A Year of Work Pays Off: I got a new job!

I’ve worked with the Workforce Development Specialist for nearly 2 years in some capacity, but over the past year in particular I’ve helped with tutoring and training different people on the JAWS screen-reader, basic keyboarding, and smartphone use. These efforts have, excitingly for me, culminated in a job offer from my employer for Training Specialist. In this role, I will continue much of what I have been doing, as well as act as an ambassador to drum up interest in the program among the workers and with company leadership. I think I will occasionally produce copy for the company, their newsletter, blogs and social media feeds.
It has been a whirlwind month (my birthday month too, as I turned 43 on the 13th) of applications, interviews, and even something of a trial, and now I’m due to start officially on Monday.
The “trial” probably happened because the supervisor of my current department became aware of my knowledge in smartphone operation from a blindness perspective. So yesterday he called me off of the floor to come and help an employee to get his email set up on the iPhone.
Then today, I encountered another blind woman in the Go Cary Door-to-Door vehicle that usually takes me home. I happened to place a phone call, and she asked me how I had done that. Turns out she has an iPhone but apparently no one has shown her how to use it. I explained the concept of double tapping on things when VoiceOver is on, as she said she couldn’t figure out why it wouldn’t work if she single-tapped and so put the phone away in frustration. She also told me she has a computer with Narrator, the built-in Windows screen-reader, which she doesn’t find very useful. I told her about JAWS, and also a lower-cost, well free if you need it to be but they ask for donations if you can, Non-visual Desktop Access (NVDA) reader. It does much of what JAWS does, and even outperforms it in some areas. Anyhow, she said that coming across me was “such a blessing,” and I hope that she is able to use what I told her. She had been sighted previously and so is more used to functioning in that world.
I feel like these happenings are a little confidence booster from somewhere as I prepare for this new endeavor. It will be my first working experience not tied to a manufacturing floor, after nearly 20 years of trying to reach such an achievement. I am pleased to see that many Ability One facilities, the places that generally employ people who are blind and/or have other disabilities, are starting to promote upward mobility, and are bringing in the people to make it happen. The Workforce Development Specialist began shaping me for this sort of thing really from the moment she set foot on our company grounds, and finding that you have someone who believes in your potential can take you to places you couldn’t previously imagine. I know the work will be rigorous, especially as we get things going, but I look forward to working as hard as I can to benefit myself and ultimately so many others.

The Importance of Mindfulness

I’ll begin this post with a silly story, but stick with me here as it’s going somewhere. My wife and I always have fun with the Mindfulness app’s prompt “as your day winds down, take some time to reflect”. When listening to this spoken with VoiceOver on the Apple Watch, it tends to say “winds” more like that which blows than that which spins. So every time I hear this, I make a ridiculous descending whistle sound that is meant to signify my day “winding” down, and she usually makes some sort of silly comment about that happening as well. It’s become a fun inside joke, one of many we’ve developed over time. (And as a complete aside, that app seems to think my day starts at 10:09 PM and ends at 10:40 PM. With the same pay? I’d take that!)
What I am discovering though, if I hadn’t known it already, is that mindfulness and being aware of how one fits into a place or set of circumstances can really matter. At work, they seem to be enforcing their cell phone policy to a higher degree. Lately, they’ve even said that we are to keep all electronic communications devices in our bags while on the floor at all times, even during breaks. This may have always been the rule, but I think even the supervisors are only just working it out fully.
Anyhow, someone pointed this out to me as I sat checking notifications on my watch during break, which I had done many times with no discernable consequence. I’ll admit, that first confrontation didn’t go so well, especially as said individual is not actually a supervisor. I will grudgingly grant though that she is someone who always looks out for me and my interests, an older woman who knows my family from way before I can even remember. So even as I grumbled about it, I contemplated how I could make the changes and still be able to interact with my technology for at least as much time (15 minutes) as we get between work sessions.
And as it turns out, it was a good thing I rethought things. The biggest obstacle to my leaving the floor at break is the amount of time it takes to reach the break room. When you factor in the two minute walk (three if I get stuck behind the slow train of blind folks clacking along with their cane,) the additional minute or two to locate a seat, and the three minutes I’ll need to get back to my section, I’m only left with six minutes to do my bidding once seated. And the place is always crowded and exceedingly noisy.
But, I discovered that there is a much smaller break room that is really more like a nook, and it’s just around the corner from where I sit. There is carpeting, plush, comfortable chairs, and wooden tables should they be needed. All of the fabric and the room’s size (it only really holds four) make for an ideal, quiet space where I can truly de-compress. And there are usually two others inside at most, placing relatively subdued cell phone calls as I happily digest a passage of whatever book I am reading on my Braille display.
And why am I telling you this? Well because I have been doing it for just over a week, and it has made all the difference in the world! Now I almost look forward to going in, knowing that I’ll have those nuggets of time to get myself together for whatever comes next once that bell rings and I must return to my duties. With that thought change my attitude has begun to improve, which leads to greater productivity and a less uptight feeling by day’s end. So if you feel yourself struggling with similar things in your work setting, try making that small change. Maybe find somewhere away from your work desk (assuming you work in an office and not a manufacturing facility as I do). It doesn’t have to be quiet of course, because some want more chatter and socialization. I think the key is that it matches whatever your personality is. Just be mindful and aware of how small adjustments can have a massive impact.

Teacher Troubles: On My Most Recent Growth Experience

I’ve been quiet since just before July, because I’ve been bombarded by personal issues that I may or may not get into based on their outcome. Suffice to say I feel like I’ve been treading water and things are in an interesting place. I’m trying not to stress too much, but then again I suppose stress is the name of the game in adulthood, right?
As summer winds down though (ah it makes me sad to write that!) I guess I’m doing as well as I could hope. I just recently passed a year of tutoring co-workers in the use of the JAWS For Windows screen-reader. I can honestly say that my ability to work one-on-one has markedly improved. I’ve learned a thing or two about pacing, and am just more able to communicate complex concepts to my clients.
To that end and with growth in mind I suppose, the Workforce Development Specialist had recently asked me to try my hand at teaching the entire class. We’ve for the last month or so been instructing individuals in the general use of the keyboard, including how to type with the home row at center and what all of the keys do. To do this, we took advantage of a program called Talking Typer that allows one to press any key and get feedback, as well as to complete various drills designed to speed typing up incrementally. The main challenge we have is that, since the program has not been purchased, we must log off and back on every fifteen minutes. This is not a huge deal though, and it has also given our newbie typers plenty of opportunity to practice.
Anyhow, so I tried my hand at teaching this Tuesday. And because I believe in transparency and will report how things go no matter the outcome, I will say that I did not do nearly as well as I would have liked. Most of the difficulty stems from my hearing loss, as in order to do the job effectively I would have needed to be able to monitor what was going on at each station or at least establish some kind of call and response system so that I would know how each person was doing. I found it hard to even get everyone’s attention when preparing to start, and thus kind of gave in eventually and just worked with the person I’d had for the entire course. My bumblings were saved by the other tutor in the class, a pretty talented guy who quickly figured out how to redirect the students and managed to walk them through a few word and typing drills.
I’m trying not to beat myself up about it too badly though, as it was a learning opportunity and not everyone is going to be sharp at everything. I think that naturally I will be better in one-on-one settings, or perhaps working remotely with multiple individuals since maintaining awareness of what all are doing will be less challenging. We shall see though, of course, and in any event the most important thing I can do for myself is to expand my skill set.
So that’s the most interesting piece of my current, chaotic existence on which I can report. It certainly reiterates my oft-stated respect for the teaching profession. What y’all teachers do is not easy! And you need more love for it. I do hope to continue my career-advancing moves by getting a JAWS certification from Freedom Scientific, continuing to work with my cousin in learning how to effectively tutor as I have been for some time, and oh yeah work on polishing my writing skills. It’s sadly still an uphill slog in employment for those of us with disabilities, but I figure that by noting my path through this process I make it a little easier for anyone who comes behind me.

Dashin’ Round The World: My Food Delivery Ride Along

As a blind person I have enjoyed the rise of food delivery services such as Door Dash and Uber Eats, as they give me more options than pizza if I need a good mea and no one is available to transport me. I am aware of the controversy that surrounds such services, and particularly their somewhat fraught relationship with restaurants. I hope though that the paring is beneficial enough, as especially proven to be the case during this protracted pandemic period. I for one don’t even know how much money I have squirreled away grabbing things new and long enjoyed.
What I hadn’t really known is how the experience is for those who do the legwork for these businesses. Until my wife decided to become a Dasher. This is what Door Dash calls its food couriers, I guess trying to be humorous and, more importantly, to indicate the supposed speediness of the food’s transmission to its recipient. She initiated her run in this position yesterday, and I rode shotgun just to see what was what.
First, she rolled into a parking lot near one of the busiest areas of Cary, called Crossroads, powered down the engine and launched the app. Dashers use a special app that instructs them along the way as they make each delivery. The time then was shortly before 4:45 PM, and upon being asked how long she wished to continue she indicated that 6 would be her stop time. I do like that they allow you to set this, as it allows you to remain in control of your day and know when you might want to be done. It seems easy to get lost in delivering and have several hours go by before one knows it (well sort of, as dwindling supplies of expensive gas would also alert you, but that’s another post).
Anyway, the only thing she had to do then was await an order. And it didn’t take too long for the first one to roll in. A woman wanted three items from China King, which was less than two miles from our current location. This order was immediately available when she went inside, and so she snagged it and slid it inside her insulated bag. Then, she used the app’s built-in GPS to navigate to the customer’s apartment. The challenge here is that since it doesn’t allow you to use Google Maps, you can’t interface it with Android Auto. So she couldn’t view navigation instructions on the screen, and will thus need to get a phone jack. The apartment we needed to reach was also not far away and the delivery contactless, so she completed that and got another order right away.
The second person wanted six items from a Mediterranean restaurant called Kebab Skewer. Maybe he was having a party? There was a little more of a drive getting to this location and to the guy’s home, was very nice
with a couple of floors and a garage. She did wave to him through the kitchen window, but was able to leave the food there for pick-up.
It was already about 5:40, so we deduced that this third order would be the last one. It was to be from a place called Totopas. She had initially rejected it, but then determined that she was already relatively close to the location and chose to accept it. The only thing this customer, a woman who seemed to be a college student, wanted was a Vegan taco. This surprisingly took a little longer to be prepared, but she got it and we headed from Kildaire Farm Road in South Cary to her location not far from NC State University in Raleigh. This was a decent apartment that required a key fob to enter the building, but had no buzzer for would-be arrivals to press, so she had to call the person once she was there to make the exchange. This went without a hitch, and we were done.
On the whole I think she found the experience to be satisfying, and maybe even enjoyable. The income was decent, of course it would be better if the affore-mentioned gas weren’t through the roof. But I guess if one has the patience for it and doesn’t mind a little driving, it’s an acceptable way to hustle. You can turn down orders that you feel are too far away, and of course you can stop and start whenever you want. Now that I’ve seen how things look from that side, I feel a little better about utilizing these services, with the already noted caveat regarding how they might or might not benefit restaurants. Anyhow, that was a different experience for a Saturday in a time and period that has largely been monolithic. We’ll see what new fun I can get into in coming days.

Road To Home Ownership: Signed, Sealed…

Now all we await is the delivery (e. g. construction). That’s right, this time about a week ago we were told to make our deposit so that the contract could be drawn up.
As soon as my wife noticed that she had received the message, somewhere around 2 PM on Tuesday prior, she zipped out of her workplace and got to work shoring up the dollars needed to complete the transaction. As she worked on the form from home at about 4:30, I sat on the bed across from her computer desk in the small room that occupies the top floor of this apartment feeling a range of emotions. I think even the Pomeranian sensed that major change was afoot as she bounced back and forth between me and the desk, getting me to pet her as her tail wagged hard enough to generate wind. Dogs really can feel what we’re going through better than most humans can.
After checking and double checking that everything was as correct as she could get it she whacked the “Submit” button, and a good piece of dough along with our hopes and dreams raced down the wire. Confirmation came that all had been done on our end, and we just twiddled our thumbs waiting for the contract which arrived on Thursday evening. In it we learned our address, on a road that does not actually exist just yet but will soon. We will also be required to inhabit the residence for at least two years, but after making a decision of this magnitude I would bet that we will remain there for a good deal longer. We are already over four years in our current apartment anyway, so that should be no problem. I do not think there were any major hold-ups therein, other than a noting of the amount of time the company was giving itself to have the house constructed before we could be released from the agreement. As I’ve said before, that’s going to be the biggest “fingers-crossed” portion of this, as of course some of it—weather, supply chain issues — is out of their control. Anyhow, we did all the fun electronic stuff to put both of our signatures on the contract, and now we basically are just awaiting that distant closing sometime towards the end of the year and hoping to secure enough funds to clear that final hurtle. I guess the best news here is that we do avoid all that due diligence and outbidding madness, and thus will experience a lot less stress.
Meanwhile, we’re doing a few trips by the area and really familiarizing ourselves with it. Google tells you a lot, but just driving around and taking a look says a lot more. (And yes, we are avoiding that pesky alarm by staying far enough away from the actual residence). I guess the only real challenge I see so far will be that my work commute time will nearly double. But I’m ok with this, more so in the morning than in the evening when I wish to just get home, but we’ll just see how everything plays out. Transportation should be no problem at least, since though we are on Raleigh’s fringes, almost in Garner, we are at least still within Raleigh city limits. It’s hard to find something affordable and yet close enough to my current employer, but I can live with that sacrifice. More podcasts, books and the like will just be taken in on the ride.
I do not know when the next installment of this series will be posted, but probably shortly after building commences. Oh and that’s another thing, the contract says we must meet with our builders 3 times to discuss how things are being laid out and whatever tweaks we wish to make. We’ll be bringing along someone who kind of knows what they’re looking at with regards to construction to help us with this. More once all that fun gets started. Till then, continue to wish us luck.

Road To Home Ownership: Against All Odds

We’ve been approved! Turns out we were number 12 on the waiting list for one of those new construction townhomes being built in Southeast Raleigh. There were four people sparring for two homes, and we were fortunate enough to snag one as some backed out. This is thrilling, and while there is still much to work out before out probably late-year move-in, we are cautiously optimistic.
First, of course, we have to pay the deposit and sign the contract. This will likely not be accomplished till the end of the month, but if we are able to do so it will lock in the property’s price even as the market continues to edge the area’s value upward. And yes I am somewhat conflicted, understanding that we are kind of taking advantage of urban gentrification, but I guess I justify it by noting that apartment rentals are becoming out of hand and we thus need something with a fixed rate. Heck, I would love it if everyone who desired to do so could actually own a home or at least stay in a place they could afford without having much of their income sucked into it.
Anyhow, once that’s done we’ll just sit back on our haunches and watch as construction progress is being made. This will largely be out of our control, and we’ll mostly have to hope that weather, labor, and supply issues don’t dog us throughout the process. Let us hope we are able to get to this and future steps!
In anticipation of obtaining the home, I accompanied my wife to check out a model today so that I could get a general feel for the place. And just as I had when entering our current residence, I immediately liked the sense of homeliness therein. There were things about the layout that I couldn’t fully understand until I had experienced them.
For instance, the downstairs is pretty much an open floor plan, with no walls to separate living room from dining room and kitchen. Before checking this out, I wondered what it would do to my spatial awareness and ability to navigate easily. But it doesn’t actually seem too challenging, especially once we have our furniture all in and arranged just so and I can use that for reference. The model had couches and tables inside, so that one could get a sense of what the space would feel like when occupied. The most interesting aspect is that we have a tall counter in the dining area that can be sat at with stools, and that the sink is an island completely unattached from the walls. That will probably take some getting used to. We’re to have a single sink, as even the person who was showing us around said she had a “personal vendetta” against double sinks since they make it harder to rinse and soak larger dishes. My wife is a big fan of the single sink concept as well.
We went out the back door, where there is just enough room to set up a couple of chairs. This is basically all I need. The front also contains a little porch area, so I’ll be able to scamper around to whichever portion is in sunshine at the moment, or shade if we are in the hottest parts of summer. The only drawback about being out back is that there is an AC unit right there on the porch, but I’m hearing that now on our apartment’s balcony on this beautiful 70-degree day, so that is a feature common to most homes. Why haven’t we made AC’s quieter yet?
We came back inside and made our way upstairs, finding the stairs built into the left-side wall about midway as seen from the front door. They were full of turns, and it’ll be good exercise going up and down. The master bathroom is a good size with a fiber glass shower, and the room is a little longer than our current one and will allow for a small sitting area. But I rather liked the one that would likely be my man cave, since I can picture my speaker sounding good in that slightly less echoey space than the one I have here. As we sat in comfortable chairs in that room, my wife lobbed impressive fastball questions at the salesperson, and she noted she should make a list of them. They also discovered that they both enjoy crafting. Shortly there after, we departed.
We tried to drive around to where our house would be constructed to see if we could take a picture out there, but apparently they have a security system rigged up. As the car idled in that spot, alarms began going off and messages saying we needed to leave flashed, so we hightailed it out of there. I still got to explore the neighborhood with my cadre of GPS apps, learning where some of the closest restaurants and grocery stores were.
So that’s what we’ve got going on now. It’s exciting to have suddenly come so close, even when things looked unlikely a short month ago. Amazing how quickly circumstances can change. I will be back to update more as this continues to unfold.

Road to Home Ownership: What’s New Is New Again

I begin by noting the start of ValDayVersary. As I’ve written before, this is our own personal holiday that starts on our wedding anniversary (1/27) and ends on the first Saturday after my wife’s birthday unless her birthday (2/18) is also on a Saturday. It of course encompasses Valentine’s Day as well. This year, as last, we are spending it relatively quietly with ordered dinners, flowers and other stuff for her, and the reflections that four years of marriage bring. Ah I miss those first two years when trips to Florida were involved, but for now I travel vicariously through books. I am doubtless aware that what we have is a beautiful thing, and I couldn’t be more fortunate, though we’re hoping maybe we’ll be able to get rockin’ and rollin’ again for Number 5. These blasted Covid variants will largely dictate that, though.
Along with, of course, whether or not we have decided to purchase a house by then. There have been some crazy occurrences in that department, not surprising given that the Raleigh market is the 3rd most in-demand in the country and, well, we are still learning how this whole process works.
First, a couple weeks ago we came close to getting an offer. It was going to be sight unseen, meaning that we hadn’t even walked into the property and had seen few pictures of it. We were going on assurances that things were new and updated, and that there were no serious structural problems. The issue was its price. The would-be seller wanted nearly 20% more than Zillow said the property was worth. If the appraiser said it was indeed worth a lot less, we would be on the hook for the difference immediately as our loan wouldn’t cover it. We were told that the seller would be willing to negotiate in the event of this happening, but with there being no telling if he would get anywhere near the appraised price we were not willing to assume such risk. It likely would have been a nice place, but I’m not sure any place is worth sticking one’s neck out to that extent. Truthfully though, you almost have to roll the die in such a way to get a spot up here, thus jumping the bidding line that will occur once the home is put on the market. Unless…
Now we’re considering purchasing a new townhome that hasn’t even been constructed yet. It would have 3 bedrooms and two baths, thus meeting our needs, and be well-located near the interstate in Southeast Raleigh. Projected move-in is September or October, giving us more time to stack some dough in preparation. But we had to place our names on a wait list and see if we get called about one being available, as I think determined through a lottery. We shall see if we are so fortunate. Till then or barring some other unexpected happening, we’ll likely just deal with this too-high rent for a little longer.

Road to Home Ownership: A Dream (Possibly) Deferred

Happy New Year, y’all! We made it through 2021, with its particular trials and tribulations, and it is my greatest hope that we will finally round some kind of corner and see happier, more prosperous times ahead. It is time to get that journey started, whatever it will look like for you. I certainly no longer bother making specific resolutions, but I know what kind of work I need to do to get there.
As discussed a couple of entries ago, we had hoped to accomplish a major life marker and land ourselves a house. But… reality is already starting to set in. The dream has not ended, but it might be put off for a while.
Between our first viewing and my second, which happened on January 1, my wife and her sisters had looked at a few other town and single-family homes. The thing that happens every time though is that someone is already ready to bid, and they can pay top dollar immediately. We are, after all, in a buyer’s market where there are tons of buyers but few sellers. So people rush any property that becomes available.
So on this Saturday, we had located a home that was excellently priced, but with the understanding that the new owner would make some mostly cosmetic but needed fixes. It was located in Durham, north of downtown, and because we had already made an unsuccessful run to a property just off Roxboro Road, an unfortunately distressed section, we were a little nervous going in. This place was also fairly close to Roxboro Road, but not on the same end. The neighborhood as we drove in looked like a nice place to live, with homes that clearly go for the top end of the price scale and groceries within a half mile. Stores are to me an important metric of how others view the area and its money-generating potential, a sad truth but one that is consistent in this society.
As we pulled up to the place around 10 AM, other would-be buyers and their realtors arrived as well. Our realtor was about 20 minutes late, so my wife and her sister cased the outside of the house, noting obvious issues that would need working on such as the deck and other parts made of wood. Shortly thereafter, we stepped inside.
First, I was blown away by the Southern-style front porch, a wooden structure that would make one feel great sitting on a rocking chair and reading way back in that quiet. (And that was sort of the only possible issue, it was a good ways back from the main thoroughfare which would make me wonder about the ease of getting transportation. I’m pretty sure that it could have been done though, as we were within a four-minute drive of the nearest bus stop).
Immediately past the front door and to the left is the Master bedroom. It was about the size of our current Master, which is to say not super large but big enough to fit our king-sized bed and two nightstands. It also contained a bathroom. My wife loves the idea of having that room on the bottom floor.
From there, we strolled through the ample living room, which contained a fireplace, and kitchen and up the stairs to the three rooms above. The only thing that would really need fixing other than said issues with the wood was the carpet, which was very deep but probably not that great looking. In our dreams at least, we would work on these projects, including a repainting of the walls, over time as we enjoyed living in this luxurious space.
Outdoors, there is a spacious two-car garage and the deck, which was rotting in some places. I loved again that one didn’t hear the constant roar of AC as we do in our current spot, or traffic as one might in many others. In short, this place was absolutely ideal for both of us given what we are really seeking in a home. And it’s a rare place these days that has character, not just feeling “cookie-cutter”.
But alas, it was not meant to be. Our realtor poured water on our dream as soon as we rolled out in the car, saying that if we were to acquire it, we would have to pay to repair the deck prior to closing as required by our loan. More than that though, and not surprising, the place had pretty much already been snapped up by a construction-type company that will renovate it and sell at a significant profit. Ah well, such is things with this. I guess what I will try and do now, especially as travel is largely off the table anyway, is to just try and keep the ol’ bank account rising and try to be prepared for all of what one must do to acquire a place. This experience has definitely been… educational. We shall see.

2021 Wrap: On Achievements, TikTok, and Books

What a year, folks. As I reflect on the happenings of 2021, I find it hard to believe that it is already close to wrapping up. It is, in many respects, yet another year lost to COVID. Let’s just pray that it will be the last such.
I guess I should focus most of my energy in this post on locating whatever nuggets of positivity that existed this year. Still looking… Nah, of course something worthwhile had to happen. I guess my elevation within my employer to a sort of assistive technology tutor is a major one. I say “sort of,” because I don’t know if one would feel entirely comfortable with what I’ve instructed. I can say though that I worked hard, did my research, paid close attention to the students’ needs, and tried to make sure that what I taught them was relevant.
I’d spent this past year doing JAWS for Windows tutoring, which as longtime readers would know also led me to purchase my current Windows computer and return to this platform from the Mac. Next year’s challenge, and a much more immediate and difficult one in some ways, will be to help probably those entirely new to the computer to learn some basic keyboarding skills. We’re going to use a program called Talking Typer, which helps people learn to type by speaking the letters aloud and informing of such metrics as Words per Minute and errors. I’ll need to brush up on this myself, and do hope that something I learn can help others unlock the vast power of computing.
I should also work to unlock my own power by digging back into this writing thing. I fell off of blogging over the last three months, but hey I’ve been reviewing books on Goodreads like crazy since May. Given that Book Reviewer still remains my career dream, the constant practice couldn’t have hurt.
To that end, and inspired by an NPR story on the rapid rise and influence of “BookTok,” I created a TikTok account. This, I guess social media, site allows for short three-minute videos and people, especially young ones, post on just about everything under the sun. Not surprisingly this is a very visual medium, but I did find some posts where book reviewers actually listed their titles aloud. I may (or may not) take a shot at recording my five-star reads there at some point, but am not impressed with the overall accessibility of the app. For instance, I find it difficult to follow those I am interested in with VoiceOver on the iPhone, and just navigating between videos is a real challenge. I hope some of these things can be fixed, so that a totally blind person could derive at least minimal enjoyment from the app, and perhaps more importantly tap into this vast crowd to gain exposure and other kinds of opportunities.
Just in case I never do post those reads in such a way, I’ll list them here. Note that not all books were released in 2021, just read by me herein. And just in case you do not choose to read my list below, I’ll close by wishing you and all of us a happy, healthy, and safe 2022.
2021 Five Star Titles: A listing of all the books I awarded this designation on Goodreads.

  1. Clap When You Land, Elizabeth Acebedo
  2. The Actual Star, Monica Byrne
  3. The Meaning of Mariah Carey, Mariah Carey
  4. The Last Train to Key West, Chanel Cleeton
  5. The President is Missing, Bill Clinton
  6. Return to Palm Court, Stephanie Edwards
  7. The Night Watchman, Louise Erdrich
  8. A Good Neighborhood, Therese Anne Fowler
  9. Mother May I, Joshilyn Jackson
  10. The Love Songs of W. E. B. Du Bois, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers
  11. How The One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House, Cherie Jones
  12. Lies That Bind, Amanda Lamb
  13. Dear Edward, Ann Napolitano
  14. Eternal, Lisa Scottoline
  15. Great Circle, Maggie Shipstead
  16. Nerves of Steel, Tammie Shults
  17. Will, Will Smith
  18. Concrete Rose, Angie Thomas
  19. The Turn of the Key, Ruth Ware
  20. Project Hail Mary, Andy Weir
  21. The Book of Lost Friends, Lisa Wingate
  22. The Sea keeper’s Daughter, Lisa Wingate

Road To Home Ownership: First Viewing

There are, in my opinion anyway, three major pillars of adulthood: marriage, childbirth, and buying a home. Any or all of these may or may not happen, but whenever they do they tend to be markers of memory as well as potential sources of stress and change.
We’ve done the first, will probably never do the second, and… we’re just beginning our journey toward the third. That’s right, my wife and I are considering purchasing a house! After a while, one realizes that apartment rental is less and less attractive as that charge rises exponentially every year, and there is no return on investment. More fundamentally though, of course, is that the place just isn’t ours. So it can’t be customize to our liking as much as otherwise.
The challenge, as we’re already seeing in real color, is the startup costs. Down payments, Earnest money (whatever that means,) due diligence fees, inspection, appraisal… we’re going to be slowly nickel and dimed until we run screaming, and it’s likely going to take longer than we wished to get it all sorted. As such, this post will be first in an ongoing series, the last of which I hope to write from wherever out new abode is.
Speaking of, we got to check out our first possibility today. Getting to that point has already been a process that has taken nearly a month (a month? Wow, that time has flown). Paperwork had to be gathered and income verified before our lenders determined the amount of mortgage for which we could be pre-approved. I’m surprised that many don’t do it this way, choosing to find a home first then see if they can get the money they need to purchase it. With our pre-approval in hand, we could get a sense of what would be realistic if indeed we ever do clear all these pesky startup costs.
Anyhow, we arrived at the Southeast Raleigh property at 11 AM Saturday, early but not too bad I suppose. Her sister came along for the viewing as well as our real estate agent, given to us by the Teacher Next Door program my wife is using to spearhead this process. We entered a two-story townhome that was freezing, because it was empty and had no power. The bottom floor is not carpeted, which my wife very much preferred. The main issues were a lack of adequate storage and kitchen space, and on the second floor a carpet that needs replacing and some knicks and knacks that made the place look less appealing. Also, the master bedroom is likely too small to fit our fairly sizable bedroom set. Finally we were concerned about possible flooding in back based on the shape of that land in a large storm.
So no, we will probably not be getting that property. It was informative to take a look though, and I found our agent to be very good at really assessing what is going on in a place and relying it to us in an easy-to-understand way. We’ll just see if and when this all plays out.