Friday, February 05, 2010

Shameful secrets and a prayer request of sorts

I'm still struggling to get back into regularly updating my journal, let alone getting back into blogging. So...instead of any attempt at deep thoughts, how's about I just babble about stuff-I've-been-up-to-and-what's-been-on-my-mind? Kinda.

I live in a dump. Well...pretty much. It's bad. I'm ashamed of it. On any occasion where people ask where I live, I hedge. On occasions when I've needed a ride home, I ask them to let me off nearby without pointing out my house. Once, when I had my guitar worked on and the friend who fixed it up for me offered to drop it by on his way to town to save me a trip, I actually got in my car and drove to the store that's literally next door so I wouldn't have to admit to this place. It's a very old and very poorly maintained mobile home with a host of issues--only one stove burner works, the electricity to the oven is broken, the roof leaks in at least one place during hard rain, there is mold anywhere and everywhere, many of the electrical outlets don't work...I could go on. And on the outside, it's just plain ugly. It needs pressure-washed in the worst way (green crud all over it), it has shutters that were painted an odd wanna-be-Hermes sort of green, many of which dangle precariously, and the back stoop has folded in on itself.

And it's literally falling apart around me. While I was dealing with my recent cable outage, I discovered that part of the floor against the wall near where the cable comes into the house is rotted all the way through. I've fixed things I'm capable of fixing, but there are many, many limits to my skills in the fix-it-up realm.

It's a rental, so I'm not bound to it in any way. And though I've tried to make my landlord aware of my worries, he a) seems inclined to blame me and b) doesn't completely understand the problems--he's Korean and doesn't always understand me, I don't think. To be fair to him, he kind of inherited this parcel of land (and all its problems) when he bought the store next door, and it's a bit of an afterthought for him. But even so...he is my landlord. I'm sure if I really made a stink about it, he'd at least take a stab at things...but in all honesty, he doesn't have a great track record for finishing things. Also in all honesty, this place should probably be torn down and replaced with a new mobile if it's going to continue as a rental property.

My stay here was originally meant to be very temporary. It's a long and boring story, but in essence, it was cheap rent, and I wanted somewhere to live until I was more settled in my job when I first moved out here, and there are, in fact, some good things about this location. I have a good amount of land and a huge fenced yard, where I'm allowed to keep my dog. I'm near the interstate, but out of town (except for the mini-mart next door). Most of the time, this place is mostly warm and mostly dry--it's fine all summer, and it's really only this time of year it gets me down in a big way. I realize that compared to much of the world, I'm incredibly blessed.

But I really want to move on. However, the pickings are slim. I have a dog about the size of a small Labrador, for one thing, and it can be hard to find rentals that are OK with that. There's no way I'd give him up. Besides the fact that he's my dog and I wouldn't abandon him, as a single gal living alone, there's a great deal of comfort in having a biggish black dog around. Granted, *I* know the most he's liable to do to an intruder is to breathe on them excitedly and drool on their fingers, but *they* don't necessarily know that.

And the two cats...well, I dragged them all the way from Vermont with me. They're not going anywhere, either.

But having both means most of the places that would work well for us are those really geared toward families--which often means they're actually too big and well out of my price range. Also often crammed into housing communities up near Fort Lewis, when I'd rather be, if anything, further south and more rural. There just aren't many rentals available in rural areas, which only makes sense.

To complicate matters (or simplify them, I haven't decided which), nearby friends are finally buying their own bit of land and a house, so their current home will probably be available. The downside is that it too is a mobile, albeit a much nicer one in much better condition. And they live right here, which would make moving easy. And all my routines and paths and haunts could remain the same. The rent would be some higher, but not a lot. They do, however, have space for horses, and I don't need that. I think I'd worry about not making full use of the place, silly though that may sound. And above all, I don't want to take it over just because it's convenient--if it's the *right* move (and it may well be), I want to do so, but I can be all too quick to jump on the easy route.

On the other hand, taking something a long way away and at the edge of what I'm able to spend just because it's *different* from here would be a bad move, too. Even if this place itself is pretty lousy, I have a lot going for me: "my" coffee house is pretty much on the way to work, I have my routines where grocery shopping and the library and all go, and above all, I have a *fabulous* parish in St. Michael's in downtown Olympia: it's a huge parish, which can make it a bit daunting, but because of the size they can support all sorts of activities and different groups. And they have Perpetual Adoration. Awesome.

My tendency is to rush into things once I've made a decision to make a change. I get completely obsessed with a thought and have trouble dealing with any other aspects of life, and that's just not right. I've been here almost four years. A few more months one way or another isn't going to make a difference. I'm going to keep an eye out on Craigslist and such, keep thinking about the nearby option, do some driving around to get a feel for the various neighborhoods out there. For those of you who are the praying sort, I'd really appreciate prayers for guidance--and patience!


James Watterson said...

LFP I wish you the best of luck. I can so relate to you and your living quarters. I have been living in a part of Houston that isn't so great in the first place. Granted the apartments are really nice and all its everything going on around us. Its turning into the hood to be completely honest. The sad thing is it wasn't like this at all when we first moved here. Anyways, we have found another place and will be out of here in March. All my best wishes, and keep the writing going!!!

deek said...

I wish you the best of luck as well. Back before I was married and after several years of multiple roommates after college, I chose a little dumpy place.

It was actually half of a garage (but a big one) that the landlord converted into an apartment. It was super cheap and that is what I wanted. It had a small kitchen, a bedroom and a small room where I put a couch and TV.

I liked it, but during this time of year, I too, had problems with it and it just kind of sucked.

Joe V said...

First, thank you for the update. I look forward to these sorts of blogs, just telling it like it is kind of truth.

Regarding your rental, I'm not sure of the laws in your state or community, but many have renters rights laws. At the very least you need to document the problems you're encountering IN WRITING to your landlord, with a copy for yourself, as a paper trail.

It would be a good idea to explore local renter's rights organizations, if any, as a resource for what you can do. Often in other communities you can discount the cost of repairs from your rent. There's even harsher laws for the landlord if the building is deemed substandard for human habitation.

Good luck, keep us posted.


Little Flower Petals said...

@deek and James--in some ways, I suppose it's nice to have a place or two in your life that isn't exactly marvelous. It puts things into perspective. I mean...right now, having a working oven and being able to do a cold water wash without pouring buckets o' water directly into the washer (only the hot water hook-up works) would be utterly luxurious. And hey, I suppose it gives me details for future stories. Or something.

@Joe--some of the folks at work mentioned such things, but I dunno...I think I'd rather move on than fight to get things fixed. And it's not really that my current landlord is intentionally being neglectful. It's just that he bought the store, he runs the store, and he really doesn't think much about this place at all. Once in awhile he and his wife remember me and say they want to do some work on it, but like I said, honestly this place is likely unfixable. There's only so much patching you can do to a warped cardboard house. I get the feeling he could decide to do a bunch of renovation, get deep into it (with me caught in the middle) and then realize it's a doomed effort.

I worry a little about whether he'd give me a good referral. I have witnesses that can state this place was actually far *worse* before I moved in--part of the long and boring story of my ending up here is that I made a deal with the previous store owner for some discounted rent time in return for doing a lot of cleanup. But the current guy didn't see the inside until long after he'd bought it, and the previous landlord moved a long way away. And before this, I owned my own house back in Vermont. So for local references...he's it. I can get character references and such from work, and I do have good credit and steady employment going for me...but I worry. I just have to trust, I suppose.

Winston said...

Oh My Good Lord. I've been a tenant whose had to holler at his landlord over burst pipes and broken heating units. And I've been a landlord getting hollered at for burnt out stove burners and sticky doors. As both of these I have to say, you've got to do something about this guy.
Either move away - pronto - or look into the regulations that protect tenants in your area, start documenting the problems, and ask him to make some changes. Withholding rent until he makes the place liveable is a perfectly legal move in most states. You don't even need to involve a lawyer. Just contact your local tenants' association and ask if there's anything you need to do to protect yourself.

Don't worry about upsetting him and getting a bad reference in return. If he wants to be rid of you bad enough (particularly if you're withholding rent) he'll give you a glowing reference. And if he doesn't, he's liable for some serious damages.

You may have a good deal, but you're paying rent and you're doing yourself a disservice by putting up with things. I know that confrontation sucks. It's tempting to keep your head down and be the nice guy. But sometimes a little confrontation goes a long way. This guy may have no idea how bad things are over there. Printing out a couple of state building codes off the internet might be enough to motivate him.

Little Flower Petals said...

Well, this may all be moot, in any case. I know, I know, I said I was going to take it slow. But...I've been casually checking Craigslist for quite awhile now, and *just* after I posted this last night, an ad was posted for a place right on the bike trail, outside of town, exactly at the trail head I usually drive ten miles to get to, exactly where I would like to live if I could point to the map and pick. There really *aren't* rental properties near there. I almost mentioned that area in my original post, but thought, "I shouldn't be pipe dreaming like that...."

I went out to see the place today, and it's perfect. Tiny, but tidy, with a decent sized fenced back yard for a dog, a landlady who takes an interest in the place and who has no problem with me having pets so long as I pay a deposit, and very little yard work for me to do unless I want to. Everything is bright and clean and works! And I could ride my bike to work again, without having to even ride on any roads. That might even make up for the increased rent cost, since I could skip using gas much of the year. I'd have instant access to some forty miles of trails, just outside my door. It seems almost too good to be true, but so far as I can tell, it isn't.

She said she always does a quick credit / criminal record check (was a little apologetic about it), but if that comes back clean (and it will), the house is mine if I want it. And *do* I want it.

My worries now are twofold: first that she might somehow see this current place and change her mind about me if I don't get a chance to explain, and my current landlord will take the news that I'm moving on and leaving the place as it is. I have photographic proof of what it was like before I moved in, and witnesses, as I said. And I have no contract of any kind with him, and no deposit down. I think the worst he can do is call me names behind my back. And he probably will. But I can deal with that.

I'm gonna be on pins and needles for a few days here, gang. *breathe**breathe*

I'm picturing a nice little table in that backyard where I can type-tap away to my heart's content after a nice long ride....

So...I'd appreciate on-going prayers, gang!

deek said...

Our luck worked:)

Strikethru said...

Crossing fingers for you!! Hope you get the new place. You deserve a cozier home after the headaches you've been through...

Winston said...

This sounds like a great move. And living without a car is a tremendous way to save money - worth quite a bit more in rent. We paid through the nose for our place in Boston but it was worth it just to go for months on end without seeing the inside of a car.

Mike Speegle said...

I shall put in as good a word as I am able with the Big Man upstairs for ya, friend.

Aside from that, it sounds a bit like that land lord of yours needs a slight beating to get his head straight. Grrr...

Little Flower Petals said...

So I'm supposed to go over tonight after work to do the paperwork. I'm so nervous about the whole thing I feel like I'm gonna throw up, and particularly worried about how thedog (and the dogs next door at the new place) will handle the adjustment, but unless I chicken out in the next ninety minutes, the Little House on the Big Bike Trail is mine.