Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Buying Reality

I thought that buying a house would be more fun.

In my mind, it would be like having a new baby -- lots of excitement and hoping and planning and dreaming.

Instead I just feel fatter and less smart and I'm tired and kind of grouchy, so it is kind of like having a baby after all.

Mr. Ashley is obsessed with watching Fixer Upper, Property Brothers, and other real estate reality shows on Netflix and when I'm not making fun of him for that, I'm making fun of the buyers who CANNOT POSSIBLY SURVIVE without a huge dining room because they entertain all of the time or the people who might faint dead away at the site of laminate countertops.

I thought that I had more reasonable expectations. My only parameters were that it had to have two bedrooms, room for my dining room table (I don't even need a dining room, but I'm emotionally attached to my farmhouse table, okay?) and no farther from the beach than I am now.

That last part was hard because I'm only two miles from the beach. This left me with a very small and often questionable strip of neighborhoods to search. I knew I'd end up in a tiny old house that needed a lot of work but I live in one now and I'm a survivor like that so I was looking forward to my fate. I started watching Fixer Upper with a new begrudging appreciation.

(How does she just put weird shit on walls and it looks okay? If I did it I'm pretty sure it would seem like I put some tractor parts on a wall or whatever, and not look okay.)

Not long into the search, Big Kid protested for a third bedroom. It was a reasonable request from a 12-year-old who has been sharing a room for far too long. So we added another bedroom to the wish list.

little kid wanted a neighborhood with kids. We have 10 kids on our little corner of the street --  a roaming scooter gang having the best of childhoods. Also a reasonable request, but we made no promises.

We drove up and down every street in my designated area searching for options and the whole car was quiet. As we passed a row of duplexes with some people sitting out front on plastic chairs with a case of beer at their feet on a Saturday morning, little kid said, "This reminds me of...what's the word?" He thought earnestly for a moment as we waited. "...the apocalypse?"

As they say, children, drunk people, and leggings always tell the truth. So I gave up on my area and widened the search.

The house we have under contract is in a very family-friendly community with sidewalks and streetlights and a playground. It has three bedrooms. There's not really room for my dining room table but maybe Joanna Gaines from Fixer Upper will come rip out some walls (and, I mean, maybe she'll come willingly. I wouldn't kidnap her. I haven't been thinking about ways to do that because that's illegal and I'd get caught. And it's not right to do. And how would someone even do that? I mean, if someone was going to do that, how could they pull that off without getting caught? And then make her realize she wants to be friends? Hypothetically, of course.)

 Or we can eat on tray tables.

But I can assure you that buying a house is way more fun on television, and not having a dining room does kind of hurt.

Friday, January 22, 2016

A New Nest

As some of you know, I live in a weird little house. Mr. Ashley hated it at first. He initially refused to even look a second time and couldn't stop talking about how bad it smelled. It was old, had a bizarre exterior, only two bedrooms, a weird tiny corner kitchen sink, and enormous trees whose roots were cracking the driveway, foundation, and ceiling.

I loved it. The two bedrooms were set up as masters, it had a ton of natural light, it was only two miles from the beach, its weirdness was an ode to Florida's history, the Banyan trees are a treasure, and it was the cheapest rental in the best school district.

I won, of course.

We dubbed it the Ugly Seagull like a proper beach house with a name and made it our own, making it as cute as can be until we gradually began calling it the Quirky Seagull because we no longer thought it was ugly.

And the weird little house became a part of our lives. The trees became part of the family, their roots snaking into the plumbing and the cracks widening, always dropping tree junk in the driveway. It was an annoyance but we all lived together mostly peacefully, with a few visits from plumbers to help mediate the situation.

Sometimes well-meaning people would ask when we were planning to buy a home and I would tell them that we weren't -- that I wasn't interested in the commitment or the ridiculous pricing of our area and that I liked our home and situation. Our landlord had owned it for a long time, and owned it outright. He seemed firmly established in the area. I thought maybe we'd be lucky enough to live in the Ugly Seagull until the trees finally won; that one day in my old age, I'd be stepping over the roots growing through the living room floor but I still wouldn't mind because beautiful beach sunsets were a 5 minute drive away.

I knew Mr. Ashley would never go for it but I entertained the idea of buying this house if the opportunity ever arose, foolishly accepting its eventual fate as a tree house.

And then, four days before Christmas (what the fuck, landlord?), we found out that the Ugly Seagull was up for sale -- most likely as a tear down, at a price we cannot afford.

Four days before Christmas aside (what the fuck, landlord?), I was mostly upset at the thought that someone would tear it down, this perfectly lovely weird little house. Then I took a look at the rental market and was mostly upset at the thought of being homeless. A mortgage payment would be less, even with the absurd housing values.

I thought long and hard about leaving our area for somewhere with a lower cost of living but I love it with a weird intensity. I feel so blessed to feel gratitude about where I live. I feel a thrill each and every time I step onto the same beach I've always known. Maybe I could experience more traditional success elsewhere, but I feel like I won the geographical lottery here.

And that's how we might have accidentally bought a house. I'm not getting my hopes up until someone hands us the keys, because I'm pretty sure someone will figure out that we're adult imposters and put a stop to all of this. We meant to buy a house in a few months, but the real estate market here (in my price range) feels like running into traffic blindly -- there's no great time to do it, but if you see an opportunity you have to act fast.

The other day I was sitting on the floor of the shower, happy about the possibility of the new house but mourning the potential loss of the Ugly Seagull and a little irritated at the universe for bossing me around, when I heard the toilet gurgle; a tell-tale sign that the roots are reminding us of their presence.

And I laughed.

Maybe it's time to let the land have the house and for us to move on.

To something with three bedrooms, a pool, and proper storage space.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

New Look

"Big Kid, how do you want your hair cut?"

"Well, I don't know how to say this, but like a young Joseph Stalin. Let me pull up a picture."

"Wow. Who knew he was so handsome?" 

"Yes, but how do I tell her I want a dictator's hair?"

So many dictator jokes, guys, but it was the wrong audience.

Friday, December 18, 2015


Some yoga friends recently arranged to have a screening of Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet, an independent animated film by Selma Hayek. The kids were really looking forward to it and on the day we were going, little kid asked what it was about. 

"You know, I'm not 100% sure. I think it is actually based on an old book, a form of poetry, probably something middle eastern."

He looked confused. "Well, that is strange."

"Yes, it should be interesting to see how they turn something like that into a movie."

"It will probably be funny. A rhyming movie about a bank heist sounds funny."

"A bank heist?"

"Or whatever -- the robbery or crime or whatever."

"I don't think there is one."

"Then why is it called The Profit?"

"Oh -- oh, it's not. P-r-o-p-h-e-t. Like a messenger from God."

He looked crestfallen. "Really? Are you being serious right now?"

"Yes, hon, this movie will almost definitely not have a bank heist. I also don't know that it will rhyme."

"Well, I'm not going to lie, that is disappointing. I was really excited."

He ended up liking it more than any of us, although I was really moved by some of the incredible combinations of words.

(Spoiler alert to provide context for the reading: 

He dies. That's not a huge shocker though. The end of the book/movie was gorgeous and I went home and looked up the words I remembered immediately and still read it to myself occasionally.)

It had its slow points, though, and I do think a bank heist may have helped move things along.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Uncommon Goods: Lazy Ashley's Lazy Susan

My favorite catalog recently contacted me and asked if I would like to review one of their products. I've been getting a ton of product review requests lately and although it's (sometimes) fun for me, I know it's (sometimes) boring for you. Between that and being overwhelmed by stuff in my small house, I've been ignoring a lot of these lately (and then feeling guilty about it, because that's how I roll.)

But it's as if Uncommon Goods got up out of my mailbox and walked to my front door and said, "You know how you dog ear at least 30% of my pages for the magical future day where you have unlimited cash to buy things for yourself? Well, you have earned one of those items through your tireless optimism and endless appreciation of my products. And also because you're so smart and pretty."

It was exciting. They are my go-to place for wedding and baby gifts (this wishing ball and this Mysterio baby shirt are old favorites) but I've never bought anything for myself. For a moment, I thought I should use this as an opportunity to get a Christmas gift for someone else but luckily that moment passed quickly.

I went through the links and was excited to see this arcade spinner lazy susan that caught my eye in an earlier catalog issue. I showed Mr. Ashley and he seemed...confused. He pointed out jewelry and some beautiful glasses and I agreed that all of those things were very nice.

I showed a friend and we spent an hour oohing and ahhing over possibilities with a bunch of patchwork sari items coming in high on our lists. When I showed her the lazy susan, she didn't seem to fully share my enthusiasm.

I couldn't figure out why I wanted it so badly -- we don't really serve meals this way or have issues reaching things on the table. I didn't know where I would store it when not in use. I kept telling myself that this was a strange choice out of all of these beautiful, luxurious, or more practical options.

So I got it. I blame a childhood full of Wheel of Fortune and that big spinner thing on Price is Right.

And I love it.

(Pretend my chairs are chalk painted blue since I'm doing that this weekend.)

I thought I was super clever and original because I was going to make up games with mine (mostly to divide up chores) and it already came with a sheet suggesting games. Also, I thought the price was a result of its uniqueness versus its quality and I was wrong. It's real wood, with the grain showing through the design, and it rolls around in a really secure, expensive-feeling way. Like maybe ball bearings are involved? Or maybe I just wanted to say ball bearings. It is very satisfying to spin, if you're into life's little joys like that.

We used it for taco night and the kids were completely delighted.

"I love this lazy thingy!" little kid said.

"I do too." I answered.

"Do you love it more than me?"

He does this every single time I admit to liking anything. He once got competitive with our last dog over who had the softer nose when I made a comment about Murphy's velvety face. The dog is long dead and sometimes little kid will still randomly ask me if I think his nose is soft.


"You love the taco wheel more than me?"

"Well, I've just met it but...I really do love it."

"But not more than me."

"I'm just saying. You've never served me taco ingredients like this."

"But you don't love it more than me."

"I don't love it more than you, little kid."

But sometimes I like it more than all of my family members -- it never talks back or leaves things on the bathroom floor or tells long stories about video games or work.

I was also happy to learn that Uncommon Goods isn't run by jerks; the lowest paid seasonal worker starts at 50% over minimum wage, half of what they sell is handmade, most is made in the U.S.A, and one-third of their products are recycled or up cycled. I always want to support companies that don't suck and sometimes it's unfortunately hard to do.

So if you're still looking for interesting Christmas gifts, check here for men, here for women, or here for general gift ideas. There's still time to choose economy shipping if you order by December 17th, and other options available if not.

Or just get something for yourself, I highly recommend it. At least get the catalog so you can make dog-eared wish lists of your own.

Editorial note: This is an ad. Uncommon Goods gave me that awesome Wheel of Fun in exchange for this post, but the thoughts and opinions are real and my own. I honestly do like that lazy susan more than real people some days.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Wish You a Merry Netflix (Giveaway)

Every month you listen to me talk about how I don't really mostly watch true crime shows on Netflix, and then I try to justify how some of the true crime shows I watch aren't really true crime shows.

This month I'm really not watching true crime shows because Mr. Ashley is obsessed with house makeover shows like Fixer Upper and I've been watching cooking shows, with a British baking show being my most recent favorite; both interesting choices since he rarely fixes anything and I rarely bake anything. There are hardly any murders going on but sometimes I think those unfortunate souls considering homes with less than Williams Sonoma showroom-worthy kitchens might die of heartache on the spot.

Anyway, Netflix is going to reward (one of) you for your patience with my depressing viewing habits by giving you 6 months of free Netflix. Not only is this the perfect gift from Netflix to me to you, you could also re-gift this gift to a teacher or hairdresser or just keep it for yourself because it's the gift that keeps on giving.

Here's why:

1. You don't have to wear pants to give or get this gift.
2. You can say you're really into marathons and not be lying.
3. Sex scenes in the Tudors. Just saying.
4. No return lines with pissy retail employees -- even if you already have Netflix, you can just have more Netflix.
5. It's like a yoga retreat but no yoga and no real inspiration, just commitment to the practice of watching something you like. So not really like a yoga retreat at all, but kind of.

a Rafflecopter giveaway Enter to win before 10pm EST on 12/17!

Thanks to all who entered! Our winner is an Ashley H in MN and she has been contacted via email.