RESTLESS NIGHT

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The nagging feeling of having made the wrong decision simply would not let me sleep. My mind raced back and forth as I wondered if I could switch my choice of houses without causing a stir with my new landlord.

Should I have chosen the smaller single story house with the large yard? Or should I stick with my last minute switch to the larger two story house with huge bedrooms and closets but a smaller yard. Was it too late to change my mind? Do I dare ask?

I tossed and turned but sleep did not come until I sent the email less than an hour before I had to get up to ready the children for school this morning. The worse that could happen is he would say 'no'. But at least I would not have to wonder 'what if' had I not asked.

He was kind to agree to the switch. I learned I should trust my gut instinct more often and not sway from my initial decisions. I found everything I was looking for in the smaller house and more as it is being completed remodeled. Larger is not necessarily better, I reasoned, except in the case of the yard. A yard where I can now plan a garden, have a place to eat our meals, and watch the children run around with plenty of room to spare.

My mind could now rest for a while and hopefully my body could find reprieve from another restless night.

IN STRIDE

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There are those days where everything seems to be going against you.

When the lease agreement you need to sign will not print until you ask for assistance from a worker at the copy place. An issue which would be no issue if only you had a printer at home so you did not have to drive the almost half hour to get one document printed.

When the 'FOR RENT' sign still stares back at you from the front lawn no matter how much you wish it would disappear for its presence means you are bound to that house for the next 60 days or until it gets rented lest you get slapped with a lawsuit from the current landlord. Or you give in and let him traipse through the house with strangers whilst you are overseas visiting your beloved. Something I am not willing to do. So I continue to wait.

When you scour the internet job boards and find you are not able to find anything which will get you closer to being able to buy a house of your own anytime soon.

Then there is the time when you get the alarming email from your son's teacher with the leading words of 'something happened today' and you think it is something serious and worth your worry. Then you find out it was a matter of my son having looked over the shoulder of a classmate during science class whilst stumbling upon a 'graphic' breast feeding video. Which makes you want to respond with all sorts of sarcasm at the disbelief of such absurdity. Which also caused me to have to explain to my son that he did nothing wrong as he became defensive when asked what happened in school.

And later when your son throws the largest fit ever over your cutting out the paper Hershey's kisses for his Valentine's project due in the morning which you thought was helpful but turns out to be quite the opposite as he wanted to cut the shapes out himself.

And then searching for something to photograph for the picture of the day only to come up with nothing which moves you as your creativity has come to a standstill.

When all of these things happen in one day, you cannot help thinking the universe has it in for you.

No matter how much you would like to take things in stride you can do only what is in your power. Tomorrow is another day.

DANGLING THE CARROT

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Just as I was about to pay the deposit for the house, the new landlord had to dangle a tempting carrot. He let me know that another house he owns a mere half mile away will be vacant in March and I might want to consider this option due to the larger bedrooms.

This is a house he remodeled last year and one I had my eye on when I looked to move before I found the house I am renting now. The timing was off back then and thus I was not able to rent it. Now, however, the option was once again before me and I had yet another decision to make which was not easy even though the second house is over 400 square feet larger for the same price.

I spent the entire day going through the descriptions, looking at the photos on the listings, and drawing up a list of pros and cons of both places. I asked my children their opinion. I asked Mario his opinion. I even got in touch with the current tenant of the second house who graciously let me walk through the house with my three children.

Photographs do not tell the entire story. As I walked through the second house, I realised that the larger bedrooms do make a significant difference. The yard is smaller though and there are two floors as opposed to it being a single story house. Both houses are devoid of carpets, which I very much prefer. The first house is artsy with an open floor plan. The second has a 'big house feel' as I wrote on my list.

At first, the children begged me to take the smaller house with the huge backyard. That is, until I picked them up and let them take a look through the windows.

'That's the size of a closet' exclaimed my older daughter. And I realised after looking at the room once again that there was no possible way to fit two twin beds, a dresser, and a nightstand - the basics of a bedroom. One bed would fit and perhaps if I pushed both together they might fit but it would be a challenge given that one bed was a daybed with only one open side.

If I tried, we could make it work somehow. The other option was to have one child sleep in the formal dining room but with the carrot the landlord now dangled in front of me, the need for compromise was removed. A larger house for the same price seems a better choice though I like both. But I have to remember that getting attached to a rental is not wise as this is not our 'forever house'. One day we will buy a house of our own where we can be more selective in everything.

DOING MY HEAD IN

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The threats continued though I was not sure why it was necessary. This was bordering on harassment and the landlord's drama was doing my head in.

'You will be subject to all damages mentioned in my previous email, since you are preventing me from showing the inside of the home to a prospective tenant with a proper 24-hour notice. Which is not only a lease violation, but is also causing financial harm.'

Blah, blah, blah. Nobody was preventing anything. I simply asked him why he bothered asking which time worked for me if he insisted on coming regardless of my answer.

'If you prevent me from showing the inside and outside of the home (on Saturday, January 30, between 10am-12pm) rest assured that I will pursue this matter in a court of law, obtain a judgement against you, and go through all legal methods of collection.'

None of these threats were necessary. All it did was reaffirm my thoughts that this guy has issues which he seems to be taking out on me. But thankfully I am not the only one who has noticed his rash behaviour as both the guy from the lawn company and a neighbour explained their difficult dealings with him. Soon somebody else will have the misfortune of dealing with him. I do feel sorry for them in advance.

PAGE 7 SECTION 19

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It started tonight. The dreaded requirement to have strangers traipse through my rental house so the landlord can rent it to someone else. The lesson I have learned this time is to run from any lease agreement which requires a 60-day notice. Thirty is bad enough but this is worse. Much worse, particularly when dealing with the current landlord.

'Your proposal to wait over a week to show the home to an extremely excited and eager tenant is totally unreasonable.... This is unacceptable per the lease agreement you signed on March 25, 2015, page 7, section 19.'

'If you refuse entry on Saturday, January 30, you will be in lease violation and subject to the following damages: rent for every day the home is not rented after March 24, 2016, cost to have the home leased (realtor fees), attorney fees, court fees, and any other expenses.'

'Why do you even bother asking then?' I replied to the nasty and rather lengthy email I received from the landlord tonight. And why am I responsible for his not being able to rent this place after my lease is over?! This is absurd.

Though I understand the need of a landlord to rent a place before it becomes vacant, I do not understand his being unaccommodating, rude, and unreasonable when it comes to my time. I was given a choice between people coming during dinner on Friday night when my children arrive to stay with me or Saturday morning during our breakfast.

I suggested he come by with the prospective tenants next Saturday as my children will not be staying with me and also because this would give me more time to pack up some more of my belongings - the few I bothered to unpack amidst the piles of boxes stacked in the family room which I have been using as storage this past year. This, though, was unacceptable to the landlord.

My hope is that the people agree to rent this place when they come around Saturday morning so that I do not have to go through this ordeal every single weekend for the next 60 days. My children and I will be eating breakfast then and waiting for the violation of our personal space to be over.

NOT TODAY NOT TOMORROW

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The day will come when things will return to some sense of normal. That day is not today and neither will it be tomorrow.

This time last year my oldest child was preparing to return home from Berlin and I was preparing to go to Ireland to see him. My oldest is still home. He is not...yet.

The day will come when we all will be together again. In one home sharing a life. A future. One day. Just not today. Not tomorrow.

JUST A MONDAY

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Just another Monday waiting for cedar fever season to be over next month so I can spend time outdoors without dire consequences.

Just a Monday spent baking lemon madeleines which I placed on my daughter's desk since she was not in her class when I arrived. The birthday madeleines I make every year for my children.

Just one more Monday wondering what Tuesday will bring.

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FREEDOM IS NIGH

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In sixty days my sentence will be over. I will finally be released from the lease on this house. A house I should never have moved into. A house which made all of us unhappy to be here even though I spent a great portion of the past year away from the house as I traveled to Ireland and Scotland.

This afternoon as I peered through the blinds of my room above the garage, I watched as the landlord went about the front yard snapping pictures of the leaves in the yard. He must have taken at least ten pictures before moving to the backyard and then returning to the front yard to put up the 'FOR RENT' sign. A drama-filled email citing some sort of violation is sure to come in the next day or so.

The feeling of imprisonment was lifted from my mind as I read the email from my new landlord. Perfect timing, I thought. He accepted me as a tenant. Yesterday's visit to the 'new' house brought excitement as I walked into a renovation in progress. But more than that was the light which poured in through the windows.

The house is not large but is large enough. It is a mere three years younger than the house I am in now but the fact that the owner took care to do extensive renovations made the house look new. The backyard was most impressive and massive. I was even given the green light to plant a garden as there is no grass and no plans on putting in any sod which also means no need for lawn mowing or watering.

Though my plan had been to buy a house of my own this year, I realise this will not happen anytime soon. Moving into another home, even if it is a bit further from school, is close enough until the time comes when we can make the next move into something more permanent. Freedom from this cold, dark place is nigh and it is all that matters in this moment.

A JANUARY SUNSET

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The first month of the new year draws to a close in a week's time. Many changes loom on the horizon. Some bring feelings of fear. Others bring along a sense of happiness. One thing to remember is that change is a necessary part of life. It cannot be avoided. Life moves forward. It can never go back. We can never go back and change what has happened.

As fearful as it might be to move forward, it is more frightening to stand still and wonder what could have been than to face a life of regrets. Taking a chance on something is still better than not for at least we have tried.

A friend once told me 'on the other side of ‘fear’ and ‘uncertainty’, is ‘serenity’ and ‘experience’'. This year I look forward to some sense of serenity as the next chapter in my life begins. The future unfolds a day at a time. Minute by minute our world changes in one way or another.

HAPPY EIGHTH

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I wish I had more time to celebrate my middle child's eighth birthday but I made sure I had a homemade cake waiting for her when all three children returned home from school this afternoon. A tall 5-inch vanilla poppy seed cake with vanilla bean cream cheese icing and berries on top.

Her presents were under the Christmas tree. A journal, a book, a Lego set. Nothing fancy like the presents she would get at her father's house nor a party with her friends but at least we were together for a few hours before I had to drive them to the other house. They wanted to leave early as they wished to play with friends.

'It's not because I don't love you' explained my oldest. I know they are not happy with the house. I know because I feel the same. But soon we are leaving this depressing cave to a place where we can start living and not merely existing.

We did the best we could today with the short time we had. Next year will be better. But at least we were together for a short while. We sang 'happy birthday', she opened her presents, we ate cake.

Happy birthday my Cinnamon.