Home Ownership Lesson #3

Be prepared for surprises.

The home buying process was interesting. I learned about all kinds of things including home inspections, knob and tube wiring, mortgages, interest rates, and my name.  That is right, my name.

Sister was born six and one half years before I came along. Since she was the first and probably the only child for the foreseeable future she was named after everyone. Everyone. She is named after both my grandmothers, my mother, a great great uncle, and her godparents. The third name is a name my mother made-up using the first three letters of the last names of the great great uncle and the godparents. It was the 70s and Mommy was being super cool and creative. Sister’s name covered a lot of people, which is why she has four names.

When I came along Mommy was convinced I would be a boy (Nannie said it, so it had to be true!) and I would have been Daddy’s namesake. Well, surprise! it was a girl. In an effort to name someone after Daddy, I got the initials of Daddy’s name. That accounted for two of my names. However, Mommy’s deep sense of fair-play required that I have four names, like Sister. She did not want me to feel short-changed or left out. So, I, too, got a fourth name. As the story goes Auntie O suggested it. So I have three names that are just mine – I don’t carry anyone’s name, just Daddy’s initials.

All my life I have written my name as one first name, two middle names, and one last name. All four names are on all my diplomas and other important documents. During my home buying experience I had to produce my birth certificate, amongst many other things (including a letter establishing that I lived in a family owned home). Mommy sent a copy. I opened and took a look at it and – surprise! – I have two FIRST names, one middle name, and one last name. No one told me . . . for 35 years, no one mentioned the correct combination of my names or showed me my birth certificate. Some surprises are good, some are bad, and others are weird. This was a weird one. Turns out, I am one of those Southern girls with a long two-name moniker (you know – Mary Helen, Sarah Beth, Anna May etc. etc.) and I did not even know it. Oh, the pretension that I missed out on.

There are couple folks back home who call me by my first two names, my Grandmommy did it on occasion. There are more than a handful that call me by my second name only, my Auntie O did it. Now all that makes sense. I guess they knew . . .

New house, new fence, and new name (sort of). Exciting times. I am embracing my new (legal) first name. It now adorns my office door, my driver’s license, car title, and mortgage. However, I am not requiring that people address me using both names (hey, it is only 3 syllables, people) . . . yet.

The girls who have four names.

Home Ownership Lesson #2

Fences are nice and they will cost you in more ways than one.

It is no secret that I am totally committed to my dog. The Queen and I have been together longer than any of the three primary relationships in my life (sorry guys). So, one of the big benefits of having a house and a slice of land is having a yard for The Queen.

Unfortunately, The Queen cannot be trusted off-leash. She minds well as long as there is not a squirrel, rabbit, mole, or groundhog involved or in the vicinity of the command. Because of her lack of impulse control around small furry creatures she can’t run free in the neighborhood (nevermind the leash law). Therefore, I had to buy a fence.

I called around – Home Depot, Menards, Lowe’s – and found the cheapest cedar picket fence at Lowe’s. They do free estimates and they install. Fine, works for me. Two days later a representative from the store (“Capt. Smooth” said in a sarcastic tone accompanied by an eye roll) contacts me and sets up an appointment to check out the property. On said day, Capt. Smooth calls an hour early to see if I can just “come on over” since he “came by to see a friend who lives in the neighborhood” and his buddy was not home. Um, no, I can’t leave work and additional hour early to accommodate your schedule, sir. I did however show up just after the appointed time to find that he had kindly waited in his car in my driveway – for over an hour. One walk-thru and measurement later and I had a price. Turns out approximately 215 linear feet of fence will cost you around $3,300. Ouch.

Not knowing of any other options, I called Capt. Smooth back to schedule the install. You can’t just schedule an install must another site visit with Capt. Smooth and the installer. Fine. I met Capt. Smooth and the installer at my new abode. The installer is a lovely guy who runs his company along with his son. He seemed genuinely interested in doing a good job and meeting my expectations. Unfortunately, he was not doing the pricing. At the end of this walk-thru and re-measurement the installer left and Capt. Smooth stayed behind to have me sign the contract. I am a lawyer, I get that, let’s read, sign, and get it over with.

No such luck. Capt. Smooth spent the next thirty minutes filling in five blanks on a form in between asking me where I “go out” in FW, making it clear that he drinks martinis, and telling me the long and sordid story of his baby-mama’s drug problems and incarceration (if this was a pick up line it is the worst I’ve heard). Lovely, this guy now knows where I live. All this for a fence.

So, Forty-five minutes later the contract was signed and I was able to escape unscathed from Capt. Smooth. So far, I have not had to encounter him again. I am thankful for the little things.

I did, however, go back to meet the installers when they marked the posts and they were great and fast. The fence was up in less than five days from the time of the installers first visit. I was bragging about my new fence at work. My audience was two fellows who work for a construction company. When I told them where I got my fence they literally bent over and laughed out loud. Not helpful. In construction circles having Lowe’s put in your fence is better than Home Depot but is still dumb. They always know someone who can do something. So, next time I need anything installed or worked on I am calling these two guys (this will be sufficient pay back for laughing at me)!

After recovering from the smack in the face brought on by my contractor-buddies’ laughter, I went and checked out my fence first hand. I love it. It’s fabulous. This was a little salve on my fence wounds.

The final step in the fencing process was to introduce The Queen to her new kingdom. I did and, well, she was mostly unimpressed. She walked around a bit, smelled, ate some grass, did her business, and promptly asked to go back inside. Sigh. She has never had a fenced in yard before, so I am going to chalk this up to inexperience. I am sure she will grow to love it as much as I do. And thank God I do. I am also thankful that my fence is pretty.

Home Ownership Lesson #1

A house requires tools.

I bought the house on Monday. By Friday I had spent more than half of my down payment even though there were no major or minor defects and nothing was broken. These expenditures were just to prepare for The Queen and I to move in. We may be a little high maintenance (mostly her). So I will be posting a series on all the things I am learning (the lessons are coming daily at this point) about owning a home.

I was so excited to go to Lowe’s and buy my new door hardware. I bought some good-looking round knobs for the front door. I dislike those long straight handles – too much to go wrong, jiggle, or break.

I got into the car with my purchase and was on the verge of reporting my first home purchase to my Daddy when I realized that . . . I have no tools. That is right, my toolbox included one hammer, one tape measure, and one vice grip. I live in an apartment – I have people for that stuff.

So, next stop, Sears. Ruby Falls, an experienced handy-lady at home, advised me on a solid list of tools I should have and I trucked myself to Sears. Screw drivers, pliers, wrenches, nails, and a box cutter now join my hammer, tape measure, and vise grip. I’m set. For now. Except, I soon learned that you can’t buy just ANY old door knobs. You must buy the “high-end” knobs. I bought off-brand door knobs. According to the Father of Six, this is bad. Generic doorknobs break. So, I went right back to Lowe’s and exchanged (did you know that Lowe’s will take things back without a receipt – I was amazed) my generic knobs for a Schlage knob and deadbolt. I am told that you get what you pay for . . . I hope that is true.

Four-way screwdriver in hand, I attacked the front door and successfully installed new door hardware. Just like a real big-girl homeowner. Tools and all.