Open House

Getting a mortgage is confusing. I can’t imagine what it was like before the collapse of 2008, but with all the extra rules and deterrents attached to home loans now, there is a lot to keep track of. Recently the husband and I have been looking at homes, and it had reached the point where we needed to contact a lender to see where we stood. His parents gave us a gift from his grandmother’s estate that we could use to help with our down payment, and so we called the lender that worked with the local homebuilder that we wanted to get a floorplan with, and let them run our numbers.

*insert insane, slightly sad laughter here*

There are three loans that the husband and I could take advantage of based on where the home we want is located. There is a USDA loan, which is a federal loan which would fund the home at 100%, no down payment required, and both the mortgage insurance and the loan interest rate are fixed and not based on your credit – this loan encourages home ownership in rural areas.

An FHA loan also doesn’t base the mortgage insurance or loan interest rate on your credit score, and is the federal loan program to simply encourage home ownership at a lower down payment – most require 3% down to participate.

Finally there is a conventional loan which tends to require a minimum of a 5% down payment and bases its interest rate and mortgage insurance on the borrower’s credit standing.

A word about mortgage insurance – it is policy after the 2008 collapse that all borrowers that provide less than a 20% down payment pay for mortgage insurance, which covers the mortgage should they become incapable of making payments. So while it’s nice to not have to put so much money down to get a house, you’ll pay more monthly for the home. Unless we were able to save up about $50,000 for a down payment, we would need to plan on this extra payment on top of the actual mortgage payment, taxes, HOA and CDD fees, home insurance, and any extra warranties.

If CDD fees look unfamiliar to you, they are a community development bond that developers take out with the local government. The government funds their community services like pools and playgrounds and that money pays for their upkeep. The bond payments are spread across all homeowners in the community and are paid in addition to any HOA fees, which go to a variety of services including deciding what you can and can’t do to the exterior of your home.

Are we all on the same page now? OK.

I have been working on bringing up our credit scores since March, but we knew that they probably wouldn’t be where they needed to be for a conventional loan, meaning we would be looking at either the USDA or FHA loan. So when the lender called us back we were expecting to hear about what we would need to pay to start, at closing, and monthly on either of those plans.

In addition to our credit, lenders look at how much we have in debt payments monthly. We have a few credit cards and several student loan payments. Since all the student loans except for the two private loans I have are on income-based repayment plans, we figured we were okay on that score.

Apparently not.

For federal home loan programs, lenders are required to use 1% of the full federal student loan showing on the credit report as the “monthly payment” when calculating a potential borrower’s monthly debt payment burden. So for a debt burden of say, $100,000, a borrower might be actually paying $175 on a payment plan, but a lender would have to use $1,000 as the payment for the debt burden calculation.

I know. And the fact that both the husband and I are on the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program doesn’t make a lick of difference either. It’s just the rule.

So between the husband and I we had too many student loans to qualify for either the USDA or FHA loans because of this policy. It made our monthly debt burden look too high. This meant that our only remaining option was the conventional loan, because they are only interested in the actual  payments being made. However, our credit scores put the interest rate and mortgage insurance so high that while we would have enough money for the down payment and closing, we would never be able to afford the monthly payment.

This was the point at which both the lender and the realtor we have been working with started talking about “starter homes” and how, if we were willing to spend a little less money now on a smaller house, we could build up equity and then move into a bigger house later.

Now look. I was born in the late morning but it wasn’t this morning. I’m not going to give up renting a house that has most of the things I want to move into a smaller house with only some of the things I want PLUS I have to take on the financial responsibility of fixing whatever might be wrong with it either at purchase or that will happen along the way, only to sell it years later to get the actual house that I want. Our financial situation is barely stable enough to buy the house we actually want. Thinking that we would be able to save and avoid disaster buying something we don’t really want is laughable. It’s a recipe for disaster. I appreciate these ladies doing their job, but I know what we’re capable of and rushing into a HUGE financial obligation just for the sake of owning a home to say we own a home ain’t it.

We’re going to have to hold off on buying a home for now. The husband’s parents told us to use the money for paying off credit cards and adding to savings instead, and so I paid off 3 full balances this week with a 4th soon to follow. We’re going to continue renting, probably where we are now to avoid the hassle of moving. I think we’ll give it two or three more years and then reassess where we are and where the local real estate market is.

The lesson I will continue to shout to the rooftops is that renting is not throwing your money away. It is stability. You are paying for a place to live. You are paying for someone else to fix the things for you.  If you don’t like your neighbors you can move. There are plenty of benefits to renting instead of buying, especially renting houses, so don’t let anyone, especially GenXers or Baby Boomers, bully you into buying a house when you are not ready. You are smart, you have a wealth of information available to you, and only you know whether you are financially ready to handle a responsibility as large as owning a home. Don’t get pressured. Do what’s right for you.

Postscript: Let this blog post stand as a response to all the “WHY AREN’T MILLENNIALS BUYING HOMES” think pieces. I have lived in the same home for the last 4 years, I have 14 years of experience in my career. My husband and I make enough money to, theoretically, be able to do this. You want me to buy a home right fucking now? DEMAND STUDENT LOAN RELIEF OR FORGIVENESS NOW.

Have a great weekend!

Bright We Burn (The Conqueror’s Saga #3)

Bright We Burn

And I Darken (#1)

Now I Rise (#2)

Just in case someone is happening on this review in the future, I feel like it is relevant to mention that I am reading this book, and writing this review, the week of the Judge Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation hearing. I’m writing this review the day after Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the sexual assault that she experienced at the hands of Kavanaugh. Today they are voting to move him out of committee and tomorrow will be the confirmation vote in the Senate.

Reading this book quite literally soothed my soul this week. I ordered a signed copy which arrived soon after its July 5th publication date, but I kept putting off reading it. First it was because I was in the middle of other things, then I decided I didn’t want to read the signed copy, and so I put the copy at the library on hold. It just became available last week and I picked it up and began reading it over the weekend. Just before all these real world events began unfolding and deepening my rage stores.

This book is very violent, and yet it was so relaxing. Lada Dracul has taken over Wallachia and as prince she has decided that she is not going to be a vassal state to Sultan Mehmed anymore. In the first 100 pages she murders twenty-five thousand people and my pulse was so calm and steady. She did it out of revenge, to send a message, and to pay back the deaths of her own people tenfold. There is no reasoning with her – she has one goal and she will see it achieved. It was beautiful.

The context within which I was reading this book removed all sympathy I have for Radu or Mehmed. My heart was only for Lada. I wanted more blood, more destruction, more suffering heaped upon the men and the systems that would hold her back and prevent her from being the prince and dragon of her country. Every success for her was something I experienced as though it was my own. Her perseverance through capture, her absolute brutality, all of it made me feel like it was possible to seek justice at all costs and experience the fulfillment of success along the way.

She does suffer losses, but we rarely see a vulnerable Lada – when something is taken from her, she takes three things from the person who would dare to steal from the dragon of Wallachia. Justice, revenge, and consequences that were lofty enough to be impressive as well as deterrents. I was cheering the entire time.

Some of the people she kills simply got in the way, or were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Their deaths as named, secondary characters might have made me sad before, but honestly they didn’t touch me. I didn’t have the space for mercy this week. My mind and soul only wanted justice, and in its absence, revenge.

This series is brilliant. I have never read anything like it. Every book was a triumph, the story gorgeously told, the characters are developed with depth and care. I demand that you read every book in this trilogy. If you are a woman who is furious in our current times, you must read this trilogy. Take refuge in these stories. They will bolster you and build you up. Let Kiersten White spin you a tale of a woman who will control her own destiny or die trying. GO GET THESE BOOKS.

Keeping An Eye Out

The husband and I just arrived back in town from our brief visit to Orlando and the Food and Wine Festival. If you’d like to see my Twitter thread of the foods we tasted and our time there, click here and you can scroll through.

I’m currently reading four books at once, which means I’m going to have a bunch of reviews all at once pretty soon, but also that I’m not moving through any one of them particularly quickly. If you’re interested in seeing what I’m reading and how far through I am, my profile on Goodreads will show you what I’m working on, and you can access my past reviews.

If you have a reading tracker that you use that you prefer over Goodreads, leave a comment with the program you use and I would love to check it out. Making my reviews more accessible to you on the platform you use would be a delight.

This week I’m gonna be on what I talked about last week, eating healthier meals and heading to the gym two days a week, writing in the evenings. I’ll be posting on Twitter to hold myself accountable, so follow me there if you’d like to hold me accountable too. I even have my spooky handle up: Angry Angel BOO!ks 🙂 LOL.

Have a great week. I’ll have those reviews up soon. Thanks for being a part of all of this. Thanks for being here.

Food and Wine Festival

Food and Wine

I love food. Food doesn’t always love me back, but eating good food is definitely a favorite pastime of mine. Once a year we try to go to the famous Bern’s Steakhouse for an excellent steak dinner with exceptional service. To have amazing food and a waiter that knows his shit makes you feel cared for and comfortable and I can’t recommend it enough.

The last time we went to the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival was back in 2013, and let me tell you something it is crazy bananas. If you’ve never been to Epcot before, it’s one of the four parks that make up Disney World in Orlando, and it’s set up in two sections: “Future World” and the “Around the World Showcase.”

(Click on the map to make it bigger.)

Epcot Map.jpg

That big ring around the lake on the map moves you from Canada to England to France and so on until you’ve visited several different countries. Each offers quick eats, sit down meals, or fancy sit down meals that you have to be sure to get reservations for. But during the food and wine festival these countries put out even quicker eats than their usual stands, and you walk up and get a gourmet offering.

The cornerstone countries aren’t even the only ones. Special booths and tents get set up all around the World Showcase to offer small food plates from other countries: Ireland, Australia, Belgium, among others. If you want to see all the special offerings, both drink and food, click here and scroll down. Click on the “read more” for each section to see any drinks and food they will have out for purchase.

Personally I am excited for Australia, the Belgian Waffles, the crispy pork belly that will be at the Brazil booth, and who could resist the bratwurst on a pretzel roll in Germany? My plan during my lunch tomorrow is to copy paste these lists into a single Word document and print it out so the husband and I can mark down what we want to taste most so we don’t forget anything. We have to make the most of our time, because we can’t be sure when we’ll be back.

We’re also taking advantage of a Florida resident special on tickets, otherwise we couldn’t go at all. I’ll be posting updates and pictures of the park and the food on Twitter, so if you haven’t followed me there yet, please do. You won’t want to miss out on the pictures.

I’ll have some more reviews up next week, a non-fiction memoir/cautionary tale as well as the finale to the Rebel of the Sands series by Alwyn Hamilton, Hero at the Fall (#3). I’ll also have an update on my book with (possibly) a snippet! Until then I’ll be trying to recover from this late summer cold that tried to murder me in the face, eating delicious food, and sleeping whenever I get the chance. Have a great weekend, angels. Thanks for being here.

The Beauty of Darkness (The Remnant Chronicles #3)

The Beauty of Darkness

The Kiss of Deception (#1)
The Heart of Betrayal (#2)

I have terrible news.

This book is SEVEN. HUNDRED. PAGES. LONG.

But that’s not all. I put it down at page 369.

I cannot remember a trilogy I have attempted to read that has begun so intensely yet left me uncaring enough to leave it unfinished. I don’t even know what to say. I’m so disappointed.

Rafe and his band of merry men have helped Princess Arabella escape from Venda, but they have also escaped with the knowledge that the Komizar has an army 150,000 strong and is planning to march on the other kingdoms. Kaden and Griz catch up to them and are taken prisoner, only to be freed to help them fight off a band of Rahtan sent by the Komizar to kill them all. They escape and make it to a Dalbreck outpost, where Rafe discovers that both his parents have died in his absence, leaving him as the new King.

Lia still needs to press on to Morrighan. She sees it as her duty to save her parents and to uncover the snakes in her father’s cabinet and in the Royal Scholar’s employ. Rafe insists that she not go, to the point that he has her under guard everywhere they go at the outpost. This eats at their relationship until Rafe decides he has no choice but to let her go. So she and Kaden and another person that isn’t important right now end up getting into Civica (the city outside the castle) after a brief stop in Terravin, the city she ran away to in the first book.

We see Rafe fighting battles to maintain his control over Dalbreck and Lia trying to stay alive long enough to uncover the traitors in Morrighan and Kaden continues to pine for her to no avail and…well…I just realized that I don’t care how this ends.

Lia’s character arc ended at the end of the second book. If anything, in this third book she goes past the strong, independent female lead into the bitchy, drunk with her own independence, jerk character. I mean, she’s really shitty to everybody through almost page 400 and part of why I stopped is that I discovered I wasn’t rooting for her anymore. I didn’t care if she lived or died. All the tension surrounding her success was completely gone for me.

I loved Rafe as a character. He had the same misgivings Lia did about their marriage but, under the cover of a false identity, he came to love her for who she was and I wanted to see that love story continue and work through their differences. But I’m not gonna read about them whining at each other for 300 pages and wait another 200 more before they even see each other again. That’s not fair to set up that kind of love story and then just kill it in the third book.

Oh and this gift she has – oh boy do I not care even a little about it. It’s like it’s just her gut talking to her about what she should beware of, a little warning system that’s like an overactive conscience. I was nosey and looked at how the book ends and BARF. No thank you. To give me this turd of a third book and then Deus Ex Machina the battle scene with her up-until-this-point pointless gift? Nah.

Also, for a girl who escaped to find her own destiny, she sure lets holy texts determine her every move, breath, and thought. I did not expect that this would be an independent woman turned religious fanatic trilogy but I am not the one for that nonsense.

I mean, I’m glad I read the first book because it was such a ride, but this would have worked just as well as a duology: make the second book a little longer and detail their escape and return to Dalbreck. They make sure his throne is secure and then move as a united front to defend Morrighan. There’s a kind of Hobbit Battle of the Five Armies moment where kind of enemies come together to fight the larger evil, and then all is well in the end. I don’t know, I don’t usually say how a book should have been written but this third book was just about as unnecessary as that fourth Hobbit movie.

Back to the library it goes. If you’re a completionist then please finish this third book and let me know what you think, but for me it’s a no go. I have other things waiting to be read.

Story Genius

Story Genius

In the process of writing my book I have been working my way through several craft books a.k.a. How-To books meant to help you outline, structure, and write your characters, plot, and overall novel. Stephen King’s On Writing was the first one I read, and it spurred me on to begin what is now 61,000 words strong. The next book I opened was Lisa Cron’s Story Genius, and while very different from King’s how-to, it has been just as useful in helping me craft my story.

Cron focuses on what she calls a third rail – the central idea of the book which is the main character’s big problem or misunderstanding of life. This is the why behind all of his or her actions, and should spark all decisions leading up to the major aha! moment, which is when he or she sees past her misbelief and sees clearly for the first time. Every scene included in the book, Cron writes, should touch this misbelief/resolution in some way to make sure the reader has a clear connection to why everything is happening.

A common complaint I have with the books that I ultimately set aside is that I stopped caring about the outcome. You’ll read a review later this week of a book that I set aside not because I was bored, but because I just didn’t care how it ended. Cron explains that a book should not just be a run down of what’s happening, it should also always be evident why those events are important, from something as simple as going to the grocery store to something as complex as a huge multi-army battle. This really spoke to me so I ate up all her advice about making sure I constantly ask why something is happening.

In partnership with the why is the how you communicate the why to the reader. It seems really simple, but something should happen, which causes the character to act, and that action causes something else to happen, which sparks yet another action. Everything should be connected, and if everything is connected then everything will speak back to the why behind the main character’s story. Just because something is well-written doesn’t mean it should be in the book. The reader isn’t reading for beautiful writing, they are reading for a good story that helps their mind escape.

The part of the book that I read quickly through but plan to come back to later were the last 3-4 chapters covering her organizational method for outlining, planning, and keeping track of the internal workings of individual scenes and the novel as a whole. Folders and scene cards and character cards – if I had read this book before I started writing I probably would have gotten caught up in the organization of it all and written very little. I probably would have gotten very frustrated with myself and maybe not have written anything at all, convinced that I’m not smart enough or whatever.

Once this first draft is done, though, this system will be very helpful in revising and rewriting. I can fill these scene cards and character info pages and world rules lists as I reread through my manuscript, and then I can rearrange those details as I need to. I am glad I wrote from my mind first and will organize second. This book will be right next to me once I’m ready (hopefully Halloween, fingers crossed!).

For someone who is just starting out and excited, I’m not sure if I would recommend this book as one of the first ones to read. It’s pretty full of “you musts” and “if you want to write a good story you have tos” and I found that a little…I don’t know, aggressive and discouraging? I mean, if a person hasn’t done a lot of writing in other areas I might, just to make sure they understand how to structure a novel. But if you read a lot and write a lot, you’re probably okay getting started and coming back to this book when you need some motivation or guidance when you get stuck.

It’s got a lot of great advice though, and so as long as you listen to all of it and take what you need, it’s a great book to have on your shelf if you’re plugging away at your own book! Go get you some.

Storm Surge

This was one of the most difficult weeks I’ve gone through this year. It felt a million years long, had several not-so-great events, and toward the end I began to develop a whopper of a head cold (which I am dealing with today and hoping to have shaken off by Monday). I’m exhausted, I’m sick, and I’m still behind in my work despite having requested (and received!) a planning day this past Monday to attempt to catch up.

It’s just not enough. I’m doing 2-4 times as much work as teachers who teach only one or two “preps” (subjects, e.g. Algebra 1 and Geometry) but I have the same amount of time to plan. I’m doing my best, but this planning on top of the difficulty level of the topics I teach and the grading that results is really weighing me down. It was a worry I had when deciding whether I would accept this position, and it turns out my fears were well founded.

Unfortunately this has led me to break a personal rule that I have set for myself since day one of teaching – I am going to have to start planning for a small segment of time on the weekend days. If I don’t, I’m going to go crazy from stress and being overworked. I’m going to get sick more often. And right now I’m not writing anything on my book or going to the gym, two things that were contributing to my physical and mental health over the summer and are sorely needed now.

So I’m going to plan for the upcoming week on the weekend: two preps on Saturday and two of them on Sunday. This means I can leave my planning periods and after-school contract time for grading only, something I have been consistently falling behind in favor of planning my instruction.

Mondays and Wednesdays I don’t have meetings, so I’m planning to leave around 2:30 to get to the gym before 3:15 so I can spend about an hour there doing cardio and strength training. Tuesdays and Thursdays I have meetings so I’ll grade at the meetings and leave at 3:00pm to come straight home. Eventually, if this routine works, these will become gym days too. Fridays will probably also become gym days but I want to give this routine a chance first and I don’t want to tucker myself out going from nothing to EVERY DAY.

I figured out that to hit 100,000 words I have to write 850 words every day between now and Halloween. Tbh, once I get going I usually write more than that, but the trick here is to make sure I have the time and the energy to actually open up the document and add stuff. So every week day I’m going to shut myself in my office at 5pm and write for no more than one hour. Usually the husband gets home around 5:30/6 from his trip to the gym, so I’ll have the solitude for writing. On the weekends I’m going to go in around 10am with a cup of coffee to get the job done. This first draft is SO CLOSE to being done and I know what I want to happen so LET’S DO THIS.

On top of the exercising and writing, I have been trying to eat better so I also want to get back to tracking my intake on MyFitnessPal. My sodium and sugar intakes are things I keep an eye on because I am sensitive to those, but overall I use the site to be sure I’m balancing my diet well.

I am hoping that by spreading my work into the weekend it will make living my normal life during the week more enjoyable. Next year won’t be like this. I’ll have my plans organized to be reused and I’ll only need to worry about keeping up with grading. But for this year, and this year only, I have to invest extra time or I’m going to lose it. I’m gonna get sick and depressed and fatter and more uncomfortable just to stick to these resolutions that are justifiable, but not tenable in my current situation.

If you are interested in hearing more about how teachers are overworked AND underpaid, check out this week’s TIME magazine cover series on teachers in America.