And Just Like That, I’m Back Home

I haven’t posted on here in well over a month – not a matter of writer’s block or dearth of content, but the fact that we moved. Back home. Not to the home from which our landlords cruelly and callously terminated our lease at the beginning of the year (after years of dutifully paying rent monthly in full and on time, and taking prodigious care of their home as if it were our own). But a few blocks away.

In our temporary rental, nearly 45 minutes from the city my kids have always known, the situation went from bad to worse in such a rapid and bizarre fashion, for a brief moment amidst it all I legitimately believed I was going insane. There was just no way that conditions could be that bad there. We had mold, water leaks, floods, more mold, sagging floors, crazy neighbors, and – in the final hours – a family member of our landlord rifling through the mail. For one of our last weeks there, my children and I were displaced for an entire week due to a mold remediation. And in the last shower I took there, the floor began to sag, water came gushing from the ceiling beneath me into the garage on the first floor, and mold began to appear through the paint pealing off the walls.

When we terminated our lease prematurely, and provided a letter for the landlord citing a breach of warrant of habitability, the letter had 26 pages of attachments providing evidence. By any and all standards: it was bad.

Possibly in a moment that was serendipitous, but more realistically just sheer, dumb luck, a home became available in our price range, in our old neighborhood, while all of this was going on, and the rest is history. Now, we are unpacked and settled in. And just like that, I’m back home.

Much of the last few weeks has felt like putting the pieces of the puzzle of our lives back into place. When we moved away months ago, we had to significantly downsize; now with more space and almost an identical floor plan to our old home down the street, we’ve pieced it back together, all the while cognizant of everything that has happened. Our temporary rental had no real functioning kitchen to speak of, just a broken oven and about a foot of counter space to work on, so we’ve also caught up on eating at home. I feel more like myself today than I have since the day our lease was terminated – now 7 months ago; and my kids are finally letting down their guard, no longer afraid that something else would go wrong after months of seemingly every day having a problem.

And that’s the thing: this situation – being a comfortable, middle class family with the security of a roof over our heads, suddenly being thrust into insecure and unsafe housing during an unprecedented moment in history – well, it changed me, it changed us. I didn’t just find myself in the position of privilege to simply empathize with people struggling in the housing and rental crisis, I was forced to live it myself.

45% of Californians are renters, this nearly half the state has been subjugated into a class war that stereotypes them as unworthy, an undeserved other. Ironically, this group of people are the sole reason people in the landlording business are able to do so. A landlord’s livelihood is entirely dependent upon having tenants to pay the bills. And while I don’t typically like to turn things into a conspiratorial bigger plan, after living the consequences of insecure housing for several months, I understand now the bigger societal problems that are created by this wing of late stage capitalism run amuck.

Availability of Housing

When I ran for city council, something that struck me as odd was the fact that there was a clear and certain need for housing, but very few city council people seemed to have any real understanding of how urgent the need was. As time went on in my campaign, and afterwards, it became evident that they do understand. Their donors – largely property managers, realtors, and personal landlord investors – just have control of these local politician’s votes.

In my county, there is 1 housing unit for every 1,348 middle income families. This is on its own an astounding figure I myself did not think could be topped, until just this week when I learned that my county also has the most severe metro area housing shortage in the entire nation. The slow walk to development in my community is so profound and – frankly – unbelievable, until you consider that it is in their best interest to slow walk development, because this allows the prices to rise exponentially, unchecked.

So availability of housing is not an issue in a vacuum, rather it creates a backchannel of issues like housing affordability, temporary rental availability; it even has a negative impact on the tourism industry because of the number of hotels filled up with vagrants, and the simple fact that a tourist-centered community loses its appeal when every corner has someone homeless, someone pan-handling, or a car parked with a mattress on top of it and a person sitting inside shaving their armpits.

But to the people that own the politicians? The people in the real estate and landlording industry? They don’t care. With 1 unit for every 1,348 middle income families, and a housing market that sits at a median home price above $800,000, this is simply their opportunity to cash in. To be clear, this is the fault of every local politician of the last several decades – Democrat, Republican, Independent, you name it. Will they be held accountable? I find the prospect unlikely.

Conditions of Living

As I mentioned, our temporary rental was an absolute nightmare, and we were fortunate to have the ability and means to get out of it. Not everyone is as lucky, and at some point shortly before we moved I obtained a list of all the rentals our landlord owned.

To say I was shocked is an admission of my own naivety: one of the rentals had a Port a Potty outside, another had a tarp for a roof. I’m sure people that have rented from the slummiest of slumlords will sit and nod their heads in understanding, but for me this was an absolute dereliction of what I imagined such a profoundly small number of people could subject upon nearly half the state. Our landlord, himself, lived (lives) in a 4 million dollar mansion on a 23 acre farm, overlooking his peasants. I’m sure a working toilet and completed roof isn’t an issue for him; but being bathed in his own privilege does not excuse that he legitimately believes people should live without those things.

Even little things you don’t realize until you live in it become an issue when your conditions are reduced to semi or unlivable. As I mentioned, our kitchen was a broken oven and a one foot space of counter. At the time we rented the place, we had absolutely no other options; and I figured I could make it work. The reality, though, with a family of six, was that I could not, so it was take out most days, sometimes multiple times, and a lot of quick things that didn’t require the appliances or equipment we had to store, or the counter space needed to prepare.

In other words, for months, we ate like absolute shit. (While being exposed to toxic mold.)

We of course see this all over the country, with landlords providing substandard conditions for their tenants – mold, rot, unworkable appliances. But what isn’t often talked about as well are the conditions of the community that is predominately renter-based: roads in need of repair, no easy access to healthier food options, a lack of public transportation. Some states, including California, have requirements about affordable housing in proximity to big box stores; however these ineffective policies are easily skirted, and do not address how a community deals with the situation when politicians slash budgets for public transportation, or when stores close down due to new developments in other areas of the community.

But again: will anyone be held accountable? I find this unlikely.

The Class War Is Real

For now, the dust has settled and I’m plotting my next moves. Not housing moves, though; what I have to do about my community members who continue to suffer under this absolutely unfettered, hyper-localized, class war. While I thought that the Democrats and Joe Biden’s abject failures had radicalized me and my politics, I suppose I was not even remotely prepared for where this experience would take me. Perhaps most worthy of note is that this year, at 40 years old, my idealism about reform from within is finally gone. The only way I see this being fixed is for the entire system that perpetuates this to go along with it.

So where does that leave me? Well, I’m back home, and it’s an election year. Not a single thing will change if people do not start running for office that will rid our communities of the corruption that has infiltrated every level of government. But this again runs along the belief system that people can be elected and reform things from within. Can they? AOC faking handcuffs at a Roe rally, or Bernie kowtowing to the party line suggests otherwise. Maybe I’m wrong, but for now it seems that there has to be another way.

In local elections, it’s becoming harder and harder to find candidates anyway; nobody wants to run. Why would they? As a former candidate myself, you have to not just have a tough skin, but sometimes a bulletproof vest. If your personality isn’t in line with the identity politics of either the Left or the Right, you’re as good as a lost cause. Of course election reform could fix all of that, including comprehensive campaign finance reform; but then the people that would have to reform this will never do so because the system itself benefits them.

But I think it goes deeper than that. People aren’t just not interested in running because they aren’t interested. They’re too busy working and struggling to survive to do – literally – anything else.

In our temporary rental, it was profound how much time was spent just struggling to survive. Between the kitchen, the conditions, the health issues that started to crop up from the mold, or having a leak one day, a toilet back up the next day, and a flood in the backyard over the weekend, our time was consumed dealing with problems that people not in this subjugated living situation ever have to spend their time on.

This is the real point to the class war. It isn’t to keep people in their place. It isn’t to have people to pay your bills, and provide you your services. It isn’t to keep them sick and dependent, or hungry and available to work for low wages.

It’s to keep you so busy you can never change this system of capitalist oppression.

I’m sure, in the end, I’ll change my tune. At least that’s what family and friends say. Maybe I’m just spouting a tangent after arguably the most traumatic experience of my adult life (and that’s saying a lot). Or maybe I really did go insane and this is all some lunatic’s fantasy and ranting.

Whatever the case may be, this change of thinking was a long time coming. As I said, I’m now 40. It took four decades for my eyes to be opened to the real hardships that exist, in all our communities, and even so I still make jokes about it. But we all do, we all joke about the abject horror we are seeing in front of us – memes on Facebook about tyrant landlords, viral videos on Tik Tok about completely absurd living and working conditions. “Anger and humor are like the left and right arm. They complement each other. Anger empowers the poor to declare their uncompromising opposition to oppression, and humor prevents them from being consumed by their fury.”

I never considered myself poor, we are by all standards well off. But that didn’t stop us from living through what we lived through the last seven months, my family. So I guess even the definition of poor needs be revised. And I suppose the day to take it all seriously – the class war and the people most impacted by it – will be the day the jokes stop.

Anger empowers the poor to declare their uncompromising opposition to oppression. If there is one thing I feel when I think back to everything that has happened this year, it is a little flame of anger shrouded in disbelief that it actually happened. The days plug along and we grow further distant from that hellish situation, and the disbelief fades leaving just that tiny flame of anger and disgust for a system that is designed to harm.

And just like that, I’m back home. But who returned is wholly different and forever changed.

Things Are Getting Pretty Grim Around Here

This is a personal update, and has a major trigger warning: a lot of heavy shit, massive complaining, and hard knocks situations. But, it’s time to stop being stoic, and start being honest. Maybe that’ll come up with some solutions – flushing them out here, in a blog; because right now I’m out of them.

I’ve mentioned a few times that we recently moved. It feels like a lifetime ago, but the reality is that it’s only been about two and half months since we got the keys to the place. I guess, when you’re miserable, time slogs along at a snail’s pace. I’ve tried to gaslight myself, as have others: chalk it up to depression, chalk it up to turning 40 this year, chalk it up to the fact that I did not get into a doctoral program I worked three years to get into at the same time as we moved. I tried rationalizing it as something millions of other Californians are going through.

While all of these may be a little piece of the truth pie sitting at our table beginning to rot, the reality of the situation is that we – my family unit – is in a pretty bad place, and it’s only getting worse.

(And when I say “sitting at our table,” this is of course a mischaracterization of our home… there isn’t even room for a table in our home that we can all fit at anymore.)

We Were In The Worst Position To Move

When we received our notice that our landlord had decided to terminate our lease, we were probably in the worst position imaginable to move. I wrote a letter to them, begging to let us stay just a couple of extra months until the end of the school year – the beginning of summer. I outlined the reasons with total honesty.

The first was that our now-18 year old daughter was scheduled to have excision surgery for endometriosis with a specialist in San Francisco in the spring, something we had been waiting over a year to get the a-okay on. Requiring us to move at that same time would make both the logistical and financial aspects of that a complete impossibility, after seeing a considerable loss of our income through the first year of the pandemic.

The second was that our kids and their friends were in years foundational to a kid’s childhood, especially our 8th grader. To rip them out of their communities in that time would, in our view, be absolutely devastating to their mental health.

The third was that the housing market for rentals was going to be difficult to navigate. We had cared for the home as if it were out own for over five years, and paid our rent in full and and on time without question. Even when we had a 30% reduction in pay for the bulk of 2020. It seemed fair to ask for a couple extra months to find a place so our kids could stay in their community. This isn’t like we are a military family, where moves are expected and this was our choice. It was sudden, it was unexpected, and we were given very little warning.

In that letter, we also made a number of offers. We offered to pay considerably more in rent to allow us to stay until June. We offered, if they were planning to sell the home, to make it readily available for work, and showings.

Their response was callous and cruel: to reject our request, with absolutely no reason why. A lot of friends and family surmised that this was because they had planned to quickly get the house on the market for sale. In reality – we learned from several friends we left behind that lived on the same street – it was so one of the landlord’s family members could take the home.

You all can imagine the result: my daughter’s endometriosis surgery has now been indefinitely postponed. The kids missed out on much of the year’s things with friends, even though I have tried as hard as I could to drive them back for all of them. We were forced to take whatever was available, even though it was far away and a significant increase in our monthly cost of living, our rent alone now constituting 46% of our monthly income, with a host of other additional costs of living where we now live.

And as it turned out, this was only just the beginning.

I Had a Premonition

Originally I thought that the worst of the stress was going to be finding a place, and moving to it. Moving is the absolute worst, and we were doing it under forced circumstances.

Now I’m not saying that I’m psychic or that I actually believe I had a premonition. But I do often have hunches that turn out right, typically my anxiety piques for a reason, and more than anything I listen to my dreams, because they’re telling me what I already know and don’t want to believe or admit.

About a week after we moved to our new place – a whopping 45 minutes in the best of circumstances from our old home and our entire lives – I had a bizarre dream about moving, and woke up thinking and the move was just the beginning, the worst is yet to come. In an instant, the reality that I had not been focusing on (just trying to get myself, my husband, my three kids, and my 79 year old dad moved, and the house looking as nice as I could make it) came crashing down on me, and it was true.

The move was just the beginning, the worst was yet to come.

For the Kids

So I’ve mentioned the situation with our 18 year old, but more than that this has put her entire life’s plans into peril. At the time that we were notified of our move, she was being scouted by several colleges to play tennis. But the thought of being that far away from home, and making that kind of a commitment, was too much for her if she had not yet had her surgery.

The problem now? Several-fold.

First, and foremost, the surgery requires a significant amount of financial commitment – travel, hotel, the costs of the surgery, and so on. We also will have to go back on a waiting list, which at the moment is over a year long. That, probably, is a blessing in disguise because – as I said – we were totally unprepared financially to move; now financially unprepared for anything medical, dental, or otherwise, to be honest. To be frank: with the exponentially higher cost of living here, and the amount of money it took for us above and beyond our savings to move here, I find it hard to imagine how we will even recover financially from this move, let alone be able to save up for more things years down the road anyway (something I try not to think about too much just yet, because right now it’s about surviving each day). But for now, we’ll stick with… four year college is on hold.

Nevertheless, she has considered two paths until we figure out the surgery: community college, with playing tennis there; and/or coaching for tennis. But still, we come up against more walls, as the community college with the tennis team closest to us is an hour and a half one way, in good traffic; giving lessons would also have to be done around 45 minutes away, as the only courts near us are already reserved by other coaches.

People have suggested we just get her a car – a fair proposition, if we are comfortable with increasing our cost of living even further beyond the bounds of what we can afford; except when beginning to explore this, our HOA notified us that we had already reached the maximum number of cars allowed in the community, and any additional vehicles on the premises beyond 48 hours will be towed (see what I mean when I say they hate renters?). And remember that condition she has that requires surgery? She takes medicine for part of each month that makes driving a bit dicey anyway. Wherever she goes, whatever she does, we need to bank on that she’ll need a ride.

So she is in something of a holding pattern, trying to figure out what to do while feeling entirely helpless to even make that decision. And the clock is ticking – you can’t wait forever to begin the rest of your life, or even your next year. There’s really no winning for her at this time, in this situation, and that we have done this to her at this point of her life is absolutely devastating to me, something I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forgive myself for.

Our middle child, the 14 year old, seems to be relatively okay. Because of the move, she decided that she was definitely going to public high school back home. And while this seems like a positive thing: she’ll be with her friends, her community she’s spent her entire life with, the school is good, and relatively safe compared to other area schools; for myself I’m trying to wrap my head around how exactly I can manage to commute her older sister to school or work or whatever, plus her to school and high school sports…

… and also raise my 5 year old. He will homeschool for primary grades, as his sisters did; but that doesn’t mean he should be forced to just be carted around to chauffeur other people all the time. And then, of course, since he’s reaching the age of starting to get into activities himself… where exactly am I to put him in those? Back home, where we hope to eventually return to and where his sisters have lives? Or here, where we really don’t know anyone and it’s not exactly… safe? And the schedules for everything, should I just expect the schools and the coaches and the activity directors and the other families to work around us and our ridiculous situation? How, doing this all – for the most part – alone, am I to do that?

We’ve explored several options. My husband looked at a few office spaces to use as hubs back home, but none were within our budget, and moreover, most had restrictions about times and who could be there (no little kiddos, which seemed odd). Someone suggested using a family members house as a to-and-from hub. Well first, what family? We have a lot of family, but we may as well live on Mars to them. When we said we were moving, we got little, to no, offers of help. It’s been years since many of them came to a birthday party, a graduation event, invited us to either, or even said “Hello” to us when we’ve seen them at the tennis courts and said “Hi” (and don’t get me started on seeing family members pay little kids we know on Venmo for tennis lessons, when they know our daughter is trying to get her own coaching business going… hurtful does not even describe that one) – again this is one of those topics we can save for another day, and another post. Even so, we are still trying to be COVID conscious, and so I just would love to know how… that would even work when most everyone else has moved on? Because of my dad, we still have to be careful…

Whatever the case may be, it all comes with a price tag – either a physical one, or an emotional one; and frankly, the piggy bank on both is empty.

But Wait, There’s More

But it isn’t just the logistics of my children and their future that make this situation untenable to all of us.

Because of how few housing units were available, and the competition in the rental market that we were just unable to compete with at the time, we had to take the first place that came available that would approve us and that we could make work, even under dire straights.

Putting it bluntly: this home is way too small. It has the same number of rooms as our old home, but they are infinitely smaller than the other house, which makes things incredibly difficult; and some are open concept or an area of courtyard with no roof, so cannot be actually used as bedrooms or office/study rooms.

My dad’s room is on the second floor and has no closet. That’s right: it has no closet, making me think it was an office that the landlords decided to market as a room. He’s getting older, though (he’s 79 and his mobility is starting to strain), so if he’s having a bad arthritis day, I see him literally dragging himself up the stairs, I’m assuming due to knee and hip pain. Also upstairs is where my husband has set up our bed, all of our storage (forgot to mention there is no attic in this home); and his work space. The walkway between the wall and all of that is so tight that you have to walk sideways at some points just to get an Easter decoration out of the closet, shoved between his jackets and t-shirts.

My son has completely sacrificed a bedroom, and now sleeps downstairs in the largest bedroom with my two teenage daughters. His toys are stored in the garage. Because the room is the largest room in the house (so the natural room to put three people), but only a little larger than the other two rooms upstairs, we had to get rid of his bed. So he sleeps in one bed, and my two teenage daughters sleep in the other. In there, they have their own bathroom, which is good – kids bathroom downstairs, adults bathroom upstairs; except that the lights malfunction, and the landlord refuses to do anything about it, so they have to shower and get ready for the day and in the evening, with the lights off. The flickering is just that bad.

You all may be remembering that my husband works at nights. Yes, the thing they never tell you about the film industry is that hours are shit. His job in post production marketing is from just before 6 pm every evening, until whenever he’s done working in the morning. He doesn’t like to be bothered by our 5 year old during the day, when he sleeps though; so he locks the door to the room. This, coupled with the fact that all of our stuff had to be stored in that bedroom closet (old DVD cases, papers, holidays decorations), being the only storage to speak of in the entire house besides the area by the laundry in the garage, I have to keep my clothes in bins in the kids’ closet downstairs, and use a rolling garment rack that sort of just roams around the house, to store my clothes. And to sleep?

That’s right, I sleep on the couch. For the first year of the pandemic, I slept on the floor in my kids room along with my son. That was better than this, and more comfortable; but not possible, as you can see the floor through out the house is tile. As the pandemic wore on after that first year, we were able to really adapt our house for the long haul, as it became evident that the government wasn’t going to do anything to return actual pre-pandemic normalcy. But now? Now there is just no option but the couch for me. Every night. And because our house is so small, I can hear my husband working all night, I can hear my dad going to the bathroom at 4 in the morning, and when the kids get up… well then I’m up too. No locking bedroom doors and getting a solid 8, or even 4, hours for this lady.

We no longer have a laundry room, those hook ups being in the garage. I know that’s fairly common, though it does make it difficult to do laundry for six people when you live in a desert that gets really hot and dry during the day, and where you can regularly look over while sorting your whites from colors to see whatever the fuck this is:

Even the dogs lose in this situation: whereas at our old home they had a nice, grassy yard they could play in; now they have some concrete and a dirt hill in the back. It doesn’t matter that we have that back area, though: the first couple weeks we were here, our duplex neighbor complained to the landlord that our son was giggling in the back yard and playing with the dogs. So, frankly, we don’t go back there much.

And That’s The Rub

For the short term until we could find a new home, this seemed do-able. But as the days wore into weeks, it became less and less likely that getting out within months was a possibility. And so, hopelessness and depression has become pervasive to our household unit.

I haven’t even gotten into the crime in this community, which is something to write a series of blog posts about. We’ve had white collar crime, squatters, drunken people passed out outside the neighborhood gates, a throuple living next door in their mid-60s (not exactly crime, but also not something I want to have to explain to my 5 year old), someone try to break into our home, and, as mentioned before, our crazy duplex neighbor has it out for us something bad. Beyond the complaints about the mere existence of my son and dogs in her general vicinity, just today, we saw her taking photos of our garage when it was open, and later saw in her garage she has a pinboard with photographs of us and our house pinned up on it. This all, in just over two months.

But again, what even can we do? Can we get out of the lease here? Sure. In fact, we’ve consulted with a lawyer, and it should be easy and cheap to do so. But then what? Having spent our savings, plus recognizing the rental market everywhere right now, it’s hard to see an easy solution. We are not competitive, and have no way to pony up another security deposit, after our old landlord illegally stole ours for nefarious repairs that had nothing to do with our tenancy. There’s no way we can, or are even willing, to purchase a home at this time – it is way beyond our means, and more responsibility than any of us can fathom after everything that’s happened these last few months. Then again, it’s hard to make any decisions when my kids have medical needs I don’t know how to meet, they have educational and social needs that are becoming more difficult by the day; and everyone is literally on top of each other, while I basically do not sleep anymore.

It’s ultimately a dire situation, and hopeless to boot. And while I don’t have answers, and don’t expect any from you, what I do know is that we can all demand more housing and for our elected representatives to solve this crisis the entire country, and especially California, is experiencing right now. That’s about all I have left to hang on at this point.

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.

The Newsletter: Issue #7

So…

Does anyone know just what the fuck is going on in the world? I sure don’t.

In any event, let’s try to dissect it.

Around the World

So admittedly, I was really busy in January and February looking to secure housing for myself and my family. I mentioned in Newsletter #6 that we had been served a termination of tenancy (let’s call it what it was: an eviction without cause). And so I had to really get that all sorted and was a little busy to pay much attention to the two things in the world that went completely sideways whilst I was largely occupied.

First, COVID has gone even more bananas than around Thanksgiving, when Lord Omicron took the reigns and unleashed unprecedented and largely unmitigated fury through out the United States (and the better part of the world). Now, Omi is still everywhere, but even more toxic and deadly are the pollsters advising the Democrats and Republicans alike that COVID can’t just be controlled… it has to be forgotten, or it’s goodbye Midterms.

So now, when community transmission levels are largely at the same level they were when my husband contracted COVID back in December 2020, as well as at the peak of the Delta surge over the summer, the CDC and Biden folks have decided that they now have the power to redefine what words and figures mean, and what was high before is now low. The economy is public health, actually… didn’t you know? Take off your masks folks! Get back to work! Get back into the restaurants and spend, spend, spend!

But it didn’t end there. On the same day that the CDC released their updated guidance and community transmission levels, it was reported that hundreds of children actually died of COVID during the last two months, and that the efficacy of the vaccine for ages 5-11 comes in after only a few months at an abysmal 12%. Moreover, kids under 5 still do not have a vaccine, and while the Biden Administration’s forward-going plans include a massive effort to vaccinate that age group when it’s approved, no such timeline has been offered for it. (Oh yeah, and there’s that pesky little detail that they’re out of money, all this depends on them getting more money from Congress, and they haven’t even ordered more than 10% of the planned Paxlovid treatments yet.) Still…

Also, the CDC Director in a very purposeful statement correlated masks not just to an object of sound and proven public health mitigation that acts as an astoundingly effective Non Pharmaceutical Intervention when done properly, but to one that was at the same time a mark of shame. This lady – who, along with all of her other colleagues at the CDC continue to work remotely at least until April (according to the internal memo released just last week) – branded masks a mark of shame, calling them publicly “a Scarlet Letter.”

For those unfamiliar with the book, The Scarlet Letter is about a woman back centuries ago in New England who had an affair with a priest, got pregnant with his baby, but kept the secret so was branded as the town ho, forced to wear a red letter A on her clothing for the rest of her life to make clear that she was a woman of ill-repute, an Adulterer who should be scorned and shamed.

Masks. A scarlet letter.

Second, of course, is the Ukraine situation, which is just a fucking nightmare and so evident to me about a bigger plan by Putin to restore the Soviet Union and – I don’t know – destroy the world. More on that next time I suppose, maybe I’ll be calm enough to talk more about it when my Potassium Iodine is delivered.

Around My World

So I did end up securing housing for my family of six, and what a wild adventure it has been.

And by adventure, I naturally mean I’m surprised I lived to tell the story.

We did have to relocate to a neighboring city, which is unfortunate and pretty overwhelming still for my kids. But, as all moms do, I’m figuring out how to completely change my own life – yet again – to make it work out so they can spend a large bulk of their time every week still back in the community from whence we came with their social groups and friends and such.

Otherwise, the house is pretty nice. We have it all set up. I’ll share a post about it later, actually – the house itself; and the strange parts about the neighborhood… but what’s big is that I’ve decided to use our own experience as a catalyst for another blog series, in which I share my own story, as well as interviews with other renters, experts, and advocates in the housing apocalypse that is going on in California right now. You won’t want to miss this, it’s coming April 1st – and both I and many of my interviewees are naming names on this one.

So consider this your official announcement, and if you still haven’t signed up to get these babies in your email box, now’s the time!

You Can’t Unsee This

I just love this new feature of the newsletter because it’s deliciously horrid and hilarious – all wrapped up into one.

Admittedly, I did not watch the State of the Union earlier in the week. For one, those are historically boring speeches loaded with lies and propaganda; and I knew I would get the highlights from my dad and Twitter.

Of note, I was disturbed to see that weird clip of tipsy Pelosi standing and rubbing her knuckles together like some fucking weirdo; and I was confused to hear the president refer to the Ukrainians as “Iranians” (like is reading from a teleprompter that difficult?). And naturally, all the bragging and praising of the maskless crowd infuriated me. Why? Because all the praise by Op Ed pundits at the Washington Post failed to be clear with average Americans that the only thing that actually made that safe was that PCR testing was required, and had identified a number of cases in advance. Quick and convenient PCR tests are still – after all this time – not readily available to all Americans.

What really got me was hearing about, and later seeing this photo from Reuters make the rounds, of Boebert and the other one heckling the president. Now look, I’m not always a fan of him, and I think his COVID response in the end was a total fucking joke… but heckling the President of the United States at the State of the Union? Just trash. Take it to the junk yard, ladies.

This meme I saw perfectly encapsulates that moment though, and is now all I think about when I hear someone mention those two:

STFU Fridays

So as I said, we’re in a new home and it’s a duplex. I kind of figured that it would come with the territory that we would hear some of what goes on over there, and they’d hear some of what goes on over here.

The first day we were moving stuff over, the neighbor came over and introduced herself. Her name is Christine and the first words out of her mouth were “are you generally quiet people?”

Depends on what you mean by quiet.

In reality, we are generally quiet people, but I do have kids and – you know – some things that just have to be done. Like dishes; which I assume most people do. But lo and behold, last night Christine came over at 11:15 at night to complain about noise she heard. The only thing I can think is that we were doing dishes… but honestly also, who comes over at 11:15 in the evening and rings another person’s doorbell?

The bottom line, of course, is that when evaluating whether or not you should actually say something, to anyone about anything actually, is that you should first shut your fucking mouth, open your fucking brain, and consider whether or not you should shut the fuck up about the topic permanently. It would have been one thing if we were blaring music, having parties, screaming and slamming furniture into the walls in the middle of the night – all things, ironically, we have heard Christine do repeatedly (in particular on nights when her gentleman friend that drives a Tesla comes over).

But just asking “are you quiet people”? Or having the audacity to come over to a person’s house in the middle of the night to demand they stop doing chores?

I mean… shut your fucking mouth, open your fucking brain, and consider whether not you should just…

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.

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.