Finally!

Man am I excited to finally be writing this post.

Yep, after six long, painful, frustrating, maddening, inexplicable months, we finally freaking sold our old house! We closed on Friday, so it’s really real this time.

“Wait, what?” I can hear some of you asking. “I thought you sold it already?!?”

Nope. Astute readers should recall that we thought we had a deal the day we moved into this home, but it fell through over some complete bullshit and we had to go back on the market. After that we were pretty disheartened and I decided not to write about that house again until we sold it. Little did I know…

For the past six months I’ve been over there about once a week mowing the yard, maintaining the other landscaping, cleaning gutters, checking through the house to make sure it was ok, and turning lights on and off before showings. That 10 minute drive came to be filled with a lot of bitterness as the weeks and months piled up.

I won’t give you the whole story, but our realtor warned us when we went back onto the market that July and August were always the slowest months. True to his word, we barely had any showings in those months. I remained confident: it was a nice house in a great neighborhood and the market was strong. We would sell. S, on the other hand, was very bitter after the initial offer fell through. Despite our realtor’s warnings, she couldn’t understand why we weren’t getting showings. She would spend her evenings scrolling through listings in our area and watching as other homes dropped off. “What are we doing wrong?” was her constant question. I was there to keep her steady and remind her it would happen eventually.

Our realtor said the market always comes back after school starts. But he did say some years that happens on August 1, others after Labor Day, others not until October. August was barren for us. September picked up a little, but no offers came. The feedback was generally positive, and we know we finished second at least three times over the fall. A lot of folks struggled with the size of our basement – it was small – and the number of trees in our lot, which our realtor told us not to touch. “If they don’t want trees, they can cut them down after the buy it. You can never put them back in, though.”

October rolled around and I was still cautiously optimistic while S was beside herself that we were still sitting on that home. In the middle of the month we had a showing and a week later got feedback that the people had high hopes for it, but were disappointed when they walked through and decided to buy another house in our neighborhood. That other house, to be fair, showed a little better than ours. But it also didn’t have a single update to it, where ours had a new kitchen, new master bath, new kid/guest bath. All the complaints they left on their feedback would cost less to fix than what they would have to put into the house they bought in order to get it to the 21st century.

This is when I lost it. I got pretty angry for a couple weeks. I stopped reading the feedback emails because I couldn’t deal with them anymore. With winter coming soon, I saw us hanging onto the house for a full year with it being empty.

We discussed finding a renter, but decided against that for a variety of reasons.

The first weekend of November our realtor came over to talk strategy. He said if we hit January he wanted us to close the house and winterize it to prevent mechanical issues. When we asked about taking it off the market and re-listing later, he said the home would have to be off the market for 90 days to reset the listing. We agreed that if we hit December 1 without an offer, we would take it off, winterize it, and try again in March.

When he left it was really quiet in our house for awhile. We could not believe we were even having this discussion. Remember, our next door neighbors had listed their house in early May, got two offers in 48 hours, and accepted one over their asking price. We decided to be aggressive on asking price because of that. Between the early fall-through and some other homes coming in the market in that neighborhood quite a bit lower, we ended up dropping our price three times, which was a total bitch.

About a week after that conversation we had a good run of showings. Our realtor was out of town but sent us a message one Saturday that he expected an offer on Monday. We had a showing scheduled for Sunday, so S and I went over for our fall ritual of blowing leaves and cleaning gutters. While I was running the mower in the side yard, I saw a woman with a stroller come up and talk to S for about 10 minutes. That was a little weird; it was 10:00 on a Sunday morning, it was about 33 degrees, and the lady had parked down the street. When she left S came over and told me the woman had said they were looking at houses in the neighborhood and decided to come take a walk around and ask people questions. S told her how long we had been there, how we bought it with no kids and moved out with three, how our girls loved the ‘hood, how safe it was, etc. We wondered if she was the showing later in the day.

Monday rolled around and I was hopeful to hear something from our realtor. But when I hadn’t by noon I figured once again the interested party had decided to go a different direction.

About an hour later he sent the offer over. And it was from the woman who had talked to S. She and her husband had been in the house three times that week, including the Sunday showing! We did some back-and-forth and agreed on a price on November 13 with an expected closing date of December 14. There was some excitement in our house that day! The girls knew we had an offer and were negotiating. C was first to get in the car after school that day and asked, “Did we sell the house!?!?” I held up a finger and waited for M and L to get in. Then I told them. They all screamed, C high-fived me, and we had a really good moment. Remember, these were the three girls who were in tears the day we moved out of that house.

Of course, we sweated the inspection, since that’s what blew up our first deal. Shockingly all the gigantic red flags the first inspector threw up did not come up this time. Asshole. We did have to fix some things, but that was to be expected in a 27-year-old home. The deal was on and the buyers were asking to move closing up. “Hell yes!” was our response.

So Friday I went in to sign away the home. Unfortunately the buyers had to reschedule and came in a couple hours after I did, so I was unable to meet them. S really liked the wife from her 10 minutes talking to her that morning in November. We took our girls over to the old neighbors’ Saturday morning to make Christmas cookies and they had met the couple the night before and confirmed they seemed really nice. That gets lost a little in these things, since you end up being so focused on the money. But it made us feel good to sell to some people who seem nice and will fit in with the people who love who still live around them.

So Friday afternoon was fun. I rushed home from doing my signings and called the utilities and insurance companies to officially untie us from that home. Our realtor rolled in just after 4:00 with a nice check. We finally owned just one home! We took the girls out for dinner that night and started making a list of the places we want to travel now that we no longer have a summer home or a second house we’re trying to sell.

Just in time for Christmas, too!

Listen, we are very, very fortunate in that we were able to handle the financial impact of trying to sell a house for six months, and then having to accept a lot less than we had hoped to sell it for. So I don’t want to make our situation seem dire or worse than people who have real problems.

But it was an incredibly stressful six months. I think S and I did a good job of balancing each other, and picking each other up when we got down. But I shamefully admit there have been a lot of shitty, “Not until we sell the other house!” responses to both the girls and other family members who have asked us about making big purchases, planning trips, etc. There were a lot of nights where we looked at each other and wondered what the hell was going on and what the hell we would do if we couldn’t sell that house. Thank goodness that immense weight has been lifted. Now we can go back to only yelling at our girls only because their rooms are complete disasters or someone broke a brand new glass without telling us rather than our anger stemming from being stuck with an extra piece of real estate.[1]

So that’s our Christmas miracle for 2018. Hmm, I said I wasn’t going to share the whole story, didn’t I? Apologies. But it is 11:53 on Sunday night and I’ve had a Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale and a rather tall glass of Buffalo Trace.


  1. Yes, someone broke a brand new glass, left it in the cabinet, and did not tell us this weekend. All in an effort to get to the Christmas candy that was next to it. Candy they failed to re-seal making it obvious what happened. No one admitted to it so we’ve banned Christmas candy and cookies for a week.  ↩

Friday Playlist

“Hire” – Girlpool. I don’t know much about this band. This song made Steven Hyden’s November Mixtape, and he says they make lots of perfect songs, so I may need to check them out. This track has a heavy Elliott Smith vibe to it.

“It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You) – The 1975. I’m not sure that there’s a more polarizing band out there right now than The 1975. Some folks love them. Some folks love trashing them. Others love arguing why people who fall into one of those camps should feel exactly the opposite. All that nonsense has kept me from ever listening to too much of their music. Their new album got tremendous reviews, so I gave it a shot. Conclusion: they’re not really my bag, but I also do not hate them. But this song is a jam that I can get down with.

“Superman” – The Clique. I never knew that the R.E.M. version of this song was a cover of this track from 1969.

“Christmas in Antarctica – The Minus 5 featuring Ben Gibbard. I haven’t liked anything that Death Cab for Cutie has made in a long time. But on this song, Gibbard sounds like he did back when I liked everything DCC did. 

“Do They Know It’s Christmas” – Band Aid. Probably sometime next week I’ll write about the overall level of Christmas spirit in our house. Spoiler alert: as kids get older, the Christmas spirit goes down. Surely a sign of that is how they all mock Bono’s infamous line every time we’ve heard this song this season. As a long-time DTKIC apologist, I’ve tried to explain that he’s not speaking for himself. He’s speaking for the masses Midge Ure and Bob Geldof were writing about, people who were more concerned about themselves than people halfway around the world who were facing famine. Sadly, my girls are not buying it. 

Reader’s Notebook, 12/6/18

Although we’ve been in the new house nearly six months now, and I’ve read over 20 books over that span, I don’t know that I have a favorite reading spot. Or at least I didn’t until about a week ago. We have a sunroom that had been my spot, but it’s also just off the kitchen and you can hear the TV from there, so while very comfortable and well lit, it doesn’t always have the privacy I want when I’m really diving into a book.

A couple weeks ago the recliner we ordered for the office finally arrived. It took me a few days to get everything situated the way I want, but I believe I have my perfect reading spot now. The chair is very comfortable. I can pull the office doors shut if I want privacy. I have a little side table that has a perfectly placed reading lamp on it and room for a drink.[1] During awake hours I can play music on the Mac across the room. In the evenings, I can prop my iPad against the side table and play music loud enough for me to hear but soft enough not to disturb C in the bedroom above me.

Probably not a coincidence I ripped through two books in about 10 days after getting this setup in place.


The Return: Fathers, Sons, and the Land in Between – Hisham Matar
This is a gorgeous and mesmerizing book that won the Pulitzer for best memoir last year.

Matar was born in New York, the son of a Libyan diplomat at the UN. His family was forced to flee Libya in 1979 when his father’s opposition to the dictatorship of Muammar Ghaddafi put them all in danger. The family’s home base was in Egypt, but they traveled throughout Europe. Hisham’s older brother was once forced to flee his Swiss school late at night when a team of hitmen were discovered outside its gates. Matar’s family was lucky. Other Libyan dissidents in Europe during that time were captured and tortured, others were blown up in their cars, while some were simply shot. It was a crazy way to grow up.

In 1990 Matar’s father was abducted by Egyptian security agents and taken into secret custody. It took years for the family to discover that the Egyptians had immediately turned him over to Ghaddafi and he had been languishing in the dictator’s political prisons. From time to time the family would receive letters from their father that had been smuggled out. But in the late 90s, these letters ceased.

The book, then, takes us on Matar’s journey after the Libyan revolution of 2011. He returns to his homeland for the first time in over 30 years and connects with family and friends, including many who had spent decades in Ghaddafi’s prisons as well. He writes of the strangeness of meeting people he had heard about, exchanged letters and phone calls with for years, but never seen face-to-face as an adult. He sees their pain as they see his father’s features in his own. He rediscovers the beauty and promise of the land his father fought to make free again.

His biggest mission is to discover what happened to his father. Some believe he was killed during a prison revolt in 1996. Others claim to have seen him as late as 2002. Eventually Matar meets with Ghaddafi’s son, who promises to uncover the truth of Matar’s father’s fate. What follows is a year of frustration, as the junior Ghaddafi teases, stalls, lies, and eventually fails Matar. While suggesting that the senior Matar is dead, he never shares when, how, or why he died, or what happened to his remains. When the book ends, Matar and his family still have no confirmation of their father’s fate.

It’s a terrible story told beautifully.


Beartown – Fredrik Backman
This book just about floored me. I began it sometime Sunday and finished it early Tuesday afternoon after racing through the final 150 pages in a marathon session that day.

It takes place in far northern Sweden, in a small town on the edge of the woods that is slowly disappearing. Factories are shutting down, which hurts other businesses, which forces the population to flee to cities that still have jobs. Where there were once three schools, there is now just one. People see a future not too far down the road where the last factory and school close and nothing is left.

For now, though, one thing keeps the town together: hockey. After going decades with weak teams, the town’s junior squad finally has a chance for greatness thanks to a once-in-generation talent, a 17-year-old named Kevin. Following a win in the national semifinals, Kevin hosts a party at his home while his parents are away. During the party he rapes a 15-year-old girl who is the daughter of the team president. The daughter hides the rape from family and friends until the following weekend, just before the championship game.

Soon the town that was barely holding on is tearing itself apart.

Backman hits a lot of big themes in the book. There is the meaning of sports in our society: how much importance we place on them, how many of us gain our identity from following sports teams, how we coddle athletes, and how the culture within sports affects how athletes behave away from games. He hits sexual politics. He hits how gender roles have changed, and how more rural areas are reluctant to accept changes that have taken place elsewhere. He hits immigration. He hits sexual orientation. He hits on how the changing global economy affects the far reaches of the most modern countries. He hits how fast information, true or false, can spread in our hyper-connected age.

After the rape accusation becomes public, Backman zeros in on every character and relationship in the book, showing how the all change and the decisions behind those changes. It’s a fascinating section.

Nearly every chapter made me stop and think about issues beyond and bigger than the book. As the father of a 14-year-old girl, with two close behind her, the sections about rape had me thinking even longer about how to protect them, how much to tell them about the dangers of being a young woman, and how much not to tell them lest I make them fearful of trying to lead normal relationships. As wonderful as most of the book is, there are long sections that are very difficult to read.

Beartown is powerful, emotional, chilling, thought-provoking, smart, and, most importantly, entertaining. There are some moments when Backman may push a little too hard, and I’m not sure I loved his final chapter. Most importantly, though, he kept me stuck in my seat and turning pages.


  1. I’m 47 with shitty eyes. I’ll be honest, the light is probably the most important part of the equation.  ↩

D’s Notes

It’s been one of those weeks, so far. Nothing big going on, but lots of little things. Each time I pause and think, “I should really post something to Ye Olde Website,” I either don’t have time to sit down and focus or I’m at a loss for topics.

Thus time for a reader-favorite D’s Notes posts!

GHWB

Four years can be a lifetime when you’re young. When George Bush was elected as president in 1988, I was 17 and unable to vote. I likely would have voted for him had I been able. Four years later, when I cast my first presidential ballot, I voted against him. Things change quickly when you’re still young.

I kind of hate how we whitewash former presidents’ faults when they die. I mean, I understand that speaking ill of the dead isn’t cool. But when someone was president, and had such profound impacts on the lives of so many people, I think it’s ok to made an honest assessment of their lives instead of ignoring their weaknesses and failures and boiling it down to the standard platitudes.

But George Bush did seem like a decent guy. As many others who are on my side of the political spectrum have noted, it would be nice if there were still prominent Republicans like him. He was fiercely loyal to his party but also understood that politics wasn’t about forcing your views on others. He believed in service to country and that government can make a difference in people’s lives. He was willing to work with those who opposed him to bring about positive change. He would rant and rave about the Democrats when needed. But he also understood they were humans deserving of respect, who had the same right to express their views that he did, and that fighting in the political realm didn’t mean you had to hate people outside those ropes.

I disagreed with many of Bush’s political views. I voted against him because I thought he was a goofy, out-of-touch candidate of the past. But he seemed like a decent man whose core trait was kindness. We could use a lot more people in government, from all perspectives, like him.

Udoka

Ahh shit. Udoka Azubuike went down with a nasty ankle injury early in KU’s win over Wofford last night. At first glance it looked like his ankle was going the wrong way and he might be done for the year in December for the second time in his career. Today they’re saying that it was just an ankle sprain and he should be back on the court in a month or so. I have to think it’s going to be hard getting that rehabbed when you’re as big of a dude as he is.

Fortunately Bill Self is used to playing with limited big men after the past two seasons. In fact, KU looked as good as they’ve looked all year in the last 10 minutes of the Wofford game when he unleashed a bevy of athletic 6’5” guys that created havoc on defense. The only problem is this year he has one shooter, where last year he had at least three. And I’m not sure many KU fans have a ton of faith that his one shooter will be as effective over the entire season as he was for a four-game stretch before last night. The going small and spreading the floor thing can still work without 3-point assassins. But it is much easier if you have guys all around the arc who can punish the defense for letting them slip free.

Kid Sports

Both M and C had their first volleyball practices of the year earlier this week. The season does not begin until late January, and the school gym to scheduled very tightly. So they’ll only practice one more time before the holidays open up gym time a little. But they were both excited to get on the court again. No winter sport for L this year. We will look into some kind of individual soccer training for her in the new year, though.

House Stuff

We’ve moved on to phase two of filling the new house, with the focus being the basement. I have a big TV coming Friday. S found a great sectional on sale that we ordered a few weeks ago. It arrived yesterday. And it didn’t fit down the stairs!

Crap.

We only measured the opening to the stairway, not the space at the bottom. And the largest piece was too large to get in. We’re exploring whether the basement windows can be removed easy enough to drop it down the window well, but I’m thinking that might be too expense if it is possible. For now we have a very nice sectional sitting in our garage. And I’ll likely be watching KU games on a bean bag or something for awhile.

Yes, we feel stupid.

Stats

November 2018

  • Eliza Shaddad – 62
  • Middle Kids – 39
  • Bing Crosby – 34
  • Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – 24
  • Carl Broemel – 22

Complete stats available at my Last.fm page

Friday Playlist

November 30. This is when my music listening patterns begin to change. I’ve been listening to some Christmas music, but not as much I have in the past. I think I’m waiting for December 1 to really dive in. This week has been largely devoted to rounding out my Favorite Songs of the Year list. But more about than in a couple weeks. For now, some new music is still rolling in, but the pace has certainly slowed. I think I’ll augment these playlists with some throwback songs until the spigot opens a little wider in January.

“Your Nail And Your Hammer” – Oh Pep! Delightful pop music from Australia.

“What Do You Want Me To Do” – Bob Mould. 58 years old and his next album, based on two early songs, seems like it’s going to be an absolute motherfucker. From a musical perspective, this is the best Pearl Jam song in 12 years. 

“Portions for Foxes” – Rilo Kiley. I just missed Rilo Kiley. They were kind of on the perimeter of what I was listening to when they were at their peak. When I got into some of their later work, it didn’t compare to their early stuff and I never connected strongly with it. I heard this song on SiriusXM this week – and have listened to it about 10 times since then – and forgot what a great track it is. It really should have been a massive song, and probably would have been had it come along 7-8 years earlier and RK had a bigger label push behind them. Any time Jenny Lewis sings about cheap, meaningless sex I’m totally on board. My ’90s would have been better if I knew more women like her…

“Yellow Bike” – Pedro The Lion. I’ve been sitting on this song for about a month. Although I’m not sure it can really be called a Christmas song, its narrative base is a favorite Christmas present from David Bazan’s youth. Do kids still get bikes for Christmas? And do they love them as much as those of us who were born in the 1970s did?

“You Gots To Chill” – EPMD. I didn’t have a vid lined up so I just randomly scrolled through my Spotify library until something caught my eye. Here, then, is one of the greatest songs of the golden age of hip hop.

Reaching for the Stars, Vol. 18

Chart Week: November 15, 1986
Song: “Human” – The Human League
Chart Position: #2, 10th week on the chart. Peaked at #1 the week of November 22.

I only got to listen to a few minutes of the local countdown two Sundays ago. I felt obligated, though, to write about it as that was the last old AT40 we will get here in Indy this year. The station that airs AT40 replays switched to Christmas music on Thanksgiving, and will be airing the special holiday editions of AT40 for the next month. Sure, I’ll still have the SiriusXM countdowns. But they are not the same as listening to Casey and the original countdowns.

For years I’ve said this was one of the most important songs of the 1980s. Not because it was the best or biggest song of the decade. Rather because of who recorded it, the production team that helped them record it, the sound of the track, and the moment it arrived.

The Human League was one of the biggest artists of the British New Wave invasion of the early 80s, primarily on the strength of “Don’t You Want Me.” That 1981/82 smash is one of the biggest singles in British music history. It was a massive hit world-wide, hitting #1 in seven countries and peaking in the top five in seven other countries. In the US it was inescapable in the summer of ’82.

When the mid–80s rolled around, Human League was looking to adjust their sound. They hooked up with the Minneapolis production team of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who were fresh off their first big chart success with Janet Jackson’s Control. Jam and Lewis kept some elements of HL’s classic synth-pop sound, but relied far more on the sleek, processed Minneapolis Sound R&B that they would soon dominate the charts with.

The result was another monster hit for The Human League and confirmation that Jam and Lewis were A) more than a flash in the pan and B) could work with more than Black artists. This song was the transition point for music, not only in the 80s, but beyond as well. It was a white, British act singing modern, American R&B. In a few years the Billboard pop charts would be dominated by Jam and Lewis’ music, as well as by other artists and producers they influenced. That was the gateway for hip hop taking over the charts later in the 90s.

Today the charts are almost entirely made up of hip hop and hip hop adjacent tracks. All of that goes back to the fall of 1986, when The Human League shut the door on the movement that had brought them to prominence.

Thanksgiving Weekend Notes

Our Thanksgiving weekend was, by one measure, perfect. We were intensely busy for parts of the weekend. At others we sat around and did nothing. Every long, holiday weekend should have that balance.

C and I went to watch some of her classmates play for the CYO girls basketball city championship Tuesday night. They lost, handily, but C had fun watching them.

Wednesday I snuck a trip into Costco before our builders sent some guys over to wrap up the final thing they still needed to fix. Their work took the entire day so I was glad I had all my Thanksgiving shopping done.

Thursday we did something new, for us, to begin our holiday celebrations: we walked the short course of the biggest Thanksgiving race in town. We were joined by a few friends and our three, two-year-old nephews and their families. It was chilly but clear and dry, and walking for about an hour was a nice way to kick off the day.

We scrambled home to get the food prep underway. I was taking care of the bird – I did two turkey breasts rather than a full bird – corn soufflé, dessert, and the obligatory Giada’s stuffing. We were running well behind schedule, but fortunately all of our guests walked and they were also running late, too. So it all worked out! It turned out to be a really nice day so after stuffing ourselves, we were able to sit on the back porch for a bit watching football on the outdoor TV. It was a small group for our family, only 13 counting the little ones. We will have a bigger group at Christmas.

A couple things different about Thanksgiving in the new house. First, we have double ovens, which made it much easier to get everything ready. The fact that the turkey took a lot longer than I expected which would have caused a much bigger problem if we didn’t have the other oven to throw things in. Second, at our old house you couldn’t see the TV from the kitchen. Over the past 15 years football became less and less a part of my Thanksgivings because I was usually in the kitchen working. Now, though, the family room is directly off the kitchen. So I could sneak peaks at the Bears-Lions game as I was prepping dinner.

Friday as traditionally been our Christmas tree day. That changed with the new house, too. We caved and finally got an artificial tree. We needed something that was tall but also skinny because of the space where a tree would fit best. So a week ago, when the girls had their snow day, we bought a fake tree and stashed it in the hall closet. Friday we busted it out and put it together. It looks pretty good, I admit. But I am very much missing the smells that come with a real tree. We got some of those little scent sticks you can hang as ornaments the give the impression of a fir, but they don’t work very well. As I saw other people driving around this weekend with their trees on top of their cars, I felt pangs of jealousy.

Saturday we went out to look for some more decorations. The girls were very excited that the nursery we went to had a bunch of llamas out for petting and pictures. M has been obsessed with llamas since before it was cool to like them. The look on her face was priceless. Of course, five minutes later she blew off Santa and then minutes after that she made C cry. Freaking teenagers.

S and I went out to dinner with friends that night. We had some excellent food, better conversation, and my pal and I drank some very enjoyable bourbon.

Sunday began with laziness. L really wanted to see the new Grinch movie. At first I thought it would just be she and I, but everyone ended up going. L really liked it. I thought it was ok and struggled not to fall asleep three different times. I prefer the original. Grumble, grumble…

There was, of course, a lot of football and basketball sprinkled in. I watched KU win two games in the NIT. We watched the Pacers lose. We watched some of the high school state title games. Lots of college games Saturday and most of the Colts game on Sunday. L and I even got outside Sunday to throw the football and baseball for a few minutes.

All in all a pretty decent weekend. We were very lucky to have pretty great weather the entire time, with several days in the 50s. Hopefully all my readers back in the Great Plains are safe and sound and digging out from the blizzard. We a getting a few flakes today but the windchill is expected to be around 10 tomorrow morning.

KABOOM!

OK, this is one of those little things that, if you did not know it, will absolutely blow your mind. It sure did mine. Mostly because it seems achingly obvious yet it isn’t something I had ever thought of, nor had I heard someone else talk about it. I’ve even had relatives live in Australia and they never pointed this out.

The Moon Is Flipped Upside Down in the Southern Hemisphere