Living Accommodations (or: The Time a Spoon Came out of Our Toilet)

It is my personal belief that all young people should live away from home at least once during their coming-of-age years (during college, for example), without any (or very little) help from family. I believe that it helps to teach life skills, financial responsibility, and a little bit of humility.

Also, you can wind up with some awesomely horrible stories to tell later.

When I first left home, my best friend (K), her boyfriend (S), and I had decided to rent a place together. Soon my boyfriend (now my husband, J) also threw his chips in , and soon we had decided to rent a small, two bedroom house that S’s aunt owned. Our first set of warning alarms should have gone off when we found out that said aunt lives on literally the other side of the country and had someone else handling the property for her. But we were poor college students, so we went to see the place.

Did I mention that a drug addict and her young daughter had previously lived in this house? When we went to see the place for the first time the very first thing we saw was piles and piles of trash everywhere. Big black garbage bags and piles of fast food containers littered the entire house. Every square inch of wall space in what had been the kid’s room was covered in crayon. There was an enormous pile of dishes in the sink, and since it was the middle of February and the heat was turned off, these dishes were literally frozen in a giant block of ice.

But, okay, we thought. We can fix it up. It’s worth it because it’s cheap.

So we helped to clean up, paint, and fix the place up (ignoring those warning alarms the whole time), and we moved in shortly thereafter. And things only got more ridiculous from there.

"Guys, we've checked out the rest of the house, and we think that you might want to reconsider."
“Guys, we’ve checked out the rest of the house, and we think that you might want to reconsider.”

The day we moved in it occurred to us that there was no oven in the kitchen (we were stupid students, give us a break). We knew that there was supposed to be an oven, so we started searching. We found it in the basement (which was just a dirt-packed hole in the ground with a few support beams poking through it, by the way). It was just sitting there in the middle of the dirt floor. To this day I have no idea why it was down there.

It didn’t take us too long to realize that there was literally not a lick of insulation in the place. For the remainder of the winter we went through heating oil like it was drinking water, and once it started getting warm out the interior of the house burned like the seventh circle of hell.

Once the piles of snow in the backyard began to melt it became apparent that no on had mowed the lawn in approximately…ever. No joke. The grass was about four feet tall.

We found out that our dirt-packed hole-in-the-ground basement was home to a large family of white mice when they started poking their heads up through the heating vent in one of the bedrooms.

Fuses blew with great frequency, and were of such an old and outdated type that I could scarcely believe that they were able to conduct electricity in the first place.

We once found one of the cats pawing at a lump under the carpet, so we ripped it up and found a dead mouse. The body was not fresh enough to have gotten there after we’d moved in.

But the best part was the toilet. From the day we moved in, the toilet just didn’t seem to work properly. It made an odd clunking noise, and didn’t seem to have much pressure. One day S got fed up and just started plunging like mad. A few minutes later out popped…a spoon. But not just a regular spoon. This thing was so big it may have been more logical to refer to it as a ladel. And it had been flushed down the toilet.

That was the first place.

A while later J and I decided to move out into our own place. You’d think we’d have learned a thing or two, but we were still poor college students and there wasn’t much available to us at the time. We chose the basement apartment of a really old Victorian-style house because it was cheap and available.

Our first two days at the new place we had no water because the landlord’s brother-in-law was installing a new shower. It took the self-proclaimed handyman two days to install something that I’m quite certain I could have done myself in a few hours, and he left our water turned off the entire time.

There was a closet in the living room that went under the basement stairs. We opened this once, closed it again, and sealed all the edges with packing tape. That’s all you need to know about that.

Whenever something needed repairing the landlord would send that same brother-in-law, who would mutter and talk to himself, always appeared to be drugged out of his mind, and always took at least ten times as long as it would have taken us to fix the problem ourselves.

It took a little while for the damage to build up and break through, but one morning when the people upstairs were getting a shower our kitchen began to rain. The ceiling bowed so bad that it looked like it would collapse at any moment, and the light fixture was full to bursting with water. To this day I don’t know how we didn’t wind up with an electrical fire that burned the place to the ground.

But the coup de grace of this particular place happened after I’d left. I’d gotten a job at the paper mill and had to move for it, but J stayed for a while since he was still finishing his course at the college. When I left i took the two cats with me. And then the rats came out. J never actually saw any of them, but there was a hole chewed through the back of one of the cupboards that was big enough for a medium-sized cat to fit through easily, and one night when he was trying to sleep one ran across his feet. He moved out (very) shortly thereafter.

So what did we learn from these experiences (other than the fact that there are some outrageously terrible apartments available in our area)? Well, a lot, to be honest. Humility, for one thing. We learned what we could and couldn’t put up with. We learned financial responsibility (even living in these hellholes we still scraped and scrimped for other necessities). Most of all we learned that we don’t ever want to put up with that kind of crap again, and that we’ll work our asses off to make sure that never happens. And that’s why I think all young adults should have these kind of experiences at least once; because it makes you realize that it’s worthwhile to do what you have to do in order to get yourself into a happy and comfortable place that you can appreciate. And if there’s one thing a lot of people out there really need to learn, it’s how to appreciate what they’ve got.

Have you ever lived in a hellhole apartment? Been so down-on-your-luck that you’re eating Kraft Dinner five times a week? How do you feel about people who don’t appreciate what they have? Please share!

The Most Vicious of Vicious Cycles

I have a confession to make.

I decided to take a day off from blogging today so that I could try and get some cleaning done. Our house is in a bit of a shambles, you see, and I hadn’t vacuumed since Niece was here on the weekend, and the cat’s puked in the basement again, so I thought since I had no blog posts planned in advance that I would take the day off and focus on the homestead instead.

And now I’m here telling you about it because I needed to get this out:

Cleaning sucks. It’s the most futile task known to adulthood, especially to an adult who has a toddler and two particularly idiotic cats. The second I clean up the cat puke, one of them decides to “go” outside their litter box. I vacuum my daughter’s bedroom and two minutes later she crumbles a cookie all over her floor. I throw in a load of laundry, and god help me, the stuff still waiting to go in the wash seems to multiply exponentially. For the love of puppies, I can literally see a new coat of dust appearing before I’m even finished wiping away the old dust.

And here’s the thing…even if I’m diligent, even if I forsake spare time, writing time, and playing with my daughter, and I work my ass off to get the house sparkling…by the time I get from one end of the house to the other, the first end has gotten dirty again. Between baby messes, evil cats, and no end of hair and fur on everything, there is just no way to get ahead. And that’s not even taking into account all the organizing and purging that needs to be done.

So with that said, I implore my fellow bloggers, writers, and the random other people reading this post:
How the hell do you do it? Help! HELP! I’m losing my freakin’ mind!!!!

Categorizing Yourself

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

82. Why you write in your category or genre.

A long time ago I read a bit of advice that has been repeated many, many times: write what you know. While that’s a bit of an oversimplification, it is still pretty good advice. Why write what you don’t know? If I were to write a mystery, for example, it would be truly awful because I don’t know mysteries. I don’t read them, I’ve watched very few movies or shows on the topic, and while my brain has occasionally aided me in solving an average mystery or two, it is ill equipped for constructing them.

I try to write what I know, which is closely related to what I enjoy. A few years back my husband began to introduce me to classic zombie cinema. Before I knew it I was hooked. I wanted to watch all of the zombie movies, began playing zombie-based video games, and (of course) read some excellent zombie literature. It was after reading several of these zombie novels (most notably The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks) that I began to think, “You know what? I can totally do this.” That year for NaNoWriMo a brand new zombie novel was born, and someday I hope for it to reach adulthood, leave the nest, and support me in my old age.


It’s the same with fantasy. I write fantasy because I read fantasy, I enjoy fantasy, and I feel that I know enough about the fantasy genre to write it without sounding like I’m forcing it. I am able to produce something that, at the very least, has the proper basics. Conversely, when I try to write romances I find I come off sounding a bit like a pent-up teenager. I just don’t have the background in romance to lean on when I write, so it’s like I’m a grade school student writing their first original story and I have no idea what it should sound like.

“Write what you know” is also the reason I enjoy writing fanfiction. The world and the characters are already created for you and as long as you know enough about them to write without destroying the pre-established conventions, you can create a fun and enjoyable story with relative ease. It makes sense, doesn’t it? The more you know about something, the easier and/or more enjoyable it will be to write.

So the short answer is that I write in the genres I chose because they are genres that I enjoy and that I know enough about to write with a decent level of intelligence.

Tune Out the World

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

74. Music or silence while writing

Remember back in school when you had two or three different sources (parents, teachers, etc) telling you to turn off that TV/radio/Walkman/whatevs and concentrate on your homework? I always hated that, hated it with a passion, because for me music always helped me with my homework. That’s not to say that all music is the same…Metallica doesn’t exactly encourage academic thinking…but for the most part having background noise has always helped me concentrate. I’ve always found silence to be strangely distracting. Whenever I tried to do homework without music playing or a show on the TV, I’d find my mind wandering to other things, as though it was somehow desperate to fill up the silence. I don’t really know why, but I always found it particularly difficult to focus if it was too quiet around me.

This desire for background noise has followed me into adulthood and manifests itself while I’m writing. I find it nearly impossible to sit down in a silent room with a pen and paper (or my laptop) and just write. My brain ends up floating off in a hundred different directions. That’s not to say that there aren’t some kinds of noises that are distracting. Writing in the lunch room at work, for instance, is damn near impossible because there are conversations happening all around me and it’s difficult to tune that kind of thing out. Writing with music playing, however, is bliss. It’s just the right kind of noise to allow my subconscious mind to occupy itself while still allowing my conscious mind to keep on task.

No matter how many times I try to explain this, however,  I have never yet found an employer that agrees to let me listen to music while working…I wonder why that is? 😛