Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Fome the Things I Wish I Could Say File: "Dear Prospective Tenants"

Dear Prospective Tenants,

I understand the vacancy rate in this area is seriously low and therefore rents are being jacked up like crazy by landlords making it so a lot of people are searching for somewhere more affordable (or even just plain affordable) to live.  I also understand from speaking to prospective tenants that not a lot of prospective landlords respond to your response to their Craigslist ad.  Let me give you a few pointers.

First, while you need a place to live, I don't need to rent out the rooms in my house.  I am doing so because the vacancy rate is ridiculously low and renting out my spare rooms is a financially smart move, especially since I like to travel and this allows me to do more of it.  Therefore, while I can sympathize with your predicament, I don't have to respond to your email.  I'm looking at having strangers move into MY home in which I live and damn straight, I'm going to be picky about who I chose to respond to.

If your response to my ad simply asks if the room is still available, I am not going to respond to you because my ad says emails that simply ask if the room is still available are going to be treated like spam and clearly you did not read my ad.  (Exception:  You use that as an opener before going on to tell me a little about yourself because you have a sense of humor.  You will actually get bonus points for a sense of humor). 

If your response to my ad simply says you are interested in the room and demands I call you, that is not going to happen.  I will respond via email until my Spidey sense determines whether or not to proceed with you as a prospective tenant.  This also holds true for responses to my ad that tell me you will come by to see the room tomorrow at 3:00 so what's the address.  No, you won't.  You will come by and see the room at a mutually agreed upon time and that time will not be during my work hours.  If you actually want a response back from me, tell me something about yourself that gives me incentive to consider you or at least indicates you actually read the ad. 

I am renting out a room.  So no, you cannot move in with your baby daddy/mama, two kids, your cousin and your two dogs.  One room, one person, no animals.  It also raises red flags when your 30 year old child cannot look for a room on their own, unless you explain why you are helping them.

"Proof of Employment" means just that: you can prove you are employed.  I am not running a shelter or a commune.  I am looking for tenants who can pay their rent with money, not by offering me free tattoos, massages, cooking lessons, car repair or housekeeping.  And no, the room rate does not include turning my garage into your parlor/shop.  That is where my car lives.

If you are new in town and I tell you that your commute will take about an hour from my house, which I have lived in for almost 9 years, trust me on this.  Especially if you are a college student who doesn't have a car.  You will NOT be riding your bike 20 miles to school in the dead of winter.  Again, trust me on this.

The rules for my house are not unreasonable, nor do they differ from the rules I have seen stated in other ads (yes, at times I do check out the competition).  If you want to have overnight guests of the "casually dating" variety or to illegally download torrent files, get your own place.  I'm not having a parade of strange men (or women) coming and going from my house nor am I subjecting myself to losing everything to the FCC due to your illegal activity.  Sending me nasty emails about my rules still leaves you without a place to live and me in the same position I was before I read your email, which is not needing you as a tenant.  All it accomplishes is that it makes me glad I don't have to deal with you on a regular basis and in my space.

And finally, if you hate animals, why are you responding to an ad in which three of the five pictures have an absolutely adorable photobombing cocker spaniel?


Prospective Landlord

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Going Solo to the Lounge

In an effort to broaden my horizons, get some exercise, and find yet another way to make a fool out of myself in public, I'm taking swing dance lessons.  It turns out that despite being uncoordinated and not the least bit graceful, I don't suck quite as badly at it as I think I do.  Or so I've been told by kind partners who may have just been saying that.

My class is on Tuesday evening at 6:30, which I think is great.  I'd love it if all my evening activities were this early as it greatly increases my odds of getting home early enough to go to bed on time.  And since my lovely little white dog has now decided we must wake every morning between 3:00 and 3:30 to go potty, I need to go to bed at bedtime as often as I can.  The downside of my 6:30 class is that it is inner SE Portland.  And "rush" hour traffic has become a serious problem that easily lasts several hours depending on the weather and which of the two north-south running freeways you take. 

This is only a four week class and last week for class #2, I was late due to the combination of the aforementioned evening commute and Blazer traffic.  You would think that by now I'd be used to them having games and their stadium being right off the freeway, but no.  It never occurs to me to check to see if that's going to be an issue before leaving the house.  So last week was unfortunately not really worth the time and effort it took to get there.

So this week, I decided to be smart and head across the river super early and find a place for happy hour prior to class.  I don't drink but who doesn't love food at discount prices?  I settled on a place Mapquest showed to be reasonably close to and which turned out to be kitty-corner from the dance studio.  It really does not get anymore convenient than that!  I've been here once before for a Portland Cello Project concert, but that was in the basement so this was the first time I'd been in the lounge itself.

The lounge was pretty small with really loud techno music.  Mirrors everywhere gave it a larger and somewhat of what I imagine a bad 70's porno would be like vibe.  (The low lights didn't help that image.  And it's connected to a hotel...).  But I wasn't there for the atmosphere.  I was there to not be late for class.

For being 5:00, the place had a decent number of patrons.  (There's also an outside area with heat lamps but it was cold out so I didn't investigate).  A couple sat at the bar not talking to each other.  Another guy sat at the other end of the bar.  I would have sat at the bar as it had the best lighting and I brought a book (yeah, I'm that awesome), but I didn't want to sit between these people in the off chance they wanted to be social.  (Yep.  Still awesome).  I settled for a small table where I could sit and eat my cheese fries and drink my pineapple-orange juice combo in peace.  Sadly, it was too dark to read so I did what anyone else in my shoes would do:  texted a running commentary to my friends in between checking Facebook.  I also toyed with going over and chatting with another solo patron also playing with his phone a but then I saw the ring.  And then his companion arrived and he moved across the bar so they could sit by the fireplace, which was now available due to the two women who had been occupying this spot leaving.

Instead I sat and listened to the two men sitting beside me.  Or rather one of the two men who went on and on and on and on about playwrights.  He's an actor, it turns out.  I know this time because of the numerous times he said "As an actor, I..."  I entertained thoughts of turning this into a drinking game, while thinking if I was on a date with this man, I'd likely want to gouge out my eyeballs because that would be less painful.  I ultimately realized the younger of the two seemed to be interviewing him.  Not because all he did was ask questions (he didn't get to say much) but because I realized he was taking notes.  When they left, the younger one seemed rather shell shocked.  I wanted to ask if it had indeed been an interview but somehow that seemed like it would be rude so I gathered up my stuff. 

I joined two others at the bar to pay my tab.  I was slightly caught off-guard when the bartender asked for my name as by this point, I was the only woman in the bar who had a tab going.  But on the other hand, I do appreciate his wanting to make sure to charge the correct card for my meal (well, to the extent cheese fries constitutes a meal). 

I don't really think I'm a lounge person.  I don't mind going out to eat alone.  But there was something sad about just sitting there by myself eating my fries and drinking my juice.  I discovered there's a coffee shop across from the lounge so next week, I'll give that a try.  Maybe that will be more my speed, though I suspect the other patrons won't be nearly so eclectic.  And they likely won't have cheese fries.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

My 30's: The Highlight Reel

On January 14, 2004, the eve of my 30th birthday, James and I had just moved to Arizona.  I was freaking out because I didn't know anyone other than him and I was convinced once I turned 30, I would no longer be as marketable as an accountant-especially with graduation and a whole new crop of accountants right around the corner.  Yeah, I have an overactive imagination like that at times.

I turned 30 the next day and it wasn't the end of the world.  James surprised me by taking the afternoon off and though I was born in Nevada, I found it very strange we were able to take a walk around our new neighborhood without wearing coats in the middle of January.  It was on this day that we discovered the pirate store by our apartment was part of a chain.  And not actually of pirate stuff.  Yep.  I spent a good part of the afternoon of my 30th birthday browsing the merchandise in a porn store.  (Though this was not nearly as amusing of the blowup sheep incident of 2007, which really deserves it's own post...).

It turned out in addition to not living near a pirate store, I was also wrong about my career prospects.  Not long after my birthday, I made the decision to not accept a job for a vision company, instead taking one with a property management company.  Though not an easy decision, I do feel I made the right one, though it did mean I had a pretty crappy commute from Gilbert to Scottsdale at a time when gas prices were starting to hover around the $4/gallon mark.

My commute was not the only thing that was crappy about 2004.  In November, my dad died due to complications from adult onset diabetes.  This was the start of everything going downhill.  Following that, James' aunt almost died but she pulled through.  However, in March of 2005, his dad did die, which was unexpected.  I was still reeling from the (expected) loss of my own father and wasn't really in any shape to help James with the loss of his.  But we managed. 

On April 1, 2005, James was rear-ended on his way home from work.  It was a minor accident and he was okay but it was not the way to start the month!  He also received a call just prior to the accident there was the possibility of a job opening back up here in Vancouver that would allow us to come home. 

I can't quite remember what all happened over the next several months, but I do remember it got to the point of me being afraid to change the calendar because each month brought with it more bad news.  The job James had heard about had been given from one contracting firm to another which meant he had to properly apply for it-and he'd lost his cheerleader for the position.  However, in the end, he was deemed the best man for the job and at the end of September, I called my good friend and asked when October's bunco was (she's always hosted October) because I was coming home.  Arizona wasn't bad-it just wasn't home and for all the shit constantly going down, we needed our support systems which are here.

Once we moved back, I was asked to not look for work right away.  James saw how stressful it was for me to try to set up our house while working full time in Arizona so he asked me to take a month to unpack and deal with all the people you have to deal with when you first move in.  That was fine by me, but in January 2006, I accepted a job for a publishing company.  This was the only job I'd never been excited about taking and that should have been a clue.  However, I was getting a little too comfortable not working.

Not long after I started working, it became clear there wasn't a lot for me to do.  In the eight months I held the job, I was more in touch with my friends than I had been in a very long time.  So there was that.  About four months in, the company filed for bankruptcy, which is the best thing for me as it meant I actually had work to do.  (The company would later emerge from bankruptcy only to close it's doors for good a few years later).  So I started looking for another job.  I was offered a part-time accounting job for a new bowling and fun center that opened in the area, with the hope that it would go full time "some day" as the company continued to grow.  We discussed it and as tempting as it was, ultimately decided I would have to give up too many of my social pleasures on a part time would turn out to be a very lucky thing I instead took a full time job with a small computer speaker manufacturer, where I still am over seven years later.

July of 2006 brought the untimely death of my youngest cousin due to injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident.  At the time of his death, he was 22 years old.  This was the first of three trips to Florida I would take in a short period of time; two of which were to attend funerals of my relatives.

I'd had enough prior to my cousin dying and I was tired of feeling like I was living vicariously through my friends.  So James and I booked a vacation for January 2007:  a Caribbean cruise.  This was the reason for the 2nd trip to Florida, as we set sail from Miami for a week in Jamaica, Labadee (Haiti), what was supposed to be the Grand Caymans (but the port was closed that day due to bad swells-talk about a ship full of cranky people!) and Cozumel.  It was on the second night of the cruise, Captain's Dinner night, when James and I got engaged after 7 years of dating.  When he proposed, I thought he was breaking up with me which in hindsight would have made for a very lousy vacation.

I found myself in Florida again in March of 2007, this time for the funeral of my grandmother.  I was starting to wonder if the family was jinxed at this point, especially since James' aunt passed away in September of 2007.

But that wasn't the end of it.  On February 6, 2008, James took his last breath when he died suddenly of a heart attack while driving home from work.  (And this is why it was a good thing I didn't take the part time job for the bowling alley.  Financially, I would not have survived). I had turned 34 a couple of weeks before and his final gift to me was a plane ticket to L.A. so I could meet his cousin to go to a benefit concert at the Staples Center put on by Garth Brooks to help farmers in Southern California.  It's funny that that concert seems like it was it's own separate year from the rest of 2008.  I never got my wedding-we were to be married on October 11th of that year.  The day he died, James had on his own contacted a travel agent to start planning our honeymoon-obviously, a trip that was never taken, with Boston as our top choice for the destination.  A month after James died, his other aunt lost her battle with lung cancer.

Where the first part of my 30's were filled with sadness and tragedy, the last part have been filled with recovery and even a bit of hope thrown in.  Following James's death, I realized I needed more support than I was getting from bereavement group and I discovered Meetup-the platform I used to start a group for young widows and widowers in the Portland Metro area on July 4, 2008.  It is still the only resource (I'm aware of) specifically for widows and widowers under the age of 50 in this area.  I've also branched out to other groups over the years and currently also help run one of the area's largest social groups-a group that is being mentioned in the Oregon Food Bank's next newsletter for our continued commitment to them.  I'm so glad the group is getting the recognition it deserves and I have to admit, I'm allowing myself a rare pat on the back because I'm the one who's kept us going back twice a month since 2010.

Also following the wake of James's death, a group of friends decided that life was short so we should go on vacation.  So in February 2009, five of us spent a week in Mexico.  Between this and the cruise James and I went on, the travel bug had bitten, though I didn't take another major vacation until 2012.  I decided I wanted to turn 38 somewhere where there was no chance of snow, so my best friend and I spent a week in Jamaica to ring in 2012 (no snow, but it was the only week that month it was cloudy in Ocho Rios).  And back here in the Pacific Northwest, it dumped snow in Portland on my birthday.  2013 ended up being the year of travel starting with a trip to Vegas in February, Seattle in July and November and a week long trip to Morocco in May, with an overnight stay in Madrid on the way home.  I'm still trying to figure out how to top that!  2013 was also the year of the concert:  Boyz II Men in Vegas, New Kids on the Block with 98 Degrees and Boyz II Men in Seattle (I also went to a Mariner's/Red Sox game to redeem myself of this one) and Train with The Script and Gavin DeGraw as well as Maroon5 and Kelly Clarkson here at home.

In addition to my travels, I've had so many wonderful adventures at home.  I've (sort of) taken up photography, I've learned I love Thai food, I keep saying I'm going to learn how to dance (I did take a line dancing class).  I've taken a rock climbing class and a kayaking class-in which I almost broke my nose.  I've toured a nuclear reactor (not as exciting as it sounds) and I finally completed my first Bridge Pedal, with plans to do it again this year.  And speaking of firsts, in 2010, I did my first Polar Plunge to benefit Special Olympics-something I swore I'd never do again.  On February 8th, I will be doing it again for the 5th year in a row.  There have been so many wonderful adventures in the past few years, I could be here all night and still not list them all.

After James died, I said I would downsize the stuff, then downsize the house.  I've downsized enough to turn two of my bedrooms into rental rooms (so I can travel more), and I'm starting to think about my next house. I sold my beloved Lancer in the summer of 2012 and the day before Thanksgiving, after almost 6 years of "will she or won't she," I sold James's BMW, breaking one of my last remaining ties to him and our life together.  In place of those two cars, I did extensive research (including a color coded spreadsheet, natch), and bought a 2010 Mazda3, which I love and hope to drive into the ground. 

But above all, I learned I can love again.  I'm not in a relationship, nor have I been in one since James died.  I've just had some very special people come into my life that have shown me it's okay if I love them and it's okay if they can't love me back-at least not in the way I'd like them too.  Love, after all, comes in many forms.  They've shown me my heart can break and there's enough people who love me that I would be able to go on; they'll help me pick up the pieces.  They've shown me I don't have to do this all alone, despite how it sometimes feels-how I sometimes make it feel due to my own fears and insecurities.

So now here I sit, wondering what the highlights of my 40's will be.  I have to say spending my birthday sick in bed with the flu does not have the decade off to a good start!  But my 30's, with all their heartbreak and struggles left me strong and in a lot of ways, I feel younger now than I did 10 years ago (thank you, Capricorn trait of aging backwards).  Whatever comes my way, I can do this.  I'm ready.