Terrible Twos Times Ten

It’s been two months exactly since we brought Miss Ellie home from the hospital. In that time, I’ve seen Bea go from a bright-eyed, clever, independent little four year old to a rabid, hysterical, tantrum-throwing preschooler.

I know her life has been turned upside down; new city and state, new house, new baby and now a new preschool. It took us two months after moving to get her in to a place we could afford, but all we can afford is 2.5 hours a day/4 days a week. It’s not enough. I take her at 1pm (when she would normally be napping), and pick her up at 3:30. By the time she gets home, she’s exhausted and cranky. And by the time we go to put her to bed, she has lost all self control.

I’ve never seen anything like it. When people talked about the “terrible twos,” I had no idea what they were talking about. At two, she was so sweet and cute. At three, she was inquisitive and clever. At four . . . I’ve heard stories of tantrums, but this . . . this is something else. Foot stomping, screaming, wailing, crying, jumping up and down, throwing herself on the floor, “no no no!” and whatnot. I was sort of, kind of prepared of her to resent the baby. Instead, she loves Ellie and hates us.

It seems as though, every night, once Bea is finally passed out, Charlie and I are having a conversation where we devise a new plan of attack. But since I’m the one home with both kids all day during the week, I’m the one who has to implement it all.

We’ve tried talking to her about it, reasoning with her, sticker charts, time outs, threats, taking away TV or toys or games, and we’ve both resorted to shouting at her to just stop screaming (super helpful and effective, as I’m sure you can imagine). It’s getting to the point where I can’t even deal with her anymore. I get so angry that I just have to remove myself from the situation and I don’t feel like going back to give her a hug and kiss. It doesn’t help that I feel “touched out” from holding and carrying the baby, feeding and nursing her. By the end of the day, I just want to pass out and not move for like 12 hours.

The baby’s great, though. I thought Bea was an easy baby, but this one has been a breeze so far. Good sleeper, good eater, healthy (a slight cold Bea brought home when she started preschool), happy. The birth was pretty traumatic and a story for another day, but I worried throughout the pregnancy and right up until the moment she arrived that something would go wrong.

Charlie is still working full time, but is close enough that he can ride his bike. We have the car most days, but no money to do much of anything exciting. Trips are limited to grocery stores and walks around the neighborhood. We were hanging out at the coffee shop some mornings for a bagel and coffee, but then I started working there again. Just weekends when Charlie is home, but enough that I don’t want to hang during the week.

To top it off, I found out after my second week back that they’ve been paying me like a new employee, not like someone who spent almost six years there. When the manager told me what I’d be getting paid, I just started laughing. “Oh, were you making more than that before?”
“Are you kidding?” I asked. “Do you know how long I was here?” Granted, it took many months of badgering to get the raises I received, but it was still $2.50 more per hour than they apparently think I’m worth. So now I have to badger and argue to get more.

The manager at a nearby restaurant offered me a weekend gig waiting tables there. The tips sound fantastic. But the pay is really the only positive of working there. The employees are catty. The cooks are perverts. The owner is a bitch. The customers are wealthy, entitled assholes. I’d have to be on my feet ten hours a day just to make enough money to send Bea to preschool full time with nothing left over. People are like, “You should take that job. If Bea was at school during the week, you’d have more time to yourself.”

Except there’s now a newborn in the house. Despite being a great baby, she doesn’t really give me a lot of time to myself. So selfish.

So while I check job web sites in the hopes of finding something that pays more than Charlie’s working so that he can stay home, he’s studying for a personal training certificate. If he passes, he could go to work for his old employer and work 20 hours a week to make the same he’s bringing home now. If he doesn’t pass it, I have no idea what we’re going to do. There really aren’t any opportunities for advancement where he is now, and the pay just isn’t enough to change things at home.

And while I’d found positions at local universities that I wanted and for which I felt qualified, I was turned down twice in a row. Once was on my birthday. Ouch. But I know these are the kinds of jobs I want. And if I’m not qualified, how can I be? I started looking at other graduate programs and settled on one that I think I’m actually going to apply for, for next fall. If accepted, they require graduate assistantships, which means a guaranteed job related to what I’d be studying, a paycheck, tuition remission, and a practicum later on. Right now I just need to get the letters of rec and write the damn personal statement (300 words! Ugh). It at least gives me something to work toward.

If I could, I think I would just stay in college forever. If I can’t, I at least want to work for one. Not as an adjunct, though. I’m making more working 15 hours a week at the coffee shop, which is terribly sad and ridiculous. And if the grad program or university-job-finding doesn’t pan out, I have no fucking clue what’s next.


Singularly Happy

About a year ago, I was invited to what I call a “secret lady group” on Facebook, prior to which I did not know these things existed. It has proven to be cathartic for me, though. Many of the women involved were members of the Unitarian church I attended in Indianapolis years ago. There are probably only half a dozen who post questions/comments/concerns with any regularity, and about twice that who comment frequently. They all tend to have pretty excellent advice, are really supportive and positive, and share a common bond — besides being women, we all seem to come from rather dysfunctional families.

I’m beginning to get the impression that “functional families” are much fewer and farther between than I may have otherwise thought.

Last week, I posted some concerns I have about pressure to expand our family. I’m quite satisfied with the way things are: me, Charlie, and Bea. In fact, if we had no other children, even adopting, I would be fine with that. I feel like the only person who is fine with a family of three.

At Christmas, I was asked multiple times if we were planning to have another child. On the way to Indy for our last two trips, Charlie mentioned how much larger a vehicle we would need “if we had another one.” He then began daydreaming about his ideal family-of-four car. He’s mentioned to me that Bea would be a good big sister, and that she would be helpful. When I balked at this talk, he mentioned his employer’s outstanding adoption benefits.

I feel guilty complaining about my pregnancy. Compared to other friends’ and women I know, mine was actually quite easy. Yet I was miserable. I was huge, bloated, sweaty, uncomfortable. I had sciatica, kidney stones, and my back hurt from Day One. I was and, even after going through it, still am scared of labor, delivery, hurting a fetus, or having a child with health problems. I’m terrified of the idea of a difficult birth, a stillbirth, a miscarriage. I’m worried that we can’t take care of the child we have, let alone a second one.

I also worry that, if we “try,” I won’t be able to get pregnant. I know I wouldn’t be the oldest woman in the world to have a baby, but I would be at least 37 years old, and after the age of 35, they start all these additional tests and freaking out. And, to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I have the energy to do it all over again.

As my friend Annette put it, “What’s wrong with the one you have?” I love Bea. Of course.  She’s amazing and funny and smart and outgoing. It’s not so much that I don’t know if I’d have “enough love” to give a second child, so much as I’m not sure I could handle school, work, toddler, and no sleep for weeks on end. Charlie would have paternity leave, unpaid, but, let’s assume I got pregnant tomorrow. The baby would be born, assuming everything was normal, right in the middle of the first quarter of my second year in grad school. If I could somehow plan it right, then I’d have it right after the quarter was finished, in late November. But babies don’t always work that way. And, after your first pregnancy, they have a tendency to come out sooner.

So I’d posted all these concerns and fears and worries on FB. The women in the secret lady group were predictably supportive. One sent me a link to information on books that promote single-child families. Another suggested surrogacy, a third said adoption might be easier. They all said that if I wasn’t ready, I should be honest with Charlie.  So I was. But now I’m not so sure. After thinking things over for a couple of weeks, I know how much he wants another baby. I’m not worried he’ll leave me for someone younger, to have another kid.  He told me last that week that, on a scale of 1-10, he rates wanting a second child as a 7.5. I said I was about a 2. I guess I might be more like a 4 now?

I just don’t know what the immediate future holds for me. I’ve got a year and a half left of graduate school, an internship at the end of which may lead to a full-time, high-paying job. I don’t want to go into a new position pregnant or just getting pregnant, or even with a newborn. We can’t afford daycare, so what would we do with the baby while we were working? Besides which, Bea wouldn’t even be ready for kindergarten.

So I guess what I’m feeling is that it’s one of those now-or-never situations. I don’t particularly like that feeling.


I’m Not Going to Apologize

I’m too lazy to search for it, but someone posted a link a while ago on people apologizing for not writing in their blogs more often. Like, tons and tons of people saying, “Sorry I haven’t posted in a while.”

I’m not going to apologize. I’ve been writing more for school in the past 8 weeks than I think I did in the last year of my undergrad. We’re now into week 9, and there are only ten in the entire quarter. Then we have this ridiculously long break and it’s back again January 3rd.

I managed to get registered for winter quarter the minute my appointment opened. Most colleges seem to have people scheduled based on their seniority. As a first-term graduate student, I wasn’t allowed to register until four days after the other students. Maybe I’ll get a little more time for the spring quarter.

I missed out on the class I really wanted: travel writing. Well, to be honest, I didn’t want to take a travel writing course, but the new head of the department is the instructor. She made it clear during our orientation that she won’t approve things like theses, internships, or teaching if she hasn’t had you in class at least twice. Since this is only a two-year program (if you go full time), and since it’s a small program with a lot of nerds, and since there aren’t a wide variety of courses offered each term, you have a limited amount of time to get to know the department head. She only teaches one class per quarter.

This is why I’m in my current journalism class – the former head of the department is the instructor. I didn’t find out until a few days before classes started that he had stepped down. I do enjoy the class and, so far, I have excellent grades on all my assignments. But he’s kind of an odd guy and it’s difficult to have a discussion. He’s constantly interrupting people. He asked me to prepare a ten-minute oral presentation on a chapter of Ted Conover’s Coyotes for last night. But he went on for so long in the class that I ended having to run through it in about 2 minutes.

So school is going well. The class I really like, magazine writing, I’m not doing so hot in right now. I’m averaging a B+. I realize that makes me sound like kind of an asshole, but you pretty much have to make straight As to get anything. There’s a lot of competition in my program and there are very few opportunities for assistantships, financial aid other than loans, that sort of thing.

But I will say that being in a classroom with adults who actually want to be there is a pleasant change from my undergrad. Occasionally, I’ve noticed a person here or there who hasn’t shown up for a class, but it’s rare. Compare that to the semesters at IUPUI where, after weeks 3 and 4, people would start dropping like flies. Or, when it came time for “peer review” and other students would stare blankly ahead. Only when asked for a comment would they offer, “It’s good. Yeah.” “Oh, I liked it.”

I have kind of, sort of, made a couple of little friends at school. I don’t think it will go much of anywhere, though. They’re so young . . . single, no kids, going out to get drinks and food all the time. It just isn’t a lifestyle that meshes with mine very well.

We went back to Indy last weekend. It was bittersweet. I cried when we left Chris and Vicki’s, and again when we were at Sarah’s to get the kids together. Sarah and Maureen – former co-workers from the coffeeshop – were discussing Halloween and when they were going to take their kids trick or treating. It made me sad to think Bea was going to miss out on that.

She did go last night. I missed out on it since I had class, but I got her dressed and we went outside to hand out candy to some of the other kids. Then Charlie and I traded off and he took her door-to-door. It’s kind of disgusting how much candy she got.

The Importance of Making Lists

There’s a point in the beginning of every semester where I feel like sitting on the floor, throwing all my papers and books into the air, and pulling out my hair.
It’s like everything is whizzing past me and I’m just trying to catch up. But then, after a few weeks, there’s a certain rhythm that’s achieved and I can find some balance between the projects, papers, articles, readings, quizzes, homework, and exams.
Notice I said, “semester.”

Now that I’ve been in graduate school for three (or is it four?) weeks, it’s almost time for me to register for the next quarter’s classes. The quarter is almost half over.

Plug your ears while I shriek for a moment.

Okay. I’m done.

So it sort of feels like that rhythm, the balance you find when organizing the courseload, is just out of reach. By the time I get there, things will be wrapping up.

One thing I find very odd about this schedule is that there is nothing happening for over a month. Between November 22nd and sometime in early January, there aren’t any courses to speak of. I think some people can register for accelerated classes during that time, but not my program. During that period of time, I’ll have no financial aid, my CTA pass will be deactivated, and there’s nothing really to do.

Charlie has a week off in late October, which he is required to take in order to avoid taking time off during the holidays. Which means our trips back to Indy for Thanksgiving and Christmas might be extremely short — if they happen at all. Christmas is on a Sunday this year, which mean if the bank is open on Monday, we won’t have much time at all. And my family always does stuff on Christmas Eve. Thanksgiving is always on a Thursday, and, given his status as newest hire, Charlie will most likely not be able to take the previous or following day off in order to celebrate.

I will have time to work, though, which is good. I just learned the hard way that I can’t rush. Last week I was scrambling to turn in as many files as I could, to make as much money as I could before the pay period was over (we only get paid once per month). I took on a bunch of jobs that were two or three times longer than I have edited in the past. As a result, I got one decent review, immediately followed by a really bad one. The QA person was obviously irritated with me because I made the same stupid mistakes on both files, including some really glaring errors that could have been avoided if I’d just waited to turn the stuff in and reviewed everything one more time.

I just cannot balance work, life, and school very effectively right now. As usual, I struggle with the reality of bills and financial responsibilities, set against the knowledge that school is important and I need to do the best I can, paired with the fact that my kid and partner need me to stay present and focused.

I remember this period of time in my life when I was first working in social services, making something like $4.75 an hour. I had three major bills: a car payment, car insurance, and rent. I also began to take on a small mountain of debt in the form of high-interest, low-limit credit cards. Whatever someone would give me, I took. Each paycheck, I was able to take care of maybe two of those things.
I began to prioritize in order of importance. I had to have a car to work, but car insurance wasn’t something I could necessarily afford. So I let it lapse.  The credit card that didn’t have to be used at a store, I kept payments on so I could buy groceries and put gas in my car. The others fell behind and I honestly didn’t really care.

I ended up getting myself into a nasty credit situation and eventually went to a credit counseling agency where I managed to pay everything off in about 2 years. That was a good thing, but if I learned anything from the experience, it’s that I when I feel overwhelmed, especially with finances, I sometimes would rather pull the covers over my head and pretend I don’t hear any of it.

This is also an aspect of my personality that I have seen in both of my parents. And, if the past few years dealing with both of them has taught me anything, it’s that I don’t want to just stick my head in the sand. The reason they’re both in the situations they find themselves is because they refused to face the ugliness and reality that life sometimes presents us. Most of which is our own doing.

So, while I know that part of life is prioritizing, I also know that I have to continue to focus on the reasons why I’m choosing to make each decision in order of importance. Otherwise, I end up making choices in the heat of the moment that don’t pan out well.

As much as I’d like to bring in bigger and bigger paychecks, I’ll end up finding my contract terminated if I continue turning in sloppy jobs. So, while I have time off from school during this ridiculously long December break, I can focus on working more and doing a less shitty job at the same time.

Against a Wall

So I kind of screwed up. Apparently, the city code that applies to us is only good if we call the city FIRST, then she tries to evict us. According to three other people who explained it to me.

Anne told us to hold on to the remainder of August’s rent and use that to put down somewhere else. The next day, she reminded us that our rent was now officially late and served us with a 5-day notice of eviction. If we don’t get out, she’ll file for eviction. If we pay her rent, we have no money to put down on another place. If she files for eviction, we can’t rent anywhere.

It’s an ugly, ugly corner to be backed in to. She knows she has the upper hand and has totally used the only tool in her bag of tricks to hang over us. We can’t put Bea in to an apartment that would allow people who have been evicted, so we’ll do whatever it takes to get out of here.

Including, borrowing money from friends. I really thought we had things sorted out when we got here. Sure, we were tight on cash, but it was manageable, if a bit boring when we would want to, say, try a new restaurant, or check out a museum. But it was only a matter of time before we had all that stuff under control.

Now we are in between such a hard place and such a large rock that it feels like I can’t breathe.

In the past three days, I’ve eaten a banana, a small bowl of cereal, and some Reece’s peanut butter cups. Two, to be exact. And about thirty gallons of coffee.

I haven’t really slept. My adrenaline starts pumping and my heart races when I see Anne, prepared for a confrontation. She ignores me or goes right back inside, at which point my system crashes and I feel totally exhausted.

Last night I had to fight back tears in front of Bea because how the hell am I going to explain to her why I’m sad? I just feel sick and tired and worn out and impotent. I have no recourse at this point. The woman is using Bea as a pawn against us because we had the audacity to claim her house was dirty.

Obviously, it’s more complicated than that, but it boils down to something so simple. She told Charlie she would claim we brought in the mold because it was raining the day we moved in and our furniture got wet. She said it’s because I smoke that I got sick. She said she would deny everything in court. She said she has every right to evict us unless we pay her rent. We can’t afford to pay her rent and move.

Technically, we can’t afford to do either thing right now, and are having to rely on the generosity of friends and relative strangers (a guy I went to high school with offered to loan us some money. I certainly hope we don’t have to borrow money from someone I haven’t seen in, like, 16 years) just to keep things in the current state of total chaos and tension.

It makes me sick to find myself in this position and to have to move Bea again, but it’s so much more complicated and involved than that. I don’t even know what to do.

The Lawyer Card

It’s been an exciting few days in the household. And by exciting, I mean exhausting and stressful. Our landlord is currently out of town until sometime this afternoon, which means we breathed a little easier this weekend.

After Wednesday, things have been pretty tense. The super-chatty, in-your-face Anne has turned into the ice cold, brusque Anne who only uses her front door (which she never did in the past two and a half months we’ve lived here), and doesn’t say more than two words to me.

Not that I’m complaining, but after yesterday, things took an even nastier turn. I did some searching the past few days, spoke to a law student and two friendly attorneys, and found the Chicago city clerk’s web site with the municipal codes for landlords and tenants (located here, for your reference). I sent an email to Anne with the information — one particular part of the ordinance applies to any renter in the city of Chicago, which states that a landlord cannot take retaliatory action against a tenant when they ask for inspections or repairs that interfere with a basic warranty of habitability.

Her response to my email detailing this information boiled down to: you’ll hear from my attorneys. Plural. This was sent on a Sunday, which leads me to believe she probably has a friend that she called and that friend said they’d draft up a scary letter telling me and Charlie to pay or they’d start legal proceedings against us.
I, too, have friends who are lawyers, and I’ve spoken with them. All I have to do, they said, is stand in court and read the municipal code out loud. No attorney, no filing fees, no need to do anything but state the facts.

As it turns out, her termination of the lease after we asked for a mold inspection and prospective remediation was illegal. Not only are we entitled our security deposit, we can take up to 30 days to find another place without paying her further rent. And, in the most extreme situation, we could take her to court for all the rent we’ve paid up to this point, as well as asking for attorney’s fees.God knows I don’t want to be here for 30 more days if I can help it. Her personality has done a complete 180.

One of the ordinances says a tenant in this situation can sue for up to a year’s worth of paid rent, if s/he lives in a larger building, but what applies to us, in a dwelling with less than 6 units where the landlord lives on site, says you can only sue for two months. Which is about how long we’ve been here. We weren’t even asking for that — just our security deposit and the same period of time she gave us to get out, initially.

I sincerely hope it doesn’t come to actual legal bullshit. Ideally, she would’ve handed over the deposit (assuming she has it, which I think is a major part of the problem. If she hasn’t put it in escrow, we’re all in trouble) we would use it to put down on a more satisfactory apartment with better living conditions, and, hopefully, a landlord that doesn’t live on top of us, and just get the hell out. We have found some prospective apartments but we don’t have cash in hand, which makes things complicated for us. Again.

In my email, I was honest, saying, look – this is your space. You live here, you work here, you clearly don’t want us here anymore. So let’s resolve this issue as soon as possible so everyone can go on about their lives. The only people who are really out anything here are me, Charlie, and Bea. We’re the ones who have to pack up, who have to enlist the help of friends again, who have to put in another change of address, take another trip to the license branch, change all of our utilities. We are the ones who have to uproot ourselves, try to explain to a future landlord why we were here only 3 months, find a new pediatrician.

And, sadly enough, even if she has no legal grounds to do so, she could still at least start the process of eviction (filing the paperwork is nothing more than her paying a fee and claiming we’re late on rent), which would appear to other landlords if they took the time to look it up. So if she wanted to be a super duper mega-bitch, which would not surprise me at all, she could do that. We would fight it and win, but it wouldn’t change the fact that there’d be a court record of it.

Deep down, I do empathize with her. Despite feeling as if she’s put me and my family in a nasty living environment – first our physical and now our emotional health – for her own personal gain, I think she truly believed it just wasn’t that bad. Her office was down here for a while and she claims she didn’t have any problems, her business partner has a mold allergy and didn’t have any problems. But they weren’t here when the plumbers were tearing up the floor and drywall. They didn’t have to breathe in all the junk and have their belongings covered in the dust and mold spores. Telling me to “go to the doctor” didn’t change the fact that I couldn’t see anything for half an hour, every day, five days in a row.

She initially tried to make it sound as if this was what I wanted (I didn’t want to move, no matter how it sounded to her or in previous blog posts. That’s merely the eventual conclusion I came to, given my understanding of the expense of addressing the problem from her end) and she’s just doing us a favor. Which probably makes her feel that much more pissed off.

Like many women do, she’s got a mental chalkboard going where, every time she’s done something nice for us, she’s made a mark. Now she’s pulled out the chalkboard and is fuming, thinking, “I can’t believe they would do this to me after I did X, Y, and Z!” But the principle of the matter is, picking up a stroller she found at a thrift store for ten dollars isn’t the same as me feeling sick for two weeks, talking to her about it during that time, and her saying nothing but, “You could have had an aneurism/stroke/brain tumor.”

All the little things she has done for us, I appreciate, but I would have appreciated it much more if she’d just minded her business, stayed polite, and offered to clean up the effing mold.

I feel as if she’s yet another in a series of people in my life who are The Victim. While Charlie and I stand around feeling like we’ve been hit by a truck, the driver screams out the window that we damaged their truck. I just don’t get it.

Even if she suddenly decided she would address the mold, it’s too late. Of course, she’ll need to address it, anyway, because if anyone else with mold allergies lives here, the same thing is going to happen again. Her complete disregard for me and Charlie and, especially, Bea leads me to believe she is not as genuinely nice a person as she wants to be perceived. From Day One, she tried to act like Bea’s grandmother, demanding hugs and kisses and giving her little trinkets to try and win her over. It sort of grossed me out. Most of said trinkets were dirty, covered in dog hair, or something that Bea didn’t particularly care for. A bag of glass stones does not negate the potential asthma or pneumonia my daughter could develop from living in this house while people are tearing out walls.

I get that she feels threatened and totally betrayed, because that’s how my mom and my dad and several other people I know are. It’s never an issue of the other person attempting to be rational and hash things out. It’s, “I have done this and this and this, and this is how you repay me? You stab me in the back? You try to ruin my life?”

Because, essentially, I’m feeling the same way. Although I don’t think I’ve gone out of my way to do favors for Anne, I feel as if I have done nothing wrong and am being punished for no reason.

We knew she wasn’t going to do anything. We knew she didn’t want to put out more money. We knew she was going to try and make things uncomfortable for us (and I’m honestly scared to see how the next few weeks go). But her first response of “pay me rent, leave your deposit, and go,” was not quite what I had in mind. Her second response of, “You’ll hear from my lawyers,” also was not what I was expecting.

And, of course, now I’m thinking, “Shit. If I’d just relented, given her the rent, and left the deposit, we wouldn’t be in this mess.” But she knows that, which is exactly why she pulled out the lawyer card. I’ve pissed her off, I’ve broken her trust. She thought we were friends and I asked for more than she was willing to give. So now she wants me to suffer. And, in the process, she’s going to make an innocent two-year-old suffer.

We’ll see how things go when she returns this afternoon. I’m exhausted just thinking about it. I hate confrontation. But if she indeed wants no further communication, she’ll just have to ignore me when we’re outside at the same time.

By the way, why can’t I just catch a goddamn break?

Minor Eviction

Okay, yes. We were leaning toward the possibility of having to find another place. I just wasn’t expecting it to happen so fast. And it’s not like either of us is in the military, so moving every three months seems quite wasteful.

Yesterday was my birthday and, having a two-year-old, it wasn’t quite as low-key as I’d hoped. We spent almost all of the morning and early afternoon going to two different parks and trying to keep Bea entertained. She was in a sassier-than-usual mood and was being quite difficult.
By the time we got home, had lunch, and put her down for a nap, I realized I didn’t feel that sick, my head wasn’t hurting, and the fresh air had definitely kept me from experiencing any of the symptoms I would usually have if I’d been in the house.

So I did some research and sent the landlord an email (she was working at her business partner’s house rather than her own) detailing the information I’d found and the steps most departments of health recommend. I made sure to use reputable sources (the CDC rather than http://www.blameyourlandlordformoldexposure.com — which is not really a site I found, but is close to some I came across).

I’d called the allergist I saw in Indy when I encountered this same problem in 2005 and they offered to mail me the results of my testing. I told Anne she might consider hiring a mold remediation specialist.

First, you get an estimate of the inspection. Second, they give you a detailed explanation of the findings of their inspection. Third, they give you an estimate of the cost and how involved a removal of the mold will be. If my allergy test displayed the same types of mold found in the house, we could go from there, I said.

Within ten minutes, I had a reply that simply said that Charlie and I best move out and be gone by the first of September. It was really that to-the-point.

I was shocked and it left me speechless. I knew there was a chance she wouldn’t be up for trying to address the problem (see my last blog post). I had no idea she would say we had to leave. I called one of my friends who’s a landlord and she calmed me down. There’s no way you can be evicted in 20 days, she told me, and Anne would have to file papers that gave us 30 days, at the least. Also, she reminded, Anne has no cause to tell us to get out.

So we started looking at the tenants’ rights pages and I came across one interesting and frustrating piece of information: a landlord in Chicago can issue you an eviction, sometimes after only ten days, if you violate the lease and have not paid rent. Right now, we pay her rent twice a month (half on the first, half on the 15th), at her suggestion. Which means, she could claim 10 days’ unpaid rent on the 10th of August because we’d only paid half on the first. The lease says to pay rent on the first of the month, in full, and I don’t have anything in writing to back up the fact that she told us we could do otherwise. Charlie started yelling, “I knew that was going to bite us in the ass! I knew it!”

Talk about frustrating.

I wrote her back immediately to say look, I’m sorry if I upset you, I was just trying to figure out the best approach and this is what I found. She didn’t see that email right away as she was already on her way home. I saw her pull into her parking spot and Charlie went out to speak with her.

She came up and said, “Wow. You guys have had a busy day, huh?”
Charlie said, “It was pretty calm until we found out we were being evicted.”
“What? Oh, no! That’s not what I meant!” she exclaimed.
“Well, your email to Courtney said we had to be out by the first,” Charlie said.

She went on the explain that she was “only trying to help,” and if I was “that uncomfortable here,” she was just going to let us out of the lease. Charlie reminded her that the reason we’ve paid her rent twice a month for the past two months is because we haven’t been able to afford the whole deal at once and still keep on top of our other bills. So how could we sign a lease on another place if we’re still trying to get on our feet here?

They spoke for quite some time and I didn’t hear most of it, but what he told me later was that they agreed we would be out by October first — at the latest — giving her time to list the place and giving us time to put together some money, find another place, and perhaps she could keep our security deposit for the September rent. She agreed to this, but kept saying that she didn’t think the problem was mold and I needed to see a doctor and she was just worried about my health because migraines are a neurological disorder.  She went so far as to suggest maybe I had a brain tumor or aneurism.

Charlie and I left immediately after this so we could talk about everything without worrying she was trying to stand outside our windows and listen in (which seems to happen a lot when she’s watering the plants). We walked to Boystown and sat outside to eat and people watch while we tried to figure out how the hell we were going to do all of this.

My classes start September 8th. I have a graduate student orientation on the 6th. Financial aid will go through sometime around then (I have no idea exactly when it’ll be in our grubby little hands), but that will at least offset some of the cost of moving again. Of course, Liz offered to drive up and help us, because she’s just that kind of person.

In the meantime, I have to start packing. We have to fix the back door that Alvy has been chewing on when we leave him alone. If Anne is keeping our deposit for September rent, we better make sure there isn’t any damage she can claim and charge us for. Granted, the house is about 100 times cleaner now than the day we moved in, but whatever.

The really fun part is, this morning, as she was performing her hour-long obsessive ritual of watering all the stuff in the yard that doesn’t need watered because we’ve had something like 18 inches of rain in the past month, she started to turn things back around on me, just like the landlord from the house in south Broad Ripple.
I need to take antihistamines. I need to go to a doctor and find out what’s “really” going on. There’s mold everywhere. Who knows what’s really making me sick? Also, she feels sorry for us because we’re never going to find a place that allows our dog. She feels sorry for us because ALL the house around here are OLD and I will just keep coming across more and more mold. She feels sorry for us because we’re never going to find a landlord as understanding and kind as she is.

All the same stuff the landlord in Broad Ripple said, and all things I told Anne about when we first had a conversation about this a couple of months ago. She clearly doesn’t remember it, or considers herself an exception in this case.

I didn’t tell her that we’ve already found three potential apartments, two of which are completely rehabbed, all of which are cheaper than what we pay now. Two are within walking distance of Charlie’s work. All three have parking, a laundry in the building or in the apartment itself, A/C, hardwood floors, and dishwashers. One even has a built-in microwave in the all-stainless steel kitchen.

Of course, none of them are perfect. I’m not familiar with the neighborhoods like I am with this one. Do I need to get a different pediatrician than the one we’ve already made an appointment with? Will there be a nice park within walking distance? Is there a close el stop? How long will it take me to get to campus? Will we have enough room for our friends to come and stay?

This really throws off a lot of my plans, as I’m sure you can imagine. The landlord clearly does not want to hire any sort of licensed specialist to check out the house, probably for fear she’ll be required to address the problem to the tune of thousands of dollars (as well as some other not-so-legal issues being found out). Her mantra this morning was, “I don’t know what I can do to help.” But I reminded her that the “help” comes from the mold removal people. And she just repeated herself over and over again.

So, instead of, as I was secretly hoping, actually getting things fixed, we now have to dump even more money into moving. And there were so many things I wanted to get. A new toilet brush, a new vacuum cleaner, rugs to replace the ones Alvy and Trinity ruined when they were sick, a nice storage unit for Bea’s toys, textbooks for class . . .

I am so tired of having things turned upside on me. Every time we seem to get settled and things are beginning to adjust into a calm sort of routine, it’s like the universe reaches out to yank me out by the back of my shirt and say, oh no, you’re not getting too comfortable over there, are you?

Vaguely Employed

Today I was officially paid for the first time for my freelance editing job. They pay monthly, which isn’t especially pleasing to me, but it’s a job. Or, rather, it was, until I ran out of regular work.

When I was contracted, they had an unusual amount of assignments and were looking to bring people on as quickly as possible. A potential contractor would normally have 4 weeks to go through their training, but at this point, they asked me to do it in less than 2. I finished it all over a weekend, at which point I was ready to take on paid work.

The first four jobs I took were smaller – between 3 and 25 minutes of edited work. They pay per minute of finished — transcribed or translated — audio or video, so the faster an editor is, the more work he or she can accept, and the more money the editor gets paid. Unfortunately, after my first four jobs, everything dried up and I haven’t done anything since.

They have email alerts, so I can get notifications when there are files on their “market.” But, for whatever reason, I haven’t been able to sign on and pick anything up as quickly as other people.

I’m really hoping this dry spell doesn’t last much longer. I don’t have a lot of time left in the summer to work and am not fast enough to pick up some of the longer files they need finished. Since the required turnaround is usually 24 hours, I have to be really careful not to accept work that’s more than I think I can handle. If I’m doing most of the editing and transcribing while Bea is asleep, then I really only have about four or five hours a day that I can really focus on the job unless I want to stay up all night working and then be with her all day while Charlie’s at work.

The editing program is set up so that each individual word must be placed in a specific cell to match up with the speaker’s voice, so not only does it take an understanding of language and grammar, but I also have to be able to focus all of my attention on it. I’ve attempted working while Bea is tearing around the house screaming at me. Ineffective.

There are two main things I like about this job: one, it’s strictly freelance. I can work from home on my own schedule, taking as little or as much work as I think I can handle. Second, I am certified to use their software and program which, if things go well for the company, will be something that will look good on my resume.

On the other hand, both of those things are also hindrances. If the company doesn’t do well (it’s still relatively new and small), no one will care if I’m certified to edit using their software. And, while I am under no obligation to take work, there is no guarantee I will get any. The people who have been with the company since the start have first dibs on the files; the rest of us have to fight to sign on fast enough to pick up files when they become available.

If necessary, however, I think I’ve been offered another job at a coffeeshop. Last weekend, I got a text message from a number I didn’t know. The message said something like, “Hey, I heard about what happened between you and [the district manager who fired me]. Someone who owns a coffeeshop in Lincoln Park is looking for help right now,” and, if I was interested, I should let the owner know I’d worked at the other place, however briefly. I texted back to say sure, I was interested, and to thank the person for thinking of me. I still don’t know who it was. She told me her name, and it’s not someone I recall working with or meeting during my brief employment. Although I’m pretty sure I met everyone that was employed there.

So I called the owner of this local coffeeshop (but not before removing my somewhat negative review on Yelp) and she said she’d already scrambled around to find coverage for the employee who was in the hospital. If I was interested in working there, though, she said she needs someone starting in August and would love to sit down and speak with me. I said sure, that I’d come in and turn in an application, drop off my resume, whatever.

So here’s the moment where I have to ask myself if I really want to go back to working at a coffeeshop (and one that also serves ice cream and lots of different kinds of food). Do I want to work at a restaurant, or do I just want to make coffee? I just want to make coffee. I don’t want to make grilled cheese sandwiches and soup and scoop out gelato. Just espresso drinks, please.

I also don’t want to spend all my free time at work. I’m still unsure of what a full schedule as a graduate student is like. Will I have to read 75 books per quarter? Will I have to start attending conferences and presenting papers? Will I need to spend every waking moment writing, reading, and studying? I honestly have no idea what the workload will be like in my program, so I’m not quite ready to commit to a regular schedule where I’m rushing out the door the moment Charlie gets home.

Then again, I’m getting really sick of shitty coffee. Most cafes will pay you an hourly wage, let you split tips with co-workers, and give you a half or a full pound of free coffee (or some tea) each week. The take-home would be worth it to work a few shifts a week and probably more lucrative financially than the editing job.

Things Are Happening . . .

May 13th would mark the one year anniversary of when my dad came to live with us. Fortunately, it does not appear as though we’re actually going to have to celebrate that date. He found a place a couple of weeks ago south of Indianapolis that caters to people in bad spots; evictions, terrible credit, bankruptcies, foreclosures. They approved my dad’s application and he is apparently ready to move in this Sunday, March 27th. He couldn’t even be bothered to rent a truck. He’s just relying in his brother and Charlie to borrow vehicles for other people.

That is, to say, a bunch of other people are going to have to help him move. He is clinging to whatever amount of money he’s hoarding in his bank account, and repeating over and over again that there’s no way he can help us move.

Two weeks ago yesterday I got The News. I was accepted to DePaul University’s Writing and Publishing MA program. While I’m thrilled that they found my work acceptable for their program, I am disappointed that I was not accepted as a graduate assistant and will not receive a tuition waiver or living stipend for only working 20 hours a week on campus.

There are other options. I interviewed at Peet’s Coffee & Tea for a management position . . . except that was well over two weeks ago and I was supposed to hear a “definite yes or no” just five days after the interview. I haven’t heard anything. I have re-applied to AmeriCorps, but have not had any bites on the couple of positions for which I’ve applied so far. There are some work/study campus jobs, but they either don’t begin until classes start, or they need to be filled immediately. We’re sort of at a stand-still right now. We pay rent twice more before we’re free to leave, but we haven’t yet informed the landlord that my dad isn’t going to rent here. As soon as we do, I’m assuming he is going to want to list and begin showing the place. Since they don’t know about my dad and is four — err, three (one passed away Sunday night) — cats, we can’t put in that call just yet.

We also can’t quite look for an apartment since, if one is available that far in advance, we would need to put down a deposit to secure it. We’re doing everything we can to put aside money for Chicago, but it’s been tough. With my dad thinking he’s free and clear of any financial obligations, Charlie has begun doing side jobs for friends, helping someone finish a basement and whatnot, and I am trying to get in as many hours at the coffeeshop as possible. Prices went up a couple of weeks ago, and tips have been pathetic since then. I entered our Spring drink competition, which gets you a hundred bucks, but my drink didn’t win.

Now we’re going to start putting things up on CraigsList and Facebook to sell, and just put our heads together and down in an attempt to figure out how we can get rid of at least one car — short of literally handing over the keys to the dealership in a voluntary repo. Yipes. I don’t want to do that. Our credit is shot enough as it is . . . .

The really sad thing is how little responsibility my dad seems to feel toward us for helping him out the past (almost) year. It really makes me sad when he begins to rant about how little he has and how he is just “not in a position” to help us. Especially when you consider the fact that, two months ago, he was sitting on about ten grand. He told me this. Combining the “job” he had for three weeks and the prorated disability check, he had quite a prolific account balance. Never mind that he blew around two grand on stuff ordered from Amazon, alone. But now he needs “every penny.” I’ve tried to explain to him that our bills are twice what his are, but we are bringing in the same amount of money per month. Seriously. It’s sad.

I remember the sensation I had when I gave birth to Bea. Despite having an epidural (that was wearing off, mind you), I still had this tremendous feeling of relief wash over me when she popped out (sorry, gross, I know). When my dad gets the last of his things and hands me his key to the house, I imagine it will feel similar.


And if he doesn’t give us another dime, at least I’ll be done with the whole mess.

I hope.

Here I Am.

Last night I made cheese ravioli, steamed asparagus with butter and lemon juice, and a nice, fresh salad. As we took turns picking up Beatrice’s toys off the floor as she tossed them from her high chair, I had a strange feeling come over me. When we rented this house three and a half years ago, we were living with a twenty-something college student, and our dogs were our kids. We went out whenever we felt like it, ate out all the time, had no trouble paying our bills, and went to the movies or hung out with friends. Now, Cavan has moved out and we eat dinner at home, at the table with a 6-month-old in between us, banging toys on her food tray, cooing and babbling. We haven’t gone out alone together, let alone had a “date,” since she was born. Our hospital bills are ready to go into collections, and we’re trying to figure out if we can go down to one car.

I don’t think I ever imagined myself in this situation. Unlike many women, being in a long-term, committed relationship and being a mom just weren’t on my top list of things to do. I love Bea to death, and can’t imagine not having her, so it’s not like I would take that back. It’s just a weird, surreal feeling to know I now have to be responsible for her, before I consider myself and what I want. My life wasn’t exactly a thrill a minute before she came along, which may be part of the reason we chose to go ahead and try getting pregnant. I’m willing to sacrifice a certain amount of myself to make sure she’s well taken care of.

That being said, there are things I can do for myself that give me a little alone time. I take a lot of hot baths in this cold winter weather when Charlie is home. I’m reading a book on getting in to grad school. I’m sitting down by myself to try and get homework done.

My top school choices aren’t so much about the schools’ prestige as they are the programs those schools have to offer. Portland State University and DePaul in Chicago both have programs in writing and publishing that interest me. Part of me loves the idea of taking off for at least two years to live in Oregon, physically detached from the people who are making this thing called motherhood much more difficult for me (let’s not even go into that right now). Part of me likes the idea of renting a tiny apartment in Chicago, walking to campus, and taking regular trips to IKEA for all of the things we won’t want to take with us. I don’t want to leave my friends completely, or the family that I care about, but I really want to give something new a try. I don’t want to have a kid who’s afraid to try new things, who grows up in suburb of Indianapolis, and whose idea of “fun” is going to the mall with her friends. If that’s how she ends up, I want to know that I at least gave her a fighting chance to be somewhat “cultured.”

Charlie is considering pursuing a degree in nursing, in an effort to both change fields/have a new career, and to ensure a job anywhere we end up. I want to take comedy writing classes at Second City. We talk a lot about money, school, how we ended up in this financial situation, and how to get out of it.

The other day I had to turn in a bunch of paperwork at the Family and Social Services Administration to see if we were eligible for assistance with Bea’s healthcare. Walking in, I found the entire place so depressing, flickering fluorescent lights, people taking up seats who looked as though they might not have a place to call home . . . It made me that much more determined the get out of the situation that we’re in, whether it’s just by finishing this goddamn Bachelor’s degree that’s taken me so long, or continuing through to get my Master’s and teaching, or getting a shitty writing gig for a sitcom.

I guess, as usual, only time will tell, but I am convinced that, as usual, Charlie and I will come out ahead of all of this.