Monday, February 22, 2010

A Tragic Play, Act II

Remember Johnny the Cow, the hamster? It was about one year ago that we took Sam to the pet store, after he'd become successfully potty-trained, and allowed him to pick out a small, furry rodent of his very own.

For a brief period last fall, Johnny practiced his escape skills religiously. He was like a tiny MacGyver, fashioning a rope out of bits of his fur and creating little parachutes out of scraps of lettuce and carrot tops. At least, that's what I assume based on the fact that he kept managing not only to get out of his cage, but also to drop the 4+ feet to the floor without ever getting hurt. In fact, I was starting to think he was invincible. Once, he managed to escape unnoticed while I was folding laundry. Then I saw the dog start tossing around one of his squeaky toys, but upon closer inspection I realized that it was actually Johnny. I screamed and monkey-clapped my hands while Happy dropped the hamster and ran to hide under the chair, freaked out at my display. Whatever works.

Johnny was perfectly fine, in spite of his wild adventure. I put him back in his cage, and wound industrial-strength packing tape around his cage everywhere there was a seam. That finally did the trick. All else was fine until a few months ago, when seemingly overnight, Natalie took an intense interest in poor Johnny.

She'd push a kitchen chair over to the bookshelf on top of which Johnny's cage rested. Then she'd climb up on the chair, pop open the latch to his cage, and take him down to love him, and pet him, and squeeze him, and call him George.

I'd remind her that she could only take Johnny out if mom or dad were there to help. She took my advice under consideration but ultimately decided she could handle it herself. I reminded her that if she chose not to listen, she'd spend some time in her room. She took my advice under consideration and decided that she would start being sneaky about taking Johnny out.

So then. One day as I was in the office checking my email, she brought Johnny's exercise ball in to me and said sadly, "Johnny has a bad owie". Poor Johnny was lying limply in the bottom of the exercise ball, all life gone from his tiny body. Natalie told me she "squished him in her hand". I have no idea what that means, since I know she wouldn't have intentionally hurt him. My best guess is that she tripped while she was carrying him, and...well, you can guess the rest.

I'm still sick about it. He was such a friendly, trusting little thing and I should have done more to protect him. Sam took it pretty hard, too, and that night we had some pretty deep discussions about what happens when you die. I think what broke my heart the most was when he started asking where he would live when Mom and Dad die. Even though I tell him that Mom and Dad will almost definitely be around for a very long time, he continues to worry.

Since "the incident", I've been borrowing a lot of kids' books from the library on death and dying. I should be embarrassed to admit this, but there's one called A Story for Hippo that had me sobbing by the end. I hid that one away so Sam wouldn't ask to read it again. There's a reason why I've never watched "Beaches" or "Terms of Endearment" a second time, as great as the movies were. I am a mess.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Tragic Play, In Three Parts

(Or, how I spent the past six months)

Act I:
One of our tenants buys their own house and gives us 30 days notice that they are moving out of our rental duplex. Yay for them! They managed to secure a mortgage even in these tough economic times! Am genuinely happy for them.

Spend much money, time, and woe readying their apartment for re-rental. Finally put an ad in the paper, interview many potential tenants over the phone while my children screech in the background. After each call, scratch the interviewee's name off the list and write "over my dead body" in the "notes" column.

Finally get a call from a promising tenant. She has a glowing letter of recommendation from a previous landlord! She is from the area and has a seeming stable rental history! She has a boyfriend who has a good job and between them they easily make enough money to pay the rent!

Call the landlord listed on the letter of recommendation. Reach the business office of a local trailer park. Ignore my initial reaction to this news. After all, not everyone who lives in or has lived in a trailer park is so-called "trailer trash". Not fair to stereotype.

Money exchanges hands. Sign rental agreement with new tenants. Breathe sigh of relief that our ordeal is almost at an end and we will soon have enough incoming money to pay our bills again.

Receive call from boyfriend, five days after lease begins. He explains that he never moved in to the duplex because they had a "little fight" and he "had to be taken away by the cops" and now he can "no longer talk to her". He requests his money back. As all of the money we received for first+last month's rent came from him, I respectfully decline his request.

One week later: Our telephone rings at 9:30 p.m. Caller ID reads, "[redacted] Police Department". Ron had just returned home from work, so I mercifully avoid having a stroke at the thought that he was in a car accident. Police tell us new tenant is not answering her door and they need a key to get in.

Ron goes over to the duplex, speaks to the police who inform him there have been repeated calls to this residence in the past couple of weeks, and due to a new city ordinance we will soon be receiving bills from the police department.

Variations on the above scene continue ad nauseum.

Fast-forward to today. We still have not received any rent from the tenant since November. (No longer tenants (plural) as the judge wouldn't lift the restraining order against her boyfriend even after she begged for it to be once she realized "he really does love her" and "he doesn't mean to do it" and "it's really her fault for making him so angry".)

She was given notice to vacate by February 25th, and she claims she will be out at that point. We will see. I really would like to avoid the time and cost of a court-driven eviction, but it may still come to that.

So, there you have it. That has been the main issue these past six months, and it is amazing how this situation has affected every area of my life. The one good thing I can take from this whole mess, is that I have discovered just how little money we can actually live on. And I now know enough about rental law to pursue a new career, if need be.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Has it really been that long?

Wow. I guess I haven't posted since October. Where does the time go? Not coincidentally, October is when I started feeling overwhelmed by life and I had to give myself some time to regain my sanity. I don't have time to go into the details right now, but it's nothing that will matter 5 years from now so I really have nothing to complain about. (Not that that will stop me.)

I've been meaning to create a new blog for, oh, two years now? Something like that. Since Natalie stopped nursing (before she was a year, she's two AND A HALF now) and my old blog title became irrelevant and outdated. And besides, I track my google searches and there were some search terms relating to my old blog name that made me feel yucky and uncomfortable at the thought of those people clicking through to my blog and looking at pictures of my precious, innocent children. So, out with the old and in with the new.

I will try to update soon with the events of the past few months but now I need to go break up a fight. Sigh.