Monday, June 29, 2009

New York It Is

I think it's hands down that the recommendations are for going to New York. I've been doing research (of course) and I think it would be a great trip for us. Here's the plan so far assuming prices etc. hold until I can book the flights and reserve the hotel. If you have additional advice, I'd certainly love to hear it.

We'll be leaving on Sunday, July 26 from ABQ via Southwest. I can get flights for $375 right now and they don't charge for luggage. Other airlines cost $450 or more right now plus the cost for luggage. We'll take a shuttle to downtown for around $10. It will take forever but I think it will be easier than taking luggage on the subway and cheaper than a cab. I'm probably going to choose the Hampton Inn near the Empire state building which I can get pre-paid for $152 a night. Breakfast and wireless is included which helps with the cost. We'll definitely see a Broadway show but we're debating first which show and if we want to pay full price now to guarantee good seats for a show we want to see or if we want to take a chance on half-price tickets the day of. We'll probably do the other touristy things like go to the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, Ground Zero, Rockefeller Center, one of the art museums, Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, and probably some shopping. We'll have four full days there as we'll arrive on Sunday and leave on Friday.

We'll get a metro pass for a week so we can use the subway but we know a lot of walking will be involved. So what advice do you have for me? Do you have Broadway Show recommendations?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Travel Dilemma

Josh and I are thinking about taking a vacation this summer. We'd like to do something fairly grand that we've never done before. With money from the house, plus my bonus money this year, plus some other income coming in, we could afford to spend about $2500 on a nice trip. So right now I have two ideas in mind.

1. Go to Orlando and do a theme park trip visiting Busch Gardens, Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios, Sea World, and maybe Disney. Josh is finally where he does like coasters and I certainly would have a blast. Concerns: Expense of parking at each park, getting a decent hotel, and potential weather disruption (during hurricane season).

2. Go to New York City. This would be a typical NYC trip with all the touristy things. See a Broadway show, visit Times Square, Empire State Building, the Met etc. Concerns: Cost of a decent hotel and navigating subway system. Also concerned about relative safety of visiting.

3. Might consider some place else based on my reader recommendations.

We originally were going to consider going on a cruise with my dad and brother and their respective wives/girlfriends. When I looked into it, however, the travel down there on their selected date would be tight because of Josh's last band camp concert and the cost to get a passport would increase the overall cost quite a bit especially to have it expedited in a month. Also not sure how much Josh would really enjoy the trip.

So my 4 or 5 readers - what would you suggest or recommend? Do you have any advice for visiting either place? Do you have other suggestions for a teenage boy and a 39 year old woman. Keep in mind we are not the outdoorsy, camping type. We like to see artsy stuff, historical things, or fun things like theme parks.
I've already been to Magic Mountain and Cedar Point among a few other parks so I'd rather go someplace I've never been.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I'm a homeowner

Finally! This process has been the biggest pain in the butt! I was first supposed to close on the 12th but it got pushed back to the 22nd since they weren't ready and I was going out of town to Nationals. Then they weren't ready on Monday and it was pushed to 3:00 on Tuesday. I got a call at 2:30 yesterday from the title company saying that they still hadn't received the paperwork from the bank so they weren't ready for closing. Fifteen minutes after that I was called by the bank telling me that I still had one last paper to sign. So I rushed over to the bank to sign it and was told that the title company had everything they needed. So I call the title company and they still said they didn't have everything. So I go do some more shopping and just wait to see if they get everything they need. I get called at 4:15 again and they still hadn't received the paperwork. They call me back at 4:30 to tell me that it has been rescheduled for the next day at 1:30. So I drove up there today with trepidation thinking that something else will still go wrong. Thankfully when I got there they were pretty much ready except for 3 documents from the bank which they had assured them they were faxing over immediately. So I signed my life away until my wrist hurt promising to pay everything, that I didn't lie, that I won't discriminate if I rent or sell the house, and that I realize I'm really paying an arm and a leg after all is said and done. The only snag now is that the extra money is actually going to my dad and he will have to sign it over to me. So I have to wait until he gets that check then he'll sign and mail it to me or I'll go pick it up. But on the good news front, I'm getting back more than I expected - around $26000 when I thought I was only getting about $21000. I financed about $4000 more than originally planned, however. But the lady at the title office was very impressed by the rate I got (4.5%) and said it was the lowest that she had seen. So in fifteen years, I will have this house paid off and hopefully the value will go up once I get the work done on it. The painting I had done cost me $1600 though. Much more than I would have preferred to spend, but it was more than just painting so I guess I can't complain too much. They replaced some missing trim, scraped peeling paint, replaced the corner edges etc. At least that part is done. Now it is time to get heating and air, a new sewer line and flooring. After that, we'll see what I can do with whatever is less. I still have to buy Josh a clarinet too.

So yesterday I went and got my hair cut. It is about chin length with some layers in it. I think it looks pretty good and it feels much better. It was just getting way too long! I did some shopping, got frustrated with the closing stuff, and then met a friend for dinner. I had a very large margarita which made some of the frustrations a little more bearable. I also ate way too much, but it was very yummy.

I went to school for about an hour and half this morning and did a little bit of work. I contacted my yearbook kids to let them that they still needed to come in and finish their yearbook pages. After the closing I went to the bookstore and got the new Janet Evanovich book but I don't know when I'll get to read it. Maybe this weekend. I'm thinking I need to take my own personal vacation where I can just go and read. I have tons of books that I want to read and still don't have time. Right now the focus is on getting the yearbook done, then I have yearbook camp for three days next week, then I'm going to Albuquerque for our staff retreat for school Mon-Wed, July 6-8. Then Josh goes to band camp but will be commuting this year. That is when I hope to have the heating and air replaced as well as the sewer line. Josh and I have to go to Nacogdoches for two days during the middle of his camp for his freshman orientation. We have the tickets for that and the car rental reserved. I'm still debating going to another yearbook camp in Denton at the end of July. Then I have a yearbook workshop that I'm teaching on August 5. So I'm not sure WHEN I would actually get to take a vacation. Maybe all I need is to just go to a hotel for a couple of days and hole up with my books.

Well, I guess I'm going to go do a little reading now and then figure out what I'm going to do about dinner tonight. Josh is going out to the movies.

Monday, June 22, 2009


Can you sense my level of frustration? I would really like for this whole house buying thing to be OVER. It has been such a pain. I feel like I've been in the dark and I have no idea what is going on. I didn't hear from my mortgage consultant from the bank until last Friday. He indicated that everything was fine and that I should be able to close on Monday or Tuesday this week. I then heard from the title company who indicated the same thing. They needed my dad's s.s. number and way to fax him paperwork for the closing. So I put him in touch with them and it seemed to be all worked out. I didn't hear anything again until about 20 minutes ago. I was called by a different person from the bank (since the guy I've been talking to went off and got married) and he said they had me brining $3400 to closing. I was told early on that I wouldn't have to bring any money to closing. He said that I just needed to amend the contract price to add that amount into it. Of course I have no idea what the contract price is now because it is a very confusing situation. It is "technically" be sold for more than I'm borrowing because the equity is covering a bunch of stuff. But because it appraised a little less than anticipated, it changed things and I have no clue about any of this. So I emailed the bank guy back and tried to call him to verify what I needed to do but of course he isn't available and hasn't responded. So my response is aaarrrrgggghhhhh! I just want this to be over with. What a pain!!!

So Birmingham was very lovely. I wished I had time to write about it while I was there but we seemed to be doing something almost every waking moment. The times I had a chance to get online was used to check email and to work on grad school assignments. We visited the civil rights museum which was very interesting but a huge guilt trip for being white. We went to the Alabama Theatre and watched a great comedienne who was the NFL humorous champion two years in a row. We then went to the McWane science museum which probably would have been great but it was so crowded with kids you really didn't get a chance to enjoy much of it.

My student didn't make it very far this year which was disappointing. Josh, however, did very well in his consolation event. He made it to round 7 in expository speaking which put him in the top 25 in the nation. The event started with over 300 students.

I ate probably my weight in food while there and I gained 5 or 6 pounds which sucks. But the food was good. But now I have to eat more healthy for a while and do some "gasp!" exercise or something.

I thought Birmingham was very pretty. It was very green and full of trees. It was hard to see where you were going because of all the trees. It was fairly easy to travel though the roads were constantly winding.

Update: I got the contract resent to me with the blanks filled it. I signed it, initialed it, rescanned it, and emailed it back to find out that I was supposed to date it as well. (Though I was not told that nor was there a space for "date") He also said that I needed to have my dad sign and date it but I had just emailed that the form would need to be faxed to my dad since he is in Mississippi. I don't know if this guy just doesn't actually read emails or if he's just not paying attention. If he can't fax it, I guess I will have to go find someplace to do it and pay for it. What a nightmare! Closing is now definitely tomorrow but I still don't have a time.

Well, I guess I'll go stew some more until all of this is taken care of!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

IN Birmingham

Well we made it to Birmingham with no problems.  We arrived around 11:10, got the rental car and luggage and was headed out by noon.  We at lunch at the Irondale cafe.  A train briefly came by and I immediately thought of Andrew.  I snapped a picture of it that I'll try to post later.  After that we came to the hotel and checked in.  We unpacked and rested a bit and then left to make a run to Walmart at 5:00.  I got some cokes and a few snacks.  We then went to dinner at Johnny Rockets.  Now I'm back at the hotel taking it easy.

It's very green here.  There's lots of trees.  It's hard to see things because of all the trees.  I like it, but it's just so different from what I'm used to.  

I'm tired.  It has been a long day of traveling.  I got up at 5:00 a.m. and I could go to bed now.  I think I might take a shower, watch some t.v. and call it an early night.  I'm going to church in the morning and then we have to register.  I have all the t-shirts to hand out to everyone so I've got to take those with me tomorrow.  

Not sure what we'll do the rest of the day tomorrow.  We might go to the civil rights institute.  I guess we'll play it by ear.  Hopefully now that summer is here I'll start posting regularly again.  Maybe I'll win a few of my readers back!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Best Laid Plans

I had grand plans to leave by 6:00 a.m. this morning for my trip to Denton/Dallas. Well, I got up at six at least. I didn't leave town until around 7:45. But I made good time and arrived here shortly after 1:00. I went to the campus police in order to purchase my one day parking pass that I'll need tomorrow morning. After that I came to the hotel and checked in. I'm staying at a very nice Holiday Inn that I booked via Hotwire and got it for about half price. After that, I headed to six flags. You should know by now that I can't come to the Dallas area without heading to six flags to get some rides in. It's been over a year since I had been on a coaster. With all the house issues, yearbook, school etc. I really needed the coaster rush. It was a great day to go. It was overcast so it wasn't too hot and the rides were practically walk on - meaning I didn't have to wait more than 10 minutes for any coaster. I rode five different coasters (two of the twice) in less than 2 hours. By 5:00 the sky was darkening and I thought I should go ahead and head back to Denton. Traffic was o.k. for a while until it was backed up for a bit tht took about 10 minutes to get through. As I was heading back, I thought it would be nice to stop at Olive Garden, order take-out, and enjoy it in my room... but that was not meant to be. As I headed north the sky kept getting darker and lightning was flashing all around. I finally turned on the radio and as I'm going through Lewisville (which is just south of Denton) I'm hearing that there is a tornado warning for Flower Mound which is just to the west of my location at that point. (And the storm is moving east) As I near Denton, the rain is picking up and I decide maybe I should just head to the hotel. I exit and at that point the rain is pouring and the wind is blowing so badly that I get lost. I cannot see where I'm driving and there's no place for me to go in order to get away from the weather. A funnel cloud has been reported to the south and it is potentially heading my direction. I pull into a parking area because I can't see where I'm driving and I know that it's not safe to stay in my car if a tornado does come. So I turn around and I see a grain elevator. So I pull into a parking area next to it, get out of my car and run into an area that is covered, but still open to the outside. It is at least deep so I head to the back and just wait it out. Of course I have no idea if a tornado is actually going to hit since I no longer have a radio. The wind is swirling, it's raining hard, and lightning is flashing constantly. But I felt relatively safe surrounded by the cement blocks although rainwater was gushing in on one of the walls. I said a whole bunch of "Hail Mary's" while I was there. After about 20 minutes it begins to subside a little bit. I head back to my car, drive through some flooded streets and find my way back to the hotel. It was a bit of a harrowing experience for me.
So I decide to hole up in the room and just order room service... I didn't want to go out in that again! I enjoyed my dinner, then took a long bath and a hot shower, ate dessert and now I'm going to sleep shortly. (I took 1/2 a tylenol p.m. and it's starting to hit me.)

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Is School Really Out?

My "official" last day was on Thursday but school still isn't out for me. I had to go up Friday morning and do some work. I was supposed to be heading to Denton this weekend for my grad school class but I didn't get into the section I wanted. I conveniently "forgot" to mention this to my principal because I had already told him that I wouldn't be at graduation. So I laid low on Friday and Saturday and pretended to be gone. Is that bad of me?? So now I have to go to Denton next week on Wednesday and take the class on Thursday and then head back Thursday evening. I am going to try to go down early on Wed. and maybe get in a few hours at six flags. I really need a coaster rush I think. I reserved my hotel via hotwire and got a very nice Holiday Inn for $95 with fees included. (It normally runs around $171) It's a little more than I originally was going to pay but I thought I would splurge a little for a nicer place.
I went to school this afternoon for a couple of hours to do some work. I finished packing all the books and things that are going to the teacher that is taking over speech team. I had to put some assignments together for students taking credit recovery this summer. I'm going in tomorrow and Tuesday and then heading down to Denton on Wednesdsay. Friday I'll have to spend a few more hours there and then hopefully I'll close on the house in the afternoon. I leave on Saturday for Nationals in Birmingham. I'll be there a week. When I get back it will be time to get a bunch of work done on the house.
I've hired a painter to take care of the peeling trim on the house, had the termite inspection, and have contacted my insurance agent about the quotes. Assuming the painting gets finished by Tuesday and the appraiser can come out again on Wednesday then I should be able to close (fingers crossed) on Friday.
I got my financial aid in the mail yesterday and was pleasantly surprised that I received two grants this time. The should almost cover the cost of my fees this year.
Well, I'm suddenly having another allergy attack so I'm going to head to bed.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Brings Joy to my Heart

My son called me today. He was at the state solo and ensemble contest this weekend. On their way back they went to Six Flags Fiesta Texas. You have to understand that while I may have a passion for roller coasters, he has not be a big fan of them. He does like inverted coasters, but he says he doesn't like major drops. We've taken several coaster trips in the summers where he would stand in line with me for certain coasters but would never ride them, though I would always tell him that he'd probably like a certain one. But he always refused. Well, I got a call out of the blue today and he's screaming in my ear that "Poltergeist is freakin' awesome!" I am amazed. Especially because he rode another version of that same coaster at another park though that one was considerably slower (but the exact same ride). I asked him who talked him into going on it and he said nobody. I told him that he would definitely love Superman then so he left to go ride that one. Sure enough, an hour and a half later, he calls me back and tells me how great that ride was. I am so tickled that he FINALLY loves those rides. I knew he would and he just needed to get past some fears. I am so proud.

In other news, the appraisal is done on the house but some things need to be done before it can go to closing. I have to have the peeling paint on the outside of the house repaired. Unfortunately, I don't have the time to do all that and I've got to close next week or I lose either the great rate I got or I have to pay an extension fee. So I called my brother and thankfully he has connections. He found a guy that will do the work for me under a contractor friend of his and they'll only charge me the cost. So I have to have that done, a termite inspection and contact my insurance agent for a quote. I also have to get quotes on the flooring. IF I get all that done, then I'll hopefully be able to close by next Friday. What a pain!!!

School is still going on for me and I don't think I'll ever finish. There's still so much do to. And what am I doing tonight? Blogging, playing word warp and thinking of doing a little reading.