Meandering Musings

Everything not fit to publish

Refocusing

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When you begin to worry, go find something to do. Get busy being a blessing to someone; do something fruitful. Talking about your problem or sitting alone, thinking about it, does no good; it serves only to make you miserable. Above all else, remember that worrying is totally useless. Worrying will not solve your problem.

Joyce Meyer

Worrying solves nothing.

I know that but lately, that is all that I have been doing and doing a bad job pretending I am not worrying, not stressed and not hopeless. It has led to many panic attacks, more loneliness, and more pain. It seems to be negatively affecting my only real relationship. I have a few options; few of them are appealing but refocusing myself to be more positive and busier. It will not change much but perhaps it will decrease the anxiety, especially when I wake. I sleep so little lately, sometimes less than an hour but even that is a wonderful reprieve.

The only time I am happy lately is when I am asleep. Surprisingly, I am not having any bad dreams; just wonderful dreams of what I wish for. When I wake, it takes a second or two for the anxiety to come flooding back in. The dreams feel so real because my mind is having difficulty figuring out what is real and what is not. If I did not have photos of fairly recent activities, I would be questioning if that was real also. I know my paranoia is bad so I make myself quiet to keep it from showing, I am not sure I am succeeding or if it is really helpful. Maybe everything I worry about is real. I just wish I knew because the unknown is very difficult to deal with. Even if I got outside confirmation that my worst fears were true, I could deal with it so much easier.

If I thought it would not end in getting committed, I would ask my doctor if she could put me in a coma. Maybe just before Halloween since that is the only holiday I enjoy. Yeah, she won’t and I don’t know if I could dream and with my luck, I would have nightmares. Maybe I could let my mind go and make myself believe that everything is fine and my dreams came true. I would not return to reality if I did that. Okay, those are not real or productive solutions so I have to focus.

What I need to do is stay busier, recent physical injuries make it much more difficult to achieve that. A 30-minute bike ride makes my knees scream in pain lately, but at least I start physical therapy tomorrow. Hopefully, it will at least help a little with a degenerative condition plus a tear that cannot likely be operated on without causing more pain. I can still walk and have been walking for 3-4 hours at a time. The problem with walking is that it doesn’t do a thing to calm my mind. I have a lot of work in my garden but it is impossible to do everything I need to without causing more damage. So I am trying to un-paralyze my mind.

There are plenty of things I can do to keep my mind busy and have some amount of fun. I need to post more fun and positive essays and there are lots of things I can do that will make it easier. I have no reason to wallow in misery; I hope I do not, but I am doing just that.

I really need to get seriously back into programming. That can keep my mind occupied for many hours at a time when I think of nothing else. It would also improve this journal with better articles. I have been meaning to write a blasphemous article about how Erlang is object-oriented (OO) programming done right. Java, C++, Python and many others miss the point of OO programming (it is all about message passing!!!) and turn it into some bizarre, complicated religion cult. Smalltalk, of course, and Ruby are the only OO languages I am aware of that didn’t miss the point and Ruby also has fairly strong functional features. Of course, the Smalltalk language was developed by the guy who coined the term and Ruby took a lot of inspiration from Smalltalk. I am fully aware that Erlang is not an OO language and its main designer, Joe Armstrong (RIP) would very kindly disagree, but the processes and communication between them in Erlang perfectly model the idea behind OO. I think learning Erlang would greatly improve OO programmers, especially the OO-fetishists that work in Java. At the very least go learn Smalltalk or Ruby. That might be a fun article to write. It would at least get some bombs thrown my way in the comments.

Erlang is so great that it even spawned two movies.

Speaking of Java, I could write about how the language only supports pass-by-value. It makes me nerd rage to read all the misconceptions online. I want to start poking around Kotlin and report my findings. It appears to be a language that finally makes the Java platform tolerable. Yes, I am aware of JRuby, Scala, Clojure, and others but they all have their issues with interacting with the Java environment. Even on Android, Kotlin is supposed to make it so much less painful which is a miracle if true. My initial look at it seemed like it had most, if not all the power of Ruby, even if it doesn’t have quite as nice syntax, without many of its downsides. That is very exciting!

Elixir is another language I want to get more into. It runs on the highly reliable and rock-solid Erlang/OTP platform while getting rid of some of the pain of Erlang like adding great string support. Plus it gets closer to the power of Lisp macros than Ruby which tickles my brain. I guess you really do need to write your code as an abstract syntax tree to get a true homoiconic language but languages that get close like Elixir and Ruby without the dizzying look of Lisp code is a big win in my book.

Don’t worry, PHP is not even worth this sentence so there will be no ‘PHP sucks’ writeups. It would be like writing about how water is wet.

Most of all I want to get back into my projects and start new ones. I have an extremely private, narrowly focused social-media-like application I need to work on that my family uses to stay in contact, well used to until I pretty much stopped working on it. It was way more than just social media stuff and I could make it more general and it could easily be used for all sorts of groups that want to stay off information sucking services like Facebook. It did start to get a little complex for a single person but might still be manageable but I am not very reliable for the foreseeable future. It is mostly Ruby with a touch of C and Python on the backend and way too much frontend JavaScript. Some of the Ruby code would probably be better suited to be rewritten in Elixir, especially the chat and games functions.

I have another project I did for a graduate computer architecture course that I could use Kotlin to redo. The instructor created a simple language and compiler for learning to write code across multiple processors; it was more of an external DSL written in C than a standalone language. My task was to write a virtual machine to run the compiled programs. It worked well, but I thought the language was perfectly simple, but very limited and the program either successfully ran or it did not. I thought it would be much better with a visualizer and the ability to step through the code and match it in the visualizer. Banging on code until it works is not very educational. Instead, I suggested something more useful but still simple that can help show how locks, mutex, and semaphore work along with displaying graphically in very simple terms what is going on in cache and the processors. He was not receptive to the idea but I am not sure if he thought it was stupid or just too much for a course project I was doing alone.

I also got to thinking something like this would be useful to teach other types of asynchronous programming as well as teach various data structures and their algorithms and their properties. Watching your code create a graphical representation of a red-black tree or a queue or heap would be useful in my opinion. I could also add modules for teaching network protocols and programming and security problems.

So many self-taught programmers lack the math and theoretical background to understand what is going on behind what they are writing and a computer science education is extremely time-consuming and expensive. I think an interactive program with visualizations and a simple internal DSL for writing the code, probably written in Ruby to allow for quick code writing would be very useful for someone.

My master’s project could also be rolled into this for teaching networking and security concepts, with the functionality to probe and attack real networks removed. It was written in mostly JRuby and the graphical part was Java using Swing so moving it to Kotlin would be trivial and the Ruby parts can come over as-is. In a nutshell, this would be an extremely flexible and modular program that would be able to help teach many computer science topics in a rigorous but accessible manner.

That is a big project but could keep me busy for the rest of whatever life I have left. At least it would make me somewhat useful again. I wish I was well enough to teach again, I really miss helping people and this project could potentially do just that. The best part would be that it would not interfere with my current attempts to have a normal life and if I get rejected in those attempts I have something to fall back on.

I have also been struggling to learn the guitar. I can devote more time to it and see if I can play a song a special someone wants me to learn to play. It sounds pathetic, but I have a challenging puzzle I can work on, maybe in my evenings. When I was a student, my programming projects took my days and evenings and much of my nights, I do not want them to become all-consuming again. I didn’t have a life as a student and I hope I could find one now.

I can also write about books, music, and movies to mix things up. There is a certain movie that is not well-known that I have been meaning to write about because it can tie into recent things I have been going through. I still need to write about how music can help depression. I mostly want to avoid that topic going forward but I will probably write a few more essays if I can make them more positive and helpful.

I could certainly improve the look of this site, although I hate web design, it is headache-inducing. Perhaps I could move off Octopress as it seems to not have a lot of development activity lately.

Of course, I have many books I can also read so I have a lot of things I can do to keep busy. However, outside the small possibility of helping people learn computer science topics, is this truly a life of value? All of my ideas are solitary activities, which is what I was trying to fix.

I still believe I have the possibility of sharing my life with someone very special and thus being able to live a normal and fulfilling life. Perhaps it doesn’t make sense but working on things to help people while being alone is not as good of a life as helping people while being with the love of my life. The former feels empty. I just don’t know where things stand right now. Scars from my distant past are affecting me negatively, yet again. I guess I need to be patient and not focus so much on that and simply remember what she has told me over the past few weeks. She is not among the people who scarred me.

Is this too greedy? I was starting to believe it might be possible but I don’t know. I have zero doubts about her feelings, I hope she knows this. This is what I have to look forward to so I need to stay out of my head, be more focused and be far more positive and hopefully be able to be more talkative to the best thing that has ever happened to me.

"It has been said time heals all wounds. I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens, but it is never gone."

Rose Kennedy

Methods and Reasons

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This is not a pro-suicide essay. This is a pro-empowerment and a call for rationality regarding mental illness and suicide essay, along with ways to get help. To the right are links to guide you to that help. Psych Central has a very supportive message board. There are no counselors there just people who are struggling with mental health-related issues or at least used to be and now want to help others. As such, it is not a good resource if you are in crisis. There are also lots of articles written by professionals that may be of some help. There is also good support for people who have loved ones that are suffering. The next link is a directory of therapists in your area(US only). The other links below it are for people in crisis. Always try to get help before doing anything drastic. There is also the emergency room if you really need to see someone face-to-face immediately.

The mentally ill face many obstacles. Some of their own making and some caused by others. Perhaps the worst, most degrading things are people helping out of good intentions. I often wonder about their motivation. Is it because the mentally ill person is scaring them and the “helper” is acting out of fear that they might feel bad? It can not be out of concern. What kind of person wishes that another continues to suffer? It is certainly not a kind person.

We hear all the time about a cancer patient or someone suffering another deadly disease passing away and people say “At least they are not suffering anymore”. Why is severe mental illness treated differently? If they die from their disease it is almost always “they took the cowards way out”.

Certainly, mental illness can be treated and all reasonable efforts should be made in that direction. This presents serious problems - psychiatry is a pseudo-science and when does mental illness become terminal? Mental health workers do not know and will not admit that it does. Not ever. There has to be a point where it does. All illness that leads to death has a point where the patient has no other options and will die. There is no logical reason why mental illness is any different in this regard than say, cancer.

Cancer is often treatable, but at some point, it can get past the point of no return, and the patient is given medications to ease the pain and anxiety. In seven states, they are allowed to find a doctor to prescribe medications that will let them go out peacefully and on their terms. I live in such a state.

These ‘assisted suicide’ laws specifically omit the mentally ill. I have to wonder if a severely mentally ill person with stage 4 pancreatic cancer would be forced to suffer to the end because of the mental illness. In my state, the law says “Medication to end a patient’s life in a humane and dignified manner shall not be prescribed until the person performing the counseling determines that the patient is not suffering from a psychiatric or psychological disorder or depression causing impaired judgment.1

People with severe, unending mental illness are yet again left to fend for themselves and if they choose to leave this life they have to resort to methods that are painful and not always lethal. Some will survive it and end up permanently hurt or disfigured and forced to live an even worse life. Whether or not suicide is successful, there is no dignity in it. Usually, there is a lot of suffering and people left behind have a terrible mess to clean up and traumatic memories of what is often a horrifying death.

Conversely, people who can choose to leave with dignity do not leave their loved ones behind with trauma.

What if the person is severely mentally ill but can mostly get by reasonably happy but is in a long downtrend with no successful treatment? What if this person has many physical issues that are degenerative that have no cure available and can be extremely painful but not by itself deadly? Someone in this position is guaranteed a painful life and may have to look forward to decades of pain.

This is a very nuanced situation and as a rule, Americans are really bad at nuance. Issues are black and white and they willfully ignore the grey areas and many people suffer for it. Whether it is assisted suicide or health care legislation or welfare reform; people stuck in grey areas get crushed.

This essay will not list specific methods of suicide or their efficacy.

Instead, a more useful approach might be to delve into reasons, from a mentally ill person’s perspective, why they believe their condition is terminal and is it really? What symptoms make it too painful to bear? Given these reasons, is it justified, moral or sane to take away their choice and dignity?

First, it is important to note that no one knows for sure what causes most mental illnesses. The theory about brain chemistry out of whack is just conjecture, albeit with some evidence. There are no tests to confirm bipolar or depression or psychosis - outside of actual brain damage which is a very uncommon way to get mental illnesses - at least not yet. Sometimes psych meds work, sometimes they do not. Sometimes, they do more damage than the illness. The prescribing psychiatrist is just guessing at what medications will help, the consequences, if he is wrong, can be devastating. What is worse is that usually, the guess is not even an educated guess. If you have a doctor that will get pharmacogenetic testing done for you, then it can be considered an educated guess, but it is still a guess.

A second important fact: therapy is hit or miss. There are many variables. Is the therapist a good match for the patient? Does she understand the issues that the patient is facing? Does the patient understand that they need help? If the patient can not see their illness, therapy is useless. When they can not see it, quite often it is impossible to get them to admit there is a problem and like treatment for drug addiction, it doesn’t work without patient buy-in.

Thirdly, this is focusing on people with longstanding debilitating mental illness and not on people who are suffering in a temporary state such as loss of a job or a bad breakup. This is not to minimize their suffering, it is real and painful but it is by definition situational and temporary. As much as the clowns who wrote the DSM-5 wish it, situational depression is not cured by a lifetime of meds. When the situation changes so does their suffering. This could be equated to someone breaking a leg and someone who has a treatment-resistant mental illness with a chronic condition.

The initial cause, whether known or unknown, is irrelevant here. What is relevant is the treatment-resistant nature of it and the person’s reaction to said illness.

So what reasons do people have for killing themselves? Some are based in reality, sometimes not. Either way, the pain, and hopelessness are very real.

I am uncomfortable trying to speak for others so this will be from personal experience or from reading message boards or from groups.

Previous horrors inflicted on the person. Whether they were in combat or subjected to terrible things as a child or even an adult, this can lead to difficult to treat symptoms that the person never really gets over and is constantly fighting the pain, feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness. Other things like developing dissociate identity disorder(DID) is possible. I know a young lady that fits into this category and the struggles she goes through every day are terrifying.

In short, the issues that caused the mental illness feeds on itself and not only makes things worse, but they can also cause new issues.

A person with mental illness of any kind or severity can face setbacks or tragedy in life that exacerbate it. This could be a failure in one’s life, or a tragic death or otherwise losing an important person. Many people suffering from MI have a very low tolerance for any kind of emotional pain. It can set them in a tailspin. The pain gets too much and they get in a crisis that they might not be able to pull out of without a good support system.

It is a nasty cycle that is difficult to break out of even with a good support system around the person.

Loneliness certainly can make things much worse and if they are lonely they likely have zero support around them. I can honestly say that my lowest points, including when I needed to be hospitalized were caused by exactly this. This was what started it but lots of other things joined in to beat me down. Abandonment causes PTSD symptoms in me, I believe it is caused by issues in childhood and made worse by a lifetime of rejection. Feeling hopeless, destroyed self-esteem, extreme anxiety, sleeping a one or two hours and being awakened by panic attacks, drained of energy, losing the desire to do anything are just some of the painful symptoms. The worst is feeling empty and cold, even when surrounded by beauty and joy and sitting outside in the heat. Eventually, loneliness makes the depression start to feel so heavy and added with the emptiness, it brings even more depressed thoughts and it eventually becomes overwhelming. Then it gets worse.

I believe spending a lot of time alone has worsened the anxiety. It is also the cause of my psychosis and the reason it comes back. When I am with someone, especially someone I feel very close to, my anxiety is noticeably better and I don’t see or hear things that are not there as much.

All of these things are difficult for everyone. A loss of a relationship or job can make a normal person depressed. It can do the same for a depressed person and that is bad. Adding depression to depression has a negative exponential effect in my experience.

How to tell if someone needs help

There are many warning signs, too many to list here but I will list those that I feel are more dangerous but any of them can be dangerous depending on the person.

  • Giving important things away
  • Talking about a future without them
  • Verbalizing hopelessness
  • Too much or too little sleep
  • Becoming reckless with behavior, drinking, etc
  • They have a history of MI and they lose their home, job, significant other, parents, children, etc
  • Talking about methods of suicide
  • Withdrawing from everyone
  • Making plans for people around you in a manner that suggests they will not be around

The biggest thing is that there is a noticeable negative change. Many people with mental illness talk a lot about killing themselves or are anxious or have crap sleep, when those things get worse, pay extra close attention.

An example is withdrawing, if the person is normally withdrawn but then shuts out the few people they talk to, get help.

The last one might entail writing down all the bills, mortgage company, etc. Making plans to hire a realtor to sell their house, making funeral plans for themselves - especially when they do not have a terminal illness and are younger when that is normally done.

How to tell if you need help

This can be difficult because the signs others can see, you might not be able to. One thing to remember is suicidal thoughts and suicidal intent are sometimes different. When I used to see a shrink, he would always ask if I think about killing myself. I always say yes (honesty is always important but doubly so for this) and they never bat an eye. Next question is “do you have a plan”. I said yes once (again, honesty!) and spent 8 days in a psych ward.

I have a lot of the warning signs almost constantly. It is part of my thought process and does not mean anything other than it is a normal day.

The best way to understand what is happening is to try to pay attention to what you are thinking, doing and saying and if they are out of line with whatever is normal for you, get help! If you are building up inside and are losing control, get help right now!

Okay, I am suicidal, what now?

This is the tricky part and why lawmakers are too afraid to add chronic mental illness on the list of acceptable conditions. If I am at this point, is my decision rational? Probably not but the pain is real, and it may not be permanent but could last months or years, so what to do?

Except in extreme cases, I do not believe that people with MI should lose rights because of their illness. There are people with very little self-awareness that could never make any rational decision about anything, most of the time. The vast majority of mentally ill people are not that way.

I also believe that we should try as hard as possible to not do it. I hate the argument people lay on me about how they and others will miss me. In my lowest points, that feels so manipulative. It takes a lot to get me visibly angry but when I am doing bad enough, that will do it. On the other hand, if I think of my children, siblings or girlfriend wanting to kill themselves, I would feel the same way as those annoying people telling me that their feelings are more important than my pain. It is always useful to look at things, no matter the context, in as many viewpoints as possible.

My rule and I follow it no matter how bad I am feeling is to try to get help, even passively and then sleep on it. By passively, it could mean taking the quiz at the veteran’s crisis website described below. Or it could mean taking a walk most or all of the night. Sometimes I try to reach out to family or my only friend, although when I am suicidal I do not ask for help or tell them I want to die. That will trigger an avalanche of concern which often makes me worse. It is more like “If you have a little time, want to chat” or “I would love to hear your voice”. Even if they do not respond, just reaching out to someone makes me feel a little connected. I was out of the house in the middle of the night once, and sending a message saved me that night. I did not even get a response.

I do find it amusing that a panic attack will elicit a stronger response than a cry to save me from killing myself. To be fair, I am very vocal during a panic attack and just sound whiny when I am suicidal. Okay, I am whiny during a panic attack but the vocal part stands. That is funny to me, especially when considering that a panic attack just needs a few soothing words and encouragement to take a benzo and go to sleep.

Sometimes, it means watching a funny movie. If I can laugh, I am not doing so bad, or so goes the theory. For me, it is really dumb movies that make me laugh. “Better off Dead”, “Ace Ventura”, “Dumb and Dumber”, “The Pest”, etc. Don’t judge me.

The images I added to this essay are dark but also a little funny in hopes that the reader will laugh and can hopefully see how a little laughter is a good thing.

Other times music helps. It is typically really depressing music such as The Cure, Nine Inch Nails or The Smiths. I will write an essay on music and mental health soon.

It is not easy to follow my rule but I think it works well. Is it worth it? Depends on the day. I made this rule when I first started to get legitimately suicidal back in 1998 or so. I think of everything that I have done and seen since then:

  • I saw my children grow up
  • I met 4 grandkids
  • I finished my BS and MS degrees
  • I met someone that could lead to an actual life but even if it doesn't, meeting her has changed so much about me

Those are the big things in my life. There are lots of other smaller joys, including things like just sitting back and watching the beauty around me. I believe that no matter how bad things are for someone there is something to enjoy. Everything on my small list, besides my grandkids, have brought me great pain that sometimes sends me into a dark spiral. All of them also bring me great happiness and in the case of my degrees, a sense of accomplishment, even though I am too messed up to make good use of them. Yes, the joy of those items on the list outweigh the pain. Life sucks sometimes. How is that for some insight?

This is a long-winded answer to the question of is it worth fighting through it one more time and giving in: It is worth it even if you know more pain is coming. Of course, there is always a point and I have not reached it yet, and may never, where it will be better to give up. Like the cancer patient that fights and fights, until the doctor says there is nothing else to do. Or sometimes a person gets cancer over and over until they decide it is no longer worth the pain to fight again. If a cancer patient tires of the fight and declines treatment, the doctor will comply with the wish and at least try to make them pain-free until the end.

No doctor will do that for people suffering long-term debilitating mental illness.

My friends and family think I am just making it up or ignore me when I try to talk to them

Sadly, I read about this all of the time on Psych Central’s message boards. It is devastating for the person but whether they think you are merely looking for attention or they simply don’t understand you, or believe it or care, it is not a good place to be.

In this case, I think the best bet is to go to places like Psych Central, use hotlines or go and get seen by a psychiatrist or therapist. If you are religious talk to your church’s leaders. Toxic people should have no place in your life.

If you are not yet legally an adult and in this position, your school counselor is a good place to start.

I placed some links for help on the sidebar to the right. Please use one if you are in crisis if you want or need to talk to someone in person and you need help right now, call 911 or go straight to the nearest emergency room.

The link to the Veteran’s crisis hotline also has a self-check quiz. If you are suffering and not in immediate danger it is a good option. It has a short quiz and a text area to allow you to list your concerns and you will get a response that you can use to start a chat. Otherwise, skip the quiz and click on the crisis hotline button to chat online or call the number. I take that quiz every month or two although much less this year although I did tonight. Rarely, I follow through to chat, but did not tonight. Just writing out issues and answering questions often helps me to sort things out on my own, which is why I have a lot of rambling posts here.

They are anonymous and do not seem to check if you are a resident of the country or a vet. A long time ago I used the UK chat. The VA hotline does not ask you to prove you are a vet, calling for a vet or spouse of a vet. Please do not use the VA hotline if you are not one of the above, it is undermanned and in high demand. They are trained to deal with the special needs that affect vets, but of course will handle any and all issues professionally.

If you wish, please add your country’s crisis information or and additional crisis lines and I will try to put it in the sidebar. Thank you.

To the Delight of a Dragon

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The dragon is not used to having any of his dreams come true. They come close and regardless of how hard the dragon works, at the end something always goes terribly wrong. This is not his ultimate dream but it is a major step closer to it and he knows it still could go awry. This dream is far and beyond anything that he ever thought possible.

The princess consented to visit the dragon for nearly two weeks for a vacation in his lair. Fate tried to intervene against these plans over and over and even made a weak attempt just hours before arrival but the princess arrived safely.

Upon seeing the princess for the first time in person, he races to her and hugs her and instantly has greedy thoughts of never letting go. It was the most exciting and scary moment in his long life. She even seemed very happy to see him and hugged the dragon even harder.

After some time past, it felt like both seconds and hours, they started walking hand in hand to begin the short trip to his lair. On the way, they would nervously talk and to relax he would point out various things as they passed them. When they arrived, he welcomed her into her new home. After she got cleaned up they held each other for a very long time, like they had both been alone for their entire lives.

The next day was a day of rest for her after traveling halfway around the world. Lots of hugging, kissing and talking and the dragon cooked for her for the first time and she helped. It was so amazing and it made the dragon feel normal after decades of doing these sorts of things alone. That night was the first of many movie nights. Unlike many princesses, our lovely princess picked mostly action and superhero movies. Funnily enough, the movies the dragon picked had more romance in them although they were not romances. Their taste in movies was pretty much identical which delighted the dragon. As we all know, of course, agreement over movies(and music) is probably the biggest predictor in a relationship working. Well, not really but the dragon was grasping at any and all things that made them both happy.

It was agreed beforehand that there would be no schedule of activities that they would do and only a vague list of possible things they could do as they felt like it. The main goal of this trip was for the princess to have a relaxing vacation and to find out how well they do together. The only exception was that the second day the dragon had several medical appointments. She wanted to come with him to see what it was like and to help keep the dragon calm. Even before this, the dragon knew that he wanted to have the princess forever, but this day is when he absolutely knew it for truth. During one of the appointments, one that makes the dragon very nervous, she sat near and held his hand. It was even noted in the medical records that she did that to help his anxiety over the procedure. It was the kindest, sweetest and most loving thing that the dragon had ever experienced.

The dragon has had relationships before but they were not princesses, they were hunters of dragons pretending to be princesses. This was the first time he had ever felt true love.

With the appointments over, the dragon took the princess to a nearby mall so she could see if they were different than what she was used to. Despite loving to shop, she fought the considerable urge to look at shoes and dresses. It was so adorable and the dragon hopes to be able to take her shopping for real one day. She is so fun shopping, even a male dragon would never tire of it. He also took her to a Thai restaurant, something she had not tried before. One interesting thing is how shocked she was on the size of her meal. She said it was 3-4 times what they get in her lands. It is worth delving into in a future article. Another wonderful movie night that Princess Irina did not make it through. The dragon does not think she made it through any of the movie nights without sleeping. That was fine with the dragon because he would hold her and rub her back during the entire movie. He does not think the princess minded it either.

With all the scheduled activities over, the fun really started. The next day was probably the most fun and exciting for the dragon. They went to a very nice beach and park and he got to swim with the beautiful princess and also was able to put suntan lotion on the easily burnt princess, another first in the dragons life. He knows it is a little lame to get excited over small things but small things are what is important.

The days went like that for the most part. Every day was perfect and wonderful for the dragon. The princess seemed happy as well. She enjoyed the lands around the dragon and seemed to enjoy the dragon’s company. Even his lair was acceptable although he would have to do some work to accommodate the princess’s shoes if she decided to make it her permanent home. The dragon had heard rumors that extensive shoe collection and princesses go together like quinoa and chickpeas, and indeed it is true.

They rode bicycles, which was fun. It was the first time in a very long time that she had ridden a bike so it was a little funny. She forgot the brakes once and ran into her dragon and she was frightened that she hurt him but dragons are not easily hurt physically. Don’t tell her, but he was a little glad that she did because they stood on the side of the bike trail and he was able to hold her while she rubbed his back which he loved so much. Of course, she would probably have done it without hitting him but anything that gets her closer is fine with him. He was also thrilled that she showed true concern for him.

The dragon was scared that he would be so nervous during her visit that it would not be enjoyable for either of them. After some initial nervousness and awkwardness, he was the normal dragon he had always shown her over their long-distance communication.

One day that did scare the dragon was when he woke and was so anxious and feeling seizure-y which makes it difficult to get out of bed or do anything but sleep and wake a lot. He could not get up until 4 in the afternoon that day which frightened him. Not because it happened, that occurs every so often and is used to it but the princess is not. He was afraid it would scare her and it did but did not scare her away. The dragon still feels bad about this day, staying in and cuddling is not a bad day but he never wants to make the princess worry about him.

After that day, they went back to more fun and games. They also worked in the dragon’s yard which was fun for him having a partner to help. He is accustomed to doing everything alone and it was so nice for him to feel normal. He wondered if how he felt during her stay was like what normal people feel every day.

Towards the end of the visit, the princess started to get sad about leaving. The dragon was not happy about it either. She could legally stay much longer but had work and her subjects to get back to. The dragon thought very seriously of acting like a dragon and stealing her forever, she even had positive comments on such a plan. The dragon knew that if he did that and she regretted being with him after a month or two she would have lost everything in her kingdom and that is simply not cautious and reasonable.

Still, the dragon wishes she was still here. He would give everything for just one more day with her.

He fell asleep the last night that she was here and he bitterly regrets it. He only slept a few hours but that was too much time to lose. Taking her to the airport was the hardest thing he had ever had to do in his life. He did not hold her as much as he wanted because it was hard for her and he was afraid of falling apart in front of her. He stayed near the security line until he could not see her and stayed at the airport until the plane took off.

Going back to his lair was the loneliest he had ever felt in his life and remember, he measures time in being alone in decades. He kept moving his claw over to where she used to be, thinking she was still there. It went like that for a little while; as time passes he remembers the happiness of being with her much more than the loneliness.

Discussions of future visits and possible marriage keep the dragon going. Yes, he fears that his most important and his only remaining dream will shatter like all the others. There are no guarantees about anything about the future except that he has finally found his best friend and soulmate, something he has searched for over many decades. The odds of a sad and lonely dragon ever finding a soulmate are very low. When considering that she lives on the opposite side of the earth they change to astronomical. So any future, even if it is online chatting is a better future than what he would have had had he not have met her.

In a way, his dream finally has come true but that dream might get even better.

Dragons and Princesses

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Dragons, as you might know, are mysterious creatures. many cultures around the world have had stories about dragons and dragon slayers, many are thousands of years old. From ancient Greece to Japan, China, Russia, and even the Grimm Brothers. Throughout time, dragons have captured the imagination. These stories almost always pit the dragon as the enemy and the dragonslayer as the hero. Quite often, the dragonslayer is rescuing a princess that the dragon kidnapped for various reasons. Love is one of them. Dragonslayers often win the heart of the princess after the dragon has been slain.

Of course, stories and reality are two very different things.

Like in the stories, dragons live far from humanity and interactions with humans rarely go well. They dwell in dark places, rarely going out to survey their land. This inability and often unwillingness to go out much is one reason why they are difficult to learn about them and how to get along with them. They are also known for unbounded greed and desire to cause massive destruction on the local populace from time to time.

However, not all are like that. One, in particular, is a mysterious dragon that lives in a small land and has few possessions and only simple desires that have seemed so far out of reach most of the dragon’s painfully long life. Unlike many dragons, he had no love for causing destruction. This dragon has gone out to view his lands more than most dragons but it rarely goes well so he has spent many years holed up in his lair. It has been so long since he has ventured out to meet the populace; very few people in his lands even remember a dragon resides there.

Princesses are far more complex than any dragon and possibly more dangerous than all but the wildest dragon. They can be caring and warm but some are aloof and cold. There are as many types as there are princesses. As with dragons, princesses have been in many stories for thousands of years but are rarely cast as the villain. This is for good reason of course, and why dragons are drawn to them.

It is also known that dragons are obsessed with princesses. So much so, that they often capture them and for their protection put them in a comfortable dungeon or tower and shower them with attention and love. They do this out of deep caring and concern for them but it is not often appreciated by the princesses or her court. The princess and her defenders mistake the dragon’s intention or value and will do anything including hurting the dragon just to get away. If the dragon spent any time considering this, these actions again him are often justified. Once in a while, there is a princess that will fall in love with her dragon but it is still not as simple as the dragon thinks. A dragon leads a simple life and forgets that life is not so simple. Her court and other defenders will still attack and hurt the dragon.

Not all of the dragonslayers have such noble intentions. Many of these hunters do it for sport and the thrill of tearing apart a dragon. They will attack with no provocation at all. They may even befriend the lonely beast and disguise themselves as princesses just to get close enough to hurt it. They might even profess to care for the dragon, even while inflicting unbearable pain on the wretched beast. After a few times, dragons learn to spot a dragon hunter dressed and acting like a princess or simply hide in their lair forever. Dragons that do not learn to spot these insidious hunters do not survive long. True princesses, even the coldest and most aloof will not do this. They are not hunters by nature.

By necessity, dragons have a very hard outer layer, scarred and damaged by the ebb and flow of life as well as these malicious hunters and sometimes even the princess’s defenders if the dragon is lucky enough to find one. What may be surprising is that inside that almost impenetrable shell is a very fragile being. Powerful and proud to be sure but very easily destroyed once the scales have been damaged enough. Dragonslayers know this fact, and delight in it. Once past the outer shell, they are free to do as much damage as they please. They enjoy it greatly. Dragons are also quite resilient so the term dragonslayer is almost a misnomer. As any dragon knows, these sadistic hunters prefer to leave the dragon alive for future hunters to have the fun of damaging him again.

Our mysterious dragon has faced many such hunters of dragons and has been severely injured but his inner resolve to go on has not been totally diminished. This is the reason he has hidden in his lair for decades but eventually, he wants to venture out for some adventures. Having learned that the land he was cursed to live in only has dragon hunters and no princesses, he ventured to lands beyond his sight.

There exists a princess that is almost a contradiction. This princess is self-possessed, passionate and fiery yet warm and gentle. Far from helpless but also has a deep desire to be cared for and loved. She is giving, kind, intelligent and everything a princess should be. If the world was a fair place she would have been the queen of her land long ago. Alas, Fate can be cruel. In truth, this princess is much like Cinderella without the mean stepmom and stepsisters. Overworked, unappreciated and alone much of the time but still takes good care of the subjects of her kingdom.

His search quickly landed him in an often cold land that can be hard. and is sometimes . It is here, surrounded by cruelty and indifference he finds our princess, stoically living her life despite the fact her subjects do not appreciate her even though her value is beyond measure. This rare creature very quickly piques the greedy interest of our dragon.

The dragon, pretending to be human, very sheepishly introduces himself to the lovely princess, expecting to be damaged or worse, ignored. After all, this is the first time in a very long time since he has searched for his princess. He was afraid he would not be able to spot a hunter in disguise.

They get to know each other and find friendship very quickly which blossoms into love soon after. The dragon, frightened to be exposed to the princess as a dragon, comes clean with all the damage and hurt on the dragon’s armor and insides. Instead of being horrified, the princess embraces the dragon for what he is. It turns out the dragon is very poor at pretending to be human. She can see straight through him and is not repulsed, it only feeds the love and trust that the dragon has for her.

There is greed buried inside the dragon but is tempered by his simple wants and shy nature. She surely brought it out to the surface but in doing so inadvertently exposed areas under his mighty armor. Our gorgeous princess has brought out the greed, aggression, and fire that dragons are known for. With the armor exposed and weakened, he is often hurt but the wonderful princess never hurts him.

Over time, the princess realized she was paying too much attention to the dragon when she has royal duties she can not neglect. The dragon understood, being a cautious and reasonable dragon, but missed her very much which caused damage to the now fully exposed dragon. The princess had unknowingly stripped the dragon of his armor. Given her kind and gentle nature, she always found time for her dragon. By this time she owns the heart and soul of the dragon, such that it is.

This seemed to frighten the princess and she disappeared, without warning for quite a while, almost mortally wounding the dragon. He did survive but the damage done by previous hunters have left the fear of such an event happening again. This fear is almost all-consuming, despite the dragon knowing that the princess has royal duties and loves him more than such a kind but wretched beast deserves. He is significantly older then the beautiful princess of course, but decades in his lair have made it difficult to navigate the already treacherous waters of loving a princess.

After some time passed, plans were made to meet outside each other’s lands but were quickly discarded and put on hold. Fate is a cruel beast and was especially cruel to the beautiful princess and it devastated both the princess and the dragon. They were able to lean on each other for support and she made it through it with such inspiring strength. These plans are not shelved forever and not even Fate can beat the resolve and love that the dragon has for his princess.

The dragon is madly in love with the princess. His thoughts are consumed by her words, voice, and image. Her inner beauty outshines her blinding exterior. While she has exposed damaged flesh, she has healed many wounds that the dragon had thought were permanent and has also reminded him that he is a dragon that should not spend his existence in his lair alone. The dragon in return loves her dearly and will help her with anything, will do anything to protect her and make her feel loved, valued and safe. Keeping princesses safe is one thing all dragons are known for and our intrepid dragon is no exception.

He has not yet stolen her to his lair but desires that more than anything. Surprisingly, this princess has expressed the desire to be the prisoner of this dragon to the dragons delight and shock. Despite the beastly appearance of the dragon and his awkward nature, he seems to have won the heart of the princess. Even before the dragon showed his true nature, his care and concern for her were evident every day.

Each day, the dragon wakes up more in love with the princess; even on days where he is hurting and very unsure of her intentions. The dragon knows that these feelings are not due to her words, actions or inactions, but simply old wounds that are difficult to fully heal. The love never leaves his heart. Sometimes, the dragon gets doubts about their future but it is only doubts sown in the wounds caused by hunters from his past. He will speak of marriage and eternity together with the princess and she responds positively but the next day, he will think maybe she no longer feels that way. The lovely princess has so much patience for her dragon, it brings tears to his eyes.

The dragon believes that meeting and spending time together in his lair will cure many of these wounds that cause him much hurt and tears through his mind. This belief is founded in the fact that he is healed by just her words. This princess is skilled in healing sickness and wounds of all kinds. A truly remarkable princess!

This belief will be soon tested. She has agreed to grace his lair with her presence to find out if she wishes to be his prisoner, although the term does not exactly fit here. Being a cautious and reasonable dragon, he knows that previous dragons have failed because they stole their princesses in the night. He is hopeful that he will be successful where others have failed because it is the princesses desires that matter and perhaps the dragon will not be slain for keeping his princess happy and secure.

Fate has tried several times to make the dragon fail and thus, spend forever alone in his lair. Cruelly, Fate has attacked our wonderful and gorgeous princess more often than the dragon in an attempt to stop them. The princess’s fiery and determined demeanor pushes Fate back every time. Our princess is truly strong and brave.

This story is far from over. How it will end is unknown. Despite obstacles in the way and Fate trying her hardest to intervene, the ending will almost assuredly be a happy one. There are many paths that lead to happiness and only one dark path. As much as Fate enjoys tormenting the dragon, she can be defeated.

To be continued…

VA Home Loans

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For some strange reason, VA Home Loans are an under-utilized benefit that Veterans can use to their great advantage. Perhaps it is myths about the program and perceived drawbacks or maybe so few know about it. It is a great resource to get a great loan with or without a down payment.

I have seen several stats show the number of vets that have a VA loan and all of them are lower than 10%. That seems crazy, especially since home loan rates have been extremely low pretty much this entire decade. With rental prices constantly increasing and great rates, it makes little sense in most cases to rent. Maybe the myths keep that number down.

VA Home Loan myths

  • The VA makes loans
  • It takes forever to close the loan
  • Can’t get a loan on just property, new build, condo or manufactured home
  • Can only use it once
  • Need a credit score north of 800
  • Interest rates on VA loans are higher than other loans
  • You can’t refinance a home that has a VA guaranteed loan
  • You can’t get a VA if you have a bankruptcy or foreclosure on your credit report
  • You have to have a job

These are all completely false with two minor exceptions.

VA guarantees a portion of the loan, a bank or credit union will make the loan. How much is guaranteed depends on the amount of the loan and it changes from year to year. 50% of loans under $45,000 are guaranteed. $45,000 to $144,000 is guaranteed up to 40% with a ceiling of $36,000. For loans over $144,000 up to $417,000($625,500 in Guam, Alaska, Hawaii and the US Virgin Islands) it is 25% with a maximum of $104,350. You can still get a VA loan over the maximum value but the bank will likely want 20% down payment on the excess amount.

It takes one or two days longer than any other loan, in worst cases. If the VA inspection comes up with problems that may make it take longer. Any other reasons it might take a lot of extra time would be the same problem with any other loan. My VA loan was ‘clear to close’ in 17 days.

You can get a VA loan on empty property along with a new build or manufactured home. New builds are tricky because the VA has to sign off that the house is livable so you may need to get a builders loan and on completion move it to a VA loan if you do this make sure your lender is very experienced in VA loans.

Manufactured homes can be approved for a VA loan, the problem is that since they depreciate, few legitimate lenders give loans on them and you should only use legitimate mortgage brokers. There are scammers out there offering loans at 12% or higher and the VA would not likely approve it nor should you want that. Also, make sure you own the land underneath your manufactured home. If you don’t own the land forego these types of homes. If you rent the land you get the worse case of buying a home (depreciation) and the worst part of renting (forever increasing rent) and it costs a lot of money to move your home elsewhere.

Condos have their own issues discussed under VA home appraisals but they can be approved for VA home loans.

You can use your loan multiple times, even two at the same time if you did not max out your entitlement. It is a little tricky because you generally have to have your old loan paid off first if you don’t have enough entitlement but it can be managed. The only way to lose eligibility is if you get foreclosed on a loan and the VA has to pay all or part of the guarantee, which would happen if it sold for less than the balance on the loan. The amount paid is deducted from your entitlement and it can’t be restored.

Because of the VA guarantees, required credit scores are generally lower than other types of loans. It is up to each bank but it is typically 620. Vets as a group have higher than average credit scores, which is not surprising since many vets had to keep clean credit for security clearances and even without that, it is not fun to be in the service and fall behind bills. Of course, the higher your score the better your rate but on a comparison with the same score and VA vs. conventional or VHA loan, you are likely to get a rate that beats both. Get your score as high as possible, pay off all revolving debt and try to avoid any car loans. Typically, you can be approved for 45% of your income for the monthly payment but that 45% will include car and credit card payments.

Because of the VA guarantees, interest rates are typically lower than other types. With great credit, you will often get quoted lower rates than their very best advertised rates. With the lower rates, you can stretch into a nicer house with a VA over any other type of loan, provided you have little to no debt.

You can refinance a VA home loan. There is even a program called Interest Rate Reduction Refinancing Loan (IRRRL). It is often called Streamline Loan. You can do this to lower your interest rates or if you took out an ARM loan or you are going to roll in energy efficient upgrades into the loan it does not need to lower your rate. This can be done with little or no out of pocket expense as any fees or home improvement money can be rolled into the loan provided that there is enough room between what you owe and the amount being loaned. Of course, being underwater on the loan makes it ineligible. With the rates being so low this decade it is unlikely anyone getting the lowest rates will ever qualify for it. I got my loan at 4% and I don’t expect rates to be this low in my lifetime much less go under 3% to make it worth it.

You can qualify with bankruptcy and even foreclosure (assuming it was not a VA loan where the VA had to fork over money) in as little as two or three years after the event. Of course, you need enough income and a decent credit rating.

Usually, you need a job to buy a home but if you get enough disability money and otherwise meet the lending guidelines you can certainly get a home loan. Especially if you are 100% or higher and it is deemed permanent.

Requirements to qualify for a VA loan

Typically, it is two years of active duty in the Navy, Army, Air Force, Marines or Coast Guard and either still be on active duty or have been discharged under any condition except dishonorable to qualify for VA loan benefits. There are other ways to qualify. Ninety days or more of service, some of which under wartime. Service before 1980 is typically 181 continual days of active service. A visit to a VSO can help you here if you aren’t sure if you qualify or simply just apply for benefits.

Surviving spouses (either through dying in service or from a service-connected disability) are also eligible for VA loans.

For the loan itself, you need to certify that it is your primary home. You cannot typically use it for investment property purchases. I have read of exceptions like an active duty member being transferred and still having enough entitlement to buy a new home at the new duty station while keeping the other house as a rental. I am not 100% sure this is true though. Once you have the VA loan and down the road you get refinanced with an IRRRL, you only have to certify that you previously occupied it.

How to apply

To apply you need to request a Certificate of Eligibility (COE). This is the document you use, along with your DD-214 or a statement of service signed by your commanding officer or a VA form 26-1817 through your bank or snail mail if you are a surviving spouse.

The easiest way to get your COE is to go to ebenefits; you can download your COE in a matter of minutes if the VA has access to your military records. If you do not have an account there you will need to register.

You can apply through many banks if you bring in all the paperwork.

You can also apply through snail mail using this form

Benefits

The biggest is no down payment and no mortgage insurance. This alone makes home ownership more viable over FHA and conventional loans for many. It also can put you in a nicer home over an FHA loan that requires mortgage insurance or if you already have your dream home in mind it will make it cheaper.

Fewer fees, well sort of. One thing you might notice when shopping around for rates is that some places charge high closing costs. I found that to be true with the big banks and credit unions that cater to service members and vets. VA loans restrict what fees are allowable and what is not. The problem is that origination fees are allowed and that is just a catch all of nonsense type fees that are not allowed by VA. So origination fees tend to be inflated, so shop around and try to negotiate. When I was shopping around I found a vet-centric lender that had closing costs more than twice as high as the credit union I eventually used.

Lower interest rates. With a middle score of 793, I got locked at 4%, a conventional loan would have been about 4.05% and an FHA loan was about 4.2%. Your mileage may vary but at the very least rates for VA loans are very competitive.

No prepayment penalty, outrageously some loans will penalize you for paying your loan early. The VA does not allow it.

The loan is assumable, you can have someone take over your loan as long as they otherwise qualify. If interest rates ever skyrocket and you need to get out from under your loan this is an attractive selling point because the terms of the loan do not change. The downside is that in most cases you don’t get back your entitlement until the loan is paid off.

Help if you are having financial problems. The VA does not want to have to write checks for foreclosed homes so they will assist you in negotiating with your lender to avoid foreclosure if you find yourself in trouble.

Finding a lender

In my opinion, local credit unions are the best places to look at. There are also online places like Veteran’s United and USAA but I found them to be expensive and they are mostly online only so you don’t have a person you can see face to face. Big banks seem to be the worst, higher rates and fees and they have lower closing rates.

I would say try at least 4 or 5 places and get as much information as possible. Loan rate, APR and estimated closing costs are all vital so you can do a reasonable evaluation. The lowest rate might not be the best deal because they have high closing costs or they have a low closing rate. What good is the low rate if the deal doesn’t close?

Find a VA approved lender if possible, it is not a requirement but it is easier because they can electronically access your Certificate of Eligibility for you. My credit union wasn’t but the loan officer had a lot of experience with VA loans so it was almost as easy. I did have to bring in copies of my DD-214 and COE which was annoying. At the end of the day, the VA approved lender label is not the most important thing.

Shopping around will cause multiple ‘hard pulls’ on your credit reports which typically hurt your score for some reason but when shopping for home loans it is expected you will fill out multiple applications so if they are all in a small window of time they will really only count as one hard pull. It is funny before getting cleared to close I had to write down the reason for each hard pull in the past year, even the credit report request from that credit union! For some strange reason, setting up service with Comcast caused a hard pull which was so upsetting I canceled the order and stuck with my phone company. It made me feel dirty even thinking about using Comcast so it was very easy to dump them after such an outrageous action. Even my last car loan did not trigger a hard pull but getting internet access set up did?

Sorry for another rant. I feel better now.

VA Home Appraisal

Don’t be fooled, this appraisal and inspection is done for the VA, not you. However, it does have some benefits for you. First, it is another opinion on the value of the house. House pricing is such crap and filled with insanity but it helps you know you are not paying more than the ridiculous concept of ‘market value’. I should write a rant about this, it basically boils down to why should I pay more just because some idiot down the street paid a lot of money for a somewhat similar house? There is no invisible hand.

Anyway, another benefit is that the home has to meet the standards of livability. The VA is also on the hook so they will not guarantee ‘fixer uppers’ so don’t even try to get one of these types of houses with a VA home loan. They will check similar items as the inspector you hire but they have to check off certain boxes. Some requirements are a working stove and heating system, along with a good foundation and access to water, sewer, and power. Any gas appliances need to be properly vented no mold or leaky pipes, things like that.

If you are getting a rural property, be aware that there are more hoops to jump through if the house uses its own well.

Condos also have a potential snag: the condo association has to be approved by the VA. If the condo is not already approved it will take more time and add complexity to getting approval from the VA.

This is required and you have to pay for it. The fees vary depending on the state you live in. I had to pay $800 for it. This was $500 more than my home inspector spending 3 hours at the property.

Do not forgo your own inspection; the VA won’t care about some defects that you might care very much about. The VA’s inspection does not guarantee the house is free of serious defects.

Funding Fee

The VA charges a funding fee to help pay for this awesome program. It ranges from 0.05% to 3.3% of the purchase price depending on if you are active duty or reserves or a vet and whether it is your first home or not, a manufactured home, and if you did put money down. The fees are detailed here.

If you are receiving money for service-connected disability or receiving retirement pay in lieu of VA disability payments you are exempt from the funding fee. Surviving spouses of those that died during service or died due to their service-connected disability are also exempt.

Ways to reduce and flatten your cost of living

Buying a home is a great way to flatten your costs of living. Of course, things like electricity, sewer and property taxes all seem to increase every year but you might be able to do something about some of it. All of that is rolled into rent along with a profit margin for your landlord so buying at least removes that.

Most states have benefits for vets and particularly disabled vets. This can range from property tax reduction and in some taxes no property taxes at all. The benefits and requirements vary from state to state and link to each state can be found here.

In my state, you have to be 100% and permanently disabled and make less than $42,000 or so. Happily, my disability money is not counted as income so I qualify for the biggest discount. My property valuation for tax purposes gets frozen and then reduced 60% and only those taxes that were approved by my city counsel, county commissioners or state legislature count. All the taxes and levies put to the people for a vote like fire, roads and school bonds are 100% exempt. My county is taking for freaking ever to approve me but I estimate I will save $160 a month, minimum. It might be closer to $200. I pay around $280 a month on property taxes so that will be a nice discount and since my valuation is frozen, increases will be very minor since I have to pay so few items under the banner of property taxes. I will also get a 25% discount on my sewer bill which is a small amount but just more money to be saved.

General home loan tips

These are important for any home loan.

  • Pay down your credit cards and don’t touch them from application to closing.
  • Do not under any circumstances buy a new car or furniture on credit until after closing
  • Do not try to pay any closing fees or down payment with cash.
  • If you get gifts to help with closing or down payment, use bank-to-bank transfer not cash

If you do anything to mess up your income to debt ratio you can suddenly not qualify to get a loan on the home you want to purchase. Buying a car also lowers your credit rating for a time so that could make your rate higher if you still meet all the other requirements. Same goes for buying new furniture on credit. Leave your cards alone, only lower the balance if they are not at $0.

Using cash is problematic because the bank needs a trail of all money transactions during the closing process. This is because of draconian federal anti-money laundering laws. If you use cash, prepare for a mountain of paperwork to explain where it came from. It is awful nice that your parents want to give you a gift, talk to your loan officer for an acceptable way to transfer the money without causing you more headaches and possible delay.

I had to use a certified check to deposit the earnest money because who has checks anymore and my loan officer told me that using cash would upset the process and cause delays. Even if I used cash and had a bank receipt to prove it came from my account that was no bueno.

In short, leave your credit and money situation alone and try to avoid anything new on your credit report or something significantly different with your bank account(s), including unusual large cash deposits into your account.

I am done writing for today!

It is a very good program that more vets should take advantage of, it is far better than being on the rising rent treadmill and home ownership has so many benefits.