm not using. So I was a mess.

When I went to bed every night, I would try to think of what to pray for. It was tempting to ask for the bank to explode after being struck by a fiery ball from outer space, but although personally satisfying, that wouldn't ultimately help us much. I've been schooled for years in being careful what you wish for, so I was reluctant to even ask for this particular house or that a particular place offer us money. I ended up asking simply for a home, a place where I could feel secure.

Monday found Pukka in the office of yet another bank, pay stubs, bank statements and W-2's in hand. The woman there started crunching numbers. She told Pukka that we did have a very high debt to income ratio because of the student loans. Then she frowned and said, "But wait, you get paid twice a month!"

(Yes, yes we do. That's why our paychecks clearly show that each one covers a range from the first to the fifteenth or the fifteenth to the thirtieth of a month. That's why our W-2's show we make twenty-four times the amount on one of our paychecks. Duh!)

So she multiplied our income by two and lo and behold, the debt to income ratio suddenly looked a lot better.

When Pukka got back to the office, he called Tym and asked if it were possible that he had neglected to notice that we are paid twice a month. Tym assured him that he would not have made that kind of mistake. And yet, in less that fifteen minutes, we had an email from him saying that while reviewing our application, he had found a miscalculation, and they would be able to offer us a mortgage after all.

Problem with that is that another mortgage broker in town offered us a better rate, so we'll be going with them, both because it's the smart thing to do, and because it gives us a chance to spite the idiots at our current bank.

They took my house from me. Even now that this is settled, I still can't go back to believing that the house will be ours. Until we close next month on the 21st, there's always going to be this niggling feeling in the back of my mind that something could happen to take it all away. It's not fair. I want to be excited about our new place, and instead I just have this huge ball of anxiety.

Luckily for Tym, I've never actually met him, and would be unlikely to recognize him on the street from Pukka's description. I say that because if I ever see that man, I'm going to kick him.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Sign #4672 of PMS

You get a little choked up when you hear Joe say, "Evidentally fear is not a factor for you."

I really need to get a grip.

Monday, May 23, 2005

The chicken or the egg?

A recent post over at Rurality got me to reminiscing about my summers at camp and our chickens there. (It also got me craving chicken and noodles, but that's another story.) We had a "farm" at camp, with a hodge podge of donated animals. Some lived at camp year round and some were donated for the season. There were always cats and kittens hanging about. Each year one of the neighbors loaned us his smallest calf (and collected it at the end of the summer bigger than any of its kin from being hand fed). One year we had goats, another we had a pot-bellied pig. The year before I first came, there had been llamas. There were horses and a donkey and fish in the pond. And there were chickens -- a rooster and his hen harem. The first summer I was there, my bunkmate decided it would be fun for the kids to raise some baby chicks. We had an impromptu pow-wow that night amongst the inpost staff to see what we knew about raising chickens. The answer was not much.

Dealing with the adult chickens was fairly easy -- you let them out in the morning, put them in at night, fed them, and picked up the eggs. The bare backs of the hens let us know the rooster was doing his part. But we weren't real sure how we were supposed to get from there to babies. We had some vague notions about the hens sitting on the eggs and candling, but were pretty lacking in specifics.

So we decided to stop collecting the eggs to see if maybe that would encourage the hens would nest. It had been a few days, with no obvious nesting activity taking place, when the cook noticed that we had not been delivering any eggs in the morning. When she found out what we were up to, she suggested we call AnnaMarie.

AnnaMarie was in her seventies and spunky as a teen. She lived in a farm house on the corner. Whenever any of us left camp, we were required to honk as we passed AnnaMarie's house -- one honk for each person in the car. When we came back, we'd honk again. If you forgot to honk and she caught you, she'd give you an earful next time she saw you.

So we called AnnaMarie up, and told her that we wanted to try our hand at raising some baby chicks, but weren't sure just how to go about it. There was a long pause, then she said, "Well, you'll need a rooster . . . "

(The real answer we finally got from her, if you're curious, is that you need a "setting hen". Apparently some hens are just more maternal than others. Of course, they have to get a moment's peace from the rooster before they're willing to sit still on eggs. Nothing you can do to convince a hen to set; you just take advantage of them when they do. We never did manage to get any baby chicks. Guess it's a good thing I live in town nowadays; I would've made a lousy farmer.)

Saturday, May 21, 2005


How come the computer always seems to boot faster when I'm turning it on to dial into work than when I just want to play?

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Turning out OK

Whenever I raise issues regarding how I was raised with my mom, the response I always get is: "Well, you turned out OK." I used to hear that as: "You're fine. Quit your whining." The older I get (and the more I think about having children of my own), the more I wonder if it wasn't intended to be heard as: "We had no freaking clue what we were doing and were making it up as we went along. You're lucky you aren't dead."

Shortly after Abigail was born, PJ and I went shopping for fabric to make curtains for Abigail's room. Her nursery is blue with yellow stars, mostly because we didn't know before she was born if she would be a girl or a boy. As we shopped, PJ kept gravitating towards pink and daisies. Finally she said to me, "Sometimes I wish I had known she was going to be a girl ahead of time so that we could have a pink nursery." Without thinking, I replied, "Well, now that you know you could always redo it. Not like it's something that's going to change."

And then my sister who lives in the same tiny midwestern town we grew up in, my sister who attends a church where they speak in tongues, my sister who proudly voted for W., this sister of mine leaned over the stroller and without a hint of jest whispered to her sleeping child, "And even if that does change someday, I'll always love you and you're always welcome to come home, no matter what your father may say."

I know she's told me that sometimes she feels like she has no freaking clue what she's doing and is making it up as she goes along. But somehow, I have a feeling Abigail's going to turn out OK.

Thursday, May 05, 2005


For awhile now, Pukka's been convinced that people throw trash into the back of his pickup. I haven't exactly disbelieved him, but considering the amount of our own trash that's back there, it's been hard to say. That is, it was until yesterday.

See, when we left for lunch yesterday, I caught a glimpse of something in the back of the truck glimmering in the sunlight. A quick look revealed a rather large trophy with a figure riding a motorcycle on top.

Pukka's quite proud of his latest accomplishment and took the trophy back into work after lunch, where it's now sitting in a place of honor at his desk.

Sunday, May 01, 2005


As a kid, I remember being fascinated by my parents' wedding bands. They're not anything fancy -- just relatively plain bands with a beveled edge. Mom said that when they'd married, the bevels were plated with white gold. But ever since I'd been old enough to remember, the bands were a uniform yellow gold. I would spin mom's ring around and around her finger, looking for a trace of the white that had once been there.

On the day I married Pukka, I carried my grandmothers' wedding bands. Both of them enjoyed more than fifty years of marriage. After all those years, their bands were worn so thin that I could've easily snapped either of them clean in half without hardly any effort. Such a simple thing -- the work of the day pitted against the relatively soft metal, wearing it own across time.

When Pukka and I were shopping for wedding rings, he asked the jeweler about the hardness of white gold. The jeweler admitted that gold was softer than some other metals relatively, but then point to the ring I was holding in my hand and said, "You're looking at at least a fifty year ring there."

That struck us both I think. We knew we were in this for the long haul, but no matter how you slice it, fifty years is a long time.

One year ago today Pukka first put that fifty year band on my finger. Since that day, both our rings have lost a little of their shine. They're marked with tiny scratches and dings; the things we've had our hands in for the past year have taken their toll. But they're still very much intact.

I'm looking forward to the day when our daughter spins my ring around my finger and asks in disbelief, "This used to be square?"