Monday, October 31, 2016

How to Be a Condo Owner, Part Three: They're Both Mine

When I first started the whole process of finding a home to buy, I was pretty adamant that a one-bedroom home would be a deal-breaker. Though we gamely looked at a couple of one-bedroom condos, Kristen and I agreed that a second bedroom was necessary. Most places have small-ish bedrooms and living areas, and I've got my craft table, a lot of books, and a piano.

The piano is non-negotiable. I've had that thing since high school.

For bathrooms, I pretty much figured I'd be stuck with one, or if I was lucky, I'd also get a little half bath for guests to use. As it happens, I ended up with two full bathrooms, and within a few weeks of living here, started laughing at myself as I realized that even when I was literally sitting closer to the second bathroom, I'd still take a few extra steps to use "my" bathroom.

Newsflash, dear brain: They're both mine.

Still, we do develop our little habits, and when you roll out of bed first thing in the morning needing the loo, the one that is three feet from your bed is obviously most convenient. Still, I started intentionally using the other toilet from time to time, just because I can.

Then I noticed that the toilet in the mistress bathroom was constantly running, and--long story short--I am waiting to have a plumber come to fix it because he's also going to fix the leaky bathtub faucet, but before he can, I had to figure out how to turn my water off, which required calling the association's maintenance guys. This, in turn, required them coming out to look for my water shut-off (which I saw in July during the inspection but asking me to remember anything from July is ridiculous because July was escrow and I took in way too much information) so they could show me the where and how of it.

Back to the toilet.

I decided that for now, to avoid wasting water in a drought, and also to avoid having another ridiculous water bill (holy water waste, Batman, why did the previous owner never realize this place's utilities were sky-high because of the dripping?! Oh, yeah, he was a dumbass.), I turned the water off on the mistress bathroom toilet, and am exclusively using the 2nd bathroom toilet only. I still shower in "my" bathroom, though.

It's all very weird and slightly hilarious. This week I can finally call my plumber back and set up a time to fix the bathtub faucet and the toilet (he assures me both are easy fixes), and then get on with my life of having two fully-functioning bathrooms...and not having to stumble across a dark condo at 5:30 every morning just so I can use the loo.

Sunday, October 30, 2016


A few weeks ago, someone on Facebook posted a video about high-functioning anxiety.

I think I was at work, at about 7:00 in the morning, drinking my tea and gearing up to get some stuff done. As I watched it, I started to cry.

It's not exactly a secret around here that I deal with anxiety--and while most of the time my tone about it may seem joke-y or blasé, I'm not being cute. I truly do find myself feeling unaccountably and irrationally anxious over things that, in my mind anyway, I shouldn't. I think I try to joke it off a little, to keep people from worrying about me. Those who know me best see right through my jokes. 

It can be something as stupid as a leaf blower--a constant, loud, whining leaf blower--being used nearby--or, you know, a power saw in the condo below mine. Or it can be the non-stop feeling that I'm never going to get everything done, that each unchecked item on my To Do List is a small failure, and those small failures are adding up into Big Loser. 

My life is never exactly dull. Hey! I'm going to England! To Washington! To Antioch! To Stockton! To Lincoln! I'm buying a home!! I mostly roll with change pretty well and figure it's just part of the adventure. But now that I'm putting down roots, I have this near-constant fear that it's all going to be yanked out from under me. I have a home--a good one, despite it's worn-down parts--and a really great job. And since August, every day, I've lived in some form of terror that it's all going to be yanked away from me.

The boss comments on a behavior issue that happened in one of my classes, and I immediately go into fight-or-flight mode. I'm not aggressive, just quick to defend myself, to try to show that I'm on it, I've got this. I have enough clarity to realize I do this because my boss in Stockton blamed every pre-teen moment on me, even as every other teacher dealt with the same behaviors in their classes. A kid did something naughty, and it would be my fault. My current bosses are not like that. But old habits die hard.

If I'm not fighting to prove that I'm worthy of this job, I go into total flight mode, driving home with tears in my eyes thinking, "I'll just find another job. The kids will be better at another school." (They won't. Kids are kids are kids are...) Or I hunker down at home in a bubble of avoidance, figuring I'll deal with it tomorrow. Or the next day.

Fight or flight is an excellent survival adaptation. But it was never meant to be a 24/7 thing.

Several months ago, I sat sobbing in the doctor's office at Kaiser, having just behaved like an asshole to the physician's assistant over my blood pressure reading. I apologized to the doctor again and again, and cried, and grabbed more and more tissues from the box on the counter as she sat on her little rolling stool and looked up at me on the exam table with the kindest eyes, saying nothing until I had to pause to breathe.

Then, "I can see that you are having some very deep anxiety."

That simple observation, made in a soothing voice, stopped me in my tracks. She understood.

I told her how many changes I've been through in the last few years. Jobs coming and jobs going. A great new job, but still an adjustment. Losing two cats. Buying a new car. You know, life.

She asked if I wanted to take a low dose of anxiety medication. 

" I run. I work out. I think that helps me a lot."

And it an extent. It certainly doesn't hurt, but I feel more and more like it's not enough to really help me at the deepest level. As my anxieties get bigger, there's only so much that a really great workout can do to help.

So for a couple of weeks now, I've been thinking that maybe it's time to go back to her and get some help. Start the anxiety meds again, maybe see if I can talk to a counselor once in a while. I want to take charge of my health so that I can enjoy the really great job I have...because the saddest thing of all is that I really haven't been enjoying it for the last couple of months. It's just been a job, instead of the career I love, and fought so hard to keep.

I made an appointment for this coming week. 

The best analogy I can come up with is that it's like being in a boat that's taking on water. I'm frantically bailing the water out by the bucketful, and mostly staying afloat. People sail by and offer help, but I paste a smile on my face and tell them, "Oh, I've got it! I'm totally fine!" 

I'm not fine. 

But I will be.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

How to Be a Condo Owner, Part Two: Repairs

I've said it before, and not much has changed: I hate my dishwasher.

Okay, okay...yes, I'm very glad to have a dishwasher at all--I have lived without one a couple of times--and so what if it's noisy enough to rival the power saws downstairs? So what that it rocks forward when you pull the trays out because it was installed poorly? It gets the dishes cl--

Oh, hell. No, it doesn't.

At least I have a warranty.

Today was my warranty appointment, and while they had told me it would be between ten and two, he was running early and able to be here at 9:15. He figured out the problem very quickly, after chiding me that it's not supposed to rock forward like that ("Yes, I know, it was like that when I bought the place."), and then proceeded to fish a small boatload of paper, plastic, and who-knows-what-else out of all the places where water is supposed to run through while I turned slightly green.

"You're not supposed to put these things in a dishwasher!" he lectured, while I nodded weakly and said, "Yes, I know, I didn't. I'm not stupid" (the last part in my head only).

And so we spent a lovely half-hour together, with me trying valiantly reminding myself that "he was mansplaining" is not a good homicide defense, while he repeatedly told me what was wrong with the machine, and that I ought to not put stuff that will clog the dishwasher in the dishwasher.

Finally, he appeared to be finished, and stood up. Out of curiosity, he peered at the little cylindrical part that's on the sink (damned if I know what it's called, but here's a picture), lifted the metal "cap" part off, and made a noise of dismay that I felt in my toes.

"Does this leak water into the sink?"

"Well, yes."

I mean, I've never seen a dishwasher do that in my life, and yes, I thought it was odd, but--and don't laugh at me, please, I'm new to this owning of appliances business--I didn't think it was a bad thing, really.

"It's not supposed to do that. See here? It is missing a cap, it's been broken off."

"Of course it has." (This, I actually said out loud.)

"I wonder why..." and then he started muttering, and opened the cupboard under the sink, pulled out my garbage can, and made another sound of dismay while I stood there wondering how much jail time I'd get for torching my own home. (Too much to make it worth it.)

"Oh, it's not supposed to do this, you need a plumber!!!"

Long story short, and just imagine me telling it in a Slavic accent:

The part on top of the sink (let's just call it the cylinder) is where the water goes after it drains from the dishwasher. It comes up a small tube and is directed back down by the little cap into a larger tube...which travels down under the kitchen sink through a pipe that meets up with the sink drain under the garbage disposal. The pipe is supposed to go in as straight a line as possible from the cylinder to the drain...mine is a big long U, meaning that water would back up in there if it drained, causing my dishwasher all kinds of angst, and possibly a medium-sized explosion that would flood my kitchen.

So, because the previous owner of this home was a cheap-ass dumb-fuck (*ahem* pardon my French), the only obvious solution was to not actually fix the damned problem, but to break off the little cap in the cylinder so my dishwasher water drains into the sink, and now I have the joy of finding a plumber and also trying to convince the home warranty people that this ought to be covered--and if I can't do that, hoping that my homeowner's insurance covers "cheap-ass dumb-fuck former owners who never fixed anything without squeezing the pennies out of his ass."

Finally, about an hour and fifteen minutes after he'd arrived, I ushered my chatty repairman to the door and felt a few tears well up in my eyes. It seems like nothing about this condo has been easy, but I suppose if it was, it wouldn't be Wild and Absolutely True.

But hey, at least my dishwasher doesn't rock anymore.

Monday, October 24, 2016

How To Be a Condo Owner, Part One: Noise

Living in a small condo, where one whole building is comprised of eight units, means that inevitably, some of your noise is going to leak out. Fortunately, we have thick walls here, so I often forget that there's a whole unit I don't even see backed up to my bedroom and bathroom. Even better, my next-door neighbors, whom I share a front balcony with, do not seem to share noise or get any of my own. The only noise I can hear, from my living area, is when they open and close their front door. Maybe some light footsteps as they walk down the stairs. I can handle this. Plus, I've met both (a retired Air Force father and his adult daughter) and they are both really nice, non-intrusive neighbors.

The traffic noise at night can be a bit obnoxious--every once in a while there's an asshole with a big engine and a small penis on Elverta Road and that can make me cringe. On weekends, hobbyists ride their motorbikes around the field next to my building, which is annoying but not enough to set me on edge.

I can hear the Antelope High School marching band practicing as I type this, but only because I have my sliding glass door open. I'm near enough the stadium to hear the Friday night games, but I love that noise--it's the noises of my own youth, and they're finished at a decent hour, anyway.

What I can't handle, however--what really, really grinds my gears and sets my anxiety off (I'm not being cute--I actually get anxious) is when the unit below mine has construction going bedtime.

As it happens, the unit below mine sold shortly after I took possession of the Rodent Lair. With their escrow and closing and all that fun stuff, I was finally moved in before any real signs of life came about down there, and so far, it's all been renovation.

Now, it took me almost five weeks to clean, paint, clean, put new floors in, clean some more, and move in, so I get it. But my work was largely quiet to my neighbors...and it was all done during daytime hours. The noisiest work I had done was having all the old floors taken out and new ones put in...and that took three days.

So I've been a little...pissy...that for weeks now, there's been hammering, crunching and--yes--power saws roaring, at night time.

I started practicing my tap dancing. I've never actually learned how to tap dance, mind you, but I figured leading with my heels was good and sure enough, it provides a nice thunk. But it didn't stop the noise below, and indeed, things came to a head last week when, at 9:00 (for the record, I get up at 5:30, so yes, I'm in bed at 9:00 most nights, at least reading, if not passing out after a day of teaching and a big workout) one night, I could hear a power saw going right under my bedroom.

Hell hath no fury like a Leo with anxiety trying to go to bed.

I tried stomping, dancing, the whole bit, but alas, the asshole below me kept screeching away with the saw. As my heart rate went up and my blood pressure started to rise, I reminded myself to take deep breaths--surely they'd be stopping soon.


Then it hit me.

I pay $215 a month in HOA fees, and there are noise ordinances in this community. Now, most of them stipulate 10:00 as the time to stop making noise, but the language is loose enough to interpret it all as "if it's 9:00 and someone is using a mother-effing power saw in your building, they are, indeed, an asshole, and you have a right to get a decent night's sleep."

Anyway, that $215 covers a lot of things--pool maintenance, gardening, building maintenance--but one thing I really love is that we have 24/7 security. I mean, a real, live human being roaming the complex, not sitting in his office eating donuts and watching porn on his computer. I've seen a couple of different guys out and about, greeting residents, vetting the door-to-door salesmen, and in general, keeping an eye out for all of us who pay $215 a month in fees to feel safe in our homes.

I get the feeling they know who belongs here, who doesn't, and they act accordingly.

So as I sat bolt-upright in my bed, fuming and trying not to explode into a fit of tears and loud cussing out the window, it occurred to me: call security.

I'm that person who saves the number for the security guys in her phone. It just seems smart to have easy access to help when I need it, like if some creeper was trying to bug me in the parking lot at night, or something. Or, you know, when there's a power saw at bedtime.

So at 9:15, I called.

"Hi. I'm in Whoville Village in Antelope...and I know the noise ordinances don't really start 'til 10:00 but I have to be up at 5:30 and I'm a teacher and I'm really tired and stressed and the unit below me is using a POWER SAW right now and I just really need it to stop so I can go to bed."

Whether it was my talent at run-on sentences, or that the guy on the other end just really agreed that using a power saw that late in the evening is just Wrong On Many Levels, he called our on-site dude and had him walk over to talk to the unit below.

From my darkened dining room, I hovered and listened as he knocked and told them, in perfectly friendly tones, that there had been a complaint about the power saw (he didn't even know which unit had called, so he couldn't tell them, either), and, you know, maybe they could call it a day?

Thankfully, they did. And since then, all noise has stopped at a reasonable hour, which leaves me wondering if they had absolutely no bloody clue that using loud equipment in a 900 square foot condo that shares walls with two other units and a ceiling/floor with another might not be kind of asshole-ish.

Do people even think anymore?

Because for real, I was concerned, through the whole process of turning the Rodent Lair in to Casa Meg, that every project had the capacity to annoy my neighbors. I didn't want to be that neighbor, making noise and being obnoxious. I'm told, by the retired Air Force guy next door, that they hardly noticed except for seeing someone going in and out with old and then new flooring.

I don't begrudge anyone their right to remodel their unit upon buying it...all I ask is they let existing tenants around them have some measure of peace and quiet after a certain point in the day.

Otherwise, I'm investing in some tap shoes.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Rainy Day Idiocy

About a month ago, I got a text from Sarah inviting me to join a group of "drinkers with a hiking problem" on an October sunset hike in the old (unused, I was assured) train tunnels near Donner Lake. "Sounds awesome!" I replied, and the plan was set.

Last week, as it became apparent that most of Northern California would be getting rain this weekend--make that rain and wind, actually--I wondered if the event would be postponed. It was not. 

"You still in?" Sarah texted.

"Sure!" I texted back. Hey, a little rain never hurt me.

So yesterday, a merry band of idiots set out to hike in the Sierra Nevadas during a rain storm. The temperature without wind chill was in the low 40s, which is "fucking freezing" for the woman who lives in the Sacramento Valley, even if she did live in England for a year, and then Washington State. Hey, that was over a decade ago.

That's not to say that the day wasn't fun. I had a great time, even as I shivered in my rain-soaked shoes. Every once in a while, you just have to do something stupid, right?

I met Sarah and her dad Mike at Sarah's place at about 12:30, ready to go with my fleece-lined, rain-proof hooded coat (if it was good enough for London in February...) and a small bag of snacks to offer up. Shortly after we congregated, a fourth member of our ride party, Timarie, arrived, and we started making our way into the mountains.

What always amazes me about California is how quickly you can go from being in a valley that is basically at sea level to being at about 6,000 feet. It didn't take us long to get up to the Donner Lake area, but some of our hiking group were lagging behind, so instead of waiting for them at the parking area near the tunnels, we stopped at a comfy little restaurant bar to start in on the drinking part of the day and to use their restrooms. 

Fireball shots for Sarah and I.


Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain.

Inside was cozy.

There was money on the ceiling. Apparently locals and seasonal
workers leave it there with stuff written on it.

Irish coffee. 

Merry band of idiots about to leave a warm, comfortable bar to go hiking
in the mountains in the rain.

Perfect weather for hiking!! 
When we got to the entrance to the tunnel, it was pouring rain and the wind was kicking up a little. We all dashed as quickly as we could to the first bit of tunnel, but it became quickly apparent that the tunnels become a small creek when it rains. I was grateful we all had flashlights (and grateful to Sarah for saying, "Do you have one?" before we left and then handing me one of her extras when I said, "Uh-uh, should I?").

The first entrance. You can see the water flowing in.


The tunnels are heavily graffiti'd , which makes them interesting to look the parts where you can see.

Starting to doubt my own sanity.
 It was about this time that I realized I'd left my nice camera in the car (oops) and only had an iPhone with which to take pictures.

The light at the end of the tunnel. 

A short break between tunnels. 

Cali came along. He loved all the rain, but was one cold little
rubber ducky. 

Small waterfall

There's a couple of dudes up there.

Dark. This is where I was very happy to have that flashlight.


Yes, I'm worth hiking in cold rain. 

By this time, my Irish coffee had caught up to me, and I needed a bathroom. Thing is, there are no bathrooms in train tunnels, old or new. Sarah had brought toilet paper as a just-in-case measure, so I grabbed a wad of that, stationed Sarah as a guard on one side of a pillar off to the side of the tunnel, and...

Yes. I peed in a tunnel. I know I'm not the first, nor will I be the last.

(Between this and dying my hair purple, I hardly know myself.)

We stopped to eat and have some hot coffee. People had brought chairs (I didn't, and it was fine because standing and moving kept me warmer). Someone had brought candles, and another person a small music player, so we had a small party in a dark tunnel during a rainstorm.

I brought cheese, crackers, salami, and pickle bites. 

Sarah brought hot coffee and Kahlua, which was a WIN.

Winning with coffee.

We are not losers who bomb. 
In better weather, we'd have done the whole tunnel (about two-and-a-half miles), but it was just too cold and our feet were soaked through.

We stopped back at the same bar/restaurant on our way out, to warm up.  

I got home around 9:30, and wasted no time in peeling off everything and jumping into a hot shower. I was in there longer than a California-loving drought-watcher really ought to be, but damn, it felt amazing to warm up. 

So yes, we were idiots, but it was also great fun. I'd love to hike the tunnels again in better weather at some point, for sure. 

Sunday, October 02, 2016


I've had one of those weekends where I keep finding things that are exactly what I want for the condo...and while this does, indeed, make me very happy, it also makes my checking account a little nervous.

Case in point:

On Friday, I went to Target, and one of the things that was on my mind (but not my shopping list) was a set of black wall shelves. I checked them out and lo and behold...a great set of four shelves was on sale. I snapped them up, took them home, and discovered they came with two picture frames!

I put them up in the office yesterday, to display some of my Snoopy items.

While I was in there, I moved my desk and baker's rack to the window wall, and I like the set-up much better already.

Not a bad little office/music room. There's even room for
me to eventually add a futon.

If the shelves weren't enough, I had put the idea in my head that a matching pair of wall sconces (for candles, not electric lights) would be adorable on either side of my china hutch. I looked on Amazon but decided that ultimately, it would be more fun to find something while out and about--to go hunting.

Yesterday, I met my friend Meghan for brunch in Historic Folsom, and after our meal, we wandered into some of the little chi-chi shops along Sutter Street. And of course, in one of them--one of those "Shabby Chic Vintage" shops, I found a pair of wall sconces that had me staring at a wall, blinking rapidly, and thinking, "That's it. These are exactly what I didn't know what I was looking for."

Everything about them fits right in with my decor, and I knew they'd look fantastic on my teal accent wall.  (Not pictured, a plastic tray on the floor with food for my sweet house guest, Bella Blue.)

It's not even a room in its own right, but it's the world's cutest dining room.

After buying the sconces (not...outrageous, but not cheap, either...), I headed back towards Antelope, but along the way, I stopped at a little shop in Orangevale that Mom had told me about called Finder's Keepers. It was much the same as the shop in Folsom, and there, I found a marvelous metal coffee cup cutout (we're calling it a teacup in this household).

And then I stopped at JoAnn and found the adorable tea-themed prints I'd been eyeing were now on sale for 60% off and the one I loved most could be had for about seven bucks.

So now my blank kitchen wall has something pretty.

The little pop of red is perfect, right?!

Notice that everything I found this weekend matches my decor perfectly and fits my personality perfectly, as well.

Today, I've stayed home, because as fun as it is finding things, a lady's got to be frugal, too.