We’ve been hunkering down at home since March. We’re happy in our home life with a rambunctious toddler, but everyone is searching for meaning and fulfillment in different places. My brain is wired to constantly scan and evaluate and figure out where things can be improved. This has led to rejiggering our finances, never-ending home improvement projects and discovering hobbies such as aquascaping.
Last week was a little frustrating as it seemed like everything was going against us. I guess I just wanted to vent a little bit. To preface the bumpiness of our week, work has been unusually busy. At least it’s the good kind of busy where you can just sink into the work and just do it for long uninterrupted stretches as opposed to the other kind where you are managing a jumble of interrelated moving pieces, constantly switching gears, on non-stop calls and herding sheep. Granted in hindsight, all of these things seem minor but taken together tell a patchwork story of what we’ve been up to these last few months.
Financial issues were constantly cropping up this past week. We’re in the middle of refinancing our mortgage and divorcing Citibank.
We last refinanced our mortgage right before Covid. We got a 3.25% rate on a 15 year mortgage with no fees. After Covid we saw rates drop by quite a bit. Our last lender stopped accepting applications from self-employed applicants so we started working with another lender based on a referral from a family member. That didn’t work out because of the rates they were offering. We saw a new offer at 2.5% and decided to go with it. Fees were pretty low at ~$1k. The negative with this lender was they required payment of the application fee before locking the rate. We still went ahead mostly because I do not have the time and temperament to shop around for rates right now. Two weeks ago, we finally locked in our rate at 2.5% as they gave us a bit of a credit to stick with the original estimate.
Last week, our current lender decided to transfer the loan to another servicer. They gave us less than a week of notice. So that threw held up our refinance. On top of that, on Wednesday, we were informed there was a new item on my credit report from a medical billing error. An EMS service put me in collections for an ambulance ride taken by someone else. Fortunately, I only had to make one phone call before they determined it was an error and instructed the collections agency to fix the issue. I confirmed this morning that my credit report had been fixed. The refi is still in limbo though.
As for Citibank, a few months ago they downgraded us from a Citi Private Banking account to a normal account where you have to maintain a certain balance (e.g., $10k) to avoid fees.
The reason they kicked us off was understandable — I no longer worked at the firm where I qualified for the Private Banking account. But the change was poorly communicated to us and resulted in random and unexpected fees that Citi ultimately did not waive. Having lost all reason to continue banking with Citibank (and gaining some reasons not to), we decided to close the account and open a new account at another institution. After changing autopay for a dozen accounts, we called to close the account. But Citi said that we had to go to a branch in person with proof of ID, trust ownership, etc. to close the account. That was annoying and a waste of an hour. Plus we have an empty safe deposit box at a Citibank branch in the Bay Area. Would you be surprised if they told me we had to go in person to turn in the keys? Well that’s what they said. What a backwards institution.
Home Improvement Hiccups
This past weekend, we finally received our new door glass for our front door. It’s supposed to be pretty easy to install — if you believe the videos at least. I got my brother and wife to help. The second I had to step away to get some painter’s tape, someone, who will go unnamed, placed the glass on the ground and almost as soon as I stepped back in view, the glass completely shattered. I guess it was from the weight of the glass being placed on its edge on the ground. These things are expensive too — we spent $500 on ours. I’ve explained the situation to the vendor and we’ll see if they can do anything. Otherwise, we might see if our credit card’s purchase protection feature can help out. I think this is the first time I’ve ever watched $500 disappear before our eyes. Every time I think back on what happened, I see the unfortunate events unfold in slow motion. It’s painful.
We also got a termite inspection on Wednesday. The inspector said he found evidence of swarmers, which could have been flying around or could have come from an active infestation. He could not tell which, but tried to convince us to get our house tented for $3k. We decided to have them screen off the vents so swarmers could not get in and see if we detect any in the future. Despite the 5-star Yelp reviews, I did detect some emotional manipulation, just like I sensed from our dentist…
I’m also working on building a set of cabinets for my office as well as some storage for tools in the garage. Hopefully those projects will go smoother.
Baby’s Hiccups (not literally)
Our toddler, who is now almost 16 months old (CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?!), also got a fever this past weekend. Last night, it hit 102.7 at its peak but has since receded. It’s crazy how rapidly his temperature fluctuates when he’s got a fever. He’s got an attachment to my wife right now to the point where I will go to him when he cries at night and he’ll run right past me to get to my wife. Suffice it to say she didn’t get much sleep last night.
But otherwise he’s doing really well. He’s above average in height, weight, head size, BMI, all the metrics that doctors track. He’s happy, active, and even knows the first six letters of the alphabet and can point out certain body parts. He loves to wave to everyone he sees and blow kisses. He also gets really excited every time he hears an airplane outside.
I received a reminder to schedule a dental appointment on Thursday. Something seems a little off about my current treatment plan. This dentist is relatively new to us and she’s kind of like me where I like to get everything right, but instead of our finances, it’s her patients’ teeth. So that part is good. But here’s the bad:
A few months ago I was trying to figure out some sleep issues (this has been a multi-year struggle) and I decided to experiment with breathing differently at night. This ended up in me breathing through my mouth for a few months when sleeping. I slept much better, but I guess my gums were not happy due to the buildup in bacteria. Due to what the dentist saw in July (especially the change in pocket depths from the prior visit), I agreed to get a deep cleaning with anesthesia and laser treatment for $1,500. After that, they said it had gotten a little better but not as much as they hoped and they proposed a surgical option. Their justification (as conveyed to me from a hygienist) was that a gum pocket of 5 mm will never heal by itself (this I know for a fact not to be true) and said the bacteria could infect everyone in my family if I didn’t do something about it. Her use of absolute and far-fetched statements designed to elicit fear threw up some red flags. I believe the body has the ability to self-heal and that it is not totally at the mercy of Western medical intervention. So I’ve been a little suspicious of them ever since.
In the meantime, I decided to revert to breathing through the nose and thanks to a book recommendation from the dentist, identified an issue that was contributing to my inability to sleep when breathing through my nose. I was over-breathing and it was leading to a build up of pressure in my head. I also taped my mouth shut when sleeping to get used to breathing through the nose again when sleeping. I knew this was the cause of my gum issues and after a few weeks, things were feeling much better. I’m going to go back in for another visit later this week. I think things are wayyy better and if they keep pushing the surgical option, I might get a second opinion. My old dentist from the Bay Area also moved to this area, although it’s not that convenient to get to her office.
New Aquarium Hiccups
One day on a whim, I decided to put in an aquarium in our house. I had one or two tanks when I was a kid and even had a small one in my office in the early 2000s. A few weeks ago, I started buying all the things we need to setup the tank from reinforcing the built-in cabinet with a torsion box to support the weight, to buying the tank, filter, substrate, CO2 injection, etc. All told, I’ve spent about $1,500 and that does not include the $200 brad nailer I bought to install the torsion box. I think I got carried away because I wanted something beautiful that would amaze our son.
The first bump we hit was actually getting the tank. It was shipping from New York and it took three weeks to arrive due to mixups by the seller and FedEx. Finally, I got a text on Tuesday saying it had been delivered. When I checked outside there was no package. Of course, they delivered it to the wrong house so I had to call and start an investigation. We got it a few hours later. The tank was the first thing I ordered and the last thing we received. But a minor hiccup nonetheless. It’s a 17.1 gallon tank that fits just right in this reinforced built-in. I even drilled some holes for grommets to run the filtration hoses and power cords.
On Friday, I decided to buy the carpeting plants and do a dry start of the aquarium. I bought 4 pots of lab-grown dwarf baby tears. Most of the plants are actually growing in pretty well, except we’re getting a little die-off and mold on the dead leaves. It’s only been a few days so hopefully the mold goes away and we can keep going for a few more weeks.
Anyway, this is all pretty minor in the grand scheme of things. But I wasn’t expecting these hiccups during an already busy week. It’s emblematic of an overall frustrating last few months. Hopefully we’ll all be vaccinated soon and life can slowly get back to normal.