Saturday, January 19, 2008

Welcome

Well, here we are. To be honest, I'd have preferred a less portentous title, but just "Transitions," or "Changes" were already taken. "Days of Transition" looks like it should be read aloud by James Earl Jones. That's not the tone I'm trying to set but it's what was left me. I'm late to this blogging thing.

Here's what I hope I can do: 1. Share some good music from my pretty big (and always growing) collection of just about every kind of music imaginable. 2. Show you some of the things we really like to eat around here and how to make them--and I promise it'll all be simple; some recipes will even involve opening a can or two. 3. Share my observations on life in general without getting all political and angry, with the aim of inspiring you to share back and dialogue. 4. Finally, I want to tell you the story of what other half Steve and I are Up To these days. I'll start that now:

In a nutshell, we're getting ready to move. It's going to be a long process, not really complete until Steve retires in November, 2009. And that's assuming everything goes as we hope. We have big plans, all of which could be dashed by various imponderables. A roller-coaster ride may be in store, and that's what I hope will keep your interest.

Since 2004, we have owned a quarter-acre parcel of waterfront land in Delaware. (The picture at the top of the page is a sunset taken from our dock.) We bought the land originally as a tax write-off after we paid off the house we're in now, in Arlington, Virginia. The land came with a derelict, 1967-model trailer that at some point in its past had been graced with a stick-built addition, creating a new living room and bedroom. When we first saw the place it was like walking into a time capsule. It had been abandoned for several years, and whoever last stayed there disappeared, leaving every belonging behind. It was junk-filled and beyond filthy. In the process of cleaning it up we fell in love with it, and over the years the idea planted itself: when the time comes, demolish the trailer and build a house we can move to when Steve retires and we no longer need to be in the DC area.

Like most middle class Americans, our wealth is in our house. Arlington County (trivia: the smallest county in the United States) is the closest-in DC bedroom community in Virginia. It's filled with graceful older homes on the one hand and is quickly urbanizing on the other. We paid $89.5K for this place in 1981. It is a 2-bedroom colonial very solidly built in 1938. Over the years we have completely re-created the place, adding so many updates and bells and whistles that it is no longer recognizable as the house we originally bought. For your curiosity, here are before and after shots:









This house bought the Delaware land. The plan is to sell it and with the proceeds pay off the land loan AND build a house and end up mortgage-free.

You can see where I'm going with this. Among the many things that can go wrong for us is the...um..real estate market. There was a time, maybe just a year ago, we could be assured of getting at least $600K for this place, and that would have left us comfortable. Now, who knows? We have another year for real estate to get itself right again, so there is always hope. Arlington has been hit by the current market sickness, but not nearly as hard as other parts of the country, indeed, not even as hard as other parts of Northern Virginia.

And here's what else can go wrong. Steve works for a tiny company chartered by the state of California. By some miracle a few years ago it landed the contract to hire and train all of those Transportation Security Administration baggage screeners who make traveling the pleasant experience that it is today. It is a gargantuan project that this mom and pop operation in Sacramento basically doesn't know how to manage, and they have decided they no longer want to be prime on the contract, but sub to another company. The current contract ends in June. If the new company that Steve's employer has hitched its wagon to gets the new contract, Steve may still have a job, depending on what this new, prime company wants to do with him. If that new company doesn't get the contract, all bets are off. Steve needs less than two years to be fully vested. If he can stay where he is for just that short time, we will be golden. If he loses the job, we're up a creek.

I told you it would be interesting. I think the story is worth telling, but I promise we won't be all house, house, house here. When important things happen, or we make some kind of progress one way or another, I'll fill you in. But we'll also have lots more to do.

17 comments:

Kat said...

Ralph,
What a wonderful start to your blog. I do recognize that view from your dock where the sunsets are amazing.

I wanted to make a comment on the Judy but they are disabled so I'll put it here. That has always been a favorite Judy of mine, one of her lesser known but no less beautiful songs. I played and sang along as if I'd heard it only yesterday. Tahnks for that one!

Ralph said...

Glad you like it! You made it a lot easier just by showing me the ropes. Publishing the songs I can do with my eyes closed now, but I can't imagine walking through learning iit on my own. Thanks for that, too.

As to blocked comments: that's not something I meant to happen. Back to the dashboard...

Yeah, I love that song too and thought it was perfect for today.

Cuidado said...

I want to sell my big house where I raised kids and a dog and get a smaller place. I'll hope for tips, accompanied by great music. Welcome to the blogisphere.

Ralph said...

A personal welcome, Cuidado. I hope our experience is helpful--to us and to you. We're figuring 2008 is going to be devoted to getting this place ready to sell, which means a lot of sprucing up. As innocent as that phrase sounds, it includes some pretty big jobs, like removing wallpaper, touching up some drywall, painting, landscaping....we updated this place nearly 20years ago and now the updates need updating!

Ravel in Montreal said...

Hello Ralph & Steve!
(and I can salute Kat from here too, how funny).
I'll follow you closely...
As you are Kat's friend, I'm sure I'll read about good people... and an important transition in your life...
Maybe send your link to my Peter too... who wants us to make a transition, eventually, between appartment and house.
Patrick

Ralph said...

Patrick, bonsoir! Glad you stopped by and that you found my ramblings interesting. Thinking of buying a house? Is the Canadian real estate situation like here in the US these days? Big houses going cheap? Low interest rates? If so, by all means plongez-là, mon ami! Better to enrich yourself than to enrich a landlord!

SheilMack said...

Sounds like this should be an interesting blog, Ralph. I'm looking forward to seeing how it all turns out. Sprucing up and selling the house, paying off the land and building a house - piece of cake!

Happy 1st day of Blogdom. You have been bookmarked.

Ralph said...

Sheila! This is starting to feel like the open house I wanted it to be. I can barely leave the computer!

Spoke to your sister a good long time this morning. She sounds marvelous, refreshed. She has hundreds of pictures to upload. Huge job, but I can't wait to see 'em.

Ravel again said...

Ralph,
we're waiting for a specific house just the other side of the St-Lawrence River, out of Montreal.
Or maybe a good deal... I am ot aware of the state of real estate here... Pete's the buyer, I put my confidence in him. :-)
Thanks for answering my comment...

maureen ( moe) said...

Welcome Ralph to the blog world.
I'm Kat's youngest sister, Moe. I can't wait to read your recipes. I love to cook and always looking forward to something new. Happy blogging!

Ralph said...

Hi, Mo. Gee, now I've got the whole family stopping in. Thanks for saying hello! I promise a great recipe on Friday!

michele said...

Enjoyed the "before and after" pictures. Will you use the porch swing spring in Delaware? If not, we could use it here. They're hard to find. Love.

Ralph said...

Ha. Actually, we're thinking about that, hoping there will be a place for a porch swing. Yes, they're one-of-a-kind springs. If we can't use them we'll remember you guys.

Eclecticity said...

Welcome. I stop occasionally at KTCC and look forward to checking in with you from time to time. I post music up on my blog once in awhile if you are interested. Hope you blogging is as fun as mine is, even though "virtually unread." Best to your blog. Eclecticity

Ralph said...

Eclecticity, thanks for the welcome to the blogosphere. I'm having great fun and will definitely check out your space.

BTW, that's a great screen name. Had to look at the word a few times when I typed it to make sure I wasn't adding too many syllables!

Anonymous said...

Ralph,
I've been one of Kat's loyal readers now for some time, so I read all of your posts at Coffee. I definitely liked what I saw, and I'm glad you decided to keep going. You are now in the "visit daily" section of my bookmarked blogs. Welcome.

-Darius

Ralph said...

Thanks, Darius. Welcome aboard.