Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Home Ownership - NOT!

As of this afternoon, I am no longer a home owner. It was a long and, at times, ridiculous path to sell the condo with more and more hoop jumping requested by the bank.

I've talked about my problems with the bank - classic one hand not knowing what the other hand is doing. And that continued until the very bitter end. 

When I had a viable offer and the bank had finished processing their paperwork (which only took from August to November!!), their lawyers notified me that the bank had ended the foreclosure proceedings and, if the pending sale did fall through, I would be able to do deed-in-lieu-of-foreclosure. Deed-in-lieu is basically just giving them the keys.

Speaking of keys and one hand not knowing blah, blah, blah ... <outstanding transition, eh?>, I got quite the surprise earlier this month. The buyers were going to do a final walk-through with their contractor on November 11th. Brian (my agent) called to ask me if I knew what happened to the lock-box with the keys. It wasn't hanging on the garage door. Ironically, I had discovered it was missing just the day before, but assumed that he had taken the lock-box down because of the sale approval.

I told him not to worry, that I was going to St. Paul the very next day to do a final cleaning of the place (lots of odds and ends left in the condo as well as more than a few condiments in the fridge). I would get a new lock-box, put a set of my keys in it, and would leave it hanging on the garage.

The next day I looked around the complex to see if someone just put the lock-box on someone else's garage by mistake. Nope. So I headed into the building and up the stairs to my condo.

Just looking at the condo door, I immediately knew something was different. The dead bolt and door knob looked far too shiny. Well, my bank and/or their legal minions had cut off the lock-box and changed the locks on the condo door. They would later explain that they were worried about the place since no one was living there.

When I returned to Rochester, I gathered all the remaining keys - building key, garage door key and mail box keys - and sent them to Brian and he contacted the bank to get the new keys. It only took the bank two weeks to figure out which minion had the keys. Brian received them just this morning - the morning of the closing!

I know that I'll miss some parts of being a home owner - going to Home Depot to pick out paint and hanging pictures using whatever method I want - but I'm not going to miss the stress of mortgage payments and condo association dues and having financial decisions that impact me decided by a vote of association members. I'm not going to miss the neighbor who had memorized the association rules and would tattle if you broke any.

I'm done with being a home owner for awhile. Anyone need a room painted?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


I am a member of the most misunderstood, despised, and maligned groups in the world.

I am a figure skating judge.

And while the vitriol about the evil figure skating judges only really comes on strong every four years, it is not an easy life.

Figure skating judges live their lives of quiet desperation in cold, dark places known as ice rinks. We travel as vagabonds from one location to another, following a trail of multi-colored sequins that lead us to the next competition.

We sequester ourselves away from the rest of humanity at the rink since we have accepted the fact that we scare small skaters and, quite often, their parents. We hear their hushed voices, whispering, "That's one of the judges..." as they turn their heads away.

We spend endless hours in ice rinks, sitting rink-side and freezing our patooties off. (I'm certain that there are parts of my anatomy that have perma-frost and may never completely thaw out.)

When our friends discover a wool winter coat in our car on a hot and humid July afternoon, they assume that we're lazy and just never got around to bringing it into the house. The reality is, if you flip open the trunk of most judges' vehicles during any month of the year, you will find boots, wool socks, mittens, gloves, a warm coat and an assortment of fleece blankets with figure skating club logos. We must be ready for service at a moment's notice.

We are volunteers. While we don't get paid, we often receive gift cards (or fleece blankets). At anytime, you can find in our wallets 3 Barnes & Nobles, 2 Caribous, 2 Paneras and a partially used Starbucks.

There are many misconceptions about us. We are not, as a majority, French. Most of us don't own mink coats and the closest we will get to judging the Olympics is yelling at the 53" flat panel TV in the family room.

So please, as I begin my crazy time of year, when I have a competition nearly every weekend from now through spring, be kind to me. And if some Monday morning, you find me wandering around the office with a clip board looking for the judges stand, just tell me the event got canceled and I can go back to the hospitality room. I'll snap out of it eventually.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Bad blogger feeling good about what I did

I'm very much feeling like a neglectful blogger. I haven't posted since September 26th. And there are plenty of reasons excuses for the absence.

My number one excuse is <wait for it now ...> I was distracted. I had a huge skating project that I can honestly say I was ill-prepared for and was basically flying by the seat of my pants. My own stubbornness put me in this position and I had a lot to do that I couldn't delegate to anyone else because I hadn't even figured it out for myself.

When I have something hanging over my head, my focus <at least the very little that I have> goes right out the window. Add to that I was stressing about it, so just as I would get into bed, my brain would fire up and start problem solving while my body wanted and needed sleep. It was bad.

Excuse number two is see excuse number one.

The project was the Minnesota Basic Skills Competition Series. It is for our beginning skaters (you know, those cute little ones with the cute little outfits that make you go, "Aww...") and I took it on because "the powers that be" wanted to make it exclusive instead of inclusive.  I'm not about excluding any club or any skater. I recognize that I wasn't fabulously organized at the start, but eventually things started moving forward. Then, this summer, I got word that the rug was being pulled out from underneath me and I would have to shutter the series after one year.

The final part of the series is the on-ice award ceremony for the skaters in each level who accumulated the most points. Honestly, I think it is the most important part because it's about the kids and only the kids. They get to skate out to the podium just like they see on the Olympics. I placed a medal around their necks and told them what a great job they did and then I would step out of the way so the parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles in the stands could take photos. And boy did they!

But the event is over now with some minor clean-up to do, but most importantly, I felt great at the end because I helped to make some young skaters feel very special and I had parents thank me for doing it. Having a parent thank me? That was huge.

I've heard that the new Basic Skills series (the one replacing the Minnesota Basic Skills series) isn't planning on doing the on-ice awards. They planned to just mail the awards out to the skaters or something. After seeing what it meant to these skaters this past Saturday, I am happy to hear that they are reconsidering it.

Ya gotta take those little victories.