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Jul. 4th, 2013

It has been five years to the day that my friend Victoria passed away.  I wish I'd gotten to know her long before I did.  She worked on the other side of my coffee shop, on the tattoo studio side.  I knew her for as long as she worked there, which wasn't that long, maybe a year, year and a half... but we didn't become close until a few months before her death.

I still miss her a lot. One of her favorite sayings was Follow Your Bliss... nearly every one of us got that tattooed on ourselves, or on a decal for our car's back window, or something.  I didn't; I got my Newcastle star tattoo instead.  I never got a chance to get the next pitcher, Victoria.  You died with me owing you one.

I think about Follow Your Bliss, though.  I ask myself, "Am I?  Am I following my bliss?" Some days the answer is yes.  I feel like I am where I am supposed to be in life.  Sometimes I am content.  My husband, and my children, and our little household... we work hard all day and can come home to a lovely little house and sit and have a beer together while watching some documentaries on TV or Netflix, and the kids are having fun watching something or other on YouTube... it is not a bad life.

But some days I feel like my life is missing something, I feel so... I don't even know what is the word,.  Mundane?  There is nothing interesting happening.  I see the rest of my life stretching out ahead of me, on and on and on in the same manner as it has been, until I die.  I don't see any bends in the road, nor any divergences. I do not even see any beautiful scenery along the way.  My life seems like a long, empty stretch of barren road, boring.

I want to follow my bliss, Victoria... I want to be happy and have a rich and fulfilling life.  I want to live before I die.  I wish that you had lived before you died.  I think you had begun to... but then you died.  So young.

I will remember that.  We never know how long we have on this earth... we're not guaranteed tomorrow, right?  So I must not take anything for granted, I must enjoy every day.  And I must try to find whatever it is that will make me feel like my life is enriched, and follow it...  My bliss is not going to fall into my lap, to come collect me and lead me to follow it.  I have to chase after it, myself.

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I had a busy weekend.

Today feels like Sunday.  I don't know; I lost a day during the weekend somehow.  I had both Saturday and Sunday off -- so did Jerry, because his vacation started on Saturday.  A whole week off!  That is nice, but it makes it sucky for me.  I really hate going to work when he's off;  I so wish I could stay with him.  I feel like we don't get all that much time together.  Either he's at work, or I'm at work, or when we're both home he is asleep.  So it's really nice to have time together... and it is so hard to leave for work on those days that he's got off.

On Saturday, the temperature reached 109.  It was crazy hot, and it would have been a great day to stay in the house, lights off, curtains drawn, air-conditioning on full blast... but we had a barbecue at my grandparents' house to go to.  My grandpa doesn't think he's gonna be around for much longer, and he just wanted to see everybody.  I forced Jerry to go to this one.  I know he didn't want to go, he doesn't ever even visit his own grandparents, but I was like, "Come on, my grandpa would like to see you."  So he went.  But it was miserably hot, and we only stayed a couple of hours.  After we left, we went and picked up Jerry's friend V, who had texted Jerry and wondered, if we weren't doing anything, if we could come get him up from his hot-ass un-air-conditioned house, and maybe could he bring his swim trunks? So we went and picked him up, stopping at the store to get some steaks to grill.  V also bought some snacky stuff (Champignon Cambozola and table water crackers), and I set out some olives. We may be ghetto as hell sometimes with the tall cans and the Hamburger Helper for dinner, but we also know how to get down with the antipasti.

It was a fun evening -- even though it was really hot even after the sun went down.  We still were in the pool even in the dark.  V and the boys played some kind of "escape from Cuba" game with one of the rafts; and, after wondering aloud how large a whirlpool three adults and two children could make, we ran around and around in circles until we nearly drowned, laughing the whole time and losing quite a bit of pool water in the process.  We had fun, though, and when it was time to go in, everyone was really tired out.  I got the futon in the living room ready, and set up extra blankets and pillows, and showed V how to work the TV and Netflix, and went to bed.  I'd tried to stay up with them, but I just couldn't do it.

Everyone woke up on Sunday morning kind of groggy and bleary-eyed, at least us grown-ups did because between the three of us we drank an entire 30-pack of Miller High Life.  Jerry and V went to the store while I tidied up the kitchen and livingroom a bit and started laundry.  They came back with chorizo, eggs, tortillas, orange juice and champagne.  Breakfast of champions!  So we ate and drank Mimosas and sat around and watched movies on Netflix for half the day, then we took V home and headed over to Mikey's house because it was his birthday yesterday.  I guess V didn't want to go, maybe he was all partied out.  I felt kind of like that too, but I did want to get out of the house.

I guess it was a pretty eventful weekend, and that's why I feel like today is Sunday and not Monday.  Usually I have at least one "quiet" day during the weekend, and I didn't get it this time.  Oh, man... this is going to be a long week.
I've been so busy lately, I feel as if I'm going to burn out if I don't de-stress soon.  After my summer on unemployment (which I like to call my "michelada summer", because that was basically what I did all day - got up, cleaned house, drank Micheladas.  I used to go to the liquor store to buy the big pre-seasoned styrofoam cups, until I found out that we could make our OWN micheladas at home, using chamoy and Tajin powder), I was finally blessed with not one but two jobs -- I work at O'Reilly, delivering auto parts to our commercial accounts; and until school let out on May 31, I was a Food Service Assistant (aka lunchlady) at a small charter high school.

Having two jobs is no joke.  I was busy 24/7, it seemed.  Especially because the school district job had a split shift -- I had to go to work for an hour, come home, take the boys to school, take Jerry to work, run back home and get things ready for my second job at the auto parts store (pack my lunch, get my uniform) and possibly do a little housecleaning really quick, then head back to the school in time to serve lunch; and when my shift ended there, I had to head over to O'Reilly.  Work THERE for six or 7 hours, then go home.  And start cleaning the house and getting things ready for the next day.  The work was not particularly hard, and they were both part-time... but all that running around I had to do was murder on my stress level.

I missed Michelada Summer!

Turns out I hated my school job, too -- ironic, because that was the job I had really been hoping to get.  I'd heard that jobs with the school district were coveted because the benefits were so good, and my hours would be basically school hours, so I'd be working when the kids were in school and I'd get off when they were getting out of school every day.  Same with vacations -- I'd have my vacations when they did.  It all sounded really great, so I put in what seemed like hundreds of online applications, for whichever position the site posted.  I didn't care if it was a school twenty miles away, for three hours a day!  It'd be my foot in the door, right?  Since they were taking their sweet time hiring me, I ended up snagging a job with my friend Felicia at O'Reilly Auto Parts, as a driver -- a job I that I really rather enjoy.

Finally the school district contacted me and  let me know they were interested in hiring me.  I was so excited!  Goodbye, O'Reilly!  But, I guess if it seems too good to be true, it usually is.  The position they finally granted me was at a school within five minutes from my house (again, yay) and another five minutes from O'Reilly --  I very wisely decided to keep that job as well, since the school only needed me 17 hours a week.  That was one drawback.  The other drawbacks -- hoo, boy, where do I begin?!  I was only making minimum wage.  I was working fifteen minutes shy of being eligible for benefits.  Other people I spoke to within the district said that they don't customarily give benefits to food service workers.  Like, at all.  My vacations (Winter Break, Spring Break, summer vacation) did not coincide or overlap with my kids' vacations, because this was a charter school I worked at, and they followed a different schedule than all the other schools in the district.  There were problems every day with our orders.  The supervisors at the main office either did not care or were too stupid to figure out how to help us ( I rather think it was both).  And when I say "us", I mean myself and one other person, an older woman who had only started a few months before I did, so she didn't really know what she was doing either.  And she was nice as far as people went, but as a co-worker she was horrible.  She didn't listen to me, she would not let me help, preferring to do everything herself while I was gone (remember, I had the split-shift?  Well, so did she, but she stayed and worked through it), so that I had Nothing.  To.  Do.  when I got back.  Then she complained that there was too much work for one person!  I was like, "Umm... yeah.  That's why there are two people here.  I'm supposed to be doing half of that stuff."  Her response to that?  "Well, you ain't helping me.  You don't do shit."

So... I am so glad that I made it through to the last day of school, and I do not plan on going back in the fall.  It's not worth it!  I can work at O'Reilly full-time, put in my eight hours and be done with my day and go home.  No stupid running around, no crazy angry co-workers that I hate being around, and if I work full-time I will get benefits.  And I will have more free time -- between both jobs I was working almost 50 hours a week, and that doesn't even count the hours I spent driving back and forth, and back and forth, and back and forth!  Not to mention the money we will save on gas.

So, this is the end of my first week out of school.  I still am starting later at O'Reilly (I work 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.), but that way I can get stuff done around the house before I have to go in.  Laundry (oh, the dryer's broken, I have to do laundry in the mornings so that I can hang dry it outside.  Sigh.  It's just as well, saves energy.  Solar power, bitches!!), dishes, watering our massive vegetable and herb gardens and the lawns, mop the floors, maybe hop in the pool with a beer or three and a book if I have time.  I have to cut myself off pretty early ( I have a DRIVING job, after all; it would be frowned upon to come in to work all buzzed.  Not like at  the coffeehouse job, ha ha!  I used to pound tall cans in the parking lot right before my shift!), so if I intend to have a few beers I've got to get up with the sun, drink my coffee while I water the grass and garden, then have beers while I do all the other stuff.

Speaking of which... Look at the time; it's a quarter past nine in the morning!  I've got to go, get a jump on those micheladas  and the dishes.

2013

One of my New Year's resolutions is to come here and post a bit more frequently. I also resolve to start doing more drawing and painting, and maybe even getting back into photography, if only a little.

I've discovered that I've lost the patience required to do a lot of creative stuff, like art, photography and yes, even my knitting. It's not even that I'm particularly BUSY... It is just that it required too much effort to concentrate on a task. I feel that this is unhealthy, and relearning patience is going to be my biggest resolution, maybe even my most challenging -- even more challenging than losing twenty pounds by April, and working on toning up my beer gut into a more aesthetically-pleasing shape.


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The New House. Episode IV: A New Hope

LIFE IN THE NEW HOUSE

It took a little while to get used to driving home from work.  I kept going the wrong way - getting on the freeway, like I was going to the old apartment.  Soon, though, that problem no longer bothered me.

Other problems did, though.  Every time I turned around, there was some other damn thing that was cropping up.  We tried to put in a thermostat and use the central air conditioning -- which we absolutely LOVED at the apartment, since we usually have really hot sticky summers -- but for some reason, the air conditioner wouldn’t kick on.  I became upset - it was so unbearably hot in the house!  I texted my cousin about it.  "It should work," she insisted.  "It did last summer."  Great, thanks for the help.  My boss tried to call in a favor from one of her contractor friends for me, but he didn't work on residential, only commercial units.  An ex-coworker had a guy, though, so I called him.  Turns out, not only did he know Sarah, but he also knew me -- he used to be a customer at the coffee shop.  So I trusted him.  He came right out, too -- I called from work, and he was willing to come out that night, "It's supposed to be 103 degrees tomorrow; I can come ASAP."  Instead, I asked him to come first thing the next morning.  He did, and he replaced some wires and reattached some stuff, and $275 later, it was fixed.  Hooray!  He came back down the ladder and asked me, "Hey, do you have any enemies or anything?" 

"What?"

"You see, I went up there, and those wires, they hadn't worn out or been bitten through by rodents... they had been cut.  All of them, a clean cut.  The only reason I can think of for anyone to do that was to, you know, mess with you."

What?

But it's fixed now.  And it's nice.  We used it all summer.  It's been so warm, we barely stopped using it last month.  I'm not sure if the heater works, but it's not nearly cold enough to need that yet.  Fall in Northern California is not cold.  Most days wearing long sleeves is unnecessary.  Besides, we have the fireplace.  We tried that out for the first time about two weeks ago.  We had some cool weather, windy and rainy (very unseasonable for Stockton!), and Jerry built a fire, not because it was that cold, but just because it sounded cozy.  A fire, and some Jameson with ginger ale, and a good movie on TV, and the kids gone at school for six hours.  Yeah, that was a nice day.

Little by little, we're getting the house into shape.  It's clean now, and 1,000,000,000% better, even though it's not arranged as nice as I'd like, and we still have some boxes in a corner to go through, and stacks of pictures and mirrors leaning against the wall because I haven't got the proper hardware to hang them up on these stupid lath-and-plaster walls, and the windows in the bedrooms still haven't got blinds or curtains (Jerry screwed sheets up in the meantime - so ugly, but at least he hung them neatly, so at first glance they sorta look like curtains).  I did find some awesome fabric and sewed some curtains for the windows on either side of the fireplace --  a nice cafe-au-lait brown with a teal geometric pattern reminiscent of Greek-key, one of my favorite design elements.  They look pretty cool and if I'd bought them at a store, they probably would have cost more than the $2.99 I spent at the thrift store for the fabric.  I also bought some patterned fabric shower curtains from Target and cut them up to make curtains for the kitchen, and to reupholster my six dining-room chairs.  I'm so happy with how things are coming along, and excited to have this blank canvas to do with what I wish.

And we did the back yard, too.  I spent days sitting outside, baking in the sun, with a bucket, picking out pieces of glass.  I felt like some sort of weird beer archaeologist.  "And here we have the remains of what was once a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale bottle, judging by the color, shape and curvature of this shard; and if you look closely, though it is almost faded away, you can still make out a faint hop-and-leaf motif on the label."  Was it bad that I was able to correctly identify each and every piece I came across?  Probably, I thought, as I tossed another fully-intact beer bottle into the bucket and got up to go grab another one from the fridge.

The backyard needed major work. Jerry and I picked out a weekend to get down to business.  We dropped off the boys at school, then went back home, brought the radio outside, spread out a tarp, and began shoveling.  We'd put dirt on the tarp, then each grab a corner and walk it over to the big hole and turn the tarp over, emptying the dirt, monstrous dirt clods, glass shards I'd missed, and God knows what else into it.  We found all sorts of stuff: toys, clothes, garbage, old gardening tools, horseshoes.  I found at least five knives, and a CD of sound effects ("Explosions, gunfire, trumpets, marching, slams, body falling down stairs") that we tried to play, but it was too scratched.  Again, I think my cousins' kids were crazy and a little violent.

We spent the next day doing the same thing.  Jerry’s friend offered to help us, so he came over.  He was shocked by how much work we’d done in just one day.  “You guys did it yourselves?  Damn.  It looks like… a different yard already.”  We had lots more work to do, though, so I gave him a pair of work gloves and we set to work.  By the end of the second day, we got all the dirt spread out, more or less.  You couldn't even tell there'd been a gaping hole in the middle.  We also borrowed a chainsaw from Mikey, and Jerry cut down this one branch that was low and kind of dividing the yard in a weird way.  Once that branch was gone, it really opened the yard up, made it seem much larger.

Jerry had to go back to work after that, and I was off work indefinitely, so I spent the third day by myself leveling out the dirt with a rake, picking out what glass and garbage that I could see.  Had I known about the importance of it, I would have put Roundup all over the dirt.  But I didn't know about it.

We bought grass seeds and fertilizer, and seeded the yard.   We kept it watered as much as possible, which meant we were watering it for an hour at a time, three times a day.  Well, I was doing that, anyway, while Jerry was at work.  Man, that dirt was thirsty!  Plus, you know, it was hot as hell, we had weeks at a time of over 100-degree weather.  I was beginning to worry that nothing would come up, but then I noticed them.  Tiny little, dual-leafed seedlings, popping up all over the yard.  "Those... don't look like grass sprouts..."  After another week, it was quite evident that, along with little blades of fescue, some other sort of large, fast-growing leafy weed was coming up as well.  "Crap."  So Jerry and I spent another two days, crawling around on our hands and knees, carefully pulling these weeds out by their roots.  "You should have put down some Roundup," my dad said.  Yeah, shoulda, coulda, woulda, Dad!  I hadn't thought anything was growable in that dirt, since my cousin had apparently taken all the "good" soil out when he harvested his plants and packed up to move out.  But apparently, there were several years' worth of little weeds and tree seeds and pods, just lying dormant in the cement-like clods of dirt, just waiting for a little TLC.  Sigh. 

We re-planted, and it was much better.  Hardly any weeds at all.  Some crab grass, but at least it's grass and not that other stuff.  There's a big patch in the middle where it's very sparse, and we figured it's just because we let it get too dry.  It's the only spot that didn't come up, and it's the only spot that doesn't get any shade.  We just put down some more seeds a few days ago, since it's cooler now, and spread manure over the top to ensure that it stays moist.  Now's the right time of year to re-seed lawns anyway, after the heat, but before the wet and cold weather.

So we're happy in the house, except around the first of the month.  Jerry bitches, grumbles that it's not worth it, and that we got fucked over.  I agree, but what else can we do about it.  He wants to get out ASAP.  He wants to buy a house of our own, but I mean, we just moved in here.  We did all this work to it.  If my cousins would be willing to sell it to us, we'd buy it.  I doubt they'd want to sell it, they seem to be so attached to things (the garage full of his dead mom's stuff, for instance).  And this was his mom's HOUSE, this was the house my cousin grew up in.  I doubt he would want to sell it.  Maybe, though, in a couple of years.  If they're still out there in North Dakota.  Maybe they'll want to get it off their hands.

We are not in a position right now to buy a house, anyway.  Our credit score is still kinda low, and I've been unemployed since July.  We have barely any money to pay our bills -- we don't even HAVE money to pay our bills, what am I talking about?  I hope that in a couple years we can be in a better position to start looking at houses, if my cousins wouldn't be willing to sell.  In the meantime, I want to sit back and enjoy this house, and the hard work we have put into it.

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The New House. Part Trois of Quatre.

MOVING DAY

We were so tired, so drained, but the last day of the month was upon us, and we had of course not moved one box, one stick of furniture, into the new place yet.  Sigh.  So, once again, Jerry rounded up the troops, all his friends, and we rented a U-Haul and loaded that thing up as fast as we could.  "I think," one of his friends panted, "you guys acquired more furniture since we helped you move last time?”

I was trying to help as much as I could, but I was still packing up some boxes in the kids' room.  Why the hell I hadn't already done that, I have no idea.  I had done such a good job packing up the rest of the house -- Jerry's friend was indeed correct, we had acquired much more stuff in the almost two years that we lived there.  I was pretty proud of doing that all by myself, and packing up the rest of the house.  The kids' room was the only thing I hadn't done. 

While the guys were at the new house unloading the truck, I thought I'd be helpful and take apart the boys' loft bed.  I've done it before by myself; I can do it again, I figured.  WRONG!  I don't know how, but I somehow pinched my finger between the pieces of bed frame as they fell apart, gouging a HUMONGOUS chunk out of the side of my index finger.  It was one of those injuries that is so bad and when you first see how bad it is, your first reaction is not even to feel pain, but to think, "Oh crap, I really did it this time".  There was no blood at first, and I totally did not recognize what I was seeing.  Is that my bone?  What are those white things?  And THEN there was blood, and so I couldn't tell what was what anymore -- not necessarily a bad thing. 

I kept a level head, though, and wrapped it in a clean rag, and held it up.  I was calmly waiting for Jerry and his friends to get back, because two of them were ex-Marines and probably knew more first aid than I did.  Of course I'd left my phone plugged in at the new house, because that is just so typical, so I wasn't able to call and let Jerry know what had happened.  I was kind of pacing back and forth through the almost-empty apartment, waiting as best as I could, and cursing myself for fucking up my hand.  "I NEED BOTH MY HANDS TODAY!!"  I'd been so careful not to give myself blisters and stuff while I was painting and cleaning, because I needed my hands to be whole and undamaged to do as much work as I could -- I still had to CLEAN the apartment before handing over the keys, remember!  And look what happened.

The guys came back, and I showed them my injury.  Everyone was impressed.  "Yeah, that's pretty substantial."

"Do you think I ought to go in and get it looked at?"  I mean, I really didn't want to take time out of our busy schedule to go to the E.R., spend six hours and hundreds of dollars we don't have.  Besides, there wasn't anything to do to it, really, besides clean it.  There wasn't anything to stitch back together... I even looked for the piece of my finger, but I couldn't find it.  I mean, it was small anyway, about the size of an entire pencil eraser, right off the thumb side of my right index finger, at the first joint.  It had taken off all the flesh, so that the tendons were visible, but I could move my finger perfectly fine, so there wasn't severe trauma.  It wasn't like I pinched the whole thing off.  It was bad, but it wasn't.  "Just clean and bandage it; that's what I'd do."

Luckily, I had a bin of bathroom stuff still at the apartment.  Hmm... "Alcohol, or hydrogen peroxide?"  I knew the alcohol was going to STING, so I opted for the latter.  I held my hand over the sink and poured the hydrogen peroxide over the injury, patted it dry, and made a makeshift bandage with a cut-up maxi-pad and electrical tape.  There.  Good as new.  I promptly got back to work (well, I let the guys deal with taking the bed apart).  I felt good - I had a taped-up pretty bad injury, blood all over my T-shirt, but I was still working, and I wasn't sitting there crying.  I hadn't cried at all, in fact.  I felt like, Okay, maybe I didn't completely fuck up the moving process.  There's another memento -- I've got a picture of the kids, a broken wedding ring, and a nice big hydrotrophic scar on the side of my finger.

The rest of the day was spent taking the last of the stuff to the new house, and cleaning up the apartment.  I did the best I could in the time alloted, and with the hand I was able to use.  I did neglect to clean the inside of the oven, but I did clean the hell out of the top of the stove and underneath the burners.  I mean, we kept it pretty clean anyway.  I also bleached the grout on the tile floors in the kitchen (it had been brand-new when we moved in, sparkling white, but it was somewhat dirtier after we lived there.  Not a lot, mind you, but somewhat).  I scrubbed the bathroom again, cleaned the windowsills and baseboards, and vacuumed the carpet.  Our carpet was still really nice because we'd put area rugs down everywhere, took off our shoes when we were inside, and I'd enforced a strict NO EATING ANYWHERE EXCEPT THE KITCHEN policy.  So, when we did our last walk-through with Linda, our manager, she was really impressed.  "Girl, you should see how some of these units look when tenants leave.  This is great!"  We got almost all of our deposit back, minus the usual small "wear-and-tear" deduction, and also minus eighty bucks because I hadn't cleaned the oven.  "Well, think of us, if your cousins' house doesn't work out!  You're welcome back any time!"

We were really sad to leave that apartment.  I still see it whenever I go to Safeway.  Sometimes when I turn down the street to enter the Safeway driveway from the side, I imagine that I'm just on my way home to the apartment.  And I sometimes drive around the back of Safeway, just to get a little closer to the apartment.  "Hi, Linda!  Hi, old apartment! I miss you!"  I'll call, knowing that nobody can see or hear me, but I have to say hello, just the same.


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The New House. Part Two of Four!

DAY TWO

We stopped at Home Depot and bought even MORE stuff, including new screening for the screen door because the old one had a hole busted through it, more cleaning stuff, some white spray paint to try to disguise the weird chips and stains in the kitchen sink, shovels, rakes, a pair of clippers, light bulbs, and some more big black contractor's clean-up bags. 

That day we worked just as hard as the day before.  Jerry continued to install electrical stuff, and the rest of us worked on the floor.  Isaac and Alex got pretty good at taking up carpet tack strips.  That wasn't easy to do, because it was nailed down every four inches or so.  Took forever! Remember, most of the house had been wall-to-wall nastiness.  We made a game of it, to see who could pull up the longest strip without it cracking.  I think Isaac won, he ended up pulling up a piece almost three feet long.  It was hard to keep those kids entertained, so I basically HAD to think up games and contests and stuff.  Still, that was not enough for Alex, who, after wandering around and whining to everybody, curled up on the floor on a bag of clean rags, and fell asleep.  I took a picture of Isaac intently and diligently scraping paint off the French door glass panes, and Alex is in the background, snoozing away.  That's one of my favorite pictures, as it pretty accurately captures both my sons' attitudes.

That picture is not the only tangible memory from that day...  I also have my wedding ring.  My hand swelled up for some reason, I guess from all the scrubbing... I tried elevating it, I tried to soak it in the ice chest, I tried soaping my finger, everybody tried pulling on it, as if I was somehow not doing it right myself... in the end, Jerry had to cut my poor ring off with some wire snippers, because my finger was really turning purple and hurting me.  I was so sad, and hoped that it was not some sort of omen.  Like, "Because of this damn house and all the problems that are coming with it, our marriage is not going to come out intact."

Because I know that it's going to be a strain.  What do they say, 40% of all divorces are because of financial issues?  We were just about out of money, and I texted my cousins and let them know exactly how much we had to spend out of our own pocket.  Jerry and I were thinking they would say, "OK, well, the first month's free then."  But no... they arranged for us to pay only $600 a month until we were even.  We supposed that would be okay - better than a kick in the ass, I guess.  I mean, we won't EVER be even.  Look at all the work we'd done so far!  If my cousin had hired an actual crew to come in and do two weeks' worth of work in two days, do you know how much money they'd have had to fork over?  We kept telling my cousin how much work we had to do, and her attitude was mostly, "Gosh, thanks you guys, we really appreciate it."

It was then that I started to really worry about the fact that, this was not our house, after all; it still belonged to them.  What if they didn't like North Dakota, and decided to come home?  "Wow, the house looks great, you guys!  Thanks for fixing it up for us!  Now, get out."





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The New House. Part One of Four!

Well, let's see here... Where to begin?  Chronological order, I guess.



GETTING THE KEYS

We moved into my cousin's house.  It was... basically in shambles when we moved.  They'd left in a hurry, and gave this guy six hundred bucks to paint/ repair anything that needed it/ clean the house so it'd be ready for us when we moved in at the end of May.  I tried texting him to see where he was on all of that, how things were coming along, etc., but I could never seem to get ahold of him.  Finally I was like, "Hey, dude... it is May 28th.  I have to be OUT of my apartment by June 1st.  You are not leaving us much time to move."  So he met me and Jerry at the house and gave us the keys.  He left pretty quickly, which I thought was odd -- thought he'd do a walk-thru, show us what he'd done.

It quickly became apparent why he booked it so fast.  The house... indescribably dirty.  He had primed the walls, and fixed the holes (of which there'd been many, because I guess my cousins' teenage sons are crazy and they do whatever the hell they want)... but that was all he'd done, and he hadn't even done a good job of it.  Painted over all the glass panels in the built-in cabinetry, and painted over the pretty crystal door knobs, painted all the cabinet doors and drawers shut in the dining room and kitchen... and they did not have handles to wrench them open again.  It looked as if he'd set up a bucket of paint in the middle of each room and put a stick of dynamite in each one, a la Mr. Bean.  The carpet was... really, really filthy.  My cousins had dogs, and it stank so bad like dog piss in that house.  There was even dried dog crap in the corners.  And the whole house was like this.  Only the kitchen and bathroom was not wall-to-wall carpet.  And there was trash on the carpet, too -- this guy had not even picked up any garbage, let alone vacuumed and shampooed.  All of the electrical outlets in the house were broken.  Not the faceplates, I mean the plugs themselves, as if someone had gone around and kicked each one with steel-toed boots.  Half the light switches didn't work. The ceiling fans in the bedrooms and the livingroom were hanging off the ceiling.  And they all looked as if they'd never been cleaned.  Years upon years of dust.  The kitchen... oh my god.  Floor - filthy.  Sink - filthy.  Oven and stovetop - filthy.  Fridge - MAGGOTY.  Yeah, there were fucking maggots in the fridge.  Besides that, it was missing drawers and shelves, and the handles were broken off. We found the drawers in the back yard, with some old meat and even more maggots in it. 

The back yard was horrible as well - my cousin had been a certain type of gardener, that grew certain flowering plants and then sold the dried flowers for a good price, if you take my meaning.  Anyway, the entire backyard was like a post-harvested field.  A big pit, roughly eight feet by fifteen and at least two feet deep, full of dirt clods and broken glass -- I guess the teenage sons had taken great joy in shooting beer bottles and various glassware, judging by the amount of glass there was, as well as the large number of little plastic BBs I kept finding.  The dirt that had once been in the pit was piled at the edges of the yard, creating hills several feet higher than the ground level, and piled against the back fence so that it was in danger of collapsing.  It was not AT ALL ready to plant grass seeds.  Not anywhere near ready.  And the shed and the garage that we were supposed to have access to?  Full of my cousins' stuff.  Yeah, they left in such a hurry that they didn't take everything.  Mostly it's stuff that belonged to my cousin's dead mother, that he can't part with.  But he'll pack it up and cram it into the shed and garage that I'm supposed to have.  And lastly, the bathroom - the window is broken, the shower door doesn't close all the way, the toilet tank was cracked, and - the piece de resistance - a used condom, half stuffed back into its wrapper, lay atop the tank.

That was Jerry's first time seeing this house.  He was speechless, and all he could do was shake his head.  "Why did you want to live here?" He said.  "It's going to take so much work, so much money..."

And, all I could do was cry.  I usually don't cry, but this was so upsetting.  "They said they'd fix everything... It was supposed to be all nice and ready for us..."  All I could think was,  "I fucked up so bad, we should have stayed at the apartment."  The apartment was only $675 a month, with sewer and garbage included.  My cousins are charging us $800, which doesn't include the sewer and garbage, which usually runs $100-$130/month.  So... we'd be paying much more that we are used to paying - possibly more than we can afford.  We went back home, and Jerry promptly went to lay down.  I was so upset still, and I called my mom.  "It's awful, I made a huge mistake!  I don't know how we can move in to it!"

"It can't be that horrible... we will help you fix it all up.  Why don't your father and I pick you up and we'll all go over there and see what needs to be done to it. We'll start early tomorrow and we'll get it cleaned up so you can move your stuff in."  I tried to tell her she didn't understand, it was... thrashed all to hell, but she said that no matter how dirty it was, it could be cleaned.

She was right, but God Damn that was a lot of hard work.  And money.  We had our tax refund in the bank still, thank goodness.  We bought a five-gallon bucket of white semi-gloss, painting supplies, ceiling fans, new electrical outlets and light switches, a new toilet tank, tools for ripping up the carpets, new door knobs (remember, the front door lock was fucked up?  Yeah, so were all the other door knobs too.  Anyone could just break in), cleaning supplies, and about a billion other little things.  My parents met us at the house, and we got to work.  I have never worked so hard and so fast in my life!  Painted the whole house (and it is not a small house) in one day, as Jerry went around replacing the light switches and some of the ceiling fixtures, and my dad replaced the door locks and cleaned out the nasty fridge and  the nasty shower (so much soap scum, it looked like it was dark grey instead of white, and it looked as if someone had squeezed out an entire tube of toothpaste in there), while my mom cleaned up the kitchen.  We stopped and ate lunch, my dad mercifully bringing an ice chest full of beer for us to drown our sorrows in as we worked.  Later that day, Jerry's brother showed up and helped him rip up those disgusting carpets, and then my kids, my dad, Jerry's brother, and I got down on our hands and knees and started scrubbing the floor, which didn't look that bad.  Needed to be sanded and rewaxed, but not bad.

"It's starting to smell better in here, now that the carpet's gone," I ventured hopefully.  Jerry agreed.  I didn't feel quite so bad about moving in.  We still had a long way to go, a lot to do.  But it was late, everyone was drained.  So we decided to call it a day, and meet back at the house the next day bright and early to do it all over again.


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All I know is that I don't know...

I don't know what's wrong with me.  I feel like I'm getting stupider.  I can't think anymore, can't think things through.  And I don't care about anything anymore, and because of that, I make mistakes.  I make mistakes at home and at work... with friends and family and customers.  Just, basically fucking up all around.  It bothers me that I am screwing up a lot, but still, I can't seem to gather up enough motivation to try harder to not mess things up.  I don't know... I'm probably not even making any sense, but I wanted to write in here about it, just to document it.  This is a marked difference from how I've felt before.  I really do think I'm losing it, and it scares me.

I first noticed that I really do not like talking to people anymore.  Work has become somewhat torturous for me, because I have to force myself to smile at these people who I perceive to be bossing me around, and I have to listen to them berate me over things which I had little to do with (i.e., someone messed up their drink on my day off, and I get spoken down to about it.  Or, I'll start my shift, pour a customer a regular drip coffee which the previous barista brewed at God knows what time, and customers complains it's not hot.  Not my fault, yet, it's my fault because I gave it to the customer). 

So... the customers suck, but I also noticed that I don't like talking to my friends anymore either.  One friend in particular is so full of drama and everything revolves around her, and she forces her problems on others, and I just need to be away from her for a while.  She moved to a different city, so that makes it a bit easier, but I cringe every time I see her Facebook status saying that she's coming home for a visit.  Another friend is one that I see at work a lot, and she's always talking about politics and religion, and she and I share very different views about some things.  That is okay, and we respect each other as people nonetheless... but lately she has been more vocal about her ideas, and I just don't say anything because a) I do not want to get into a debate, because I don't think I'd make her see things my way anyway, and b) I don't even know what the hell "my way" is anymore.  Many of the times, my only input for the conversation is, "Mmm," or "Mmm-hmm," or slight nodding of my head until she is finished. I don't even feel like I know how to counter any of her arguments, because the truth of the matter is, I don't know any facts.  I am woefully ignorant on many subjects which I ought to know about, I'm not talking about statistics or studies or anything like that -- I'm just talking about the basics.  If my son were to ask me, today, what capitalism was, I could not explain it to him.  All I know is, I get slightly offended when spoken to about how gay marriage is wrong and how Obama is a Socialist pig.  (I feel like saying to her, "FIRST of all... I don't think that you have any room to talk about what's right and wrong in a marriage, Miss I-cheated-on-my-husband-with-like-fifteen-dudes.  And SECONDLY, I like Obama.  I don't think he is a pig.  I think he is a politician, and with that comes the usual amount of backpedaling and doubletalking.  As far as being a Socialist... well, I don't know.  But if he IS a Socialist... well, from what I remember from school, Socialism is not necessarily bad at all.")

It's not just religion or politics, either.  I can't get into any involved discussions.  I'll sit and listen for a minute, and then think to myself, "Yeah... this is too complicated.  I don't feel like talking anymore."  and I'll just let the others finish talking.  Come to think of it, I can't get involved in anything anymore.  Stopped playing "Words with Friends" and "Scramble with Friends" because they were too hard; they made me think, and thinking has become too difficult.

And as far as knitting or drawing, or painting, or even reading a lot of the time... it's such a joke.  I feel like somebody has crept in and stolen that part of my brain, the one that creates and appreciates art and culture.  Why, this is the most creative thing I've done in weeks!  I am surrounded by friends who are amazing artists, and some who at least make art a part of their lives, and I know that to become more creative, I ought to surround myself with creative people, and people that will stimulate my intellect... but all I feel when I'm around people like that is inadequate and resentful.

I don't know if this is just a funk I'm in, or if it's something more.  I hope it is a funk; I hope that I will start caring about things again.  I don't know what to do about it, but at least I have written about it some.  I want to try to pinpoint what exactly is going on with me, and the first thing I need to do is think about what, exactly I'm feeling.

Goodbye, Apartment! We Will Miss You!

We're moving again... this time, into an actual house.  My cousin, who owns his home, got a job in North Dakota and is moving there.  He and his family wanted to rent their house out to someone they knew, preferably a responsible, upstanding family such as mine, haha.  He wanted a family that he could trust to take good care of the house, and to be able to fix small things when they come up, such as leaky faucets, burnt-out ceiling fan motors, broken door knobs, etc.  He and his family will be out-of-state for several years, and so he won't be able to come back very often to fix a running toilet himself.  He's going to set up a special bank account to provide us with money to fix things, and also we can use it to pay the rent.

It is a cute little two-bedroom, one-bath bungalow close to the middle of town, where all the homes are older and most are nicely kept up.  It's very close to, but not quite ON, a main street, so it's not so trafficky, and won't be hard to pull in/back out of the driveway.  It is within walking distance to the nice park with the museum, one of the cooler coffeehouses (the one with a kind of beatnik-y vibe), and biking distance to pretty much anywhere I want to go (except work-- that's way across town, like ten miles! I'm not biking to work, arriving all sweaty and sunburnt and dehydrated).

Plus, there is a long driveway, so I can FINALLY tow my Karmann Ghia out of my parents' driveway, and maybe get some work done on it, then get it registered and drive it!  I'm so stoked about that!!

So, I still have to give my apartment manager our 30-day notice.  I'm dreading it -- she's going to be so sad to see us go! Truth be told, we are sad to go, too.  We like it here, in our little apartment in the ghetto.  It's a pretty nice complex, our neighbors and our apartment manager, Linda, are such nice people, and the apartment itself is spacious and I absolutely loved that it is so close to Safeway and Big Lots.  Truly, it takes me LONGER to get in the car, back out of my parking space, and drive it next door, than to just walk down the street to the front of the store. It takes less than sixty seconds to walk to Safeway.  And I'd say... ninety seconds to two minutes to walk to Big Lots.  You cannot GET more convenient than that!

Still... this is a real HOUSE with a proper front yard and shady porch, and a good-sized back yard full of plants and trees, with a big garage (that has been converted into a two-studio man-cave by my cousin, which Jerry is pretty excited about), plus a garden shed which could house all the garage-type stuff so that Jerry's man-cave won't be too cluttered with tools and such. And not to mention the house itself, which is bigger than the space we're in now, and has got all the old built-in cabinetry and a fireplace, and I believe it has hardwood flooring (under the carpet, which my cousin said we could pull up if we wanted).  He said we could do what we wanted to the house, as far as painting walls, or changing out fixtures, or flooring.

The only drawback of the house (that I can tell, so far) is that my late Aunt had remodeled the bathroom... now it's got a pedestal sink, and a shower enclosure, but no bathtub.  I don't care for that because a pedestal sink does not offer much in the way of counter space and storage, does it?  And Alex is so bummed that there's no tub - he only takes baths, and hates showers.  But, that is a small price to pay for all the other accoutrements the house will offer us.  I consoled Alex by saying that we could get another swimming pool, like the one we had at my parents' house!  He could bathe in that on hot summer days. ("Can we put bubbles in it?"  Well... sure we can.  Why not.)

I'm sure there are little things wrong with the house. Like, they told me that they wanted me to come over there so they can give me the keys and so I can "practice unlocking the door". Umm... I already know how to open a door, so I am wondering exactly what I need to know about this front door knob.  Maybe I should practice climbing in the kitchen window, too... just in case.