Monthly Archives: September 2018

Building New

IMG_8656Moving into a newly built home is quite an experience.  I had a home built in 1999, but somehow this experience is different.  I am probably not as naive as I was when I had my first home built.  I also have a partner in crime in this house purchase.  Dennis and I decided last year that we wanted to winter someplace warm, and after some deliberation of where that move should be, we decided on the Phoenix, Arizona area.

This past December we came to Phoenix, enlisted the help of my cousin’s husband who is a real estate agent, and had him take us to homes around town.  We started looking at ready built homes, low priced, both in regular neighborhoods and 55+ neighborhoods.  The first day was an absolute disaster.  These homes were in despicable condition.  We realized quickly that we needed to rethink what we wanted to spend on this next home.

The second day, we checked some higher priced places.  Now things were beginning to look up.  One place that was really nice was a modular home.  In fact it was beautiful from top to bottom, and it was located in a 55+ neighborhood.  The downside of this home was that although the home was very inexpensive, one would not own the land that it sat on—there was a monthly charge for it, plus an enormous association fee.  We would get into this home for a small amount of money, but the majority of the money one would be paying monthly  was really high and did not go to the equity of the home, but to the neighborhood.  That was a big no.  

I was beginning to feel stressed that what we had in mind was not workable.  Then Dennis turned to our agent and said, “Show us new builds.”  I didn’t say a word.  I was in shock, and in awe once again of my husband who is flexible to think out of the box.  One of the reasons Dennis did not like the lived-in homes is that they were older and not energy efficient.  As a civil engineer, he looks at systems in the home, windows, walls, insulation, heating and cooling.  He would rather pay more for the home that builds equity than pay for utilities that give us nothing to show for it.

We visited a few new neighborhoods in one of the areas that is quickly growing.  I was glad not to move to a neighbor for only seniors.  If I want to sell my home, we can sell it IMG_3808to anyone, not just senior citizens.  We selected a home that allowed us to be creative in selecting the finishes for the home.  Some of the builders had packages, where the wall colors, carpet, hard flooring, cabinets and countertops are all in a particular package.  You couldn’t pick and choose.  I get that solves the problem for some people so they don’t overspend on their finishes, but Dennis and I wanted to create our own environment.  We came back to the first neighborhood we looked, and the selling agent pointed out a building lot to us that we may be interested in—it had been sold twice and the contracts had fallen through.  Now they are building on each side of the lot.  In Arizona the builders erect a wall around each yard (this was done way before our president suggested building walls)!  It would be difficult for them to build on this lot if the other two homes get completed, therefore, they dropped the premium on the lot.  If you are wondering about what a premium on a lot is — many times the builders will charge more for a lot because it is bigger or has some other advantage.  The advantage for this lot was that we had a clear view of the San Tan Mountain from our back yard.  So this lot was available to us without any extra cost, and we immediately said yes.

We selected the same floor plan of the model home.  These homes look very small from the front.  Unlike Missouri homes that spread out (the typical ranch style home), these homes are deep instead of wide.  Our home is 1,600 square feet, much less that the footprint of our Missouri home.  We signed the paperwork and headed for Missouri, to await approval of our contract.  One month later we were required to return to Arizona and select the furnishings of our home.  Builders are pretty sneaky when building their model homes.  They pretty much upgrade everything, so when we wrote the contract, I had their agent take me though the model home room by room, and point out what was standard, and what was an upgrade.  In January, we selected the furnishings, all the way from the kind of kitchen sink we wanted to the flooring and paint colors.

IMG_4830Construction had begun on the home so we were able to see some progress on the lot.  Homes in Arizona are built much differently than in Missouri.  Most homes don’t have basements in Arizona, so they pour a concrete slab, and they post tension it, so it won’t have issues with cracking.  One of the first things they do before they pour the foundation is a water test.  They literally fill the footprint of the slab area with water.  I am assuming it has something to do with making sure the soil packs down so there will be no settling issues.  The building inspector has to approve this process before they can start the building.  

We were now three months into the build, and were required to return for our framing inspection.  All the 2×4’s are up, and the roof is up.  The cement tiles are sitting in stacks on top of the roof.  They will not be set in place for a couple more months.  The weight of IMG_4825the tiles will push down on the roof until the inspector feels it has completely settled.  Then they will tighten all the joists to the roof.  That is usually done right before finishing the house to give ample time for the settling of the weight.  That process eliminates the roof from sagging from the weight of the tiles.  As we walked though our framing inspection of the stick built home, we are able to say where we wanted every outlet.  Anything we wanted the to make a change on was written on the cement foundation with a large marker.  It was really quite interesting .  We actually had a stud moved over, and where the builder wrote, “Add stud,” I took a photo of the stud there!

IMG_4742On that trip we also visited the marble and granite company to select the actual piece of granite they would install in our home.  Unlike the outdoor granite places in Missouri, this was a large warehouse in a very upscale shopping center.  We were given hard hats as the employee took us to view several slabs of granite, and we selected the pieces for our kitchen.  Having so much input during the construction phase made us feel like we were part of the process.

The not fun part was all the work for the mortgage company.  Do you remember when getting a mortgage was an easy process?  When I was a young married person, my husband and I wanted to buy our first home.  We knew nothing about the process or how it worked.  We found a home that was in the price range that my dad, who was a building contractor, said we could afford.  My dad called his bank and told them that his daughter and son-in-law wanted to buy a house and he asked what kind of mortgage they would give us.  The banker told my dad on the telephone the terms of the mortgage, and that was all we needed.  We didn’t fill out piles of paper, and give them pay stubs, etc.  The money was ready at closing for the people from whom we purchased the home.  Those days are long gone no matter how good your credit is.  Nothing today is done on a handshake.

IMG_7762Our home was completed in June.  Actually, we asked for a delay in closing because we were going to be in Europe the last three weeks of May, and would not be available for the closing.  The contractor was willing to work with us.  We were home three days from Europe when we loaded our car and drove to Arizona.  We had pre-closing walk through where we pointed out all the little things that needed correcting.  I was rather surprised that this home wasn’t perfect—that they don’t have a pre-closing person to do the inspection to make sure everything is perfect.  We closed in good faith that everything would be completed on our punch list.  The neighbors had a copy of our house key to let the various contractors in.

IMG_8681Speaking of good neighbors, the first neighbors we met was a lovely family.  Mom is a school teacher, Dad is a sheriff, and two sweet elementary aged son and daughter.  While we were in Missouri, our sheriff neighbor parked his car in our driveway.  Don’t mess with the Walker’s house—the sheriff will notice!

After closing on the house, and getting a delivery of a sectional sofa, giant television, and the master bedroom set, we stayed for another week, and then made our way back to Missouri.  One of the decisions we made after buying this new home was to decide to sell our present home.  We plan on being snowbirds for a while.  Dennis’s mom will turn 100 years old in November, and we don’t plan to leave Missouri while she is still with us.  On the other hand, we decided we didn’t need to own and maintain two homes, and while she is with us.  We will rent an apartment near where her nursing home is located.  Eventually, we will make our Arizona home our permanent full-time home.

We came back to Arizona this month for three weeks to get it furnished and ready for when we arrive back at the end of the year or beginning of next year.  To our surprise all the items on the punch list to complete were not completed.  I immediately called the builder and they came to the house.  First they told us that they can only come in to correct things when the homeowner is there because we have to sign off on the work they have done.  Nice hearing that 3 months later!  On the other hand, these nice women took an inventory of what needed repair, and had contractors come look, and set actual dates for repair.  We have had trades people in and out of our home for the past couple days making the fixes needed.

IMG_8672We now have all the rooms furnished.  There ares some accent pieces we can get when we return, like end tables for the living room, and night stands for the guest rooms. Our dining room table is on back order.  The walls are also bare right now, so in January we will be bringing artwork, decorative objects, and framed photographs to begin the decorating phase.

Owning a new build is a work in progress.  We have completed the large furniture phase, next is the small accessory and decor phase.  The last phase will be the back yard.  We are given an empty slate of dirt and walls.  We will be putting together a space in the yard to be able to entertain and enjoy our mountain view.  That will not start until early 2019.

We are going back to Missouri at the end of this week.  I am really hoping to sell our home soon so we can transition our lives to maintenance free, and carefree days.  I will be glad to be back in Missouri to see our children again.  Of course, I also have California children who I will see more when we come back to Arizona.

If you have been following my blog for the past 1+ years, you know that all of this would seem like an unbelievable dream for me.  I am so blessed.  God sent me a wonderful husband in my 60’s, a husband who loves new adventures as much as I do.  We are looking forward to our time in Arizona, and exploring the western half of the United States.  I am humble knowing all of this is a gift from God.  None of this I deserve.  He gives us always much more than we ever deserve, including our salvation in Christ.  

I told my children years ago when they started becoming successful to never forget where they come from—how hard our struggles were, and to be grateful, and kind to others because they also have those struggles.  I have not forgotten my humble beginnings.  I have not forgotten the bad stuff, and found my way out.  I have not forgotten who I am.  I am grateful beyond words.  God is good!


It’s Complicated!

I am back in Arizona this week, and I have connected again with my cousins–the ones I hardly knew when I was young. It is amazing how much we love and care for each other–how we have a shared history–and how we now can share our lives together. This blog was written last year after I met up with these “unknown” cousins and got to know them better. It is never too late to get to know your family. Read on . . . .

Andrea Unsinkable

My extended family is complicated. My father had seven siblings. He was the oldest. All those siblings (including my dad) went on to have a total of 36 children. I have 33 first cousins in my dad’s family. My mom had three siblings—she was child #2. She along with her siblings, had a total of 17 children. I have a total of 14 cousins in my mom’s family. First complication: I do not have a total of 47 first cousins. I have only (haha! I said ONLY) 40 first cousins. That is because 7 of these cousins are my double cousins, so I can only count them once. What are double cousins, you say? My mom and her sister married brothers—their children are what are called double cousins because we are doubly related!

I think it is special to have so many cousins. I have many fond memories of visiting…

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For All The Kids

It is that time of year again. I want to remind everyone that September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Therefore, I am sharing today my blog from last year.  The Super Sam Gala is September 28, 2018 in Columbia, Missouri.

Andrea Unsinkable

This month (September) is Childhood Cancer Awareness month. What a sad thing that we have to have a month for such an awful disease. Wouldn’t it be great if we could eradicate this disease and not have a month for it?

me judy 2 The last photo I have with my sister.

The truth is, I was very unfamiliar with childhood cancer. That big “C” word really never entered my life until five years ago, when my sister at the age of 67 was diagnosed with cancer and died three months later. She was an adult. Her illness and death turned my world upside-down.

I journaled during this time. This is part of what I wrote:

My sister is very ill Her cancer is in her liver and instead of getting better, she is sicker day by day. Want to feel helpless in this world? Be around a very sick person. I sit…

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Exploring My Roots

Mathias age 17

My paternal grandfather was a prisoner of war in Russia during World War I.  He came to the United States when he was 15 years old to escort his older sister who was coming to St. Louis to work as a domestic.  On a side note, she married quite well, and I am sure had a few domestics in her household.  

Back to Grandpa.  Mathias Nothum was born in 1891.  He was German and was born in a German village in Hungary, which after World War I, became part of Romania.  Because of where he lived and where he traveled, he spoke German, Romanian, Hungarian, English, and Russian.  Russian?  Where does that fit?  Keep reading . . . .

Mathias came back to his home in Romania after settling his sister, Marie, in America.  He was drafted into the army (I suppose the Hungarian army) and was captured by the Russians.  He escaped the prison and made his way home.  It’s an interesting story that was not well known in the family.  Fortunately, my aunt, his only daughter after having 7 sons, recorded this part of his life.  For years he never talked about this experience, and finally his daughter got him to tell the story.

00 prisonersI am assuming he was a prisoner of war for several years, since he learned to speak Russian.  The first prison he was sent to was not too bad, but they later moved him to another prison where the accommodations and treatment had much to be desired.  He was fed watered down soup and occasionally it had a few potatoes in the soup.  Sometimes he was fed a watered down borsch and a piece of moldy bread.  The prisoners ate only once a day.

While in prison, he met a German prisoner and they became friends.  Daily they worked in the potato or beet fields along with the Russian women working in the fields.  They Nurseworked from morning until sunset.  Mathias and his new friend began discussing the idea of escaping.  The prisoners were getting sick and dying, and they concluded they would either die of starvation or from escaping.  They decided they preferred the quick death from the bullet.

Mathias befriended a nurse who would come to visit the prisoners, who were getting sick, to check on their health.  I am sure this nurse was smitten this handsome young man, who I assume was in his early twenties.  He told the nurse that he and his friend wanted to escape.

2 BABUSHKAOne day the nurse showed up with some women’s clothing.  The plan was that he and his friend were to work in the fields along side the Russian women.  They would blend in with the women in the dresses and babushkas.  For those of you who do not know what a babushka is, it is a headscarf.  They wore layers of clothing so they would appear large like the women, rather than starving prisoners.  When evening came, the women stopped work and headed toward their village.  Mathias and his friend laid down between the rows of potatoes and waited until dark.  The nurse kept the Russian guards occupied until all the women had left the fields.  I must say, she must have been a pretty young lady to be able to keep the attention of the guards.  Mathias and his friend actually thought the plan would fail, but they were desperate.  At this point, there was no turning back.

2 beetsWhen it got dark, the two slithered out on their elbows and knees all night.  They ate mainly raw beets and occasionally potatoes, when they could find them.  They would rub the dirt off with their shirts and eat, and after a while, they didn’t even care about the dirt.  They would pick the beets, and eat them as quickly as they could, dirt and all.  At day break they would stop and take turns sleeping while the other was on watch of being discovered.  When it got dark again, they would continue to crawl their way out.

One night, as they were crawling, they saw a light in the distance and realized it was a house.  They figured that they were far away enough from the prison, that they would take their chances.  They crawled as fast as they could to the house, and saw the candle at an open window.  They decided to sit under the window and converse in German.  They were hoping that if the folks residing in the house were German, they would be invited in.  If these folks were not German, they figured they would be shot on the spot, or the Russian authorities would be called and they would be executed.  Either way, they took the chance they might be killed.  They were just took weak and too hungry to care.  They just wanted this to be over.

As they began talking, someone in the home blew out the candle, and then proceeded to say in German, “Who are you?”  Upon answering they were escorted into the house.  The 00 hay wagonpeople in this home were bakers, and they were served as much fresh bread and wine as Mathias and his friend could eat and drink.

Their clothes were in rags and filthy.  They lady of the house gave them each a pair of pants (and I am assuming a shirt), and Mathias and his friend slept for a few hours.  Before daybreak, the man of the house hitched up his wagon filled with hay.  He had Mathias and his friend lay under the hay, and he took his horse, wagon, and the two young men under the hay, to the border.  Mathias and his friend crossed the border to freedom.

What border you ask?  We have no idea.  As my aunt is hearing this story, she was so glad her dad is telling her finally about this experience, she doesn’t ask further questions, that she thinks about today.

So many questions . . . what country did they walk into?  How did he get home from there?  How old was he at the time?  How did he get strong and healthy again?

Here is what I do know.  Mathias was a barber in Romania.  He married my grandmother, Barbara Ludwig, in February 1919.  There was a woman who lived in the same village as Barbara’s grandparents.  She was a matchmaker.  She knew the Nothum family who lived in the neighboring village of Sekeschut.  This village was in Hungary until after World War I, which it was now in Romania.  She told the family that the Nothum family, from the neighboring village, had  a good looking son, Mathias, who had recently returned from the war.  This matchmaker also told Mathias about a pretty young woman name Barbara Ludwig, who lived in the village of Deutsch Sankt Peter, Romania (which was also Hungary before the war).  Both families were German.  Mathias was 27 years old, and Barbara was just short of 19 years old when they married.

As I write this, I realize that Mathias had gone to the US with his sister when he was 15 years old.  He must have spent some time in St. Louis before returning and being drafted into the war.  The matchmaker said, according to the account by my grandmother, that Mathias had recently returned from the war.  The war was not over when he escaped.  The war ended in 1918.  He probably was home a year or two (just speculation) in order to become healthy again and be able to marry.


1929 Passport Photo

Mathias went back to the United States and settled in St. Louis, Missouri, where he worked as a barber, and prepared a home for Barbara and his children.  She and their 4 sons originally were to come in 1929, but the quota was filled for those coming from Romania, so they had to wait a year.  Apparently, Mathias returned home to visit, because when she set sail with her children in December of 1930, she now had five little boys.  The family would continue to grow in the United States.  They had two more sons, and then a set of twin girls who died at birth.  About 18 months later, they finished their family with their daughter, Barbara.

My family history shows motivation and dedication.  In the past, and currently, this family works through adversity.  They work hard and they love hard.  Most of the brothers served in the US military, became entrepreneurs, starting small businesses, and seeing these businesses pass on to their children, and grandchildren also being entrepreneurs.  It is an amazing family, of which I am proud to be a part.  

If you don’t know your family history, take time to interview your parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles.  I guarantee that you also have a rich history.  Write it down so the next generations will know their roots.  No family is perfect. All families have had good things and bad things, and it has, hopefully, strengthened them.  It makes us who we are today.

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