Thursday, February 26, 2009

One move (almost) down, one to go

Today we are moving my department to a new area of the building. We might have a bit less space overall, but everyone gets their own office, plus we have a decent sized common area and a kitchen area.

It will be nice to have my own office, but more importantly it will be nice not to sit directly in front of the window into the main door of our area. I always felt like everyone who walked by was watching me.

The construction guys are here moving our desks and mounting our overhead cabinets. When they first hung my cabinets though, they put them in the wrong place. Now they're moving them over to the right spot.

One down side to my new office, it only has one AC outlet. I've got a lot of stuff to plug in, so I'm going to end up using a power strip or two. Not a huge issue, but I hope the circuit can handle it.

We've also started packing at home now, Allison got about 4 boxes filled last night. I need to bring more boxes home from work. I'll probably pack a bit tonight, but I've got to go to the 'Healthy Living' class after work again, so I won't get until 6:30 or so. Still, we're hoping to close on the house March 11th or 12th, so that doesn't give us a lot of time. I'd like to move the weekend of the 14th, but we may not get to until the weekend of the 21st, depending on how things go. We'd like to paint a couple of rooms before we move in, and we're going to have to get a fridge somewhere.

For those who haven't already seen it, here's a picture of our new house, as shown in the listing:

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Reminder – Click on the ads when you visit

Just wanted to post a brief reminder that if you enjoy visiting my web page, I’d appreciate it if you take a moment to click the ads at the top or bottom of the page once in a while.  Or, use the search box at the top of the page whenever you need to do a google search.  Each of these pay me a few cents when you use them.  Also, if you’re going to do any shopping online, consider starting from this link: .  If you click that link to start your shopping, I get a small percent of anything you buy from Amazon, and it’s no additional cost to you.


I’m excited

I can’t wait to get into our new home.  I know it’s weeks away, but I’m really looking forward to it.  I’m trying to think of all the things we need to do right away, as soon as we take posession.  For example, I need to buy new locks for the house.  When HUD takes over a house, they remove the locks and put on a doorknob of their own.  Apparently they have all the doorknobs keyed the same, and hud certified realtors all have the keys.  I’m sure lots of other contractors and such do as well.  So day one, I need to change the doorknobs and add deadbolts. 

We also need to get curtains, blinds, or some other window coverings.  I want to pull up the corner of the living room carpet to see what’s under it.  A house built in 1948 might have some decent wood under the carpet.  We’re also thinking we want to paint and or put up wallpaper borders in a few rooms, so that’s something to do before moving in. 

I don’t know what else, off the top of my head, but I’m sure I’ll think of a few things.  I hope it’s a nice warm weekend when we take possession, both to make it nice for moving, and for getting my motorcycle out and riding it over to the new place.  After all, with 3 garage spaces and a big shed, I’ll have plenty of room for it! :)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A new milestone for my diabetes management

This afternoon I took a nap for an hour or so. When I woke up, I wasn't feeling well. I had trouble concentrating, and felt shaky. This isn't the first time I've felt like that, but the first time since I was diagnosed. I knew something wasn't right, so I checked my blood sugar and found it was down to 96. Now, that's not terribly low, but considering I'm used to having high levels, that is why even a little bit low was bothering me.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

We Got the House!

The HUD website finally updated about 2 hours late, and we got the confirmation that our bid was accepted.  Our realtor and banker are getting the wheels turning, and we hope to close on it by this time next month.

That means we’re tentatively planning to move over the weekend of March 21st and 22nd, so keep your calendars open and your truck beds clean!  :)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

What is a house worth?

Or more specifically, what is this one particular house that we want to buy worth?  Is it worth the asking price?  Or is it silly to offer full price straight away?  Does the old septic system and cracked garage floor lower the value?  Or are those issues already figured into the asking price?  Is the house worth more to me than someone else?  Or perhaps someone else is willing to pay a higher price than I am?

We want to put a bid in on this house.  The house is owned by HUD currently.  We can work through their rigid offer process, and we can live with some of the restrictions involved.  The really annoying part is the way they handle the bids.  Unlike dealing with a private seller, there’s no way to know how many bids have been submitted, and no way to know what bids were turned down, until it’s too late.  All bids are accepted until Sunday night, and on Monday morning, they’ll post the bids and announce who won.  There’s no second chance, no ‘highest and best offer’, just the winning bid. 

So, when you’ve only got one chance, but don’t want to overpay, what is a house worth?

It’s never simple, is it?

Allison and I are still house hunting.  Well, sort of.  We’ve found a house we like, but. . . wait, let’s go back a few days

Wavy Flashback Effect

Ready to start really seriously work at becoming home owners, we made appointments Saturday to meet with our bank’s mortgage rep and with our realtor.  After getting things settled at the bank, we spent the rest of the day riding around with the realtor looking at houses, and getting lost, and having fun.  We saw one house that might have had someone living in the attic.  (Or perhaps not living, who knows?)  Another house had some great features, but the ceramic tile covering every inch of wall and ceiling in the kitchen, hallway, and bathroom, made that a project we weren’t willing to take on.  I did love the transoms above all of the doors on the 2nd story, and the bar area in the basement was pretty cool. 

After looking at a couple of other houses that were nice, but not quite what we wanted, we went to see a house that Allison had found online a few days earlier.  Seeing this house was actually the main goal of meeting with the realtor that day, but I threw in a few others we were interested in just so we’d have a good comparison.  It’s funny, then, that we didn’t arrive at this house until after dark, and the power was not on. 

Now, Allison and I had been to the house once before, and seen the outside in the last light of day.  I had even gone back the following morning to get a better look.  So at this point, we knew what the outside was like.  As for the inside?  It was dark.  Very dark.  We took the realtor’s little pocket size flashlight and toured the house.  After a while, we realized the house really does look a lot like the pictures online, and seemed to be in pretty good condition.  The one major weird thing about the house that was hidden in the pictures (All houses for sale seem to have one) was something that we could live with.  In fact, we liked the house so much, we arranged for Dad to come up Sunday morning and look at it with us.

Sunday came, and Dad, Allison, the Realtor, and I, gave the house a more thorough look.  We found a few issues, some small cracks in the walls and ceilings, a big crack in the garage floor, and some dampness in the garage.  After giving it some thought and talking it over with Dad, we decided this was all stuff we could live with and fix at some point.  The one thing we really couldn’t tell anything about was the septic system.  Fortunately a simple septic inspection could ease our concerns there, right?

Today I called the county health department to ask about an inspection.  It turns out a septic system can’t really be inspected unless it’s being used.  Since this house has been empty for a year or so, all we need to do is turn the water on in the house and let it run for a couple of hours a day for 5-6 days, and dig up the septic tank in the back yard, and the county will be glad to come out and check it.  There’s just one small problem… the water is turned off.  The whole house was winterized by HUD.  If we turn the water back on, we can only have it on for a max of 2 days, and we have to pay to have it re-winterized.  So, that’s out.  The good news is that the county has records on when the system was installed and when it was last inspected.  Oh, wait, did I say good news?  It turns out the system is 27 years old, and the lady at the county says the average lifespan is about 25 years. 

Long story short (Too Late!), we have gathered enough information to decide we’re ok with the risk.  The city will be connecting this area to sewer in a year or two, and worst case we can make any minor repairs needed to limp the system along until then.  So, we’re going to put in an offer.  Now, what will that offer be?  See the next post.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

House Hunting

Allison and I are going to look at a house in Milan tonight.  I’ve asked Dad to come and look at it with us, but he’s not sure if he’ll be able to make it.  Either way, we’ll take lots of pics, to review later. 

The house is a repossessed home.  From what I saw when we drove by and peeked in the windows, all of the carpet has been ripped out, and the walls are dirty.  It has a big fenced in yard, and a 2 car garage.  It’s also quite reasonably priced.  We’ll have a better idea of whether it’s something we are interested in after we look at it tonight. 

I’ve Been Educated

This morning was my appointment with the diabetes educator and dietician at Genesis.  Much of what was covered I had already heard or read before, either from the Dr, or the Hy-Vee Dietician, or the website, or somewhere else.  Still, it was worth going, as repetition helps with absorbing the information, and it gave me a chance to ask questions or get more detail on some topics. 

There was also a bit of discussion about Allison’s health, since her glucose tolerance test results were high yesterday at the OB.  She’s supposed to go for a 3 hour version of the test soon, checking for gestational diabetes.  If she does come up with low tolerance, then it’s not a huge issue, but she’ll get to join me on the diabetic diet.

The educator did confirm that blurry vision is a symptom of high blood sugar, and even though mine is significantly lower than it was, that sharp change could be why I’m noticing it now. My sugar has still been about 200-300 depending on time of day, so I expect the Dr will increase my dose of Metformin when I go in on Friday.  That’s the day I get my stitches out and biopsy results from the dermatologist too. 

The dietician covered a lot of the same ground as the Hy-Vee dietician did the other night, but did recommend a slightly higher allowance for carbs per meal, and somewhat lower levels of fats and protien.  She also covered a lot of the ‘choices’, such as how to fit a donut or chocolate cake in without screwing up the diet.

Beyond that, I can’t think of what else we went over this morning, in part because I don’t have the paperwork in front of me, but also I think because so much of it was stuff that was already covered, it sort of blurs together as to when I heard it. 

Well, time for me to get back to my salad. 

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Things Aren't Quite Clear

I woke up this morning to find my vision is off a little. I put my glasses on, but still couldn't read the time on the clock just ~8 feet away. I could see it, but it was blurry enough I couldn't make out the numbers. As I've gone through the day, I've continued to have difficulty seeing things clearly. If I look at something and then really try to focus on it, I can, but I have to actually TRY to focus, otherwise it's blurry.

I called my Dr, and he said that's a semi-normal symptom of diabetes and high blood sugar. He suggested I schedule a diabetic eye exam, but that's normal for any diabetic I guess, otherwise he didn't seem to concerned.

Still, I've had bad vision all my life. The last thing I need is for it to get worse.

Amazon Offering 3 Free Games

Amazon has just launched a new part of their site, offering downloadable games for the casual gamer. (Like Pogo players) To show off the new site, they're offering Three Free Games. These games are only free for a limited time, so download them now before the prices go back to normal!

HP's New Home Servers Shipping

Some of you might know I have a Windows Home Server running at home. To anyone who has a multiple computer household, I can't recommend it enough. HP recently announced two new models of their Windows Home Server based machines. The HP EX485 MediaSmart Home Server sports a 750GB Hard Drive, up from 500 in the previous incarnation. The processor has also been upgraded, from an AMD to a a 2.0 GHz Intel Celeron 64-bit.

Overall, it looks like it's still the same machine. Tiny size, but huge features. If you don't already have a home server, seriously consider picking one of these up. Or, if 750GB isn't enough for you, choose the EX485's big brother, the EX487. At 1.5TB of storage with 2 bays available for upgrades, that should suit almost any home user's needs.

Monday, February 02, 2009

That’s What Family Is For (Part 2)

I woke up a little bit ago with a kink in my neck, and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I came out to read my morning email and news sites.  As I’m reading about the big ads from the Super Bowl last night, it hit me.  One year ago, on Super Bowl Sunday, I was the one who needed help.  My situation wasn’t quite as urgent as Michelle’s was yesterday, but I got heroic response from family, all the same. 

On that Sunday in 2008, Ryan had stayed the night at my Mom’s house.  We were going to drive down and pick him up later that afternoon.  In the mean time, Allison and I decided to take advantage of being without the kid and went to see a movie at the Putnam Museum’s Imax theater.  (Batman, if I recall correctly.)  We got there in the early afternoon, and after parking the car, we headed in to the museum.  It was about that time that Allison realized she had locked the keys in the car

After a bit of frantic searching pockets and checking the locks on the car doors, we confirmed we were in trouble.  I think we called a locksmith or two to ask for prices on unlocking the doors, but in the end, we decided to call Mom.  The line of thinking went something like this: “Hey Mom, instead of us driving down to get Ryan, could you bring him up here?  And while you’re in town, swing by the museum and pick us up so we can get the spare keys from home.”  Well, it sounded like a good idea at the time.  Allison and I went on into the museum to watch the movie, and 2+ hours passed.  We expected Mom would probably be waiting outside when we got out. 

Instead, we found inches of snow on the ground outside, and heavy snow still coming down.  I called to check on Mom, and found out that she wasn’t coming alone.  Before leaving, she had contacted my Grandparents, and they insisted on driving her down here because they were expecting an ice storm.  (Mind you, it was fairly nice out when I called Mom, and I hadn’t seen a weather forecast for the day.)  So, knowing that they would be driving into hazardous weather, my Grandma, Grandpa, and Mom piled into a minivan and came to the rescue.

It took them quite a while to get to the museum, due to the weather and also to Grandpa’s not being familiar with the Iowa side of the river and where the museum is.  When they did arrive, it was in almost zero visibility, and very hazardous road conditions.  The snow had fallen so quickly, plows couldn’t keep up.  Still, with Grandpa at the wheel, we slowly began the drive back across the river to my house.  At the house, Grandpa pulled into my (Inclined, Snow Covered) driveway, and had to really fight to get the van far enough into the drive to be out of the street.  In the process, he got off to the right side of the drive, and stuck in a snowy rut.  We got him out, and everyone came inside for pizza while we waited out the snow.  The Super Bowl was on TV, and Pizza Hut was delivering even in the bad weather. 

An hour or so later, the snow let up, and Grandma, Grandpa, and Mom piled back into the van to drive home.  They made it safely, and now this is a funny story.  A year ago though, it was a big reminder that when you are in a bind and really need help, “You Find Out Who Your Friends Are”.  (Or, in my case, “That’s What Family Is For.”


P.S. Allison and I waited until the next day to drive back to the putnam with the spare set of keys. 

Sunday, February 01, 2009

That’s What Family Is For

I am reminded tonight of a Tracy Lawrence song I hear on the radio now and again.  The song is called Find Out Who Your Friends Are.  It talks about how you when you are really in a moment of need, your true friends will drop everything to come and help you, no matter how big the task.  There’s a lot of truth in that song.  What it doesn’t say is that sometimes those friends are actually family.  In reality, that’s what family is for, isn’t it?

The reason this song came to mind is that my cousin Michelle had one of those moments today.  While driving down the interstate, she came to an area of congested traffic.  Due to one lane closed on the bridge, traffic leading up to the merge was stop and go for a couple of miles.  As she saw the back up and realized she would have to stop, she applied the brakes, only to find that they didn’t work.  She pushed on the pedal again and again, but the car didn’t stop, it didn’t even slow down.  With stopped traffic just a short distance ahead, my aunt took the wheel from the passenger seat and turned it enough to run the van into the cement wall dividing their lane from traffic going the other direction in the next lanes of interstate. 

I’m not sure exactly how things played out next, except that one incredibly rude person stopped to yell at them as they were sitting crashed on the side of the road, and one kinder, more reasonable person stopped to make sure they were OK.  Whoever the guy in the yellow mustang was, my aunt and cousin are grateful for your kindness in checking in on them.  To the lady in the white car, I only hope that if you ever find yourself in a similar situation, you’ll find someone kinder than yourself to help you out.

At some point, Louann (my aunt) called my cell phone.  Since they were 40 miles from home, they needed someone to come pick them up, and I live close by.  Luckily, I had set my phone on vibrate earlier today, since the ringer hasn’t been working for a week or so.  (I’ll probably end up having to do a master reset to wipe it out to get ringers working, but first I’ve got to back up my contacts etc…)  I was sitting at home, and hurried to pick them up as soon as I got the call.  When I arrived, there were 2 police cars behind their van, and a tow truck just arriving on the scene.  It took a little bit to get the van loaded up on to the tow truck, since it was turned into the side wall.  I ended up having to crawl in the passenger side and steer away from the wall as the tow truck driver pulled the van closer and onto the flatbed tow truck with the winch.  (He asked Michelle to, but she was too shaken up to get back into the van just then.  She’s since said repeatedly that she isn’t going to drive anymore.)

Fortunately, I know a good mechanic, and we were able to have her van towed to his shop.  ($70 to tow it across town, isn’t that a little steep?)  In the accident, the front drivers side tire was flattened, so the mechanic took the wheel off for us and we drove over to Sam’s Club to buy a new tire.  Once the new tire was mounted, we dropped it off back at the shop with her van, and I gave them a ride back home. 

In the end, nobody was hurt, and hopefully a flat tire and the brake repairs will be the worst of it.  Michelle and Louann have calmed down, and in a couple of days they’ll have the van back good as new.  I’m incredibly glad that they were able to reach me, and that I could help them out in a very stressful situation.  I know Michelle has been there for me plenty of times in the past, and would be there for me again if I needed her.  Tracy’s right, you do find out who your friends are in times like this, but sometimes the best friends are family.  When you need it the most, they’ll be there for you.  After all, That’s What Family is For.