Monday, June 30, 2008

Kind of boring here

Actually it's the calm before the storm as I may be moving in August back to the state where I was born. Guess where that is? Hint: It is across the river from the Washington Times building. No, it's not New Mexico unfortunately. I spent all Saturday afternoon putting together an offer for a house. Haven't heard back on that yet. About my current abode, had the house inspection today. I hope the inspector saw all that expensive insulation 4 of us homeowners put in the crawl space two years ago. Am starting to schedule visits for moving estimates. Everything must move quickly as my vacation starts July 16 so all must be done before then.
If any of you want to read my stuff on the Washington Times web site, go to the main page and in the search space, put in my name in quotes, ie "Julia Duin." For some weird html reason, that's the only way to call up all my bylines. I've had one story after another; black pro-lifers demonstrating on Capitol Hill, the latest Pew Forum survey on the religious views of Americans, a court ruling by a Fairfax County judge on an Anglican/Episcopal church split and today, a story about a Catholic bishop in Richmond who allowed a poor immigrant girl who was a ward of Catholic Charities (which operates under the aegis of the diocese) to get an abortion. That was in just one week. Then I had 2 columns and a blog to do - well, 7 article-like things; eight if you count the sidebar I wrote for our web site on what the pro-lifers said. Yes, that's like eight articles in a week. My brother Stephen does 3 columns a week and a blog for the Oregonian and calls THAT a full-time job. And gets paid a lot more than do I.
The photo is of Veeka in a cute little Chinese dress "riding" the duckies outside a Baltimore restaurant. The Little Darling does love to pose. It's been in he 90s here so we just go to a water park and I find a lawn chair by the wading pool and just let her splash about. She's becoming a little fish and sort of gets the concept of kicking. Afterwards we had a favorite: Pizza. She is a bit slow on the speech end but she can pronounce that.
There's so much you have to teach kids. Like how to eat a popsicle. They don't come into the world knowing that so you have to show them how to hold the thing, lick it just so and gobble it fast so it won't drip. Let's just say we go through lots of dish towels here. And thanks to Uncle Rob, she has a CD player and little earphones with which she likes to fall asleep. I gave her some New Age music tonight but it was not bouncy enough so I found a CD of Keith Green (contemporary Christian rock and folk) which she loved. I could hear her giggling as she fell asleep.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Beach princess

Well, here Veeka is at a beach retreat I attended last weekend on the Jersey shore. Note the cupped hands, the engaging smile, the little knee bent just so. I did not coach her at all; she just struck that pose when she saw the camera. I think some of the 15 folks at the retreat were not too sure about sharing time with a 3-year-old but Our Princess behaved beautifully; sitting on peoples' laps, quietly listening during our sessions, clapping during the music - I wondered if this was my child. I think she was also glad to be out of my clutches.
The good news is that another offer has come in and we are finalizing that contract now. Wednesday I go visit the house I most like in the neighborhood I'm looking at and hopefully make an offer soon after that. August may be a very busy month for me. Not much in the way of other news - at least news I can share on a public blog - but generally things are doing well. My twice-weekly column in the Washington Times, named "Stairway to heaven," is doing OK - you can read one of my latest here which was my ruminations on what is the besetting sin of Washington, DC. The columns, tho, have doubled my workload and the breaking news, which I also must cover, is not letting up. Last week I broke a front -page story about officials in the Catholic Diocese of Richmond helping a 16-year-old immigrant girl get an abortion (!) and there's more dirt to be spilled on that one. Generally to find my stuff, go to the Washington Times front page ( and put in "Julia" and "Duin" in the search field and you'll come up with some of my stuff. I am trying to get the web people to create a "faith" tab where EVERYTHING religious would be filed but that's not quite working yet.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Then again, maybe not

I got The Call this morning from my agent saying my buyer had chickened out. When he was late by several days in returning the signed contract, I began to wonder. Now it's back to keeping this place squeaky clean again - now into my 13th week. I had been fairly happy with the offer; it was one I could live with although quite a cut from what I wanted and the condo deserves to get. But real estate is so bizarre and quirky these days that simply everyone is having a rough time. It is not uncommon for homes to be on the market 6 months around here.
Meanwhile, Veeka and I are living large. The photos of her dressed up in a princess costume and blowing bubbles with a 4-year-old friend, Ruth Elizabeth I think her name is. She was at a babysitters when they were taken. Veeka likes to be babysat because she has a lot more fun than she does with Boring Mommy. Tomorrow Mommy is going to drag her to some house showings but Sunday she gets to meet her 2nd cousins, once removed, who are visiting friends in Annapolis. Their mom, Allison, and I, are planning a fun time in the hotel pool.
Her mother is also working hard at the paper. I have been given a twice-weekly religion column, called "Stairway to Heaven." Here is my latest entry which is kind of inside baseball for local Catholics but it sure got good react. Sunday, I'll be doing a column on Washington's besetting sin. Now if you look for me on the Washington Times new jazzy web site, you may not find me! Even we employees do not understand our revved-up site with the news "cube" (you press an arrow to 'turn' it to different stories) on the front page. To find my blog and articles, click on culture in the header and you'll get some of my stuff, like this blog here.
Now I am writing 2 weekly columns, doing breaking news (1-2 articles a week) and running a blog. That is 4-6 separate pieces a week. My brother at the Oregonian does 3 weekly columns and a blog and gets paid a lot more!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Finally a contract

Yesterday, on a blazing hot Saturday, I was seated at a Starbucks in Ashburn filling out my end of a contract to sell my condo. The closing date is August 11. Wheeee!
This is a huge load off my mind. It's been on sale for 12 miserable weeks; during which time I have had to keep the place impossibly clean. This was truly a burden on mornings when Veeka had speech therapy and we had to be AT the elementary school by 8:30. I had to have all messes cleaned up by 8:15; things vacuumed, breakfast dishes done and put away, all smudges cleaned off the walls - aaargh. I had realtors calling me at odd hours of the day and night wanting to show the place at very short notice. I think the worst was the person who showed up on Memorial Day, a day I really thought no one would be by. This realtor had called an hour before, I had not heard my cell phone ring and when she arrived and began walking in, Veeka and I were in the shower. I dashed down, with only a towel wrapped around me and Veeka stood, naked, atop the stairs, screeching.
And this past week there's a tree in my back yard that decided to bear huge blackberry-like things. Don't think it's a mulberry tree - I have no idea what it is but it has dropped squishy purple messes ALL OVER my back yard. What was once a lovely white stone corner looks like raisin pudding with all sorts of dark things interspersed with the stones. The birds love it but the backyard looks is a mess.
Anyway, the buyer is a single guy and everything looks good so I am praying and hoping all the other hoops one must jump through line up. Of course I have no idea where I will move to. I know the area I want but two homes that I very much wanted slipped through my fingers; that latter because I did not have a contract on my place. It's been the craziest market and all the regular real estate rules are not working any more. I am OK with the price I got; once I dropped 20K in the asking price (!) people came out of the woodwork to see the place and it sold.
The photo is of Veeka - about two months ago - sitting on my ironing board. I did not put her there; she climbed up there and posed there like you see. She knows she is forbidden to be up there but does that stop her? Nooooo.