Friday, June 28, 2013

Locked and Loaded

A scorcher today:  102 degrees.
Regarding the rental property, it turns out that I AM cut out for this.  Well, not exactly; but I think I can make it work.  I think I can learn to be good at it.  I managed to figure out a rent that I hope the downstairs tenants can afford, but I am not going to risk renting the upstairs to them.  The wife (let’s call her Cheyenne – I think she’s going to be with us for a while) texted me today to say that I need to fix the air conditioning, because it is so hot in the unit.  I gently but firmly reminded her that there IS no air conditioning.  She is living in an un-air conditioned house.  Nothing for me to fix.  She knows this, so I don’t know why she is asking me.  She told me she was angry at the previous owner because he told her there was air conditioning, when there isn’t.  I’m bummed about it, too; but that kind of an improvement is an investment that will need to be saved for.  I then reminded her that, since we were doing a month-to month agreement rather than a lease, she had a lot of freedom to look for a nicer place if that was her choice. 
The heat really was a bitch today.  I am going over there to do their rental agreement tomorrow, and I plan to take hoses and a sprinkler with me.  I will tell her that it is not her job to care for the lawn, and I don’t expect her to.  However, on a hot day, little kids like hers sure enjoy playing in the sprinkler.  And if she were to move it from place to place in the yard while they play?  Win – win. 
I felt weak and ill for a large part of the day.  No energy – absent minded. 
Today’s low point was probably dealing with Cheyenne and then getting an e-mail from Chuck.  Normally, this would be a high point, but I am kind of bummed out that he and his daughter got to Barcelona a few days ago.  I didn’t think they were going to visit that city – I thought they would be spending some time in Madrid.  By the time I get to Barcelona, all excited to discover this new place with Chuck, he will have seen everything he wants to see and will be bored.  (Sigh!)
High point.  I’m pretty much packed.  Everything I need is going to fit easily in the two bike panniers.  There’s even room for a couple of cute little outfits in case we go out to a club or something.  Know what the trick is?  I am only taking one pair of shoes.  A comfy, versatile pair.  Ah!  But what about clubbing?  True, there’s no room for my stripper heels.  Perhaps I will buy something sexy  over there
Sara and I are going to get up early and do a trail run before the day heats up, so I had better go to bed. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

I'm Not Cut Out For This.

I can't handle being a landlady. I'm closing on this dumpy little, fixer-upper, two-unit rental on Wednesday.  One of the units is occupied, so I went over there to meet the tenant tonight. 

This became a fiasco. 

They can't afford the rent I am asking. It only looked on paper like they were paying rent.  That was actually a resettlement stipend from the local homeless shelter, and it ends this month.  I sat down with her to calculate what she should be paying in rent given her current income. There is no way a family of four can find decent housing on the amount I calculated.

They can't pay for their own electricity.  She owes the power company money from the last place they lived, from which they were evicted, so she can't open an account with them without paying her debt.

Her husband came in.  She started a discussion with him about what they could and could not afford.  He got mad and said they COULD make the rent I was quoting because, "I'll be working soon".  When she implied that she didn't want to plan their budget around that, he got mad and spoke meanly to her.  He left, she started to cry, the baby started to cry in the other room, the three-year old climbed on my lap to show me her sticker book.  I held the mom's hand across the table until she stopped crying.

When I left she said they would do it  They would find the money.  She would pick up some overtime.  I told her to think about it some more, because I didn't want to have to start off my career as a landlady by evicting her, but I would if I had to. 

I sobbed all the way home.

I can only see two choices.  I tell the owner that I want a fresh start and that I want the house free of tenants at the end of the moth.  But it almost IS the end of the month! 

Or I let them stay and go month to month until they can't make rent (this will take only about two months, I guarantee), and then evict them.  And anyway, how will they get on the electricity if they already owe the power company money?

This is not who I want to be!  I don't want to throw families out of housing.  I know they can't afford to stay anywhere else on what she is making.  I know that I can't take them at a rate they can afford and still make my mortgage payment. 

I want to scream.  I want to let my earnest money go and walk away from the whole thing. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Friday, June 21, 2013

When A Hummingbird Gets in the House...

... bring the feeder inside and stand holding it, stock still, until the hummer lands and you can eeeeeaaaaaase it outside. 

It is the Solstice, which always makes me a little wistful.  I love summer and the long days.  Once they reach a peak, I find myself thinking, “Well, it’s all downhill from here. “  It’s a gorgeous evening, cool enough that I felt the breeze from the big ceiling fans was too much and went to turn them off.  I had a hell of a time finding the switch for the main one over the living room.  Just when I think I am familiar with this place…
There is a bright green bug rattling around in my desk lamp.  I don’t know what these guys are called, but they are prolific this year.  I don’t like them because they bite; and when you swat them, they smell like shit.  Like an old outhouse.  I watch the bats, wondering when they are going to get busy and rid us of these pests, but the bats don’t like them, either.  Maybe they taste too bad even for bats. 
There is a god-awful racket coming from the woods next to the house.  A troop of boy scouts found me in the driveway after work and asked permission to park their vehicles and camp back in the old dump.  I pointed out that it was Forest Service land and that they did not require my permission.  Now, I find myself wishing I had told them that I owned all the land for two miles west of the house and that I couldn’t let them camp on it because it is a preserve for a very rare species of wild peach tree.  I never think fast enough in the moment.  They are yelling and howling down there…

Today’s high-point…  I woke up on my own about half an hour before my alarm and finished reading “The Glass Room”.  It has taken me forever, but not because I don’t love the book.  It’s just been hard to find the time.  Now I need to decide what I’ll take with me to read on the airplane next week.  

Low point…  Sara is back from her soccer summer camp, and I don’t think I have ever seen her so crabby.  Over-tired, sunburned lips and she ate too many Sour Patch Kids on the bus, so her mouth was sore as well.  She got back to town two-and-a-half hours before the time we had been told to pick our kids up and was mad that I couldn’t drop everything and get her.  My work is 30 minutes from her school – it was no small matter.  When she texted to say that she was back, I told her that I would leave the office as soon as I could, but that I had to tie up some loose ends.  I told her to find a shady tree in the school yard and take a nap.  No.  The coaches have to wait until all the girls are picked up.  Oh, for Pate’s sake!  Perhaps they should have arranged to come home at the appointed time, then.  One of my colleagues in the office laughed and said, “Then let the coaches wait.  It’s their fault for telling you the wrong time.”  In the end she texted to say that she had found a ride home with one of the other girls.  But she was in a very rare mood (for Sara) when I got to her.  

In other news, it looks like I will close on the rental property that I’m buying on Wednesday.  I have a renter for each of the units, now.  Problem is that they both want the upstairs unit.  Uhhhh….  The basement unit is cooler in the summer….

Counting down the days until the trip to Spain!  I’ve arranged a lift to the airport with the giant bicycle case; and I read a little bit about the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.  I suppose I should turn my attention to packing – I’m going to have to fit an awful lot of fun into two small panniers. 

But it can wait until tomorrow.  It is after 10 PM.  Maybe the scouts will shut up in a few minutes and I can go to sleep!   

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Home Alone

This house has some interesting creaks and thumps, but I'm not scared.  Just tired!  I will definitely sleep tonight.  I miss Chuck - he has left for Europe with his daughter.  They will travel for ten days; and then she will join her study abroad group, and Chuck will come to meet me in Barcelona.

When Simon traveled on business, I enjoyed being home without him.  The kids and I would eat breakfast for supper, order a pizza...  I liked the space and the quiet. 

I certainly do NOT feel that way now.  I miss Chuck a lot already!  But I have a lot going on to keep me busy, and then I will be going to join him. 

And I think we'll have breakfast for supper tomorrow night.  It's kind of a tradition.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Santa Barbara

Goleta Beach, where I try to spend as much time as possible when I am here.
From Salt Lake to Santa Barbara is a long-ass drive.  Chuck and I know the drill, though.  How about all of you?  What do you do when you are on road trips?  We focus on getting it done.  This means challenging the bladder to need emptying at about the same time the gas tank needs filling.  Otherwise, we don't stop.  There will be white cheese popcorn and Red Bull and Diet Dr. Pepper.  We will switch drivers at the gas pump and take turns paying for the gas.  We will watch the outside temperature as we drive across the Mojave Desert; waiting for Las Vegas, then leaving it in the rear-view mirror:  101..104...105...101...98.  We will leapfrog with other cars that we think are interesting-  another Fiat 500:  white with the temporary plates still on it.  A Nissan Cube with green wheels and headlights.  Every time we pass the Fiat, the driver is flipping her hair and jamming to her tunes.  Not until we pull in to the same gas station do we see hat the driver is in fact a man.  The Nissan Cub pulled in at that moment as well.  We listen to Chuck's iPod and NPR (when we can get it) and Ska.  All of the usual Nevada landmarks slide past: Zzyzx Road, the giant light-up thermometer that hasn't worked in years, the defunct water park in the middle of the desert.  We don't have deep conversations.  Sometimes we talk and sometimes we just stare out at the creosote bushes and Joshua trees and think our own thoughts.  I have learned to take a baseball cap on this drive, because the setting sun gets in my eyes and my sun visor is not big enough to be much use.  We stop to tighten the tandem on the bike rack and Chuck finds a Happy Meal skateboard on the ground when he goes off to take a pee.  He gives it to me so my action figures will have something new to play with on the rim of the bathtub.

Road trip habits, anyone?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Wasn't That Yesterday?

A scorcher today. 
Sara had her first cross country  practice this morning at 5:45 AM, so I took her to school and did my 8-mile run while she was running.  It felt pretty good, but it was so early in the morning that, by the time evening rolled around, I found myself thinking, “Wow.  I feel so guilty that I didn’t work out.”
I went to the bank today and converted the “house” savings account into a checking account, so I can pay contractors, deposit rent, etc…
Otherwise I spent the day getting my lesson plans ready for my substitute, and went to visit YWCA to talk with case workers about services Guadalupe can provide to the women living in the shelter.  I got an award for twenty years of service to the school: a $100 gift card.  I could ask for any kind of gift card I wanted, and chose the grocery store, because it seemed so practical.  Part of me wanted to take the money and spoil myself.  But, hey!  I can get nail polish at the grocery store….
Low point.  Chuck seems at a low ebb.  Tired, frustrated with trying to fix the transmission in the Audi. 
High point.  Weeding my garden in the evening.  I was bent over barefoot in the damp dirt, feeling stork-like and content.   

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Looking Daggers

Hot day today!  It’s so perfect to be sitting here, propped up on the bed with a cool breeze coming in from the balcony and tickling my toes.
I don’t have much time.  I need to get to bed because I have to get up at 5:00 AM tomorrow, in order to get Sara to her first cross country practice.  Since I am training for a race myself, I figure I will use the time to get my 8-mile run done, and then come home to get breakfast and get on with my day.
I made homemade ice cream today, and went with Chuck to the Brighton High School parking lot so I could practice using my new bike shoes with pedal clips.  I imagined it being hard, further complicated by my notoriously poor balance, so I was blissed out to discover that it is easy.   
I had an odd moment last night that I am struggling to comprehend.   I was wearing my favorite bracelet, as always, and Sara noticed it.
 “Huh.  How long have you had that?”
“Your dad gave it to me for our tenth anniversary.”
 That’s where I’ve seen it before.”  
“What do you mean?” 
“Well, Dad gave an identical one to Leanne for Christmas this year. And when she unwrapped it, I thought I had seen one like it before, and I said, ‘That looks really familiar.’  And Dad looked daggers at me!”
That exchange ruined the rest of my evening, but I don’t know why.  What do I care if Si gives his girlfriend the same gift he gave me?  It may be that it was one of only a few anniversary gifts that he gave me… or even the ONLY anniversary gift he gave me… during the 19 years that we were married, and I loved it.  It was expensive and distinctive, made by Hansen and Company Jewelers here in Salt Lake, and I have worn it every day since I got it.  And I guess I thought that it was supposed to symbolize something, like his love for me or whatever.  This is the danger of ever thinking that material objects convey message or meaning. 
However, he will have to sweat this one eventually.  I wear that bracelet constantly, and eventually I will meet Leanne.  When we do meet, she will say, “Wow!  Where did you get this bracelet?  I have one just like it.”  And I will say, “Oh, Si gave his to me for our tenth anniversary.”  And she will look daggers at him. 

Saturday, June 8, 2013