Sunday, June 28, 2009

Freedom or Something Like That...

My two best friends told me that this trip to Spain would change my life. That I would experience things that would give me not only a new insight into life, but a sense of freedom that I've never had before. They were right.

We must start with two of roommates, Inas and Simon. They are from Solvania and are boyfriend and girlfriend. Inas is an account and a "big girl" model. Simon is a little skinny dude getting his PHD in mechanical engineering. Inas is definitely the dominate one in the relationship. Yesterday she ordered Simon to "come to her". I left the room for a minute and then returned, there was Inas naked and on top of Simon. I didn't know if I should call for help, but he wasn't crying, so I mumbled something like, "Sorry" and left hoping they wouldn't see that I was embarrassed and a little grossed out.

Today is the Barcelona Gay Pride parade. Last night there was a pre-parade in the neighborhood. It was very festive and I followed the parade for a while taking pictures. There were drum groups dancing, topless lesbians dancing on the back of a truck, and young men in various skirts flitting down the street. Each and everyone of them totally comfortable and at peace with who they are. I had the feeling that I could've taken my clothes off and danced in the street and no one would've said a thing. What was truly amazing and so different from the United States is that the people watching didn't really care who was gay or was a celebration of diversity as I think all things should be - people just accepting each other as they are.

As the evening wore on I walked down to the Barre Gotic and found myself in this local pub where I ordered a sangria. There were various tapas and I asked the man next to me what was what. He's on vacation as well from Galica. Pedro and I talked for the longest time to each other and to a couple next to us eating mini octopus - which they let me taste....little fishy and I couldn't look at the little head has I was biting it off. Of course these people are talking Spanish and I'm only understanding about a fourth of what they are saying.

Pedro and I walked around for hours stopping here and there for drinks at different bars. Finally at about 1:00 in the morning we parted ways. I know I will never see this man again, but what a lovely treat to meet and talk to a person like an old friend even if it is only for a few hours.

My roommates were waiting up for me when I got back from the hostel. I walk into the room to hear Inas yell, "Gracie! We were worried about you! Where were you?" Normally this would irritate me with people I know, but with these people it felt kinda good to know these strangers were thinking of me.

I saw the Mediterrean Sea today. The beaches in Barcelona are PACKED to the point that a woman didn't think anything of putting her big feet up against my head. Being a bit hung over from my bar hopping with Pedro, I lasted about an hour on the beach and took the train over to Sagrada Familia where I snuck in the backway to a small mass service that was going on - I have no idea what the priest was saying as he was speaking Spainish, but the quiet church combined with his deep voice sent chills through me - I'm not Catholic, but God does come in all different ways and he and/or she was at that service today. As Pedro would say, "Very Nice!"

Friday, June 26, 2009

OK...I'm In Barcelona

Arrived in Barcelona this afternoon. The trip here was pretty cool. It is so interesting how the universe works. Sitting right next to me on the plane is another teacher, exactly the same age as I am. She is from Maryland. She is on her way to Madrid to teach other teachers how to incorporate opera into their regular curriculum in order to provide an alternative way to teach. She talked about how she's had to struggle with her administration to be able to accomplish her goals and dreams...sounds kinda familiar. We exchanged emails.

The whole packing thing for going to Spain for a month was a bit of a disaster. I have a backpack that I thought I would use. So after packing the backpack I discovered that it was bigger than I am and there was no way I would be able to schelp that thing all over. I actually tipped over...not a pretty sight. So I changed to a duffle bag. A bit bulky, but at least I'm not knocked over from the overwhelming weight of my luggage....keep in mind I'm not really bringing very much stuff....I will be doing a lot of laundry on the road. All is good checking my luggage. When I arrive in Barcelona I discover that my bag has been randomly searched, the lock gone, and to top it all is really heavy as I walk to the train.

I get to the train and I find no ATM machine to withdrawl Euros. I go to the ticket window and to my suprise the dude says, "Sorry, so American money." There's a cute Austrailian guy in back of me who pays my fare. We are going to the same stop and chat the whole time. He could be my son I think, but is very cute, and thank God he had the $2.00 to pay my train fare. After getting off the train we part ways saying the, "Maybe we'll see each other," knowing we won't. I walk the 2 miles with the REALLY heavy backpack to my hostel. I'm soaking wet with sweat by this time. I realize that I MUST buy some sort of rolling bag tomorrow!

I meet Adrian the guy who checks me in at the hostel. He is very nice and VERY young...only 20 years old. I begin to think nasty thoughts...Must back God...he can be my son. This is totally my hormones and the drinks I had early talking. He says, "Gracie, I love you." How would it be to kiss this very young person? OK...enough of is entirely too early in the game to be going there.

I think about HIM...the broken heart guy. I guess I should stop calling him that. I saw him last night (or was it night before sure with the time changes). He's holding my house key for me "just in case". We haven't seen each other since January, and talked for about an hour or so. It was nice to see him. It felt good to talk with him. As I've said before he always gets me and just as accepts me for who I am. I wonder if he thought it was nice to see me or if he was just feeling guilty or thought, "here let me throw this girl a bone and hold her house key." I really hope he thought it was nice to see me as well. It seemed to close a door for me, which is good. Not that we won't ever go anywhere again...just closed a door on the ugliness and the hurt. I think that was needed before I proceeded with this adventure.

I have 5 roommates at my hostel. Three from Solvania and two from Poland. I'm the last to check in and the bed Adrian gives me belongs to Inas from Solvania. She moves my stuff to another bed. OK that's cool. Then Olga (not her name, but a very large woman from Poland) tells me that the bed Inas moved my things to belongs to her. The LAST bed is the top guess who gets it? You got it ME! I feel like I'm at sleep away summer camp.....

So here I am, my first night in a hostel. A little drunk, but pretty pshyched that I had a good day and met some reallly neato people. I'm not really sure what this whole adventure has in store for me, but I guess I'm going to find out! Like I've said befoe the universse is a very cool palce to be and will only lead me to places that I must experience.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

School's Out

Summer. For a teacher this is the transition time. The end of one school year, a break, then preparing for another school year. Usually the end of the school year is filled with fun, laughter, and joy as the students move on...especially in my case as my 6th graders move on to middle school.

For me the last week of school was filled with emotion, confusion, and some shame. I'm usually emotional at the end of the school year, but this year I knew that I wouldn't be back at this school...and the students knew...we both reacted...I was emotional and they were little disrespectful assholes. Every chance they had they said something hateful or used curse words, or just did what they wanted, which made me be a bit mean to them...all got calmed down and by Thursday, the last day, we all were one big loving family.

There was some confusion for me as I didn't understand why my principal was such a nasty bitch to me. It was the last week, I'm leaving the school, couldn't she just be respectfully civil? I didn't get it, and quite frankly I didn't deserve it. Knowing that this is my principal's issue, I should've just ignored it. Well, I'm a child sometimes and this time I retaliated...I left on the last day without finishing cleaning my classroom. I knew this was wrong...this is where the shame comes in. I planned to come in the next morning to finish, but didn't tell anyone, I just left. Not exactly the best choice on my part.

My principal assumed I wasn't coming back, and began to discredit me to the other teachers. She then threatened to call my new principal and tell him that I didn't clean my classroom. Of course my principal never had the balls to speak to me directly, which would've been the adult thing to do...she talked behind my back and made it so that many of the other teachers at that school don't want to ever see me again. I understand I created this...I take responsibility...and went through beating myself up before I finally forgave the way I did come in the next day and finish cleaning my classroom.

I am very grateful that I don't have to go back to that school, and I'm very thankful for the things I've learned. I've learned about teaching, but I've also learned how to work within an elementary school...which can be so viciously scary for a "real" west coast girl like myself. But I'm ready to move on...SO READY!

Leaving for Spain on Thursday!

Monday, June 15, 2009

I'm Hating Being a New Home Buyer

So I didn't get the condo I bid on this weekend. I know I shouldn't have gotten myself emotionally attached to this place, but I did...that's just what I do. I sometimes foolishly put my heart into things...and quite often I get my heart stomped on. Usually it's someone I'm romantically involved with doing the stomping...this time it's a cold hearted listing agent and and even colder seller...Freddie Mac.

I'm not sure if I have the stomach for this home buying process. I find the PERFECT place and then someone else offers more money and I'm left out in the cold with nothing but tears to fill my evening.

Since January I have had my heart literally crushed over and over again. First, the person I loved more than I've ever loved anyone just up and decides that we are not going to be together. At the same time the principal at my school decides that I'm her next victim and repeatedly writes me up for reasons fabricated in her mind and I can do nothing but take it up the ass. Now, just when I'm getting past all that, I can't seem to get a seller to sell me a home in a neighborhood where I won't get mugged or raped going to my door.

I don't want a lot in life. I don't need extravagant things. Just a place to call my own, a job at a school I love, and someone to share my life with. That's not a lot to ask. I'm a good person. I don't fuck people over, I don't waste my money, I pay my bills on time, and I try my best to be kind to why does it seem that all I do is bang my head against a wall only to be disappointed again and again. I feel like such a loser...did I do something really horrible in a past life that I'm paying for now??

I leave for Spain next week. I should be excited, but I'm not. I'm actually scared that I'm making the wrong choice and that I should safely stay in my apartment all summer long. If I did that I would be even more miserable. So off I will go trying to heal my heart that has yet again been trampled on.

What really sucks is that the only person I want to call right now is the person who probably wouldn't even talk to me, which would tear me up even more. I can imagine the conversation now. Me emotionally trying to connect with him and he doing everything he can to not connect...a match made in heaven.

The books tell me that a woman of my age questions everything and often wonders if she had made the right decisions. I'm asking myself that right now. My perimenapausal hormones are fucking with me yet again. I surely didn't think that I'd be ALONE at age 44, buying my first home, and starting brand new at a school that I'm desperately hoping the administration will like me not only as a teacher, but as a person.

People tell me I'm tough, that I can handle anything given to me...well I don't feel so tough right now. Right now I feel weak and sad, and very alone....Good Times!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Home Buying Highs

So this finding a home to buy has been an interesting experience. I found one place and even put an offer in. The entire process was so unbelievably emotional I cried for two days and had no sleep. I never imagined that my emotions would go so nutty. It wasn't like I was attached to the place...I was just really SCARED! Buying a home is a HUGE commitment and honestly I never thought I would be doing this on my own.

After putting in the offer I waited, and finally found out today that the seller accepted another buyer. This flood of relief filled my entire being. Not because I didn't want the place, but because I found another place that I liked better and was such a better situation for me and my life style.

The economy being what it is, I found a foreclosure owned by Freddie Mac. A two bedroom condo that was surprisingly in good condition. When I looked this morning the placed desperately needed paint and new carpet. OK...fine...I can do that. Not even four hours later I am out running errands and I decide to drive buy the condo. There's a guy doing work inside so I go in...the place has been painted, new carpet layed, and new hardwood floors going in the living and dining room. The universe just gave me a tremendous gift...for that I am eternally grateful...I've been a very good girl!

My realtor spoke with the listing agent and no one else has expressed interest...the price is about $30,000 less than the comps for the area...again...thank you UNIVERSE!!! On top of everything, my payment is about $200 less than my current rent! So with NO FEAR I've put in an offer...this time there's no emotion...ok some excitement...but no gut tells me this is the right thing to do and that this place is so mine!

I'm still on my own in this decision. I do wish I had someone to go look with me and give me opinions, but being by myself is my reality right now. Maybe this is how it is supposed to be.

So now is the waiting game, then the inspection. The place is sold "as is" since it's a foreclosure. So will be holding my breath for a couple days. The adventure continues.

Monday, June 8, 2009

I'm Now a Property Virgin...Who Would've Thought?

The American dream is to be a homeowner, isn't it? A place to call your own where you can paint, have a pet, and deduct interest off of your taxes. Yep...the American dream. Well at age 44 I'm about to embark on an adventure of a lifetime.

If you knew me, you would know that actually settling down for a minute and buying a place is not only an adventure, it is probably one of the most "grown-up" things I've ever done. I've always had it in the back of my head that I could be such a grown-up, but my life has had so many ups and downs, both personally and financially that the reality of being "homeowner" has stayed the back of my head.

Last Friday I got pre-approved for a mortgage. This means that I'm able to go and look for a place to buy. With euphoric enthusiam I armed myself with a competent real estate agent. I had already begun looking at listings on the Internet. My realtor sent me some addresses and on Saturday I did some drive-bys. Then reality set in. The affordable places I saw were the most yucky, gross, and dark parts of town.

There were a couple places that didn't seem SO terribly bad so I asked my realtor to set up appointments so I could see the inside. My realtor informed me that these places already had contracts and were only accepting "back-up contracts." Are you kidding me???

In addition to the prospect of living in the ghetto, I found out today that I am not able to access my retirement funds. See, being a teacher I have to actually wait until I retire or quit to get money from my retirement accounts. I needed this money for the down payment. Of course I would payback the money with the $8,000 tax credit being provided by the federal government. In a perfect world the shitty economy can work in my favor...or so I thought...or should I say I MUST BELIEVE THIS TO BE TRUE.

I don't know why I thought this would be easy. So now the challenge is to find the perfect place at the perfect price, and to figure out how to get a down payment together. Right now I am feeling a bit discouraged...why can't this just be EASY???

Who am I kidding? Nothing worth while is ever least in my world it isn't. There's always lessons to learn. Intellectually I know this, but it doesn't help my feelings of frustration...and I've just started the process. The universe never gives us anything we cannot handle...I need to remember this.

There's just so much. The mortgage process alone is so confusing. My sister is a mortgage broker in another state and she's been coaching me. I appreciate this, however, I really don't understand many of the things she's talking about. Like her telling me the mortgage broker is charging me too much. What does that mean? How do I fucking know what these people charge...I know, Gracie, don't be an idiot...ask a million questions...that's what these people are there for. Mortgage brokers and realtors are making money because of me...I do have a right to ask as many questions as necessary...and I deserve to get as many answers as it takes until I understand the process completely.

Tomorrow the realtor and I are going to actually look at some homes for sale. My realtor wants me to be under contract before I go to Spain at the end of the month. In a perfect world I will find a place, put in a contract, go to Spain, and close when I get back at the end of July...LOL...My world isn't always perfect, but I guess that's half the fun...

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Festival Aftermath

So the wine festival was pretty fun. Over 250 Virginia vineyards were represented. Virginia is really great with the white wines and I bought 4 great bottles at a reasonable price. Not that I’m a huge drinker, but I do like a glass of wine now and then after a long day of teaching prepubescent sixth graders.

As I predicted I was the only single person in our group. That part wasn’t really the most awesome thing to experience. I realize the universe has a plan and I have to be at peace with and accept whatever situation comes my way. There were two women there with their husbands who were quite chubby. It amazes me how married women will often let themselves go…I mean they let themselves get fat and dumpy. If my, or should I say WHEN my marital status ever changes, and I allow myself the blow up like a balloon I hope someone kicks my ass royally. Yes folks, I’m a bit vain and I quite like it that at age 44 I can turn a head or seven.

Being the only single woman in our group brought many thoughts to my head – like what is wrong with me? Why doesn’t the guy I want not want me back? I’m a really extraordinary person to be involved with. I have my own life, I’m not clingy, I’m cute as hell, smart as a whip, and pretty fucking great in bed. So what’s the flipping deal?

I know it’s NOT me…it’s HIM…and all that rot. According to HIM, he has too much on his plate right now dealing with his life, and there is no room for a relationship. But we were together for a year and I never seemed to get in the way. He has me meet his family, children, we go on vacation, then a year to the date from when we start dating he tells me, “Oh, I’m not so sure about this – good bye.” Who fucking does that?

Funny, I also have a plate that is filled with life things. That is what happens to an adult – stuff just comes up – job, bills, goals, you know stuff. The cool thing about being with him was that he was a periodic escape from my life. A friend where I could just “be,” and not worry about too much else. I never demanded anything from him, except for us to be totally in the moment and enjoy each other. I never looked at or talked about what would happen in the future with us because I knew that staying in the moment was what would keep us both sane.

Another funny thing is that I’m going to Spain for a month this summer, and one of the last things he said to me was that he “Wishes we could do Spain together.” What he doesn’t know is that I didn’t want him to go. One of the “things” on my plate is that I need to have this adventure on my own – without him. I wonder if he knew that, would it bum him out. I think it might. I’m not sure he would understand my need to experience something totally new, something that scares me a little, all by myself. More on doing things that scare me a little later. I kept wondering how I would tell him so it wouldn’t hurt his feelings. I guess it doesn’t matter now, does it? We emailed the other day and he asked me about the trip, was I still going and when? I told him I was going at the end of June and would be gone a month – there was no response back. I wonder what he thought or does he even give a shit? Again, I guess it doesn’t matter.

On a completely different note, I met with a realtor today. I think I am in a position to buy my first home. See, there’s more to me than just pining over some dude who doesn’t realize that I’m perfect for him. Just thought I should throw that in – in case you thought I was only one dimensional.