Things I’ve Learned When Moving. Again.

We moved again.

We’ve moved so many times in the last five or six years, I’ve essentially lost count. I mean I could figure it out, but it’s not like most people where they’re like “oh, we’ve moved once in the last five years” or “oh, we’ve stayed put for twenty.” Nope, not us. It’s been like six times.

Such is the life of a Southern Californian.

(Disclosure: I am not a Southern Californian. I’m just married to one.)

Renters forever, we found ourselves with no home again this spring when we received our lease renewal, and it came packed with a whopping $485 a month rent increase.

Yeah. Fuck that. I would highly recommend to you, oh faithful blog followers, that you avoid Avalon Bay Communities at all cost (they are, in fact, national).

So we moved on June 1st, and don’t even get me started on all the frustrations that led up to it. The short version of the long story is that my husband, his brother, and their parents own a condo that they bought pre-us. At first, my husband and his brother lived in it with some other roommates, then it eventually turned into a rental unit for a family friend. Fast forward to now: we received our lease renewal notice, and decided it was time to ask that the family friend be given notice so that we could occupy the condo.

So here we are. It’s bigger and more spacious, which is OK (until it’s time to clean, which I’ll get into in a minute). There are definitely some major maintenance issues that have gone unattended to for who-knows-how-long. But it’s a place to live, and we didn’t have to move back to Los Angeles (which was ultimately what we’d have to do if we didn’t move here), so we’re all content. For now, at least.

This move was the real kicker in the pants for me, though. Mainly because I did about 98% of the work for it. I’m talking the packing, the phone calls, the house projects, the moving day stuff, the unpacking, the handy work…I’ve done it all.

As a result, I’ve learned a few things.

A Double Vanity Means Double the Sinks To Clean

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The bathroom in my husband’s and my bedroom has a double vanity. We’ve never had this before; quite frankly we’ve always been sharing a bathroom with at least one person, so this is a real upgrade. To have our own bathroom, free of kid’s toothpaste gunk in the sink or my elderly father’s Groom and Clean hair gel scent – well, for a while it seemed like it’d be heaven.

That was until I realized how much more work it is to clean. Not only does our bathroom have the double vanity, it has a huge soaker tub and a standing shower. If you’ve ever watched those house shows on HGTV, you’d know this is called an en suite bathroom, and it’s great and all… If you have a maid.

If you have just me, it’s terrible and a lot of work.

I should also mention that I went from cleaning two bathrooms to cleaning three and a half. This is essentially double the work for someone that can’t stand any of it.

In That Same Vein, More Square Footage

= More Vacuuming

I just really hate cleaning, and it seems like I’m doing it every day.

It seems like? What a crock of bullshit that is. I do clean every day. Every. Single. Day. Of. My. Miserable. Life.

The smallest place we’ve ever lived in was 850 square feet. We now have a whopping 2000, and I’m finding myself pining for those days that I only had 850 to vacuum.

Sure, we were basically piled in like sardines in a can, and you couldn’t do a single thing in the bathroom without the entire apartment hearing you. But it was all worth it now, as far as I’m concerned, to not have to vacuum so much.

Renters Don’t G.A.F.

Nope. Nope, they don’t.

Renters don’t give a fuck. Not. A. Single. Singular. Fuck.

Family friend or not (quite frankly, I don’t even know the guy), the guy that was renting this place from my husband’s family ran this place into the ground. Like a fuggin’ pile driver digging for the center of the planet.

Everyone keeps arguing that this is just normal wear and tear. Just the standard course of affairs for an older home.

Um, first of all this is not an older home. Second of all, no. Just…no.

Destroyed carpet requiring an emergency – and expensive – carpet cleaning is not normal wear and tear.

The smell of rotting flesh and sulphuric eggs wafting from the washing machine is not normal wear and tear.

A broken hook rack on the back of the bathroom door, literally dangling from just one, rusty screw is not normal wear and tear.

A ceiling fan falling out of the ceiling, with tape hanging from it – as if some dumb fuck actually thought that masking tape would hold the thing into the ceiling – is not normal wear and tear.

Holes in the doors is NOT…normal wear and tear.

WRITING ON THE FUCKING WALLS IS NOT NORMAL WEAR AND TEAR.

There’s only one conclusion I can come to here: renters don’t G.A.F.

Having Your Kitchen Back Means People Expect Meals Again

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I packed up our kitchen maybe a month before we moved. We had other plans, vacation, and I just wanted it done.

What I’m saying is that for a month before the move, and for about a week afterwards, we ate nothing but crap. Total crap. We’re talking fast food. Take out. Frozen pizzas LIKE WOAH.

In a few words: it was heaven for this lady that hates to cook. I mean, I knew I was destroying my body and the bodies of my family, but my disgust for cooking overruled that. I kept telling myself it was temporary – which it was – so everything was spectacular.

Now that I have my kitchen back, though…it’s another story. Everyone wants real food.

No, I don’t mean real food like those losers on Instagram that incorrectly refer to whole fruits and vegetables as “real food” – as if Cheetohs and Cocoa Puffs aren’t something real I am putting in my body. I just mean three, square, home cooked meals. Every damn day.

With snacks. Homemade snacks. And desserts too.

Now that everything with the move has settled down, and I’m on my way to finishing the last of the house projects before settling back into my old routine of cleaning, cooking, and  acting as a chauffeur from tennis event to tennis event, I’m certainly glad it’s over.

But we’ve moved so many times, I just feel the next one breathing down the back of my neck. On one hand, my husband works in film, so it’s unlikely we’d have to move out of the area – which is the only situation under which I could see myself agreeing to ever move again. But on the other, you just never know.

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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.

Five Steps To Purge Your Kids’ Toy Stash

We have a lot going on right now. Among those things is our move to a bigger home, and moving my 71 year old father out of his home and in with us. This is a lot of packing, home inspections, and wearing regular pants for other people that – quite frankly – I am tapped out on. By far the worst task, though, isn’t any of the paperwork or the house viewings; or the cleaning or even the moving, itself.

Nope, it’s purging the toy stash.

Lucky for all of you, I’ve compiled the end-all-be-all five step process to to purge your kids’ toy stash. Look no further, because – quite frankly – this will end up being what you fucking do anyway.

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Step One: Much Like An Addict, Admit That You Have a Problem On Your Hands

There is no excuse for an inability to see the floor in the room your children’s toys are held. Be it their bedroom, a playroom … the kitchen … if you cannot see more floor than is absolutely vital to walk through, you may have a toy problem.

You may also have a toy problem if you have multiples on multiples of the same toy. If you have a supply of McDonald’s and other kid’s incentive toys. Also, if you have scraps of paper that have somehow been preserved as toys…you have a major toy problem.

I have a lot of experience with this, are you guys getting that? I once had a thirty minute debate with my then-four year old over whether or not a pile of felt scraps she had stolen from my craft bin and cut into tiny, little pieces could be considered toys.

It’s OK to admit that your kids have too many toys. Maybe it’s you who gave them all; maybe it was family against your will. Whatever the case may be, admit that you have a problem on your hands.

Step Two: Argue About What Is And Is Not A Toy With Your Child(ren)

You read what I said about that felt thing? Yeah. This is the second step to purge your kids’ toy stash.

Fucking argue.

Argue about whether or not felt scraps are toys. Broken puzzle from the dentist? Not really a toy, is it? You’d better bet your sweet ass your kid will argue it still is, though.

One time my daughter waged a 15 minute debate with me as to whether or not a paper cup she had drawn a smiley face on two years prior and somehow kept in her room was a toy. She claimed it was.

This then progresses into arguing about what toys aren’t necessary or used anymore.

Step Three: Put Your Child(ren) In Time Out For Throwing a Temper Tantrum

Step two almost always escalates into a temper tantrum of some sort. Whether you are arguing the reality of whether or not something is a toy; or actually discussing the merits of keeping toys that are just old or not played with anymore.

Children are emotional beings, and as such will escalate their bullshit as much as is necessary in hopes they will get their way. So when that happens, obviously step three is to put their asses in time out. One minute per age.

In theory, the older your child the more wine and chocolate time this will afford you. I know this sounds weird, or almost sadistic; but learn to love it.

Step Four: Make Up With Your Little Chittlens and Give Them An Hour Or Two Of Fun Activities

Away from home. Or, at the very least, away from the room the toys are kept.

Let them go out and play with friends, even though you said they were grounded for a week for mouthing off to you. Give them uninhibited iPad time – downstairs. Let Grandma take them to the movies. Whatever it is, just reward your children for tolerating all this stressful bullshit – you were clearly wrong. These toys are important to them. Assure them it’s over and you’ll just tidy up and understand their emotional attachment to every stupid fucking Taco Bell toy, Subway Kid’s meal bag, and 99 Cents Store stocking stuffer they’ve ever received.

Step Five: While They’re Out, Burn That Motherfucker Down

You heard me.

I don’t mean like really light a fire or anything. I mean get a box of garbage bags and load those puppies up with all the shit you think has to go. Outdated toys. Things your kids have grown out of. Broken toys. Toys missing pieces. Every piece of felt, ball of ripped-out Barbie hair, and drawn on paper cup you come across. Get it all out of there in the time you’ve sent your chittlens away.

Don’t worry, they haven’t fucking played with any of those things in so long they won’t even notice, anyway.

Pretty easy-peasy, huh? I know what you are all thinking: it might be easier just to skip to number five to begin with, right?

Wrong.

If you just skip to number five, you won’t be able to look back on these days fondly with your children when they are all grown up and have kids of their own. And say “see the bullshit you put me through? Karma’s a bitch, huh? A big, fat bitch.”

Now if you’ll all excuse me, time out time is over and it’s time for me to move on to step four. It’s 7:40 in the evening, though, so looks like it’ll be a late night of uninhibited iPad time downstairs. I’ve got a number of toys and other miscellaneous bullshit that needs trashing to attend to.

Conversations With Nick: Are You Having an Affair?

… with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich cut intricately to look like Cher?

I’m not even sure how to get into this one. I don’t really actually believe my husband is having an affair – like sleeping with someone else. I do, however, know that he has something else he loves in his life far more than he will ever even acknowledge me, which could be considered something of an affair. That, in a nutshell is: his career in film.

Obviously this is a regular bone of contention, for a number of reasons that I need not blather on about. Among that bone of contention is the fact that his career is not entirely creative and actually in film, his job includes mostly managerial tasks more often than not (payroll, telephone answering, office managing, scheduling, computer fixing); as well as the fact that it is not sustainable financially in the long term. Then there is the old adage “I guess everything you said while we were dating wasn’t exactly true, or at the very least  are now forgotten promises.” That is all sort of the tip of the iceberg. Needless to say, though, my subconscious reminds me regularly of my feelings about this in my dreams.

Usually my dreams are more like nightmares, and they almost always express the unrelenting homesickness I feel for Chicago. Last week I had the same dream three nights in a row: that we went to one of my favorite delis in Chicago, because of course we lived in Chicago (enter homesickness and forgotten promises). But then when it was time to wrap the sandwiches up in plastic wrap, I got wrapped in it instead and sent back in a To Go box to California. That is a nightmare.

But then I have nights like last night, where it is still painstakingly obvious that my subconscious is trying to work out my unhappiness and concerns with this situation, and more importantly my husband’s affair with his job – but it is so bizarre and hilarious you can’t help but be humorously perplexed.

A few weeks ago, Nick finally agreed to give Chicago a shot for a predetermined period of time. The idea was he would get a job that he can be happy in, as well as exert some of his creativity; yet, broaden it considerably so that he would actually have a shot at finding a job, rather than what he has now which is a very narrow and niche position (quite frankly, he even has difficulty finding what he wants here in LA – the film capital of the world). We made a list of things that would need to happen before said major life change would occur, like financial planning of it all, research over where we’d like to live in the ‘burbs, job searching, etc. But then no discussion was had again about it until finally I brought it up and asked: “so have we dropped this whole “give Chicago a shot”-plan, or what?” This started up the conversation again and of course the job matter is the biggest one, so I asked my husband exactly what kind of job he wanted to tailor his resume to, search for, etc. His response you ask? “One where I can make a lot of money managing and editing in film.” To me that meant “exactly what I have now.” And that was the end of the conversation; we went to sleep about 30 minutes later.

So obviously I had a dream about it all, and woke up feeling like there wasn’t even a point of getting out of bed. California really has nothing to offer me, personally, and I have run out of errands, chores, laundry, and projects to do. But the dream that I had was just so terribly bizarre, I can’t help but wonder what it all meant (besides of course the obvious).

Scene 1

We lived in Chicago-land area, and in fact moved back to the town I grew up in: Homer Glen. My mom was really involved in the church in the town over, where I went to school as well, called Shepherd of the Hill.  The church was a prevalent part of my dream last night. Nick and I became members of the church again and I decided to join the church choir (yes, I was in the children’s choir there when I was little). And I continued to stay in the choir even though Mrs. Schroll – the church’s music director – told me my singing sucked. Those were actually the words she used, too – “your singing sucks.”

Scene 2

While at choir practice one afternoon, a bunch of my friends from high school and other areas of my life in Chicago came to hang out at the church. Of particular note is that there were a few that didn’t seem too interested in meeting up while I was on my vacation there last month, but in my dream they were all about hanging out. They all wanted to take a ton of photos with my camera phone, but kept wanting to put the camera angle really high up in the air so that they didn’t look like they had double chins. They kept wanting to put it higher and higher and I kept dropping the phone, and getting really annoyed. And to make matters worse, the pictures that came out all had people making that God-awful duck face and/or Jesus continued to show up in the photo, walking around behind us wearing the ugliest pair of flip flops I had ever seen.

Scene 3

At home later in the dream, our fence was broken. Not the whole thing, just one slat that kept banging in the wind.

Scene 4

After coming back inside from trying to repair the fence, and continuing to hear it flap in the wind because I obviously did not fix it, I saw my husband talking to something in the kitchen. I walked over to him to see him quiet down immediately and hide something in a brown paper lunch sack.

B(itch): “What the hell are you doing?”

Nick: “Nothing.”

B(itch): “No, seriously – who were you just talking to?”

Nick: “No one! God, what is your problem?!”

And then he stormed out, leaving the brown paper lunch sack on the counter.

After I heard him drive away, I looked in the sack to see he had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on wheat bread in there, only he had cut and molded it very extensively to resemble Cher.

Confused and disturbed, I carefully put Cher PB&J back into her lunch sack and left it on the counter.

Scene 5

Back at Shepherd of the Hill for more choir practice, Mrs. Schroll started screaming at me that I was running late. I came in and she started doing this warm up song we did when I was really little and in the cherub’s choir – the peanut butter and jelly song. It goes something like “peanut … peanut butter … and jelly … peanut … peanut butter … and jelly.”

Choir practice ended shortly after that and Mrs. Schroll yelled at me again, only this time she said I needed to go downstairs to the church kitchen and take the macaroni and cheese out of the refrigerator to heat up because Nick and Cher PB&J would be there soon.

Then I woke up at the sound of my husband shutting the front door to go to work.

Interestingly enough, faithful blog followers, late last week Pookie entertained the idea that Nick is a robot. He rarely shows any emotion for anything and is often very controlled in what he does, and then he admitted that he never dreams (at least what he remembers). Am I just having crazy dreams for the both of us – me and my robot husband? Is this just more of the obvious – that I am terribly homesick and cannot reconcile such feelings, and that my husband will never stop having his affair with his career?

Or is it something else? Or worst of all – is it nothing?