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.

Renters Forever, We Find Ourselves With No Home

My husband and I, we are lifetime renters. We love the perks of renting: we don’t have to deal with maintenance problems, we have the security of living under the wing of another entity, and renting in Southern California is – without a doubt – cheaper than owning. In the volatile market out here, the risks of renting as compared to the risks of owning are minimal. These are all facts.

What is also a fact, though, is that when you rent you live in constant fear that your rent is going to be raised come lease time. It doesn’t happen often, in fact my husband and I have only seen it happen once before when we lived in an apartment complex owned by a big, brand-name company. Otherwise, our rent has never been raised, unless of course it was because we moved up to a nicer community with more amenities. Which has happened a few times, but that doesn’t change the fact that it was of our own doing.

So in May of last year, we moved to what we thought would be at least a semi-permanent place. It has by far been the nicest place we have lived. Nice area. Gated community. Plenty of room. Quiet neighbors. Clean pool. The only complaint we’ve had has been that the parking situation is a little tenuous, but even so we’ve been really happy. Comfortable.

Almost too comfortable…

As our lease renewal has drawn near, I thought for sure they would raise our rents. It seemed a given – the economy has been rebounding in the last several years, and this is a nice place. But then again, the anxiety has always been quelled by common sense. Reason. Rationality – they can’t raise it that much. Can they? Sure, the economy is rebounding, but not to such a degree that we can’t justify staying here. There are constantly people moving out of there, so they must want to keep some people around…right…?

On Friday of last week, we received our letter in the mail. They were “offering us” another year here – oh how gracious of them – and for only a 16% increase in rent.

Sixteen percent increase. That’s FOUR HUNDRED AND EIGHTY FIVE DOLLARS A MONTH.

$485 a month. That would raise our rent to $3041 a month for 1400 square feet.

Let that digest for a moment.

Initially in shock, because I had never heard of anything so outrageous in my life, I asked around, emailed the company, and posted on Yelp and ApartmentRatings.com. I thought for sure this was a mistake. I mean, really. When we first moved in, the man who owns the other three-bedroom unit on the other side of the complex told me we were getting “ripped off” for what we were paying as compared to him. He is still here, and I included that in my emails and reviews.

I wanted to be reasonable and understanding, and honestly I didn’t want to leave. We like it here, we are very comfortable and happy. But we also live on the incomes of a freelance writer and a film editor who hasn’t seen a decent raise in his wages in as long as we can remember (in fact, we have lost benefits in recent years).

So I waited patiently, started looking around some more. And I figured that if we didn’t hear by the end of this week we’d have to get more serious about finding someplace else. Finally, after not hearing back from anyone, today I went on Yelp to find a response to my review. Here is the candy-assed response they gave me.

Response

So basically: don’t want to pay our rent increase?? – SEE YA!

Renters forever, we find ourselves with no home.

As the day wore on, the reality of this situation started to really sink in. Not only are we completely unable to pay the increase of rent at our current place, rental rates in the area actually are around the same as we currently pay but there is nothing available – so far – in our time frame. I cannot even wrap my mind around that, let alone how many people I know that rent for cheaper than we do but that are holding on to their good prices for dear life.

It’s starting to sound a lot like New York City. I always knew there was a reason LA and NYC seemed so interchangeable.

We have family that owns property down the street from where we live and rents it out, but they don’t want to offend the person they are already renting to by giving them notice so we can take over the lease.

Let that one sink in a moment too.

So in just eight, short weeks we will have no home. Or a new home, but where or how I have no idea. The other alternatives are equally as terrifying: we move into an hotel until we find a place that is in our price range; or we finally decide that this is time to cut the ties of my husband’s career and move all the way across the country with no home and no jobs to speak of.

Nonetheless, I am left with this more philosophical mind frame of the times in which we live. Where no one is safe or secure. Own a home and the market could crash and you could wind up in foreclosure with nowhere to go. Rent a home and the market could soar and you could wind up on the streets with nowhere to go. No one is safe, the middle class is being squeezed out of existence as far as I can see it.

It’s terrifying, really. We were so comfortable.

My Neighbor and I Both Ate Our Emotions Today

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My neighbor and I both ate our emotions today. Though, while mine was not exactly healthy, it wasn’t quite as horrifying as hers either.

Before I get into that, I should first talk about the eating of emotions. We’ve all done it at one time or another. Some people do it often and don’t even realize it. Others drink they’re emotions, which is a whole other issue altogether. They’re sad and depressed, or stressed out. Suddenly they wake up one day and realize they’ve eaten a combination of Thin Mints and Oreos for every single meal, for weeks. It’s OK. Everyone (for the most part) has gone through this phase at one time or another, and once you realize it you get it in check.

Maybe.

I definitely wouldn’t condone eating away your feelings often. First and foremost, it isn’t like someone thinks to themselves “man, I’m having a really shitty day, I’m going to go home and eat kale until I fucking puke.” Actually, if you ate kale until you puked, you’d probably be actually eating kale until you shit your pants, making your shitty day literal. So it’s either that or because kale tastes like a filthy 1970s shag carpet. I don’t know, but I do know that people don’t usually run home and eat away their emotions with super healthy super foods.

That isn’t entirely true, though. I am “Facebook” friends with this girl I went to high school with who tells us all the time about how after a stressful day she goes home to eat a pile of apple slices, or a bucket of celery. It’s really obnoxious too because she always has to add in the precursor: rather than go home and pig out on pizza and cookies like fat people do after a hard day, I’m going to …

Shut the fuck up, bitch. No one wants to hear your fat shaming bullshit. PS we all know the reason you are like this now is because of how you looked back then…

But I digress.

So I wouldn’t condone eating away feelings often, or all the time. But I definitely believe that sometimes a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, or a nice bag of Twizzlers Nibs are just what the doctor ordered. Dare I suggest that many doctors I know do suggest that once in a while letting go and indulging after a hard time is … healthy?

It’s healthy because, simply put, repressing stress is probably the worst thing a person can do to their body. People have to let that energy out, or it keeps building. We’ve all heard the analogy of the bottled up feelings, being shaken and shaken until one day all those feelings come splurging out in an explosion of yuck. This is my entirely unscientific and non medical opinion, here, but I think it’s pretty right on. At least in my experience.

Plus there is a moderate way to destress with food. Don’t keep enough junk in the house to overdo it. Make sure to put what you want in a plate or a bowl so as to keep to your portion size. Find something low fat, or low carb, or low cal that still fulfills your urge to pork down all your rage and hurt feelings until you pass out. There are a lot of ways to get around the really and true badness of bad eating.

This isn’t rocket surgery or brain science here. It’s just fucking common sense.

Today, when I was super stressed out about all the things going on, and a shit ton of money I have to spend to take a vacation to Texas (of all places) that I REALLY don’t want to take, just so my daughter can see her Biological Bum (whom she adamantly does not want to see) and all the issues this is bringing up which is another blog post for another day …I just needed to do something to feel better fast. I needed it so badly, and fortunately there was little junk food in my house to indulge on.

Except the Salsa Con Queso.

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I have a weird relationship with Salsa Con Queso. I won’t eat it for a really long time and be totally tired of it. Then I’ll eat it with chips every day for lunch for like three days straight. The plus side of this is that it has a lot of tomatoes and onions and shit in it that is actually good for you. The other plus is that the calories and fat isn’t quite like a Snickers bar or a bucket of neopolitan ice cream might be.

I keep telling myself this. Rationalize, rationalize, rationalize. Regardless of your feelings about my rationalization of this, let’s just agree that there are a lot of things that I could be eating that are much much worse for me to pork away my emotions and frustrations on than this. Okay?

Glad we agree.

I encountered what one of those “much much worse” things was today, shortly after my uninhibited love affair with my Tostitoes and my Salsa Con Queso dip.

Sitting on the couch, working on editing my upcoming book, and yelling up the stairs various threats of punishment that will come if the homeschooling work was not finished “by the time I get up there…” I noticed my neighbor standing on her porch. We live in a townhome, so the proximity was fairly close. She was standing there looking longingly toward the parking lot. She appeared sad, but she sort of always does. Then, in a moment of sheer horror then amazement then fear then entertainment then genuine concern, I saw her pork down one Twinkie after another until she had eaten not one, not two, but TWELVE MOTHERFUCKING TWINKIES.

My neighbor and I both ate our emotions today. Tomorrow I will probably eat my Salsa Con Queso again, since there is still about 1/2 a jar left and watching the Twinkie hog down sort of stressed me out just witnessing it.

I Like The Cold

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People always look at me like I’m a complete moron when I tell them that I like the cold. As in cold outside, you know: snow, sleet, wind chill.

I get jealous when I see that there are blizzards going on somewhere in the world.

I live in California. Particularly, Southern California. We have one dial on the weather-o-meter and that’s about it: 70s and sunny. Sometimes we get fog. Occasionally it rains for a few days. Once in a while the winds blow and it hits 90; or the ocean blows in some high 60s.

High 60s. Anything below that and the city in which we live shuts down.

By contrast, I grew up in Chicago. Those of you that have been hanging around the blog for a while know how much I love the city and its suburbs. In the winter, and sometimes in the fall and spring, it is exceedingly cold in Chicago. Like cold-cold.

And I love it.

I guess maybe you don’t realize what it’s like to live in a place that has virtually no weather variation at all until you have. I’ve lived in Southern California now for almost 14 years and I can say without a doubt that it is beyond boring, mainly because of the weather. Yeah, it’s nice to not have to worry about things like closed-toed shoes or scarves and hats. Sure you have the ocean with the EPA’s estimation that thousands of people take a dump in that water every day while out surfing or swimming (related note: I do not ever go in the Pacific Ocean). Okay, you have the beaches you can go to any time of the year ….unless, of course, they’re closed because of all the hypodermic needles sticking out of the sand.

But there is no changing of the leaves really, especially not as dramatically as in the Midwest. You never have the excitement of jumping in a pile of freshly raked leaves; or by contrast the thrill of knowing that spring is just around the corner.

There will never be a first snow of the year for Southern Californians.

No, there will be first snow in the mountains that people will get in their cars and drive to, only after the snowing has already happened. And only for a little while before getting back in their cars and driving home to the 70s and sunny before nightfall.

You cannot get much more monotonous than that.

What I’m saying is that there are no changes of the seasons, which means there is none of the living that comes along with it. I equate living with having these experiences that are unique and exciting and different. Not monotony. Shoveling. Snow balls. Raking leaves. Seeing fresh flowers bloom. Feeling snow in your hair. Ice skating. Sledding in your back yard. Bundling up in a hat, scarf, and gloves for a football game. Hot chocolate when it isn’t actually hot out.

In 70s and sunny every day, there is not much room for exciting and different experiences when it comes to the weather. I find this ironic because in California we pride ourselves on organic-living, which should extend well beyond just the foods we eat into the way we live. And yet there is nothing organic at all about making fake snow at Disneyland or having to drive four hours in traffic to see orange, brown, and red leaves.

I don’t know, maybe it’s all in my head. I must be biased because I love Chicago and dislike California. I’m sure there is an entire conglomerate of blog followers, family, friends, and people that just like to hate me waiting to tell me how I am making no sense. I have rocks in my brains for liking cold weather, or I’ve just forgotten what a foot of snow feels like.

The bottom line, though, is that I’m home again, in suburban Chicago for the holiday. And I felt more alive as I stood in the snow yesterday afternoon than at any point in the last 14 years that I’ve lived in Southern California. I was cold. My fingers felt numb. But I could feel it, and I knew I was there because of it. There was nothing monotonous about it at all, and that is living.

I May Shop On Thanksgiving

not-shop-on-thanksgiving-300x300How many friends will I lose over this one? What kind of a backlash will I receive by people that have followed my blog for years?

Don’t know. Don’t care. Seriously – don’t wear underwear.

You see the thing is, I may shop on Thanksgiving.

And I’m getting sick and goddamned tired of hearing about how you won’t.

I used to work in retail. When I was in high school, I worked at Burger King and then Wendy’s. Then when I moved to California, I got a job at the mall in a department store that no longer exists (talk about making me feel ancient). Then I landed a position in a local pharmacy, where I worked for a whopping seven years.

The company that was that chain of drugstores no longer exists either, having been bought out by CVS a few years ago. I’m going to go dig my grave now.

I always wanted to work on holidays. I requested to work on holidays. A lot of people that work in retail do.

Holidays – for me – were a time to make extra money. We always got off or closed in time to do family stuff. And if – by some odd chance, we didn’t – family stuff was scheduled around my work schedule.

Because what the more privileged people of this nation don’t realize, or are so far removed from their own experiences, is that people that work in retail don’t make shit for salary. Holidays may be family time, but your family ain’t eatin’ shit because you make minimum wage, which is not – in any city or state in this, our United States – a livable wage.

So when I hear people talk about how Thanksgiving is a day for family, and people shouldn’t have to work… And how they will be boycotting shopping on Thanksgiving because of the sanctity of the holiday, I often think to myself wow, these people must have no idea what it’s like to be hungry. And surely they don’t know what it’s like to be unable to buy Motrin for their baby, or pay for their son or daughter to participate in a school field trip.

And I also think that they’re hypocrites. Because for every Kmart that is open on Thanksgiving day, and every Walmart that opens at 6 pm on the blessed holiday of shoving as much turkey down your gullet as you can, there is a restaurant open that no one gives a fuck about being open. Oh Thanksgiving is a time for family? But you want to go to Burger King for breakfast, or Marie Callendar’s for a light lunch before your big family feast. So it’s OK for those people to work, because you need to stuff your face even more that day than you already planned to.

But if someone wants to go to Kmart to get Christmas gifts because they can’t afford to shop at Neiman Marcus, or they don’t have the luxury of free time to stand in lines at Best Buy to get good deals because they have to work two full-time jobs just to pay the rent…HOW DARE THEY TARNISH THE SANCTITY OF MY THANKSGIVING!!!!!

Now I don’t shop on Thanksgiving normally. And I never go to Black Friday sales. The truth is, I’m already done with my Christmas shopping. But allow me to just say a few things about all this ignorance going around about shit being open, and people having to work on Thanksgiving day:

1. Some people can’t afford to not work on holidays. If you don’t understand that, you have some serious learning to do, and it will be done off your pedestal this time.

2. Other people have had hardships, or they don’t have families, or the holidays are really tough for them – for whatever reason. So they like to work to keep their minds off things, and they do it by going to work. Only a total dickweed thinks they have the right to tell others how to cope with their life’s problems.

3. A lot of people that work on holidays want to. I might go as far as to say that everyone I know of that works on holidays, or have ever talked to working on a holiday, has said that they enjoy it and the extra money, and that they wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. I would go as far as to say that.

4. Thanksgiving is celebrating the genocide of an entire nation of people anyway. And gluttony. It’s not like we’re talking about the baby Jesus here or anything, which incidentally I also don’t see people railing against stores being open on Christmas Eve or for a short time Christmas morning.

Because you’ve gotta’ get those last minute gifts, right?

In a nutshell, I think the majority of you people are privileged hypocrites.

Now we can still be friends. I promise. You don’t have to be really mad at me for saying all of this, because really I just have a much different opinion. I happen to know that my opinion is the right one, but we won’t get into that.

All we really need to do is accept that not everyone in this world is living the same life as we are. That’s it! Then we can still be friends, and wield our shared misanthropy around the Internet together. Because in accepting that not everyone in this world is living the same life as we are, we maybe stop making ignorant comments about people that work on holidays, or even that shop and eat out on your blessed Stuff Your Face With Turkey Day. So you hate Kmart for being open all day on Thanksgiving. Fine! You do that! And it’s true that a lot of people there that day will just be shopping to screw the pooch and get a good deal.

But instead of hating on the company for being open, why not turn your hatred into compassion for the employees that probably are thanking their lucky stars that Kmart is open that day. It’s an extra day they get to work and put food on the table. Instead of being such a jerk, why not drop $5 Starbucks cards off to all the employees, or embrace the needs of fast food workers to work on the holiday by stopping by on your way to your Thanksgiving feast to get a soda and just wish the workers a happy holiday.

Maybe – just maybe – then this country would be a better place. If instead of screaming from our Facebooks and Twitter pages how much we want to boycott companies and how morally wrong this or that is, we just love each other and act with everlasting compassion.

Thanksgiving

Things I Have Learned In the Last Week

I suppose you most faithful of blog followers may have noticed I was relatively silent this last week or so. This was because on Monday of last week we entered what I will officially term Hip Hell 2013. My dad was in the final few days before his total hip replacement and he fell outside a gas station, where the attendant just stood there and refused to help him get up. From there it was a downhill spiral of bad, bad and more bad – from dealing with how he felt after the fall, to getting him into the hospital for his operation, to getting him well enough to leave the worst hospital on the planet – until finally my dad came home today.

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In the last week I have learned a lot. In fact, I’ve probably learned more than in my entire time in graduate school – practical things, that you never would learn in a book or a lecture. And things about myself. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. My community really is full of assholes. I mean, you see an older man fall, you should probably help him. You never know what could have happened, and just ignoring him makes you a jerk. The number of people that ignored my dad when he tripped and fell at the gas station last Monday astounds me. I hope all of them rot in hell for being such assholes.

2. When leaving someone in pre-op to move on to their operation, with their wallet and house keys in your hand, saying something like “don’t worry, I’m going to max out your credit cards and spend all your cash” may actually – legitimately – raise their blood pressure instantly.

3. Sometimes when you tell a hospital you are allergic to a certain medication, they will still give you that medication anyway.

4. Medicare is a farse. Social workers that are assigned to assess what should and should not be covered for a patient on Medicare are even more of a farse.

5. Very few people that work in hospitals know what the shit is going on.

6. Hospitals are becoming meat factories: slice ’em, dice ’em, get ’em on the shelf and out of your hospital bed.

7. If you ever have to stay on the orthopedic floor of a hospital, expect to find some crazies. I was lucky on this note when I had my back surgery – I was only 13, so went to the children’s hospital. There were no crazies there (at least that I was aware of). When you’re an adult, you’ve got a much different set of bozos rooming with you.

8. On the orthopedic floor of the hospital for adults, it is not uncommon to hear someone screaming in the hallway at 2 o’clock in the morning that he/she is going to call the police. It often winds up being a man named Earl (wonder if it’s always the same guy?).

9. I am a Daddy’s Girl. I can’t take it when my dad is away from me for more than a couple days.

10. I am a Daddy’s Girl. My dad calls me a lot. The day of his surgery, he called me twenty-five times in the six hours after getting to his room.

11. I am a Daddy’s Girl. When confronted with the possibility that my dad might be going to an inpatient rehabilitation facility (instead of coming home), I cried for three hours. Straight.

12. I am a Daddy’s Girl. I always get my way (my dad came home straight from the hospital, and today, like I wanted).

13. When wanting to make sure a person doesn’t fall, for whatever reason, it’s as simple as strapping a regular pants-belt around their stomach so you can grab them. Works like a charm.

14. Walkers are the shit. I want one for myself. They’ve got these rad fucking baskets you can attach to them, so you never have to carry anything ever again.

15. If you are nauseous because you haven’t eaten in four or five days (nervousness and shitty hospital food), all you have to do is pork down a bag of popcorn and a package of Twizzlers and you feel like a million bucks again. Throw in a bowl of Rice Krispies and a baggie of dry Cheerios and you really feel good again.

16. They make these really cool toilet toppers for adults. As a mom, I thought they only made potty toppers for kids – you know, when they’re potty training? They have pictures of Dora or Thomas the Train on them, so your kid thinks going to the bathroom in the toilet is as exciting as watching TV. Well the adult ones don’t, but they are just as awesome – they actually raise the toilet up high enough so you barely have to get into a sitting position to use the pot.

17. Staying with a family member to help them after an operation really does feel sort of like a vacation. Even when medications and running errands for them is involved.

18. My dad walks really fast. I had forgotten this – it’s been about two or three years since he has slowed down considerably because of his hip problem. That’s how long it was prolonged, and now that he has a new hip he’s already ready to go. I like to refer to his walking pace as “rapid with a hint of rage.”

19. I am the source of my dad’s optimism. When we’re apart, he gets gloomy. But when I tell him everything’s going to work out great, he gets up, walks around, does his physical therapy, and says “fuck yeah – let’s do this.”

20. Did I mention I am a Daddy’s Girl? Yeah, big lesson on that for me this last week. I’m so happy my dad is home and I can get him back in top form. Thanks to everyone – friends, family, and bloggies – that have sent love and encouragement. Keep it coming!!

Good News! The Porn Industry Is Coming To My Town!!

So we ran a couple of errands tonight. Those errands included: dropping a frozen turkey off at my dad’s house for Easter Sunday, getting the guinea pig birthday presents for his first birthday (coming up this Monday), and to CVS to get dish soap.

I know. Big night for the B(itch) family.

As I was pulling out of the CVS parking lot, my kid started screaming in the back seat. “Naked!!! AHHHH!” she screamed, and I slammed on my brakes – not really knowing what the hell was going on, and thinking there might be some emergency. Or maybe Ryan Reynolds was visiting our community, and walking around topless. A girl can dream, right?

To my dismay, I saw what she was referring to. Outside this breakfast cafe (which was closed at the time, it being around 7:30 in the evening), there was a grown man getting dressed. He was naked, except his tighty-whiteys. In a public parking lot.

Indeed.

Things are starting to get a little weird around this place. There’s more of that kind of stuff out in public. That whole Korean Hooker Hostage situation went down at my nail salon last year. Kids are doing drugs in our apartment parking lot. And that guy with blue hair last week said I was hot at the Souplantation. So I guess after seeing the guy getting dressed in the public parking lot, it seemed only natural for me to come home to learn that the porn industry is vying to move into the community.

Apparently some months ago the city of Los Angeles passed a law requiring porn stars to wear rubbers when they’re filming their dirty BBW, SBW, MOM, MILF movies. Since then the “industry” (if you can call it that) has been seeking out a new, local hub of operation to take its sales and property taxes. But city after city is creating this “cover your manhood” law, so my town is next in line as the potential successor to the throne of Ron Jeremy.

The weird thing about this is that the small community in which we live is just about the exact antithesis of what you’d think as the new “porn capital of the world.” Probably 90% of our residents are over the age of 90. The other 10% are inbred hillbillies lacking much education. This means that if the local yocals try to get in on all the money-making that is to be had in the porn capital of the world, there will be a lot of senior citizens and rednecks trying to market their homemade movies on the street corners. Just great. Cletis Goes Wild At the BINGO Hall.

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If I Had a Perfume, It Would Be Called Obsessive

Not Obsession, like the Calvin Klein one (or whateverthehell is the maker of it). Obsessive. As in I can be a little bit obsessive, and about a lot of things. I realized that this evening as I was rolling and hot glueing crepe paper rings around napkins for a party I am throwing in a couple of weeks.

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As I grow older, I think it gets worse too. I used to have a friend that was super-obsessive. If she called you and you didn’t call back in 15 minutes, you’d get a text and an email. And if you didn’t respond to that, she’d call you again. Then she’d ask if you were mad at her. Obsessive. Anyway, she was in her thirties when I was friends with her, and now I’m seeing myself becoming more and more like her as I near 31. Of course I’ll never do the whole email/text/”are you mad at me?” thing, but I most certainly do a lot of other things she did.

And more.

#1 Everything Has To Be Perfect

My obsessive attention to detail and perfection has gotten so out of control at this point that sometimes I worry that people will notice a scrap of dust on the bottom of a table, or on the lining inside the leg of a chair. I worry about people noticing the floorboards not being clean enough; or about things being off-center too.

Then there are times when I am organizing an event or throwing a party. Everything has to be perfect, down to the very last detail. Even the napkins have to be organized and planned, and the colors have to go well too. Can’t have unmatched plates or an unpalatable color scheme!

Makes you want to puke, doesn’t it?

#2 Scents I Really Love

I really enjoy good scents. But it isn’t as simple as liking to wear nice-smelling body spray, or using hand creams that have a fragrant aroma. Oh sure, I love me my Bath and Body Works seasonal lines. Every Winter I stand in line to buy 70 tubs of Winter Candy Apple hand cream; every Fall I do the same for an equal number of Vanilla Pumpkin body sprays. But it goes beyond your typical girly-clean-nice smells everyone typically enjoys; I enjoy a number of aromas, some to a point many would call obsessive.

For example, I really like using my glue gun because the smell of hot glue is like crack-cocaine to me. And nothing beats the scent of a freshly opened canister of Play-doh.

Weird, huh?

#3 Why Things Happen

I suppose this is the Philosopher left in me: I am so obsessive over why things happen, it’s probably bordering on unhealthy at this point. Now that I’m not an academic anymore, though, I suppose I just look for reasons in everything, as I was trained to do.

Only now, it’s just in the everyday, mundane stuff. Like why my leg is itching so much. Or why no one RSVPs for parties anymore. I just got hot glue on my finger and it didn’t burn – is my skin hardening? It borders on paranoid sometimes, though: why did my mom ask me to come over to my grandma’s Thursday instead of Wednesday? And so on.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not – like – sitting in a corner obsessively going over all these stupid things. I just notice them creeping up more and more in my daily life. Some might say I have too much time on my hands. Who the shit has time to worry about dust on the inside of the leg of a chair? Others might argue it’s a coping mechanism – the more I think about stupid things, like napkin colors and RSVPs, the less I have to think about the bigger things going on.

Then again, I may just be crazy. I’m leaning towards that one. Do you? Or are you just as obsessive as me?

My Complete List of (Planned) 2013 Failures

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Do you like setting yourself up for failure? I sure know I do. I used to think that if I never tried at anything, then I would never fail. Then I realized that never trying was in a sense failing too, so I started trying but realized that if I were to succeed then I would never know what to do with myself. So I try but set myself up to fail so that I don’t run the risk of not knowing just what in the hell I do once I do succeed. And then I still never have to fail because by setting myself up to fail, I in a way actually do succeed at something, but not something so terribly successful that I am lost once it’s all over. Technically.

Follow my logic? I know, it’s hard being inside my brain sometimes.

So 2012 may or may not have been a major year of failures for me. It depends on how you look at it. I published a book, that was pretty rad. But it wasn’t the book I wanted it to be – it was a memoir, geared towards the readers of this blog; rather than the Great American Novel (or whatever you want to call it). I really wanted it to be that big novel deal. I planned on reading 50 books, since I had completed my goal of 40 in 2011. That was a big whopper, because I fell into a funk around the spring and read a total of 5 for the year. I tried knitting scarves for all of my family as well. I knitted two.

I know. I’m a total loser.

Moving along to the New Year coming up. I’m not too into New Year’s resolutions – the concept is just so stupid to me. I think that is because the majority of people who make these life-changing “resolutions” are resolving to do things they (a) know they will never do; and (b) should be doing anyway. And the concept reeks of always thinking there is something inherently wrong with ourselves. “I’m going to lose weight.” “I’m going to drink less.” “I’m going to be nicer to my husband.” All those resolutions are nice, sure – but we are who we are, and even if there is something about ourselves that we’d like to change, to call it a “resolution” is like saying we are lesser people because of whatever the circumstance is that we want to change. I really think that we should be comfortable with the life we’ve chosen. Even if we want to change it, we should first make the resolution to accept where we have come from.

As I said: I know, it’s hard being inside my brain sometimes.

Now just because I am not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions, per se (or at least calling them New Year’s resolutions); and even though I do like setting myself up for failure, I still know that it’s important to make a plan for the year to come as the old ball begins to drop towards midnight on December 31st. Without plans and objectives and things to look forward to, what do we have other than a vacuous day-to-day existence?

Thus, I give you: My Complete List of (Planned) 2013 Failures.

1.  Read 40 books. I think I can do this. Maybe. I may cheat and finish the 20 or so books I started and failed to finish in 2012 to get the ball rolling.

2.  Move to Chicago. I’m sure that I will fail miserably on this one, even though everyone seems to be on board with our plan to finally make this happen. After 12 years of trying and failing, I just remain a little skeptical.

282887_649925093293_198650517_n3.  Knit blankets for my cousins Linsay and Clayton to go along with both of their wedding gifts (they are both getting married in the summer); as well as a baby blanket for each of the 11 friends having babies this next year.

4.  Have a baby. Yeah right, like that’s going to happen. Motherhood has already driven me to the nuthouse enough as it is; and that would require my husband and I to come within 5 feet of each other. Still, though, the thought crosses my mind more frequently as my clock ticks, and more friends show up pregnant.

5.  Cook and clean like a slave less.

6.  Take an art class. There was a time when I was an art major; and despite all the times I’ve committed to get back into it over the years, I have still not picked up a drawing pencil or paint brush in over a decade.

7.  Use the Internet less. In fact, Sundays are now going to be Internet-free in our house (let’s see how long that lasts).

8.  Talk on the phone more.

9.  Watch even more of The Simpsons. This is kind of weird. I have a pretty serious obsession with The Simpsons. I have the seasons on DVD and watch them every night before I go to bed. Sometimes I have day-long marathons of the show too – I just think it is one of the wittiest and realistic betrayals of American life. And I always get it when they take jabs at our contemporary American culture.

10.  Let myself go. I don’t mean gain 200 pounds, or let my hair get all gross and stringy. I mean be more comfortable. Wear jeans and sweatshirts more. Take more makeup-free days.

11.  Publish my compilation of short stories. It’s no Great American Novel, but it’ll do for now.

12.  Get a new dog.

13.  Learn to play the ukelele.

14.  Correct the current Pookies idea that babies get into a mother’s stomach by virtue of “the mom eating the baby, where it stays in her colon until the doctor cuts it out.”

15.  Take a mental health trip to a spa or a plateau or somewhere alone. An insane asylum for electroshock therapy will do.

If I don’t get a chance to say it between now and then, I suppose a happy new year to all of you faithful blog followers is in order. To peace. To prosperity. To failing miserably in all our life’s ventures in the year to come.