The Home Adventures

Life has been hectic lately. We are moved out of our old place, which has been a relief. I loved it, but I was ready to move on.  Given what happened we didn’t want to rent again. So we have started shopping for real estate. From the outside the process seems daunting, almost unattainable. Even though it has been difficult, progress has been made. We have obtained a realtor, and have financing lined up.  It didn’t work out, but we made an offer on a property. There have been setbacks, but the experience has taught me so much. Reflecting on that, I wanted share some wisdom I found along the way.

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Take it one step at a time.

Looking for real estate is a daunting task with many moving parts. When I first started, I had no idea where to begin. The idea of buying a house seemed like it was something I couldn’t attain. There was so much that needed to be done. To help conquer it, I made a list. I would put the most important tasks near the top and go down.  This helped me focus, and avoid getting overwhelmed by the process. You are not going to get everything done in a day. Yet if you compartmentalize, you can see that you are making progress.

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Get organized.

This seems trivial, but it is so important.  To complete pre approval, you need to present many documents. To get my  pre-approval, I needed bank statements, tax documents, employment history and more. Luckily  I was able to find all of  it and get it into the bank. Yet the experience made me realize two things. First, that it is important to hold onto all of your important documents. Second, that I was woefully bad record keeping. It is important to keep everything together and have it at the ready.  Get everything together before you go to apply. Setup and email folders for your emails from the bank. Get everything organized, it will make your life much easier in the long run.

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Save your damn money.

One of my biggest regrets is that I did not save my money. There were years where I was making good money, with few financial responsibilities. Instead of putting that well earned money away, I spent it frivolously. I should have put that money away for later. A down payment can me between 3 to 20 percent depending on the type of loan.  Do yourself a service and save your money. Make a plan, put the money away and don’t touch it. Even if you are only putting away 50-100 every paycheck that add adds up. It takes discipline, but you will thank yourself later.

 

Obtain credit and use it wisely.

A  big challenge has been the limited scope of my credit. I pay for most things outright, and I have not carried enough debt. No student loans, no car payments,etc.  What saved me was my credit cards.  It seems mind boggling, but paying for everything outright does nothing for credit. Check on your credit, and manage it.  You have to show the banks you can carry debt, and pay it off successfully.

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Do your research.

Being well informed gives you an edge while hunting for property.  Gather as much information as you can.  Ask question about everything, confirm and takes notes. Remember this is going to be your home! Property may be for sale, but that does not guarantee it’s buildable.  A house may have problems you can’t see. It is better to ask a ton of questions, and find issues early  than to end up with a bad property.  Knowledge helps you make better choices, and avoid headaches later.

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Find a good realtor.

Realtors can make a huge difference to your buying experience. We have been lucky to have a great realtor. We are working with a buyer’s agent to find a property. The agent has been there to help guide us through every step of the process. She has been there to offer property, clarify terms and make suggestions.  She has thrown out some awesome ideas, that have helped us immensely.  She have also saved us from some undesirable properties. A well educated realtor can be a great resource. Make sure you pick someone who will make you a priority.

 

For now we are still looking. I can’t wait until we find a home, and can share it with you.  The search has been stressful, but I am enjoying the ride. This entire process has taught me so much. You are looking for a home, but you learn invaluable life skills along the way. If you are looking for a home best of luck. I hope that these tips help you. Let me know what you think! Share your tips in the comments.
If you are looking to buy, have fun and enjoy the ride!

Hill Climb Mount Washington 

The car in front of us began its ascent and the gate attendant waved us forward. We were in to Climb to the Clouds,

Climb to the Clouds is an race to the top of Mountain Washington. The race was first run in the year 1904 making it one of the oldest racing events in the United States. It had come around in both 2011,and 2014, but both times I had missed it. There was no way I was going to pass it up this time.

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“47 dollars,”  the toll booth attendant said curtly, he paused after I gave him my credit card.

“You know you have to stay there all day, correct?” He asked

“ That’s what we want!” Eric, my boyfriends cousin replied.

The volunteers were quick. Within a minute he was back with a receipt, and a envelope of gifts.

In it was a list of stupid things they have to tell tourist to refrain from, and a DVD tour. There was also one of those “ This car has climbed Mount Washington stickers.” Finally on top there were entry wristbands. They  had general admission printed in black ink  Eric held out his arm, and I attached one to his wrist. Like me, Eric is a Subaru enthusiast, so he decided to come with us on Sunday.  We joined the endless of line of cars heading toward the summit, many sporting the six star Subaru logo.

You could see the steep path we were traveling to the summit. The steeper sections tend to be intense. The road goes right up to the edge, the falls away  into the valley below, which is surreal. Containing my fear, I enjoyed the view.The trees fell away in the alpine zone, revealing the other mountains that surrounded us.

Reaching the top, we exited the car, and stepped into the swirling fog. The temperature had dropped considerably, as is usual with Mount Washington. We donned several layers, hats and gloves, but the wind still found its way in.  We made our way down towards the viewing area as the wind buffeted us.

A helpful volunteers calmly told us where to go, and some quick tips.

“ I suggest sitting at least 15 feet back.”  the volunteers said cautiously “ Just in case.”

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There were two parts of the race, the first  started at 9:00am. The second part would start afternoon, and all cars would take two runs. We watched the first part just below the summit.  We hid behind a large outcropping, trying to escape the wind. It didn’t help us much. It was cloudy and the wind ripped across the ridge. It felt like winter, and it took an iron will not to retreat inside. Being out in that harsh weather, makes you respect the mountain.

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The first round was cold, but fun to watch. The biggest attraction was the Subaru Rally driver,s Travis Pastrana and Dave Higgins.  There were Subaru rally cars, and older Subarus as well. They were surrounded by a smattering of  Dodges, Fords, and Saabs, and even electric cars. The differences made the race a ton of fun to watch.

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Towards the end of the first round everyone became restless. The Subaru rally Team had not yet made their way up the mountain. They would come at any moment. Then the radio crackled open, a  garbled transmission tumbled through the radio.

“Number 75, Higgins, off the course, red flag.”

Dave Higgins? He held the record at 6:09.

There had been folks going off the road all day. Yet it was different. The Subaru guys were here to break the record. They were pushing the cars to their limit, and Washington was dangerous.

Luckily we found out some information later. He had gone off Cragway, one of the most dangerous curves on the hill. Thankfully he came out of the crash ok, but he was out of the race.

Travis Pastrana went by so fast that I barely saw him.

The first round finished around noon. At the end the competitors paraded back towards base. Afterward the car paraded down the road which was neat. We lined the road and watched them make their way slowly to the bottom.

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We picked a spot below The competitor lot for round two. The sun came out and the wind died down. We sat on the rocks, with the sun at our back. Below us, the road snaked out down the mountain. We had a better line of sight, but the cars still got close. I got great action photos,and enjoyed watching the race. Near the end of the race a Porsche tried to pass a Subaru. The Subaru was able to hold on, but it made for some exciting action towards the end of the climb.

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On his last run, Pastrana came up past the finish line as his back end shot out. He wiggles a bit, but was able to gain control keep pushing. He cut two seconds off his morning time. He set the new record of 5 minutes and 44 seconds.

Pastrana came out of his car smiling. People had crowded around him, and the helicopter circled above us. The entire time he had a huge grin on his face. As soon as he was out of the car the camera crews were there, and he  told them about the race. Then one of the race official came over a checked flag. He presented it to Pastrana, and congratulated him on the new record. Pastrana held it above his head, almost taken aback, “ Cool hang this up in the garage.” After he was done with the reporter he hung out for a little bit, and luckily I was able to grab a photo with him.

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At the end of the day we followed the endless line of cars down the auto road. It had been a cold, tiring day, but it had been spectacular “ What a day.” we kept saying. I sat in the back seat, quietly taking it all in. The sun was getting lower in the sky,  throwing beautiful shadows on the mountains.  We got to watch a new world record, set in the mountains. My face is all sun-burnt again, and I was bone tired,  but it was worth it.

Introvert Living in a Loud World

I grew up in a small town tucked into the hills of New Hampshire.  There is no gas station, and a traffic jam is considered two cars stuck behind an International Harvester. Greenfield is in the middle of the Monadnock Region, and often it seems like time stands still here. When I was in my teens I couldn’t stand it. It was outdated, boring and I couldn’t wait to leave. I felt like there were more exciting places waiting over the horizon. The funny thing is that  as soon as I left, I realized how important home was.

My boyfriend and I are living in Manchester while we look for houses. It is not a large city, but  I find it too much. Manchester is too large, and the houses too close together. It seems like we wake up every morning to sirens, or cars with loud exhausted speeding by.  When you have so many people living together it is hard to avoid.

I used to get overwhelmed often. That frustration would bubble over into my daily life, creating arguments, or meltdowns.  I knew that I was upset, but could never vocalize why I was feeling like that. A few years ago, I stumbled upon an article about introverts, and it clicked. It explained my feelings, and my relationship with others. My quiet nature and the sensitivity to noise. The fact that I get drained when I spend time with friends and loved ones. Most important, I realized why living in the city bothered me so much.

Understanding this part of my personality has improved my relationship with my world.  I have become better at recognizing my feelings, and when I need to engage in self care.  I know now, how to remove myself before irritation and sullenness set in. Little trips out of town help, and moment spent in silence do as well. Making time for these things ensures I stay balanced.

As an introvert, life can be difficult. We live in a fast paced loud world that can be overwhelming. Some days it can be like you don’t belong. Yet self discovery has shown me that I do have a place. We may be in the city for now, but we will get back to small town living soon.

Book Review: Heart of The Trail

Two years ago, I took a road trip to Colorado, and always get nostalgic at this time of year.  Driving through the United States is an incredible experience.  The trip fueled a interest in western history for me. When I visit bookstores, I find myself in the Westward Expansion section.

I picked up “Heart of the Trail” by Mary Barmeyer O’Brien in  the used section of a local bookstore. It was tucked into the shelve between books about George Custer, Wyatt Earp and Billy the Kid. I love western history,  but one major issue I have is that women are often overlooked.  This book was different.

“ Heart of the Trail” book details the experience of eight women who traveled west. It focuses on their journey through the wilds of America. The accounts are constructed with historical information, and the women’s own accounts. This helps create a well rounded picture of their experiences. They came from different places, and had different reason for going west.  Each woman’s journey was different, yet had some of the same elements, which tied the stories together nicely.

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This is not an in depth piece. The slim novel is great for someone who is just getting into the subject. The book included many great complementary sources. Within the section the sources I I found several books I was excited to add to my list. This book was very well researched ,and written superbly. Each story was presented in a way that pulled me in and kept me interested.  The book highlighted each women in a unique way that kept my attention.

I really enjoyed “The heart of the Trail”. It is a slim book, yet is a great start for those looking to learn more about our history.  This book is a good Jumping off point for anyone for anyone looking to get into the role women played in western expansion in the United States

Be the Light

Yesterday, Manchester England experienced something horrible within their city. Hate driven violence, violence that targeted children. We are left with overwhelming emotions. We sift through emotions, trying to answer hundreds of questions. It makes us question our safety and our security. How do we move forward from this?

Part of me wanted to be silent, to honor the victims. Yet there is a bigger part of me that cannot stay silent. As a writer it is my duty to interpret the world. If we do not speak about what has happened, we cannot make it better. To fix the problem we need to confront it.

I have grown up in the age of terror.  September 11 fell on the eve of my 11th birthday. Nearly two decades later I have witness many more. Madrid, London, Paris, New York and Boston. I am no closer to understanding what makes people do such things.

One thing I have realized is, there are situations we will struggle to understand. You can blame extremism, or ideologies. I think it runs deeper than that, but that is just my opinion. I think it is much more important to move forward. There is nothing we can do to change other people’s hatred. What we can do is change how we look at our world.

We need to condemn these acts. Yet we cannot let hate define who we are. We cannot fall into the same traps of hatred that define the Radical Islamic State. We need to remember who we are. We live in counties defined by freedom, equality and justice. The Western world needs to rise above this hatred and show the world our understanding and compassion. We need to set an example of what humanity can be. Thinking about that today, I got my answer. There are things all of us can do to make our world a better place.

 

 

Be strong and brave.

Help where you can.

Say I love you too much.

 

Hug your loved one tight.

Forgive.

Practice compassion and understanding.

Be a light in the darkness.

Iowa Road Notes

I woke up contorted in the back of a Jeep Grand Cherokee. It was my first road trip west, heading west towards Colorado.  The night before I fell into fitful sleep as we slipped the boundaries of Cleveland. As I awoke, I realized the landscape had changed. The urban sprawl and thick forest had been left behind. In their place was the wide open plains of the Midwest.

I took it in as we sped west on Interstate 80. Slowly the sun breached the horizon on that warm May morning. It’s rays burned through the thick fog that blanketed the fields overnight. Structures began to emerge. Houses sat comfortably on the treeless landscape, with worn barns, or broken old silos attached. There were also new metal silos, glinting in the sun. Other houses were  tucked into little groups of trees, an oasis on the flat treeless plains.

Iowa is a vast open state. Countless rolling hills stretched towards the horizon. The patchworks of tilled field are a deep brown, only interrupted by thin patches of green.

Water towers rise above the fields, dotting the landscape. Poles for electricity run into the distance, until they disappeared quietly over the horizon. These are the places where the settlers settled down and planted roots.

It was surprising to  me, how drawn I was to the landscape.Not many people value the states that make up our heartland. People tell you that our heartland is boring.They are something that can be easily missed. I think it is that  it was that forgotten nature that drew me in. I would eagerly, trade excitement for wide open landscape.

I want to see more of what the settlers had left behind. It is a place where hard people made a life for themselves. Westward expansion changed our country.  It is home to our finest triumphs and our deepest shame.  It has shaped who we are.

I didn’t have that luxury. We had a rendezvous in Denver to meet,with hundreds of miles to go. There wasn’t any time to stop that day. But I promised myself i would go back. That incredible open landscape lit a fire in my soul. Someday I hope to have a chance to see what lays further down those old dirt roads.

Bumps in the road

Life comes at you fast sometimes.

I stepped away from my social media accounts without much warning. A lot of things happened all at once, and without much warning. I stepped away for some much needed self care and reflection.  This didn’t leave any time for writing.  Now that things have settled down, I felt I needed to let it out. I want to record all of it, I just needed to find the words.

It all started with an email from our landlord. Every month they would send us a quick note. Usually asking us how we were doing, how the condo was, and giving us the amount on the electric.  This one did this, but had a little surprise at the end of it. They were selling the condo to one of neighbors, and we needed to schedule a viewing with him.

At  that point we were faced with a tough choice, stay or leave.

We loved our home and the community we had become part of. Yet  there were challenges with the idea of staying. The unit was in the high end of our price bracket. It fit our current needs, but we would quickly outgrow the space. We decided to  leave the unit and move on.  We are moving in with family for now, hoping to get a piece of property by summers end.

There was more in store for us.

In March our thirteen year old boxer, Birdie developed a limp. The leg was tender, and she would cry out when we touched it.  We brought her vet, expecting a broken bone, a strained shoulder. She

had a slight heart murmur, but besides that had been healthy.

It was  Osteosarcoma.

Osteosarcoma. It is an aggressive form of bone cancer that is a death sentence. One option was amputation. The idea is to separate the cancer from the body. Yet  surgery  is dangerous, and often the cancer shows up in another part of the body. The other option was palliative care. Mitigate the pain and enjoy her for as long as we can. It was hard, but the right thing to do. It has meant a lot of changes in our home. She needs her medication and special care. Birdie has become the center of things as we enjoy the time we have left with her.

All these changes have made writing difficult. Even when I have free time, I haven’t truly had the heart to write. I have been forcing myself to edit some stories, but my heart hasn’t been it it. It has been hard, but it has been eye opening.  The challenges have forced me to think about my future. I have some exciting ideas, that I can’t wait to share with you.
So what do you have going on and what struggles have you been facing?  I would love to hear from you.

Introduction

Hey Everyone,

First off, I would like to thank everyone for taking the time to check out my site. It has been a long time in making. My name is Colleen, and I am a writer and photographer. I grew up in a postcard village in Southern New Hampshire, and it shaped my love for the arts. So much work has been put into this, and I look forward to bringing you my work.

I have written for several publications, Including Only in Your State, Explorer Gear and New Hampshire State Parks. I also write my blog, Contemplative Nostalgia. I love going out and exploring, and coming back and sharing my experiences. I enjoy exploring places that have historical and cultural significance. I love Americana, and bringing it to life.

I have come to realize that I strive for more than the 9-5. In truth I am a traveling soul, and I want to make a career of that. I look forward to bringing you all along on my adventures.