October 22nd, 2008

Landscaping Tips

As I’ve mentioned, my next-door neighbor mows my lawn. “It only takes me three extra minutes,” he says. I feel simultaneously grateful and guilty, which is sort of my default state on most things anyway, so I’m getting used to it.

I was talking to him the other day and discovered that he also has been tending to some of the landscaping in my front lawn. Aside from the corn stalk, there are all kinds of bushes and flowers and things in front of my house, and I have no knowledge of how to take care of them or, frankly, to even figure out what they are. His wife has planted hostas on my side of the stairs going to the back “yard,” in an effort to make that path look more even, and I was more than happy for her to do it. I might as well put a “Lawn available for horticultural experimentation” sign out front, as other people might as well have fun with it. I’m just happy to not have a large gaping hole out there – having a Sarlacc Pit as your front lawn is a sure way to invite lawsuits.

While I was talking to him, he revealed his method of taking care of my landscaping: “We’ve got similar stuff, so when I cut mine back, I cut yours back, too.” Makes perfect sense to me. Ah, but there’s more. How, you may ask, does he know when to cut his back?

“I walk the dog at the park over here and they’ve got some of the same things we do. I know that [local plant nursery] takes care of that park, so when they do it there, I do it here.”

And that, my friends, is the secret to great landscaping. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know that knows what.

September 16th, 2008


I’ve had some inquiries about the corn in my front yard, so I thought I’d post a picture. It’s a little taller than I am, and it has two ears on it so far.

(Picture credit: Marshall)
I’ve been told it’s probably field/seed corn, and is most likely due to a birdhouse having been in the area some time prior to my buying the home. This is the closest I’ll ever come to having a garden.
September 15th, 2008

Over My Head

It’s been almost three months since I posted anything of substance. When I don’t blog for a while, I feel guilty, like I’m letting a responsibility slide. I don’t even check the hit counter if I haven’t blogged in a while, partly because I don’t want to be depressed about losing any audience I might have had and partly because the guilt I feel over not blogging, sort of an “I don’t deserve to have readers!” kind of thing.

It’s funny to me that my last substantive post was about floating, since I now feel like I’m in over my head. The first month of school is always difficult for computer techs, but this year has been worse because we made a lot of changes over the summer. I feel like I haven’t made any progress on my list at work, and I hate that while I’m working on one problem, I’m not working on another one. Prioritizing is hard for me, and using the “I like this teacher better than that one” system isn’t the best one to follow, I’ve found. So it’s not a matter of keeping anyone happy, it’s about trying to keep as many people less mad at me at once as I can. I have actually made some progress here and there, but I’m just waiting for that one teacher to get really mad – and I wouldn’t blame them, I just hate to have it happen.

At the beginning of the summer, I started thinking seriously about buying a house again. I wasn’t necessarily in the best position to do so, but they’re willing to work with a person’s situation these days, and I found some great people to help: Sheila at Countrywide and Brett at Coldwell-Banker are two folks I’d recommend to anyone in the market for a house in the area.

I looked at two houses sorta on my own, but both of them fell through for various reasons. Both houses were being sold by friends, and I liked the idea of not having to go through the process of looking for a house and having one available that I was already familiar with and liked. After those opportunities didn’t work out, I bit the bullet and set up an appointment with Brett to go house-looking. Melissa was in town and she went along with us, and I was super-glad. It’s always easier to have someone else along, especially someone who’s in your corner.

I had expressed an interest in having a house with a basement, so Brett showed me two older houses that were so equipped. Neither one was exactly right, with one of them being actually a little scary – think Nightmare on Elm Street boiler room kind of basement – so we moved on to newer homes without basements.

I liked the newer homes well enough (newer was appealing, too, because newer theoretically requires less work for a while), but nothing jumped out at me and said “Buy me!” Stands to reason, right? Who finds a house on their first time out? Well, as it turns out… I do!

On the way to the newer homes, I was telling Brett about one of the houses I had looked at earlier in the summer and described the layout to him. He was familiar with it, since it’s a common enough layout in the newer homes in that part of town. After a minute or two, he said, “You know what? A house just came on the market that’s got that layout, but with a full basement.”


(Read that last paragraph in a Scooby Doo voice for best effect.)

So, yeah, turns out the layout was almost exactly the same, but sure enough, it had a full basement, with the main room in the basement being finished, even. I liked the house when I walked in, but seeing the basement sealed the deal for me. Before we left the house, I said, “This is the one. Let’s do it.” We went back to Brett’s office to sign some preliminary things and from there it was pretty much a whirlwind of lining up financing, getting an inspection, and a whole bunch of other things. Three weeks later, I was sitting in a closing, signing papers with a pen that I hated because apparently official documents can’t be signed with my favorite mahogany pen, they have to be in blue or black.

Ten days after that, I moved in.

I knew buying a house would be different than renting – I’m responsible for everything and can’t call the landlord to fix stuff and all that – but I wasn’t prepared for the mental changes. It’s not as bad now a month later, but when I first moved in, I was overwhelmed by it. It’s not that I’m now in more debt than I’ve ever been in, that doesn’t really bother me, for some reason. It’s the rest of it. I honestly would sit on the couch and mentally go through the things I needed to do on the the house and it and freeze up and not do any of it. It was like I couldn’t even process the tasks of unpacking and painting and trimming the bushes and looking for appliances and cleaning and all of the rest of everything. I would come home from a day of being overwhelmed at work to being overwhelmed at home, and I didn’t handle it very well. I feel like I haven’t slept well in a year, and I’m now dealing with stomach problems on top of it.

Be honest: how many of you saw this coming? Four out of five of you reading would have said beforehand that I was the last person in the world who should buy a house, but none of you ever said that to me, that I can recall. I’m not blaming you, I just wish I could.

Now, I will say, it isn’t all bad. I am getting used to it. Some day I’ll have everything painted that I want to have painted (and if you want to help, I will let you!) and I will eventually have everything out of boxes. In the meantime, having people over is no longer akin to packaging sardines, I never have to fight for a parking space, and the litter boxes are miles away in the basement rather than right off the kitchen. I can play my music as loud as I want to and I can leave the six-foot corn stalk in my front yard if I want to (and, strangely enough, I do want to). Eventually I’ll have people over for gatherings on a regular basis and I’ll start learning how to do some of the fix-it-y things around the house, and pretty soon I’ll forget that I stressed so much. I hope.

While I work on getting to that point, I’m going to do my best to not focus on the fact that I’ll spend more in the coming year at Lowe’s than at Best Buy, because if I do it’ll just depress me.

(Pictures of the house, pre-move-in, in case you hadn’t seen them yet.)