Apr 17

House Hunting for the Person You Want to Be

I mentioned on Twitter the other day that Chris and I have been doing some house hunting. We realized that we’re ready to get out of our current place and we’ve been falling in love with houses all over the city.

House hunting for the person you want to be

For Chris and I, the location of the house is more important than the house itself. I mean, don’t get me wrong. We don’t want to be living in some ramshackle shanty that happens to be in a really cool district. But we definitely don’t want to live in a dream house that’s nowhere near anything we do or like.

We know we want to stay in Norman. It’s where I work, and it’s close enough to where Chris works that it would be silly to go anywhere else. And we really love Norman. Sure, it’s boring sometimes, but it’s our city. And you really can’t beat a college town in the middle of summer. Then the city really feels like it’s ours.

(Yeah. I know. I work at the university and students are my livelihood. But you know what else students are? More traffic, 45-minute waits at restaurants, and impossibly long lines at Target. I appreciate all the tuition dollars that make their way into my paycheck. But I really savor those summer months.)

But here’s the thing: We’re struggling to figure out what kind of house it is we want. And the more we look, the more two very distinct paths emerge.

Our original intent was to purchase a home in a historical district. But all the historical districts are around the university. This would be great since I could easily walk to work. But it also sucks, because if a house is in a historical district, people get away with asking $200k for a cardboard box that’s duct taped to a milk crate. The listing will call it a “cozy fixer upper.”


The listing will call it a cozy fixer upper. I CALL IT GARBAGE. Click To Tweet

If you’re not familiar with the Oklahoma City metro area housing market, the majority of good, decent houses in a good, decent school districts are typically between $120k to $250k — depending on the size and the particular area. And historical houses are basically a bajillion dollars for 1,000 square feet, one bathroom, and zero closets.

Chris and I tend more toward the minimal side of things. (Though we’d gladly take this place on Main Street in a heart beat.) We don’t have a ton of tchotchkes or collections of things. Basically, everything we have means something to us. And we are well-known for taking a load of stuff to Goodwill once a week. So, we don’t need a whole lot of space. Besides, we currently reside in a house that’s just over 1,000 square feet, and it feels like a good amount of space for us.

So, our house hunting started with looking at what the historical districts had to offer. And we quickly became disenchanted with that because apparently you can ask for over a million dollars for a house that hasn’t been renovated since 1963 and is missing 30% of it’s siding. And people will pay for it.

(I have a theory that these people are rich alumni who want a place to hang during football season. They can eat my dirty socks.)

We expanded our search, and that’s when I could see two distinctive futures in front of us.

The further from the university we looked, the bigger the houses became. The more we searched the online listings, the more we kept coming back to “the dream house.” Nestled at the end of a cul-de-sac, this house was 2,200 square feet, two floors, four bedrooms and two living areas. I spent a lot of time imagining how awesome it would be to turn one of those living rooms into my library/office.

We did fall out of love with it pretty easily though. The online pictures were obviously taken by someone who knew how to manipulate the depth of field. When we saw the house in person, it was the choppiest, space-wasting floor plan I could imagine.

But there it was. On the one hand, we wanted a small historical house near the university. On the other, we wanted a huge, suburban place to keep up with the Joneses.

Chris and I had a come to Jesus sort of talk via Google Hangouts, because we’re terrible people who can really only communicate with some sort of digital interface between us. (That’s not entirely true. We are just more likely to be brazenly honest when we chat via computer rather than in person, where we will couch what we say in non-specific and overly nice terms.)

In this conversation, we really specified what it is we want in a house. Here’s our house hunting wish list:

  1. 1,600 square feet maximum: This may seem small to some, but it really is a lot of space for just the two of us. We know we want a bedroom for us, one for a guest room, and then we’ll both need some space to work when we’re at home. If that means we put some office space in the corner of a living room, or another bedroom, then that’s good. Plus, I grew up in a house about that size, and there was plenty of room for four people to avoid each other in there.
  2. Library space: Right now, my office in our current home serves as the library. I have no trouble putting my massive, messy collection of books in another bedroom in our new home. But if there’s a nook/small area in the living room for them, that would be awesome too.
  3. Two bathrooms: I feel I don’t need to justify this. When I used to live in a one-bathroom house with roommates, there was many a morning when one of us would drive to a nearby gas station to use the bathroom while the other was in the shower. I don’t want to live that life ever again.
  4. A location we love: There are a lot of fun areas in Norman, and they all tend to be around the university. We’re okay with paying a little more to be near campus and downtown, since those are the two main places we go. We have this beautiful vision of someday only owning one car, and even then, we mostly walk wherever we need to go. I don’t know if it will ever happen, but if it does, it’s going to be because we live around campus. But we’re definitely open to other neighborhoods that can offer us quiet, less traffic, and easy access to the highway for Chris.
  5. A non-galley kitchen: This is perhaps the most important thing on the list. The problem with the galley kitchen is that I’m really good at getting in Chris’s way when he’s doing something in our galley kitchen. Like, if I open the dishwasher while he’s stirring something on the stove, there is a good chance that we’ll bump into each other, or Chris will trip on dishwasher door. (Yes, just like what happened to Zach Braff’s mom in Garden State.) For the sake of our relationship, we need more space in the kitchen.
  6. Absolutely no wife-swapping: You may think that this item is a joke. It’s not. I would wager a guess that if you live in a more (but not necessarily) suburban area, you have people in your neighborhood that you suspect of wife-swapping. I’m not here to swinger-shame your groovy lifestyles, but I am saying that sort of thing isn’t for Chris and I. I think there are a lot of neighborhoods in the Oklahoma City Metro suburbs where wife-swapping, cheating on your spouse, and living a generally empty life is the norm. And that sort of things tends to stem from people earning a decent living, then coming home from work and not knowing what to do with their time. (I’m sure a level of marital dissatisfaction or a manic need for new and exciting things comes into play too.) Chris and I have side hustles, so we don’t want to get sucked into weird neighbor drama when our time off work is spent working on other things.
How wife-swappy is your neighborhood? Click To Tweet

So there you have it. House hunting in a nutshell. What do you look for in a house? What’s your house hunting wish list? How wife-swappy is your neighborhood? Are you selling a house near the University of Oklahoma? Wanna forgo realtors and sell it directly to me? Please?!

Sep 16

Fall Favorites

Yesterday was the first day of fall, and I would be remiss in my bloggerly duties if I didn’t share my fall favorites.

A list of my fall favorites

But let’s be clear, here. Nowhere on my fall favorites will you see the pumpkin spice latte. Why? Because I’m not a huge Starbucks fan since I live in a college town with a ton of independent coffee shops. But also because the PSL isn’t even the best seasonal latte that Starbucks offers. That would be the gingerbread latte. I will not argue this point. It’s a fact, and any who wish to say otherwise are fooling themselves.

The gingerbread latte is the best seasonal drink at Starbucks. DON'T @ ME. Click To Tweet

I think it should also be noted that the gingerbread latte can’t hold a candle to the Sherlock Holmes at Michelangelo’s on Main Street. If you’re ever in Norman, you should have one.

Anyway, inflammatory latte opinions aside, I have a list of fall favorites for you. These are all the things I love about fall, and all the things I will always associate with the season.

Dark Lipsticks
I’m so excited for dark lipsticks. The vampier, the better. Now that we’re all done with the bright and happy summer colors, we can finally get a little more Wednesday Addams with our color selections. So, if you happen to see me during the fall, I’ll be wearing Burt’s Bees Ruby Ripple, Mary Kay Liquid Lip Color in Cherry Coffee, L’Oréal Infallible in Bold Bordeaux, and I’ll probably line them all with Rimmel’s Exaggerate Lip Liner in Obsession.

So, even though I own several light summer scarves, I typically don’t wear them until fall. Because Oklahoma weather is so damn hot all summer, I just can’t stand the extra fabric around my neck. But in the fall, when it cools down to like a high of 80-degrees, I can finally swathe myself in whatever plaid pattern happens to strike my fancy that day.

Listening to Music With My Headphones
I have been told that people can actually do this all year long. Not me. Headphones are for fall. And so is introspective music listening. In fact, if you have a playlist/mix cd for me full of all the songs that will make me feel artistic and 10-years younger, you should send it my way. I need that type of vibe for all the writing I like to do in the fall.

Frito Chili Pie
I suppose this could also be eaten all year round, but nothing says fall to me like chili. And now that there isn’t a restaurant in my immediate vicinity that serves Frito chili pie anymore, I’m left waiting until fall when I have a hug crockpot of chili at my disposal. I don’t know why, but Chris and I pretty much subsist on crockpots of chili during the fall. And I’m so excited that I’m about to have Frito chili pie in my lunchbox almost every day.

Halloween-Inspired Reading and Watching Lists
The fall is when I feel the need to read and watch every spooky thing to prepare for Halloween. And even though Chris and I aren’t very big on Halloween, we do like the movies and books that go with it. This year, I’ll be reading the Harrow County graphic novels Countless Haints and Twice Told. I’ve heard so many good things about these, and I’m a pretty big fan of Dark Horse stuff as well as creepy stuff happening in the American South. And even though I’ve tried to read it like 3 times, this may be the year that I actually get through Danielewski’s House of Leaves. But I make no promises. As for watching, Chris and I already agreed to re-watch any and all shows and movies pertaining to Hannibal Lecter, so I’m really excited to have some more impure thoughts about Mads Mikkelsen feeding me my own leg at the dinner table.

My Ravenclaw Cardigan
Last January, Chris and I went to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. We both had a lot of fun, and if I’m being real, the process of finding out what my patronus was on Pottermore totally made me want to go back so bad. (Side note: My patronus is a marsh harrier.) And while I don’t think another vacation like that is in the cards for a while, I still have my wool Ravenclaw cardigan I purchased while we were there. (It’s hella weird to buy wool sweaters in Florida.) I’m so happy that very soon the weather will cool down for me to wear it, because there is nothing more fun than wearing something to work that you bought at an amusement park.

Sitting in My Favorite Place on Campus
Imagine this: You’re sipping a hot, black coffee on a bench that’s dedicated to the memory of Ralph Ellison. Gripped firmly in your hands is your favorite pen and notebook just waiting for you to scritch-scratch your heart out across those blank, unlined pages. The leaves on the trees above you fall intermittently, and the fountain made of rocks from all 77 counties across the state bubbles quietly. On your right, you can hear the sounds of tap shoes and opera singers coming from Carpenter Hall — the windows open as if to send those sounds directly to you. The breeze rustles through the pages of your notebook, but you don’t mind because you’ve got a nice warm Ravenclaw cardigan and a nigh-impossible to manage blanket scarf to keep you warm.

Jul 15

The very best spot on OU’s campus to read and write

When I was an undergrad, there was only one place you could find me on campus if I didn’t happen to be in class at the time, and that was on the Ralph Ellison bench outside of Carpenter Hall.

The bench faces a fountain that is made from rocks from all 77 counties in the state. Admittedly, they are primarily rose rocks, but there are definitely some fossils and other stones mixed in as well. Beyond the fountain, there is the Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher Garden and a plaque honoring her. Beyond the garden is a large open green space where students play frisbee or lay on blankets while cars on Boyd Street whizz by.

Carpenter Hall also happens to be where a lot of the music and dance majors take classes. So, on any given day, you can hear tap dancing, opera singing, piano playing, or pretty much any other form of performance you can think of. That, mixed with the gentle sounds of the fountain, has always been supremely relaxing for me. Couple that with the shade directly over the bench, and you have yoruself a little paradise right on campus.

But, admittedly, the thing that drew me to the bench was Ralph Ellison’s name on a plaque. I used to sit there as a student and write terribly “profound” things in a Moleskine that I would later regurgitate in either my fiction or poetry classes, only to have the instructor helpfully inform me that perhaps they weren’t quite so profound. But still, I like to think that was a spot where I could channel Ellison’s genius, even if I will never write something like Invisible Man.

Now, as an instructor at OU, I don’t do much Moleskine writing. It’s 2015 and I always have some electronic way of capturing ideas. But I do still enjoy the bench, and soaking up the shade, sounds, and Ellison energy when I get the chance.