A Dirty Secret

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No, that is not mold and mildew on our ceiling fan, although that’s what I thought when I first saw it (and freaked out). It’s just dust. Thankfully it was easily removed with a Swiffer cloth and the fan looks good as new.

Still, I feel like I have been fighting a losing battle recently with our house, trying to keep it clean. Last week the fans were clean; this weekend they all looked they had developed a terminal condition. The windows are dirty again, and we have been invaded by ants.

Ever since we moved here I have been surprised by how much and how fast dust and dirt accumulates. We live in semi-rural area, with lots of open fields, unpaved roads, animals, and so forth which I assume is the cause of all the dust we seem to get. It doesn’t help either that many of the screens in our windows are old, with small tears that allow more dust to enter the house.

This past week though there have been epic levels of dust. Our landlord was busy pruning five or six years of overgrowth from the trees and bushes in the back yard, and the more he cut and trimmed, the more dust he sent flying. I sweep a couple of times almost every day, and was appalled by what I was gathering off the floor. I’m hoping all the rain we received this past weekend washed the remaining dust and dirt off all the debris that still needs to be carted off, as well as what’s left on the plants and trees left standing. If not, I’m sure I will be dusting down our ceiling fans again in short order as well as stepping up my sweeping again.

Brett and I washed all the windows, inside and out, just a couple of months ago, but every time it storms here salt gets on the windows, coating them with a dull film. Our landlord has said he will take care of washing the exterior windows, although when that will be is anyone’s guess. It’s still depressing though to see all of our hard work from this past summer gone in such a short time.

The ant invasion seems to be a result of both the recent pruning in the yard and the rain. The ants’ nests have been disturbed and they are apparently looking for food and shelter, and have decided the best place to find it is in our house. They are relentless. I keep a very clean kitchen but there are ants all over everything, checking to see if I have slipped up or left anything behind or uncovered. When I open up my laptop there are always a couple of the little guys climbing around. They’re in the bathroom, on the windowsill of the bedroom, everywhere. Much as I detest the ants, I’m still undecided which is worse: this year’s invasion, or the plague of mosquitos and gnats we suffered through last year.

I will continue to fight the good fight and try to keep on top of the dirt that seems to accumulate so easily here. Who knew though that a little island out in the middle of nowhere could produce so much dust, or so many bugs (the salt I understand). Our dirty little secret is out!

Sunday Afternoon 9/27/2015

Storm clouds hovering before yesterday's cross country meet

Storm clouds hovering before yesterday’s cross country meet

I wasn’t sure if I would find any time to write this weekend – it’s been kind of crazy around here, I haven’t been sleeping well and I’m exhausted. The girls and I were up early yesterday morning (like 5:30 a.m. early), and spent the morning at their cross country meet. The weather the past few days has been stormy and windy, and was questionable yesterday morning, but the rain held off and they had a great meet, with their team earning first. I was so impressed by the sportsmanship shown throughout the meet by both the runners and the parents and other spectators. Kaua’i is basically a small town, so while you run for your team, you also support everyone no matter which school they represent. Parents lined the race route and encouraged all runners during the races, and students lined the finish and cheered for everyone that came through, staying until the final runner made it in.

Pinning on their race numbers, getting ready to run

Pinning on their race numbers, getting ready to run

After the meet we made a quick stop at the nearby community college farmers’ market, and then came home and crashed for a couple of hours.

The rest of the weekend has been spent finishing up WenYu’s scholarship application. She wrote, and I edited, and back and forth we went, and were still polishing things up this morning. But, just a short while ago she checked everything over and hit the submit button – YEAH! The application required eight essays: one long, one medium length and six short ones. It took a real effort on her part to get them all written, not because of the subject matter but because of all the other things she is involved in and the commitments she has to keep. She’s going to take a couple of weeks off now from applications because the next one isn’t due until November 10, and another following on December 1. My senior year was busy, but I sure don’t remember having anything close to the pressure WenYu is under these days.

Brett continues to have a great time on his trip. Today he and his sister will be visiting Monterey and Carmel in California, and tomorrow they head down to California’s Central Coast. Brett is looking forward to visiting Solvang again!

Anyway, this afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I’m almost finished with Atomic Sushi, a book of short essays about living in Japan, written by an English professor of philosophy invited to teach for a year at Tokyo University, one of the most prestigious universities in Japan. His point of view is different from others I’ve read, but still insightful and interesting.
  • Listening to: Soft bird calls, the rain coming and going, and occasional rustling of the palms as the wind blows through. Another tropical depression is moving through the islands bringing lots of rain and (much appreciated) cooler temperatures.
  • Watching: This past week I watched the 10-part 2001 mini series, Band of Brothers, about the exploits of “Easy Company” of the 101st Airborne in Europe during WWII. Easy Company parachuted into Normandy on D-Day, fought at Bastogne and The Battle of the Bulge and were in Germany until the end of the war. The entire series was very moving, especially the insights and memories from surviving members of the company that preceded each episode. This evening I’m going to start watching the companion series, The Pacific, about the WWII Marine experience on the other side of the world.
  • Cooking/baking: I’m hoping to make a large pan of blueberry buckle this afternoon; half will be frozen and the other half will be for breakfast and snacks this week. Dinner tonight will be omelets with goat cheese, sautéed onions and spinach along with some biscuits. We bought a jar of mango-chipotle jam yesterday at the farmers’ market and can’t wait to enjoy it on a hot biscuit tonight!
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: Getting myself and the girls up on time every morning has been an accomplishment. I am not a morning person, and have not had to wake up to an alarm for a l-o-n-g time, so every morning up on time has been a victory.
  • Looking forward to next week: I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the skies will clear by tonight so we can view the blood moon and the eclipse. The girls and I are going to view another recently refurbished unit this afternoon in condominium complex where The Prince is located. Sadly The Prince went under contract yesterday, apparently to an investor who already has it listed for rent on Craigslist, but Brett told me that if I like this other unit to go ahead and make our offer. I’m also excited about his return home at the end of the week, but happy he is having such a good time.
  • Grateful for: The opportunity to have some time alone with both WenYu and YaYu. I enjoy their company so much, and it’s been fun chatting with them and catching up on all their goings on. We’ve been busy, but are having a good time together.
  • Bonus question: Do you have a Twitter account? I finally got around to opening one this past week based on the girls’ encouragement and am having a blast with it. I haven’t really started tweeting yet, but am thoroughly enjoying reading tweets from everyone I’m following. It’s addicting!

I hope you are enjoying a happy and restful Sunday afternoon, and that you had a great week!

 

Feel Good Friday

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College life begins . . .

It’s been lonely with Brett gone, and I am not enjoying having to wake up so early in the morning to get WenYu and YaYu off to school, but there still have been good things to celebrate this week:

  • I got the big Costco shop-athon done all by myself, and more importantly got it all up the stairs and put away (it was a chore though).
  • I spent nearly $200 less than expected at Costco and still got a lot of good food.
  • Brett and his sister got Meiling moved into her dorm yesterday and then headed out on their Big Adventure.
  • Meiling is happy to be at college and is looking forward to her classes starting.
  • Both WenYu and YaYu ran their best times ever at yesterday’s cross country meet!
  • We put $9.07 into the change/$1 bill jar.
  • On Wednesday it was (unexpectedly) cool enough to bake so I made a cobbler with some peaches I bought at Costco – yum!
  • A happy surprise – we learned that the condominiums where The Prince is located are actually VA approved after all. Besides The Prince, another condo there, recently renovated, is supposed to be listed this weekend.

How is your Friday going? What good things happened for you this week?

Toughest Job

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Brett left yesterday for his trip to the mainland, and saying good-bye brought back all the old feelings and sensations of the times when he was in the Navy and would leave for a deployment. I had forgotten all about the pit that settled in my stomach as he walked away, the way my throat tightened or my dread of evening’s arrival, knowing I would be on my own.

To get my mind on something else after I dropped him off at the airport yesterday, I went to Costco and did our monthly shop. I have to admit that it was kind of nice to drive rather than be the passenger (Brett usually does the driving these days), and push the cart around the store on my own, thinking my own thoughts. It was miserable though when I got home. The house felt hollow, and I had to get all that food up the stairs on my own.

We had silly arguments with each other all day Monday, just like we used to the day before he left on a cruise. For the longest time back then I thought there was something wrong with us – why did we always argue when we knew we wouldn’t be together again for several weeks or months? We eventually learned that the arguments were a fairly common occurence Navy-wide, that they were a way of diffusing the tension brought about by impending separation. Psychologists told us that couples somehow rationalized that if they argued then maybe they wouldn’t miss each other so much.

At least these days we have our cell phones, as well as email, texting, Skype and all sorts of other ways to stay in touch with each other while we’re apart. Thankfully the same is true these days for ships in the Navy. Back when Brett served there was snail mail, period, and you and your spouse could go weeks without hearing anything either from the ship or from home. These days a long-distance call from the mainland to Hawai’i, or vice versa, costs us nothing.

While Brett’s gone I’ll be up early each morning to get the girls up and off to school. I’ll take back the duties around the house that Brett assumed when he retired, while he takes care of things with Meiling in Oregon, and then gets to spend time with his sister. I’ve brushed off my old Navy Wife skills for coping on my own, and will get through the time he’s gone just like I did back in the day. And then he’ll be back.

But I miss him terribly now, the house is too quiet without him, and I can’t wait until he’s home again.

 

 

BOOM!

bomb_explosion_black_light_orange_50_3840x2400The announcement three weeks ago that our rental home was being sold was the equivalent of a bomb going off in our lives and plans. Everything we had set in place since our move to Kaua’i was suddenly in place no more.

The obvious first thing to get turned upside down was our housing situation. Although we knew when we decided to rent here that things could change, we had still (naively) assumed we would be safe in this rental for several more years because of the house’s past history as a rental property. We had based all future plans on being able to stay here until at least until the girls were all off to college. BOOM! Now all of a sudden we were faced with having to search for a new rental, maybe something not as nice or as convenient, or possibly more expensive. There was suddenly a new reality that we could find another rental, move, and then have to move again in a short period of time. Although we had told ourselves we would not own another home again, we very quickly realized that renting here was not going to be the best option for us over the long haul, that we needed our housing situation to be more solid and secure, especially since we live on a fixed income.

When we decided that buying made more sense than renting, we also accepted that it was not going to be easy. First, although our income is solid, it’s nowhere near as large as it was when we were working, so we would be quite limited in what we could afford here. Housing on the island is expensive, and there was no way buying a home was not going to affect our savings. BOOM! Although we are going through the VA and can avoid a down payment, a home purchase would still require us to come up with closing costs and other expenses, and any property we purchased might require repairs or other expenses that we currently didn’t have to deal with in a rental (for example, we know we will have to buy a washer and dryer right away). We would need to dip into of our retirement savings, something we had not planned to do for several more years.

And, all our plans for future travel? BOOM! We cannot even think that far ahead now. Although owning a house will actually end up costing us less each month than what we currently pay for rent, and will allow us to put more away into travel savings, there are still too many unknowns right now to even dream about what we might do, where we might go or for how long. We still plan to travel, but how that will or might look has currently become something of an unknown.

The only thing left untouched is next spring’s Mystery Trip. All of that has been reserved and paid for, and we would lose money if we cancelled. But otherwise, everything is in turmoil, and until the dust settles we’re going to have to get used to living with some unknowns, and with life being a bit more disorganized than we’d like.

 

 

Sunday Afternoon 9/20/2015

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Thirty-seven years ago on this date I finished up over 27 hours of labor, and was so exhausted I didn’t even bother to ask if I’d had a boy or a girl! We have been blessed and privileged beyond measure to raise our beautiful boy and watch him grow into an absolutely wonderful husband, father and human being. We’re so excited that he and his family will be visiting us at Christmas. Happy birthday, M!

And, what a difference a couple of days make. Sadly, it looks like we are going to back out of buying the house we were so happy with last week. When we made our offer on it we were under the impression that the seller had already started the VA CPR approval process on the property. We learned late Friday afternoon that they have done nothing, and were expecting us to do the work for the approval even though it is their responsibility. Our loan officer was not happy that the CPR was not already VA approved nor had the approval process even been started. The seller was pushing us to apply for our mortgage loan within three days of the contract being signed, but the approval process can take anywhere from 45 – 90 days, way too long of a time for a mortgage loan to be sitting around and waiting (and the VA might not even grant approval). We also haven’t received the seller’s disclosure list, and are more than a little concerned that it hasn’t been forthcoming, and no mention made of it either. Although the seller has ten days to provide the disclosures, it’s been our experience that a buyer should get the report sooner rather than later, and the longer it’s taking the more uncomfortable we are. Anyway, it appears for now that we’ll go back to looking for something else, although for now there is nothing else.

Otherwise, this afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I am thoroughly enjoying Seabiscuit once again. It’s just as exciting and interesting the third time as it was the first and the second.
  • Listening to: It was rather noisy a short while ago with some wind ripping through the palm trees and a strong rain falling, but that’s passed and now the birds are chirping again and a nice breeze is blowing. Everyone here at Casa Aloha is either studying or reading so it’s fairly quiet inside too.
  • Watching: Same old, same old: We’re still working our way through Lewis and Midsomer Murders. I greatly appreciate all the suggestions you’ve been giving us for new shows to watch, although many of them we’ve seen already (great minds think alike and all that). One of these days we’ll find something new that will catch our fancy.
  • Cooking/baking: We’ve been cleaning out the fridge and pantry in anticipation of this coming week’s big food shop, and we’ve been having lots of “interesting” meals lately. Brett made waffles this morning, and tonight we’re having breakfast again for dinner with bacon, eggs, English muffins and fresh mango and papaya. I’m hoping YaYu will bake a cake today, but so far she won’t commit.
  • Happy I accomplished this week: I don’t think I accomplished much of anything this week other than changing the blog theme.  It was an uneventful week other than a ton of house and loan paperwork, which was both exciting and stressful and took up a lot of our time (and now will be for nothing).
  • Looking forward to: Brett leaves for his mainland trip on Tuesday, to meet up with his sister and Meiling, and to get Meiling moved into her dorm. I’m looking forward to hearing how that all goes, as well as hearing from Meiling about her first impressions of college life. I’m also looking forward (and somewhat dreading) the monthly Costco shop-athon on Wednesday. I’ll be doing it on my own this time, and likewise with the farmers’ market shopping later that afternoon.
  • Grateful for: I’ve been feeling very thankful these last few days that I know how to cook, and am not afraid to go beyond the safety of a recipe. We have a somewhat strange collection of odds and ends right now that need using up, and I’ve been able to pull things together and use what we have on hand to make some great dinners the past few days, without having to make any trips to the store (same for Brett with the girls’ breakfasts and lunches).
  • Bonus question: Do you consider yourself to be artistic? NO. I can barely draw a stick figure, and even those are questionable. I’m more of a technician and can do some crafty-type things, or an “after market” artist: I’m good at arranging items or coordinating colors, things like that. I was considered very “artsy” by my family when I was growing up, but that had more to do with my constant attempts to arrange and decorate our house rather than having the ability to create anything original.

Hope everyone is having a great Sunday afternoon!

Feel Good Friday

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Run, WenYu, run!

Even though we’re just getting started, and the mortgage application process is already driving me nuts, I’m still feeling very good this Friday because:

  • Our offer for the house was accepted (we were frankly surprised).
  • We learned our gross income for loan qualification is actually a bit more than we thought (so much better than less, right?).
  • The Feds did not raise their rate (which means current mortgage interest rates should hold fairly steady).
  • We put $3.78 in the change/$1 bill jar.
  • Other than going to the farmers’ market, and buying a small bag of coffee, it was a no-spend week.
  • Dragonfruit (one of my new favorites) were still available at the farmers’ market, although I think this was the last week.
  • WenYu was elected as one of the captains for the cross-country team!!
  • I have over 32,000 followers on Pinterest.

How was your week? What good things happened for you?

And We’re Off!

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Our offer was accepted yesterday morning and we are under contract! Today we will be meeting with our agent to turn over the earnest money and our pre-qualification paperwork. We’ll also be discussing the inspection schedule and other things that need to and can be done now.

The whole process is going to take a while though, and I will frankly be surprised if we can close before the end of the year. The seller has to get VA approval on the CPR designation for the two houses on the lot, which can take anywhere from 30 – 90 days, and we can’t actually apply for our mortgage until that is done (without approval the VA won’t lend, so why apply until you know for sure). I also have to wait for income verification paperwork from the state of Oregon and Social Security, and the earliest I can expect to get those is sometime in October.

We’re definitely excited, but that excitement is tempered with the knowledge that the whole business is going to take a while. From previous experience we know that along the way there will be lots of deep breaths and self-reminders to calm down. We are currently a little concerned about interest rates possibly bumping up a bit, and a property tax issue that might muddy the waters a bit. But, we should be able to sort everything out, and hopefully the process will keep moving along. We’ll keep you posted!

 

A Tale of Two Houses

We were only looking last week, honest. And, I know things around here have turned more in the direction of settling down versus becoming nomads. But . . .

Our agent arranged for us to see three houses last Thursday (instead of a condo) in our preferred neighborhood and within our price range.

Why only three? Because that’s all that are currently available! There really are very few houses around in our price range in the area of the island we want to buy. And, houses here in our price range are snapped up fairly quickly, and although we’re not in a hurry we still wanted to get an idea of what we could expect to find in our price range.

Our first stop was to see two 2-bedroom houses that sit on the same lot. It’s a common set-up in Hawai’i, called a CPR, where a lot is not suitable for a subdivision for some reason but is still large enough to hold two homes. Both of the houses on the huge lot we visited are currently for sale and were within our price range.

We were informed upon arrival by the listing agent though that the VA would not approve the first house because the previous owners had done an un-permitted conversion of the carport into an extra room. We were crushed when we heard this because not only had the house been recently updated, but it also had a beautiful ocean view from the living room and both bedrooms. Do you know the odds of finding an affordable house with an ocean view? At the same time though we didn’t really care for the conversion, and would prefer to have a house with a carport and/or garage.

We were prepared then to be underwhelmed when we went to look at the second house on the lot, but found ourselves pleasantly surprised instead. There was no ocean view, but because it was set back further from the road it was quieter. The bathroom had been remodeled, and the kitchen had also been updated. There was a carport, lots of storage, and an avocado tree on the side of the house that was loaded with fruit. The yard was a nice size and in decent condition too. It wasn’t perfect, but there was nothing about it that screamed “run away!”

Then it was on to House #3, located just about a half mile up the road from the other two houses. It’s new construction, had a lovely, open floor plan that would work well for us and beautiful finishes, and . . . an unbelievably stunning ocean view from the bedrooms upstairs – positively breathtaking. We were practically prepared to make an offer on the spot just to get those views.

Brett and I came home and talked about the houses we had seen, and thinking we should probably make an offer on the new construction. But, as we started listing pros and cons, we realized that for both of us there were some things that just weren’t right about the house, and information we received after our agent talked with the listing agent confirmed our suspicions. We could see that the house wasn’t painted properly and would require a repaint in order to pass a VA inspection, but the builder wouldn’t do this or offer a credit. There was zero landscaping on the lot, just a lot of dirt, weeds and mud, and they again said they wouldn’t be providing any updates or any sort of credit for landscaping either. No appliances came with the house. There was also lots of road noise at the location. And, we finally asked ourselves, how much time would we be spending up in the bedrooms to make the view worth all the other hassles?

During the process of discussing the new construction we were comparing it to the second house on the lot we had looked at, the one without a view, and to our surprise that house was clearly coming out a winner. Although it was smaller than the new construction, the space was adequate and provided a lot of storage. We liked the yard and its potential, and loved the thought of having a prolific avocado tree. We preferred the location too: it was quieter and just a short walk down the hill into town or to the beach or bike path, and a five-minute walk away from the girls’ school. And, we reminded ourselves, the ocean view would be there every single time we went to the end of the driveway, either on foot or in the car.

Suddenly it seemed like a no-brainer, and we decided to go ahead and make an offer before the house slipped away. It had everything we wanted and needed, was in move-in ready condition, and the price was in our ballpark.

We submitted a formal offer last Friday. We knew it was low (not lowball, though), and wanted to see if or what the owner countered with. The first counteroffer came back on Saturday, but they barely dropped the price. Still, they indicated they were willing to negotiate so we came back yesterday with our top offer. Based on recent comps in the area it’s right on the money, so we shall see how serious they are about selling.

Will we be disappointed if it doesn’t work out? Not really, because we really didn’t think we’d find anything we liked this early and are not yet emotionally wrapped up in the house or the process (or desperate). We know there will be other houses coming up, and that maybe this one is just not meant to be.

But, maybe it is – we shall see. Stay tuned!