I’m Here for The Groom (A Poem)

I’m here for the man who helped me with my thermodynamic’s homework,
For the dude that told my ex to back off when I left him for my now husband,
For the Starcraft nerd that let me create a Space Marine fleet when the guys in the room doubted my “strategery”.

I’m here for the dude that dressed up as Woody, or a cowboy, or whatever would make us smile on Halloween,
For the happy dances, and love dances that I never got to see because I always came in late to the room.
I’m here for the young man who showed me how a true gentle souls lives; how to not compromise my integrity.

Even though I couldn’t participate in the events leading up to his nuptials,
Since being one of the guys doesn’t truly get me invited to guys’ only events,
I have to admit I’m here as more than a guest or a friend.
I’m here as his sister, his mentor and guide,
To return the favor he did us when we miscarried and needed clarity and closure.
He was our marriage’s guardian angel.
We owe you the world bro.
We really do.

I hope your success extends to your new lease on life,
To the new family you start today.
Keep in mind we will always love you,
And that you can count on us for shelter, support and strength.
May all that is desired by y’all come to fruition.
May all your dreams become reality.


Make Your Wedding Day Yours

Recently, I noticed wedding sizes have shrunk. Between people canceling last minute and costs to fly “back home” becomimg prohibitive, many have to err on the side of caution and stick with a budget rather than with guest counts. Also, and in my opinion, not a lot of people are 100% looking forward to spending 10k to 25k on a wedding instead of spending it on themselves. Who would? Many don’t realize how they have been conditioned by their elders to want a big wedding because it is a sign of prestige and power or a way to tout their children did “the right thing”. Sad though because weddings used to be an intimate gathering and the ultimate block party and now they have become glorified sweet sixteens or are sold as “the bride’s big day”. Hint: It’s not just about the bride and never was, the groom counts too, and trust me you will have better days in your marriage than the wedding day. That’s the whole point of getting married: to spend a lifetime making greater memories together. (Like kids and college degrees.)

Society has turned weddings into an industry.  The original intent of throwing a party to fundraise for the couple, donating services and gifts to ensure their financial success, has gone by the wayside. The celebration of love is manipulated into this big affair where the guest is the priority. Weddings were never about the dress or the flowers, they were about the marriage and about the honeymoon destination and duration as you need time as spouses to enjoy each other and become a new family – detached from the families of origin. The wedding should be about you two not the guest list! If you are catering to a guest, parent or just to yourself and not your spouse, you are doing it wrong too.

Growing together as a new family will always be a better investment than flowers, roast beef and chocolate tiered cake. Looking back – hindsight is 20/20 – I would have enjoyed more spending 5k at Les Champs Elysee on a shopping spree than on a wedding. I felt I was making others rich at my expense and with the excuse that it had to be done because wedding. Throughout the process of planning the event I realized that one must learn to stop bending over backwards to please parents and friends. If they don’t like the way the wedding turned out they won’t like the way you run your marriage. But you know what? Tough luck! It is your marriage, yours to mess up and doesn’t require their approval or guardianship! It is hard to do but we can break the cycle and challenge old traditions in order to create our own. Any reasonable parent will come to realize that you are an adult and that your decision is your prerogative.

Dare to throw a small destination wedding and make it official halfway across the world. Let the guests decide if they want to treak over there. Hate Aunt Gertrude? Don’t invite her! Mom’s guilt trip shouldn’t stop you. Buy the Louboutins or the nice suit and wear the 10k dress to a courthouse wedding. Your dad’s boss doesn’t need to witness your day, neither do 300 peep. Hire an excellent photographer and make your friends jealous of your Bali ceremony. It’s a commitment you make on your own and under your own volition. Sharing it with your guests won’t make it any more successful or satisfying. That’s the first myth. The guests are invited so they feel obligated to give a gift. Look up the definition and texts on wedding etiquette and you will be amazed to learn that the only time you are obligated to send a gift even if you don’t attend is for weddings. So there, you can ask for gifts without throwing a humongous party. A bridal shower will do. You’d be surprised at how a nice potluck and BBQ can go a long way to tell your fans how much you love them and how grateful you are for their support. Win-win.

Whether it is wedding #1 or #1000, make it about you and your future spouse. Don’t waste time combining colors or arguing with bridesmaids. Run with the most cost effective options. Focus on what you and your partner want out of life. Skip the reception and buy the house. Ask for donations to the honeymoon. Take back the wedding and make it yours. Marriage isn’t about pleasing others, it is about sharing your life with the person you chose to love, support and care for during the rest of your life. No one cares if your party was the best. The guests will eat the food, drink the beverages, criticize your event and move on. The only thing that survives the test of time is the pictures, so please, splurge in this area and cut guests instead. iPads in the middle of the aisle way and guests taking selfies is not what you want to remember about the day you married your soulmate. Customize and enjoy your day without putting the guests first. It’s a personal experience regardless of what people say and many of these people won’t survive the marriage.

Take it from me. I hated my traditional wedding day with a passion, still do, because everyone fought me tooth and nail to make it about them and not me. It was up to my husband to remind me the day was just an act that was required of us to make things official. We’ve had better days in Prague and Tokyo instead to make up for the wedding memories. Glad to say that I am still happily married 8 years later but I am still butthurt about not getting a honeymoon for the sake of the pomp and circumstance. Ugh. Follow this advice and I guarantee you won’t regret it. Trust me, you’ll thank me later. 😀

30 Wedding Invitations And Counting…

Weddings…Whether or not you throw one or ever get married, there’s a chance you will be invited to a few of these throughout your life time. In my case, my husband and I have been invited to over 30 weddings over the past 12 years. Think about that for a second. That’s 2.5 weddings a year, on average, and in only 4 of them have we been a part of the wedding party. I still have no idea how we landed these many invitations. Imagine going to 75% of these, many out of state and beyond. That’s a lot of airline miles…and $$$.

The cost alone and the experiences post attendance were the basis for the My Beef with Weddings post. Surely after these many events you’d understand why I was so cynical and sarcastic about the whole affair. However, what I had failed to internalize was the fact that I was invited in the first place. What were we doing that warranted this particular courtesy? Is it a compliment or an obligation to be asked to attend? I’m sure many people would jump at the chance of being so popular, and short of being a wedding photographer, not a lot of people have enough friends to get this many invitations. Then again I did not understand why people wanted me to be a part of their day much less how to successfully be a part of their new lives. The only reason we are attending wedding #30 is because I introduced the bride and groom to each other. How cool is that!! Some women dream of having a story like this but then again I wasn’t expecting any of this to happen. On top of that, with only one matron of honor appearance and having been a bride but never a bridesmaid, I wasn’t particularly inclined to think I meant a lot to all of these people that asked me to witness their vows. Talk about self esteem issues!!

Many would argue that the invites were thank yous for welcoming them into the PNW and our family away from home. A noble gesture, sure, but worth an invitation? Here I was just making sure our company’s retention of employees staid high. The rest was me trying to avoid being and feeling alone so far away from my family of origin. My non-altruistic kindness paid dividends as a lot of these people are still a part of my life, and so are their kids! Granted they took on different roles as time progressed and the intimacy levels changed but they are all still friendly. They all still care even if I felt I was left behind because we weren’t on the same Little Gym and daycare circles. They didn’t stop caring even when I thought they sounded a bit jealous or petty when commenting about our ability to travel or when they were taken aback by our reproductive woes. If so, the wedding and life event invitations would have stopped coming. Took me a while to figure that one out. Not everyone had the courage to help us weather the storms, not to tell us about the support they could provide. Judging by the many heart to heart I have had recently, hopefully we all know better now.

Being invited to a wedding has a bit if prestige attached to it so it is no wonder that we went overboard attending all these events. We did it out of loyalty -and for the open bar- but it would have been nice if the invitations had come with an explanation of why they really valued our presence on that day. It would have been easier to miss them while they created these new lives that excluded us by default and not intentionally. If we knew what we brought to the table we would have continued to bring it instead of shying away, hurt and heartbroken.

Honestly, I still don’t know how we made the guest list so many times! I guess we know a lot of people. Hehe. I don’t think of any of my friends as particularly close and many of the invitations and treatment reveal that the feeling was mutual. There’s no hierarchical friendship circles or levels in my world and no friend is more special or dear to me than another. They are all important to me and I open my heart and thoughts to all of them equally. Truth be told I get uncomfortable when someone uses the word close to describe a relationship. I can’t discriminate that way since I need all the people I can get. Maybe this open way of approaching people was worthy of reciprocating via wedding guest spots? If so, it says a lot more about me than I originally surmised.

That’s the lesson that 30 weddings (and counting) taught me: sometimes you are more dear to people than you realize. 

I should see these invitations as a sign that I am blessed and loved, not as an announcement that I will lose my friends to future plans that don’t include us playing with their children. It is an invitation to witness their progress beyond the wedding day through social media and the occasional gathering. These are the events that now allow us to get together and hang out as friends. I have to admit a part of me feels sad that I couldn’t have all these people at our wedding. I can’t think of no better way to honor their service and friendship than with an open bar and a party.

Maybe that’s why I am so butthurt about the situation and about weddings: I can’t extend them the same courtesy and I am distraught their dreams fall apart like ours did. I was to sad and angry about this and my perceived unhappily ever after that I missed reading between the lines. Weddings are not an end to our friendship but merely a continuation into uncharted waters. Now that we have learned to navigate them together our ties should become stronger. 🙂 After all, we need each other now more than ever. 40 is going to hurt like hell with all the Quinceañeros. LOL. Hugs!

The Romanticization Of Friendship

During the last couple of years, I have noticed that considering your lover your best friend is trending. The amount of commertials on TV and online selling items to commemorate these dual role couples has skyrocketed. Entire product and jewelry lines aim to sell to this coveted audience because they are more than happy to spend on these items. It’s so excessive and passive-aggressive that I wonder who lets themselves be manipulated into forcing their significant other to conform to this standard.

My husband and I are NOT best friends, and I can honestly state that my relationship thrives because of this fact. Not being best friends make us stronger people. Why? Because by sharing our thoughts and concerns with our besties, we have a neutral sounding board to process our emotions before unleashing them on our unsuspecting significant other. These people help us internalize and vocalize our intended demands or needs. They listen to us without a need to justify themselves or feeling guilty because they are the subject of our anxiety and frustration; our very own demilitarized safe zone. The insight our BFFs bring into the discussions about us as a couple and what they have observed as we grew into the people we are today is priceless. It gives us room to scream and shout and tantrum or cry without losing our cool at each other. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

The school of thought surrounding the “best friends/best spouses” theory is very controversial. For decades, we have started to put pressure on our partners to be the panacea for our ailments; they must be The One, perfect in every way, addressing our needs even before we have identified them. Whereas traditional couples split the labor and chores of family life without considering each other friends, modern people cannot lift a finger unless their counterpart fulfills their every emotional and psychological desire. We became codependent instead of retaining our independence inside our spousal roles. We placed our happiness in the other person’s shoulders. That is an insurmountable burden for those we hold so dear.

Truth be told I couldn’t make my husband my best friend even if I wanted to. I need a partner not a parent; a passionate lover, not a friend. What drew us together was that our opinions about life, travel and the pursuits of nerds differ greatly. The exchange of data and knowledge is the cornerstone of our family’s foundation. My partner doesn’t complete me and vice versa. As a team, we must present a cohesive and disciplined while retaining the unique charm that made us fall in love with each other, our individuality. The constant advertising of this aspect of marriage made us angry because people expect us to buy into the hype. Happy couples dote on each other and make everyone else puke with disgust, right? (Blech) Was our marriage in trouble because we weren’t best friends? Not really. Was it necessary to make each other better people? We didn’t think so. Then what do we gain for buying into the propaganda? Nothing!

The eerie part is that by romanticizing friendship we opened up Pandora’s box. Out came friend zones and sexual attraction expectations, and the romanticization of friendships emerged. Doesn’t every woman want to marry their best friend? Time and time again I see this theme come up in movies or literature; best guy and gal pal fall for each other after years of missing verbal and physical queues. Some charcaters even manage to find each other before a wedding or funeral gets in their way. We are obsessed as a culture with the star-crossed lovers predicament, and we all want our own happy ending.

Before all these expectations were thrust into the public limelight, friends could be friends without an implication of physical intimacy. In my case I have a vast pool of best friends and confidants and everyone involved, male and female, knows I am not romantically attracted to them. However I do love them and tell them at every opportunity we get to share our lives and laugh at ourselves. Love is not about sex and neither is friendship. The reasons as to why linking all three concepts is beneficial for society is still lost on me.

I can feel love for a person and not feel wanton or desire for them. I can also feel kinship with a fellow human and not consider them a familiar. Because people keep confusing these three concepts-love, lust and camaraderie-we propagate the myth of the all inclusive and perfect marital contract. Marriage can work well regardless of the presence of any of the three. The people inside the union are the only ones that can decide what makes it work or what doesn’t. We don’t feel we are worse off than those who swear their partner is the epitome of a best friend. To each their own.

My Power Ring

In 2006, a year and a half shy of our wedding date, I started to look for the perfect ring. This was before anyone thought of making Disney Princess collections or Tri-Force engagement rings, and customizing your own set cost thousands. We had settled on Tanzanite as the center cut stone, in trillion shape, because it has a purple-blueish sparkle that rivals any sapphire or diamond in the world. A soft stone, it served as the perfect symbol of what we thought our relationship would be, strong and precious but at the same time soft and fragile. Unlike diamonds, tanzanite stones can scratch or crack under loads of pressure which meant it had to be handled with caution and great care. Also purple is the color or royalty and the color that represents engineering which according to our plans of building an empire, it suited us perfectly.

Trillion cut 1 carat Tanzanite. Not to scale.

What I never imagined was that it would give me superpowers that would make Sauron rage with envy! I say that the ring has magical powers because it elevated me into a whole new area of the playing field that is life. It does most of the talking for me. It helps me explain things away with a simple wave of my hand. It makes me immune to unwanted or misguided advances from strangers. When I say I have to go or do something because my ring counterpart needs me, no one bats at eye. In case of emergency the life of Mr Enginerd is in my hands. With great power comes great responsibility.

Hearts broke around the world when I said I do and began wearing my ring of power. Over time, the magic that it holds began to walk a fine line between good and evil. Although it can make me invisible to a crowd of successful good looking men or single women, a trick that comes in handy for an introvert in their finest robes,  it can backfire when I need to be seen. So many conversations and presentations have gone south because people can only see and value me when my husband or a man that could pass for an authority figure is nearby. In the middle of moments of mysoginistic glory like this one, (sarcasm), it transforms me into a She-Hulk debater of female and gender equality that is not to be messed with. Then you can truly and unequivocally see me shine as bright as the Tanzanite I wear. I am tired of being treated as a lesser being because people can only see me as half of a person instead of a whole one. My husband is not my better half. He doesn’t complete me. And for some things I am better off by myself. I wish people understood that ring of power gives me abilities beyond my own but not always at the expense of my lifetime partner.

At times it has betrayed me, disappearing behind the Barbecue (which prompted me to buy a replacement ring, so now I have 2) as if it was looking for its own hobbit rescuer (my then 4 year old nephew found it) or new master. That story had a sad ending though; I was pregnant at the time and I remember asking the powers that be to keep it if my baby was alright. It came back after a 4 week hiatus, right around the time my unborn child was lost to chromosomal anomalies. Pure evil that ring. Thinking about it gives me chills. That’s why the ring has become the worst conversation starter about family plans. The devastation and havok the answer to “when will you have kids” has reeked on mankind is atrocious and vast. Things can turn badly quickly depending on the line of questioning individuals undertake in this category. There are days when I avoid wearing it all together just to make the intruders stand at bay, especially during baby showers and weddings. I’ve been blamed of dereliction of my Christian and American duty because we haven’t procreated, and of being selfish and not sharing my earnings with adoptive children. To me, insensitive pleas like these are worse than torture because they reveal how ignorant and brazen we are when discussing the topic of family.

Another negative side effect of wearing the ring is that people get very angry at me whenever I am hanging out with friends without my husband. Some went as far as to remind me that a good wife wouldn’t leave home without her man. I’ve been accused of cheating and lying even when I have shared that Mr Enginerd knows were I am, in case I get kidnapped or my designated driver gets too drunk to drive safely. During moments like these the ring becomes a burden because it places expectations on my behavior that are not in line with my lifestyle or way of thinking. I am independent, I follow the law, and I don’t need a man to tell me what to do or protect me. Just ask my parental units and they’ll tell you their baby girl ain’t got time for none of that machismo crap. Be warned, wives are not their husband’s property or vice versa. Owning people is illegal, and is called slavery.

Not all of the powers have an evil twin, and I am grateful that a piece of white gold and precious stone, with diamond baguettes at the sides, can serve me well whenever I need to face the world. It reminds me of the good times and the bad, and of the commitment I must honor to my family and happiness. It allows me to infiltrate a social institituion that needs serious reform under the law, and made me an ambassador for couples with fertility issues and child loss. For the better part of a decade my ring has become my sidekick, helping me learn about love, compassion and the greater good. It has given me the strength to forgive and improve my human condition, and to accept that people will fail me epically but still love and support me. The ring itself holds all of my best and worst memories, serving as the only constant in my marriage; it’s beauty never fades and can be restored with a good cleaning and polishing.

Truth be told, the nerds in our family always wanted rings of power and now we can proudly say we have them. Ever since we realized our wedding bands could double up as our super hero secret identity markers (this was around year 4 of our marriage), my husband started wearing his platinum band on his left index finger just like Hal Jordan would. He always wanted to be a Green Lantern. 🙂 What he didn’t realize was that by giving me a purple-blueish ring, represented in Green Lantern Corps lore by love and hope respectively, he gave me a Star Sapphire, technically making me a part of the Zamarons and thus part of the Green Lantern Corps he so desperately wanted to join and represent. This was the most creative and subconscious grand gesture he has done for me, including me in his childhood fantasies. (FYI- Hal’s on and off girlfriend Carol Ferris, hard core engineer and owner of a defense contracting firm, is a Zamaron too.) Amazing! If that is not proof that our innermost childhood dreams and desires come true, and that the right kind of lover will find you, I don’t know what will convince you otherwise.

Copyright TheCreatorHD @ Deviantart.com

Violet Lantern Oath:

“For hearts long lost and full of fright,

For those alone in Blackest Night.

Accept our ring and join our fight,

Love conquers all with violet light!”

My message to you is this: Wield your ring or object of power regardless of your marital or social status. Find your one ring to rule them all and use your abilities wisely. During my darkest nights my ring served me as a reminder that good things come to those who work hard and persevere. Find your inner strength and courage. Feed your self esteem and your soul. We all have superpowers; find the best vehicle to channel them into the world. Don’t be afraid to light the way for others. Be your own Green Lantern Corps’ light.

I Lost A Friend on New Year’s Day (2011)

Five years ago, my friend Jesus took his bride to be to a New Year’s family event. His intention was to present Kate to his family and little did they all know it would become the last meal they would all share together. His uncle, in a fit of madness, decided to burn the family in an attempt to murder his kin and keep the inheritance. Not the kind of news you want to hear after celebrating with friends and family the beginning of what was shaping up to be a really cool year.

I will never forget that on New Year’s Day 2011, and the week that followed, I was forced to part ways with two of my dearest and loving friends. You never think that going back home is going to cost you your life, much less that a family member would set all your dreams up in flames, literally. Her family, blessed be their souls, did everything they could to keep calm and help their future son in law and daughter to fight for their lives.

We all hoped they would make it but with third degree burns, it was going to be hell to recover. I was preparing myself for the worst. Being strong for the sake of others is never easy.

When we got the call that they had died, my husband and I felt betrayed, robbed of all the future plans we had together. I could barely bring myself to do certain things without asking what K&J would have done. Just two nights before the attack, we had been with them at a wedding where they had been discussing their future plans, their reception’s particulars and the song they were going to dance as man and wife. When the song played during the memorial my friends and I created for them we couldn’t contain the tears. We felt them dancing, swaying happily and full of life. There is a quote from Mark Twain that days that there are two important days in your life, the day you are born and the day you find out why (your mission if you chose to accept it). That memorial was a mission, totally necessary for us to mourn and I can tell you it took every part of my soul and all of my strength to see it through. The world needed people like K&J and now we were at a loss.

Between the counseling sessions and our own brand of community support, we were able to put back the pieces of our broken hearts. Survivor’s guilt is a strange master because it makes you feel sad about being alive even when you weren’t a part of the event. The part of you that identified with them feels guilty that you get to enjoy life, have kids, and be excited about the future. The same future that was taken away from them.

Our pain was so strong that even though their wedding was scheduled for the following summer, and the event should have been cancelled, their parents decided to keep the venue and party going to honor their love. They figured that the date was going to be tough on all of us so we might as well spend it together. Even though they were married in spirit that first week of January when we lost then, we celebrated their union as they had desired, honoring the life they shared, and the one taken from them. We promised ourselves to keep them alive by sharing their devotion and story, by remembering the good times and continue to emulate their kindness. Learning to live without Kate and Jesus has been one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do because I share this pain with a vast community that knows that regardless of the passage of time, we will always carry this torch with us.

K&J shine brighter in my thoughts as the years go by even though the shock of their abrupt departure still lives in me. When someone full of promise is taken from us we always wonder about what could have been. On my worst days I am glad that they didn’t get to tarnish their reputations or not live up to the hype but knowing them, they would have surpassed all the expectations. This wasn’t fair for us nor for them and it made me question if there was a reason that could make our pain bearable. There isn’t. No one should have to bury a child, not see her get married or not see him become a dad. Without a doubt I can say that they deserved a chance to make their own mark on the world, to live and screw up just like the rest of us have been doing since we last saw them.

I will always remember their invitation to continue to party after our friend’s wedding was over. Their smiles as they walked hand in hand towards the exit and into the great unknown. If I ever build that time machine I’d go back and save them. I know we all would love to hear what they thought about our lives, our choices, and how many facepalms they gave themselves watching over us. We love you guys. We will never forget your friendship and love.

Happy New Year K&J!

First Time Home Buyer or Home Seller Tips: What My Rental Investment Property Taught Me

Recently, the paperwork in the Real Estate got a facelift not just to facilitate the process of financing property sales, but in an effort to hinder mortgage fraud. Like in any big enterprise, there are a few bad apples in the market that buy homes under the pretext of occupying them, only to flip the property and turn it into a rental as soon as the ink is dry. To avoid giving the appearance that you are trying to scam the lenders, and to ensure both sellers and buyers are educated about the process, I wanted to use my recent experience as an example of what to look for and what not to do.

1.The power of the pre-qualification letter:

If you are buying, make sure you already have an approval letter from your preferred lender that clearly states how much you can borrow and how much down payment you are willing to offer. Why? Sellers are often disappointed when a property falls through during escrow because the prospective buyer could not secure a loan. Depending on the area, many buyers could be considering cash or rental property financing which will require at least a 20% down payment. Those offers will result in a better deal for the seller.

2. Owner Occupied to Rental Unit ratio:

The problem with buying a home and later renting it, barring any mayor circumstance that forces you to do this, is that it creates a condition in which future lending to those attempting to acquire a property in your community or Home Owners Association/Condo, could be hindered if 50% or more of the units are not owner occupied. Some people buy the home, live in it for 6 to 12 months and then proceed to rent the property, but if enough people do this, you could face a situation where you cannot sell your home to a buyer soliciting a conventional or FHA loan. Most HOA public offering statements will have clauses prohibiting a certain number of units to be rented out, forcing you to sell it if you didn’t qualify for relief. When you decide to sell your home, make sure you know if the community has a good healthy ratio that will not be tipped over by an investor. This can not only delay the loan approval process but can result in losing a strong buyer because everyone in the community is renting.

3. Be prepared to make an offer after viewing a property and take all the stakeholders to the open house:

If you wait to long, most properties will have multiple offers to consider and as a buyer, you may end up overpaying for a property if you get into a bidding war. Have multiple choices when seeing properties and have your pre-approval letter ready to show the seller you are serious and not just an onlooker. Successful sellers list the property and post enough pictures to create intrigue, showcasing the best features of the house and pricing according to the average market price for the area where the house is located. Ask for too much and your house may sit for a while without any offers. Ask for too little, and you will lose the opportunity to make top dollar for a property, even if you think it is not worth the price. A good appraisal will quell any doubts about the subject and will ensure you get what you deserve.

4. If you are in a hurry to move in or move out, ask if the seller can or is willing to rent you the property during the last month of escrow:

Friends and acquaintances have mentioned that they rented the listed property to the prospective owner while the loan approvals and escrow cleared. If you are interested in following this path, have the listing agents negotiate a contract and a price that works for all parties. For a seller, this may reduce or help ease the burden of paying closing costs since the buyer will have to give you some money up front to cement the deal, just in case escrow falls through. This would secure some income to pay for the next property, especially if the new purchase is contingent upon sale.

5. Contingent upon sale offers are usually overlooked by sellers:

If you need to sell your home to purchase a new one, you are better off selling your property and then buying the new one. Unless it is new construction or the seller of your new home is patient and willing to cooperate, most will prefer to sell to someone that already has secured the financing and the down payment. Not having the burden of the old loan can help your credit score and income to debt ratio, which can result in better financing deals. As a seller, be prepared to negotiate closing dates in case of contingencies occur and if you don’t feel comfortable, don’t accept the offer.

6. Ask, ask, ask and don’t sign anything until you are satisfied with the answers:

If you don’t understand a term, don’t agree with a clause, or if there are maintenance items that need to take care of, do not sign the offer acceptance letter, inspection paperwork or any going ahead materials. Regardless of how good the inspection was or how nice the buyers or sellers are, take your time and read through all the materials. Unless financing failed or a force of nature struck, you would be stuck with the transaction and any additional costs that may incur.

7. Remember to print all documents or save them in reliable digital storage:

Digital documentation is everywhere. Back in 2006 when I bought my primary residence, documents needed to be signed and faxed, and if you were lucky scanned and emailed. Now, there are multiple tools like Authentisign and encrypted drop boxes in cloud access that are used to download, print sign and upload or electronically sign that are even smartphone accessible. Create a file on a secure drive or print out and store in a fire and waterproof safe. At the very least, make sure you keep all the relevant documentation together and take it to the escrow signing meeting to verify that the information hasn’t changed due to underwriting errors or conditions. Most sales are transparent but some lenders get creative with last minute fees.

8. Closing cost estimates will contain items that have to be paid in advance of closing:

Appraisals, certificates of sale, inspections and property questionnaires need to be paid upon request. The money will not be taken out of the escrow Earnest Money payment, which is the good faith cash advance to show you are serious about the transaction. Some of these items can fall under the responsibility of the seller if negotiated ahead of schedule. Always have at least 10% more money set aside for last minute fixes or additional documentation depending on the lender or community/HOA.

9. Be patient:

After many last minute surprises, loan documentation issues, new rules and regulations, underwriting hiccups and closing date changes, I can tell you that the best advice people gave me was to stay calm and be patient. Don’t snap back at people; work with your loan officer and realtor to get things cleared and flowing. Everyone wants to get you into your new home. Follow the guidelines and answer requests quickly for a better success rate. Flipping desks or throwing chairs won’t help your case. When in doubt, solicit the help of the appropriate professionals.

10. Make sure all keys, garage door openers and HOA instructions are ready to be handed off upon closing:

Both times I bought properties the keys were missing or incorrectly labeled. I had to wait for people to show up with master keys to access the dwelling. Because you need to set up utilities and pick up mail, it can be a nuisance and inconvenience to have to wait for keys to be made and/or delivered. If you can, change the locks as soon as you move or ask for new hardware as part of the deal. This way no one but you can access the property.

11. Thank your loan officer and realtor by leaving a great review on social media:

Yelp. Facebook page. Yellow pages. The works. Find as many places as you can to praise your home buying or seller team. This helps other people find good services, especially when they are new to the area or the process. Be specific about how the helped or about what distinguished them from other professionals. An excellent review ensures they will get clients and referrals for future work. Always sponsor what you like so their business prospers.

Good luck an enjoy your new home!

My “Beef” with Weddings

During the last ten years, my husband and I have been invited to over 30 weddings (and counting)! You’d expect that during an economic downturn and unemployment records at an all time high people would stop putting down 30k for a wedding, but they haven’t. Back in 2008, when I got married and the recession started, the average wedding in the USA topped a bill of 25k. Think about this for a second. In less than a decade the price has gone up 20%. We would all be better off buying a house with that money than feeding 150 guests we will barely see ever again.

That last line may sound harsh but the reality is that by the time you are expecting your first born you will have already outgrown some of the friends and family you invited to your big day. Studies from sociologist Gerald Mollenhorst of Utrecht University in the Netherlands concluded that it takes about 7 years tumblr_mt7nzw2Xkk1reaxl4o1_500to move from one circle of acquaintances to the next, and that this culling can cut your inner circle by half. On the other hand, those who survive the deadline will stay friends with you forever. To me, spending hundreds of dollars per guest has no reasonable justification, especially when there is proof most of these people won’t be in your life for much longer.

Somewhere along the line, people forgot that weddings were fundraising events and that the reception served as a thank you for supporting the couple emotionally and for providing the financial capital to start a family. Did you know that the more people spend on a wedding the less chance they have to stay together? (Read “Want a happy marriage? Have a big, cheap wedding” for more details). The modern wedding has become more about the opulence of the reception and less about the celebration of the love and commitment of the newly formed union. The guests have taken over the event, getting in the way of photographers, taking pictures, posting updates and complaining about everything to the bride and groom. The wedding day has gone viral and commercial.

There is a whole industry behind this phenomenon, feeding us images of what our wedding day should be, making it a grand event with you as the center of attention. It is not just a celebration of love, it is a requirement, proof that you checked a box and fit in with the rest of us married folk, a symbol of status. Even though the colors and trends changed every season, all the events are indistinguishable from each other: ceremony (even if the couple had gotten married previously in a courthouse), cocktail hour, reception, first dance, bouquet toss, last song and an airplane ride back home. They lacked soul and originality, evidence that the millions spent annually in marketing wedding DIY and services worked! (My friends thought they were being original and unique but to me they weren’t. Traditional weddings permeated our calendar. I am still holding out for the fairy in the woods role playing invitation though. )

By wedding #11, I was officially a wedding snob and became cynical about the whole affair. My friends and I started betting on who was going to make it long term and who wasn’t. When a guest would become excited about a particular nuance of an event,  I would turn around and tell them that I had seen it many times before or many years prior. I was not easily impressed.  To make matters worse, I knew the cost, down to the last cent, of the flower arrangements and meal choices thanks to all the reality shows centering on the theme. Out of curiosity, my husband and I tallied up the amount of money we spent on each couple, including the value of the gifts and the airfare, and weren’t truly surprised when the total came up to about fifteen thousand of dollars. Accepting wedding invitations added to our financial burdens. Vacation days and airfare ain’t cheap!

I wondered if people entering marriage actually understood the effort a commitment of this magnitude entails. Love is a verb, a transaction. You have to wake up every day and decide to stay together, to work issues with your spouse and children and to love yourself above all else, enough that you feed your self esteem so it can help you work through the aforementioned issues daily. This is where I have seen a lot of people fail. The officiant at any wedding tells the bride and groom to use every resource available, including the guests, to help them in their journey yet once the party is over, I never hear from them every again. Not even when they get divorced!

Okay, so some of you think that I don’t need to know what happens in my friends’ marriages and I agree that I don’t need to know every detail but if I invested in a relationship with you respect my effort and my time enough to keep me apprised of the important details. You do not have to post your problems on facebook, but I expect to find out before I ask your ex-spouse about the hot number they appear to be banging without your permission. Even if you aren’t together to me you are still married! Call me old school but if you ask me to attend your wedding and claim to be my friend you owe me a little more than a status change notification on social media when these things happen.

Instead of feeling happy about the greatest day of their lives, I felt like I was saying goodbye to my dear friends. Like this was our last hurrah. One by one they delved into this new stage of their lives and they distanced themselves from us in ways I didn’t even imagine were possible. Before a wedding took place, we would be buddy buddies with people and got invited to everything they did but after their wedding, and before their first born turned one, we found ourselves on the outside looking in, banished out of their inner circle, sometimes shunned because we couldn’t produce a viable heir. I know it sounds dramatic but I made the mistake of asking friends why they hadn’t invited us to an event and “because you don’t have kids” got thrown at us more than once. Marriage became this club that excluded anyone who wasn’t the same; you needed a minivan and a couple of car seats for your membership to be taken seriously.

Sadly, these were the same friends that had helped us get through a miscarriage and a few family crises. The sisters and brothers we thought life had given us. Once they had kids and made new married with children friends, they forgot about us, and we are yet to reconnect with some of them but not for lack of trying. People moved away, changed careers and in some cases even remarried. As time passed, I lost a great portion of the network I had so tenaciously built and protected throughout the last ten years. My husband and I didn’t feel we were a part of their bliss, and we were left out of the lives of our countless nephews and nieces. All we have now are old pictures on the walls and gigabytes of memories on a hard drive. We feel used, abandoned and betrayed.

The lesson I want to share with y’all is this: If you are not willing to share your good times and your bad times with your wedding guests then there is no reason for them to travel halfway across the world, the state or the city to see you walk down the aisle. It becomes a meaningless gesture if they don’t care about the success of your marriage, and if you only care about the numbers of likes your wedding selfies will get on Instagram. Weddings last one day, but a marriage lasts forever; even if it fails, it still counts. Attending your ceremony and reception means nothing if you don’t let us in on the ups and down of your journey.

To my future friends, I missed out on many opportunities to sit by the beach, drink beers and read my novels just so I could see others get married. Because I care about your success and the success of your offspring, I take my role as a witness to your vows very seriously. However, if you happen to receive a NO as an RSVP from us know that we have a beef with weddings, and that we would rather have you join us in a remote island paradise for a cocktail with your 2.5 kids and your dog than to lie to your face about the dry cake. Cheers! 🙂

My Adventures As A First Time Matron of Honor: The Wedding Toast

I am not an emotional person. Not in public. Not unless the circumstances demanded that I show something other than a cool and calm demeanor. Acting comes naturally to me, so do poetry and oratorical improvisation. Give me a podium and I can argue or discuss just about anything. There is no subject that I cannot tackle effortlessly and eloquently. Until my best girlfriends friend’s wedding…

It went something like this:

Best Man gets up and tells lovely stories about how he met the groom and how he came to know the bride. People laugh at how he describes very jovially that the groom one day stopped partying and out of the blue presented my friend to his crew. Fast forward 7ish years into the future and here we are. (Laughs.) He mentioned wishing them lots of love and lots babies. All this first in Spanish and then in English, as had been requested by the couple. I hear applause and he passes the spotlight to me…

You have to understand something. I got laid off right before we started planning the Bachelorette party, right after the invitations had been sent and the wedding party set. Luckily the trip was already paid. Their relationship had developed 3,000 miles away from me; I may have met him a total of 2.5 times, once before the engagement and one after. Ever since I had been tasked with the toast, I had been thinking about what to say, how to say it, what not to say, and to whom I was saying it to, and in two languages!

For the first time in my life words eluded me.

Sadness filled my spirit as I despaired. Yes, she had been my maid of honor but with her permission, I had given the speech to one of my college friends. Life was too real, and the loss of my job and subsequent aftermath too much too carry. My marriage had been an uphill battle from day one; I didn’t have anything nice to say. Or so I thought until it hit me. Out of all the emotions I was feeling the one that kept me going was gratitude. I was grateful the bride had included me in all her photos, in her journey, in her beautiful life. So what if I hadn’t been a part of their past, I was to become a part of their future.

…The room was silent. I get up and move towards the couple’s table. Holding back tears I grabbed the microphone and glanced over to my husband who knew how heavy my heart was right at that moment. I was out there, on my own, where no one could save me. I looked at the bride who was smiling wide and reassuringly, letting me know there was nothing I could say that she wouldn’t fall in love with or appreciate. She had become my sister long before she had become my best friend.

“For those of you who do not know me, I have known the bride since I was five years old. (Raises hand and shows five fingers. The crowd is amazed!) She was my maid of honor 8, wait, 7 years ago. Unlike the Best Man, I’m going to improvise the speech and translate it real time so please bear with me as I find the right words to convey my meaning.

“When I met the bride, (voice started cracking) I had (started to cry)…pause…I had gotten up…(cries heavier, bride reached for my hand and tells me its okay to take my time)…10 second pause…and the teacher had scolded me for trying to say hi to one of my preschool friends (cries a bit more, voice starts to come back, bride side hugs me, I smile)…I’m sorry. (Laughs) I’m not supposed to be the emotional one today. (More laughter)… and when I sat down, the bride turned to face me and said “Don’t worry, I… (started to cry again)…will be your friend! (People laugh, I manage to pull myself together.)…if you know the bride you know she can’t resist the urge to talk to anyone, including the walls…(more laughter)… From then on it was history. We went through everything together except college. I left for the Pacific Northwest right after graduation and she moved back home.

“The day she told me she was getting married I recall thinking “Didn’t you say you were never getting married?” (Crowd goes wild. Bride shrugs shoulders and agrees. We all laugh.) He must be very special; maybe even The One to have gotten her to say yes. (Big smile. Turned to the groom.) Groom, thanks for saving me many sleepless nights of having to comfort my best friend because you broke her heart. Thank you for loving her, supporting her and helping her make her dreams come true. Welcome to the family! Please take good care of my friend.

(Turns to the crowd) Echoing the sentiments of the Best Man (looks at Best Man, who also raises glass) let’s raise our glasses to the bride and groom. (Waits until everyone grabs a drink.) Cheers! (Cheers!) Applause.

End Scene.

If you look at the tape you will notice that bride held my hand at various stages of the speech. It was her love that got me through the moment. I mattered so much to her that she was willing to do anything it took to keep me engaged, to keep me talking, to let the feelings show. By the end, all my tears were of joy, a testament to both my resilience and to my friend’s support, cathartic and completely welcomed. Some of the guests couldn’t resist letting me know they thought my speech was the sweetest thing they have ever witnessed. My luck had started to turn. 🙂

As we left the reception and walked back to her room, I shared with her all my recent anguish. She listened patiently and nodded her head in agreement as she understood exactly how I was feeling. We quietly walked hand in hand the rest of the way until we reached the elevator. When the doors opened a few floors below our destination, a random couple got in and as soon as they noticed her dress they immediately offered her a beer from their beach bucket with their heartfelt congratulations. Ever cautious, she didn’t want to take it, but I encouraged her to do so and to document the exchange they took a selfie together! (I wish we had told them the hashtag for the wedding.) Without much delay we headed back to the party to dance the night away.

That night taught me that distance can never separate true friends. That the love we felt for each other has kept us closer than we had ever been physically. Boyfriends, husbands, future children, loss and gains, in the end all that matters is that we will always have each other. I have no idea what the future holds for them but I hope they are the ones that make it. Regardless of the outcome, my plan is to be right there beside them every step of the way.

After all, nerds have feelings too. 😛

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