Category Archives: Blog Status

Take Three. Or Four.

At long last, I’m re-re-launching my blog. Welcome (back).

I’ve still got a bit of work to do design-wise, but I’m getting close, so bear with me.

I used to run Cinderella Has a Mortgage, a blog focused on the care and feeding of my house, built in 1890, overlooking the Fox River in Elgin. The first couple years here, every day was really an adventure, from mowing the lawn with a reel mower to shrinkwrapping the windows in the fall. (I have ported that blog over here, so fear not, my difficult lessons are still public record.)

Now that’s mostly old hat, so the homeownership theme was too limiting. After four years, I’ve got the routine down. I spent the last few months debating what to do next.

And one day it hit me. I’ve become increasingly invested in my community and have grown to love my adopted hometown. I can blog about my many assorted adventures: running, lifting heavy things, cooking, gardening, social media, volunteering and just general learning. The great big world has so much to offer – I’d be crazy to limit my focus. (And yes, as I embark on a couple big home improvement projects, you’ll likely hear about those, too. Especially if I continue to discover evidence that previous owners took certain liberties with right angles.)

The Elginista name comes from my Twitter handle. Feel free to follow me there for more.

And away we go, for real this time.

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A Change in Focus

I started Cinderella Has a Mortgage nearly two years ago to chronicle my adventures as the owner of an old house that needs lots of care and feeding. At that point, I was doing a lot of new things, and every bit of routine maintenance was fascinating.

But now, it’s just that – routine. Though the house still sucks up a lot of my free time – it’s not getting any younger – I don’t think twice about shrinkwrapping windows or raking leaves. It’s just part of what needs to be done.

At the same time, I’m doing so much MORE beyond the house. I’m in a completely different place than I was a year ago. I’m in a very different role at work (managing our fledgling social media presence), I now devote a good 5 hours a week to working out, I eat clean and I’m working towards grad school. I’m more involved in my neighborhood and city (hence the Elginista moniker), beyond my property lines. Oh, and I’m getting married in July.

I’ve felt limited by the Cinderella focus on the blog. So I’m branching out.

Sure, there will be a fair number of house-related posts, especially as I embark on some new projects to replace the entire main bathroom and – eventually – rebuild the garage.

But I also want to be more interactive. So share your comments and suggestions.

Away we go…

Technical Difficulties

I got a new netbook to maximize my two daily hours of train time. I can write! On the train! Every day!

So I started writing and had drafted six or seven blog posts. Of course, I hadn’t yet synced up and actually published said blog posts. Then I installed a bunch of updates to the netbook, which set caused problems requiring me to recover everything. Which, of course, wiped out those six or seven posts.Grrr.

But now I should be back in business. Stay tuned!

Happy Housiversary to Me!

I’ve been very negligent lately. I don’t really have an excuse, but let’s get back to it.

Today is my third housiversary! I bought this wonderful piece of property three years ago today. That morning, I did my final walkthrough with my realtor to make sure all the issues arising from the inspection had been fixed. We ran through the checklist – toilet properly bolted down, ceiling fan balanced and, most importantly, asbestos wrapped – and headed off to the title company for the closing.

Less than two hours later, I returned, keys in hand, and let myself in. I slowly paced from room to room, marveling in the moment. It had rained earlier that morning, but the sun was breaking out through the clouds. For the first time in all my visits at the house – two looks, writing the offer, the inspection and walkthrough – I could see how sunshine flowed through the windows.

The sunlight illuminated the mess of cobwebs filling every corner and closet. Most of the light fixtures were just naked bulbs. A lightswitch had stopped working sometime between inspection and closing. I noticed that the tiny downstairs bathroom was horribly misaligned – the light fixture, mirror and sink were completely out of sync. And what about the piece of missing trim between the kitchen and bathroom?

All these little things hit me as I realized that I was stepping beyond the stressful-yet-exhilarating homebuying process, into the much more mundane and unknown world of home ownership. Suddenly, it was all my problem. And unlike leases measured in months, there was no time limit on the problems, nor anyone else holding my security deposit dollars to motivate me into action.

I immediately tackled the cobwebs and dust that had accumulated during the year the house sat vacant. The baseball wallpaper in the bedroom was next on the list. But three years later, some of these problems persist.The downstairs bathroom still bugs me every time I’m in there, but not enough to act when other projects are more pressing. The lightswitch was replaced right away, and I’ve only got one bare bulb left. But new projects always spring up with their own costs – in both time and money – and precedence. Obviously I’m going to take care of the geyser in the basement wall before I worry about a crooked mirror.

But in the past three years, I’ve realized that if I take them as them come, I can stay on top of everything, or at least ensure everything’s still functioning and the house stays warm and dry. Rather than trying to do everything at once, slow and steady is indeed winning the race.

I hope the same can be true with this blog. Rather than trying to write for a book or The Great American Novel, if I stick to steady, shorter posts, maybe I’ll make some progress.

It’s worth a try.

Sluggish Posting

I’ve been very very bad at posting lately, but I have excuses!

First and foremost, it’s National Novel Writing Month, that glorious, caffeine-fueled time when, to rail against the increasing darkness, you set out to write 50,000 words towards a novel in just 30 days. I participated – and made the goal – in 2006. Last year, I couldn’t get an idea developed well enough to do anything with, but this year, I’m on top of things. I’m about 16,000 words in, so just a hair behind goal (1,667 words a day keeps you on goal, so I should be at about 18,000, but who’s counting?

Second, I’m traveling, in London this week for work. I had visions of writing the whole way over, but after about three hours of work-work, I cranked out about 2000 words before I couldn’t bear to be hunched over anymore. Last night, when jet lag wouldn’t let me fall asleep until 2 AM, I managed about another 800 words.

Hopefully on tomorrow’s flight home, I’ll be able to tackle at least another 2000 words.

It’s all at the expense of posting… but I’ll be back to my semi-regular routine in December.

Coming home

I’ve been traveling a lot lately for work, and it’s always good to get home. I love flying into O’Hare at night, especially coming from the east coast, since the typical flight path follows the Lake Michigan shoreline. I can pick out the landmarks starting around the Museum of Science and Industry and follow them all the way up to Wrigley Field before we bank towards O’Hare itself.

I always watch for Elgin – you would think with the river and casino it would be easy-ish to spot – but no luck so far. I’ve got a couple more trips planned for the next month, so I’ll keep my eyes peeled.

I’ve also been heavily window shopping. More details on that soon.

Cinderella has a Roommate

I have a confession to make. Despite all my crowing about making it as a single girl homeowner (choose the appropriate hyphenation), I’m not so single anymore.

For the last 15+ months, I’ve been dating the wonderful Don (“The Don,” as friends call him), and two weeks ago, he moved in. It’s been fantastic sharing my home – our home – with such a caring, loving guy who constantly challenges me to be a better version of myself and do more. In fact, the Cinderella concept stems in part from him. One night several months ago, I was talking about all the things I’ve learned as a novice homeowner and the advice I give to friends. He encouraged me to keep at it, write it down and do something with the concept. That idea, coupled with Colete Dowling’s Cinderella Complex, gave rise to this blog and numerous other scattered writings.

The truth is, it’s great having a roommate who not only helps with the mortgage (thus freeing up funds to do more projects and – gasp – go back to school) but also serves as a sanity check on some of my more harebrained ideas. Climbing up on the roof alone? No way, not with Don around. He acknowledges that I certainly can do many things alone, he’s there, ready to help out while also injecting some reason and rationality into the process.

Heck, last fall he climbed the roof to help me clean gutters, despite his fear of heights! If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.

Though he hates – HATES – my rotary lawnmower, so that job happily remains mine.

Overall, I’m so lucky to have found such a great guy to share my life and home with. I just hope he realizes what he’s in for on the DIY front!

Setting the Stage

Once upon a time, a single gal graduated from college and set off into the world. After landing the first appropriately sucky job and tiny, overpriced apartment, she set her sights on bigger and better things. But the nebulous “bigger and better” wasn’t enough to drive her to the better job and better life. She needed to qualify and quantify her ambitions.

“I know!” she thought to herself, daydreaming while answering phones for an association of specialty nurses. “I will own my own home by the time I turn 25.”

It was a tall order, given her debt and paltry income. However, she had set high bars before and hurdled them with the right mix of planning, strategy, sacrifice and a bit of luck.

With time, the gal got promoted, which lined her up for an even better job with slightly more money. She moved to a slightly less overpriced urban apartment and brought her lunch to work. She clipped coupons and logged her grocery savings, transferring the savings into her house fund every month.

After a false start at age 23, when her potential mortgage lender fought back a chortle when presented with her financial situation, the magic age began to loom larger. The dream had evolved, though, from a condo in the city to a suburban house with a yard. Pouring over hundreds of listings online, the dream evolved further as far as size and scope.

Finally, ten weeks before my 25th birthday, I closed on my slice of the American dream: a three bedroom house on a quarter acre of crabgrass, built in the 1920s, loaded with charm, character and a new kitchen. To make the financials work, trade-offs were made. I’m forty miles from my job in downtown Chicago, but within easy walking distance of the train that can whisk me there in an hour.

In the twenty months since I closed on my house, I’ve had my fair share of joys, triumphs, mini-disasters and frustrations. I’ve known the satisfaction of figuring out how to properly wield a caulk gun – and proudly noticed the ensuing disappearance of a draft. I’ve bawled at the fourteen inches of icy snow that took two days to shovel. I’ve almost killed myself, slipping on ice while hauling my very first Christmas tree from the car to the house. I’ve climbed up a ladder to clean my gutters, only to realize that maybe doing so while alone wasn’t such a good idea. I’ve shooed various species of insects from most rooms of the house, chased a bat out of my enclosed porch, and am in the midst of an on-going staring contest with the raccoon that poops on my garage.

At the same time, I’ve reflected about buying a house in general. It’s a big process and a big step. Several of my friends have taken the same plunge, some as married couples, some as singletons, and some in between. But in the course of our conversations, the singletons have all observed that this would not have been possible decades ago.

Back in the old days, girls typically went directly from their parents’ house to a household with their husbands. There was no in between. That gap has evolved from dorms to apartments to full-fledged home ownership. No longer do women feel the need to wait for Prince Charming to start building their own home equity. Indeed, with women marrying later and making enough to afford a home, especially in the recent buyers’ market, it’s more common than ever for single women to buy.

Home ownership is one of the largest declarations of independence a single woman can make. In my case, it affirmed that I wasn’t going to wait around for a boy to make up his mind about me and a future; rather, I was taking matters into my own hands. Though I had a lot of support, I did hear rumblings that making such a bold move might dampen my prospects for a future marriage, since a man might be intimidated. I haven’t found that to be the case, but it’s an interesting theory worth considering. How does a modern, working woman balance her need for independence with other, more traditional needs? Deep down, do women want and need to be protected and taken care of?

In 1982, Colette Dowling published The Cinderella Complex: Women’s Hidden Fear of Independence, theorizing that women inherently want men to take care of them, sometimes sabotage their own success to achieve a more traditional gender role balance.

So how does Cinderella having a mortgage affect this dynamic?

This blog will serve as my forum to further flesh out and explore these ideas, as well as recount the growing pains of home ownership. Comments and feedback are very, very welcome.