Monday, May 31, 2010

It's Official

It's official:  I'm a slumlord.  After a couple of delays, the closing on the house in California finally happened on 5/27.  It was supposed to be 5/10, but first the escrow company didn't get something to the mortgage company in time for that to happen and then everything was delayed again when I had to find an insurance agent in California to provide homeowner's insurance as my local agent couldn't do it.

It is all very surreal.  I own a house in California that I have never seen, other than in pictures, and that the keys for which were handed over to someone else on my behalf.  I am having repair work done on a piece of property I have never visited.  I have had the same conversation with our cousin so many times in the last couple of months I could scream.  I am sick of hearing about this house from our cousin.  I am sick of being told what minor repairs my mother-in-law wants to have done.  And I don't want to hear about how my stepsister-in-law found fault with pretty much everything about it.  You know what?  I didn't buy it for you.  If you don't like it, good luck finding another place for what you are going to pay me in rent.  I have no loyalty to her-the times I have met her, she couldn't even be bothered to acknowledge my existence.  I am one conversation away from a complete meltdown.  I can't seem to stress enough that I don't want to talk about it; that this isn't a fun, exciting venture for me.  It is a stressful investment I did to fulfill a promise to James.  I don't want to spend hour after hour discussing property as an investment strategy and trying to forecast the long range potential of this.  I don't want to be involved.  I just want to cash my rent checks and write checks for repairs when needed.  I don't care what color the carpet and the walls are.  I don't care if they paint the fence.  I really don't want them to cut a doggy door into the back door, but it appears I don't really have a say in that.  Since I am eventually going to have to replace the door anyway, I decided I don't care-especially since that means I don't have to spend any more time talking about it.  (There were 3 conversations about it last week).  I don't want my stepfather-in-law to start willy-nilly doing stuff around the house because he's bored.  I want it done by pros who provide receipts I can use for my taxes.  I know I am going to have to make some decisions from time to time but why can't it be the way I asked:  make a list and give them to me all at once.  I love our cousin dearly and I so desperately want to have a conversation with her about ANYTHING else.  This is all we have talked about for the last couple of months and we do not have short conversations.

I know I did the right thing by doing this.  My mother-in-law needed a place to live and now she has one.  I told James if anything happened to him, I would take care of his mother and I have made it so she won't be homeless.  Yes, she thinks our cousin is the one responsible, which is a HUGE favor to me.  As stressed out as I am about it as it is, it would be 1,000 times worse if she knew I was behind it because I can't tell her no. I know I have valid reasons for doing it this way but it does not come without guilt and not without anger at James for dying and leaving me to do this.  I am so angry in general right now, I can barely see straight.  This is what happens when I don't have someone to talk to.  I let everything build up until I just explode.  And right now, I am very much a ticking time bomb.

I thought I would feel relieved when the house closed.  But I am more stressed out about it now than I was before.  I have said several times I am only paying for what needs to be done for them to move in right now and then will reassess the rest.  Why do I have to keep repeating myself?  How is that not a clear enough statement?  I told the property management company to just pick some neutral color for the paint and carpet.  My mother-in-law was told the carpet and walls would be neutral and I guess she made a face indicating she was not happy with neutral carpets.  I know her-she won't directly speak up and ask for something else.  She'll just sigh and hint around about how nice it would be if the carpet was X color instead.  And by then, it will be too late to change it.  Why can't she just be grateful she is even getting new carpet?  Oh-and wouldn't it be nice if I chipped in and helped to pay for a new dishwasher for her as a housewarming gift?  Um, wasn't buying her a freakin' house enough?  And hey, wouldn't it be a good idea to check and make sure the plumbing can even support a dishwasher before telling me how much my share of it is, like I have asked to have done each of the 15 times this has come up?  (Okay, it's more like 5, but still).

I know there is work to be done.  Even though California doesn't require them, I had an inspection done.  I have a copy of the report.  I don't need to be told ad nauseum every little thing.  I just bought the damn house and I am really starting to wish I hadn't.  Why can't doing the right thing be easy just once?  Is that really too much to ask for?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Long Weekend in More Ways Than One

I have been looking forward to this weekend for a long time.  I have needed a break for awhile now and thought a three day weekend would really help with that.  I had some things I needed and wanted to get taken care of and had it all mapped out in my head.  I decided I would paint the master bathroom on Saturday, today I would take care of those pesky weeds taking over my yard and tomorrow I would just veg and catch up on shows.  I was also hoping to throw spending time with New Guy in the mix as well.  In my head, I had this perfect weekend planned out.

Ah, as usual, fantasy and reality are no where near each other.  I went out with friends Friday night-a fun evening of dinner at The Cheesecake Factory (I'll take one of each please), followed by shopping at Victoria's Secret and Macy's (got a cute summer top at Macy's and was intrigued by a pair of what can best be described as fluorescent yellow-green undies at Victoria's Secret, but I didn't buy them.  Not my style). 

While shopping, I missed a call from New Guy saying he was stuck at work and wouldn't be able to make it out after all and would be out of town this weekend and next but to give him a call next week and hopefully we can get together soon.  My initial thought was he is blowing me off.  When I listened to the message again, however, I thought maybe not.  Time will tell but my gut is telling me we are exactly where we are supposed to be right now and this is going to play out like it is supposed to and that everything is going to be okay.  But, his being out of town kind of throws a wrench into spending time with him this weekend part of my plan.

Nonetheless, I still had a game plan to carry out.  I got up bright and early Saturday for my appointment with my chiropractor and came home to get a start on the painting project.  Because I went out Friday, I didn't have everything taped off, so I got started with the actual painting later than I wanted to.  And it took FOREVER!  Who would have guessed the smallest room in the house could take so long-but more on that in another post. 

In addition to not getting the early start I had fantasied about, when I got home from the chiropractor, my garage door opener wouldn't work.  Turns out the opener is fine-it's the door itself that is broken.  The screws that connect the arm that opens and closes the door to the door fell out.  So in between waiting for coats of paint to dry, I tried to deal with that.  I was informed by the man at Lowe's that screws for garage doors is one of their most common requests and one of the most impossible types of screws to find.  Great.  My question was "then where do the people who install garage doors get them?  They have to come from somewhere."  He really couldn't answer that-nor fault my logic.  So I bought some screws we thought might work, but it turns out the holes in the garage door where the old ones were are stripped so now I am going to have to drill new holes in the garage door to fix it.  In the meantime, my arms are getting a good workout from manually opening and closing it.

I didn't sleep well last night thanks to sleeping in the living room on the air mattress due to the paint fumes in my bedroom.  I got up later than planned this weekend to see that our predicted 75 and sunny was much cooler than that and much grayer.  After removing the tape from the bathroom, touching up a few spots and calling to wish my nephew a happy 9th birthday (who pointed out that "some" of his family members had not sent packages-yes, that would be his slacker Aunt Heather), I was ready to tackle the weeds.  I pulled 3 before it started sprinkling.  Half hour later, I had filled the yard debris can-barely putting a dent in the weed population, I was pretty wet and I had an allergic reaction to pulling out a huge weed from the thistle family that was full of stickers and left both arms swollen and covered in rashes.  I had taken some Zyrtec prior to going outside and a few hours later the rashes were almost gone.  Eight hours later, there is still a trace of them, especially on my left arm.

It doesn't help that I am suffering from the worst snarly, bite-your-head-off PMS I have had in years.  I just want to lash out and am to that point of crying or eating everything in the house.  Since I can't seem to produce tears, I am eating everything in the house.  It doesn't even taste good at this point (well, the cheesecake I brought home on Friday does make me whimper a little).  Sammy is acting out by going potty all over the house, which just fuels my hormone induced anger and makes everything worse.

I really hope tomorrow is better.  I am hoping to get caught up on some of my shows and work on a craft project and just decompress.  I also hope tomorrow is better because I can't remember the last time I just wanted a long weekend to end.             

Saturday, May 29, 2010


Dear Lowe's Employees,

Trying to avoid me will not make me go away.  It is your job to help me so when you blatantly avoid making eye contact in hopes I will ask someone else for help, I will simply use my words to get your attention.  The fact that this happened not once but 3 times was a bit overkill.  Is this part of the new training program?  The surprised looks followed by looks of relief when all I wanted to know was where I could find something I was able to name by name rather than vague description were amusing, however.  Not all women who shop there are stupid females sent by their husbands to get random stuff so we don't try to "help" them with whatever home improvement project they are working on.  Some of us actually know what we are doing in a home improvement store.  Some of us actually like to shop there.

On a positive note, the gal in the paint department was quite efficient and very friendly, which was a nice change of pace from the last several times I have purchased paint. 

Thank you,

Monday, May 17, 2010

Something I Swore I'd Never Do...

No matter how many times James tried to get me to do it, he could never get me to sing karaoke.  I have done it with a group a couple of times, but swore I would never do it solo.  My rationale is I am tone deaf, I have a flat voice and I can't carry a tune and no one is ever going to be drunk enough to have to be subjected to that-especially not people I actually like!

Yesterday, I attended the "white trash bash," which of course was an event for the fun Meetup group.  It's kind of sad I decided to go at 8:00 in the morning and didn't have to make a mad dash to Goodwill to put together an outfit.  I had James' overalls from his redneck Halloween costume from 2006, one of his wife-beaters and a leopard print bra just laying around.  The Braves' jersey was a gift from a friend several birthdays ago that I wore because I was a little self conscious about the bra.  (Yet not enough to stop me from wearing it).  A combo of some costume jewelry and some of my dad's jewelry rounded out the look.  And of course my "stunner shades" as my co-worker calls them from last year's rock star Halloween costume. 

I have been tempted the last few karaoke outings to get up and do it, but we have some really good singers in the group.  I don't know what possessed me yesterday but I finally got up the nerve to do it.  (Actually, she called my name before I had time to let what I was about to do really sink in).  I mean, nothing says white trash like bad karaoke (well, other than the leopard print bra and white wife-beater, of course).  So I did it.  I got up there and butchered Alan Jackson's "Chattahoochee."  It's the only song I know all the words to and can't resist singing.

Luckily for me, the way it was set up I couldn't hear myself.  Unfortunately for everyone else, they could.  I have promised never to do that to them again.  My alter ego for yesterday, GretaJean, makes no such promises.

Learning to Dance

When I started college, my knowledge of country music was limited.  I knew it to be twangy music in which by the end of the song, the singer had lost his wife, his dog and was crying in his beer.  It was something we didn't listen to in our house.  It was pretty much the only thing that was unacceptable to listen to in our house.

I started my freshman year with the mentality "country music bad, all else good."  And then I joined a sorority with a bunch of women from rural southern Idaho who listened to nothing but country music and as the year wore on, I found there were a couple of songs I liked-enough that I was able to make an entire tape.  (Of all the things I have done in my life, my conversion to being a country fan is of the things Dad was most disappointed about).

Along with the music came line dancing.  For someone who is tone deaf with no sense of rhythm, two left feet and no sense of balance, line dancing was something my sisters did while I watched with envy on the sidelines.  By my senior year, I was finally okay enough at "Slappin' Leather" that I could get out on the floor with them and almost keep up.  If I ever had to dance to that to something other than Sawyer Brown's "The Race is On," I'd probably be screwed, however.  The other favorite dance of my sisters was the "Electric Slide," which I could never get the hang of. 

After I graduated and moved here, I didn't know anyone who went country dancing so I never went.  There have been times over the years I thought it would be fun, but didn't want to go alone.  I finally got my chance on 4/24 when the fun Meetup group had a line dancing event.  I went early for the lesson and kind of got the hang of the "Boot Scootin' Boogie"-enough so that I could do the stomp-stomp-kick-kick part anyway.   Though I sucked, the night was still fun.  (Meeting New Guy may have had a little something to do with that).  I have been a fan of choreographed dances for as long as I can remember and this fueled my desire to actually learn how to do them and be a part of the dance instead of being on the sidelines.

It just so happened that the same day as that event, the organizer of another group I am in sent out an e-mail saying she wasn't going to post it on the calendar as an event, but was planning to take a line dance class at the community center if anyone was interested in joining her.  I signed up and tonight was week 2 of a seven week class.

I had a bit of a problem with tonight's class.  There were 14 students, including me, and 4 instructors.  All of the students and three of the instructors are woman; the head instructor (who's kind of an ass) is male.  One of the students is around my age as is one of the instructors.  With the possible exception of another student, everyone else in the class could easily be my mother, and in a couple of cases, possibly my grandmother.  (And man, are they cliquish!).  But what bothered me today was I noticed that the majority of the women were wearing wedding rings, as was I (well, engagement in my case).  The difference was that here was I, the youngest in the room wearing her ring on her right hand.  I felt so angry.  As the youngest one in the room, logically, I should not be the widow.  As the youngest in the room, I should not be the one who has already experienced what is supposed to happen to "old" people.  Not that I wish this on any of them, of course.  It was just a moment in which I wondered yet again why James had to die so young and why life can be so unfair.  As I have definitely entered a new phase in my life, I have been wondering a lot lately where this road is leading me and I hate that I don't have my rock to keep me steady when I falter.

But at least now as I continue to stumble forward, I can finally do it to the "Electric Slide."  It may not be pretty, but sometimes in life, you've just gotta dance.  Life, after all, is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Rules

Apparently, somewhere along the way someone decided there needed to be rules for dating. I don't know who came up with them or when they even came along but I do know that James did not follow them. Maybe he didn't get the memo. Or maybe he knew what he wanted and went for it. (That would be more his style). Either way, I liked that about him. I knew where I stood from Day 1. With James, everything was so easy. I miss that. I miss how easy it was with him and I miss the sure thing I had with him.

Now it would seem I need to educate myself on these so-called rules. There is a set for men to follow and a set for women to follow. They are contradictory and it amazes me that people (in general) can actually follow these and still end up in a relationship.

The rules for men:
Rule #1: After getting a girl's number, you are to wait a minimum of 3 days to call and you never make that first call on the weekend. On the weekend, you are supposed to be out whooping it up while she is sitting at home waiting for you to call.

Rule #2: When you do finally get around to calling, don't make the first date for Friday or Saturday. Those are the "big" date nights and therefore too much pressure.

Rule #3: After the first date, say you'll call. But then wait 7-10 days before doing so so by the time you do call, she's spent so much time wondering why you haven't called she will have forgotten if she even liked you in the first place and will agree to just about anything.

I'm pretty sure these rules were written by someone who secretly hates women.

The rules for women:
Rule #1: Never, ever under any circumstances whatsoever make the first move. Play hard to get. When he calls after his requisite 3 days, let it go to voice mail and then wait 2 days to call him back. You don't want him to know you were sitting by the phone waiting for it to ring.

Rule #2: After the first date, respond enthusiastically when he says he will call even if you have heard this on the last 20 dates and none of them ever called so you think he is just giving you a line of B.S.

Rule #3: Do not under any circumstances call, text, e-mail, sky-write or anything else. If he likes you, he will call (rule #1 of "He's Just Not That Into You": he's just not that into you if he isn't calling you). Be patient. Watch a bunch of chick flicks to pass time. And don't act all pissed off when he finally does call 2 weeks later. Just smile so he will hear it in your voice and fall at his feet.

I have a few problems with the rules. First, I don't have a complete copy of them and can't seem to find one, despite my bathroom reading materials consisting of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Finding Mr. Right," "He's Just Not That Into You" and "Dating for Dummies" (which is really outdated). Second, I really hate to be told what to do. Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of experience in this area, so I'm not really sure how this is all supposed to go down and I'm afraid of doing something "wrong." And I'm more than slightly impatient. I don't want to wait 7-10 days to know if someone wants to see me again. I want to know he does or doesn't upfront-especially if he doesn't so I don't get my hopes up for nothing and can just move forward with the hope of meeting someone who does want to see me again (call me crazy). Plus I don't really have time to sit and watch a bunch of chick flicks.

I broke one of the rules when I didn't respond at all to New Guy saying he would call me after I saw him last weekend. Whoops. Of course it took me until Thursday to figure that one out. So, after an e-mail to my Male Perspective Friend (who is probably wondering how I managed to get myself past the first date with James at this point) and a text to my brother, I decided to send New Guy a very simple text message on Thursday night. I thought it through and decided that he had already made up his mind whether or not he wanted to see me again. Apparently, guys decide this fairly quickly and women decide it after about an hour. What if he wanted to see me, but didn't think I wanted to see him?

The result of sending the text was he called. We made plans for Sunday as I am going to see Nickelback tonight (woo-hoo!!). He was to call last night to firm things up-he played the new in town card so it was up to me to come up with a plan (not as easy as guys make it seem!). I decided if he didn't call, I was spending tomorrow doing much needed yard work. I convinced myself he wasn't going to call. So when he did, I didn't have a concrete plan in place yet (still don't, truth be told). He then asked if I was doing anything last night (it's against the rules to ask for a date last minute). I wasn't having decided not to go to '80's Prom Night after all because curling up on the couch sounded more what I needed with as much as I have been doing lately. We decided to go see a movie (romantic comedy-also against the rules because it can be awkward and suggestive). We had a good time. I'm looking forward to seeing him again tomorrow.

Sometimes it's worth it to break the rules.

Dear Diary

Last Friday, I went to something called "I'm Mortified," which is a live show in which several people (6 in this case) read from the journals they kept as teenagers. At this show, a couple also read poems they wrote for the boy in question and one sang a song she wrote for the boy of her dreams. The most mortifying thing I ever did was "accidentally" give a love poem I wrote to a guy I liked along with some pictures of Alyssa Milano I had cut out of a magazine for him. We weren't really friends anymore after that, though I carry a constant reminder of him-I have a scar on my right hand from when he hit me (accidentally) with the end metal end of the hose in a (neighborhood) water fight.

This prompted me to pull out my own diary, which for some reason I keep in my nightstand. My diary was given to me by my parents on my 9th birthday. I know this because the first entry is dated 1/15/83 and in it I say it's my birthday and I am 9. Apparently, it did not occur to me that I would be able to figure that out later in life based on the date. In addition to the date stamp, I also wrote down the time I started my first entry. (Looking back, there were definitely clues along the way that I would grow up to be an anal-retentive, highly organized accountant. Yet that was still a surprise to my parents).

I was not very good at keeping up with writing in it. From 3rd grade through high school, only about a quarter of it is used. Part of it is because growing up in small town USA is really not that exciting. And part of it is because I wasn't one of the popular kids so that really cut down on having anything to write about. In later years, there was also suspicion the Evil-Ex was reading it, which cut down on how much I was willing to share. Of course, she couldn't have said anything without divulging she had read it. But she was the one that made me cut the lock on it after the keys mysteriously disappeared.

My diary is pretty much a running commentary on which of my classmates were "going out" with each other. I was pretty boy-crazy growing up; sadly, the boys I knew were not Heather crazy. I did get a few laughs while reading some of the entries, such as this one from 10/24/85 (beginning of 6th grade):

"I like D.O. I think he's cute and I think he likes me too. Oh God please make it be true. I want him to ask me! Now, S., J., and M., B. are cute. So is Z. But D. is cuter. BF is back. BARF! S. &S. like her. She is good at serving a volleyball also. I found that out in Pe. Good nite."

Three days later, I had this to say:

"The way it sounds I like everyone, but I eliminated S and B and Z. J is cuter than D but not very."

By the end of the year, I no longer liked D. (or so I said) and was "in love" with J. (He was really cute). By April 1986, I was "going with" M., whom I "loved so much." Yet I still liked D. (again) and J. and was now friends with BF. To be honest, I don't remember why I didn't like her and now she is one of my friends on Facebook, so I have definitely gotten over it. I was very excited when I got her friend request and that she remembered me. I do remember she was weird, but I think was also genuinely my friend as the years went by and perhaps actually sad when I moved our freshman year.

By the end of 7th grade, D. and I were very good friends, which is all that ever became of that, and on 2/16/87, I wrote "I collect baseball cards and when I die, D.O. gets them all unless he kills me. D.O. is who I like now, but as I read through you I'm not surprised." By October, we weren't friends again. Ultimately, we ended up regaining our friendship-he's the last person I talked to before I moved to Idaho in March of 1989. (And now we're friends on Facebook). After I moved, a new set of cute boys entered the picture but the story pretty much stayed the same. And from the looks of things, my high school years were the only time in my life my handwriting was pretty decent.

The first person to speak at the "Mortified" show kept her journal from a multi-person point of view. First was her writing to the diary. Second was the voice of wisdom speaking back to her. Third was one or both of these voices speaking to God. I couldn't help but laugh as she read her entries. I had just met New Guy the weekend before and told my friend I could have just written exactly what she had written as a teen. If I were to do a diary entry today, it would look a little something like this:

"Dear Diary,
I like New Guy and I think he likes me too. Oh God, please make it be true! I really want to get to know him better and I want him to want to get to know me better too. I feel alive again for the first time since James died, and I want this feeling to last. Plus, he's really cute and has a good sense of humor. And he's a good kisser."

Ah yes. The more things change in life, the more they really do stay the same...