Saturday, August 27, 2016

A Thank You

It was a Monday morning, June 13th, and I came home from seeing a condo with Kristen. I sat down in the living room and told my parents about the place--what I liked about it, what needed work. "It needs...a lot of work." They knew it wasn't their decision to make, but they offered some sage advice, coming from years of buying-selling-moving-wash-rinse-repeat, and left it for me to decide. A little while later, I emailed Kristen. "Let's do this."

So started the Wild and Absolutely True Adventure of Meg becoming a home owner. I might as well have told my parents I was buying a lemon, adding a ton of sugar, and making lemonade, because in the four weeks since the deal closed, that's pretty much what I have done...and I couldn't have done it without them.

For starters, they are on the front lines of what I refer to (in my head) as Anxiety Central, that foreboding territory in which a woman who ought to feel really excited instead feels completely overwhelmed and worried that she can't afford any of this, that this was the stupidest decision ever, and that maybe she should just get in a rowboat and paddle away, like, yesterday. I'm not particularly easy to live with when I'm anxious. The most benign suggestion can be met with a snappy reply and/or a really snotty eye roll, and I get really bloody moody.

Yet they have cleaned, installed, uninstalled, unstuck, and labored and sweated alongside me all so I can have a comfortable home. There has been some financial help, as well, with the flooring, and offers to help if I need it (I'm trying to do as much of it on my own dime as possible--it's a pride thing--but I'm not above taking some help to ensure I have clean floors instead of guinea pig poop-infested carpet to live, I had a birthday a couple weeks ago). They hired movers for me this weekend so I could get my furniture and boxes out of the storage unit in time to avoid paying another month's rent on it. I have borrowed their van to haul stuff, made them have to buy a new step-ladder because I dripped paint all over the one I'd borrowed from them (bonus, I have a great ladder now!), and probably helped Dad's power tools age about twenty years.

Mom scrubbed every kitchen and bathroom cabinet and drawer, inside and out, and rubbed Murphy's Oil on them until they gleamed. She sweated and toiled with me for days to get the grease and grime left by the former tenants, and has also been the first person who gets the worst of my snottiness when it shows up.

Four different times since I went back to work on August 17, my dad has taken his own personal time to be at my apartment at 8:00 to let someone in for painting or floor install. He has happily done this because he'd rather miss one of his twice-weekly coffee gatherings with his fellow veterans in Lincoln than have me take time off work, or have to be late for work.

Beyond the big things they've done, it's also the little things--like Dad going over while I met the movers at the storage unit this morning and putting every socket and switch cover back on before we stuck furniture in front of them (something I neglected to do after the place got painted last week because the new school year has me going ninety miles per hour and frankly, putting switch covers back on sounded like more than I could deal with).

Little by little, with each passing day, the Filthiest Condo in the World has turned around and become a clean, livable, and pretty place that I can be happy in--and will be, starting next weekend.

It's funny, because the closer I get to moving completely out of Mom and Dad's house, the more I think, "Damn, I'm going to miss them." I'll only be half an hour away, and it's likely they'll see me at least once a week and talk to me often via phone and Facebook--this is nothing like when I went to England. It will be an adjustment, living alone again, and that's why there will be two kittens joining me sometime in the next couple of months.

Meanwhile, Mom and Dad will get one of the crisper drawers back in the fridge, and will no longer have to wade through my smoothie mixes in the freezer. My tea-making stuff won't be prominently displayed on the kitchen counter and I won't grump and pout when I need the washing machine and it is in use--I'll have my own washing machine. When home ownership overwhelms me, they won't be on the front lines of my bad moods...but they'll still be a phone call away, ready to offer whatever help they can.

That's just what they do.

Friday, August 26, 2016


So amazingly, despite my going 90mph the last two weeks, things have gotten done and I have new floors installed...and tomorrow, two brawny movers coming to haul everything out of my storage unit into the condo.

I'll move my person, and the stuff I have here at Mom and Dad's house, next weekend, when I have an extra day to work on it and get the place settled a bit more. I'm not in any huge hurry, and work has been busy enough that I'm jealously guarding my weekend time as much as possible.

As for the floors, tell that story better.

The first three pics are from before he put the base boards

My bedroom--that terrible carpet is GONE!!

Shiny new baseboards in the bathroom. SO CLEAN!!

I knew that new floors and a good paint job would make the place so much better, but I wasn't quite prepared for just what a difference it would make. At my first trip over to see the floors, I took a video of my reaction for Instagram, and it's a lot of delighted laughter and "Oh my God!!"

My blogging has been horrible--I have lots to say, and pictures to share, but with being back at school and all the condo stuff, I've been going, going, going and my energy when I get home (let me just add that I've been keeping up with the badass workouts, too) is pretty much nil.

It will all level out soon enough.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Loo

Over the last week, I've made a couple of trips to my storage unit to start the moving process from there to my new home. I won't move any furniture (aside from one folding card table and two canvas lawn chairs) over until after my new floors are installed, but I figured there's no harm in taking kitchen and bathroom items over now, and starting the process of setting up those rooms.

Because the boxes these rooms' items were in were quite heavy, I opened them in the storage unit and transferred everything into Rubbermaid containers and canvas shopping bags, then made several trips up the stairs from my car to unload.

In this process, I found a few things I had completely forgotten I had, so it's been a bit like Christmas over here.

One such thing was a small sign, which I hung outside the bathroom in my Stockton apartment, that simply says, "The Loo."

Speaking of the loo, it's really looking nice--even Dad said so!

For starters, I've managed to transform the tub. It's still not perfect (it's hard to see in the picture below, but there's still some staining around the drain), but it's clean.

And I managed to do a decent enough job painting...

Between the mirrors was not fun.

Turns out I did an excellent job matching my paint to my decor, while it was still safely packed away in a box.

On Friday, I put up some new shelves I had found at Target. I'll fill them in as I go along. Yesterday, at Cost Plus, I found an adorable little whale.

You can see my little "The Loo" sign in this one.
It's coming together. This week, I've got someone painting the kitchen and living room for me--I just couldn't face doing the vaulted ceiling by myself! On Friday, the floor guy is coming to tear up everything--carpet, linoleum, laminate--and I might just cry tears of joy. He'll come back on Monday of next week to install my new flooring, and once that's done, the place will truly feel clean. No more Essence of Guinea Pig!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Ding, Dong, the Oven's Gone!!

Once upon a time, a condo owner put a semi-decent oven range in a condo...and then never thought of it again. The range was used, abused, and never cleaned for at least three years.

(You think I'm prone to exaggeration?)

When a new owner-to-be came along, it was discovered that the poor oven didn't work...and then it was decided that the owner-to-be would get magical "cash on closing" to buy a new range.

And it was good.

The deal was done, the papers were signed. The new owner made arrangements for the gas to be turned off for a few hours, and for an ace gas/electric plumber to come in and disconnect the oven.

What they found when he pulled it out from the wall was...surprising.

Oven mitt, two pot holders, wooden spoon, a matchbox car,
two tiny plastic toy flutes, half a Hostess donut--hardened, but
not moldy--two pennies, a flip-flop, several toddler toys, way
more crumbs and dust bunnies than should be legal, and one
unemployment letter.

Admit it, you thought I was exaggerating again.

The picture of the "treasure trove" made it's social media and text message rounds. It was widely met with incredulous exclamations of "EW!" and "OMG!" and "HOW DID THEY NEVER BURN THE PLACE DOWN?!"

With the oven uninstalled and the gas line capped, the new owner was able to call in the junk removers...and for $68, they hauled it out of the condo and took it far, far away.

But first, they dropped it down half the stairs.

Yes, that is dried food on the side.

And the new owner set to the disgusting task of cleaning the now-empty space.

In every battle, there is a sacrifice. Much respect to the green
scrubbie that gave it's life.

Once New Owner had taken a scrub pad and a spackling knife to the grout, and a shop vac to the floor, the kitchen was considerably improved.

The End.

Friday, August 12, 2016


Thirty-eight is the atomic number of strontium, a metal. It is the number of slots on American Roulette wheels. It is an even number, divisible by 1, 2, 19, and 38. Otherwise, it's not the most remarkable number out there...but it's my age as of today, August 12.

I suppose it means I'm really pushing 40, but I prefer to live my life one age at a time, so I won't dwell on that. At 38, I am a full-time music teacher, a homeowner, a three-time half marathon finisher, and still the same duck-toting, London-loving, loud-singing Meg I've always been. This year in my life starts off with ever-present possibility for adventure and joy.

May it be so.

Friday, August 05, 2016

The Neighborhood

So far, my experiences in my new community have been really great.

My immediate next-door neighbors are an older gentleman and his adult daughter he lives with. I met him a few days ago (but haven't seen her yet) and his speech indicates the possibility of a stroke at some point. He was very friendly, and we shook hands and exchanged names. I told him I'm a quiet neighbor, "except you might hear me yelling at the 49ers games."

"We share a team!" he replied with a delighted laugh.

On Wednesday, I was locking the front door to leave for the day, with a plastic bucket full of dirty rags, a paper bag, my gym bag, and my purse all balanced. Down the stairs, in front of the building that mine faces, two boys--I'd guess about twelve or thirteen--were horsing around, as boys do, but quietly. One glanced up and said, "Do you need any help?"

"Oh, I've got it, but thanks!" I said, tickled that I seem to have some respectful kids nearby.

I see a lot of people walking small dogs around the complex, and all will return a smile and "hello." I've talked to a few and told them I'm new to the complex. I'm received warmly and welcomed in.

We come from all types of backgrounds, it seems--I've seen every age and shape and color, and it pleases me that the community is quiet and harmonious. There is 24/7 security as part of our HOA fees, to make sure no one is too loud, too dangerous, or parking in the wrong spot.

It's a nice community, with two pools--sparkling clean, with restrooms and showers--and spas. The landscaping is very nicely maintained (except, inexplicably, one tiny patch right in front of my building).

When I first came to see a unit, Kristin and I spoke to a resident who said she loves it, and gushed about how peaceful it is there. I think I'll enjoy living here.

That's my unit (upstairs). The building was recently repainted
by HOA.

The view from my bedroom--trees. There's a water park nearby,
but I only hear it when the windows are open, and only faintly.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Lost In Home Depot: A Music Teacher Buys a Home

This will be the title to the best-selling sequel to my memoir about teaching, Boomwhacked; A Music Teacher's Life.

It's apt. On Monday, I wandered the massive aisles of the Roseville Home Depot in some extra time before a workout, and...I got lost. 

But seriously, where are they hiding the
window coverings?!

As of today, I'm officially one week into this home ownership thing, and I've had approximately 250 moments where I've thought to myself, "Maybe I should have just rented," but mostly, I'm finding my way along. I knew going in that making this place livable would be a challenge--I will not move in while those carpets are in the bedrooms, and before I can put new floors in, I want to paint. And before I paint, I have to clean, etc. I didn't think it would take a full week to clean...but it has. 

And that is with the help of Mom, Dad, and the awesome, amazing, incredible Sarah, who volunteered a good chunk of her weekend to scrub walls with me.

I spent most of last Friday cleaning the master bathroom shower fit for use--it was filthy, and stained. I spent another three hours yesterday ripping out the caulk between shower and tub (upper arms of steel, seriously), and taking a razor to the stains on the bottom of the tub. Oddly, it works. 

This was Friday, July 29.

After a bunch of scrubbing--still stained.

When I started, this was brown. 

Yesterday, I started on the caulk.

I actually broke a razor. 

Caulk out, most of the stains out. It's not perfect, but I can
live with it.

For every major success (the tub is now safe for my bare feet to encounter), there seems to be a setback, like my washing machine not draining. I try not to let those get me down.

Thing is, I'm doing okay, really. A few weeks ago, Kristen called me about the home warranty. "Remember, we asked the seller to pay for it, and he agreed, up to $400...thing is, if we cover..." (this is where I forgot what she said about five minutes after the call) " will cost $470, so I made the decision on your behalf that you'd pay that $70 difference. I know you well enough to know you'll want that coverage."

"Oh, of course!" And I did, but like I said, five minutes after the call, something else grabbed my attention, and I forgot just what that $70 was covering.

On Tuesday, when my washing machine wouldn't drain, I sent a frantic text to Kristen: "Is it covered by the warranty?! I can't remember!" Kristen, being amazing, called me, pulled her car over to look it up on her iPad because I was at the condo and my paperwork was at home, and said, "Yes! It's covered--remember that extra $70?"

"I do remember."

"That's why your washing machine is covered."
Well Hallelujah and pass the potatoes. There's a weight off. The washing machine repairman called later that day, and he'll be out tomorrow to take a look at it.


I'm learning the most odd and amazing things, and sometimes it's seriously just trial, error, and Google. For example, I can buy a new stove, and anyone I buy it from is happy to install it, but they won't uninstall the old one. They'll haul it off, but they will not remove it from the gas line. 

So I called PG&E (that's Pacific Gas and Electric, for the non-local readers) and asked what I should do. They gave me this complicated spiel about how I can buy a special valve and cap at the hardware store and they can shut off my gas temporarily so I can put that cap on, then turn my gas back on so I have hot water even while I don't have a stove. 


Except...I've never done this and I need some serious help. Can PG&E put the valve on for me?

"Oh, no. We don't do that."

I was in tears this afternoon (for about five minutes), until I reached an electrician/plumber (not the water pipe kind of plumber, the gas kind) in Sacramento and explained my dilemma. 

"Oh, we can do that."

"Even in that tiny space of time I have with the gas turned off on Monday?"

"Sure! I've got it all set up for you."

If this had been an in-person conversation, I probably would have kissed him.

The bottom line in this mini-adventure is that I need a new stove and oven--the one I have is not only fucking filthy (pardon the language, but the former tenants bring it out in me), it's not working. I got cash at closing to buy a new one, so now it's just a matter of safely uninstalling the old while looking for a new.

Oh, and just in case you think I'm prone to exaggeration: 


I knew going into this that the place needed a deep, deep cleaning, fresh paint, and new floors. It's all worth it...but there have been some surprises along the way.

Surprises like random loose wires and an electrical outlet
in the master bedroom closet. 
But for every loose wire (turns out I could hook up an alarm system--Kristen had her boyfriend help me get it safely tucked in the walls, and he fixed a couple of faulty electrical outlets in the 2nd bedroom), or bit of guinea pig poop (yes) I find in a corner, there's usually a better surprise in store--like my ability to dismantle the poorly-installed closet shelving systems in both bedrooms with only my own badass muscles and one electric screwdriver. 

Never underestimate the power of Meg and power tools.

All that? GONE.
And if my physical strength isn't exactly surprising--I work out, you know--what is surprising is that aside from short moments of stress, I'm really just shoving my way through the minor setbacks and what is slooowwwwly emerging is a clean, cute condo that is going to look amazing when I'm finished with it. 

"You'll never be finished," Matt said yesterday, with a grin.

"You mean things will keep going wrong?!" I said, with maybe a small note of panic in my voice.

"Oh, no! I mean, you're always going to be wanting to improve little things, making it even better."

He's so right. Before too long, I won't need a map at Home Depot.