Monday, November 19, 2012

Big, Big, Big Thanks

This is not the year to be thankful for bats and moss and cool stuff like that. This year, the girls and I have something way bigger to be thankful for -- our home. We're still barely moved in but we are already a hundred times more relaxed.

When we first moved into our one-bedroom apartment a couple years ago, we were in shock and hurting. The kids and I sort of huddled together when I had them, so a small space was fine. I felt liberated from having to clean a house and relieved to finally have privacy to heal away from my ex, who I had been living with post-separation for months. So what if I couldn't open up my oven door all the way because my kitchen was so small and one of the two shared washing machines in the complex was broken most of the time? I thanked my lucky stars for every worn, stale-smelling inch of our little space.

We enjoyed the community at the apartments. It's probably the most reasonable rent in the area if you have a dog, and tenants were mostly in transition - other single parents, students, Cuban refugees, people who qualified for Section 8, people with visiting probation officers, a man with failing health. It wasn't fancy but it actually felt very safe. I left my car doors and even apartment unlocked all the time. People looked out for each other, sharing food and drinks in the courtyard, and the kids left their scooters and bikes unlocked. I would even say it was idyllic.

Then, sometime last spring, something shifted. The population of hardcore drug addicts, homeless alcoholics, and mental cases that gathered around the neighboring Taco Bell as well as the RVs at the Burger King a block over multiplied. I don't know if you've seen this in your town, but all over the Bay Area, there are areas where people down on their luck live in clusters of RVs. The police may clear them out, but they come back; if they had somewhere to go, they would probably be there.

I heard our local law enforcement explained the reason things got crazy around the apartments was a result of the overflow of state prison inmates who were transferred to county jails, necessitating the release of those locals who aren't handling life so well but only really pose a danger to themselves. Some pretty crazy people showed up on the apartment grounds, often going through the dumpster by my car for food and souvenirs. Stuff started going missing, including my bike. We knew it was probably the meth heads because they didn't really steal so much as trade. There was a dusty camping chair left in place of my bike. Good thing it wasn't a total loss.

A woman, a friend of one of my neighbors, who had been sober for 20 years but somehow got mixed up with the Taco Bell crazies relapsed on meth. One morning, she ran full steam at me demanding "her" purse. It scared me but I yelled at her to go away - and she did. And that's the thing, other than theft, the crazies were harmless and easy to run off. Still, what was formerly known as my peaceful rundown apartment home became strangely chaotic and unwelcoming.

Our miracle came in the form of my parents beating out another bidder to make a down payment on a foreclosed condo for me to rent to own. The girls and I are now in a two-story two-bedroom, two-bath condo with a garage and patio. There's a public playground with basketball and tennis courts across the street. There is a pool and hot tub on site. We couldn't be more thrilled. Grandpa joined Angie's List and either hired out or completed a series of home repairs so that everything is safe and working properly.There was plumbing work, a sump pump, new locks, new garage opener, new circuit board, as well as other interior and exterior repair. Grandpa also painted the girls' room sky blue on the walls and dark blue on the very tall ceiling, just as the kids requested. And even more amazing, there was a brand new washer and dryer installed in the laundry closet before we moved in.

I've been sleeping better than I have in months. Daisy and I are getting along much better. Violet's a little better in the morning before school. We're happy.

Life isn't easy - I'm working lots and there've been personal setbacks, but the most important thing is: I have a good place to raise a family. My parents have given us not just a condo but a home. And even though I didn't do this on my own, I feel badass to be the head of my household.



  1. Yay! Congrats on the new pad. And lovely summation of the old place, yikes.

  2. Woohoo!!! Congratulations! Can't wait to see your new place and the girls tomorrow! - M