Thursday, December 30, 2010

In Memoriam....

Today I learned of the death of my college roommate, Becki. We were roommates for four years and they were all good. We shared pizza at 2:00 in the morning, had road trips, argued, but generally we just had a good time. We turned out to be very good friends in addition to roommates, which just enhanced the whole college experience. She was much too young to die. I will miss her, but she will always live in my memories and in my heart.

Sympathies and prayers to her husband, children, and the rest of her family.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Christmas is almost here...

As December has arrived so has an anniversary of sorts. This month marks two and half years in Maryland and the approaching end of an 18 month apartment lease. I got a really good deal with the lease last year and am hoping they repeat that deal this month, though I'd be happy with no increase. Even when I signed that 18 month lease, I wasn't sure I'd be here for 18 more months. Happily, I am and I'm at peace. I wasn't when I moved here. I moved from Texas and it wasn't really my first choice. The job was a mess, the house was a mess, and this is where I landed. And, I'm truly grateful for that.

I never thought I'd move this far from my family again or that at my age I'd literally be starting over again. But, I did. The first few months, especially the first Christmas, were bad. Not mongo meltdown bad, but I had a hard time adjusting to not being able to get in the car and drive a few hours to my Mom's house. I guess since my dad passed away I felt like I should be able to do that. Well, my Mom is doing well and if the time comes, I'll move closer. I've lived all over the country and this isn't new, it's just been a long time since I couldn't just hop in the car.

I've learned a few things. You are the only person who can decide what is right for you. This job was, and is, right for me. I like the area where I live. Renting is right for me. Renting was a hard one. I hadn't lived in an apartment for 10 years. But, for now, it's right. My bills are fewer and sadly, should something go wrong, I can pick up and go. Sad that I think that, but really the job is fine. But, still you can't be all that mobile if you own a house. I learned that the hard way.

So, as we head into one of the busiest seasons of the year, I reflect on what I have and realize that it's not about gifts. Really, the best gift a person can have is to be happy where they are and to appreciate all they've been blessed with. And, I do.

I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and all the best in the coming year.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

When car alarm systems go wonky....

Thursday morning my car was a bit sluggish on start-up. Driving to work I realized it was probably about time for a new battery. It's been about three years since the last battery, but I thought I'd put in a four year batter. However, it was a rough winter, so who knows. Left work, still sluggish. So, I added a trip to Sears for a new battery the next day - a day off so I could enjoy a four day Labor Day weekend and hunker down and organize my spare room.

I decided I'd still go to the gym. Still sluggish on start up, but I figured I could make it till the next day with the battery. Good workout. The craziness started when I went to leave the gym. The car started, but things clicked and dash lights flashed. Unsettling, but it stopped after a couple of minutes, so I headed out. Got part way down the road and the horn starts honking. Like in HONKING. Scared me to death. I pulled over. It stopped. So, I continued on. Thank heavens it's a short drive because the horn honked intermittently in three to four beep staccato rhythm all the way home, royally startling me every time it did. I realized I would not be going to Sears but to the dealer.

Fortunately, a friend offered to follow me to the dealership and pick me up. We had plans anyway, so we just altered them a bit. Well, the car wouldn't start. The horn was still beeping/blaring randomly and then the car simply wouldn't start. Made this horrible grinding noise as well. Obviously, it was going to have to be towed to the dealer. Fortunately, my friend waited with me.

I'd moved my auto service to my cell phone carrier. Kudos to them. They were friendly and efficient. I chose the service that could get here in 30 minutes. Took them a tad longer, but within an hour or so of calling, my car was at the dealer. They even followed up to make sure the two operator had arrived and all was well. Very satisfied with the service.

Curious as to what was going on? Well, apparently my "after market" security system had shorted out and drained my car battery. The dealer couldn't even start it with a jump box; it had gone into anti-theft mode. Good to know it works, but not quite as I expected. I also hadn't realized that the dealer I bought the car from had installed the security system and not the factory. I'll ask next time.

So, now I'm without an alarm system. I miss the little beeps when I lock and unlock the car, but at least it starts now. It wasn't exactly a cheap fix, but the dealer also found a couple of lights that were out and replaced those, along with a new battery.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Road trip...

I recently got back from what has become my yearly pilgrimage to a small town in the middle of nowhere Southern Illinois. It's the town my Dad grew up in and we stay in the house he grew up in.

This year I decided to drive. 844 miles. It was a long drive. Absolutely gorgeous. I enjoyed the scenery and honestly the drive wouldn't have been a problem if I had company. As it was, I was meeting my Mom there and I just wanted to be there. I loved taking my car and being able to load up what I would need for a stay in a house not overflowing with amenities. A pillow, baked goodies, some little things for my Mom. So much easier to travel when you can just throw stuff in the car. Also, easier to bring back stuff if you shop or wind up extras from somewhere. However, I'll probably fly and rent a car the next time I make the trip. Shorten the travel time by about six to eight hours.

I have always enjoyed visiting there - the house is just peaceful, especially in the morning. There is a covered porch that gets good breezes in the afternoon. No amenities are near by, i.e. the grocery store is at least seven miles away. Usually, this isn't a problem, except the poor refrigerator decided this trip would probably be it's last. Not only does it make an ungodly noise when it runs (think a motorcycle going through the house), but the refrigerator section pretty much wasn't cooling. We think it was maybe the fan, but we aren't sure. For someone who drinks Diet Coke in the morning rather than coffee and who prefers it cold, very cold, this wasn't really good. We survived though. We were able to cook breakfast there and then generally did lunch or dinner out.

We did visit the antique shops one day and had a blast. We were tempted on a couple of items, but managed to keeps ourselves in check. One morning we went walking along the local lake. The picture above was taken from the hiking/bike trail there.

As much as we enjoy going there, it's becoming harder for us to maintain from a distance. We've come to realize we probably should sell it. We're running into the "old boys network" from the town "managers" and cost wise it's probably just not feasible. It's bittersweet. While most people wouldn't consider this a vacation spot, I've looked forward to my trips there and wonder where I'll go once it's sold.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Renting: the good, the bad, and the crazy

Hard to believe, but I've been in this apartment for almost two years. When I bought my first house, over 10 years ago, I never thought I'd rent or live in an apartment again. Ever. Just goes to show that you truly do not know where life will take you.

However, I've come to see there are definite advantages to renting, so I'll start with the pros.
  • The apartment covers gas, water, and trash. Which means in addition to "optional" utilities of cable, internet, phone, I have just one utility bill - electric. I try to keep the others as low as I can and limit credit cards, so my monthly bill paying has become much easier. My heat and my stove/oven are gas, so this is a big plus, especially in the winter.
  • Maintenance. I'm lucky, the complex I live in is very responsive to problems, which I've had very few of. Bugs. I've had a small problem, but the apartment sent the bug guy and that was not an expense I incurred. Of course, living in a mid-rise, it's just common sense to tackle bug problems because they can migrate to other units. I actually think my problems might be some migration from others, but it is an older building and probably just to be expected.
  • While my rent in higher in this area, I do not have to worry about homeowner's insurance (though I do carry renters, but it's much cheaper) or property taxes. In fact, my monthly expenses with my last house, if all of this were added, probably ran more than the rent. I don't have to do yard maintenance or worry about snow removal (though my car was my responsibility). There is a trash chute in the laundry room which I love. I will actually miss that when I move as you can't beat the convenience of a trash chute.
  • On a level that really can't be measured, I have the latitude to move if I want to, though I'm perfectly happy where I am right now. Given my last job situation though, this has become a big plus. I've also come to realize that I can live and be happy in a much smaller space. After all, I'm only one person with a cat.
The cons.
  • Well, it's an apartment. I hear the bangs and bumps of the people around me. I hear folks when I'm in the bathroom and I occasionally get to listen to someone else's stereo (though I've learned that stomping my bedroom floor at 1:00 in the morning does work).
  • This is an older building with antique windows, meaning I pick up a lot of road noise and hear conversations from others that take place outside. All in all though, it's not bad.
  • Parking. In addition to losing the convenience of parking in front of your door, there are crazy people who park to close to you. The worst was the panel van that left a whole three inches between them and my drivers side door. I had to climb in from the passenger side (no easy feat in today's car) to get in. Plus, there's the scraping of snow and ice. How I miss a garage.
  • The kitchen is tiny and the black and white stove I despise (color wise, it works just fine). I'd love a refrigerator that didn't have wire shelves, though it does have an ice maker.
  • Storage isn't great, especially in the kitchen, but it could be worse.
  • I definitely miss having a washer and dryer in-unit, but there is one on each floor and I'm literally right next to the laundry room. I'm still working on whether or not the cost per load to wash and dry is more, less, or equal to water and electric and maintenance cost of a washer and dryer. Most apartments I looked at had a washer/dryer in-unit, but again, this is an older building. So, I knew that when I selected the apartment. Still, I kinda miss it.
  • Recycyling is a pain. Oh, how I miss curb side recycling. The complex mixes it with the trash and really doesn't put out enough containers. Shleping it out to recycle isn't fun and the area isn't all that pretty.
The crazy.
  • The City I live in inspects, yes inspects, all apartments every two years. One of the admonitions on the notice from my apartment management company was to make sure my housekeeping was up to date and that clutter was at a minimum. You can imagine my reaction. I was horrified. I did call the city and it appears they have little to no respect for my apartment as my home. The inspection itself was a total joke. A person from Code Enforcement (according to the car I saw in front of the apartment building) came in, set off the smoke detector, looked in every room, ran the water in the bathroom sink and did a very quick peek under the sink, checking for leaks; circled my kitchen and asked if my stove and microwave worked and then declared it done.
  • I was advised to remove or cage pets during the time frame of the inspection. Um, no. So, I had to take off from work to be here during the inspection. It wasn't required that I be here, but after learning from a co-worker that their inspector tried to write them up for clothes on the floor, I decided I would be here when a strange person roamed through my apartment.
  • I did look up the code that governs this and there is absolutely no guideline for what they inspect. There are apartment complexes that are part condo complexes. Which means the residents in the rental apartments get inspected but those who own don't get inspected. I fail to see where this right. It's beyond intrusive and I think a huge mis-spend of my tax dollars, because, oh yes, I pay city and county income taxes where I live. I'm still deciding if I'm going to write a letter and complain about this service. It's still just irritates me to no end when I think about it.
Overall, though, renting is where I need/want to be right. If for no other reason, the latitude to move to Timbuktu for that dream job if that's what I decide, without having to worry about selling a house, especially in today's housing market. Been there, done that and don't really want to do it again.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Winter weather....

In the past two weeks, I have been through not one, but two blizzards. About 60" of snow total. As I've said before, I'm a southern girl; I've never seen this much snow in my life! Who knew it could snow this much? It was pretty, until total white out conditions. It was sorta fun, until the dig-out of the car, when I discovered little used muscles.

Fortunately, my place of work closed for three days total, though not in a row. The first storm hit on a Saturday. I was able to dig my car out the following Sunday, but work was closed on Monday. The state of MD was not expecting the first storm, let alone the second. The drive to work on Tuesday after the first storm was interesting to say the least. None of the roads through downtown had been cleaned. Thankfully, the bridge was good, but we didn't get over 10 mph on the drive to work. What usually takes about six minutes took 25 minutes. Then Tuesday night it decided to snow some more. When I went to bed I thought the predictions for 10-20 inches were exaggerated. I thought the same thing when I looked out the window at about 5:30 am. Not so the next time I looked out the window, around 9:00 am. The second blizzard had arrived. Work was closed that day and the day after. Cabin fever started to set in. I was very happy to go to work on Friday.

Strangely, it's a holiday today, so after three snow days in one week, it's a three day weekend. It was nice being out and about and running errands this weekend. Only to now start snowing again. I can honestly say I'm ready for Spring.