Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The House That Spork Bought

Okay, I’m trying this again.

My father left my mother when I was in my senior year in college. After graduating, I moved back in to help out, whereas if they had still been together I would have found somewhere else to live.

He never filed for divorce, and for a while he was still paying for various things. Mom did not really have the money for a lawyer, and she had no desire to start dating again, so we left things that way. When he would get tired of paying a bill he would send it back, and either Mom or I would take it over. That lasted ten years, and I had purchased a new roof and furnace, plus some other repairs and I was paying rent.

Eventually there was some unpleasantness over some paperwork where we decided that it was time, so Mom did initiate divorce proceedings and got the house, which I had been paying the mortgage on for several months. Now she had an asset, but what she really needed was some income so she could quit her night job which was causing both physical and emotional stress.

We looked at reverse mortgages, but the amount of cash produced was a little lower than needed, and my investment would have basically been gone. That is not to say that any money that I was putting into the house for Mom needed to be repaid, but throwing it away did not feel right either. Refinancing would have similar issues, and be even more complicated, so finally the best solution was for me to purchase the house from Mom, but at a reduced price.

We used a very scientific method to come up with the price. We added up an estimation of the amount needed for repairs, the remainder on the old mortgage, the existing credit card debt, and added that to the amount we figured it would cost to support her for the next twelve years. No, I am not expecting her to die within twelve years (nor hoping for it), but we needed some concrete number and we could not afford to go higher. We may have to force her to marry for money in 2019—it just depends on the financial outlook.

Fortunately, the price we decided on was only about seventy-five percent of the assessed value of the house. If you finance eighty percent or less of the house you can get a lower interest rate and do not require insurance (at least under my agreement), so we added a gift of equity from her, and it pretty much worked out. We did not allow for the closing costs, which means there is still some credit card debt (mine) out there, but it is doable. As it is, if I needed to, I could sell the house, cover all my debts including the mortgage, and have some living expenses for about a year if I ended up completely destitute (not that I am expecting that, but you need to have a plan).

There are very good things about this. Mom was able to quit her night job, and she is doing a good job of budgeting her support money. We are allotting a year at a time, and the rest is invested through Edward Jones. If it earns well, we may be able to keep her through 2023.

In addition, we have been able to make improvements. We replaced the exterior doors and windows, as well as the shower and bathroom fixtures (badly needed), freshened up the interior paint (looks good), and we are getting the carpets done next week. Most of the carpet we currently have is from the original construction of the house in 1970.

We also got new mattresses. The sad thing about all of our mattresses previously is that they were used when we got them and we got them a long time ago. I actually lied in the mattress store because fifteen years sounded bad enough and they were all so much older.

There is a downside here, in that new mattresses are much thicker now than the way they used to build them. My old mattress had springs sticking through that would stab me if I did not have a blanket on top. As the new ones age I don’t think that will even be possible. The downside is that it feels really high up now. My sisters and I all have twin beds, so the height and width combination is not ideal—it would be very easy to overshoot and fall off. I can see why a lot of mattress lines start at full. That being said, they are so much more comfortable! We were in a motel last week and the bed was really hard, and I had to wonder, “Is this because I know what a good mattress feels like now?” We’ve stayed there before and this was new.

The other possible downside is that I now have a thirty-year mortgage. (It is not adjustable rate, and my mortgage company was very responsible, so if some of you have been following the current home loan crisis, I am not in danger.) It is an adjustment.

On the plus side, as a thirty-five year old single and childless woman, this is my first milestone of adulthood since I graduated from college back in ’96. Now I am not living with my mother, she is living with me. It’s a fairly big milestone, which is good because it may have to last me for awhile.

I mean, I have also gotten a Costco card, but that was an addition to my mother’s account with them, so it is not that impressive. I’ve got the paperwork set up to start a Roth IRA, but as we keep having to move things around for the renovations I don’t know where they are now. I figure any time between now and the end of the year is okay for that.

Oh, and I have had my wisdom teeth pulled. Yeah, I’m totally grown-up.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Oh, Sporkful, where art thou?

Ugh, it has been a long time since my last update. The only person who will even see this is Josh, who signed up for the RSS feed.

Let me tell you what happened. I was actually starting a new blog entry a while back, and the subject was supposed to be the story of me buying my mother’s house. As I tried to relate that, I really veered off on the subject of my father, and realized that I had not completely processed everything there.

I had been working on this document where I was basically analyzing my entire life in depth, and I decided I needed to finish that before I could do anything else. The section detailing my paternal relationship was sixteen pages, and the longest section in the bunch, but the whole thing was two hundred pages. I guess that would make Dad eight percent of my angst, but it was not all angst.

Anyway, the result of all that was that I am now more emotionally healthy than I have ever been, and I am open to the future. The important part of that future really seems to be moving ahead with writing, and making that a career path. It is something I have always wanted to do, but I have not had great discipline (it’s hard to work full time and write), and fear has been an issue. I think finishing the project was important not just to work out all of my issues, but also to get in the habit of writing more regularly. I also feel like I type much faster now, but that was probably not as important.

Although I had several writing projects already started or as very solid concepts in my head, I was not sure where to start, but then I had this dream. Many of my projects have started that way, and this was one with some images that I could not get out of my head, and suddenly I realized there was an idea for a screenplay there that I would be okay with selling and that would actually be marketable.

So, I’m working on that now. I will be honest, in that I am completely breaking the rules. Everyone says write what you know—I am writing about a paralyzed former CIA agent seeking closure in Rome. But the ideas are flowing and I feel like the quality is pretty good. I am actually writing in sequence now, which is a little different for me but seems to work better.

Finishing it and then marketing it will still be challenges, but when I think of various obstacles I do get ideas for potential solutions. Mostly though, I get the impulse to forget that for now and just focus on the writing.

As I was getting to the last third of my self-analysis project, I started feeling letting other projects drop off. I tend to be really scattered, because there are always so many good and interesting things to do, and I am easily distracted and pulled in other directions. I was learning to be focused there, and that is happening even more now. I feel a bit like I am on a choke chain, and as I start wandering off there is this pulling back—no, not now.

I am not saying that to say that I feel confined or picked on; it is just sort of different for me—and really necessary. I need to get away from my day job, and I can’t do that without another source of income, and these next few months are going to be critical in establishing myself. That is why even though I am said that my book club is disbanding, for now it is probably good. Now if I can just quit browsing the internet.

I am going to try and be good about the blog, because it goes along with my current goals, and then you can follow the process and watch my growth.

I have been thinking that 2006 was the best year of my life to date because of the travel. It was not just that I went on the cruise and to Italy and that those trips were good, but that they were things that I had held off on doing because of different fears and worries. By going I didn’t just have a good time there, but I also learned about myself, and grew.

2007 can be better yet, despite the lack of exotic trips. I should have exorcised some personal demons (future behavior will confirm whether I was really successful or not), and if I can really hone my craft and build a new career, that will make this an amazing year. There will really only be one thing left then—Spork gets a date in 2008! Or maybe my driver’s license—I’m not sure which would be the bigger miracle.