Wednesday, May 30, 2012

UPrinting Giveaway Winner

I'm proud to announce that the winner of The Spaghetti Westerner's first-ever giveaway is...

Amanda Knickerbocker! 

Thanks to all who entered.  Amanda, watch for an email from me.

Hopefully this is the start of more great (and free) things to come.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

What would you tell your kid if you were being foreclosed on?

Have you entered the UPrinting giveaway yet? Don't miss out.  Enter now.

I may have mentioned once or twice that we bought a house.  A house a realtor would say "needs some TLC," which is really code for "will require more hours of back-breaking labor than you can possibly imagine."  I seriously spent seven hours on my hands a knees this Sunday scraping paint splatters and peanut butter and ketchup and gum and jelly and heaven-knows-what-else off the floors.  And that was just to clean BEFORE we could start renovations.  The only thing worse than cleaning up your own messes is cleaning up someone else's!

Photo by Niall Kennedy via Flikr
It's not a surprise, though.  Since Nevada's topped most foreclosure ranking lists for the past couple years, there are an awful lot of houses like ours out there.  In fact, this house and all the work it needs remind me an awful lot of our first house, which was also a bank-owned foreclosure when we bought it.

Foreclosures have become so common that they have just started to feel like a fact of life. Until this weekend.

I was outside washing out a bucket, and the little second-grade girl who lives next door came over to introduce herself.  She used to be best friends with the little girl who lived in our house.  They used to have sleepovers, hang out in the hot tub, feed the fish in the fish pond.  And she told me, "Yeah, the bank took my friend's house away and made her move to a different town."

All the sudden, I had a window into the very real heartache that people - mothers, fathers, spouses, children - go through on the other side of the foreclosure process.  Of course, I have no way of knowing exactly what  the former owners of our house told their children about what was happening, but filtered down through the mouths of eight-year-olds, the reality had a very clear villain: the big bad bank.

Now, I'm sure as heck not excusing the banks or the role they played in this financial mess our country found ourselves in; I'm more than familiar with the shady lending practices and sometimes outright lies.  But they weren't the only ones to blame, either.  Realtors and investors convinced people (and often themselves) that there was nowhere to go but up forever. People borrowed more money than they should and signed up for loans they didn't understand.   And the reality when you borrow money is that if you don't pay it back, you don't own what you bought.

I pray that I'm never in a position where I have to explain to my child why our home is being foreclosed on, but it's something thousands of families in my community have undoubtedly done. And it got me thinking, what would I say to my son?  I hope I'd tell the truth: That mom and dad can't afford to make the payments on the house, so we can't live there any more. Or maybe I'd be a big enough person to use it as a teachable moment about borrowing money and using credit.  But maybe I wouldn't be.  Maybe I'd be angry or depressed or embarrassed, and I'd find someone to blame.  Maybe I'd paint my own picture of the villain.

One thing is clear, though.  At least here in Nevada, I think there will be a whole generation of kids whose lives have been changed by the big bad banks, whether through personal experience or something they heard from a friend.  I wonder what that will mean to them when they're adults.

What do you think?  How would you explain to a child what foreclosure is?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Can business cards change your life? A UPrinting Giveaway

I've been blogging for more than a year, and I have yet to do a giveaway.  Well, except that time I gave away a hundred bucks, but I don't really count that since it was out of my own pocket.

I'm talking about a sponsored giveaway. With free things. From a real company.

But today, my friends, is a momentous occasion.  Today is my first giveaway.  But before we jump in, I want to say a little something about blog sponsorships/working with brands/whatever you want to call it.

I have been hesitant to bring brands and products onto my blog. You see, I blog as a hobby.  That's not to say I can't be professional; I can and will be a great representative for products that I love.  (See what I mean?)  But I write because I love to write.

More importantly, I don't want to review anything and everything.  I want to talk about products because they genuinely make my life better. Because I think they actually have value. Because I use them every day, whether or not someone sends them to me for free. 

And so, you ask, why exactly is it that I believe so strongly in die-cut print business cards from UPrinting?

Well, you know I'd be lying if I said that these business cards would change your life.  The truth is, when I approached UPrinting about this giveaway, it wasn't really about the business cards. (Though, they are super awesome. I can't decide between the circle ones and the leaf-shaped ones to take to BlogHer '12 in NYC this summer!) It was about the company. 

I've seen quite a few giveaways on quite a few blogs.  I've worked on pitches to companies and studied up about how to market yourself to companies you want to work with.  And, frankly, it's overwhelming.  But in my years of reading blogs, I've been impressed with how UPrinting works with bloggers.  They're approachable.  They're easy to get in touch with.  They take the intimidation factor out of getting started in working with companies.  They WANT to work with bloggers.  And they're willing to work with even little bloggers like me.  All in all, that's the kind of thing I can feel good about endorsing. 

So, I bring you The Spaghetti Westerner's first giveaway: 250 Die-cut business cards. I even got all fancy and used this crazy Rafflecopter widget to make your life easier and give you lots of options for getting extra entries.  I like you that much. ;)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Prize Information: 
  • 250 Die-cut Business Cards for one (1) winner 
  • 2×3.5″ Rounded Corners, 2×2″ Rounded Corners, 1.75×3.5″ Rounded Corners, 2×3.5″ Leaf, 2×3.5 Rounded one corner, 2×3.5″ Half-Circle Side, 2×3.5″ Oval, or 2.5″ Circle 
  • 14pt Cardstock Gloss / Matte / High Gloss (UV), or 13pt Cardstock Uncoated 
  • 6 Business days print turnaround time 
  • Free US shipping only

1. This giveaway is open to US residents only, 18 years old and above. 
2. No prize substitutions allowed. 
3. Winners are allowed to win once over a six-month period. 
4. Only email addresses used for the giveaway will be eligible to claim the prize.

Disclaimer: You should assume that I will receive free print products in exchange for the post. Any and all reviews posted are based solely on my own experience and may be atypical. Please practice due diligence in making any related purchase decisions. Interested to hold a giveaway like this? Please sign up here

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

And...we're not homeless

So, our homeless stint lasted just about a week.  And that was just about right.  I spent last week in our new house cleaning and renovating.  The whole experience was sort of like being in a time warp.  I had no internet and no clock. I used the position of the sun and the shadows outside to tell whether it was morning or afternoon.  And I was often wrong.

We got a lot done, but we still have a LONG way to go.  We'll get there one step at a time.  We're still a few weeks away from being able to move in, but I'm sure it will go fast.

I hope you'll join me in celebrating, though, because we've reached quite a milestone.  When we first turned on the plumbing (the house was a foreclosure, so everything was off), almost every single valve in the house leaked.  Toilets, sinks, showers, washing machine connections.  Plus some drains.  But tonight, we're down to just one leak.  One!

I know, I probably shouldn't celebrate until we're at zero leaks, but a girl needs a glass of wine.

Also, just for your viewing pleasure, I have for you my favorite part of the house thus far: a lovely note left just for us in the closet by the previous owners.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Special Delivery

A couple weeks ago, I celebrated my 27th birthday.  I haven't really had much time to sit and reflect on how I feel to be in my late (gasp!) twenties. I've been far too busy to stop and contemplate what I hope to get out of this next year of my life. 

But none of that really matters when you get a special delivery like this:

And of course, there were actual flowers.  Complete with a note that read, "Happy Birthday, Honey.  When I get home, I will take you out to dinner wherever you like.  Especially if you like Thai food."  How I managed to find such a considerate and selfless husband, I'll never know.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

We are officially homeless! And, our nursery revealed (after two years...)

I sure never thought I'd be happy to say I was homeless.  Nonetheless, it's some of the best news I've heard in days because it means our house is sold.  It's been six weeks since we accepted the offer, but we're finally done.

I drove past my old house one last time when I got off work last night.  There was a U-Haul truck in the driveway, and the new owners were already moving their furniture into my house.  Sorry...their house.

I thought I was going to be upset when we finally left, but sitting in traffic, waiting for a green light, watching the windows of my house fill up with new people and new lives, I only felt a tiny bit of sadness.  I guess the fact that it has dragged on for seven months helped.  I've already grieved leaving our family's first home, and I just didn't have the energy to feel anything more about it.

Selling a house has not been fun.  I suppose it helps if you're not in a depreciating market.  And it helps if you're not crazy.  I can't even tell you how many times throughout this process I thought I should just get my real estate license so I don't have to deal with real estate agents in the future.  I hated not being in control; that more often than not, there was nothing I could do but sit and wait for news.

There were miscommunications.  There were hangups.  There were deals that fell through.  There were times I checked my email every twelve seconds while I waited to hear from my real estate agent.  There were days my internet search history was filled only with desperate questions that I asked Google as if it were a Magic 8 Ball: Is it bad if I haven't heard back from a buyer on our counter offer after three days? If someone comes to look at your house three times, are they going to make an offer? Why do real estate agents suck so much?

Let me assure you, Google does not really know the answer to any of these questions.

There was even one day that I got a terrible nosebleed that I'm certain was caused by stress, anxiety, and high blood pressure.

But we survived.

When my husband took the new job seven and a half months ago, he moved 300 miles away.  That means our marriage has been long-distance for more than half a year.  That I've single-parented during the weekdays for all these months.  That one of the first phrases my baby learned to say was, "miss Daddy."

I had to keep reminding myself that there are people who do this all the time.  People like military wives who stay home raising kids while their spouses are deployed.  I've got nothing but respect for those people; I don't know how they do it.

Still, we survived.

We've got another couple weeks until our new house closes and is ready to move into (hopefully...fingers crossed).  In the meantime, Little Spaghetti and I are staying with my parents while my husband crashes in his buddy's one bedroom apartment.  

These are the experiences I never could have foreseen five years ago when I said, "I do," to my sweetheart.  These are the trials that I couldn't have prepared myself for. Yet, I find myself feeling lucky.  Though I didn't know what I was looking for at the time, I managed to marry a man who is willing to grow with me through these challenges rather than away from me.

And then there's our sweet baby boy.  His nursery was one of my favorite rooms in the house.  I remember picking out the paint color and planning the details while I was still pregnant, anxiously wondering what it would be like to have a real live baby living in that room.  I've never shared those photos, but I think I will today. I may not be sad, but I am feeling a little nostalgic. 

The color scheme for the room came from this fabric I fell in love with called "Iced Giraffes."  I bought yards and yards of it, and my mother-in-law sewed it into crib sheets for me.

I love his crib.   The wall letters were a DIY project, decorated with scrapbook paper.

The little chair was one my dad made for me when I was little.  Hugh really enjoyed pulling books off his bookshelf and "reading" them in his little chair.
The giraffe growth chart vinyl wall decal was one of my favorite elements of the room.  I had my husband cut a sheet of plywood to the size of the decal, then I painted it the same color as the walls.  I put the decal on the board, then mounted it to the wall so that if (ha!) we ever moved, I could take it with us and not have to leave the growth chart behind.

There you have it.  

Also, I guess the cat's out of the bag on my son's name.  It's Hugh.  And, before you ask: Yes, Hugh like Hugh Hefner.  Of course we named our son after one of the world's greatest playboys.
( <--That was sarcasm.  Just in case you couldn't tell.)