Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Annual holiday letter: Belated edition

The annual letter is back. Inspired by the many "holiday letters" I once received, I started this tradition a few years ago. Apparently word is out because I only received one "holiday letter" this year. It happened to be from my boss. She definitely doesn't read my blog (thankfully).

Dear Friends and Family,

2013 will end in about 12 hours and, frankly, I can't wait to see it end. The fact that I'm writing this 12 hours before the end of the year and days after Christmas pretty much sums up my year - always a couple of steps behind.

2013 pretty much sucked. Ah, after two stellar years that was bound to happen. It's not just me. I mean, Helen Fielding killed off Mark Darcy! Bridget Jones had a rough year too.

Traditionally I use this annual letter to share some highlights from the year, my travels, etc. This year more than ever I learned to appreciate perspective and appreciate that there are millions of people in the world who would love to have my first world problems. I'm lucky, blessed, whatever you want to call it. In the name of perspective, I'm going to share my top ten "little victories" or interesting moments of 2013. Sure, I feel like the year pretty much sucked overall, but some good / fun things happened so I want to focus on the good:

10. I found a home for yet another homeless cat that came in to my life. Yay for Sally the kitty cat!



9. The river in my city had its 100 year flood, flooding my basement. I didn't totally lose my mind over this like I would have a few years ago. Sure, I had to rip out much of the basement carpeting, I'm sure the basement has mold that will never go away and the whole thing sucked but, what can you do?



8. Proving I am my father's daughter, when I sliced my finger open with a very sharp, fancy knife I decided duct tape and gauze would have to do the trick since I have no first-aid kit in my home. That worked for about a day and then I decided stitches were in order. Here's a picture of my drive to urgent care:



7. I went hiking for the first time in Tucson and managed not to accidentally tumble down the mountain or in to a ravine. I wasn't really wearing proper hiking attire but, I don't own hiking attire so I figured a cute The North Face fleece and my running shoes would work.

6. In 2013 I did not overdraw my checking account. Not even once. Sure I had to reapply for my job and go through three months of torture not knowing if I would come out of the process employed, but when all was said and done I ended up making more money and am finally finding myself in a place where I am starting to feel financially secure. In fact, I even bought a new sectional! If you've been to my home and been subjected to my horrific old couch (which was an oversized love seat) and chair you'll know what a "luxury" this is!




5. I trained for and completed two marathons. Sure, I gained about 20 pounds in the process but at least I didn't gain 30. Seriously, I'm the only person I know who can train for two marathons in one year and GAIN weight.






4. I won a major award! OK, not really a major award but an award nonetheless! It was for making a healthy lifestyle change by becoming a runner (even though I did gain those 20 evil pounds this year). Total surprise and pretty darn cool.

3. Flew on a plane with US Rep. John Boehner. He and his two Secret Service agents were flying coach, just like me! And yes, he really is this tan:


In fact, he was wearing an orange sweater - which made him look even more, well, orange.

2. My home value increased. Sure it was by $300 but at least it is moving in the right direction. Of course this may be because....


1. My neighborhood is no longer full of hillbillies and drug dealers! It's true! A totally normal young couple bought the house two doors down and paid close to what I paid for my house! The hillbillies are gone! There are no more break-ins (knock on wood)! And, to top if off, my favorite brewery is setting up shop within walking distance of my house. Things in my 'hood can only keep going up!

That's my 2013 in a nutshell. Sure, I'm ending the year a little more jaded than I started, but I did learn more than ever the importance of looking for the "silver lining" if you will. Also, I learned I wear a lot of pink. In fact, I'm wearing pink right now. I definitely want to make some changes in 2014 but I will definitely keep wearing pink!

Happy New Year! Welcome, 2014!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Hillbilly Heaven no more!

I haven't been home much this summer. Marathon training and additional work responsibilities keep me running (literally and figuratively) all over the place. I suppose the Hillbilly Neighbors were also an extra incentive to avoid my house. Since June I've witnessed many things including Little James on the roof threatening to fling himself off and Jabba James playing "basketball" shirtless (gag) so many times I'm surprised I'm not blind. There was the time recently Jabba James yelled at me from inside his house to ask if he could (once again) borrow my lawnmower. Since I couldn't see him I just pretended not to hear him. These people purchased not one, but two lawnmowers earlier this summer, so I don't understand why they're still so hellbent on borrowing mine! Anyway, the saga of the Hillbilly Neighbors has finally come to an end.

Remember when I begged them in my last letter to go back to the trailer park? Well, I think they did.

They are GONE!

The Hillbilly Neighbors have left the building! For real!

About a week and a half ago I spotted a small U-Haul parked in the driveway. The next morning the dining room chairs were on the front porch. Then those were gone. The next morning there were piles of garbage left at the curb, including things you wouldn't throw away unless you were moving and downsizing like the little girl's perfectly good wagon and a lawn rake. That morning I saw them load up in their rusting Saturn minivan and drive away. And that was it.

It is no shock that they're gone, given Big Momma was the sole supporter and can't make more than $10-$12 an hour at her job.

I'll admit I'm a little sad for them - I'm sure they're moving back to the trailer park or some tiny apartment. My guess is it isn't fun/comfortable/easy to have five to eight people living in a small space on any given day.

A friend said it is a little sad because I won't know what happens to the kids. Um, yeah, I think I have this figured out. The toddler is going to end up pregnant at 15 and Little James will end up in jail - probably because of being provoked by Booby Brian. Speaking of Bobby Brian and his penchant for peeping, I have no doubt he'll end up on the sex offender registry within the next four years. I do wonder about poor, dear little Maverick. He is only subjected to these fools every other weekend but still, that's too much. It seems he is being raised by someone with some common sense and manners, not to mention, a basic grasp of the English language. (Never did I hear Maverick say things like the others such as "I seen" or inappropriately using the word "them" as in "Jen, was them your parents" or "Where'd you get them woodchips."). My hope is he will turn out OK in spite of his gene pool.

Then there's Mittens the Kitten, aka Hillbilly Cat. I haven't spotted Hillbilly Cat since July, so I'm thinking Jabba James "got rid of it" like he did the dogs. By the way, this week I learned from a neighbor he "got rid of" the second puppy for biting the toddler. Puppies bite. I shudder to think of how he "got rid of it."

The other good news is homes in my neighborhood are starting to sell - and when I say sell I mean to normal people at prices close to what I paid for my house! Things are looking up. Since the Hillbilly situation didn't work out for whatever company owns the house, my hope is they'll fix it up and try to actually sell it. Fingers crossed.

Goodbye, Hillbillies! Welcome back peace and quiet! Serenity now!


Sunday, June 30, 2013

Hillbilly Cat, Hillbilly Cat (What are they feeding you?)

Dear Hillbilly Neighbors,

Oh, where to begin? Just to reiterate, no, I do not have an extra SD card you can "have" (Do you really own a digital camera? Really?). No, you cannot use my wi-fi. No, it is not OK that Hillbilly Grandma and Grandpa (They just got married a couple of weeks ago - the "reception" was in the backyard here.) flick their cigarette butts onto my lawn. No, it is not OK that you put your slip'n'slide on my front lawn (Imagine Booby Brian shirtless sliding down a slip and slide outside of your window. It is not a nice scene.) then left it there on a hot day, burning my lawn.

While I'm rattling off grievances, please do us all a favor and pull your damn recycling cart away from the curb. You look ridiculous playing basketball in the street and using your recycling cart as the hoop. And by "you" I don't mean your children, I mean you, Jabba (Big Daddy) James. Additionally, driving around with Booby Brian and Little James in the back of your pickup truck is not legal. I should call protective services.

What I'm most enraged about, Hillbilly Neighbors, is the situation with your kitten. Yes, after blowing through not one but two puppies, you now have possession of a kitten. Said kitten keeps "escaping" and you don't do much to try to find it. Last time it escaped and you, Big Momma, yelled, "It's just a freaking cat!" at your toddler as she cried because she couldn't get kitty (Smart cat hid under the deck so no one could get to it.) I vowed to snatch the kitty if I ever had the chance.

Well, I had the chance.

Last weekend all was quiet at your house. You and I know this never happens. Of course, I took advantage of this opportunity to do some yard work. Gracie was all hyped up about something under the shrub in the corner of your yard. Upon investigating I discovered your kitten.

I easily lured the kitten by shaking a bag of treats. Once the kitten got in to my arms he did not want to leave. So, I did what any rational person would do, I took him in to my house. It was a hot day and he was clearly distressed. I set him up in my home office with food and water (Which he devoured.) and a makeshift litter box (Crazy cat lady or savvy cat lady? You be the judge.). Feeling smug, I strode into the living room to see if anyone had arrived at your home when I was struck with panic. Had I just committed a crime? Did I just "catnap" your kitten? OMG.

When I called my friend Rachael, she confirmed my fears. "You don't want them calling the police on you," she said. Right! You call the police on your children. Surely you would not hesitate to call the police on me for stealing your "property." (Because let's face it, this kitten is nothing more than "property" to you.)

Even though I desperately wanted to re-home your kitten (Perhaps I tried in earnest to do this. Perhaps.), the thought of you calling the police got the best of me, so when you and five of your kids rolled up I ran outside.

Remember when I asked if you were missing your cat and you looked at me like "oh shit?"

Remember when I asked how long your cat had been missing and you said "A couple of days?"

Yeah, that's when I should have lied and said I thought I saw it running down the street.

The day before this incident I saw Little James and he asked me if he could "have" a SD card. No mention of the missing kitten. You ask me all kinds of inane questions, have no hesitation about asking to borrow things, but it never crossed your mind (or the minds of your children) to ask me if I had seen your missing kitten? Really?

Sadly for Hillbilly Kitten I didn't. I told you I found him while doing yard work and offered to return him. Did you thank me? No, you just stared at me. So yes, of course I asked you if you wanted him back. When you halfheartedly replied, "Uh, yeah..." I wanted to cry.

I returned your Hillbilly Kitten.

The next day, imagine that, he was missing again while Grandma and "new Grandpa" were babysitting. Your kids found him quickly.

However, I am now wondering where he his. Every time I go outside I look for him. My fear is he has gone "missing" (Meaning you left the door open hoping he would escape because you no longer want him. Let's be real - this is what is happening at your house) and is lost.

Next time (Please let there be a next time.) I see him, I will snatch him and make him my pet. Period. Poor thing did not want to let go of me when I returned him to you. Remember how you literally had to rip him off of me? Animals are smart. He knows your house of horrors is no place for him.

Please, for the love, stop getting pets.

I dislike you for many reasons. But I hate you for your lack of care of the furry children you voluntarily take in to your home.

You are the worst.

Seriously, STOP BUYING PETS ON CRAIGSLIST.

Please go back to the trailer park you came from soon.

Sincerely,
Jen

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Sleep it up, babe! Or, why train travel is not that glamorous

Greetings from Amtrak!

I'm sitting on a train that has moved approximately 10 feet before stopping. I see a man out on the tracks with some sort of sledgehammer. He's a train official and not some random guy. He appears as though he's trying to clear something off the track. Great. I'm traveling to Chicago for work, not pleasure, and need to be pulled in to Union Station on time to get on a conference call with my boss. Ugh.

I'm a frequent flier and have seen just about everything one can see while flying the friendly skies. This whole train thing is a totally different ball game.

The stench of McDonald's breakfast hit me when I entered the tiny train station. Why? I giant family of Amish people who had just arrived before me via cab (I have no idea where these people cabbed in from!), clenching bags of McDonald's. Seriously? They made a cab driver take them to McDonald's on the way to the train station? To each their own. I must wonder if Chicago is their final destination or if they are traveling on....and I also wonder why the heck they are traveling. Some guy in the train station tried talking to one of the men and he wasn't going to have it so I guess we'll never know.

Then there's Mr Douche Bag and his girlfriend. They're sitting in two separate rows across the aisle from me. Yes, two separate rows. I wonder if they realize more people will be boarding the train. He took a row, directed her to the row behind him and said, "Sleep it up between here and Holland, babe." Who says that? Now he has spread himself over two seats, has his legs crossed and will not stop shaking his crossed leg. See photo:


 
I think I'm ready to return to the friendly skies.


Monday, May 27, 2013

The police have better things to do on Memorial Day weekend...

"Jen, were them your parents?" - Big James

Why yes, Big Jabba the Hut James, them were my parents. Ah, the saga continues with the Hillbilly Neighbors. I wish the inane questions were the least of my worries.

Yesterday was a beautiful weather day. A perfect spring day. I returned home after running a marathon the day before and was both exhilarated and exhausted. My mood turned to down right pissed off thanks to the Hillbillies.

At first I thought they weren't home so I changed clothing quickly and set out to mow my yard (did I mention I had just run a marathon the day before? My back was killing me! That's how desperate I was to mow the lawn in peace.) when suddenly I hear, "F**k you, you little bi*ch." Yes, Booby Brian was at it with Little James again.

These two were in a knock down drag out fight in my front yard. Yes, in my front yard.

They screamed "bi*ch"at each other several times before I stuck my head out the window, arms on hips, a "WTF" look on my face. Finally, Jabba James came to break it up.

I had HAD it. Home five minutes and suddenly these two are going at it in front of my house.

I did what any rational person would do. My bags were still packed from my weekend away, so I locked up the house to flee. I just couldn't take it.

As I was locking up the front door, Jabba said, "Sorry about the chaos."

I did not respond.

He then said, "Don't worry, someone already called the police."

My response, "Um. I didn't call the police."

Jabba said, "No. we did."

Are you flipping kidding me? You called the police on your own 13 year olds?

He went on, "Yeah, James is outta control."

Maybe your parenting, or lack thereof, is outta control, pal! You are such horrible parents you can't handle them yourselves? Perhaps you shouldn't be parents then. Not to mention, I heard the fight because it happened ON MY LAWN and it sure as hell sounded like Booby Brian started the whole thing.

I turned my back to walk away and poor little toddler girl said, "Hey Jen, where are you going?"

I turned back, looked Jabba square in the face and said, "Away from here."

With that, I took off as fast as my Jeep would go.

This explains why the police were there about two months ago. My guess is mom and dad can't handle the kids so they call the police. 'Cause that's great use of my taxpayer dollars when crimes are happening in our own neighborhood and 'cause that's what good parents do, right?

Upon my return today, the Hillbilly House, duct tape in the front bedroom window and all (that's new) looked quiet. It was raining so I thought I would have some peace and quiet but no, no peace. As soon as Little James spotted me (Yes, he is home and acting like nothing ever happened so I guess he didn't get hauled off to the clink.) he emerged from the house and decided to hang outside in the rain and ask me if I would be interested in buying any baseball cards because he's trying to sell 250 of them.

Oh, and now here we are in real time - Booby Brian just emerged to tell me they have new chairs on their porch courtesy of grandma and grandpa. Goody. I did notice those and let out an audible sigh when unlocking my front door today. My friend and I were just commenting how it is nice they don't have front porch chairs so it is one less place for them to lounge (I love my front porch. My wi-fi works out there. I have Adirondack chairs with pillows and an outdoor rug. And flowers, lots of flowers.) but now I'm losing my front porch. I guess I lost it anyway with the fighting in my front yard and all.

$1,500 for a privacy fence sounds like a bargain right now. I'm calling Lowes in the morning. At least I can reclaim my backyard in about four weeks.









Sunday, May 19, 2013

Wood chips, dandelions and Booby Brian: an update on the Hillbilly Neighbors

"Where'd you get them wood chips?" - Booby Brian

That's how another Saturday here in paradise started. Well, sort of. I had already run 8 miles, shopped at the urban market, walked the dog and made a grocery store run but it was 10:30 in the morning and the Hillbilly Neighbors were just stirring.

Big James, Little James, Booby Brian and the little toddler all had to come and see what I was doing as I was mulching my flower bed. After I told them where they too can find these magical "wood chips" (mulch) they stood and stared at me with their mouths agape. Perhaps it was because my answer was not "Wal-Mart." I have a feeling these people love them some Wal-Mart.

Anyway, our conversation ended when Big James announced, "Come on kids, let's go get ice cream." At 10:30 in the morning. 10:30. Now, I'm a huge fan of ice cream, but, 10:30 AM, really? No wonder you and your children are all obese.

I went on to mow the lawn. My lawn mower is one of those Brady Bunch no motor deals. It works for my small yard but the blade is very dull and needs to be sharpened (and yes, this is the mower the Hillbillies wanted to borrow.) so I have to cut the lawn twice a week to try to keep up with it. The Hillbillies recently went on a Craigslist shopping spree (They must have discovered you can buy more on Craigslist than dogs.) and came home with not one but two lawnmowers - one with a motor and one just like mine. Gee whiz. Big James spotted me and, just like he did two times earlier this week, whipped out his non power lawnmower and started cutting. Now, here's the issue. The lawn is not a lawn, it is a field of weeds. There's not much to cut. And why he had to cut the weeds for the third time this week was beyond me. But apparently three times wasn't enough because about two hours later as I was working in my yard I heard the roar of the power mower and - bam! - Big James was at it again, shirtless this time (My eyes! My eyes! His nickname should be Booby and Belly James. Or Jabba the Hut.) pushing around the power mower, folds of glistening blubber flapping in the breeze. Seriously?

Sure, I'd rather have neighbors who over cut than don't cut but, really? The issue is they are growing a freaking dandelion field so every time they "mow" the "lawn" dandelion seeds fly all over my currently dandelion free lawn.

They basically annoyed me all day by continually trying to talk to me and by yelling at one another (The low light was certainly when Booby Brian called Little James both a "pu**y" and a "fa**ot" because that's classy and appropriate.), but I persevered. After all, the weather is finally beautiful and these hicks are not going to keep me indoors. At one point I caught a break when, post fight with Little James, Booby Brian accosted the lawn care crew cleaning up at a house on the other side of the street. He even managed to acquire a leaf blower at one point. This was both funny and disturbing.

Today my parents came to visit and help me with some outdoor projects, so I braced for the onslaught of questions and pathetic attempts at conversation. I asked them to prepare and gave them simple but important instructions, "Don't engage."

However, there was never an "engagement" attempt. Why? I think my mom is a Hillbilly repellent. Seriously, they took one look at her and steered clear all day. My mom is incredibly sweet and looks like your average nice mom. She was also wearing Ralph Lauren and all her jewelery. Perhaps that was a tell-tale sign? Forget it, these people have never heard of Ralph Lauren. Maybe it was just a vibe. My mom is wonderful but she's not a fan of Hillbillies (Gee, wonder if she passed that along to any of her children?). For example, when I went to kindergarten, she informed me I should NOT befriend any kids who live in apartments (we lived in 'burb). I didn't really understand why, but in my short years in public school I steered clear of any kids of apartments...and, of course, when I went to Catholic school everyone lived in a proper neighborhood but I digress...

Sure enough, once mom and dad left the clan was back to their antics.

That's that. My mom is going to have to move in with me and permanently stay on guard on my front stoop. When I told her that she laughed and suggested a life size cut out. This could work too. In the interim, I'm stuck with these bozos.

And, by the way, about an hour ago Booby Brian busted out the power lawn mower. For real. Fifth time this week, third time this weekend. These people need some help.







Sunday, May 5, 2013

Big James, Little James and Booby Brian (a letter to my Hillbilly Neighbors

Note: This is a letter to my Hillbilly Neighbors. Please refer to my January 1 post for a primer. 

Dear Hillbilly Neighbors,

You and your "like six" (apparently you can't count because I've never seen more than five at your home at any given time) children are starting to wear on me. I'm thrilled for you that you saved your ducets from your third shift GED or high school diploma required job to move from Kentwood Estates (ever notice how most trailer parks are called something "estates?") to the west side of GR and next door to me. Thrilled. You moved your "like six" kids from one bad school district to an equally bad school district, but, whatevs.

When your kids told me you regularly eat "shit on a shingle" for dinner I tried to laugh, though the mental image had me gagging. When your son Maverick (yes, Maverick, as in, "Tower, this is Ghost Rider requesting a fly by.") shoveled snow from your sidewalk on to mine I was slightly irritated.  But then you all just had to take it to the next level.

For example, that time you killed your puppy. Yes, that poor puppy you bought on Craigslist (don't get me started on people who BUY dogs.) who is now buried up against my fence. That one. Because "like six" kids isn't enough,  you decided to buy a puppy. One that needs to be housebroken and trained in all things. You bitched about its constant crying (which I could hear inside my house - if I lived in your home I would cry constantly too.) and neediness, despite the fact that it was the sweetest little thing and would lay quietly in the arms of Little James. I went away for a few days on business, and came home to find Little James knocking at my door with a different dog in tow. Little James was anxious to tell me how the puppy apparently hanged himself off your raised deck. Frankly, I don't know if I believe the story but, regardless, the dog is dead. And your poor "parenting" skills are to blame. What a waste.

Then there's Booby Brian. I call him Booby Brian because he is about 13 and is so morbidly obese he has breasts. Yes, breasts. However, what really offends me about Booby Brian is his propensity to point his flip camera phone toward my house and, presumably, tape me. Yep, when I caught Booby Brian not once, but twice, with his camera phone pointed in my window I had HAD it. When I tried to talk to you about this, you told me he is "EI" (I think YOU are emotionally impaired.) and that none of your kids have the capability to record video on their phones because you removed that feature. Really, well you must think I'm an idiot, especially when Little James showed me video footage of the now dead puppy on his phone less than a week after you told me none of your kids could use their phones for photos or videos.

Speaking of Little James, I've asked him to stop coming over and ringing my doorbell when he gets home from school. He doesn't get it so please help me out here. As I've explained, I have a hectic work schedule. If I am in my home and it is before 5 p.m. on a weekday, guess what, I am working. I'm likely on the phone and don't need my doorbell ringing and dog barking.

Also, using your kids to ask me for favors is not appreciated. You know, when you made Little James ask to borrow my rake a month ago I obliged and simply asked him to return it. The next day I found it laying in the middle of your backyard. Four days later, when Little James came by for his regular visit, I had to ask him to return it. No "thank you for letting us borrow it" or anything, he just put it over the fence.

So, when you sent Little James over on Thursday at 2:58 pm, two minutes before my 3 p.m. conference call on my first day home from work travel in seven days, I will admit I was not friendly. When he asked if you could borrow my lawn mower I was taken aback, especially since Booby Brian worked the block this winter trying to drum up business for his summer lawn cutting service (with what lawn mower? Mine?).  So yes, my answer was, "You know, I have to get on a conferene call in two minutes." and I closed the door. I then hid in my house the rest of the evening to avoid you. But you didn't stop there. On Saturday morning I pulled in my driveway after running 20 miles. I was sore, sweaty, exhausted and before I could get out of my car I was highly irritated when I heard Booby Brian say, "Kock knock." I stopped, one shoe on, one shoe off, water belt in hand, staring at him. When he asked, "Can we borrow your lawn mower?" I stood there and stared at him for what felt like an eternity before finally saying, "I just ran 20 miles and need to get in my house." In other words, leave me the hell alone, kid.

Here's the thing, Hillbilly Neighbors, if I had never gotten my rake back it wouldn't have been the end of the world but I know you would have kept it since I had to ask for it back. The rake  was a great test case for future requests (which I just KNEW you would have...). So, no, I'm not lending you my lawn mower. I don't want to have to ask for it back.

While we're on the topic of things I don't want, let me add some requests. First, for the love, please tell your kids to stop ringing my doorbell on weekday afternoons to talk to me about nothing. I don't have time and I don't care. Second, when I'm trying to sit peacefully on my front porch/in my back yard, don't try to strike up a conversation with me about your hillbilly hobbies. I don't watch NASCAR, I don't listen to country music and I don't eat "shit on a shingle." Finally, I really don't want your kids looking in my windows. Is this too much to ask? Perhaps this was a fun kid activity in Kentwood Estates, but it doesn't fly here on the west side.

This is likely the first of many (and I mean many) open letters I will send your way this summer.

Sincerely,

Your irritated neighbor