Archive for February, 2012

When you’re a renter, you’re not in control

Sunday, February 26th, 2012

One of the bright spots in selling our house and becoming renters was that we wouldn’t be the ones responsible for maintenance issues in our home. The thought that we could just call the landlord when the disposal quit working or the fence needed repairing sounded really good to us.

There was one factor we didn’t take into account in our thinking, and that was the type of landlord we might have.

Mind you, our landlord is not evil. In fact, they are a perfectly delightful couple – a retired HP software engineer and a surgeon – it’s just that they have a lot of other things going on in their lives and tending to a 1600 square foot condo 100 miles away from them isn’t as much a priority as caring for the horses on their ranch.

When we signed our rental agreement, we were actually dealing with their 19-year-old daughter. At the time, she wanted to go into property management so I suppose having her act as our landlord seemed like an ideal opportunity for some on-the-job training. But there was obviously tension between her and her mother about items on the rental agreement.

After not having my phone calls and emails returned, it was apparent that real estate was a passing fancy for her – she’s now studying to be an EMT – and mom and dad are reluctantly back in the landlord role.

So we’re at their mercy for getting the dryer, all the lights in the kitchen and eating area, and downstairs toilet fixed.

When the washing machine spewed water that dripped from the second floor to the first, they called the contractor they had used a couple of years ago when a similar incident happened. The landlord, the contractor and I all met at our house to assess the damage and when everyone left, I felt confident that I would be hearing from the contractor shortly to get the dryer properly vented and make sure there wasn’t any lasting water damage.

Well, it turns out that the contractor had been holding a grudge against our landlord for the past two years over $400 that he said he was owed but never paid. The contractor said he wasn’t going to do any work until he was paid what was owed him. The landlord has paid the disputed amount but is furious about it.  So who is actually going to come and take care of the growing list of maintenance issues is very much TBD.

I haven’t felt so squeezed in the middle since I sat between my two daughters on the Scrambler at last year’s fair.

In the meantime, I have gotten to know all the Laundromats within three miles of our house, we have moved a pole lamp from the bedroom to the kitchen so we have some light downstairs, and we have two other bathrooms that have working plumbing.

A little inconvenient but not unworkable for now. We may be glad we only signed a six month lease.

Ligonberries and lamps

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

The one thing that our daughter, Jennifer, misses about our old house is the color of her room. She and her older sister spent hours pouring over paint chips at Lowe’s until Jennifer settled on a Martha Stewart color called “Lavender Soap.” When she picked it out, I thought it seemed a little gray and dull. But she proved her good taste because once it was on the walls of her room, it was beautiful. Lavender’s calming qualities seemed to overtake the room in spite of the swirling chaos of books, papers, clothes and shoes spread across her floor and desk.

The color of her room in our new place is sort of a bleached yellow. It’s not objectionable; it’s just not reflective of her taste. So ever since we moved almost four months ago, I have promised her a trip to IKEA so she could pick out some accessories to make her room feel more like her own and less like a Hampton Inn.

For Steve, an afternoon at IKEA sounded like even less fun than an afternoon at Nordstrom Rack so he decided to make it a work day. I was happy to have a reason to procrastinate doing the taxes so President’s Day seemed like the ideal day for Jennifer and I to have a shopping excursion.

I really enjoy going to IKEA because it might be the closest I’ll ever get to visiting a foreign country. When I’m there, I can pretend I’m in Europe; all the signs are in a different language and I hardly ever hear anyone speaking English. Who cares that all the words are made up and they throw umlauts over every vowel?

After fortifying ourselves with Swedish meatballs and elderflower juice at the IKEA café when we got there, we entered the labyrinth. That place has more nooks and crannies than a Thomas’s English Muffin.

One thing I love about IKEA is the slightly scaled-down size of everything. It has the same feel as Main Street USA inDisneylandwhere all the buildings are three-quarters of actual size. It’s all so cute and cozy, like I’m in a little girls playhouse – especially the pink kitchen with the faux bonbons. It makes me want to transplant the whole set up right into my house.

IKEA is one of those places that you can feel like you’ve been taken into another dimension when you finally re-emerge into sunlight, so knowing that we could loose all track of time if we weren’t careful, we sped pretty quickly through the rooms and into the downstairs Marketplace.

As Jennifer said, so many patterns! How to achieve the right zen between bold and delicate for a new duvet cover and pillows. But Jennifer did it – a big circular pattern on the coverlet and a complementary, more colorful small print on the throw pillows. Then it was onto Lamp Land…that’s when I called Steve and said he had better send a search and rescue party with a St. Bernard with a cask of Aquavit into the bowels of IKEA lest my shriveled corpse be found with my fingers still clasping the “Rodd” (that’s the “Swedish” name for the pole lamp) on Tuesday morning.

I barely escaped with my life and a bag of frozen meatballs.

Fit to be dried

Sunday, February 12th, 2012

For the past two weeks, I have been living without a dryer. Calling the big white machine next to the washing machine a “dryer” was a misnomer. It was really more of a “tumbler” because I would put in the wet clothes, turn it on, and two hours later the clothes were very dizzy and warm but every bit as wet as they were before I had added another $10 to my PG&E bill.

We called the landlord and she arranged for a Sears service tech to come have a look; the dryer is less than two years old. It turned out that the dryer works fine, the problem was with the venting system. So the next step was scheduling someone to unclog or unkink the hose that vents to the outside.

An appointment was made. All last week I was looking forward to Wednesday because that was the day when the repairman was coming and I would have a working dryer again. No more sheets, jeans and underwear draped over the banister, backs of chairs, and hood of the car – and no more trips to the Laundromat. Even though Jennifer Lynn was learning some valuable skills there that would serve her well in college life. Skills such as how to make the dollar change machine work and why you never put a bra in a Laundromat dryer set at high temp if you ever want to wear it again.

Steve handled the appointment with the dryer vent serviceman and I came home ready to throw the first load from the overflowing hamper into the washing machine. I started up the washing machine, and Jennifer Lynn and I got ready to leave to take her to a basketball game when I walked past the washing machine and noticed water quickly spreading onto the carpet in front of it.

Then I heard what sounded like a rain. It was actually water from the washing machine on the second floor dripping out of the ceiling onto the tile floor of the lower level half-bathroom right beneath it. Indoor rainstorms are great if you’re at the Rainforest Café; not so much when it’s in your own house.

I’m looking at the inch of water now on the floor and paralyzed because I’m thinking “I should really grab some towels but that’s going to mean more wash, and now I don’t have a washing machine or a dryer.” It was Jennifer Lynn who sprang into action – Laundromat be damned – and grabbed a stack of towels from the linen closet and tossed them onto the floor.

It turns out that when the dryer guy came, he had to move the washing machine to get to the dryer and guess what – he forgot to stick the hose from the washing machine back into the drain.

Our landlord paid us a visit yesterday to assess the damage. He was expecting to find a swimming pool in the family room so he was delighted that it looks like everything will dry out on its own. We’ll know for sure when the contractor comes next week.

So with the washing machine hose reinserted into the drain and the dryer venting cleared, I was ready to do a load. The washing machine worked great. However, unfortunately, the dryer  still makes a better cabinet than it does a dryer. I may learn to love the 8.5 minutes for 25 cents in the blast furnace at the Laundromat.

In a Rohnert Park state of mind

Sunday, February 5th, 2012

No doubt about it, Rohnert Park gets a bad rap from everyone. I’ve certainly been guilty of making my share of jokes about it. Comments such as “what is a “rohnert” and why would I want to have a park full of them?” “I don’t think I could live in a city that doesn’t have a downtown” and “What a bleak place; nothing but acres of big box stores and strip malls.”

While Rohnert Park certainly doesn’t have the charm of historic Petaluma, it does have a lot of what I need: lots of places to buy stuff and plenty of parking when I get there.

We lived in Petaluma for 17 years and I loved it. Steve and I spent countless Sundays strolling in downtown Petaluma. It was a cheap date and we always came home feeling refreshed. How nice it is that my daughter and her friends can walk from the high school to downtown and stop at Bovine Bakery or Fruit in Motion for a snack and then do some shopping at Caravan Imports or Ooh La Loft. Or that she can be dropped off to meet up with her friends for a movie and I don’t need to worry about her safety in the downtown area.

But do I miss the 30 minutes that it took to get from the west side of town to the east side? Or how about circling Petaluma Boulevard and Water Street looking for a parking place when I’m meeting someone at Starbucks? And how about buying the basics of life such as hair color and Olay Regenerist? Sure, I could go to CVS but I would pay about 50% more than at Target.

Now that we are living in Cotati, Costco has become our neighbor haunt. We’ve the traded picturesque iron-front buildings of Petalumafor rows of flat-panel TVs. The cappuccino and scone has been replaced with a hot dog and Diet Pepsi in the food court. And we saved about seven bucks in the process.

No more air of superiority from me about where I live; we are solidly in the middle of struggling middle America. And you know what…I like it.