Breaking Point Part 2

(Please excuse me. I don’t often throw hissy-fits but the one I’m about to pitch is about to put Scarlet O’Hara to shame. I’ll be fine in the morning, but until then approach with chocolate.)

Part 2.

At exactly 10:00 I was giving Firstborn a refill on his snack when Hubby poked his head around the corner. “They’re here.” It was a bit surprising to see a well-dressed woman walking up the driveway because there was not a car anywhere in sight. She didn’t come to the door, either. Instead she wandered around the grounds while the property management agent, Julie, arrived and came in. Let me stop to publicly bless Julie’s heart. I’ve called her so many times during our renting that it could be considered stalking. She was not the original agent assigned to this home when we arrived, which made her job much harder when things started going to Hell in a hand-basket.

Hubby asked, “How are you?” Her face said it all. “I’m not sure.” She quickly relayed that the reason another member of the company had called to arrange this meeting was because the wife of this owner couple had reamed her out in the office to such a degree that it almost came to blows. “When she was leaning over my desk, yelling at me she nearly hit me. I told her to SIT DOWN. I’ve never seen anything like it.” Good Lord. I can’t imagine any woman standing over Julie screaming like a fire engine in July—particularly because Julie is always wearing fabulous high heels.

“I tried to explain that while renters are in the house, who paid rent on time every month no less, she cannot just access the house whenever she wanted. She didn’t comprehend this. I can’t be in the same room with her.” Poor Julie. I asked who the first woman was who was wandering around the porch. “The realtor”, Julie answered. The owners brought a realtor to a house in which I still live to look around to sell it because they COULDN’T wait 9 more days.

At that moment a Jeep pulled up. I could see the uniform from the house. Suffice to say, this man seems impressed with himself. The wife was dressed nicely enough, but there’s only so much one can do to camouflage crazy.

At this point the first woman- Madam Grounds Inspector- joined the couple and we all stared at each other through the glass on the door. No one smiled.

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As they came in I smiled and we introduced ourselves as nicely as possible. To do otherwise would be unsouthern, as Blanche Devaroe would say.

As soon as the introductions were done the realtor announced, “I’m just going to turn the lights on and walk through each room so they can see the house.” Oh, you are? Be my guest. Hubby broke in—“Oh, I’ve got a guided tour ready for you.” Everyone looked a bit surprised. Hubby handed Secondborn to Julie. She needed baby therapy. Second born went right to her arms, snuggled in, and made himself at home.

At this moment a man I’ve never seen walked up to my front door. He looked like he’d been sweating in the yard all morning. He was wearing sweat-soaked , stained clothes, black tube socks, and black work boots. He discarded them on the porch and looked inside. Julie whispered, “That’s the realtor’s husband.” He walked in and joined the tour, leaving warm footprints at the door. I was stunned.

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I went to the kitchen to brace myself and give Firstborn a sippy cup refill.  As Hubby showed the thick tile cracks to the owner and explained we were told to “cover it with a rug” once Firstborn cut his foot on it.

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Realtor looked over at me and asked sharply, “Is that window cracked?”  I turned to the long, white streak in the kitchen window. “Yes. It was here previously and is listed on the inspection list.”

“Can you open the blinds so they can see it?” Sure. I then pointed out the stains from the orange paint that graced every surface of the house when we moved in, being sure to clarify that it was NOT the work of my toddler. Owner-wife started pouting, writing on her clipboard, and knitting her brow. “Do we have a tape measure? Can we measure the floors? I think we should take measurements!” Owner-husband said, “Maybe now isn’t the best time.” I love enablers, don’t you? She wasn’t happy.

In the laundry room, which only has a small pile of ironing waiting for me, two ants ran by. Miraculous, considering the battalion I had just wiped out minutes before.

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“Oh! Ants!” Yep. I held my tongue as Josh suggested they pay for spraying. Add it to the Clipboard of Pity-Panick.

I sat with Julie as the guided tour continued to the master bedroom where we had plugged holes from previous tenants. Someone ran a wire from the roof down through the master bedroom ceiling and floor, down to the front room baseboard. Lament with us. “Oh no!”

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As the tour continued to Firstborn’s room, he noticed that the herd was on the move. A black and yellow Batman logo ran up the stairs with a cry. He pushed his way past a forest of legs. “NO!” I agree, Buddy. Hubby showed them the molding water damage from the roof repair they didn’t authorize and stickers that had been layered with paint and a border rather than removed.

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(Look closely. They used to be navy blue and spray painted.)

Owner-wife just about lost it. We continued to the guest room to show her the ruined carpet, covered in the orange mystery stain.

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Remember, this paint had been on every wall and every carpet in the house when we arrived. They refused to authorize new carpeting “except where the baby would be”.I explained that industrial strength carpet cleaner didn’t make a dent. I repeated that we had entered the house in this state and had done all we could to improve the situation. Wife turned to Husband and said, “I don’t understand. You came to check the house a year and a half ago and it didn’t look like this!” My patient Hubby said again that we suspected vandalism. This was paintball-type destruction. Then, standing three feet away from me, Wife turned to the realtor and asked, “Do we have any pictures from the property management company from before THEY moved in to document this?”

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What do you mean, they? We, the people who have patiently cared for this home despite the ordeals we endured? We, the people who are graciously touring you through a clean and tidy home despite the fact that two kids 2 and under live here? We, the people who you are accommodating your unbelievable demands?

 I interrupted, “Oh, YES I do. There are only a few because we were mid-move and I had the camera with me on a 28 hour drive with a newborn, but we do have documentation.”

With a few more head-shakes and sighs of self-pity, I got a cursory, “We won’t take up more of your time.” It was then that the realtor announced that we are neighbors. Realtor and Yard Man had built the house in the empty lot. Months of construction that prevented nap time… all them. They are the ones who never wave back when we drive by! “You’re really quiet neighbors”, she said with a smile. At least she didn’t hear the sounds of a two-year-old regularly. Outside playtime isn’t always quiet.

 As they all headed to the porch, Firstborn ducked through legs and escaped to play. I followed, eavesdropping on the conversation. Realtor looked at the exterior over the garage and said with woe, “Oh, this will all need to be power-washed.”  DUN-Dun-DUN!

Owner-husband said with an attitude-filled sigh, “Well, we tried to do that last night but it didn’t work.”

AND THAT’S WHEN I COULD TAKE NO MORE.

I flipped my head around, extended my index finger and called out “Excuse me!”

Firstborn stopped and stared at me in silence. He knows this tone.

The adults just stared back in indignant disbelief.

“I’m sorry, but the man you sent to power-wash last night showed up unannounced, at night, and rang the doorbell over a sign that said “Baby Sleeping”. I had no warning. He is welcome to return in two weeks, but not at night when my kids are asleep and I’m still here.”

Wife looked down at her clipboard with her head tipped to hide the crazy. Did I detect avoidance or many a bit of embarrassment?

Owner-husband said, “Well, it wasn’t supposed to have gone that way.”  Sir, let me teach you the proper way to apologize. It includes the words, “I’m sorry” or “Forgive me” or “Let me give you back this month’s rent, Oh Patient One.”

To diffuse the situation, the realtor announced once more, “We are going to walk around the back and look around.” With that they walked away. I picked up Firstborn and went inside. Julie had miraculously lulled Secondborn into a sound, angelic sleep. She calmed me with horror stories of other renters and assured me that my house looked great. We shared a collective sigh and shook our heads, appalled that this is considered normal behavior for people in this area.

THEN the realtor/neighbor came BACK! She asked for Julie’s last name and phone number, saying she’d call her later to talk. Pray for Julie. Pray for her staff. Pray for the therapist that everyone will need after this.

“The reason it is always hotter here than anywhere else in North Carolina is because it is closer to Hell”, she said. AMAZING. That’s how you laugh through these things.

So what now? Now we wait. I will pack another box of kitchen supplies and wrap a few more picture frames and hope that I will hear about moving into a new home or not. When I was younger and single, this would be “A back-packing adventure”. With unsettled kids about to be separated from their father, it is called “Homelessness”.  So for now, forget “There’s No Place Like Home.”

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There’s no place like Texas.

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 At least if it all goes to Hell in a handbasket in Texas, that handbasket will be decorated and full of home-made baked goods.

Pressure Wash: The Breaking Point

Some of you, dear readers, have seen me livid. Red-in-the-face, teeth bared, I’ll-show-you-my-second-amendment-right angry. In these moments it is especially important to maintain self-control. Proverbs says that a loud woman who delights in airing her opinion all the time is foolish. I love a good verbal take-down as much as the next girl, but I’ve tried to practice the discipline of self-control and restraint. With that caveat, I must say that I’ve had an hour to cool down before writing this. Tonight I hit the breaking point. That point where the blood pounding in your ears sounded like the racking of a shot-gun. That breathe in through your nose and out through the mouth type of losing it. The point where a woman can’t handle it anymore and someone somewhere is going to share the burden. Some poor fool will end up backed into a corner, fully understanding her offense and stuttering out an, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know.” With a composed smile I will answer, “Well, now you do.” Anyone can scream and pitch a fit. My Momma taught me how to “Julia Sugarbaker”.

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Now, the detailed back story of events that brought me to this point would take so long that it would rival “How I Met Your Mother.” So here are the bullet points, many of which have been sprayed throughout a few blogs of months past.

When we arrived to this house a year and a half ago, my amazing husband discovered a trashed house.It was not suitable for children level trashed. He went to the management company who refused to return the deposit (we had driven across the country) but ultimately, Hubby got part of the carpet replaced, new paint on every wall, holes in the walls repaired, etc. all while receiving house hold goods. Cosmetically, the home was lovely when my mother and I arrived after a 26 hour drive with a teething, screaming baby. The only little problem was a roof leak that was dripping into our closet. Needless to say, my man had endured a hellish 72 hours and almost single-handedly flipped a house. My man is amazing.

I would love to see a record of the phone calls I have made to the maintenance line of my rental property. 3 estimates on the roof alone resulted in nothing; it took over a year to get simple shingles replaced after the roof was struck by lightning last August. The hole could be seen from the neighbor’s yard. I’ve been without a properly working dishwasher nearly half of our stay here. Washing bottles by hand during the early months of mothering a premature, special needs baby was NOT therapeutic. In fact, that dishwasher had a few tears in it from time to time.

Exactly a year ago this weekend, 8 of my in-laws, my 1 year old and my pregnant self experienced the joy of July without AC. That poor AC repairman was scared to death. Throughout the winter we also couldn’t keep the boys’ rooms warm due to roof holes and the lack of register returns. Space heaters and blankets sufficed as we were told the solution was to pay more in gas bills and just leave the bedroom doors open. This resulted in memos from doctors to help us break the lease and try to move on post. That’s another mess, but 8 months of working that system resulted in a line about equality, not serving our rank, etc.

So now my husband looks out over deployment orders which legally allow us to break the lease. If I remain in this home, the lease will be up during his absence and I will have to move (paying out of pocket) to a new home with two kids and no man. Off we went in search of a house close to post. We found several- one was about to be ours when someone offered to buy. Another offered an earlier move-in. Several others were run by slum lords and were covered in cockroaches. Our house search had more false starts than the 2010 Aggie football season. Ready to give up, we finally found an amazing house beyond our housing allowance and longer story short, the owners dropped the rent price so we could be the tenants. God provided above and beyond my hopes! He is awesome like that. The move in date was set and we began to pack the house. That’s what I’ve been doing instead of blogging; moving 1/3 of our belongings into boxes and then into the garage.

That’s when we were told that the owner of this house-who we couldn’t reach in Hawaii for over a year to get large repairs authorized- wants to sell. “Panicked” by all the repairs that need to be done, she insists on seeing the home. No problem. I even offered to let her tour with a manager while we take pre-tour leave to Texas. NO. Not okay. She wanted to come in more than once with her OWN realtor. Well, she’s not coming in here when I’m gone.

Now, I have never met or talked to the owner. All communication is being done through the property managers. It’s a horrid game of middle school telephone from the 7th circle of Dante’s vacation home. This owner asked to come in on the fourth of July because hey, no one is working and it shouldn’t be a problem. I said she could come on July 3 with the property management agents who were taking pictures of all the repairs she refused to authorize . No, she wants to use a different realtor. Seriously.  I had been more than accommodating. With a sweet smile I politely declined. Furthermore, I put in writing that NO ONE was authorized to enter this home other than the poor battered property manager agent under any circumstances. The alarm would be on and I hear the cops respond very quickly to home invasion calls around here.

July 4, 9:00 am.  I received a call from the new property manager that the soldier who owns the house we hope to move into in 3 WEEKS had a heat injury during a course and now didn’t know about his PCS plans. Stand by for news on Monday. (It’s Monday. He hasn’t called yet.)

July 5, 1:00pm. A senior employee of this home’s property manager called to ‘get the straight story’ and tell me how panicked the owner is and that she was very put out that she couldn’t come by on July 4. (I make no apologies for declaring my independence, Ma’am. I’ll give you my list of grievances.) Could she PLEASE come by at any time in the next week?  Sure. Right after peace is declared in the Middle East and Ireland has one denomination. Then I realized something horrific…this woman would come by the house unassisted. I explained that I have 5 days left before traveling across the country and 4 of those involve appointments for Secondborn. I gave him 1 date with a two hour window. He quickly called back later to comply.After all, he didn’t want to risk angering this crazy, unreasonable woman who CALLED him all the time.

So here we are, the eve of my meeting this woman. It was an appointment day. I packed 3 closets and did laundry, sprayed for bugs, and generally kept my sons alive and healthy. I made calls about a storage unit I may need if we can’t find a new home option in the one free week we will have left. We are literally on back-up-plan 9 and the house isn’t packed. I still need to straighten the house for the 10:00 tour tomorrow…and I can’t wait to get a good look at this ‘panicky’ woman.

That brings us to tonight. Exactly 9 minutes after I put the two-year-old in bed and heard silence from his room, the doorbell rang. I put down my mop, and felt annoyed that someone rang the bell over the sign on the door that clearly said, “Baby sleeping”. A look through the window showed young man who was on the phone. By now Hubby was in ‘intruder alert’ mode and cautiously went through the inquisition.

“Hi, I’m here to pressure wash the house for (The Owner)”. She made an appointment for me to come tonight.”

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My jaw dropped. “There is no Mrs. (Owner) here. We didn’t order anything. Let me call maintenance to see if this is authorized.”

As I called the agent on duty I explained and gave her my address. “Oh! I know that address! We’ve been talking about your situation at the office.” Oh, I’m so glad. As the conversation continued I finally said, “I really can’t be friendly or patient about this anymore. I’ve reached my limit- and I’m a Texan!”

It turned out nothing was ordered through the property manager.  She had done this on her own. At this point Hubby, who had walked around the house with this young man, poked his head in to say that the owner was who was on the phone! She had said, “Oh, I didn’t get ahold of the tenants, so you can do an estimate and come back another time.” Good save, there.

Now, I am sure this young man is hard working and a lovely person with a great singing voice, but I am not about to allow him to pressure wash the house IN THE RAIN, next to my sleeping son’s window at 8:00pm. NO SIR. I LIVE HERE. I pay rent. I have endured enough trying to get cracked tiles repaired so my kids can play safely, a roof fixed so they don’t get colds, a dishwasher repaired so I can play with them instead of washing their plates by hand, and they myriad of other things that comes with renting. You can fix this house on your own time. For another three weeks, I live here.

I have no idea where I will be living in 2 months or how I will make it a home for my sons while Dad is away. 3 back-up plans are ready to move as soon as we have any info. I have a serious case of the Scarlet O’Haras. “What shall I do? Where shall I go?”

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Well, thanks to Hubby’s late homecoming this evening and his willingness to order Chinese take-out, I’m not going to have to eat a dirty turnip to prevent starvation. All the emotion of this upheaval has brewed for too long and I’ve hit my limit. When that happens, sometimes the best thing to do is imagine knocking someone’s lights out, having a good laugh, and then deal with it as gracefully as possible.

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Interestingly enough, in less than 12 hours the property management agent and this woman will be standing at my door.

Pray for us all.

 “In your anger, do not sin.”

Stand by for the rest of the story.

We’re Headed To Therapy

At 8:55am with a car seat balancing on my bent left elbow and a 2 year old holding onto my right hand so he could go down the bricks frontways by himself, I somehow closed the front door with my rear end. Milk splatters had been wiped from the dark wood table, along with a cursory wipe underneath because I couldn’t see any on the white tile floor. I’m sure they are there. A toddler lives in the house. Tiny white pools are no doubt being slurped by ants right now who are hailing the others, “Hey! It’s organic! Take it to the queen!” Enjoy, your Majesty.

I had practiced my calf-roping skills by changing two diapers and two full outfits in less than 5 minutes. The house was tidy because 1) I have a walk-through with the owner of this rental (more to come. I can’t go into it without hyperventilating) and 2) I’ve walked into the house on appointment days in the past and thought we’d been robbed because the house was tossed. It turns out that 2 boys live in my house and I had tried out the sage wisdom , “Let the mess go. You’ll be less stressed!” Yes, heart attacks really help that stress level.

 I snapped in 30 pounds of kid and safety gear onto place and then turned to buckle the 2 year old. Instead of a slightly pudgy blond boy, a spider monkey with a body 80% comprised of limbs and huge feet smiled at me from the car seat. When did that happen? As I crawled back out of the cave known as the minivan I smiled at a neighbor. With a wave I said, “We’re headed to therapy!”

I don’t remember the last time I’ve said anything so truthful and prophetic. We are SO headed to therapy. Maybe we can get a discount on matching couches.

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Last week before a meeting (in which one kid pooped out and the other melted into a puddle of angst and starvation within 15 minutes) I met with a long-lost friend. As we pushed our strollers and discussed husbands, deployments, waistlines, and kids I answered a few questions about Secondborn’s occupational therapy. I explained that he is starting on foods but I need to make sure he is engaging the right muscles so that they develop correctly. This will have a direct effect on speech. His neck and core strength (from weekly physical therapy) impact his swallowing, jaw and facial muscles. We just want train the muscles to work in the best way, not the easiest way.

“When did you learn all this?”, my friend asked. I had no clue. I finally realized the answer. “Other moms taught me. For the past year, I’ve been a student of moms, blogs, books, doctors, and every stranger who knew someone who knew someone with Down Syndrome.” That’s how we learn everything, I guess. We listen, model, and adjust.

I have a dear friend that I call almost daily if only for a 5 minute check-in. Our longest dry spell was 5 days and I think we both were on our death beds. We joke that we’ve saved millions in therapy through talking to each other in an authentic, encouraging, butt-kicking way. For women especially, relationships ARE therapeutic. They stand by at the ready as we do this thing called life. “Watch my baby while I lovingly correct my child who is streaking through the playground” is a woman’s translation of the manly, “Hold my beer and watch this.”

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For almost eight months my darling Second-born has been here. Since day 2 he has had some sort of therapy or medication to give him his best support. I realize now, as I am hiding in a closet and praying that my sons will miraculously nap at the same time, that I’ve been in therapy that long too. With every doctor who has said, “Great job, Mom!”, encouraging Facebook post, e-mail link to a source for finding loop-holes in red tape, person who has brought dinner, and friends who have closed the curtains and turned up the music really loudly so that I could cry without anyone else knowing are my therapists. It’s the PEOPLE who made the difference.

Sure, chocolate and Bluebell ice-cream are great momentary fixes, but once consumed there is nothing but an empty container. Those containers will likely end up on someone’s head before bedtime. It is the people who breathe life into me and repeat the words that are so precious to my soul that help me heal. Sometimes the ever-present God doesn’t feel so present. His still-small voice can be drowned out by the screaming banshees with underwear on their heads, Daddy-son fart noise competitions and clangs of never-ending dirty dishes piling into a leaning Tower of Pisa in the chipped sink. That is when I LONG for solitary confinement and white walls that don’t require vigilant stain removal.

So yes, we are headed to therapy.  My writings and picture documentation of my sons’ antics will keep some therapist busy for years trying to figure out when I scarred them permanently. Sometimes I feel crazier than Patsy Cline. Therapy, Baby. Praise God for the Good Counselor who knows our hearts. “Come to me, you who are burdened and I shall give you rest.”

The best of Christ followers and the craziest among us are often the same. To all my therapists, your checks are in the mail. Please excuse the peanut butter smears.