Friday, November 16, 2007


Yesterday we officially paid off our first credit card. We had decided back in the summer, when I first took the new job, that we would wait on buying a house until we had paid down some of our debt. We had done some calculations and discovered that while we could afford a house, we couldn't afford a house AND make headway on debt. We could do one or the other, but not both at once. So, the somewhat responsible people we are, we waited and focused on the debt. Yesterday we mailed the final check to pay off the first card we focused on. It had a decent balance on it, and the interest rate was ludicrous. And now it's gone! Ryan photocopied the check before he mailed it, and we plan to make a "Wall of Shame-turned-Fame," showing our progress. We don't plan to have it all paid off by spring (which is our tentative timeline to buying a home), but we should have made a serious dent by then, which will in turn probably get us a better mortgage. We're also saving a lot each month, so we might have the beginnings of a real down payment.

I find it interesting that the last loan officer we spoke to about mortgages said he thought it was fairly silly to worry about down payments anymore....most folks don't have the traditional 20%, and it doesn't knock that much off your overall monthly payments from a bank perspective. However, when we were seriously looking at one house and even went as far as to get a pre-approval for it, our lack of down payment meant we had to get mortgage insurance. Mortgage insurance adds as much as $200 per month to your payment. To me, that's significant and thoroughly discouraging. And yes, it only lasts as long as it takes you to accrue that 20% equity, but that takes a long time if you're only paying the minimum--and let's really face the irony here. They're essentially making the people WHO CAN'T AFFORD THE DOWN PAYMENT pay more. Does that make sense to anyone? Or am I the only one who finds it a little strange and illogical?

Granted, I understand that the mortgage companies need the reassurance that, should you default on your loan, they won't be socked with hundreds of thousands of dollars of unpaid mortgage. I understand that concern. However, perhaps the real determining factor should be repayment histories--examining a potential customer's credit score and seeing how well they've managed their obligations. We take great pride in the fact that, even when things were at their very worst financially speaking, we somehow managed--on one income!--to squeak through with only one late payment on our records. Only one! And that was a 30-60 day payment, not a complete non-payment. Just mailed it a little late. I think that should count for more in the scheme of things, because it really was an accomplishment. But who asked me? No one, that's who. *laugh*

I'm still about a day behind in my NaNoWriMo word count, but it's still the best I've ever done, and really the most fiction I've ever managed to write. I can feel myself hitting the wall a little bit--since I didn't start out with a clear direction for the story, I'm fumbling with what to do next, and how things are going to resolve themselves.

Word count: 23536/50000

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Monday, November 12, 2007

NaNoWriMo, Memories, etc.

For those of you who are unaware, November is so much more of a month than the mark of radio stations playing premature Christmas music and the beginning of the mad holiday dash to see as many relatives possible in 30 days. It's also an institution to those of us who enjoy writing (and don't necessarily pride ourselves on being particularly good at it): National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. Anyone feeling gutsy can attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November--that's about 1,667 words on average per day for 30 days. It is supposed to be an original work, not something you started long ago (although you are allowed to do some pre-November planning, outlining and such, but no actual writing).

I have tried, and failed, to complete this challenge since 2004. The timing is never good, it seems; in the fall of 2004, I was applying for and deciding on graduate schools. In 2005, I was in graduate school; and worst of all, in 2006, I was finishing up my manuscript for said graduate school. Any way you sliced it, I just didn't have time to dedicate to fiction. This year, I wouldn't say I necessarily had more time than any other year previously; I just feel more up to it. And so far, I've kept up remarkably well. I'll be posting my word count on here as I blog, so you can keep up. And it's never too late to try! Sign up anytime you want. My friend Beth signed up mid-month in 2004, and has kicked my butt every year!

My grandmother is currently in the hospital, and probably got a pacemaker installed today (I'll get the whole scoop later tonight when I call home). She was having multiple falls at her assisted living home--4 falls in 8 days--and the only way they can account for them is that her heart rate sometimes drops inexplicably low. While installing a pacemaker is risky for anyone, especially someone her age, it makes sense to be as proactive as possible. If she keeps falling, she could eventually really hurt herself, or else become afraid to walk and take to a wheelchair before her time. Either way, we don't want to impair the quality of her life by not taking all the possible steps to ensure it.

This bit really doesn't have much to do with teaching, per se, but I did run into a former student today when I was at the Fulton St. location. I'd finished with my class and was out the door when I saw her in the hall. This young woman has a special place in my heart; she confided some very personal information to me last spring and I was so honored that she did (it also explained a lot about why she was struggling in my class when she so obviously shouldn't have been). I helped her as much as I could, and she showed me today that she has this little green token that is given out when one reaches 3 months of straight sobriety. I cheered aloud! She is such a precious person, so smart and so nice, that she deserves not to have to lose a battle to alcoholism so young. I have written a poem about her, although it's not finished yet; when it is, I'll put it up here. I'm just so proud of her for taking control of her life. And I'm glad I could be there for her at a difficult time of realization and taking steps to get help.

Nanowrimo word count: 17,047/50,000

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