Are you sure you want my opinion, MBTA?

So says that the T wants input from the public about the proposed fare increases. Seeing as I’m a daily user of the T, I decided to add my two cents:

I ride the T every day. Up until this summer, my experience involved taking the Red Line two stops to work or into the city, as well as the occasional bus through Somerville. Now. I live in Everett, and I would like to continue living car free (even though I finally have off-street parking). It takes two buses to get to work. My house is five miles from my job, but now it takes me anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half to get to and from work, and that’s mostly due to traffic and because the routes are poorly timed. In the mornings, I wait in Everett Square where the two buses I take to Sullivan (104/109) arrive at the stop within minutes of each other almost every day. At Sullivan, where I catch a bus to either Harvard or Central Squares (I work between the two), sometimes the next 91 or 86 is more than 30 minutes away even during rush hour. Coming home takes me up to an hour and a half. I’ve gotten to the station to find a massive crowd that’s been waiting upwards of 20 minutes. When the 104 or 109 arrives, I’ve seen drivers leave people behind (luckily, rather than having the two schedules spaced out more equally, the routes are timed so closely that the other bus will be along in a minute or two, and a new group can wait 20+ minutes).

I do not support a 10% fare increase because I think it will drive more people to take their cars (if they have them), making my daily commute even longer as traffic worsens. Please try to find some way to raise fares only 5% (it’s more in line with the average cost of living raise most of your riders got from their jobs, if they were lucky).

How can you make more money? Fire the employees who are not performing well, staff your stations efficiently (I tried to return a phone someone left on the Orange Line train the other day and couldn’t find an employee to give it to), and demand that upper management take a pay cut. Crack down on fare jumpers, fix your broken pass readers (can’t tell you how many times the driver has waved me by because he/she’s either running behind schedule or the machine’s broken), cover the stations and buses in advertising if you have to, and look into making your bus schedule more efficient (don’t even get me started on your useless Sunday schedule ). I’m an involved rider and I care about the future of the MBTA; I want you guys to succeed. To that end, I have contributed to the Everett Transit Planning Study and am monitoring the Silver Line extension to Chelsea, and until it made Davis Square and Medford unaffordable, I was 100% behind the Green Line Extension (I really still am, but that price tag…ouch). I in turn will do my part, continuing to vote for representatives who will work with the T instead of trying to dismantle it.

I complain, but the truth is, I’m lucky. I can afford a 10% fare hike if I have to, because I make okay money and was able to buy a home and live a lifestyle that is within my means, but I am surrounded by neighbors who will struggle to handle such a large increase. Please consider your customers and remember the value of public transportation. You are the reason traffic here isn’t a millions times worse. We are lucky to have you, and we need to support you. But you gotta meet us halfway.

I then got to the next page, where they asked if I would continue to buy my monthly T pass if the price went up 10-12%, to which I replied:

You know, when you ask: “If prices go up 10%, will you keep riding the T,” it says to me that you know how many of us are trapped.

I made a conscious decision when I moved to Boston not to own a car here. Believe me, I miss the freedom of my own vehicle (and Uber/Zipcar don’t always make up for this sacrifice), but when I arrived more than 10 years ago, I succumbed whole-heartedly to the MBTA. I collected your colorful passes (which were less than $60 at the time) that I would wave at the Green Line conductor to show him I had the current one, and I still have a token or two that I kept as mementos. However, in the last few months of living away from the Red Line I’ve seen my use of Uber go up significantly because you do not serve my new community especially well.

When I get out of a show or leave a friend’s house, the prospect of waiting 90 minutes before I walk through my front door is way less appealing than a $12 car ride with an entertaining stranger. That’s okay with me for the most part; sacrificing a short walk to the subway is the price I pay for the luxury of finally owning a home in a neighborhood where I can afford it. But damn it, again I am confronted by the reality that while I can casually pull up an app and have someone drive me home in a matter of minutes you serve a community that suffers every time they have to stand and wait 30+minutes for the next bus, in the rain, in the snow, surrounded by all the other riders who are just as tired, cranky and impatient to be home.

I can manage that 10-12% increase in a monthly pass because it’s still nice to be able to sit back with my book and headphones and let somebody else take me to work or into the city. I will continue to use the T enough on weekdays alone that a monthly pass is still the most economical choice for me (hello four buses/day to get to/from work). However, your crappy Sunday bus schedule and the fact that Zipcar really hasn’t placed nearly enough cars around me as I used to have access to in Davis Square (despite the fact that we learned Everett has a very high percentage of people who don’t own cars) has made me more open to the idea of buying a used car to drive on the weekends.

And why not? I now have a parking spot, gas is cheap (for now), and because you’ve allowed me to see so many places via bus, subway, or commuter rail, I might as well have a car so I can join the Trustees of Reservations and spend more time in nature where you can’t easily take me.

Despite my complaints, I am proud to use the T. It has made me a more fit person, because I walk a minimum of 2 miles per day to get to said buses, and I’ve been able to read way more books during my commute because it takes longer to get places. I love the T. You guys made this city way more accessible to me and allowed me to save money by not paying for gas, parking or insurance since 2004. When I was struggling to get my first job out of school, this was a lifesaver during those first few months I couldn’t find work and was living off my savings.

I’m your loyal customer and I will continue to be one no matter how bad you get, but the more you raise fares, the more you cut service, the less I can defend you when the politicians come for your heads, looking to fire your staff and cancel your projects. Be reasonable. Compromise. Ask for a bit less from your riders, and make a few more of your own sacrifices. The only way you can get better is if we support you, so the T can grow, serve more people, and provide better and more efficient cars, trains, and stations.

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A Punch in the Chest

Here’s a bit of honesty. I’m a perfectionist, riddled with anxiety.

I was one of those students who stressed over Bs on her report card, who wrote reports for fun, and who put in extra hours studying alone so she could get ahead of her teacher, even in the advanced placement classes. Yeah, that was me in high school. I was obnoxious.


My drive to be the best has served me well through school and in my career. Employers like people who are driven, who take initiative, who are organized. We get shit done, and we do it well.

However, being driven is also a double-edged sword. I sometimes take on more than I can handle, which leaves me feeling overworked and under-appreciated, and I’ve never been good at giving up control of tasks to others. Sometimes I fear they will mess everything up and I’ll have to spend hours fixing their work. Other times, I worry that the bosses will pass me by and give someone else the next interesting project.

That’s the real fear. Invisibility.

I’ve always been afraid of being passed by. Because I always thought I was. As a socially awkward and nerdy overachiever, I didn’t have many friends and was a target for a handful of bullies. To avoid torment I kept mostly to myself. I hid in the library during lunch or walked the halls with the one girl who liked me and didn’t give a fuck about what the kids in our school thought. By my junior year, I’d stopped trying to fit in and built up a hard exterior, dressing all in black and dying my hair. The goal was to look unapproachable so people gave me space. Don’t get me wrong, I still wanted the one thing everybody wants, for people to understand and like me for who I really am. But because I was afraid of being laughed at, humiliated, or let down, I made myself believe that I was better off feigning disinterest and asserting my independence.

Although I got closer to finding myself and made a few close friends in college, that insecurity traveled with me through my twenties. Now that I’m almost 35, I’m mature enough to know where it comes from, but I’m still subject to the cruel whims of depression combined with anxiety. Despite the fact that I’m generally respected for being a hard worker and good at my job, I become that hurt 16 year old girl every time I feel bypassed by my bosses or have trouble fitting in with my coworkers. It’s hard to climb back out of that pit when I let it drag me in, and this year I’ve stumbled a lot more.

Today it hit me like a punch in the chest. My breath stopped as I read and reread a line in an email from my boss, “New Associates have been named.” That was it.

Fuck. There goes my Christmas.

Because I want that title. I feel it pulling at me, the need to have confirmation from my company that I am wanted, that I’m doing a good job, and that they want me to invest myself in the future of this company.

My boss didn’t say who the new Associates are, and it’s not my place to ask. Actually, it is, since I manage their marketing and will be in charge of new bios and an official announcement, but since they didn’t volunteer the info I’m afraid to ask. Because I’m afraid of the answer.

Do I deserve this title? Yes, I think so. I almost single-handedly run the marketing department, from proposals and award submissions, to press, social media, and the firm’s website. My work speaks for itself. We’ve won several new projects, I’ve managed a couple major promotional efforts, and now I’m taking on the press and PR. On the other hand, I’ve been a bit frustrated, lazy, and uninspired this year. Although I came up with some new ways to promote the firm, I lacked confidence and was afraid to introduce and execute them. I also didn’t keep myself particularly busy with useful work tasks during my downtime, and I let myself get sucked into office politics way too often.

This back and forth is going to plague me all weekend. I’m now going to run every incident from the past year through my mind and analyze it over and over until my husband has to force me to watch reruns of Bones to distract myself.

The worst part is that I could actually have gotten this promotion I so desperately want, and I’m going to worry myself sick for nothing. They didn’t say I wasn’t on the list, and it is a corporation that has a process for the way they do things so it’s not surprising they don’t want to tell me until they talk to everybody.

I’ve been trying to describe to my husband the way I’ve been feeling lately, both at home and at work. The best way I can describe it is…tethered. Like a kid at the end of his leash, struggling to grab something that cannot be reached.

I love my job. They do interesting work, they treat me well, and I have the flexibility I need to work on my own schedule and stay home when I just can’t get out my front door in the morning. That happened today, and it was triggered by something said the day before, a comment at a meeting that made me feel like yet again they don’t see me and what I do.

That thought dogged me the rest of the afternoon and I left the office early in a foul mood. At home, I got back on my laptop and plugged away at my work while the insecurity continued to scratch away. With a clearer head and a little distance from the situation, I was able to see that I’d overreacted and that it made sense for a different coworker to participate in this effort. Now I was worried about my reaction to the comment and how everyone must now think there’s something wrong with me, which is why I’ll never be promoted. Because I’m not ready for the public eye.

Depression has a funny way of making you think you are the center of the universe. That people talk about you after you have left the room. While this is a troubling thought when it’s concern that your friends don’t like you or want you around, being consumed by the assumption that everyone else is picking apart every thing you say and do long after the moment has passed gives far to much credit to others, especially coworkers and acquaintances. Admittedly, a thought may flicker through my mind about someone’s rude comment or a strange thing they did earlier in the day, but I don’t trouble myself unless it affects me. I assume that goes the same for most people.

So now here I am. I stayed home this morning because after I got out of the shower I couldn’t handle the thought of the hour-long bus ride and facing the happy people in the office about to head off on their Christmas breaks. Everything I really needed to do today can be done at home, and I work far more efficiently on my couch than I do in my workstation surrounded by chatting coworkers.

I really do like the people I work with, especially those who sit around me, but the holidays always get me down, as does the stress that comes at the end of the year when the board meets to decide on bonuses, raises, and promotions. By December I’m emotionally drained, having fretted over job stuff, money, family, and the future. I knew I wasn’t going to get anything useful done today in the office, and because I’m feeling off, I’m more likely to make an off-the-cuff statement that will embarrass and nag at me for the rest of the day, if not the entire holiday break.

This email from my boss has sent me into a difficult tailspin. I have five days to get through, not knowing if I made the cut this year to become one of the new Associates. This holiday break is vital for me, to refresh my batteries, get my head on straight, and prepare for a new year. I’m not sure how I’m going to get through five days of not knowing, but since I’ve gotten through every holiday in the past I know I’ll survive this one.

The bigger question will be what will I do when I get my answer.

Posted in Living with Depression | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

So Now I Live in Everett

I was in love with Somerville and heartbroken when we moved. It was for the best. We wanted a home, and there was no way my husband and I could afford a single-bedroom condo, let alone an entire house, in Somerville. Still, it was hard adjusting to our new neighborhood at first.

Instead of a short walk down the bike path to the red line, I now take a bus to Sullivan, where another bus brings me to work or I can hop on the orange line into the city. It takes me roughly an hour to get to my office during rush hour, and on Sundays the MBTA bus service is so limited we rarely venture outside of our neighborhood.

However, our new city has its charms. Our neighborhood library is beautiful, and Everett Square has a couple good restaurants. None have a decent beer selection, which is ironic given that the Craft Brewers Guild is located in Everett, but we’ve at least found one liquor store nearby that will accommodate our requests for craft beer and Drizly just expanded to our area. Everything is cheaper, and, although at times the language barrier has caused a few slip-ups, we’ve found delicious pastries, fantastic burritos, and a bizarre but wonderful milkshake place within walking distance.

On Sundays, when we don’t want to wait upwards of a hour for a bus, we’ll go for a walk and explore the area. There’s the Mystic River near Wellington Station and the Northern Strand Community Trail, a 10-mile bike path also known as Bike to the Sea that aims to connect Everett, Malden, Revere, Lynn and Saugus. With a few amenities, including better access and some lighting along the route, this trail could become a fantastic resource for the community.

The first time we’d ever been to Everett was a visit to Bed Bath & Beyond in 2011 to buy something from a friend’s wedding gift registry. I remember being extremely excited about seeing the sign for Teddie’s Peanut Butter across the way. Little did I know that four years later I’d be living in Everett and hanging out across the street from the factory almost weekly at Night Shift Brewing, our favorite bar in Everett.

When we closed on our house in early June and were finally able to begin working on improvements, we walked to Night Shift to celebrate after a long day of cleaning and ripping up carpets. Unfortunately, the plan was cancelled when we realized Night Shift was hosting Bitfest that weekend, and a line snaking around the building told us were not getting a beer anytime soon. However, our route took us down Kelvin Street where we spotted a sign for the new Short Path Distillery, which was opening at the end of the month. A brief look inside told us that this too would become one of our favorite places in the city. We attended their Grand Opening on June 27th, the weekend we officially moved to Everett, and we fell in love with the gin.


Night Shift Brewing - Everett

Quick shout out: Night Shift truly has become our home away from home. They have almost daily food trucks, amazing beers, and a gorgeous taproom. They are also great neighbors, who took in Idle Hands when they were displaced by the Wynn development a few months ago and forced to relocate to Malden (due to finding a workable space in Malden not because they were driven out of Everett). Once the permits are signed, Night Shift will soon have another new neighbor, Bone Up Brewing, which sits adjacent to the newly opened Boston Bitfest Bit Lab. I am thrilled!

In mid-September, Wynn Everett sponsored the Everett Village Fest, which was hosted by Night Shift Brewery and Short Path Distillery. There was live music (they brought The Wailers!), food trucks, and representatives from Wynn showing off renderings of the planned casino and handing out swag to the residents.

Because my mother was a gambling addict, I’ve never been a supporter of casinos in general, but since I now own property here I guess I’m more invested. On the plus side, in order to build they have to clean up the contaminated site of a former chemical plant that has cut off access to the river in that area for decades, and if this shiny new casino brings independent businesses to the city and improves our transportation (Wynn has promised to invest in Sullivan station and the orange line) I can get on board.

While we were at Village Fest, my husband and I signed on to the mailing lists for the Mystic River Watershed Association and the Everett Transit Action Plan, both of whom are working with Wynn. We’re hoping to get more involved in our new city and help guide its trajectory. I want to see Everett grow and prosper as a community, one that supports local businesses, promotes art and culture, and prepares for the future with sustainable approaches to the environment and transportation. It doesn’t need to be like Somerville with its whimsical Pity Party and What the Fluff Festival, but with the right focus and a few dedicated citizens Everett can stand on its own as a place where people want to live and work…affordably.

Posted in Exploring the City, First House, Public Transportation, Shop Local | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tall Ships Boston

When you have depression, sometimes it’s an uphill battle to get yourself out of the house. I’ve lived with depression my entire life, so I know how hard it can be to follow through on plans. You hear about an event and add it to your calendar. You know there’s going to be a lot of people, and maybe not much payoff, but you’re still looking forward to it because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

But then the day comes, and it all just feels too daunting. A voice in the back of your mind tells you to stay. You don’t want to be in a crowd right now. It’s going to be hot. You’re not going to enjoy it. Don’t waste your time. Stay on the couch in your nice cool apartment. Watch some TV. Play on the internet. 

Because I’ve lived with depression so long, I also know that the easiest way for me to spiral right back into a deep depression is to let myself back out on too many opportunities. On those days when I’m at my lowest and no amount of encouragement is going to get me outside, I look at old photos on my computer to remind myself that my depression doesn’t always win. But it’s those days when I create new memories that I really give myself a fighting chance.


In July 2015, the Tall Ships came to Boston. One of the ships, L’Hermione, was an accurate recreation of the French ship that brought the Marquis de Lafayette to Boston in 1780. I can’t say I know much about Lafayette. We studied him in school, but only briefly, and history was never my favorite subject. It wasn’t until we moved to Boston that I found an interest in history, and I love visiting historic places and seeing recreations of famous events. I also love ships, especially the big ones that sail across the ocean. As someone who grew up in the Midwest, I didn’t spend much time on the water except when my brother brought me fishing or my uncle took us out on his pontoon.

Fighting the urge to stay inside our nice cool air-conditioned house, on only our second weekend in the new place, we caught a bus and then the Orange Line into the city to see L’Hermione. Turns out, a lot of people wanted to get on that ship. The line stretched from Rowes Wharf to the Northern Avenue Bridge. We got in line, trying to keep ourselves distracted from the heat and cherishing any moments in the shade as we waited for the opportunity to board the ship. A couple volunteers began to stop people who joined the line after us, warning them that the last entry would be at four and there was a good chance they’d end up waiting line for nothing. I started to worry, but figured it would be fine since they hadn’t said anything to us.


This is the sight that greeted us in Boston. We had no idea what we were about to enter. 

At two o’clock, just as we’d gotten within sight of the ship and were about to stand under an awning for a blissful while, we heard angry murmurs up ahead. They shut down entry to the ship early to prepare for a members-only event that evening. People in front of us began to crowd the ropes, furious that they’d had to stand in the hot sun for roughly two hours, only to be turned away without warning. Some tried to bargain, unsuccessfully using their French ancestry to gain access, while others threatened to just push through the barriers.

Portuguese Tall Ship Sagres

Portuguese Tall Ship Sagres

We too were furious, but what could we do? It was surreal and slightly comical to see so many history buffs ready to charge through the ropes to occupy a ship. Defeated, my husband and I walked toward the ICA, where the Portuguese tall ship Sagres was docked. Luckily, Sagres did not draw the same kind of crowd, having visited Boston only a few years earlier. There we got our taste of the sea, exploring the deck and marveling at the life a crew would lead aboard. We went home happy after a brief stop at Mystic Brewery in Charlestown.

Mystic Brewery

Mystic Brewery

L’Hermione was going to be docked in Boston one more day, before sailing off Monday morning. We still had a chance to see it, if we wanted to, on Sunday. It meant we’d face the same crowd, possibly worse, and similar temperatures. My husband was over the whole endeavor, but I wasn’t. I’m not sure why I was so interested in this ship, but damn it, I was going to see it. I set my alarm for 7am, told my husband he could stay home if he wanted to, and hoped my anger would get me through the morning.


Again, the line was massive

We got back to Boston the next morning before 8am and the line was already ridiculously long. I was frustrated that so many people were here this early but also impressed at how popular this ship was. By 9am, we made it onto the deck of L’Hermione. It was cramped and beautiful and stank of tar from the ropes. It was both worth the trip and not. I’d successfully defeated the voice in my head that always tells me to quit, but I’d also waited in line for three and a half hours so I could spend approximately 20 minutes on a ship, an accurate re-creation of a significant vessel in U.S. and French history, but a ship nonetheless.

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Was it over once we defeated L’Hermione? Nope. Not until I’d also dragged my husband down to the cruise ship terminal to see the Queen Mary 2, which was in town to celebrate the 175th anniversary of Cunard’s first transatlantic voyage by the Britannia in 1840.

Queen Mary 2

After getting as close as we could to the ship, we celebrated our adventure with a couple pints at Harpoon Brewery’s fancy new taphouse. 

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Posted in Culture, Exploring the City, Local History | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Guess who’s a homeowner

I went silent for a while, which happens a lot with me. In my defense, I did buy my first house!


It’s what I would draw as a kid when told to draw a house.

To fill you in on what’s happened in last few months, the purchase and sale went through without a hitch. The only snafu was when we informed our landlords that we’d be breaking our lease two months early. Our landlord told us we couldn’t sublet the apartment, but he’d let us break our lease if we paid July’s rent–we were moving out at the end of June–to help him out with the trust.

This provided us with an opportunity to flex our negotiating skills and use the dirtiest argument to save ourselves that final rent check. My husband wrote a letter, pointing out that our apartment was prime real estate, in a location walking distance from Davis Square, that we’d been paying an unusually low price for the area (with a quick Google search we discovered that $1,500 gets you a studio, not a two-bedroom apartment with a yard), and that with the apartment empty they had two months to make improvements and could put it on the market in September at a much higher price. They took the bait, and we were free of our lease with no penalty. We later learned that our old apartment was put back on the market for $1,950/month. I feel guilty for contributing to the rising costs in Somerville, but at least we saved ourselves some money that would be needed for our new home.

The house is wonderful. We’ve been living here for five months, and we love it. It took a while to feel settled in, and we aren’t fully unpacked (hello boxes of books I don’t want to deal with), but we had our first housewarming party in October and hosted Thanksgiving for the first time this year. This is significant because in the old apartment we could host, at most, four people inside, and I had to sit on a floor pillow.

Out With the Old
After closing on the house in June, my husband and I went to work cleaning and renovating. We had one month to get the house ready for us to move in. He worked upstairs, ripping out all the carpeting and prepping the floors to be refinished, while I scrubbed every inch of the first floor.


My badass husband about to rip up 40-year-old carpeting.

One of the benefits of working with architects is that I have access to free advice. We were able to convince one of the principals from my firm to stop by and look at the second floor, where we’d uncovered the original wood in the hallway and subflooring in the bedrooms. He recommended we hire professionals to restore the original wood floor where possible and add laminate to the rooms where it couldn’t be saved. Our next door neighbor, conveniently the contractor who built the stunning kitchen that sold us on the house, recommended flooring guys who said they could redo the entire second floor in a couple days.



Choosing a laminate was our first big decision for the house. We wanted a rustic look to complement the original wood, which would be saved in the hallways and the former “bathroom.” Side note: another fun project my husband took on was uninstalling the toilet and sink that had been added to create an informal bathroom for the previous owner. I’ll never forget my surprise the first time I saw that room, with its brown paisley wallpaper, blue carpeting, sewing tables, sink, and a toilet with a pump.

2nd Floor Bathroom

Because who doesn’t want a carpeted bathroom trapped in the 70s.

The guys were fast, efficient, and clean. When they were done, our floors looked amazing and there was no dust. The restored wood in the hallway and “bathroom” is stunning, and the new laminate floors in the bedroom look great. Revealing the hardwood transformed the second floor.

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Haunted by a baby, or a possessed doll that was trapped underneath… Spooooooky

Spooky Finds
Our first night in the new house, we slept on a mattress on the fancy new hardwood floor in our bedroom. We lay in bed, listening to the creaks and moans and looking through the skylight at the evening–I’d love to say we saw the moon or the stars, but I live in a city and there’s too much light pollution–and waited to see if the house was haunted.

It was not, but I watch a lot of horror movies so I still expect a ghost to rush me when I enter my room at night or push me down the stairs in a fit of rage because I’m changing their home. When we were first exploring the house, we did find an old crib in our attic that can’t be removed, and a MassSave inspector got a bloody nose when he put his head through the hatch to look at our attic and spooky death crib.

Joy of Painting 
We couldn’t live with the wood paneling in our bedroom so on the second day, we covered the mattress with plastic and began painting. I haven’t painted a room since I took a can of white to my childhood bedroom in my parents’ house. Either I didn’t follow the proper procedures because I was a teenager who was just covering up the pee yellow walls or I’ve forgotten the steps, but I didn’t realize how much work went into painting a room. The plastic, the brushes and rollers, scrubbing and taping the walls, this all felt new to me. Luckily, my husband handled all the sanding and taping so I only had to participate in painting over the sad brown paneling that covered our entire bedroom.

It took longer than expected to finish the room–about a week with the prep, a coat of primer, two coats of paint, taping for the trim, and doing the same all over again–and during that time we slept on an air mattress in our dining room. This was how we learned to fear and hate the chandelier. With no table to block our path through the center of the room, we’d both taken a few hits, knocking jewels off nearly every time. Eventually we stopped putting the jewels back, and I used a clip to raise the chandelier. It didn’t really help, but eventually we did what had to be done and removed every single jewel from the bottom.

Dining Room Light

Fuck you, chandelier

I have to say, I’m thrilled with our renovated bedroom. Painting over the wood paneling and putting in hardwood floors has made all the difference. Once our bedroom was set up, we tackled the living room and the dining room. That work went much faster, partly because we’d gotten more efficient at painting a room together and also because painting on a clean, already-painted surface is much easier than covering up paneling.


It looks cozy now, but in person those walls are disturbing

Settling In
Other than unpacking and hanging a bit of art, we haven’t done much with the house. Someday we’ll paint the hallways, the spare bedroom, and figure out what to do with the former “bathroom” on the second floor. When my husband ripped off the brown paisley wallpaper, he revealed more patterns as well as holes in the plaster. For now, the room is going to serve as our reading room/office and will keep its creepy walls. As a bonus, anybody who stays at our place will also get to experience wall to wall wood paneling in the spare bedroom, and we’ve left out the old funeral cards from 1981 that we found in the heater.


What’s Next?

They say that homeowners are never done working on their house, and that appears to be the case. We have dozens of projects to take on, but I also have limits to how much of my former lifestyle I can give up and how much I’m willing to spend up front on the house (we want to insulate it before winter, so that’s the only project on the horizon). Going forward, my future posts will likely be sporadic and could be about anything, my new life as a homeowner, the places I visit and the things that inspire me, or my thoughts on politics (good grief, I hope not).

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Because buying a house is such a big expense, our savings took a hit and we didn’t do much traveling this summer. That’s not to say we did nothing but work on the house (we explored a botanical garden, watched sculptures walk on Crane Beach, visited a ton of breweries, and saw the remains of a former Kirkbride building). In fact, this October I traveled by myself to Philadelphia for the Death Salon at the Mutter Museum where I met several of my idols. Expect a post soon about that. It was one of the most important experiences of my life.

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Waiting is the hardest part

The next few weeks after the inspection is complete and the Purchase and Sale is signed are tedious. First you apply for a mortgage, then insurance, and finally you wait…for a long time. Time that feels endless. Time you wish could be spent doing something constructive. Tearing up floors, cleaning, and painting. Or at the very least, planning the new space.

We were directed to a lender by our real estate agent, who told us he was the best. I, becoming the ever picky buyer, was not impressed by his email demeanor. For one thing, his organizational skills left something to be desired. When we first reached out to him about increasing our pre-approval limit he somehow misplaced the email containing our bank statements and pay stubs, forcing us to resend our materials. Then, after we forwarded him the signed P&S, he sent us quotes showing the wrong down payment.

Given that this was the biggest purchase either of us has ever made, and I was not feeling particularly confident in our lender, I asked if we could meet in person to discuss our options. After reading a long list of articles about mortgages in preparation for our meeting, I was feeling rather puckish the day we walked into the bank.  I figured with our credit history we could probably negotiate some of the closing costs. Unfortunately, he shot me down immediately and said their prices were as low as we would find and that he could offer no wiggle room. My response was to basically pout during the rest of the meeting while he pointed out why each and every fee listed in his breakdown was required when buying a house in this state.

That night, my husband diligently sought out offers from other lenders (and unsurprisingly, what the first lender said turned out to be true, his bank was the cheapest), but we were pleasantly surprised the next day when our lender, the same one who told us the day before that we were getting their best offer and had 24 hours to lock down interest rates, emailed to say he could drop the origination fee completely. Turns out, my stubbornness and ability to give stink eye for an hour saved us almost a grand!

Next, we had to apply for homeowner’s insurance. We reached out to three different agents recommended by the lender. The first was shot down immediately for being too aggressive and asking for details from our inspection we weren’t comfortable sharing while the other two sent in offers so different from one another that we had to spend a few hours reading about deductibles and replacement costs to make our final selection.

As the deadline for our mortgage approval closed in, we sat diligently by, waiting to send in our updated bank statements and pay stubs, careful not to spend any unnecessary money, hoping that all would go smoothly and we’d be able to close on time. We’ve been back to the house a couple times since our first visit, for the inspection and to do some measuring, and each time we’ve fallen more in love with the place.

Now that our mortgage has been approved, all that remains is to wait. We don’t close on the house for another two weeks. That’s two whole weeks where we are trapped in our current apartment, unable to make future plans for the house or spend money. Two weeks before we throw down the last big payment and they hand us the keys. Then we need to renovate, ripping up carpets and painting the walls. It will still be another month and a half before we will be ready to move completely into the house. Because it is my natural state, I of course am spending that time the only way I know how, worrying and stressing.

As excited as I am about owning our own home and about the house itself, I’m still ambivalent about moving out of Somerville. I’m excited, scared, frustrated, and sad. I want to be in our house right now and at the same time I want the sale to fall through and force us to sign the lease on our apartment for another year. I listen to our upstairs and downstairs neighbors, the traffic from the street below, and I think, yep, time to go! Then I hear the distant beat of a drum as a marching band walks down the bike path or listen to the cluck of somebody’s chicken on a quiet Sunday morning and think I’m not ready to leave this place.

Why would I want to give up late night walks to JP Licks or last minute tickets to a show at the Somerville Theatre? Is it worth it to have a porch, to be able to paint or redecorate whenever we want, to have no upstairs or downstairs neighbors, no barking below or arguing above, no strange laundry left behind in the washing machine, no grumbling about how tall the grass is or how nobody takes out the trash or shovels in the winter. I know the answer. I do. I’m still sad. Somerville has been my home for 9 years. It will be hard to leave it behind (though, as my husband points out, it is still just a bus ride away).

Yesterday I started going through one of our closets to prepare for the move, but I got weepy every time I thought about leaving. Today, I sat in one of our favorite neighborhood restaurants, annoyed because I’ve eaten the same three dishes here the last six times we’ve been, yet I can feel the tears welling up in my eyes as I realize that we won’t be coming here nearly as often. Soon, storefronts will change and I won’t notice right away. Then, I’ll decide I’m not up for the bus ride to Davis Square for ArtBeat or Union Square for What the Fluff. We’ll hardly ever eat at Painted Burro, Posto, or Saloon. Lord knows if I can’t get myself out for the farmer’s market or Union Square Donuts now, how am I ever going to do it when I’m two towns away?

eecards-pity-partyI’m not going to wallow in this self pity any more tonight. For one thing, this is not really an occasion for sadness; it’s exciting because we are almost done buying a house, and that does not warrant a pity party. Unless something major happens in the next two weeks, you’ll not hear from me again until we actually close on the house. Then you’ll get to hear about renovations. Won’t that be fun?

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Caught on the Hook

Nearly a week had passed since my husband and I toured the house when the time finally came for our offer to go in officially. We had immediately told our agent that we wanted it, and the next day we filled out the offer, vowing next time to give ourselves 24 hours before expressing interest so we could temper our enthusiasm with a little bit of contemplation. We then took a train to New York and mostly forgot about the house for the weekend.

2015-04-23 21.49.16I was torn as the deadline passed and our offer became binding. Did we do the right thing? I barely remembered what it looked like. The price was right, but the pictures from the listing didn’t help. All I could remember was that the exterior was cute, with two porches and a small back yard, the kitchen was stunning, and the second floor was the main reason the price was so low. It had a carpeted “second bathroom” with brown paisley wallpaper and two bedrooms that hadn’t seen an update in at least 20 years. I also wasn’t keen on its location, in a town that was my least favorite of the three we were searching, blocks from a stadium, and not far from the site of Boston’s future casino.

My heart stopped when I saw the email the following day. Our offer had been accepted! I think I blacked out for a bit after that. The train had left the station and now it was up to the inspection to derail this purchase. My husband called up the guy our real estate agent recommended and set a date for the inspection on following Monday.

Meanwhile, I fretted about making the biggest, most expensive mistake ever. I panicked about leaving Somerville to buy a money pit in a dead-end town we’d never bothered to explore in our 10+ years of living in Boston, facing larger costs that come with owning rather than renting, being isolated from the city and our friends (who I decided probably wouldn’t want to drive or take a bus over to visit us in our new place–they will), and a plethora of imaginary scenarios that triggered my fight or flight response. He tried to calm me, saying that if the house was really that bad, the inspection would highlight the major problems and we’d have a way out.

We did not have a way out. Our agent warned us on the drive there that typical inspections are scary. These guys rarely have good things to say about a place, as the purpose is to point out all the defects you’ll need to fix and the future problems that need to be prevented. As soon as we got there, we knew this was going to be a different kind of experience. Not only was our inspector the same one who spoke at our first time home buyers class the year before, he was elated to tell us the exterior was in fine shape.

In the basement, he pointed out a few things that would have to be addressed before winter and a couple others we’d need to keep an eye on, but overall he seemed impressed by the workmanship of the plumbing and electrical systems. His excitement continued as he inspected the kitchen, living room and dining room. We were happy to see that the owners had already cleaned the place out, and that they had left the nice new appliances. This purchase was looking better and better.

Upstairs, reality struck. Here is where we needed to put in some work before moving in. The carpets had to be replaced with new flooring, since they had at least two decades’ worth of grime driven into them and the material underneath didn’t look much better. Since this wouldn’t be cheap or easy, we were going to have to live with painting over the existing wood paneling until we had the time and money to do more work. However, as far as the inspector was concerned, this house passed the test.

In a whirlwind five days, we contacted a lawyer, completed the purchase and sale agreement, and forked over the remaining down-payment. It’s official. We almost have a house. Now we need to apply for a mortgage.

More on that in our next installment

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