Home Buying Without Anxiety Part 1: Finding the Right Real Estate Agent

Real estate. Part of the American Dream is home ownership. However, the  process of acquiring that piece of the American Dream can plunge one with anxiety deep into the covers of the bed-not wanting to come out till spring. Or at least till market prices decline. But I am here to tell you, you can go through the process of buying a home, without setting off your Anxiety Medical Alert bracelet (Sidenote: wouldn’t it be great if they made those?).

The very first piece of advice I’d give to someone in the beginning stages of home shopping would be to make sure you have a reputable real estate agent. Not only should they be licensed, they need to have the skills necessary to show you appropriate places. I offer my story:

Years before my husband and I were married, right before we were in the same town, we went home shopping. A friend of my now husband did real estate on the side, and we thought it was a good idea to have him show us one house that was available. Let me tell you about this house. It was h-uge (when the word huge is pronounced with two syllables it’s a big deal). Two stories with ten–yes that’s right–ten rooms, spacious living quarters, stained glass windows and, wait for it, a freakin‘ FIREPLACE! Yes, it was just the two of us, but our real estate agent explained to us that we could rent out the upstairs. I had visions of wonderfully warm Sunday dinners around the fire, laughing and inviting our friends over for popcorn and games. There was also a basketball hoop out back and I imagined our children playing hoops with their friends.

The above describes what we saw when we toured the house. In reality, there were holes in the floors, windows needed repair, appliances needed to be installed and in some instances, replaced. Oh, and I haven’t yet described the yard. Have you heard of the Amazon rain forest? That was the front yard, on a much smaller scale.  I don’t exactly remember everything our real estate agent said about the house, but one phrase stuck out to me so much that I’ve remembered it ever since. He confidently assured us that, “this house is NOT a lemon!” Ladies and gentlemen, any real estate agent worth their salt will never say this. Not only that, they won’t show you houses such as this unless you want a major fixer upper. If you come across an agent that utters this brain burning line, RUN!

Fortunately for us, we decided to email pictures of our future palatial estate to our family. We explained that we hadn’t bought the house yet, but fully intended to. Now, my oldest sister is not a phone person. Never has been. So I was shocked when she called me the day after we sent out our happy email. She wanted to make sure no money had changed hands and told me we needed to find a reputable real estate agent–one who makes a living at selling houses, not just sells houses on the side as a hobby. So we listened, abandoned plans to buy the Great Amazon Mansion of the Midwest, and went about finding a new agent.

So how can you know if a real estate agent is reputable? I recommend going to www.daveramsey.com and finding an agent through their Endorsed Local Provider link. Dave Ramsey is well-known in financial circles as someone who helps people get out of and avoiding getting back into, debt. Any Endorsed Local Provider in Real Estate is required to go through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace course and knows how to help people understand their financial options. Through the ELP page, we were able to connect with an agent that called us back promptly and every step of the way, made sure that we only saw houses that were within our budget and included items on our dream list. We recommend her to anyone we know that is purchasing a house in our area.

Make sure you trust the person that is showing you houses. Taking this step will make the rest of the home buying process that much easier. Tomorrow we’ll cover writing your housing dream list and the importance of contingencies.

Remember you are never alone.

Cheers!

Advice From a Modern Princess Bride

Over the weekend my husband and I celebrated our “monthaversary”. Yes, we are that couple who celebrates our wedding anniversary once a month. Nothing big. Some months we just greet each other by acknowledging it and saying, “happy anniversary!” 

This summer we will have been married two years. As I thought about writing this entry last night, I realized I’ve really not done the whole married thing for too long, but wondered if enough time had passed to qualify me to give advice. I decided I’d do it anyway ;-). A sort of, “Here’s What I’ve Learned So Far” piece. So without further ado:


1. Keep your fights off Facebook: Ah, social media. Where you can go to find out what time that party starts, and what your best friend from kindergarten had for breakfast. Sometimes you can also find out what they fought about last night. In detail. Airing your arguments in a public forum such as FB undermines your privacy as a couple. Communicate with each other. If you have gripes with one another, it’s more productive to talk with one another, or go see a neutral 3rd party, than hash it out via social media.

2. Speaking of social media, if you or your spouse posts something on FB or another platform, and the other person objects to it’s content, push your pride aside and delete it. It’s not worth upsetting your spouse to stoke your own ego or to get a laugh.

3. Keep date night sacred: Make sure you are spending regular time together as a couple. Only postpone this time if there is an emergency such as a death in the family or one of you is sick.

4. Pray for your spouse daily: My husband is the one that works full-time for us. In a job that brings with it daily risks. Praying for his safety and stamina every day is one thing I can do to encourage and bless his day.

5. Sex: Ok this is a biggie. Especially if you are a follower of Jesus and waited to have sex till marriage. As a child growing up in the church, all I heard about sex was that, while a wonderful thing, not to do it till I was married. But the one thing no one tells you is once you are married, there is this unspoken pressure to consummate your marriage. Much like flipping a switch, you are expected to go from virgin to post virgin in a split second. I’m here to tell you, it’s not that easy. It can be disappointing to realize sex isn’t as natural as society tells you. If you don’t have sex on your wedding night, you are NOT a failure. Talk with your partner and make it a priority to work on this part of your relationship. Don’t put pressure on yourselves to be like others. Perception and reality are two different things and, the couples you most want to emulate could be struggling with the exact same thing! That grass on the other side of the fence? Astroturf.

This is not an exhaustive list, but it’s one I hope you find helpful in your own marriage. If you are struggling with any of the above, remember you are not alone!

Cheers!

Cats In the Cradle…..of Love

Welcome to FRIDAY!! WOOHOO!! In honor of Friday, we are going to have a special guest on the blog today. I’ll be telling her story as she dictates to me. So please welcome-quietly, she’s a bit shy- my youngest cat, Phoebe to the blog. Today she’ll be recalling the epic story of her conception and birth.

Hey guys! My name is Phoebe and I’m 9 years old. My birth mommy is an american short hair and my birth daddy was an orange tom cat. At the time of my birth, my birth mommy was living with my new human daddy, having just claimed his house as hers several months before. They met one night when human daddy was walking home from work and my birth mommy came up to him, stopped in front of him and rolled over on her back, exposing her belly. In her culture this means she had chosen his house as her new place to live, and she’d be coming back soon. Several weeks later, my birth mommy showed up on the front steps of human daddy’s apartment, carrying a small suitcase of all her things. She’d also lost a considerable amount of weight. Human daddy let her come in, but had to leave for work soon, so he scrounged around for something for her to drink. Milk had been something he’d figured would be a good idea. Milk is shown in story books about cats as a good treat. He poured her a dish of milk and left the house. When he returned, what he found on his bed made him NEVER give her milk again. 😀

But I digress. Several months after birth mommy came to live with human daddy, over the valentine’s day weekend, birth mommy ran out of the apartment when human daddy opened the door. He tried but was unsuccessful at bringing her back in. So he went to work, with the intention of looking for her later. On his walk home from work that night, he observed the following:

Hearing a hideous yowling, human daddy turned around and saw birth mommy and an orange tom cat in the bushes in front of a frat house (The Eta Kau Pi House 😀 ). Birth mommy ran out of the bushes with orange tom cat in hot pursuit. Human daddy ran after the orange tom cat and yelled, “Leave my daughter alone!”…..

Two days later, birth mommy came back to the apartment, a tiny cigarette dangling from her mouth. 10 weeks later, human daddy arrived home from work, but birth mommy didn’t greet him at the top of the steps as she always did. He found her in a closet, inside a plastic tub of warm coats, ready to deliver. Human daddy spread a towel out on the kitchen floor and wanted her to instead birth there. After helping her through Lamaze breathing, human daddy witnessed the birth of 6 healthy kittens. All bearing similar marking and coloring to birth mommy. None of my siblings had any resemblance to birth daddy–which is fine since he never visits or sends child support!

After putting an ad in the local paper, all my siblings found homes. Human daddy kept me since I wouldn’t go near anyone else. Several years later, my human daddy married my new human mommy. Here are two of my favorite photos of me and birth mommy. Here we are on our favorite couch. I’m the one on the right.
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and this ↓ is human mommy and daddy’s favorite photo of me. I’m the reason they can’t keep the toilet lid up. 

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I hope you enjoyed this story of my conception and birth. Thanks for letting me tell it. Thanks also for supporting and sharing my human mommy’s blog. She really appreciates it. She’ll be back Monday with another story. 

Meow! 

Growing Forgiveness

Living with a disability from birth, there are certain things you learn to live with. Discrimination is one of these things. I’ve been denied jobs because of my disability, and the perceived inability to do the job adequately because of my physical appearance. I was even asked once if I had the ability to write things down–ironically I went to college and majored in Communication, so yes, I am able to write things down 😉 . Speaking of college, there was one painful incident involving adequate housing for my needs my last year of school. But the most painful discrimination I’ve experienced occurred in my own church denomination. 



The other day I mentioned that I lived with several other young adults for one year during a voluntary service program after college. This was not my first attempt at working for a such a program. Shortly before I graduated college, I applied to be a part of my church denomination’s one-year voluntary service program. After the interview process, I realized I wasn’t ready, so I withdrew my application. Fast forward one year later. I had graduated and was figuring out my next steps. So I applied again for the same VS program. This time I went a bit further and was still interested after the interview process. Several weeks after my interview, I received a letter by email, informing me that although I showed a continued interest in the program, there were concerns that I wouldn’t be able to handle the proposed 40-hour work week, having never had a full-time job, but how many recent college graduates have this level of experience? In addition to this, there were concerns about accessibility at work and living sites. During my interview, I explained that I’d need accommodations, but minimal at most. 

After I received this email, I was devastated and walked around in a daze for a few weeks. I never expected my own church to discount my abilities because of my disabilities.

Around this time, the pastor of my church called me and asked me to lunch. She had heard about my troubles and wanted to let me know of a new VS program that was just starting up in a neighboring state. I immediately applied and within days received a call that I had been accepted. I couldn’t believe it! They even asked me what they needed to do to make things accessible. I moved to my new assignment 3 weeks later, and all in all the year was a wonderful experience. I ended up living in that same city for the next 6 years.

The previous story contained two different outcomes, from essentially the same source–the church. A place that is supposed to accept you as you are, and help you grow. But here is what I’ve learned in the years since this experience: the church is made up of people. People are fallible and make mistakes. As Christians we are called to forgive them. And realize life this side of heaven is going to be unfair at best some days. And in the end, know without a shadow of a doubt, that we are loved more fiercely than we know by our Heavenly Father. 

:-)

I hope this encourages you today if you are struggling with similar circumstances. Know that you are most certainly not alone. I’ll see you again tomorrow.

Cheers! 

Living On Your Own: A Survival Guide

Your first apartment away from your parents has become a rite of passage for many young folks. In my experience, I was a few years older than the average young adult. A few years shy of my 30th birthday, I achieved this milestone.

In the year leading up to my first solo apartment, I was living with 3 other 20-somethings in an apartment that had been converted from a working convent. We were all a part of a one year Voluntary Service term in a diverse community in the southern part of the US. We received a living stipend in exchange for volunteering with organizations in the city.

Living in a small space with 3 other people from diverse backgrounds can be fun. It can also have its trials. Despite the trials, I was grateful to delay living alone. As you’ll recall, I had anxiety about the thought of living alone. This more than likely was due to my disability and the fear of what to do if someone were to break in. As the year drew closer to being finished, I had moments of panic, but one day, a funny thing happened. I woke up and, as if a switch had been flipped, I felt more than ready to live on my own.

The experience of living in my first apartment alone taught me a few things I’d like to pass on to those about to make the switch. I hope you find these 3 tips helpful:

1. Know your neighbors. Sometimes it’s hard to live in a new place, surrounded by strange people. Getting to know those folks is helpful though. Especially if you get yourself into trouble. I remember one morning I woke up to get ready for work, but couldn’t find my keys. I searched all over. Then I opened my front door–there they were, still in the key hole. Of course panic ensued, but one of my neighbors came over to explain I had nothing to worry about because he had seen my keys in the door, and because of this kept watch over my apartment ALL NIGHT to make sure no one broke in. He didn’t knock on my door when he first saw them because it was late and he didn’t want to scare me. Through this experience I also learned that if I do something stupid and it scares me enough, I make sure it never happens again, which leads me to….

2. To prevent yourself from leaving your keys in the door, make a habit of unlocking the door, then immediately taking your keys out of said door, and putting them back in your purse or pocket (or murse– Come on, you know you have one 😉 )

3. Research how much utilities usually run in your area for the size of apartment you’ll be in. Funny story-I learned this the hard way. My apartment was newly constructed–in fact the first time I walked through it was not finished. So, several months later, after I moved in and got my first month’s electric bill, I didn’t realize it was maybe a bit too high. I paid it anyway, no questions asked. After this I turned off the AC and opened the windows, thinking I’d save money. The next month my bill was even higher than the month before. In fact the bill was $270.53. Did I mention my apartment was only one bedroom? I didn’t pay right away, but called the utility company and was told the bill was correct. In tears and panic, I wrote a check and thought to myself, “well, this living on my own thing really does suck.” Fortunately I talked to my landlord’s office a few days later, and they agreed to come out and check my utility box to make sure everything was wired properly. They discovered that the wiring from my apartment was installed BACKWARDS (at the utility box) and was actually installed to control the laundry room and the lights on the outside perimeter of the complex. The lights on the perimeter came on when the sun went down, but the laundry room lights could NEVER be turned off!! Needless to say, a short phone call to the utility company and I was set straight, my account was credited and I was able to go without an electric bill for about 6 months. If I had done my research ahead of time, this could have been prevented.

If you are facing the reality of living in your first apartment alone, it can be scary. Understand you are not alone! I found prayer to also be a helpful tool when I was scared.

I hope you found these tips helpful. Please pass this list on to anyone you think would find them useful. I’ll see you again tomorrow.

Cheers!

Driving Nowhere Kinda Slow

I’ve had a recurring dream often on since I was in my 20’s. So I’m driving a car down a street, when all of a sudden I somehow am sitting in the backseat, and no one else is driving the car, but it’s still moving. I always wake up relieved it was only a dream. Here’s the ironic part: I don’t drive or have a driver’s license.

Now you may be thinking, “well of course, that makes sense, given your physical disability“. But that would be a bit inaccurate. There are SO many people with physical disabilities that can drive. Even some people without some of their limbs are able to drive with specially equipped cars. Unfortunately, these specially equipped cars weren’t enough to turn me into a driver.

When I was a Jr. in high school, my parents looked into driver’s training for me. I’d need a specialized car with hand controls since foot controls would not work for me. That meant I’d need a trainer that specialized in teaching people with disabilities to drive. Fortunately we were able to contact an organization that helps people with disabilities procure necessary services, and an appropriate driving instructor was found.

To complete their driving program, I was required to successfully finish 56 hours of on the road driving with an instructor. Seemed pretty simple at the time. So our lessons began.

One thing I learned early on in the driver’s training process is how stressful driving can be. I seemed to do fine on straight country roads, but put me on more than a 2 lane highway, and I’d start freaking out inside. At first I was able to calm myself and get through a session. But in time I experienced more anxiety as my lessons progressed. I found it difficult to do the multiple simultaneous tasks needed to safely drive. Even with medication, my ADHD made it difficult to concentrate on the road, on account of my anxiety. Couple this with my then unknown eye condition, and you have the perfect scenario for disaster on wheels. Yes, as an adult I’d be diagnosed with a condition called lateral nystagmus; by definition, an involuntary shaking of the eyeball. I’ve had this all my life, I just thought it normal. LN can make stationary objects appear to be moving, or moving objects to be still.

The last complication of driving was my instructor. His was tasked with teaching several students out-of-state, and would frequently cancel our sessions only after he was late to them. One thing I’ve learned about living with anxiety is that I crave structure and consistency. Not being able to drive on a consistent basis was upsetting, so I did the only thing I knew to fix the problem; I fired my driving instructor.

Several years later I resumed driver’s training and it was decided it was in my best interest (and society at large), if I remained off the roads.

So, I am a fully functional adult who doesn’t drive. Sure this has taken some adjustment over the years, but for the most part I’ve been able to live my life fully without the need to drive. After college I moved to a larger city that had a great public transportation system, enabling me to get around quite easily. Sure there have been frustrations over the years; snow and I are in constant battle mode every winter, but I’m relieved to know that I’ll not be responsible for an accident due to poor driving.

You may have anxiety over driving. That’s ok. You are most certainly not alone. If you only have anxiety and no other physical restrictions that would prevent you from driving, I encourage you to seek some help from a professional. There is no shame in seeking help.

I hope this encouraged you. Please pass this along to anyone you think it could help.

I’ll see you again tomorrow!

Cheers!