Latest Installment of the House Saga

Buyer sends Seller the appraisal info from Lender that says house is not worth as much as they're asking because there is some major dry-rot damage to deal with. Lender will not fund loan. Seller sits on this info for 5 days. On Friday...

Seller: OK. We'll lower the price to the appraised value. All other conditions remain the same.
Buyer: That's great. [aside: 'all other conditions' means that they are still giving us some cash back and dealing with the sewer]. Isn't this good new, Lender?
Lender: Well, actually, this doesn't solve the problem for us. We can't lend on a house that has a deficiency mentioned in the appraisal until that deficiency has been remedied.
Buyer [thinking to themselves]: WTF?! Remember, the Seller and the Buyer are the same flippin' company! [aloud to lender]: Okay, well here are a few things to think about. 1. We just talked to another lender and they have a lower rate. 2. We are planning to repair the dry-rot right away and we have the cash for that. We would be happy to put it in a special account so you could see that the repairs are done. 3. The close-o-escrow deadline is the 24th, so time is of the essence.
Lender: That's all good information. Let me run it by my boss.
Buyer: It's 4:00. Just wondering how things are going.
Buyer: It's 4:30. Just wondering if you've made any progress. Even if you haven't, could you please call us before you leave the office? Thanks.
still waiting...
I'm guessing he was out of the office before 4 on Friday. Hmmm. So far, there is very little to recommend these people, and if any of you readers want to know who they are, email me. I'm happy to share.
Maybe they'll come through on Monday and we'll sign then and close on Xmas Eve, but somehow that is seeming less and less likely.

Home-buying saga update

Seller (financial institution to whom ownership has reverted after foreclosure): Buy this house for X dollars.
Potential buyer (us): We like it. In fact, we'll offer you X+3, assuming nothing untoward shows up in the inspection reports, and assuming we can get funding.
Seller: Great. We accept your offer.

Buyer: Ooh, well now. We just spent a pile of money to have various experts inspect the house. They found quite a lot of work that needs to be done. Our revised offer is X-35 and we'd like you to pay for some of the repairs.
Seller: We're willing to come down to X-10 and we'll give you y dollars for repairs. That's our last offer. Take it or leave it.
Buyer: Okay, we'll take it. Now we'll just finalize the loan, which we are getting from your very own institution. That should make it easy.

Lender: We'll need to get the house appraised.
Buyer: Really? Even though you're the ones selling it?
Lender: Well, the asset side and the loan side are different.
Buyer: Right.

Lender: Uh, the appraisal came back at X-29. We can't approve the loan as is.
Buyer: WTF?!
I've left out some important sub-plot involving requests to extend deadlines, a power struggle over a power of attorney, a search for an English-speaking doctor in Germany willing to sign a letter stating someone's sanity, miscommunication about said letter, a search for home insurance, intervening and upcoming holidays, full-time teaching, the end of the semester and the consequent work due, and a trip overseas by a key member of the cast.

Tomorrow brings home my honey, and earlier in the day hopefully also an answer about what the seller is willing to do about the fact that their own damn company's hired appraiser says the house is not worth as much as they are asking for it.

Keep your fingers crossed for us!

A Saturday Morning in Richmond

Here are the lovely beds where I helped spread mulch this morning. It's along the Richmond Greenway, a bike a pedestrian path built along an old unused railroad right of way.

I took my bike up on BART to the Richmond station. For the return, I rode 5 miles to the El Cerrito Plaza BART station. I rode the Greenway trail to its eastern end, followed bike routes on surface roads to the Ohlone Trail just below the Del Norte station and followed the Ohlone Trail, which runs along the BART tracks, to the Plaza station. It was a pleasant ride, though if my front tire had had more air I might have ridden faster and with less effort!

Although none of my students showed up, it was really nice to get out there and help with the gardens. I especially enjoyed getting into the back of the pickup and pitchforking the mulch out. It was great to do physical work that didn't involve much thinking--a good contrast to my usual daily concerns.

I'm feeling happy and tired right now. I'm sure I'll have some sore muscles and will sleep well tonight!

"Make indeed you are getting all of the home insurance overlooks you deserve."

"In nowadays's quickly-paced world it's more important than ever to make an intelligent judgment about your Home cover requests. That's why the guys at limitless Home cover Quotes we'll give you the newest options to make indeed your investment will be cosseted. They strive to inindeed that you will avert money by stodgy out a Home cover citation form. The treat is very regular, plug out a fleeting form that only takes about four summary. They will then associate three principal insurance agencies in your neighborhood, they will associate you with a citation that will avert you tons of money!"

So, I'm shopping for home insurance and decide to see if I can find any useful tips in how to choose or what to think about when making this big decision. The first article I came across, from which the quote above is taken, appeared to have been written in another language and translated by machine or by a 1st-year student of English with a small dictionary and thesaurus. I especially liked "...that will avert you tons of money!"

Yes, this means we are closer to the reality of being home-owners. It looks like we will sign papers Wednesday morning and the "loan will fund" on Friday, which will mean at that point that it is our house and we can begin the process of hiring people to help make it habitable. (It's not that bad, but there are things we want/need to do before moving in, such as having the sewer repaired so that we are no longer inadvertently fertilizing the ground along the side of the house!)

Doesn't look like we'll be home for the holidays, but maybe by my birthday.

And the food-bearing trees...

Laying out photos and text in blogger is ridiculously unwieldy and frustrating. The preview is not a true preview. It just really seems like the smart people working on this should be able to make this work better. Anyway, the trees pictures below (or wherever they end up!) are walnut, probably a plum, tangerine and almond (next to each other in the same photo), pomegranate (plus another photo of a pomegranate blossom cuz they're so pretty), and a fig (with Justin and his parents in the picture). Those trees are all in the backyard (well, really it's a sideyard). There are also small lemon and lime trees (one of each) in the front yard, both with fruit on them, but I forgot to get pix of them.

Been through the ringer, ready to hang out in the sun

An emotional month so far:

UP. Tuesday, November 4 brought great joy and pride as Barack Hussein Obama was elected president of this sometimes inspiring but all too often disappointing nation. What an amazing night! It's still almost impossible to talk about. The next day on my way to work--walking to the station, riding the train, walking to my school--I nearly cried several times, just thinking about what it means to have this man and his beautiful family in the White House. Actually I got choked up on election day on that walk as I passed three polling places along my route. I counted a dozen people lined up waiting for the 7 a.m. opening time at each of the first two polling stations, then two dozen at the third, which I passed just as they were beginning to open. A young woman posed for a picture in front of the "polling place" sign, probably her first time voting. Never, ever have I seen anything like this before. No politician in my lifetime has generated so much good will, so much interest among non-voters, so much volunteerism. I am just incredibly happy about this.

DOWN. Unfortunately, the good news on Tuesday night was tinged with shameful news: a majority of voters in my home state of California actually voted to amend the state constitution to limit the definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman. It is one of the meanest-spirited items I've ever seen on a ballot, and I'm ashamed that the people of my state would embrace that. Incidentally, it also seems ridiculous that a simple majority of voters can change the state constitution, especially in the direction of taking away rights that are already there or implied. Fortunately there are lots of smart people already looking at every angle of this, and I'm optimistic that it will be overturned somehow. Meanwhile, I want to scream and shake people when I hear anyone say "traditional marriage," as if there were one tradition and that tradition was pure and good.

DOWN. Tuesday, November 11: A popular senior at my high school died unexpectedly in his sleep. My school is small, with less than 400 students, and this young man had been there for 4 years. He was one of those people who was friends with all types of people, a positive life presence who touched everyone who knew him. Naturally, his death has had a huge impact on our school. If you are interested in reading more about him and seeing some of the beautiful tributes from the students, check out our school blog here. Although I didn't know the student, I was affected by seeing the grief of the other students, including some of my own. These are kids from tough neighborhoods who have seen tragedy and unexpected loss before, so to see their raw sorrow was heart-breaking.

UP. Today, Monday November 17: Our offer on a house was accepted, and we are now in the escrow stage! We have inspectors coming tomorrow. If all goes according to plan, we should close in about a month. I'll post photos after tomorrow.

Take care of yourselves, my good people.

Why Not Just Stop Being Greedy Bastards?

Can someone explain why this isn't being considered?

If a lot of the people who are in trouble on their mortgages got there because of adjustable-rate mortgages, and
if the banks and other lenders are in trouble because too many people can't pay those mortgages

why can't the banks/lenders just revert everyone's mortgage to the rate it was when they could pay it?

Obviously this doesn't help people who can no longer pay because they've lost their jobs or whatnot, but that is not the vast majority of people getting foreclosed on, as far as I can tell.

This seems like such a simple solution, there must be something wrong with it. Anyone care to explain?

A few recent photos

1. Train-window-view of the valley, somewhere between Sacramento and the the bay area.

2. Snow-covered mountains in the Sierra, somewhere between Sacramento and Reno.

3. Justin and me at a rest-stop on the way to Reno.

4. Finally, for our Australian friends, and any other fans of Brett and Jemaine, a photo of a real sign-spinner. This kid was on a corner near my parents' house. Over the course of the recent weekend I spent in Sac, I saw 5 sign-spinners! Maybe they've always been there, and I just was never tuned in to them, but I really noticed them this time.

I certainly never see sign-spinners in the neighborhoods where I live or where I work. I guess out in the suburbs there are so many businesses (that all seem the same, I might add), that business owners find it worth their while to try to grab passing motorists' attention this way. It's not so different from street-hawkers and touts in less-industrialized countries, I guess.

Another Weekend Away

So...good news #1: our car made it to Reno. Good news #2: our car made it back from Reno. No problems!

It snowed Friday, so Reno was cold! I find high desert lovely anyway, but it was especially lovely today: clear, cold but not bitterly so, and not windy. The drive through the mountains up and back was also a nice reminder of what a beautiful state we live in, and how we should get out of town more often.

Monte-Carlo Motel: service was bad, price was okay (burnt-out lightbulb which we had to replace with the walkway light because the clerk left and never came back all night, plus our friends couldn't get into their room and we had to climb through the window to open the door, which made some of them very uncomfortable, but it was better than trying to sleep six people in two beds).

Breakfast as Circus Circus: only so-so, though it was my first time ever in a casino, I think. Oh, wait, I visited one in Australia, so it was my first time in an American casino. We didn't do any gambling all weekend--not even a single quarter!

A stop in Sacto at RR's deceased grandmother's house was nice. It was one of those perfect Sacramento fall days, where the sky is impossibly blue, and we ate fresh ripe persimmons from the trees.

Now, I just have to get a lot of school work done in a very short time. Hmmm. Once again, I'm imagining a career that doesn't involve bringing any work home in evenings or on weekends. What job would that be?

My School Picture

Yes, I have become a polo-shirt, khaki-slacks, lanyard-with-key-and-ID, matching-earrings kinda gal. Well, during the week, anyway.

Funny, huh?

Getting Better All the Ti-ime

Although things are not materially different in my classroom, I'm not letting stuff bother me as much so I feel less angry and edgy and so am probably being slightly more effective, although--as I said--things don't seem that different. What I mean is--they feel different to me, but I'm not sure that anything really different (particularly, anything better) is happening.

Today, a girl was in tears because it's picture day and some boys (friends of hers) had purposely held her down and messed up her hair. Later, but before we went to have our pictures taken, there was nearly a fight in my classroom. Fortunately, the more aggressive boy is quite small and I could physically hold him back from the other one (which I could not have done if it had been the other guy aggressing). Also fortunately, a third boy--slender but tall--coaxed/guided the angrier fellow out into the hallway. Eventually, things were resolved, but it took some doing. I was glad that I stayed calm and didn't freak out.

My sweetie is in Berlin for a few days, at a conference. We've been house-hunting lately, which is nerve-wracking. Put in one offer that was rejected. Are considering putting a low offer on a house that needs a lot of work, wishing we were more confident about home repairs. I think I need a little more stress in my life. Maybe I should start a club at school... Well, that's taken care of as I've already told students I would start an Environmental Action Club. A student asked me about it today: When are we starting? Oh, boy.

Life is full, full, full to bursting with lifeyness, isn't it?

Got out of town!

We spent the morning along the Richmond shoreline, picking up trash along with many others, including four students from my school.

We worked along the edge of the marsh, where the garbage was dense and tiny--hundreds of small pieces of styrofoam and plastic, tiny ziplock bags that I think fishhooks might come in, plus lots of the usual straws, plastic bottle caps, cigarette filters, and plastic bags (especially the kind chips come in).

The tide came up quickly and as we watched a young woman found herself suddenly nearly to her knees in the mud. She was wearing waders, and even with lots of help, could not get one foot out without abandoning the wader. My students and I had just been joking around about one of them getting lost in the quicksand.

After a productive (albeit somewhat depressing) session on the beach, we enjoyed a free lunch at the park for all the clean-up volunteers.

Next, we drove to central Marin County and visited my friend Jenny. She and I are getting together weekly to spend time together writing. It is nice to have dedicated work time and someone else also doing the same thing. Justin enjoyed a nap and some reading at that time.

After a quick stop at a grocery store, we headed to Muir Beach. There we enjoyed a beach fire and shared meal and bbq with folks from my work. Good people, beautiful location.

A lovely full but not stressful day. Feeling refreshed, though I have plenty of work to do tomorrow.

Thanks to all those who've called or emailed to express their sympathy/support about my work situation. Just so you know, I had a better day on Friday. I was able to maintain my own perspective (plus a couple of students were absent, and that helped re-set the tone). Hopefully we'll keep moving in a positive direction from here.

A Shinier Day, somehow

Slightly better day today. Not because things were really better, but because I talked to colleagues, attended a good p.d. session, had a useful phone conference with other teachers and our CEO, and got a ride home from a colleague who talked about Week-Without-Walls, a cool thing that our school does every spring.

Also... more than half the students got either 7 or 8 out of 8 on their spelling tests. Hurray! Small successes.

Remember spitballs and rubberbands?

Not sure why I keep trying to be a teacher. I think it's something to do with the facts that (a) I like people, including young people, and (b) I like teaching, in the sense that I like helping someone learn something new, or see a new perspective, or experience something new. I'm interested in the processes of people's minds, so I don't get impatient when a person is struggling to learn something; I find it interesting to figure out how to explain or teach something.

However, I really don't like dragging anyone anywhere (obviously I'm speaking figuratively here, though I wouldn't enjoy literally dragging anyone, either). I don't like feeling invisible, and I really don't like feeling like an impediment to other people's fun. In other words, I hate classroom management. I also hate chaotic classrooms. Preventing chaos and entropy and wholesale abandonment of any educational objectives is extremely exhausting, at least with my current group of 14 and 15 year old.

I was going to say that it's just the age of the students, but then I remember my classes in the Solomon Islands, where I don't remember having any classroom management issues.

I feel pissed off at society for creating an anti-educational atmosphere among the poor and working classes. I feel pissed off at the parents for not raising their children to have the manners I expect. I feel pissed off at the dads who haven't been there to raise their sons. I feel pissed off at the moms whose ideas of strict parenting involves physical and verbal abuse. I feel pissed off at all the elementary teachers who didn't quash students' inappropriate classroom behavior. I'm horrified at myself for using the word 'quash' about what is really liveliness and spirit. I'm pissed off at myself for letting myself get into the situation I'm in. I'm also pissed off at myself for not having more fortitude and more persistence (I am already fantasizing about how I could honorably escape from my job). However, I do know (or think I know) that it'll get better and that I'll be sad at the end of the year to leave my students for the summer. If I think about them individually, I love them and even understand and can sympathize with what they do. Still, I cry.

I'd like to teach. I'd like to feel like I was offering them something besides an obstacle to get around, an object to laugh at, an authority to rebel against.

Not today, apparently. Maybe tomorrow.

Catching up

A brief summary to play catch-up and then maybe I'll be able to post current thoughts.

A week and two days of what is known in the educational field as 'pee-dee' (Professional Development), some of it with the staff at my school, some of it with the whole network of 4 schools.

Three days of Freshman and New Student Retreat at Stanford. A great experience. Check out Challenge Day. It's an amazing program, and made the whole exhaustion of shepherding 15 ninth graders for three days completely worth it. If you ever have the chance to be part of a Challenge Day, do it.

One week of school.


Now we're in the three day weekend, leading to the short 2nd week of school.

I'll try to get back into some sort of regular posting. Hope you're all well and happy.

BTW, doesn't the new Republican VP scare you? I don't want to be all about fear politics, but in this case, voting your hopes and not your fears amounts to the same thing: we can't let McC & P into the White House!

Back in Oakland

I am waiting for hot water for a shower, as we turned down water heater while we were gone, something I didn't remember until I was stepping into the tub. Traveled for just about 40 hours straight through.

Bus: Katherine to Darwin: 4 hours
Waiting in Darwin & at airport, where computers were down and they were hand-checking everyone in (most of this time was in town, though, where we had dinner at sunset on the wharf, and played cards in the park): 8 hrs
Flight: Darwin to Brisbane: 3 hrs
Changing planes at airport: 1/2 of an hr
Flight: Brisbane to Sydney: 1 hr. +
Waiting in Sydney airport (where we slept and had some actually good sandwiches and Coluzzi Cafe) + sitting on runway waiting out a thunderstorm: 6 hr + 1/2 hr.
Flight: Sydney to SF: 13 hr + 1/2 hr.
Gathering bags, going through customs, getting BART (which happened to have delays a couple of times on the tracks), plus cab ride from station: 2 hrs

Total travel time: 38.5 hours.

Now I go to shower and then to visit the bounteous berkeley bowl to bring fresh vegetables back into my life!

Last Day in Kath

Have had a lovely few days just lolling at Rob's. Helped make a path through the mulch and banana trees in his garden, long walks and swim at low-level, playing with friends at hot springs, "fancy" dinner at hotel restaurant, backyard barbecued fruit and veg and 'roo, watching 'flight of the conchords', playing rummy, laughter, conversation, clean laundry, etc. I finished Wuthering Heights last night, which means I can leave it behind and start something new for the plane.

Have about 24 hours of traveling ahead of us once we get on the plane tonight, but before that we have a 4 hour busride and then six hours or so in Darwin before our first flight.

Looking forward to being in our own humble abode again and seeing all of you dear people who live nearby.

It's been lovely being back in Australia, and now we're happy to be going home.

Territory Wildlife

Justin escaping a croc in the Katherine River. Frogs in the toilet at the caravan park in Kalk.

Crows drinking off the tap in the caravan park.

PIctures from Kalk

Caravan park camping

This was during one of the first three days of camping, when it was unbearably windy pretty much nonstop.
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Caravan Park

That's our tent on the other side of the shade structure.
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