Two Week’s Notice

No, I’m not quitting my job. I would have to be clinically insane to quit at this particular point in my life because a) best job of my life b) derby and c) I’M BUYING A HOUSE.

I have two weeks until my closing date (12 days if we’re being exact). As May 7th draws closer and I cross another day off my mental calendar, it becomes more and more real. This week, a former office mate dropped off an enormous load of boxes, complete with packing materials, for me to use to start packing. She has also just purchased a home, and was generous (or smart) enough to donate her empty boxes to me, saving me many hours of dumpster diving and scavenging. I stored them away in the shed at work, however, until things are a bit more…settled.

I could have taken them home, because lord knows I have plenty of stuff and I’ll feel rushed there at the end, but the thought of living in a sea of boxes is both overwhelming and nerve-wracking. But in all honesty, it’s really because I don’t want to start packing just yet. It seems silly, when it still doesn’t seem REAL. I know that conversely, packing would probably make it finally hit home, but I still can’t bring myself to start sorting things out. Of course I want it to be real–I am constantly daydreaming about having so much more space, with so many more opportunities. I have even begun to say “WHEN I move into my house” as opposed to “IF I move into this house”, which still feels a bit like a jinx but as I am trying my best to really embrace this time, I say it anyway.

It’s only that I have this fear that as soon as I start packing up, I’ll get a phone call that will effectively end any and all planning. Things haven’t passed all the way through the underwriter’s, I haven’t heard back from the appraisal guy, and my lender said everything still has to go through the bond program’s office, all in the next TWO weeks. So forgive me if I’m a bit hesitant–it seems as if this just isn’t going to work out (and there’s a pesky pessimist living inside me who just won’t shut up).

But.

That hasn’t stopped me from browsing Craigslist for a gently used sectional and guest bedroom furniture. I’ve started looking at the pet adoption websites to see who’s out there. I like to look at the Farm/Garden section of Craigslist to look at the chicks for sale, or to ponder if I should get a push mower or if I could justify a riding? (I’ll probably get a push, just because it’d be such a great workout). I’ve started actually reading the gardening & sustainable living books I’ve bought over the last few years, and my Pinterest is filling up with home maintenance tips, “how-to’s” on painting, crown moulding, and planting schedules. I gave my friends a virtual tour of the property, detailing some of my plans, and that made me feel the most vulnerable, similar to sharing my expectations & disappointments here in this space.

So with all this planning and tentative preparation, I’ve started to move forward, in my own way. All of these things aren’t permanent: they’re steps I can take that won’t adversely affect me if this doesn’t go through. It doesn’t hurt anyone to browse Craigslist, I haven’t committed to a dog, and Pins can always wait. The only pain comes from feeling like it’ll be for nothing, but I’m so ready for this I’m willing to chance it. And that’s the important thing, right?

Needing Vs. Getting

Anyone who says buying a home is easy is either a liar or very, very wealthy.

This has been one of the most stressful things I have EVER done in my life, including applying to college, college itself, pledging a sorority, deciding not to go to grad school (two weeks before it started), moving to a new city where I didn’t know anyone, moving out on my own for the first time, and even roller derby.

If you read my last post, it’s pretty obvious that I was not in the most positive frame of mind when I wrote it. Today I wanted to clarify something, since some people have seemed to get the wrong impression from that post. After two AMAZING New Girl practices this weekend, I realized that I didn’t really understand how much of my stress about the first two practices was actually stress from home-buying. It probably isn’t important to anyone but me, really, but it is my story to tell and this is an important part of it.

The week before I started New Girl, I found out from my lender that even with all the assistance programs I’m using to buy my house, I still needed to come up with $5000 extra. As in, in order to buy this house and not default on my contract (two very important things to me), I had to figure out a way to beg, steal, or borrow five grand. FIVE. GRAND. That is a small number in the grand scheme of things, but a grand number in the small scheme of MY things. That is money I DO NOT HAVE, hence the down payment assistance programs & first time homebuyer loans. I was so upset the evening I found out I laid awake most of the night, crying and scheming and going crazy. I spent that next week talking it over with very important people in my life, and still couldn’t come up with a solution that worked. I worried I’d have to end this ride before I’d even got on, but I didn’t want to throw in the towel just yet.

The best things in my life have come to me gently, floating into my current without invitation or manipulation. I am NOT saying hard work isn’t ever involved–I would point to derby as a perfect example. It very unexpectedly came to me at the perfect time in my life, when it was appropriate and best. I am such a firm believer in NOT forcing or ‘striving’ for something, because it has been proven to me over and over again that when the timing is right the thing you need will come to you. [Case in point: Jon is my first real relationship, and it is a healthy, successful, mature, loving one because I didn’t agonize over finding a boyfriend at that time in my life. He appeared when I was happy and loving to myself, when I was interested in discovering new things and learning more about myself. Our relationship came about easily & organically, and it continues because we adjust ourselves fluidly to the changes in our lives.]

But I am also learning, throughout this whole process, the difference between “forcing” something, and working hard for it. My old boss Lisa has really been an encouragement to me in positive thinking & working hard to achieve your dreams, and I have to say, she’s converted me. I believed I could get into New Girl even though six months ago I had difficulty staying upright on my new skates, and today I write this recovering from a late-night practice. Of course to get to this point took hard work & self-discipline, but it was about making the choice to go work out when I wanted to go home, or skating for another fifteen minutes, or waking up even earlier on Saturday mornings to get some alone time on the track. That’s the difference between forcing your life versus working hard. One is dangerous and the other is laziness, and wisdom is knowing the difference. When I found out about the extra money that was needed, I was afraid I had reached an obstacle that I couldn’t overcome, something that would necessitate “striving” and would ruin the beautiful thing that had come to me.

So there I was, so stressed about money and watching one dream slip through my fingers, trying desperately to save the other. I was sleep-deprived and hadn’t been eating very much, and everything seemed impossible–work, sleep, Primal eating, relationships, DERBY. I was in a sad sad place where I felt like crying at the drop of a hat. Luckily, I was able to recognize at the time that the reason everything seemed so dark and dreary and unconquerable was mostly because of this whole home-buying situation, but that didn’t make it any less miserable. To add the stress of an even more disciplined workout/lifestyle felt impossible, an insurmountable mountain.

I feel very blessed that these times in my life have been very brief, although they feel like a consuming eternity each time. Approximately a week after that initial heartbreak, I was able to work out a deal with a very generous person that will still allow me to purchase the house. The relief I felt was overwhelming, although it took a few hours for the stress to start seeping from my body.

When I thought about writing blog posts that would help other people through this first-time home-buying process, I envisioned each post looking much different than this. I thought maybe I’d tell you what forms were important to have on file, let you know what & when your lender will tell you or need from you. I wanted to give out useful information to other people like me–young adults who think they want it but aren’t sure how to get it. But it is being revealed to me with each lesson, each life event, that I am such a creature of sensuality & emotion that the emotions and feelings of an experience overwhelm the logistics of it. I am not saying this is right OR wrong, simply that this is how I experience the world, ergo my writing can only reflect that.

This evening finds me exceedingly grateful, as I am still on the path to home ownership (so soon!) and I am thoroughly enjoying New Girl training. Each day brings its own challenges, physically, emotionally, and financially, but am I also learning how to handle those challenges: one day at a time. Each day has it’s own trouble, and it doesn’t make sense to worry about what might happen tomorrow when I can only do something about what’s happening TODAY. I am being pushed further than I ever expected but I am actually growing as well, and that is as astonishing as anything in my life.

Things I Am Grateful For

A sister who answers the phone late at night
Food in my refrigerator.
Good skates
Friends who follow up with me
A boyfriend who makes sure we keep our weekly breakfast date.
A place to live, period.
A warm bed on a chilly night.
Two lungs that work
Two legs that walk
Two eyes that see and ears that hear
Two dreams coming true.
The life bursting at the seams all around me.
A boss who is a friend.
A job that is enjoyable.
A truck that runs.
Roasted beets.

All of these things remind me: sometimes it’s ok to be stressed, because it’s only a bad day, it’s not a bad life. After the tumultuous roller-coaster of the last few weeks, I decided to take a moment and focus on the things in my life that are blessings. 

Derby Recap: Defeat.

I wasn’t sure whether or not to post this, as circumstances have changed and I’m not really feeling this way (too much) anymore. But, in the interest of preserving the truth of this derby journey, I felt it was important to tell the WHOLE story, not just the nice bits.

Defeated.

That’s how I feel. Defeated by this house-buying business, defeated in personal relationships, and defeated by derby.

We worked on blocking last night, which isn’t anything new to me. We worked on it in L2 classes and I thought I had a good handle on it. But then the NG Coordinators hit us. The first time I got seriously hit I heard and felt a neck vertebrae move into/out of place, which kind of freaked me out but it didn’t hurt so maybe it was helpful? Don’t know. The second time , Nicki hit me and OH GOOD LORD. I couldn’t breathe. She seriously knocked my breath out–I couldn’t understand the level of pain. Holy crap.

It just made me think–why am I doing this? Perhaps I’m not cut out for this. This HURTS. This isn’t FUN. I’m afraid of the pain these girls are going to cause. Do I REALLY want this? Do I REALLY want them to try to hurt me all the time? So doubting myself, in this sport I’ve spent the last six months training for? Yeah, that sucks.

If ever I had any doubt this felt like pledging, our last drill completely eradicated it. We did a plank tunnel that translates to basically a five minute plank. I can barely, barely by the skin of my teeth hold onto a 30-second plank. This was the hardest thing I’d ever done–holding that position. I cried because I hurt so bad and I didn’t want to do it and I didn’t want to be the cause of anyone having to do punishment suicides. I did it, but I broke. Those damn things broke me. I cried as I recovered, completely unable, completely drained. I had nothing left to give.

That’s another heart-breaker: I have been really pushing myself, working hard at this for six months. I work out all the time. Why is this still so hard? And then the trainers were like, “Do squat pyramids every day. Do 20-40 lunges each leg every day. Work on your planks. Do push-ups. Cross-train.” It doesn’t sound quite so bad in the light of day (although still bad), but at the end of a two-hour workout I couldn’t even fathom how much more they were telling me to do. As if, ‘It doesn’t matter. Do more more more more, because what you’re already wearing yourself out doing is still NOT ENOUGH’. It was overwhelming and deflating–I felt like there would be no way I could catch up to where I should be by the time I need to be there.

And then, just when I was getting proud of myself for making it through another endurance drill, I drop and hit my knee. Hit it HARD. And they’re saying, “get up ashley you got this” because normally I do just pop right back up, but this time all I can think is ‘owowowowowowie!’. So I slide down and ice it for a minute and then I think “i’m going to get back out there and show them I won’t be held down by this”. Where I promptly lose control because my knee hurts and I’m on the ground again. (validation: even through my tough knee pads, I still have a pretty significant bruise on my kneecap from this fall. my first) Not my proudest moment–my derby idol was teaching the class and I felt like I wasn’t making the impression I wanted. Not that she even noticed: I get the distinct and unpleasant feeling I am not. standing. out. To any of my trainers. And that is NOT good–I don’t want to be forgettable. Because forgettable gets cut, forgettable doesn’t make the league.

I so badly want to show them I deserve to be there. I wish they could see how I AM giving it all I got–how I AM pushing my lungs and my legs just to make it through the drill, that I’m not intentionally slacking off. I want it so badly I will do anything to get it, I just wish that “anything” wasn’t so damned hard. But I guess that’s the kicker–dreams aren’t easy. They aren’t readily available on your supermarket shelf for convenient purchase. I don’t know why I thought this would be such a breeze. Is it because skating comes so natural? It does. It’s the self-discipline, its the endurance and the breathing through the pain and the pushing through my muscles tiring that doesn’t come so naturally. People keep saying “if it were easy everyone would be doing it” and I guess that’s true, but the fact of the matter is that some people ARE doing it and they’re making it look easy and that is NOT encouraging.

But this is MY journey. No one is going to live it for me. No one is going to do those squats but me and if I don’t work on my lung capacity then I am always going to lag during endurance drills. It’s just that the thought of so much hard work is exhausting if I think about it in the long-term context: four more weeks of round one, then maybe five weeks of round two, and that’s before I ever enter the league. But as long as I take it one day, one workout at a time, it doesn’t seem so impossible. Maybe skating is the same as cycling: it doesn’t get easier, you just go faster.

Derby Recap: New Girl Training!

I need to preface this by saying I don’t think I’ll be recapping New Girl training in the same way I recapped the Academy training classes. Mainly because I signed an agreement that said I wouldn’t reveal any training secrets, and I’m afraid blogging practice specifics may constitute breaking that agreement. Also, because a lot of it was a big blur I can’t remember because i was trying to breathe and stay alive. 

Oh. Dear. Lord. This is NOT Polly’s class.

I don’t think I have ever pushed myself as hard or as long as yesterday. It was the most grueling two hours of my life. It wasn’t fun. It was work. It was go-go-go-go for TWO. SOLID. HOURS. We did skill warm-ups, sprints, and drills until I thought my legs would fall off and my glutes would abandon ship. My lungs were actually sore the rest of the day from breathing so deeply and so hard. I have never pushed my body like that, even in Zumba or Bodypump. This was a whole new level of endurance.

Ok, maybe there were a few moments of fun: my favorite snake drills, for example. But even that was marred by the faster-than-I’m-used-to pace of the drill, which felt more like sprinting than anything. Everything was so much more, so elevated. Of course I “knew” it would be beforehand, but it was a bit like being thrown off the high dive when all you’d ever done before was swim in the kids pool with your floaties on. Of course, this also makes the League that much more legit–I can appreciate and understand their dedication and athleticism even more now.

But I made myself proud this weekend. We did a (standard) speed measure where you skate for five minutes and your laps are counted. It’s usually called 25 in 5, because that’s what you’re aiming for–at least 25 laps. Our trainers said 30 was the goal though, so I felt maybe 25 was possible for me. I lost count at about 4 laps, but luckily we had someone who wasn’t skating count for us. Which was good, because all of my focus was on moving & breathing, not counting. I ended up with 29 laps, which made me really happy, considering I had thought 25 laps a lofty goal.

Another thing that made me proud of myself was the fact that I never quit. I may have slowed down, and I may have taken a few moments longer to transition, but I never sat down. I never let myself give up. Once or twice, when there was a stitch in my side, I thought “I can’t breathe”, but then I told myself–“No, that’s your fat/laziness, not your asthma. You know the difference”.  So then I’d make myself keep going, even if it was the last thing I wanted to do. I pushed through the pain and discomfort. I wish there had been something a little grander at the finish than a little self-discipline, but in the end it’s a fine prize.

The thing about New Girl is–it’s a mental game. Only Day One and I realize that already. If I’m going to stay in this, if I’m going to keep this up, then I’m going to have to refuse to baby myself. I am going to have to be hardcore every day. I can’t not do squats & wall sits and expect the squat pyramid to get easier, even though I HATE squats & wall sits. I will have to make myself stay on the track, even when it  feels impossible. I cannot be good enough for a place in the league if I sit on the bench. I will just have to remind myself of it every three minutes.

I am hoping the next session (tonight!) is a little less endurance based and little more skill-based. I enjoy the track the most whenever we’re not thinking about our feet or our lungs, but instead on how to keep the jammer from getting through or effective blocking. And if it’s not easier, I hope to God it’s not harder.

What It Feels Like To Pass Inspection.

Finally. I FINALLY get to write this post.

I have been looking for a house since last July. That is a long time, especially as the months passed and I had to write a rent check every 1st. It’s like second-job syndrome–you know you’ll be gone from that job soon so everything that irritated you before just inflames you now, and the last two weeks are agony. That’s how it’s gone in this space. I have loved living here, and this small apartment was great for learning money and space management, but I am so ready for more.

When I first started looking, the market was good, if you were a buyer. Low interest rates combined with autumn (which is not house-buying season) gave me plenty of homes to choose from and time to look at them all. However, in the last three months Austin has undergone a remarkable shift and homes barely stay on the market twenty-four hours! If you see it on Zillow it’s too late–someone already has a contract on it. I am not exaggerating or making this up: there aren’t enough homes for sale and too many interested buyers (or investors) preparing for the incredible influx of people moving to our area.

This inventory issue has created a very cutthroat market, one which makes even shopping around for a home disheartening. Because so many people are looking at houses, homes which would normally have been glanced over are being bought for way over normal market values–driving up prices on all the houses on the market. Thankfully, my budget’s increased significantly since I started looking, or I would never have been able to find a decent home.

The home I’m trying to buy is in an area I didn’t really consider looking at. I wanted to find something up north, nearer to the derby warehouse. I considered Pflugerville and Manor, but everything was either snatched up or not in livable conditions. When I saw this house on the MLS, I loved the backyard, even if it was a little smaller and further south than I wanted.

Entering the home, I could tell immediately that whoever had lived there took really great care of it. It was clean and welcoming, and I think maybe they had cooked bacon within the last hour because the house smelled awesome. Seriously, if you’re going to sell your home, cook bacon. It’s SUPER appetizing.

I knew there were multiple offers on the table but the seller hadn’t considered any of them yet, so I had a few hours to get mine in. I offered $10k over the asking price because yes, the market does justify that sort of offer now, which is just ridiculous. But I loved the backyard, the rosebushes, the pecan trees, the two full baths, and the brand-spanking-new carpet and paint. And after reconsidering, I decided that it being smaller worked in it’s favor: since I don’t have a lot of furniture in this tiny apartment, more money would have been spent towards furnishing a large home. Plus there’s the long-term costs of heating & cooling a large home, costs I don’t want to handle on top of a new mortgage.

So after finally managing to get a home under contract, I knew what the next step would be, the step that has failed me twice before, as noted in previous posts, (here and here). I called my usual guy, but he was booked solid that week, and I absolutely needed it because my option period was only seven days long. Luckily my agent knew a back-up inspector, and he turned out to be just what I needed. I like to go off of recommendations, as just randomly picking someone off the internet can be such a disaster. If you need an inspector anytime soon, let me know and I’ll give you the hookup.

I arrived at the house about an hour before Jared would finish, which gave me plenty of time to measure the spaces I want to put a sofa, a countertop, dining furniture, and beds. I considered wall colors, compost piles, and rosebushes. When he was all finished we went over the report, and he was able to answer any question I had easily, as well as give me way more feedback than I thought I would get on a home. I discussed the feasibility of some projects and he provided some really good advice, which was nice to have a professional opinion.

It was so gratifying to enter a home with an inspector, and hear the words “foundation’s in great shape”. The only things he had to say about the house were minor things that can be corrected easily while I move in. It was such a pleasant feeling, to not be gripped by the fear of windows, floors, roofs, walls, foundations being rotten. Like I said, a house that felt well-cared for and solid.

I left the house that day feeling confident in the choice I’d made. When you look at a house for the first time, there are plenty of things you don’t notice: what kind of sink and tile is in the kitchen, what the faucets look like in the bathrooms, how many locks on the front door, etc. Going back over with more time and the house to myself let me plan a bit more, see the house as my version of home.

It was a good day.