These are pictures of a red-tailed hawk behind our house. He was eating something when I first saw him. Possibly a squirrel or small bird. There was a mourning dove hanging around our feeder a lot today. There are also pigeons that congregate in our neighbor’s yard because she feeds them. Could have been one of those unfortunate fellows. The hawk ate whatever it was but must have still been hungry. He was watching those pigeons flying around as well as several other birds. He sat in the tree for maybe 10 minutes after eating. Then he couldn’t resist all the birds flying around the neighborhood and gave chase.
While he was in the tree, I hurried to get my camera out before and set up a tripod (over the kitchen sink). I clicked off 50 shots. But I had to shoot through the window and the hawk was just a little too far away, maybe 40 to 50 yards. I have a 300mm lens. But I need something bigger for that distance. Even though the camera doesn’t do him justice, the hawk was a nice sight.
What should I tell you about it? Should I give you the plain story about how we went about buying a house? Or should I get philosophical about how I once owned a home many years ago and thought I’d never own one again due to multiple adversarial life circumstances? Let me tell you a little about both.
Setting the Financial Stage
First, let me set the financial stage. Four years ago, my wife and I decided to get out of debt. We followed Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps after hearing him on the radio and taking his Financial Peace University course. We paid off a significant amount of debt over 19 months. It was an amazing feeling to make the last payment and be debt free! No more car payments. No more student loan payments. No more credit card payments. We were (and still are) debt free! Over the following two years, we saved up a three-month emergency fund and enough money for a down payment on a house.
Our next step was to look for a house. Since we were very fond of Dave Ramsey and his instruction, we found Gordon Crawford through Ramsey’s Endorsed Local Providers. Gordon was wonderful! He took his time in showing us houses and pointing out important features and flaws in homes which we would not have thought to look for. Gordon was so good natured. He will be remembered in our home as the guy who first introduced our toddler to Fruit by the Foot.
Over three days in late July, a three-bedroom house in East Orange, N.J., was listed for sale for $285,000, had 97 showings, received 24 offers and went under contract for 21 percent over that price.
Trust me, East Orange is not a town in New Jersey where people would normally rush to spend $285,000 on a house. But it’s an indication of the level of demand for houses at the same time we began our search.
We found a house we really liked on a Friday evening of torrential downpour when there was some miscommunication between the listing agent and the seller, who had no idea potential buyers would be washing up on his porch. He was kind enough to let us see part of the house. We had to wait a few days for the open house to come back and see the rest. That was a sunny day and we liked all that we saw. We made an offer quickly to get ahead of the New Yorkers.
Oh, the Drama!
Despite that sunny day, there ended up being quite a bit of drama in order to get to closing. I don’t feel like writing about the gory details. It went on for three months. At one point we walked away from the deal. Even after the deal was re-initiated, we found ourselves wishing we stayed out because of further drama. But ultimately we closed and the house was ours.
Now let me get to the philosophical part.
I owned a home at one other time long ago. I once wrote about that home. As I said there, that time of my life “feels like a tale from someone else’s life, or a portion of an old book that I vaguely remember.” That was 25 years ago. That’s almost half my life ago. Think of how much a guy experiences in half his life, all the downpours, all the waves that wash over him, and the many currents that carry him through depths and breadths in life’s ocean, until he reaches the balmy shores of his new home.
Well, isn’t that some sappy philosophical flotsam and jetsam that just washed up into your browser! The truth of the matter is that I’m now a guy that has a mortgage payment who has to fix anything that breaks around here because I ain’t got no landlord to do it for me. But the shiny side of that coin is, in addition to being free from debt, I am free from the obligation of paying another man’s mortgage to live in a house he owns while I have no real equity to my name. BOOYAH!
Oh, hi. We got more snow again. If you’ve read any of my previous posts about my wishful 50K training plans you can surmise what more snow means: I AM DOOMED! What did the plan call for this weekend? 18 miles? By the way, it’s officially Spring. This is bullshit.
That being said, my mood improved once I finally got out the door. Read on.
I went to Mahlon Dickerson Reservation to run yesterday. I lacked motivation and felt like a loser after not going for my long run that morning… because I lacked motivation and felt like a loser. It’s a vicious cycle. But my wife came home yesterday afternoon and said, “Hey! It’s really nice out! You should go for a run!” That, in my mind, translated to, “Hey! You’re a lazy fat slob! You could really use some exercise! Why don’t you get off the couch for a change!” So, I got up and went.
It turned out that the trails were even more snow covered than the week before, as seen below. The previous weekend it took me 2 hours to trudge through 5 miles of snow and I took the road back to the parking lot for the last mile because my feet were so cold. This time I decided to go 2.5 miles and turn around instead of attempting the 6 mile loop.
Since I didn’t have a lot of motivation and since the snow made my effort to exercise turn into one big suck, I reminded myself that it has often been under those circumstances that I’ve been rewarded by seeing something cool, like a bald eagle, or a deer up close, or a cool snake. Though snakes don’t usually come out in the snow.
I saw a few ducks at mile 2, not too exciting. Then I was taken by surprise to see beavers swimming in Saffin Pond, which is near the parking lot. I had seen evidence of beavers in another area of the reservation (see photo). I had not previously seen any indication that they were in Saffin Pond, which often has many humans about it given its proximity to the parking area.
Seeing the beavers was truly rewarding. I could have watched them for hours if it wasn’t close to sunset and my wife wasn’t waiting for me to come home for dinner. So I recorded several minutes of their activity. The video above is 5 minutes of peaceful beaver swimming with a momentary disruption of an angry beaver slapping his tail.
It took me an hour and 45 minutes to go 5 miles this time at Mahlon. It was a little faster than the prior week because I just wanted the suck to be over. However, all the snow we have gotten this month has buried my training plans. I was supposed to do 18 miles this weekend. That’s hard to do when it takes almost 2 hours to just go 5. It’s impossible to do when your motivation tank is empty. I need to get with the program because my 50K is only 4 weeks away. Here’s hoping for a warm week and some rain to clear this snow before next weekend!
Remember that really cold, really snowy winter we just had?
This is all that is left. I don’t think this little hunk of snow is going to make it through the day. It’s sunny and 60 degrees here in my part of New Jersey. This is the day that will put winter to bed.
In praise of Easter, the ubiquitous Peeps, and, well, the desire for revenge - I give you "Voodoo Peeps." This tasty little tidbit was written in July, 2003. Like Peeps, it's one of my favorites. If you're really angry at someone today, maybe this article will prevent you from murdering them. Happy Easter. ------------------------------------------------------------------- "Voodoo Peeps" (originally posted here: Heron Continue Reading →