#9 my first grade teacher...

ok,really i am not going to go through my first 12 years of education year by year (and i hear a “thank goodness” yell happening all around the blogosphere). but i did make a cursory list of who i think i will blog about in the next 31 days and i do have about 5 open spots... so at this point any of you might be added. and my first grade teacher made the cut.

this has been the first week after labor day and that means that ALL of our activities are in FULL on mode. all of that makes one wish there was a recision option to this SEPTEMBER TO REMEMBER thing. maybe i just need to remember to say NO to so many activities... but i can’t decide which ones are important- they all feel important...

ok, so this isn’t 40 days of whining about my life... no one would read that. 

so on to my first grade teacher. i don’t have any life defining moments from first grade (i did manage to get through the entire year without wetting myself.) but this woman did make a huge impact on my life...

fast forward 25 years after first grade to when adam and i moved to tallahassee. we were “living” at the beach house and looking at EVERY house in town in our price range. and we made offers on a few houses and every time we would make an offer, the house would fail inspection or someone would offer more money than us and so we would lose out. keep in mind that we had moved to tallahassee from atlanta... half the salary and house prices were about the same. 

but my first grade teacher had a house to sell and she called my mom because she heard that we were looking for a house. when she called me, i had the flyer for her house in front of me because we had driven by her house the weekend before when we had come into town and it looked SO perfect and SO out of our price range. i was about to throw the flyer away (i had no clue it was her house until she started to describe it). i told her that we had driven by it and picked up a flyer but that it was WAY our of our price range. i agreed to come and let her see the children when we came to town next but gave her no hope on us buying the house.

i did take the children by and took a quick peek in the house. it was perfect. a small modest ranch in a wonderful old neighborhood. with a beautiful yard, a garage made into a great playroom. a semi open kitchen, lots of laminate counter space. nothing new and redone, but all nice and bright and ready for a family. the only problem... too expensive. and i reiterated that it was out of our price range. we had a single income and three kids....

and then her husband called my husband and he said that they were willing to take whatever we wanted to offer. they felt like God wanted us in that house. it made them feel at peace to sell the house to our family. 

and we feel at peace in this house. even though it isn’t always peaceful in this house. there are usually a lot of people filling its 2000ish square feet (at times it feels like there is a person for every square foot). there is a lot of bathroom sharing. a lot of “move your stuff out of my way” times. and a lot of “we can fit one more at the table, everyone just scooch over a bit”. but there is a lot of love. there are a lot of Bible studying going on, a lot of feeding a lot of people from that one kitchen and those still laminated topped counters. i have thought about adding a “1 million meals cooked here” sign sort of like that one over the golden arches... ours would be over the green and glass front door. 

we haven’t redone the whole house (yet) and most likely our budget will never allow us to create the kitchen of our dreams, the bathroom of champions, or even a romantic master suite, but we made small changes along the way and our house fits our lives just perfectly. it won’t ever make the cover of house beautiful magazine and there is no confusing it with the latest pottery barn catalog... 

but there are college students who come over and plop on the 20 year old couches and say that they feel at home, there are woman who still talk about how we refought the reformation one season in Bible study in my living room and nary a drop of blood was shed on my grandmother’s white couches, there are middle school girls who will fill up my table, my family room and my playroom this afternoon for food, fun, and a Bible study lesson (and i might need to stop blogging and start planning THAT lesson for this afternoon). most importantly it is a house that i want to use for the glory of God and not for the showing of pottery barn furniture (though at times the appeal of doing both seems nice). it is our home and it is warm in winter and coolish in summer and filled to every corner with love and laughter and life (and craft supplies).

and i owe that to my first grade teacher and her husband who felt peaceful about taking a lot less money for their house than they could have taken. they even left comforters for maxx’s room that are still on his beds today. they said that they could “see” our family in this house. and they had some good vision...

whilst living at the beach and perusing the real estate section of the paper every week, i wrote this little ode to the fine literature that is advertising. several of you are selling your home OR looking for a new one, so i thought this oldie but goodie might be appreciated...

#13 House Hunting and Fine Literature

Being the connoisseur of fine literature that I am, I would like to pay tribute to the greatest group of fiction writers that I have ever had the pleasure of reading. These artists really deserve to be nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for short stories (really, really short stories as it is). I myself have been known to spin a moderately interesting tale or two myself, but I am in no way even close to the magical genius that this group of writers possesses. 

I am speaking here of our friendly word warriors, our neighborly sentence strikers, our chummy paragraph parleyers: the incredible real estate agents advertising the current offering of homes for sale. I have spent many hours the last few months reading their body of literature and have to say I am quite impressed (not impressed enough to buy anything that is for sale), but never the less, I am in awe of their skill and talent with the English language. Now this is in no way meaning to say anything detrimental to real estate agents, quite the opposite in fact, if anyone in America is able to turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse it is these dedicated and well meaning people. 

Suffice it to say that John Updike himself cannot produce heart wrenching works of fiction like these people turn out on a daily basis. I do not fault them for their (how shall we put it?) creative license when advertising a home- I myself am guilty of extreme exaggeration to make a point. Nor can I or anyone condemn them for this- they are simply trying to do their job to the best of their ability and I simply must applaud their literary brilliance that must rival Einstein’s theory of relativity (in real estate terms the thoery of relativity states that the closer the house is to being relatively condemned by the health department- the more descriptive you have to be with your adjectives). 

I merely want to enlighten all readers to the wealth of good literature that is available in your local paper and free Homes and Lands Magazines. These house descriptions are breath taking adventures to peruse and even more amazing is to see the actual homes after reading the well penned ads (it also makes one aware of the exceptional talent it took to write 20-30 positive words about said advertised house). And the critics say that no one writes good fiction anymore. The critics need to eyeball the Homes section of the local newspaper sometime soon. All the elements of good fiction are right there free for the general public: 

suspense (could that really be the price?)
humor (just a short drive from town, fix this up in no time at all)
romance (you’ll fall in love with this one)
And the ever elusive poetic techniques of
oxymorons (nearly new, a rare find, spaciously compact)
metaphor (this house is a bright and sparkling jewel)
similes (as large as the Taj Mahal, just like a Southern plantation of yesteryear)
and imagery (imagine sipping coffee from your spacious deck overlooking your sparkling pool, imagine entertaining friends in your lovely living room fit for a queen, imagine paying only $200K for all this luxury, imagine that the bank doesn’t laugh in your face when you ask them to loan you $200K)

These short blurbs are such great fantastical descriptions that they send my mind racing, my heart pumping, and my hands grabbing for my car keys and saying, “We’ve got to go and check this one out!” I must admit I just never gotten that same feeling from the latest best selling paperback novel. But alas, despite these far fetched descriptions, we have not found our dream home yet Though I have read a lot of ads that sounded exactly like it. But upon arrival at these paragons of House Beautiful there was always something missing (like kitchen appliances that are younger than me, carpet that isn’t shaggy and hopeless stained, windows that actually open, etc). Whenever we got to the “perfect”, “we’ll love it”, or “don’t miss this one or you’ll be sorry”, house for sale there was always something “less than perfect”, “we hate it”, or “if we buy this one we will be sorry” something about it. 

Now as I have said, I have the ultimate respect and admiration for these wizards of the written word. Not only am I a writer myself and therefore feel a kinship with them in that respect, I am the daughter, daughter-in-law, and sister-in-law to some of the finest real estate professionals in America. Real estate commissions put me through college and paid for the fine education that is in no way responsible for the fact that I don’t know where to put a comma and tend to create numerous run on sentences (have you noticed this recently). We happen to have the greatest real estate agent ever searching daily for a home for us (and we wouldn’t want to make her mad or she may sell us the terribly over priced fixer upper next door to her house). She is much more perceptive about these advertisements than I seem to be- but sometimes I just get that urge to strike out on my own and see some of these architectural wonders that are for sale and I have therefore just begun to recognize a few of the most used techniques to sell these fine palatial establishments. I am now ready to enlighten all of you who may one day go house hunting ,so that you too can read between the newspaper lines before you run to grab your keys to go look at one more elusive dream abode. 

Here are a few of my favorite real-estate fictionalized advertisement words translated into how the house actually will look when you go to look at it...

- unique= strange and ugly. Either the front resembles an aircraft hanger or it has a weird floor plan where the kitchen is in the middle of the master bedroom and the living room is accessible only by a rope bridge over an alligator pit (the alligators will cost extra of course)

- spacious feeling= tiny

- adorable= tiny

- cute= tiny

- precious= tiny

- cottage feel= tiny

- charming= tiny

- cozy= tiny

- large lot= tiny, but maybe you can add on someday to the house

- spacious back yard for the kids= tiny but maybe you can just let the kids live in tents outside

- updated= someone painted the walls to make you think it is new

- pristine= another newly painted one hoping you won’t notice the dirty cracked linoleum from 1952 and the kitchen appliances from then also (not a stellar year for kitchen appliances)

- wonderful yard, beautifully landscaped, park like setting= the house is bad inside but maybe if I go on and on about the yard no one will notice

- alarm system= you’ll need it in this neighborhood

- quiet and private= far away from civilization, usually down a dirt road

- builder’s personal home= way overpriced because he put tons of extras in it and then went bankrupt

- model home= really nice flowery wallpaper, really high flowery price

- handyman’s dream= a living nightmare with a huge hole in the middle of the family room but surely you can fix that easily enough

- needs some TLC= that stands for Takes Lots of Cash to fix up this bargain basement beauty, tender loving care won’t get you toilets that flush, an oven that heats up, or air conditioning that actually blows cool air in the hot hot summer

- low maintenance exterior= good thing cause you’ll need the time to fix up the inside

- lots of curb appeal= everyone will think you have a nice house from the outside, just don’t invite them inside

- sloping lot= if it snowed in Florida, you could have a ski slope in the front yard

- sparkling pool= after you clean all the sludge from it and fix the pump

- close to shopping= WalMart is in your back yard

- in desirable older neighborhood= with undesirable older plumbing, heat and air, and roofing system, plus aqua tile in one bathroom and shocking pink in the other

- near hospitals= you may need to visit a hospital after trying to put in new counter tops, new cabinets, new carpet, and new windows

- rec room= they converted the garage into a big room and now there is no garage

- turn of the century living= you will be using an outhouse for your toileting needs

- a great investment= hope you won’t want to live in it too, just sell it off for a profit to some unsuspecting sap from up north

- view of the lake= if you have binoculars

- on the water= your neighbors septic tank is open for inspection

- wonderful neighborhood= not a wonderful house but at least your neighbors will be nice and sympathetic

- neat and clean= someone has mopped the cracked linoleum floor, vacuumed the shag carpeting, and bleached the rust stained tub

- you must see this to believe it= there are no words to describe this house but maybe if enough people come to see it there will be a sale

- too good to be true= too good to be true, there will be something wrong with it but you won’t realize it until after you are paying the mortgage

And finally my favorite...

- spectacular, 3 large bedrooms plus a great master suite with jacuzzi tub in large two sinked bathroom, brand new kitchen, fabulous wood floors= definitely out of my price range!