2022: The Year of the Slumlord

Those of you that have been following along for this entire year know that my family has gone through some… well, insecure housing. I will sum it up here, but will also link back to the other posts, in case you want to do a deep dive. The insecurity is of no fault of our own – my husband has a good job, and a side gig; we are responsible, pay our bills on time. We do not make unreasonable requests. Just. an average family, a part of the community. And yet none of this has spared us from being treated like renter scum, along with the other half of California treated much the same, and – I suspect – much of the country that tenant’s another person’s home.

The good news is that I now feel panic attacks are well-deserved.

The bad news is that our housing situation is no more secure now, at the end of 2022, than it was at the beginning when we entered it.

House #1:

I wrote about the housing crisis in California HERE.

After years of living at the same home, caring for it as if it were our own, and diligently paying rent in full and on time, we were callously booted from our rental home. I say callously because we wrote a letter to them after receiving the termination of our tenancy (that’s putting it nicely: it was an eviction without cause), begging them to let us stay until summer so my 18 year old daughter could have endometriosis surgery we had been planning for the entirety of the pandemic, that spring.

They said no. Her surgery was canceled.

This was going on at the same time that thousands of other people across California were suffering the same fate: with the market booming, and looking like it was about to bust; and the eviction moratorium lifted, property managers and owners that wanted to get out of their investments jumped at the opportunity. At the time we entered the market, there was 1 unit available for every 1,789 families in our county looking. So we had quite a hard time finding a place, which we did only for it to be an absolute disaster as well, for other reasons (we’ll get to that next).

The kicker in the pants of all of this is that not only did they cheat us out of our security deposit, trying to charge us for routine maintenance and upgrades to make the house improved above and beyond standard wear and tear, was the fact that: they evicted us unlawfully. As it turns out, California has pretty strict laws about the reasons that a landlord can evict you without cause, not included is that a client of yours needs a rental home. Your landlord cannot, under any circumstance, evict you to just let someone else move in. Unless they are a member of your immediate family, this is a violation of California law.

And yet still, it was the reason we were let go. So a client of our landlord could move in.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, just a few months ago we learned the insult to this injury (one we are all still recovering from): the new tenant is somehow related to our (now ex) sister in law. Tons of people in my husband’s immediate family and friends are mutual friends with these folks.

These folks living in our old house. The one we were unlawfully evicted from without cause.

House #2

I wrote about it HERE.

And HERE.

And HERE.

And HERE.

As I mentioned, we moved in a time that thousands of middle income families were put in the same position. And, we had a limited budget, still recovering ourselves from pay cuts and increased costs associated with the pandemic.

Nevertheless, we eventually found the only place we could afford, in the timeframe we had to get there. It was 45 minutes away from our home, and in a matter of short time (actually, the problems started the first night we moved in), it became evident that this place was not going to work out for us.

Beyond the commute to school, sports, and social activities for our kids, the toxic environment in the HOA, and the smallness of the house were untenable. And then, after we resolved to find a way out of our lease, one presented itself, with a host of maintenance issues and the exposure of water leaks and mold through out the home.

Once we found a new place, back in our old community (actually the same general neighborhood as House #1, where we had lived for years), we were able to easily pull the implied warrant of habitability and get out of our lease. The last day I took a shower at this house, I could see mold peeking through the walls; and shortly after, we discovered the owner had gotten an appraisal only to find over $500,000 worth of damages.

(Of course we’re still arguing with them through the District Attorney to get our security deposit back, but that’s another blog for another day.)

House #3

I wrote about it HERE.

I wrote about landlords HERE.

So now we’re in House #3 for the year. We have moved twice, spent over $40,000 – in total – to move between the three homes, put our children through an enormous amount of trauma, suffered temporary illness from exposure to the mold (more than one night close to hospitalization for breathing issues for me, as well as my son), but figured – hey – we’re back home, we’re back in our community…

Fairly early on, though, it became evident that the property manager of this new home was very inexperienced in being a property manager. He always seemed confused, would flake on showing up for maintenance things, and after moving in July 1st of this year, as of today – December 13th – he has yet to complete the items on the move in walk through.

The gardeners written into our lease have shown up approximately 4 times (they are supposed to come every two weeks, which would be 12 visits at this point). The front lawn, completely dead, has drawn the ire of neighbors, and complaints from the city, so much so that we ended up having to invest $300 to cover it with more attractive mulch just so the neighbor kids would come ask our son to play.

In 5 months, we put in one maintenance request for a broken fan, and after a 100 degree heat wave and months of waiting and never getting any answer, just replaced it ourselves.

Then, a few months ago (just before Halloween), maintenance people started randomly showing up to do maintenance not requested or included in the move in walk through – without any notice. One person showed up one day to “repair window screens.” (No window screens needed repairing.) He took them and never returned. Another time the same person came to repaint the front door. He slopped paint all over the place, and painted the door so many layers that it now doesn’t open or close properly.

The coup de grâce, though, of this whole affair is that 3 days after paying our 5th month of rent (now December, almost a year after our foray into insecure housing began back at House #1), the property manager texted my husband saying effective immediately he would no longer be the property manager. Another company – un-ironically our old company that allowed our landlord to unlawfully evict us without cause – would be taking over. This would in effect nullify our lease, so we started scrambling to get some legal advice only for him to contact us the next day and say “just kidding, never mind it’ll still be me.”

Okay…

Then today, upon entering our tenant portal, we discovered a couple of weird things. One is that our landlord never actually signed the lease. Two is that our security deposit had been zeroed out. My husband again contacted the new-old-new again property manager, who explained all of this but then… texted him again and asked to come over and take photographs of the home in “a few minutes”…

Again… um… okay…

California law is very strict about these things; it’s one of the few protections 45% of the state that rents has. Property managers and landlords cannot legally enter the home except for emergencies or routine maintenance, or if the house is being sold. Otherwise, inspections are illegal, unless you’ve written it into the lease or are a recipient of state assistance (neither of those apply here). By definition, a 5 month “check up” to take photographs of the home and our personal property with absolutely no notice is both illegal, and a violation of the tenant’s (our) privacy. This, coupled with the previous maintenance folks showing up without notice? And the other maintenance requests and gardening included in the rent ignored? Well… it all qualifies as harassment of a tenant.

We decided to go ahead and call the property manager and be amenable to this quick walk thru to try and get a better idea of just what is going on here. He comes tomorrow. In the meantime, I’ve done some poking around, only to find – to my dismay – that the landlord and his wife have a number of mutual connections with me, and – this is where it gets crazy, and a little sad – his adult son recently died stepping in front of oncoming traffic. Very tragic, even crazier though is that our landlord was apparently on the hook for $420,000 in bail he had forfeited on that son’s behalf, who was about to go to prison on three strikes for felony car theft.

Obviously our landlord is in a state of grief, and trying to control what he can, and possibly recoup some of that lost money. But, all understanding and empathy aside, this does not make what is going on here okay; and moreover, leaves us wondering just how much we’ll have to tolerate before moving on to House #4.

Fundamentally, renters are very oftentimes folks just trying to live their lives peacefully. In California, as I mentioned, 45% of the state lives as a renter. That is almost half of the state, nearly 20 million people. And yet, time and again we become collateral damage for the poor decisions and lifestyles, the problems and personal issues, of our landlords. There is a sense that we are not people, just a paycheck; that we are nothing more than financial capital in the form of humans that can come up with the money to be so. This Class War, it is personal to me, and so many others of the middle and working classes. Personal because it calls into question the very conditions upon which we are able to live or even survive.

Christmas is just 12 days away, as a mom I should be focusing on the magic of it all – wrapping presents, checking all the experiential boxes; all while taking care of my kids, going to school myself, and just… living. It’s hard to see how people can live under these conditions for so long, though. Every morning I wake up in a panic, wondering what problem will come next, how our housing will become even less secure. I’m trying very hard to hold myself together right now, for the sake of my kids. But I’m also just about done. Today, for the first time in all of this, I very seriously thought about putting the kids in the car and just driving. With no idea what that meant, or where we’d go, all I could think of was that anything would be better than suffering under this cruel system where some of us are treated like subjects to be controlled and used for a paycheck, until there’s no more need for us and then we’re just thrown out with yesterday’s garbage. But renters, tenants – we are human beings too.

We, as a family, have a lot going on now, having thought that we were through all this insecure and crazy housing stuff. Big stuff, little stuff, plans we thought we were safe to make because things were supposed to settle down. We had rescheduled that endometriosis surgery for my older daughter, and just learned my younger daughter will have to have a minor procedure for a meniscus problem we planned for the beginning of the year as well. I don’t see us being able to tolerate all these problems and chaos and just *dealing with* our landlord, and navigate all of that at the same time. As a renter, are we really ever beyond that sense of insecurity, into the safety of settling down? Are we ever able to live life like everyone else?

If this Year of the Slumlord has taught me anything, it’s that the answer to all of that is a resounding no.

This Is Living With COVID

A few days ago, I had an acute allergic reaction to either something I ate, or something blowing in the back window of our house. Many of you all remember, we recently moved from a mold-infested hell hole, so my body is still recovering and attempting to reduce the level of extreme inflammation that comes of living under those types of conditions. So… a bad allergic reaction was bound to happen…

When it was at its worst, I considered going to the emergency room, but when checking on the wait times found that the ER in my own town – the best option – had a 10 hour wait time. On a Tuesday, in the middle of summer. I couldn’t believe it, so we took a drive over, and sure enough: at 7 o’clock in the evening, with a line out the door and people sitting on the floor of the waiting room, four ambulances docked in the unloading area, the wait time appeared accurate. I decided to go home and just hope for the best.

The following morning, I called my doctor’s office and told them I had experienced this acute allergic reaction, and I wanted to make an appointment to see him since the ER wait times were so long. I had made it through the night, I thought surely they could get me in that day, even with a PA, a nurse practitioner, or another doctor.

They scheduled me for the following Monday.

Today, I woke up to an alert on my phone that my order from Home Goods – which was due to be delivered Tuesday – was delayed due to “inclement weather.” A quick look at the national weather radar proved that was, very likely, a lie.

No date it will actually be delivered.

The Federal Reserve reports that several million people are now out of the work force, due to what doctors coin “long COVID.” Long term symptoms of COVID 19 infection vary by person, in symptom and length; and at least 1 million people are permanently disabled from this post-viral condition (and estimated 4.4 million partially). And this is only two years in, with a virus that provides absolutely no long term immunity, and every reinfection showing to increase your odds of developing lifelong health conditions, possibly disabling, exponentially.

I’m no conspiracy theorist, but it seems a great way to resolve the growing crisis with funding social security is to either:

a. Kill everyone that is presently living off of it; and/or,

b. Cause the entire system to collapse from an unmanageable burden

So it seems, the US has decided to do both.

Nevertheless, this is what living with COVID looks like. Wealthy, elite members of our own communities, and oligarchs running the government, have access to paid sick time ad infinitum, ample healthcare, and access to care and treatments many in America cannot even dream of being able to access, while the rest of us hope for the best.

But it isn’t just about getting sick and dying that remains an issue; for many who have been lulled into believing that COVID is just a cold (to be clear: it is not), just as for those that still take precautions and engage in personal mitigations to prevent getting or spreading the disease, living with COVID is a matter of being delayed, hampered, inconvenienced, and otherwise endangered.

Living with COVID is maybe not having a police officer available to come if your house is burglarized.

Living with COVID is not having reliable access to an emergency room for an emergency.

Living with COVID is being stuck somewhere on vacation because your flight was canceled.

Living with COVID is catching COVID on a cruise and being forced to be airlifted off for the pleasure of other passengers, even if you’re feeling relatively well (because no matter how well you feel, you could still harm someone – this is true).

Living with COVID is not being able to get in to see your doctor, or any doctor for that matter. A friend of mine recently went to the emergency room for ear pain; and while he was able to actually get in and be seen, when they recommended he see an ENT, he found out the next day that the earliest he could get in was … next year …

Living with COVID is having unqualified people teach your children, having your children learn over computer in an auditorium because there aren’t enough teachers in that week; having someone not even qualified to drive a school bus drive your child to school.

Living with COVID is packages arriving whenever they can, maybe. Definitely not on time.

And as it turns out, living with COVID is placing the burden of all of this more and more on the individual. With decreased mitigations and funding from the government, comes more emphasis on personal responsibility. People are told if they want to wear a mask, they can. There is, however, no clear and assertive guidance to the fact that masks work.

When it comes to items that are costly, this again comes down to personal burden. Individuals are asked to test, but at their own cost. Some are free, but only a couple times (at most, three batches, which should be long used up by now); some insurances will cover, others do not. Medicare covers them, if a senior wants to risk traveling from pharmacy to pharmacy until they find one that has the batch Medicare covers in stock.

Schools never upgraded ventilation, and have spent their American Rescue Plan funds ten times over on administration fees, so testing is cutting back, as is quarantines and the like. This is being done in the name of giving kids less disruption, as if being taught by a sophomore at the local college, learning your teacher just died, and having to go in and out of school because you’re always getting reinfected with the same virus over and over again is not disruptive to a child’s development… this is living with COVID.

Yesterday, we received a text message from the community college. Living with COVID for the last two years has been forcing my daughter to wait on having excision surgery for endometriosis; now that the surgeon has opened up her availability, my daughter has decided to defer college for one year to have the surgery. Of course the possibility for COVID to upend that happening as we all “live” with cancelations and inabilities to travel is there, nevertheless, while she does this she’s going to attend the local community college. The text message yesterday, though, stated that the board of directors for the community college system had decided to eliminate the COVID vaccination requirement.

Of course this is not about public health or the health of the students at all, and we all know that. Community college, and colleges in general, have increasingly been having a hard time with enrollment numbers – as students faced a variety of challenges through out this ongoing pandemic. Some students are no longer attend college because – surprise! – they have long COVID and are now permanently disabled. Many are now working full time and caring for a younger sibling, as over 200,000 children under the age of 18 have been orphaned due to COVID 19 in the last two years. Some learned the hard way that the president will not be forgiving student loans, that this was an outright lie; and the cost of living has been allowed to spiral out of control, the type of job you get after graduation will not pay the bills; that college in a very rapid period here has become attainable to only the wealthiest, who have the money and the ease with which to address housing, cost of living, travel, and tuition. Tuition programs even have been cut back, at our local community college they make it as difficult as possible for students to get their tuition covered with grants; because God forbid we make it easier for kids to navigate an education in these ongoing times where personal responsibility has forced them at a very young age to make tough choices.

So enrollment numbers have waned. Whereas it was a struggle to find a course with an open spot months before the class even started when I went to community college, now if you search open classes at the local community college, there are so many openings, it’s a little overwhelming. They’re even running ads, with classes for the fall starting tomorrow.

Far be it for them to admit that all of these problems are factoring in to lowered enrollment numbers, though; they instead point to vaccination requirements, and again – like everyone else – have decided that living with COVID will be to capitulate to the anti-vaxxers. The few out there holding out, will now be allowed to enroll in person in courses that previously had the requirement.

I don’t dispute that you can get COVID vaccinated. Not by a long shot. But even the very health department they claimed to have consulted admits that you are still significantly less likely to test positive for COVID 19 if you are fully vaccinated; and if you wear a mask, get tested, and stay home when sick.

The colleges though? Have decided that living with COVID will be much as in everything else: living with more disruption, with more personal risk, with more consequences to average people just trying to get by in life, while overall profits and financial considerations take precedence over the health of our community members.

Living with COVID. Frankly, I’m not sure who can call any of this living.

The Newsletter: Issue #13

Welp, it isn’t Friday the 13th, but it’s Friday and this is newsletter issue #13, and I also am pretty sure I saw a ghost yesterday, so let’s call this all a sign. A sign of what though? Not sure.

We’ll get to the ghost in a minute…

Around the World

So … monkeypox, huh?

Monkeypox has largely taken the stage, while COVID and its variants continue to absolutely ravage the world. The United States has more than 7,000 cases of confirmed monkeypox, with too many more than that suspected to count. As usual, we never learn from our mistakes, and are making the same ones we made with COVID. Among them have included stereotyping a group, being slow to act, and allowing misinformation to rule the public sphere.

We just do not ever learn from our lessons. Frankly, it’s embarrassing at this point.

On the note of lessons and never learning, COVID transmission around the United States remains at remarkably high levels. The vaccines are slow to be updated, and a 9/11’s worth of Americans continues to die every week against a disease that we know how to deal with at this stage. At least half of them from states reporting are in people fully vaccinated – the vaccines need updating, and urgently.

And yet, of course, economic interests come first, and so the CDC is moving to decrease mitigations even further, at the same time that they just released a report on the long term health effects of unfettered COVID infection in children and adolescents. Spoiler alert: it ain’t pretty, and will – I believe – go on to be among the largest marks of shame modern America has to bear.

Nancy Pelosi spent $90M of your taxpayer dollars to take a trip to Taiwan. I’m still unsure why that happened. And basketball player Brittany Griner was convicted and sentenced to 9 years in prison out in Russia.

Great times, amiright?

Around My World

So my big news right now is that I’ve started a podcast! I’m pretty excited, and you should be too – that is if you can tolerate the sound of my caustic and irritating voice.

I’m still working out the kinks, so if you do have a listen and have any thoughts or ideas, shoot me a message and give me your thoughts.

You can get a new episode every Monday on your preferred podcast platform, it’s on all of them. And in the days that precede that, the episode is loaded to YouTube where you can also listen to it in full. Your choice, let me know what you all think.

To that end, here is next week’s episode, available now on YouTube… or you can wait until Monday to listen to it wherever you listen to your pods.

You Can’t Unsee This

Have any of you seen the Dark Brandon memes? I still don’t understand them, one bit; and yet, they’re hilarious.

It probably only makes it more the strange that a few days after they went viral, a lightning strike injured two people and killed two others right outside the White House. Now I’m not the biggest believer in heavenly things (as with me and everything: it’s complicated), but y’all need to start paying attention to the Lord already.

STFU Fridays

Last night, it was very loud in my house and my husband was working late. My 5 year old could not get calmed down so as I always do when this comes up, I took him for a drive. He knocked out in a matter of minutes, but when I pulled into my driveway I decided that I should sit and wait a few just to make sure he didn’t wake back up when I carried him in.

I put the car in park and grabbed my phone, then looked down at it and immediately saw a white figure move rapidly right past my car window out of the corner of my left eye. No one was in my drive, on my street when I pulled up; so at first I thought it was one of my kids.

But the hairs on my neck were standing upright, and I got chills. So I texted my kids, because I thought: what if someone was trying to break in? They confirmed it was not either of them, it wasn’t my husband and wasn’t my dad… and the security cameras we have around our house showed no one.

To make things all the more creepy, when I got out of the car, it smelled strange. Like a dentist’s office – like the gases that you can smell when you walk in as you hear drills running and dental bills racking up rapidly.

So I’m pretty sure it was a ghost.

Naturally, I took to social media to share my story, and I told everyone in the house. The consensus was that I was full of shit: either I’ve gone insane, or am heading there. All of that may be true, but the insulting ones were the people saying I was just making shit up.

Well to all of them I say: shut the fuck up. Shut the fuck up with your skepticism that a world beyond exists, or questioning the validity of my otherworld encounters. The same as the existence or lack thereof of some omnipotent being striking the White House with lightning is no more disprovable than it is provable. You find out when you meet that ultimate human destination – we all do; everything until then is speculation. If we can believe in good vibes and prayers, it stands to reason we can believe in an afterlife where some resonating energy of people persists. Even if it’s just that: energy.

If anything this is a sign that Spooky Season is just around the corner, and I for one am ready.

I May As Well Live In a Garbage Dump At This Point

I don’t know, things are getting a little harried around here. We basically live in a dumpster. All we need is a fire, and it’ll be just peachy: a metaphorical and literally version of my life since that fateful day, back in January, when our landlord terminated our lease to give the place we had lovingly called home for years, to a friend.

I’ve provided you guys with plenty of updates, the most recent (which contains links to the previous updates on this rental situation) can be found by clicking HERE … don’t worry, we’ll be right here if you need to catch up. Since that grim, and a little nihilistic, update on May 31st – 12 days ago – an absolute shit show has played out at this rental, as we simultaneously continue to look for, get a lease to, and secure a new home.

What seems to be the most stressful about it is that the process of renting a home is not streamlined or – essentially – standardized. Anywhere. You go through one person and they make a decision at their discretion, which I guess is their right (it’s their home after all), but it’s also wide open to discriminatory practices that, well, who can prove? You then go through a property management company and they have a different way of doing things; go to a realtor who is managing a property, there’s another process. All different, all distinct, none that make this anything less than a full-time job. There’s also security deposit bidding wars, realtors and brokers in the mix, the timing of things being different at each location… it’s a real mess, to be frank.

So now, in the last week and a half or so, a complete disaster has unfolded at the rental we are in now. To be clear: this home was never going to work as a long term solution for our family. We took this because, at the time, we had no other option. When our landlord at the old place issued us our termination of tenancy,I knew that it was going to take a considerable amount of time to find someplace to go. So I wrote them a letter, practically begging them to give us at least until the summer. My reasoning was sound: our kids needed to stay in the school system, our daughter had surgery scheduled that would have to be canceled if we were in the middle of a move; and we were willing to pay considerably more in rent to allow us just two or so extra months. Callously, they said no.

In our county, it is reported that there is 1 housing unit available for 1,348 middle income families like us. People are turning to motels, RV parks, renting backyard spaces to tent camp, and their cars, to ride it out until more housing becomes available. We are up against, at times, hundreds of other people, and again – with a difficult timeline and our regular lives of work and kids, and a different process for every single house we apply to, it’s been an unsurmountable task to find a more permanent home that meets the needs of our family. So we are in some sense fortunate to have found this place before we were relegated to the streets, a middle class family with above median income, simply because there are literally not enough places available.

But at the same time, this experience has perhaps caused more harm than living in a hotel for a while ever could have.

So this temporary home, we identified early on, has a number of glaring problems that seem to boil down to: age of the home, neglect by the owner to keep up with maintenance, and some community issues with the water and sewer system. I suppose we should have considered it ominous that within a week of living here, our neighbors to the right of us had a massive mold remediation job done from water damage in their downstairs living room and half bathroom. The process took a whopping two months to complete: evaluation, remediation, restoration, repair, during which time we listened in on an HOA meeting at the pool and learned that two other houses on the other side of the complex were also having some sewer and water damage issues.

Now there are several aspects of this home that absolutely violate the warrant of habitability, so terminating our lease was going to be easy. We just – again – needed to a find a place. I suppose the Universe decided our reasoning on that was not sound enough, because since that last update, a cascade of maintenance crises have flooded this house, including both a literal flood, and the discovery of massive amounts of water damage and mold.

The Broken Sprinklers

Turns out the broken sprinkler I shared in my last post was worse than we thought: all of the sprinklers were spraying directly at the front of the home, and with improperly sealed stucco at the foundation of the home, the baseboards through the entire downstairs of the house had begun to squish.

We started to notice this a few weeks ago, but it wasn’t until we had other water-related issues that someone else identified the issue and the severity of it, which will require a complete replacement of the base boards and, possibly, some of the tile. This is, of course, only after the stucco is sealed, which can only happen after the HOA fixes the sprinklers.

Until then, the water will just spread further and further into the first floor of our 928 square foot rental…

The Great Flood

Early last week, we came home from running errands and picking up our Election Night Pizza (a tradition in this home), to see water coming out of the drain pipe at the end of our driveway. At first, we thought nothing of it – thought it may be from something else – until pizza time was over, and we went to the backyard to discover a massive flood had taken over the entire backyard. We notified the landlord, and rather than send an emergency team, he said the landscapers could come in the morning – leaving water flooding (and running up the bill exponentially) for upwards of 12 hours.

The next day, I awoke on the couch upon which I sleep (remember, this house is incredibly small and my husband works at his desk in our bedroom, overnight) to see a group of men staring at me through the front window, even though I had left the side gate open to allow them access to the backyard as I had been instructed.

They immediately began to dig into the hill at the back of the lot, to uncover an entire and abandoned irrigation system (that the landlord had previously told us did not exist). They ripped it out, only to discover the leak was coming from piping in the foundation. But… they didn’t want to have to rip up concrete, so after the landlord – himself – showed up, they all dug through our trash can to find an old Pringles can and a can of Diet Coke, from which they fashioned miniature buckets. They then bailed water out of this hole in the hill for approximately two hours, returned all the dirt, and – I guess – are now hoping for the best (that the remaining dripping water will just soak into the soil, I assume).

Oh and, of course, this happened, which my 5 year old stood and pointed at yelling “I can see that guy’s butt Mommy!” Repeatedly.

The Coupe de Grâce

After all the hubbub, I was ready to put my chin up and move on. The flood was fixed (for now), everything was fine. We were continuing to look for a rental, we had been approved on one and were just waiting for the lease… we were going to make it to get out of here with the flood hopefully being the last major issue.

So on Thursday – the next day – I got up, showered, and was going to put on makeup for my first time in over a week, when I noticed that my makeup basket, which is stored under the sink in the half bathroom, was soaking wet. All of my make up in it? Ruined.

I emptied the cabinets underneath the sink and almost immediately vomited: a leak in the pipe had been dripping, and this issue was so clearly either overlooked or ignored by the landlord before we moved in, because the damage to the back of the sink was so profound, with mold growing around the edges.

Now remember, a few weeks before this, we had run some at home mold tests and mold did begin to grow in the tests. But this could always mean a variety of things, in California especially – where mold is everything – it simply means you need to keep an eye out. So we did, but I was not expecting the extent of what was going on in that half bathroom, which connects to the master bathroom; which effectively impacts about half the house.

The 928 square foot, temporary rental house for our family of 6.

So now there is a phenomenal amount of work that I am now being expected to facilitate. Be home for the contractors. Be available for the assessors. Be able to manage my 5 year old around the remediation equipment. Make this all work with my husband working nights still, sleeping on the couch, while getting the kids to and from their school and other activities; be available to let people in, schedule all the work, while still cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, taking care of the dogs, grocery shopping, getting my 5 year old to sleep every night amidst the noise and the chaos and a parade of workers coming in and out of the house … while trying to secure our new rental, and packing to move… in the middle of an alarmingly high amount of COVID in the community…

When it all gets spelled out like that, it really seems like the dumpster fire has already been lit. This house is uninhabitable. Though the rental market demands patience on finding a place to go. Like the others, the millions of people in California that make up 45% of the state – us, the people that rent either by circumstance or choice – what choices do we have? What recourse or urgency is there to provide us with safe and available housing? Who is representing us? What politicians will do something – anything – to right these wrongs?

Housing Situation Update

This is starting to feel like a diary of my demise, these housing situation updates. If you’re late to this glamorous party, here are some links to get caught up… don’t worry, I’ll be right here when you get back. Stuck. In this hell.

Link to my post when we first came to our temporary rental home HERE.

Link to my article about the housing crisis in California, including our part in it HERE.

Link to my post about how we are managing in our temporary rental home (grimly) HERE.

Link to my commentary on landlords in general HERE.

You can see that I waffle between incredibly personal updates, and ones that are simply more general or not specific, rather speaking to the crisis at large. That’s because I want to share my story, while also discussing the very real and certain reality that millions of Californians – actually, no, Americans – are experiencing at this moment.

If you don’t know about, and/or have empathy for, the situation for renters of this country (in my state of California, roughly 45% of the entire population), then you honestly have absolutely no soul. When my husband and I committed to renting, we did so in a time that renting was a luxury: it was a matter of being able to lock up and go whenever you want, be free of property taxes and exorbitant costs of maintenance, and it ensured we didn’t get into a position of being in over our heads. Now, the script has flipped, and after our landlord terminated our lease that fateful day in January (the 4th, to be exact), we have been thrust into the position of being in insecure and unsafe housing.

(I’ll get to the insecure and unsafe part for us in a minute.)

Last week I watched a fantastic documentary on the homelessness problem in Los Angeles on my local Fox News station. I’m not a fan of Fox, but this is the local one (Fox 11) and they tend to be more balanced, moderate, and local… a lot of news reports from the zoo, and quirky local weather forecasts. That kind of thing. What struck me in the documentary, though, was the emphasis on mental health. People tend to think that mental health and addiction issues are the reason for homelessness, when the truth to the matter (just reported recently by the LA Times) is that less than 30% of people that fall into homelessness are mentally ill or addicted to substances at the time they go to live on the streets. But what was stated in this documentary, and to which I understand fully, is that for that 70% – the ones that just fell on hard times: once people are thrust into insecure housing, a series of events and lack of social support happen that affect them so profoundly there is just no way their mental (and in some cases physical) health will not decline. It just won’t.

I see myself cracking around the edges, as well as my children. We’ve now been here for just over three months, and my 14 year old now is having what appear to be panic attacks. We’re roughly 45 minutes away from where she is to go to high school in the fall, but we still don’t know if we’ll even be able to get back before then. She’s enrolled, registered; but as the cost of gas rises, I am now spending over $800 a month just to take the kids to the school groups, tennis lessons, doctors, and friend activities. When school starts, we don’t have some magic fund from which we can draw to pay $9 and $10 a gallon that is being projected to keep driving to and from our old home every day; we can’t even sustain the $6 we are paying now. And anyway, as I’ve addressed in previous posts, with two other kids and absolutely no consistent and regular support system, I just cannot even say now that I am going to be able to make that happen. Of course my older and younger kids are both stressed to the maximum too, the oldest affecting her menstrual health and endometriosis that is now warranting emergency room visits, the youngest affecting his sleep and overall learning and focus; and – well – the fact that I’ve had a sinus infection for 4 weeks, and now my entire body is covered in stress hives sort of speaks for itself.

… so at least for the kids and I? The ship seems to be going down. Fast.

Compounding this is that the longer we stay here in this temporary rental, the more boils to the surface.

  • Several parts of the wall, ceiling, and baseboard around the house of our temporary rental are bubbling out with moisture;
  • We ran a mold kit both up and downstairs and black mold was detected in the dust in the air;
  • We purchased a moisture meter and almost every room in the house sounds the alarm;
  • One window upstairs and one window in the downstairs bathroom actually opens, no other windows in the home open;
  • Both sliding glass doors to the backyard were installed improperly, making the emergency exits difficult to open, at times impossible;
  • There are roots in the sewer, it has so far backed up twice, one of the times in a dramatic moment of raw sewage spraying into my 5 year old’s face;
  • The circuit breaker is old and in need of updating, it has burn marks on the rubber around the edge and the landlord refuses to repair or replace it;
  • The neighbor next door is psychotic, which we’ve discussed in previous posts; but moreover, the neighbors on both sides smoke cigarettes within 25 feet of our backyard making it impossible for our children to use;
  • The sprinkler is broken, and while this isn’t exactly dangerous – per se; the HOA refuses to fix it, nor to turn it off (we have no access to the controls), and in a drought this is going to result in a hefty water bill of wasted water and fines;
  • And more…

At this time, the landlord has refused to address these issues. I could certainly call the area housing authority, or the fire department, about the clear code and safety violations. And also, we have sought legal counsel that has assured us our warrant of habitability has been broken and we can legally leave at any time with no penalty to us. But then what? At that point we’d likely be given notice to leave and have absolutely nowhere to go.

Our search for new housing has been going on since January 4th. So many people have criticized us for moving here, but what other options did we have? Exactly one: an apartment in the ghetto, where a methamphetamine lab was recently busted by the area sheriff’s department. Not exactly the best area.

Otherwise, it was this, or living in our cars. Or a hotel, if we could find one that would rent us three rooms we could all cram in, plus a storage unit for all of our things, for the price of rent we pay per month. Most local motels have largely filled up with locals that are in a similar situation, though, and remember we live in coastal California: ie, tourist area, so hotel room pricing peaks at this time as is. Again, we could have joined the renters that have strapped their mattresses to their car roofs, driving around and sleeping in parking lots. California has such an exponentially worsening situation in this space, they’ve set up entire lots with security, port a potties, and toaster ovens with picnic tables for people’s safety while they sleep and exist. I don’t know, it might get to that at some point.

For now, this was all we’ve had as an option. When our lease termination was closing in, we had to take what we have been offered. And to be fair, we tried to be positive about it, but it was hard after just a couple of weeks. Every week is effectively a lifetime in this place: a lifetime of worsening mental and physical health, exponentially rising financial costs, and more of a casual drift downward into the place these landlords and the housing crisis has subjugated our family to be.

This became even more clear to me this past weekend when a realtor friend of mine helped us find out more information on our landlords in this temporary rental. To call them slumlords is a woeful understatement of the situation. We cruised by a few of their other rentals, and considered ourselves fortunate that black mold and possibly dying in an electrical fire in an unescapable home in the middle of the night is all we have to deal with. One of the rentals they manage has a tarp for a roof; another a port a potty in the front yard. Given our experience with their refusal to do maintenance here, it makes sense; of 20 rentals they own and manage, maybe they just got in over their heads on investments, right?

Wrong. My friend also managed to get us details on the landlord’s property as well – you know, the one he lives in. I figured it must be a scummy, slimy home too… he just has his tenants live in the type of conditions he himself finds acceptable. Right? … right?

While I won’t dox his address or give any details, I will leave it just at this: his mansion is worth $4.9M and sits on 20 acres of farmland that he also owns and operates. Like a castle looking down upon his peasants, this man is bathing in $100 bills for leisure.

And his tenants just don’t have any choice.

What’s heinous about it is that since January, we’ve now applied to 30 different rentals, all of which we applied to only after we were overwhelmingly sure we were more than qualified. Why not just shoot for the moon? Well, we have four legal adults that have to apply, which comes to about $30-$40 non refundable fees per application, per person. Back of the napkin math? We’ve spent over $3800 just to apply to all these rentals, of which we have been so far offered this one and a meth lab apartment.

People have told us to make more income, as if this suggestion is not preposterous enough as is, that would be all fine and good if only they knew that in most cases we make 4, 5, and in one application even 6 times the rent. The requirement is 3. The problem isn’t the credit scores or the income or the number of people. There are simply not enough houses, not enough apartments, and absolutely no local representation for tenants. At all.

I keep trying to remind myself to be patient. We’ll find a new rental eventually. But will we? And at what cost? There are physical and financial, and at some points mental, costs to this situation at this point, that I cannot see us withstanding for much longer. At some point we have to pull the plug and stop the faucet on the application fees; at some point we have to make choices on our children and their futures and education. What I do know is that we have utterly failed them, and when I watched that documentary on my local Fox station – the one on homelessness, the crisis and its tolls – I could see what this shame and hopelessness of failing your children, no matter how hard you’ve tried, does to a parent.

And when we do pull the plug on this house search, and accept our lives amidst sadness and hopelessness? Then what? I honestly have no idea.

Landlords Are Literal Scum

Of course the irony of me calling landlords “literal scum,” is that many of them actually view renters in the same vein. And, in both cases, there are likely a whole scale on which you could plot individuals who either landlord or tenant. Some are probably genuinely good people, just using their starter home as a way to make a little extra income in their retirement; and in the case of tenants, most are simply middle or working class people that find themselves the product of capitalism run amuck. There are always going to be slumlords, of course; and there will also be your occasional renters that burn cigarette holes in the carpet, and mix meth in the bathtub.

This is no different, though, than your average home owner. For every slumlord that expects others to live in mold and grime, I’m sure there are just as many voluntarily doing it themselves. And, well you know, people that make drugs actually are often homeowners, because — duh – who else can afford a house in this market?

If you are a landlord, this is of no offense to you. I’m sure you’re a nice person. But, if you continue reading this and see some of your own behaviors in what I am about to describe…

… well, it’s time to start evaluating your behaviors.

As many of you know, we’ve been looking for a new rental home for what feels like forever. In January our lease was terminated so that our landlord’s friends could move into the home we had rented and taken care of as our own for years; and because they callously refused to give us a little extra time to find a new rental, we wound up 45 minutes away from our home and community in a temporary rental that is looking less and less temporary by the day.

The process of finding a new rental has been less than desirable.

Security Deposits

It’s common knowledge, now, that a security deposit is really just a tip or a bonus that your landlord nickels and dimes to death at the end of your tenancy, so as to never have to give you a penny of that back. And say you are able to get some of that money back… Well your landlord put that in a bond, cd, or savings all those years and earned interest… and you? Well, you’re not going to see a penny of that (the interest earned on your money).

What’s absolutely bananas now, though, is that while people purchasing homes are getting into bidding wars over house prices; renters are now getting into all out bidding wars over rent, and security deposits. We’ve had several rejections now that were as simple as the other party was able to offer upwards of double or triple the security deposit.

Back of the napkin math, at the prices and the security deposit limits in California: that’s people offering $10,000, $13,000, in some cases even $18,000 for the security deposit, alone. Just to get the edge over other applicants. And while laws prohibit what a landlord can require, nothing stops them in any amount that they are allowed to take.

Maintenance

Maintenance is tricky in a rental because, while required to provide you with a habitable home, the definition of habitable is very subjective. When you sign a standardized lease, it’ll say something to the effect of: you accept the condition of the home as is. But most of the time, if the landlord even takes the time to show you the rental, they want you in and out in a matter of just a few minutes at the viewing.

We just attended a viewing of a home we did not get selected for last week, and the place was not only limited in the amount of time the irritable property manage let us look at it for, but it was a complete disaster. Had we been able to even see the counters, we may have uncovered major cosmetic issues; or holes in walls, or missing essentials. It was just that much of a pigsty, the previous renter being a real estate agent herself who apparently didn’t think renters deserved to actually view the condition of the floors or sinks. We left at the point when we needed to measure the room that our California King bed would go in, and the door wouldn’t even fully open because there was so much stuff on the floor. I guess to a landlord, if your bed doesn’t fit you should just sleep on the concrete tile.

I took some heat for complaining about this over on Facebook – busy mom, you should worry about the home itself not the mess. Well the issue was that the mess and the rush of the viewing made it virtually impossible to see the home itself, and potentially major maintenance issues. And maybe that was the point. Major maintenance issues often can’t be noticed until you’ve lived in the home for a while. At the temporary rental we’re in now, after spending just over two months here, we’ve discovered:

  • Mold and moisture in the floorboards
  • An electrical problem through the entire house
  • No working garbage disposal
  • Roots in the sewer line
  • And quite a few more minor things that are inconvenient, not dire, but for the amount we pay should be fixed

The problem with maintenance of course is several fold. First, it’s common knowledge that landlords retaliate for major maintenance issues, especially appliances that have to be repaired. In our prior rental, we suspect that at least part of their decision, or the way it played out, was retaliation for the fact that the oven broke and had to be replaced just a few months before they terminated our tenancy. Retaliation is – of course – illegal; as is outright refusing to make repairs. But what are you going to do? Go to court? Sue them?

Some states have laws that protect you, that allow you to claim what’s called warrant of habitability. You have several options, legally, at that point: you can move out without notice, repair and deduct, refuse to pay your rent… But under any and all circumstances, you’d better be prepared for attorney retainers and a court battle.

Back to the rental we are in now: we’ve already had one maintenance issue outright refused, and another blamed on us simply because they didn’t know about it until someone moved here. Bottom line? Landlords are literal scum, and expect their tenants to live among that which they leave in their trail.

They’re Doing You A Favor, Ok?

The most pervasive, and the same time backwards, attitude that I have come across over the last year is that landlords are doing us a favor by letting us live in their homes.

First of all, many landlords (again, not all; but many) are actually major corporations or big time, locally owned, commercial property management companies. These are not their personal homes that they lovingly cared for over decades and just grew out of, and decided to rent out instead of sell to help fund their retirement. Even single property owners that have no personal history with a home are becoming more prevalent in the rental market: it’s a money maker, after all.

At our last rental, the one we got booted out of, the owners had 10 other properties around the county, and had purchased the one we lived in and immediately turned it around to rent out without ever stepping a foot into the house.

But the idea of ownership is so uniquely built in to the fabric of our society… They’re doing you a favor, ok? If they didn’t own the home, you’d have nowhere to live. Right?

Wrong.

In California, as just one example, approximately 45% of the state identifies as a renter, which – obviously – is almost half the state’s population. But the issue isn’t that without ownership we’d all have nowhere to live; it’s actually that the owners (again many of whom are mostly just investors, property management companies, and large corporations) have an absolute death grip over municipal and county governments, and their lobby has profoundly limited even the amount of housing that is built for anyone – rent or buy. Have you ever looked at the campaign finance disclosures for your local elections? It’s typically one realtor and broker, property manager, and property investor after another that donates to local candidates, as well as the local and state real estate PACs that have the explicit interest of keeping the market hot in mind. Their sway – the NIMBYism, or practice of not wanting to build more and adequate housing in a timely manner, has created such an unprecedented crisis of housing availability that its effects are a little much to even wrap your head around: they’ve not only driven up rental prices, but they’ve created this environment of competition that leaves middle and lower income renters with few options, filling up short term rentals, local motels, and side streets with entire families living in their cars (or worse) simply because there just is not enough housing to go around.

Of course the irony is that were it not for renters, these types of corporations – the Blackrocks of the world; the small time property management companies and commercial investors; the realtors that are in the rental game too; and, single or limited individuals that have a extra property they do not need to use personally, so use it to help fund their retirements, vacations, or… whatever…

… well while they’re of the opinion that they’re doing renters a favor, the reality is that none of their profit margins would exist were it not for renters paying them on the 1st of every damn month.

And that is, ultimately when you get down to it, the rub of it all: that landlords and tenants both think the other is what they themselves may very well be. Delinquent. Doing you a favor. Scum.

But as a renter, myself, who has neither the money nor the interest in owning a home in this country, and this economy, I have to side with the underdog on this. Landlords are absolute scum. Maybe it’s unfair to paint them all with the same brush, but then that’s what they’ve all done to us. Two can play at this game.

The Newsletter: Issue #10

So much is going on in the world, and in my world: it’s a little bit of a whirl wind. I’ve been trying to post more in general, keep up on my social media following; and to keep up on this newsletter too. So let’s get to it.

Around the World

Somehow I got sucked into the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard trial. I’m never into these types of things – like ever – but then I see it streaming live on my For You page on Tik Tok, and I’m hooked.

One thing I think that I’ve noticed above all the details, the commentary, the cutting off the middle finger thing – all of it; is how authentic Johnny Depp is. Between his clarity on specific details of conversations, his bizarre hair dos, facial hair, and attire/accessories, to his remarkable pride in having quit using opioids, Depp – in all his weirdness and classically Depp deadpans – is unapologetically himself. Does that make sense? Regardless of the trial, or how it all turns out, that is what I take away from this.

Of course the other big obvious going on in the world is that COVID is going masks off-balls out, and yet the government is scaling back its efforts and funding in ways we probably never saw coming, no matter how bad things have been. (Just remember: it can always get worse, right?)

With variants upon variants cropping up that are just, to many of us, terrifying, it’s hard to really know what to believe. And yet, the doctors of Twitter and the mainstream media seem to have also flown the coop. Some, like Leana Wen from CNN, have gone batshit crazy, blocking major figures in public health, and even Marked by Covid (the largest national advocacy and lobby group for survivors and families of victims from COVID 19) from viewing and reacting to her comments on social media, all the while accusing the world of bullying and harassing her for having unpopularly eugenic views; while others, like Jeremy Faust, have decided it’s time to monetize.

I find the latter to be, frankly, stunning. This guy started writing a newsletter less than a year ago, and has fewer email subscribers than little old me, and yet he’s still thinking it’s a good time to grift. For $5 more a month than your favorite 99 cent game app on your iPhone, or regular emails from WaPo, you can get, as Faust describes it: “…after I publish, I realize that there are more considerations worth sharing for people who want to go deeper…”

Whenever I criticize this, people say “running a website isn’t free, Heather.” Sure, yeah, I definitely know that. As evidenced by the website I run, here. But if you are doing something for the sake of public health, monetizing a website that can be thrown together, maintained, used to host your email server, and give you a unique domain, for around $100 a year or less, when you’re a doctor that also makes high dollar media appearances… well, I don’t know… monetizing your very important medical information and advice seems sort of grossly capitalistic.

But America is a capitalism, and our healthcare is for those with the means only, right?

One more thing that is absolutely bananas to me going on in the world, of course, is this:

Around My World

It’s a bit of a shit show in my personal life. We really are not adjusting to the new house well at all. My kids and their entire communities are around 30-45 minutes away from home (depending on the day and traffic). This isn’t a situation where we are like the military, where moves and changes are expected and a part of life. We will continue to get our kids back to our old city to be with friends and their sports and social stuff, it’s just … really really stressful to juggle it all (and the cost of gas doing so).

Of course you guys all got my email yesterday about Hello Kitty Toaster coming back for a pop in.

Meanwhile, at our new house, I’ve recently discovered that across from our house is a home that I am 90% sure is occupied by squatters.

The people that own the home live in Texas for the bulk of the year. They just keep this home to use casually when they visit their adult children in town. Now we’ll save the fact that people that own multiple homes only for one to sit empty most of the year, while the rest of us scramble for any slum we can find to pay 46% of our monthly take home pay to live in, are making me more upset by the day, because these types of practices (their right, or not) have irreparably harmed my family, I still feel something of an obligation to … at the very least investigate.

I’m finding myself become more and more like Tom Hanks in The ‘Burbs, by the day. I’ve camped out on the living room couch for about two weeks now, waking up in the middle of the night, taking photos of the lights on, searching around the gated and upper-middle income community in which we live for any signs of something amiss… I even considered buying binoculars.

I’ll keep you guys posted.

You Can’t Unsee This

Presented without comment:

STFU Fridays

Again, with the masks.

I know, I know, but hear me out: even if you don’t give a shit about masks, you only care about yourself and what you feel in terms of protection, and you are just done with this whole pandemic…

… you could still keep your fucking mouth shut to those that still mask.

Monday the mask mandate for travel and public transportation was lifted by some dumb-dumb judge with no public health experience or expertise whatsoever, and the world cheered. (I wrote about it HERE.)

Within a day, accounts of people being shamed and bullied for still wearing masks cropped up.

The highest profile person I saw post about it was Trump’s Surgeon General, Jerome Adams, who has – oddly enough – become the voice of reason these last several months. You really know things are bad if any of Trump’s folks are the voice of reason, but we can save that conversation for another day. Adams went to board a flight, and a Delta pilot made some snarky comment about how he should take off his mask and breathe the fresh air. Adams posted about it on Twitter, and the anti-maskers went WILD on him.

Really? Just shut the fuck up. The fact that these people got what they wanted, but did not stop it there, indicates – at least to me – that it was never really about freedom or their personal choice. It was about an ideology and what the masks represent: weakness, fear, and probably a little bit of racism towards cultures in which face coverings are the norm.

Gross.

So to them, I say: shut the fuck up. Just shut your fucking mouth, and cough all over people all you want. You won! At least for now. We’ll all still be there to empathize with you when COVID bites you in the ass, because the data doesn’t lie on the promise that sooner or later, it will.

One more thing…

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Happy Weekend!

The Newsletter: Issue #9

Welp folks, I’m 40. Fuck everything.

I can say in all honesty that I never in a million years expected to live this long. I’m not sure why. I feel 100, and also 12. Who knows what’s next? It’s just a number, and to be honest this doesn’t really change anything at all or mean anything.

Still…

Around the World

Not all of you live in California, or the United States, so I imagine this needs a bit of primer.

In America, we like our United States Senators to be old. And I don’t just mean old… I mean these fucks could drop dead any day. It’s sad, because they should be enjoying their Golden Years watching TV and doing crafts, but these folks have a tendency to get into office and then hang onto it with the life force of Skeletor’s death grip.

This week, the San Francisco Chronicle published a piece in which several colleagues (as in Democratic Senators) and former aides to United States Senator Diane Feinstein attested to her cognitive decline over the last several months. Those of us in California for whom she is one of our two senators know that her husband recently died, so she may arguably be a bit distracted. Nonetheless the woman is in her 80s (88 to be exact), and as with many of them… aging fast.

This calls into question not only her ability to serve in her office now – making major decisions on behalf of the American people, but until her term is over, still years from now. She has since issued a statement that she plans to – and claims she is capable of – continuing her tenancy in office; but the rest of us are left wondering… why? Why does a United States Senator choose to spend every last breath of their lives in office for a little over $100K a year and a good parking spot at the airport?

Especially one like Feinstein, whose net worth now stands above $87 million.

I – for one – am all in favor of term limits for holding public office. Nancy Pelosi is another, who is 82 years old and running for another two years. These people play games with the lives of over 340 million Americans – from choices about war, to how social spending is (or is not) to be had. And when it comes of an appropriate time to retire, to head to Florida to live out the lives of the Golden Girls (or some similar retired folks anecdote), they instead choose to hang on to office for as long as they can.

I have my own thoughts, and a lot of others have theirs. On one hand, I do believe you have some politicians who have been doing it for so long that they just don’t know what they’d do in retirement. Or, they had an agenda when they first got elected, and because government moves so slow have yet to finish it.

But I think the real crux of it, especially in cases like Feinstein and Pelosi, can be found in what they block while in office.

Nancy Pelosi, as one example, has been opposed to bills that would limit what types of, if any, investments elected officials can make while in office. Unlike our Governor – Gavin Newsom, who placed all of his investments and businesses into a blind trust when he entered public office – many other elected officials go on to hold robust stock portfolios. And whether anyone will admit it or not, they cash in when they are privy to information that will affect the stock market before it happens.

For people like Martha Stewart, or average schmucks like us, this is called insider trading, and comes with hefty prison sentences. But for people like Feinstein and Pelosi, or the same on the other side like those two Republicans from Georgia that lost in the January ’21 special election, it’s a blip in the news, and no one is ever held accountable.

Election reform, again, would go a long way to correct this. But then that would require the elected officials to vote for the types of reforms that would stop them from doing all of this, so… I guess we shouldn’t hold our breath on that one.

Around My World

Things are getting pretty grim around my neighborhood. The new one, that is.

We are at war with our duplex neighbor, who is psychotic and has come banging on our door in the middle of the night more than once. She complained to our landlord about alleged noise, and rather than come to our defense and talk to her about her crazy behavior, the landlord decided instead to take her side, warn us about noise (our 5 year old giggling…), and say they were going to do nothing about it.

So we’ve also had several maintenance issues come up with, what appears to be, just years of neglect of the home. The circuit breaker is outdated, and so our lights all over the house intermittently flicker if more than one light or appliance is on at a time. When we told the landlord, they sent out an electrician and then tried to blame it on us. So we just deal with that and hope no one has a non-epileptic seizure. The duplex neighbor has also made damn sure that our kids don’t play out back by encouraging her elderly mother to chain smoke in the backyard. After one asthma attack by my little guy, that sealed off use of the backyard for us.

The real kicker is in the pedophile down the street. I thought this guy was a little off, if you know what I mean. His wife pumps iron in the garage like a body builder, and he shuffles around smoking a pipe all day and all night. One night, my 14 year old daughter was just walking the dogs up and down the street, and he started following her. So this guy is a … creep…

Last week, my husband was heading out on a run one day when all of a sudden he came running in screaming my name. Our house was completely lined with sheriffs and unmarked cars full of guys in suits. My driveway was blocked, and the neighbors all around pretty much acted like it was your average day around here. We saw a K9 unit go in and then come out with a black bag.

No one left. No one was taken away. Just… the black bag…

So we’re looking for a way out. Frankly, I’m not sure how much longer we’re going to be able to do it. At least it’s good for some stories?

You Can’t Unsee This

I’ve been thinking there’s some haunted presence in this entire neighborhood since we moved here two months ago. I even wondered if the flickering lights through out our duplex unit are actually just a ghost.

Two nights ago, I fell asleep on the couch in the living room and around 4:45 in the morning woke up to what sounded like someone knocking on the back patio sliding glass door (which runs parallel to the couch I was sleeping on). I dismissed it and went to sleep again, too tired to go to bed; only to wake up in the morning to see that shortly after I had woken up, our front door camera (titled “Christine Watch” for our psycho neighbor) had pinged my phone with a “Human Detection.”

Except, as you can see, there was no one there.

STFU Fridays

I think I’ve said this before, but for real this time: shut the fuck about “COVID is over.” It isn’t. Every time you dumbasses rejoice and rip off your masks and start having parties, and shit, COVID comes raging back.

If you are paying attention, the cases in the United States – as in other places around the world – are beginning again to increase. As are hospitalizations, and the deaths will follow (in fact, in some places deaths are increasing more quickly than cases, indicating woefully inadequate and faulty testing). This is all happening probably because of a relaxing of protection; or more of that seasonal bullshit (although I don’t know any other specific virus that circulates seasonally as in all the time, unpredictably, in every season…). There was also recently a huge outbreak at a political event in DC, in which more than 11% of attendees contracted the virus. That is an alarmingly high number of people to be infected as a part of an outbreak, and to make matters worse the management of the venue refused to disclose how many employees got it to.

There’s also a new variant, which has mainly gastrointestinal symptoms, so I’ve really enjoyed the dozens of posts in the Facebook moms groups about this “crazy stomach bug going around that also has a cough.” I mean come on, get tested and stay the fuck home.

And while we’re at it, maybe stop with this “we have the tools” horse shit. Yes, vaccines and antivirals are available, but available is not equal to effective tools that everyone can avail themselves of. Vaccines have limits, too; we know this now. The efficacy of them wanes, even the second booster and even with protection from hospitalization. And antivirals… maybe if you’re a wealthy elite, you have access to them readily. But a lot of people have no access, or limited access; and hardly any insurance companies are planning to cover them (this includes ours, which has it marked as Non Formulary).

The problem is that the more y’all don’t shut the fuck up with these trite and dismissive comments is you give our leaders no reason whatsoever to continue doing anything, ie funding, the effort. So stop. Even if things are looking better.

To me it’s like: why tempt fate? Why call it over, say we’re good now, when you just do not know? No one knows, this is a pandemic! A once in a lifetime event! Maybe have some humility and accept you don’t know everything, err on the side of caution, and realize that people exist on this planet other than you.

That, and shut the fuck up.

So We’re In a New Home. A Rental Home.

After the traumatic experience my family of 6 has lived through over these last few months, I hesitate to call anything a “home” anymore. More than 5 years into making our place in Camarillo our home, our landlord decided to “go in another direction,” after spending years calling us the best renters they’d ever had. We are renters by both choice and necessity, so I guess this sort-of comes with the territory; but prior to now I lived in a world (in my head) where people didn’t do things like this to good, hardworking families.

Lesson learned. More on all of that later.

So we’re in a new home. A rental home. The sad part is that we’ve had to move our kids to another city, out of their element and community. That was the only community any of them had ever known – we lived in apartments, townhomes, and the single family home we just left over the years. Our kids have done school, sports, and all of their social lives there; friends and family. When our landlord terminated our tenancy at the same time landlords all over California were doing the same thing to flip their investments (1 listing for every 1,358 middle income families looking in my county), in many ways they threatened to destroy our family.

But it’s close enough that we can still drive it daily, and remembering that these situations are actually not as permanent as we would have liked them to be, it is likely we’ll be heading back in a year or two anyway.

Some photos and important points:

So we have French doors now, which is cool. That’s always been a life goal of mine and made moving in a little easier. We also have a whole host of animals that hang out in our yard, including a number of Dark-eyed Juncos and a dove. Both have nests (the Dark-eyed Junco moved his to the wreath on our front door).

This is the thing about where we live now: it’s kind of out in the middle of nowhere. We’re in an unincorporated middle ground between two cities, with a lot of open space around us, golf courses, and just up the hill from our house you can see the Reagan Library glowing at night (the driveway to go up to it is directly across the street from our house).

We lost a lot of backyard space, which is unfortunate because my 5 year old has very little room to run out his energy. Couple that with the fact that the community is gated, and in an HOA (read: they want children to be seen and not heard around here)… well, I’m going to have to come up with some solutions to that pretty soon here.

But, the owner of the house told my oldest daughter that she could do whatever she’d like with the back, and we also gained a courtyard in the middle of the entire house, so I think it all evens out in the end.

Of course the kids now have the coolest room, something I worked incredibly hard at ensuring to make the unexpected move (and all the stress and trauma that came with it) more tolerable for them. The house also has all new appliances, new flooring, fresh paint… it really was move in ready.

It’s just new and unfamiliar still, and away from our community. This, in the end, makes it hard for all of us. Right house, wrong ‘hood I think.

Probably what will drive us out sooner than later are the values of the community. We are in an ultra-conservative area, so much so that this sign is on my neighbor’s lawn.

The same day that we discovered this abhorrent sign, the person living on the other side of the duplex rang our doorbell at 11:15 at night because she heard us doing dishes through the wall. Our house was almost all asleep at that point, making this a little crazy; but I suppose I should have expected it, because the first day we moved in weeks ago she came over, introduced herself, and asked if we’re “generally quiet people.”

So we’re just over here getting settled, tending to our mental health amidst all this chaos, getting used to the neighborhood, and trying to keep our heads level so that we can plot a way forward.

And like I said… more on what brought us here later.