Journal Entry: The Tulsa House

Here’s the whole story on the Tulsa house. If you’re just interested in what’s gone on lately, skip on down to the 2008 part.

If you’re looking for pictures, I don’t have any here. Check out Trish’s blog for that.

We moved to Tulsa in 2002, renting half of a duplex on the northwest side of town (and I was working on the northeast). It was an old, old, old building, and the landlords didn’t do too much to take care of us. After a year of that, living in Tulsa seemed like a pretty permanent situation so we decided to buy a house.

The rule everyone told us went, “If you’re certain you’ll be in the house for five years, you’ll probably break even when you try to get out of it.” We kind of stretched that to the limit, getting a zero-down, 103% loan, and then not really paying much extra on a monthly basis.

We ended up with a 1300-square-foot, 1956 one-story home with three bedrooms and one-and-a-half baths. The living room sprawled (my favorite part of the place) and there were original built-in cabinets and closets everywhere (Trish’s favorite). A huge window opened onto the big front porch. Outside the back door was a covered plywood deck.

The place had its drawbacks, though. Every wall was covered with old-lady wallpaper.

Also, we learned during out inspection that the foundation was in bad shape. Nothing drastic — every house in the neighborhood had the same sort of problems — but it needed six new piers at three corners, and that would run $3,000. At the time, $3,000 was an unimaginable amount of money. The house needed a new roof, too — the old one was twenty years old and already had two layers. That was nothing we wanted to mess with, so we overlooked it and forgot about it.

We did a little bit to improve the place while we lived there. We tore down nearly all of the wallpaper and painted. With the help of all my friends, we wired the house for a computer network and, in the process, completely redid the phone and cable wiring. Then again, a lot of those improvements were offset by my work in the office. I painted the walls dark green, and all the wood trim black. And I painted the floor black. I didn’t even do a good job of it. It was awful.

One bedroom had cheap, peeling brown linoleum on the floor. The master bedroom had huge water stains underneath the window air conditioners (the place had central heat, but no central air). And, now, my office had a poorly-painted black floor. The rest of the house was carpeted, and our cats were not perfectly house-trained.

When I got a job working for the FAA in the summer of 2005, we moved to Oklahoma City. I got a pretty hefty raise, so we picked a newer and larger house for our new one, enjoying the largesse of my new position. That wasn’t necessarily the best choice we’d ever made.

Before we left Tulsa, we signed with a realtor to sell our house. We’d heard good things about her, but she mostly worked down in Broken Arrow, twenty to thirty minutes south of our house. She told us it wouldn’t be a problem, though. We signed a three month contract with her, and moved.

While the house sat on the market, we were making mortgage payments for that one and the new one in OKC. That was tough. You’ve also got to keep the utilities turned on while the house is listed, so that potential buyers can make sure things are in working order (and, once an offer is made, so that the buyers’ inspectors can check everything out). Even with no one living in the house, having utilities active ends up costing something every month. Worse, you’ve got to keep the lawn in showing condition, and with us living out of town that meant hiring a lawn service. That was almost as big a hit as the mortgage payment.

We had a contract with the realtor for three months. To our knowledge, she never showed the house once. We certainly never had any offers, and in October we let her know we weren’t interested in re-listing. We hired a rental manager and he offered to find us renters. They moved in in December, but he took the first month’s rent and the deposit as his management fee (as well as ten percent on every month’s payment), so we didn’t see any money from July to January.

The renters had a lot of demands. We had to put in a new side-door on the garage for some reason I’ve forgotten now, but it was several hundred dollars. They offered to paint (begged us to let them, really) because they didn’t like the dark, dramatic colors Trish had picked. When we gave them permission, they took the cost of the paint and the sprayer out of their rent for the month. Little things like that ate at us.

Then, in July, we didn’t receive a rent payment from the manager. He said the tenants hadn’t paid him yet, but he was looking into it. In August, he told us the same thing again, and he was still hoping to get some money back. Two months late on rent was really hurting us financially so we started bugging him about it. He finally admitted the tenants had left without warning, but the house was clearly abandoned. He said the good news was that they’d left it in really nice shape, and he would get it cleaned up and back on the market soon.

Three weeks later, in mid-August, Trish was in Tulsa for some work and she dropped by the house to see how it looked. She was horrified. She called me in tears. There was a trashcan in the living room filled with trash (including food) that had apparently been there since before the tenants left and — naturally — bugs were everywhere. The whole house was trashed. We finally saw the paint job they’d done…without taping, using a sprayer, splashing uneven, glossy white paint everywhere they could reach.

They’d stolen a really nice fan from the living room, and replaced it with a crappy $20 fan that wasn’t wired up properly, so it didn’t respond to the wall switches. They’d left the washer connection in the laundry room dripping, so that the whole floor was soaked and rotting.

This was three weeks after our rental manager told us the place was empty and he would get it ready to show again. There was no sign he’d done a thing, and so many problems that he could have fixed so easily. It was late in the month now, and there was no chance we’d see any rent in September, either, and we were just crushed.

Our friends and family came up to help us, and we spent a long Friday cleaning the place up. The Austins came up from Oklahoma City, and Josh was there, too. We worked all day, got the place livable again, and then jotted out to Claremore to have dinner at Josh’s dad’s restaurant. It was some delicious barbecue, and we ended up with tickets to the OU game the following day. That made the trip worth it.

Anyway, I don’t remember the exact timing on this (and I don’t have the patience to look it up now), but Josh metnioned that he was interested in staying there, and I was desperate for a tenant. We worked out a deal, and Josh moved in before the end of the year. He told me his little brother would be staying in one of the rooms, helping pay rent.

At some point, before the end of the year, he told me in chat that they’d gotten a puppy. I wasn’t happy with the idea, I let him know that, but I never said up-front “no dogs,” and I didn’t really say it then, either. I probably grumbled a lot, but I know I didn’t tell him to get rid of it. That’s not really the sort of thing I would say.

Before it was over, he had at least four dogs living there, between him and his brother, although it was never more than two at a time. The doberman in the yard next door kept killing his puppies when they got through the fence, so several of those were replacements.

Josh was able to make all his payments on time. He didn’t ask for a lot, and he was more than willing to put in time and energy to work on the house when it needed it. We had to get a new garage door and opener, but really we’d known that since we lived there. Other than that, he was the most helpful tenant a landlord could hope for.

He tore up the rotted laundry room floor and replaced it with at nice tiled floor. He took out some shrubs in the back yard that we’d always hated, and spent a lot of energy on the lawn, getting grass growing in front and back, and even keeping the flowerbeds out front. He replaced a leaky faucet for us, and started tearing down the crappy plywood deck out back, in the hopes that I could come up with the money for him to build a new, nicer one. That never actually materialized.

Something else that never materialized….. Josh loved the house. It had a big back yard, plenty of room, and it was conveniently located. He kept talking about wanting to buy the house, and that seemed — much like his renting the place — a win/win situation for both of us. I didn’t want to push him into it, though, because we’ve been friends for a lot longer than I’ve cared about money. I think he had some of the same worries, and it never really happened.

He also often mentioned moving out, as he looked at different opportunities and wrestled with what to do with his life. Sometimes he wanted to move to Claremore, sometimes farther away. He knew that I was depending on him for the rent, though, so he always tried to give me lots of warning, and I know there were opportunities he passed up because taking them would have left me in a really tough situation. I appreciated that.

At the very beginning of March this year, Josh came up to Tulsa for a concert and I was able to have dinner with him. He was in a hurry, and it was a noisy restaurant, but we had a little time to talk and he mentioned that he was wanting to move out of the house in April. Spring is the best time of year to list a house (especially one without central air), and this was really the first convenient time he’d mentioned moving out, so I told him I could probably survive that, and he went off to his concert.

Meanwhile, I went home and had a little freak-out trying to figure out how we’d survive without the rent, then I called my parents, because that’s what I always do. Mom said her spring break was the last week of March, and they’d be glad to come help us fix up the house for selling.

That was a terrifying prospect. I’ve told you what happened last time we tried to sell the house. It sat on the market and ate a thousand dollars a month out of our budget. We’ve done a lot to improve our financial situation since then, but that’s an awfully large chunk to just absorb.

And there were the things we knew about that needed fixing. We were pretty certain the no-central-air situation bore a significant responsbilitiy for the house not showing the first time. The foundation had still never been repaired, and the roof had only gotten older. More than that, there were newer…issues that we knew needed dealing with.

As I mentioned, Josh had started tearing down the deck in anticipation of building a new one. We never got around to building the new one, though, and instead, there was just the ruins of a deck out back, with a big bare patch underneath, occasionally showing signs of a long-buried patio brick. Also, the giant maple tree in the back yard had died a year ago, and the major ice storm late in the year had brought down a lot of limbs. Since the tree was dead anyway, Josh had started work taking down the rest of the tree, too.

That left a sprawling back yard completely filled with massive limbs and rotted logs. Some of it was really good wood, much of it was not, and all of it was an eyesore. Worse, there was tons of it, and we had no way to get rid of it. We’d have to hire one of those big roll-off dumpsters to sit in the driveway, and fill it up with branches.

There were other things Trish had always said we needed to do, too — fix-ups that would make the house infinitely more likable to buyers. The bathroom was original — and awful. The kitchen countertops were cheap, crappy plastic vinyl. She had tried painting them to update the kitchen’s look, but it hadn’t really worked too well, and that color no longer really matched the rest of the house. The kitchen’s stick-on tile floor wasn’t sticking anymore, either.

It was daunting. Things like the roof and the foundation were going to cost us a fortune, and things like redoing the countertop and hauling off the wood would take a ton of man-hours. It was way too much.

When we finally got to Tulsa, at the end of March, things only got worse. On Monday before we showed up, Josh fell ill and ended up at the hospital for three days, when he’d been planning to pack up his stuff and move out. So we showed up to find a house still fully occupied. Not only that, but he’d taken on a roommate at the beginning of the month….

Josh and I have been friends for a long time, and nothing about this incident changes that. I don’t have any really hard feelings about it, but the roommate situation was tough. There’s a good chance he’ll end up reading this…but nothing I’m going to say should take him by surprise. It was a bad move on his part, and he knows it.

Anyway, around the first of the month, his girlfriend’s little sister had fallen on some hard times, and had no place to stay. At the same time, Josh was living all by himself in a three bedroom house, and he’s a soft-hearted guy so he let her stay in the back bedroom. He knew she was a smoker, so he made it really clear that there was to be no smoking in the house. As a result of some of his health problems, though, the dude has no sense of smell, so he wasn’t really able to enforce that.

She only lived there for a month, but she did about as much damage in that time as a tenant can possibly do.

She…flushed personal products. That’s probably already more detail than you wanted to know, but it stuck us with a two-hundred dollar plumbing bill when we had to get Roto-Rooter out on a Friday night, because we had ten friends coming in from all over on Saturday to help work on the house. She had two indoor dogs that tore the place up and used the carpet as a toilet. Again, as a result of Josh’s medical condition, he didn’t know how bad it was. When we showed up on Thursday, though, we were gagging just walking from room to room, even after we’d opened all the windows.

One of the dogs, in an effort to get at a lady-dog in the yard next door, had shredded the wood frame of one of the original, built-in windows and even punched a big hole in the glass. We haven’t got that fixed yet.

Her room was a pigsty of half-empty Dr Pepper cans that she’d used as ash trays and dirty clothes and fast food bags with the remains of the meals stil in them.

From the dogs living in the house, everything was filthy. There were clothes and furniture everywhere — as I said, the house was still fully occupied when we showed up to start working. Josh hadn’t been able to contact his roommate in over a week, so she didn’t even know we were there. And she didn’t show up to take her damn dogs away until late in the day on Friday.

March 27-30
Anyway, here’s how that weekend worked out: Mom and Dad showed up late on Wednesday, and checked into a hotel nearby. They dropped by the house to get a feel for the situation, and that’s when we discovered the plumbing problem for the first time. They gave me a call and warned me what to expect.

Then Thursday morning Trish and I drove up. We spent much of Thursday just trying to figure out how to handle the situation. Dad helped Josh find a place to move into, Mom started the process of cleaning, and Trish met with carpeters and foundation guys and roofers and realtors trying to get estimates and figure out what, out of the massive list of things that needed doing, we should actually do. I spent the whole day Thursday, and most of Friday, hauling limbs and logs from the back yard to the front driveway, and heaving them up into the dumpster.

Mom ended up going into the back bedroom with a box of Glad bags, and just cramming all of the roommate’s stuff into trash bags. It wasn’t pleasant work, and I’ll be forever grateful to her for doing it. When the roommate finally showed up late Friday, she walked in just planning to change and get ready for work, and found us sitting in the living room greeting her with unfriendly eyes, and all her stuff bagged up in the living room floor. Mom told her that if the dogs weren’t gone by the morning we’d be calling animal control (something she and Trish had been recommending since we showed up Thursday). The roommate borrowed my phone, made a couple calls, and within an hour her dad was there picking up her stuff and her dogs. Getting her out of there was probably the biggest relief of the whole weekend.

Friday night Mom and Dad went home to enjoy one day off — Mom’s whole spring break ended up being a single Saturday. About half an hour after they left, while I was still dealing with the Roto Rooter guy, Trish’s family showed up. It was her Mom and Dad, and her brother Matt — who is a carpenter and works on home restorations repairing fire damage, so he was unbelievably helpful to have around — and his fifteen-ish son Owen. I’ve never seen a kid work so hard.

It must have been eight o’clock when they showed up. The plan was for Matt to take a quick survey of the house so he could make some plans, and then we’d all go back to the hotel and get some sleep. Instead, he set to work. He glanced at the kitchen, then headed back to the bathroom and looked it over. Half an hour later, he had the built-in vanity torn out, and all the tile torn off the walls. Before the night was done, he busted out the floor (tile on top of uneven concrete), and stripped the room down to drywall and studs. We left the tub in place, and most of the walls, but everything else came out.

I was exhausted from hauling branches, so I wasn’t able to hang around as long as he did. It was probably midnight when he got back to the hotel, and we were all up by seven the next morning to start again.

On Saturday, the Austins and Gordons all came up from Oklahoma City. Matt and I took a long shopping list up to Lowe’s to get the materials we’d need for the day’s projects. While we were there, the OKC crew showed up and got to work. They finished clearing the wood out of the back yard, and tore down the remains of the old deck. Inside, they started painting. Our first set of tenants had spray-painted the living areas, but the bedrooms were still painted as we’d left them — including my office, all dark greens and blacks. The goal was to take all the bedrooms to a neutral color.

Once we got back from Lowe’s, I gave Emilie and Kris to Matt as his helpers, and the three of them got to work on the big remodeling jobs — the kitchen and the bathroom. Matt was cutting plywood to build a new subfloor for the bathroom, and once that was done he started tiling it. There were dozens of holes in the drywall from the demolition work that had to be patched and sanded, and we also ended up putting in a new vinyl surround for the bathtub area.

In the kitchen, the old countertops had to come up, so we could put down tile there, too. Tiling, as you’ll probably know, is not a quick process. Lucky for us, Matt had a lot of experience with it, and some good helpers.

Now, Dad and Josh had maanged to come up with some ideas on places for him to move, but none of them would be available until the first of April, and I had a whole crew there to work on the house. As a favor to him (that was still very much in my best interest), we used Trish’s Dad’s truck and the manual labor of the guys who weren’t busy, and we loaded up Josh’s stuff and moved it to a storage facility Josh had rented out in Claremore. It was twenty minutes there and twenty minutes back, and it took us two or three trips just to get the house mostly cleared out, so that was most of my Saturday. It freed up space for the rest to work, though, so I figure it was worth it.

The Gordons had to leave early on Saturday and ended up leaving late on Saturday, because they were so anxious to help. The Austins had to get home Saturday night, but they ended up staying for most of Sunday. We have better friends than we deserve. Matt was up late late again on Saturday, and already starting to panic about what he wouldn’t be able to get finished. By the end of the day Saturday, though, all of the bedrooms had two coats of paint on them, the drywall was repaired in the bathroom and most of the tile was down, and all of the exterior work was done. And the whole house was cleaned up, apart from the mess of our actual ongoing projects. We got an amazing amount accomplished in one day.

Sunday we rented a tile-cutting saw and Matt and Kris worked feverishly to finish what had to be done in the bathroom. Owen and I worked in the back yard, digging up the half-buried, half-broken patio bricks that had been hidden beneath the deck, so that I could spread new topsoil and seed and hopefully get the lawn to extend right up to the house. We’d settled on that as the cheapest and least-effort solution to the deck replacement, but it was still a half day’s work for two of us.

Inside, they finished the painting and the cleaning, and the bedrooms looked better than they had since we’d lived there. Even the dark, dark office went to neutral in three coats, and apart from the floor it looked good. We had a plan for that, though.

The kitchen wasn’t finished, and when Matt finally decided he couldn’t hang around any longer, the bathroom still wasn’t done, either. The new baseboards needed to be cut and put into place, the walls still weren’t sanded or painted, and the grouting needed to be done. Before he left, Matt walked Josh through the process of placing tile and grouting, and Josh promised to work on it while he was waiting to move into his new place.

We went home late on Sunday, exhausted, and with the house still looking pretty awful. True, most of the worst of it, now, was from projects that would end up making it look a lot nicer once they were done, but it was ugly nonetheless.

Honestly, I can’t tell you what happened during the week. I went from exhausted, trying to recover from the weekend before, to exhausted, dreading the weekend to come. Dan offered to watch the baby on Saturday so that Trish and I could go up to Tulsa to work on the house. Josh met us there, but apart from that we’d used up all our favors the weekend before.

April 5
Saturday, the house looked much as it had when we left. Josh had gotten some more of his stuff moved and finished putting in the kitchen countertop tiles, but he hadn’t had much time to work on the grout because he’d been busy finding a place and moving in. He put in a lot of work Saturday morning, though, and got the grouting completely done while Trish worked on the bathroom walls, getting them ready to paint.

It’s amazing how quickly the time goes by, though. Our Saturday melted away in no time. Josh and I replaced some gutters that had fallen away, and he mowed the lawn. Trish got the bathroom ready to paint, but didn’t have time to actually get started on that. I took down the ancient, busted-up screen doors in front and back, and…that’s pretty much all we accomplished on Saturday. We also met with a third realtor, who we liked better than the first two, and so we talked with her about what we had in mind for the house, and ended up settling on an asking price that will require us to bring $5,000 to the table. That’s probably the best we can do for the neighborhood, though, even with everything we’re putting into it.

She agreed (as we already knew) that putting in central air was pretty much a must-do. We had several quotes already, and one we could live with, so we were pretty much ready to go with it. Late in the afternoon, we were walking through the house trying to find something else small we could do before going, to make the place look better.

The house didn’t have central air, but it had window units in every room, and they did the job. In all the time we lived there, we never had any trouble keeping the place cool. The window units were effective, but they were ugly. Knowing that we were going to put in central air, I was anxious to get those obnoxious window units out of sight. When we talked to the A/C guy Saturday morning, he recommended taking the old units back home with us, cleaning them up nice, and trying to sell them in a garage sale. With only a car for transport, though — and that mostly packed with tools and cleaning supplies, I knew we’d be limited to taking one unit back to OKC each trip.

So, that’s what I settled on. I wanted to get an air conditioner out, and load it in the car. It was probably about 5:30 when I said it out loud. Which one to take was an easy choice. The one in the master bedroom was the ugliest.

That statement stands on its own. The unit was the oldest, and its cover was in bad shape. Worse, though, was the surround. None of the window units fill the windows from left-to-right, so they’re all mounted in frames that fill the window’s gap and use some sort of foil to prevent airflow around the unit. The foil on the one in the master bedroom had long since broken up, though, so that a steady breeze could blow into the room. To block that, we’d tried repairing the foil with duct tape, and eventually covered one of the sides with a crudely-cut bit of plywood, duct-taped into place. It looked every bit as bad as it sounds.

So, I wanted to get that one out. I didn’t anticipate how much trouble it would be. Trish helped me, and we started by removing all the wood screws we could find, which seemed like it should free up the frame on either side of the unit to collapse down. It didn’t. It was firmly stuck to the window frame.

I went outside and stood on a stepladder while Trish worked on the inside. We used screwdrivers to try to pry it loose, scoring the wood of the windowframe in the process. We used a box cutter to try to cut the caulk, to free up the unit. Once we’d cut and pried and torn everything we could, I resorted to heaving and twisting the big unit, using its weight to tear it free of the window, always terrified it would just smash the window above it to pieces, before falling free.

It didn’t. It took most of an hour, but we got that unit out of the window. It weighed a ton, too, but I managed to carry it all the way around the back of the house and out front to the car. I barely wanted it anymore — I hated it — but that was the plan and (most of all) I was determined to get the thing out of sight of potential buyers.

I got back in the house, though, and Trish informed me of our new problem. The window, probably propped open for twenty years now, at the least, would not budge. I was able to grab the top of the window frame with both hands and hang from it, and the window didn’t budge. That’s two hundred plus pounds, and it wouldn’t move. Now we had a giant hole in the wall, for all practical purposes, and it was seven at night and we had an hour and a half drive home still to make, and there was no way we could leave the house like this.

We fought with it for half an hour. I told Trish I would just cut a big piece of plywood to fit, tape it in place, and we would go home. She went for dinner, I grabbed a hammer and block of two-by-four, and ended up just wailing on the top of the windowframe, trying to make it move (and confident I’d end up shattering the glass instead). I didn’t and it did, and by the time Trish got back from Taco Bueno, the window was closed. We ate and headed home, and then I went out drinking with Dan because I was still too full of rage to go to bed. It was an awful Saturday and, in the end, we only actually crossed three items off our to-do list.

April 10-11
I used up all my scant vacation time back in March to make that work weekend happen, so I didn’t have any time free, but Trish had to be at the house on Thursday to meet with the carpeters. We decided that and the A/C were the two must-dos, in terms of hiring out the work. The roof and the foundation still loom over us, but we’re putting those off until we have a contract. These we needed just to get people to look at the house.

The carpet…ugh. The carpets were old and ugly when we first moved into the house. Since then, between our cats and more recently our tenants’ dogs, they stank and they were just disgusting. It was never a question — the carpets had to go. Trish called around, got a lot of estimates, and we found somebody willing to do a good job for cheap. We needed somebody at the house while they were working, though, and Trish still had painting to do in the bathroom, so she made arrangements for someone to watch the baby on Thursday, and she packed up early and headed to Tulsa.

She was already planning that the weekend before, and when she mentioned it to her parents, her dad said he might be able to take the day off work and come help her out, just so she wasn’t stuck there alone. As if that wasn’t enough of a blessing, her brother Matt said he could probably do the same. We needed his skills still to finish the tile work, so when he told us he was available, we both breathed a big sigh of relief.

Thursday somehow became Thursday-Friday (I’m not sure how that happened), but by the time they showed up Thursday morning they were already planning to stay the night, and get the job done. During the day Thursday, the carpeters replaced all the old carpet and put down new in the bedrooms, hiding my terrible paint job and the water stains in the master bedroom and the adhesive spots from the terrible linoleum we’d torn out of the back bedroom. They also put down new, nice linoleum flooring in the kitchen and dining area.

Friday morning the A/C guys showed up and put in central air. Meanwhile, Matt finished the tile backsplash in the kitchen, and they got all the countertops put back together. Trish got the sanding and painting done in the bathroom, then they hung a new mirror/medicine cabinet over the new sink, reconnected the toilet (which needed some new plumbing) and finished sealing the new bathtub surround.

They got done around five o’clock Friday afternoon. Trish came home and crashed, and I’m sure her dad and brother did the same when they got to Wichita. All Josh’s stuff is gone now, though, and everything we can do is done. There is all new flooring throughout the house. The bathroom is entirely remodeled, and the kitchen has new countertops. The walls are all cleaned and painted a nice, neutral tone. The crappy air conditioners are gone (Trish’s dad and brother got the other two window units out with considerably less trouble than we’d had in the master bedroom). The lawn is clean and grass is growing, and the outside looks nice.

The whole house, now, looks completely different from the one we lived in. Josh was saying, half joking, that he wished he’d never moved, by the time it was done. Trish signed the realtor’s paperwork late on Friday, and the house should have gone up on the market last Saturday.

Now, we wait. Wish us luck, pray for us, and if you’re interested in a nice starter house in Tulsa, I know just the one for you.

Journal Entry

It was a really busy week, last week. Some of the highlights have shown up already on T–‘s and N–‘s blogs, but I feel like I’ve got to fill out the form, anyway.

Tuesday, September 18th
Tuesday morning I had a doctor’s appointment. I’ve been getting high blood pressure readings for about a year now (ever since I learned about AB, really), and it got to the point where people were threatening me with sad faces if I didn’t go get checked out.

So I told my boss I needed the morning off, and that I’d maybe take the whole day. My appointment wasn’t until 9:00, though, so I was looking forward to sleeping in. At 6:30, T– came crashing through the bedroom door with a screaming AB and said, “Here, hold her for me while I get a rag.”

I sat up, grabbed the baby, and noticed all the blood pouring out of her mouth. She had fallen while playing in the living room, and somehow ripped that bit of skin connecting the upper lip to the gums, and it was bleeding like crazy. I got her to calm down while I was holding her, and then T– got her cleaned up, but she spent all day going through that cycle. She’d chew on a toy or suck on a pacifier and it would start bleeding again, and she’d start crying and make a huge mess, and then we’d calm her down and try to get the bleeding to stop.

Really, it wasn’t that big of a deal, but it was a lot of work, for both of us. So, yeah, I ended up taking the whole day off. I did go in for my appointment, though, which happened to be during the worst time for T–. But, y’know, what can you do?

Doc said I looked good apart from the blood pressure, and gave me a month’s worth of samples for a BP medicine that he said (and N– confirmed) is a really good one. I’ll probably be on it for a couple years, if not for life, but it’s supposed to be really helpful.

And, while we’re dealing with AB troubles all day, we also know we’ve got the marriage class to go to that evening. Last week’s was a tough one, discussing all the things each of us do that hurt the other. Not fun to discuss, not even fun to think about. We both had a lot of trouble getting motivated to do the homework, and we’d kind of put it all off to do during the day Tuesday. Instead, we spent the day chasing the baby, so we were really unprepared for class.

Anyway, right around 5:00, K– and N– called and offered to bring over dinner. That was fun, and brightened up my afternoon considerably. We had fajitas from Taco Cabana, and chilled for a few, then headed up to the church when D– showed up to watch the baby.

I had an uncomfortable experience in class that night, over some confusion as to how “voluntary” the sharing portion of the class was. Turns out, it’s not voluntary, but by the time I learned that, I was in a pretty embarrassing situation, with a big ol’ spotlight on me. That sucked. Anyway, at least now I know for future classes.

I’m glad we went to that class, though. Out of all of them, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the most valuable one we do, because it was good to hear everybody talking about the difficulty they had with the homework, and discussing such things. That was definitely worth being there for.

Wednesday, September 19th
Wednesday night, K– and D– and I went to the movies. We’d talked about going to see Dragon Wars and/or Shoot ’em Up. Then we learned that Dragon Wars was a Korean-made, low-budget cheese fest, and decided to save our eight bucks (which probably is code for “go see it when D–‘s not around to make fun of us”). So, Shoot ’em Up it was.

B– and E– should get it and watch it on DVD, when it comes out (unless they have a strong desire to see it apart from my recommendation). As for everyone else…I can’t think of another human being I could recommend that movie to. K– and D– both enjoyed it, but….yeah. It’s ludicrous. It’s absurd, and probably the most violent movie I’ve ever seen. Crass, out the ass. But it was fun.

After the movie, around 9:30, we came out of the mall to find K–‘s driver-side window smashed out. Someone was probably trying to go for the GPS unit mounted on his windshield, and spooked when his car alarm went off, because there was nothing missing from the car. But, yeah, whoever did it won’t be caught, so K– is stuck with a $150 glass bill. The security guard who filled out the paperwork on it said he’d had a lot of windows broken out, in his time, and recommended a particular repair crew. K– got them out to his place Thursday night, and got that taken care of. Ugh.

Thursday, September 20th
Thursday night we had the church picnic. They claim to do one every month in the summer, but I don’t think it actually happens that often. Anyway, T– heard about this one and I didn’t have any good excuses to get out of it, so we went out to a private park across town around 6:30, and had some pot luck. T– was kind enough to make me a sandwich beforehand, so I wasn’t entirely at the mercy of the old church ladies’ cooking.

In addition to pot luck, the theme for the dinner was “Pie Contest!” (The exclamation mark is part of the title, not my own.) T– baked two apple crumble pies for the event (blogged on her MySpace), and they were amazingly delicious. I’m not a constant fan of fruit pies of any sort, but this one was awesome. It could be the massive quantity of brown sugar melted over the top that won me over. I’m no food critic, but that strikes me as a winning combination.

Anyway, I tried about seven pies. Everybody voted, and they said we’d learn the results on Sunday. So, for narrative reasons, I’ll save that information until I write about Sunday. HaHA! Building a little suspense in the ol’ blog, I am. A writer practices good writing techniques, always. That’s the rule. But, yeah, anyone who’s read T–‘s MySpace already knows the answer. And pretty much anyone who knows her.

Friday, September 21st
For reasons inexplicable, Friday night was the OU game. I know, I know, they’re a college team, but yeah…they played on Friday night. Against Tulsa, who was supposed to have a pretty good passing offense. Nobody was worried, but we’d heard things, y’know?

We had dinner with K– and N– at Freddy’s (always a good time), and then I went over to their place to watch the game. Tulsa scored first, and in the first six minutes game-time, Tulsa put up 14 points. That was a little alarming. Of course, they also used up all of their timeouts for the half, to do that. K– pointed out that they probably had to do that to get their offense some rest, which was a point well made. It was clear they were pulling out all the stops to make a statement early, but once the timeouts were gone, our guys just rolled over them. OU’s final score was in the sixties. Fun.

Afterward, I hung around and watched a couple episodes of Dr Who with K–, who’s trying to get into the series. It’s a good show. I’m looking forward to seeing more.

Saturday, September 22nd
Saturday I’d offered to spend at home, with T–. We’d had a wildly busy week, and we were planning to watch two games on Sunday, so it seemed wise to just set aside some home time. I mowed in the morning, and then we went grocery shopping together. We spent most of the afternoon working on homework for our marriage seminar, and I’m glad we did. We covered a lot of material, and even though this was pretty sensitive stuff, it was nothing compared with the week before, so we were able to talk pretty freely. That was a good experience.

In the evening, most of our work done, we watched a little TV, and then I decided to run up to Lowe’s and grab some storage stuff to help organize the garage, and my office closet. I’ve mentioned a lot of work on the garage recently, and there was really one last major change I wanted to make, rearranging some stuff to make more room for car doors to open. To do that, we needed a new place for T– to keep her catalogs and other work stuff, and she’d been wanting a closing cabinet for that for a while. I’ve also been wanting a set of stacking drawers to organize the cables and connectors and computer parts crammed in my office closet, pretty much since we moved into the house.

So, I ran out and bought all that stuff. If you haven’t shopped for storage solutions, you’d probably be surprised how much they cost. I managed to find what I wanted, though, and brought it home to put together. After that…well, I get a little manic when I’m working on a project, wanting to get it done, so I got the cabinet built, and then I took it out to the garage (and it’s probably 9:00 at that point), and then I spent some time rearranging things out there, and I finally made myself stop working on that to come inside and watch some TV with T–.

Then I ended up, a couple hours later, setting up the drawers in my office closet and working on that until one in the morning. It’s just who I am. Don’t judge me.

Anyway, Saturday was a lot of work, but I’m impressed how much I got accomplished. The improvements in the garage and the closet were awesome, and like I said, I’m really glad we got the homework done.

Sunday, September 23rd
Sunday morning, after church, we went to K– and N–‘s to watch the Vikings/Chiefs game with a bunch of friends. B– is a long-time Vikings fan, and as I mentioned back in preseason, our old hero Adrian Peterson is now starting running back for the Vikings, so we were all interested in watching it. They also invited my sister’s family over, because J– is a big Chiefs fan (and, y’know, just for the opportunity to hang out).

Early in the game, the Vikings were rocking on the Chiefs. Enough so that B– started cheering for the Chiefs because he felt sorry for J–. Unfortunately, about twenty minutes after J– left (S– had a photoshoot to get to, and needed J– to watch the kids), the Chiefs turned it around and tore up. It was an exciting game. Adrian Peterson was amazing (the commentators kept saying he was carrying the rest of the team).

K– grilled hotdogs for lunch, and they were awesome. T– brought some leftover apple pie, and it was just a big ol’ party. Everyone had a good time.

After that, I borrowed K–‘s distribution spreader and took a bag of grass seed he’d picked up for me, and headed home. In church Sunday morning, they’d said that the pie contest winner would be announced Sunday night. So, T– really wanted to go to that, but I had so much stuff I still needed to get done before the weekend ended (and that necessarily meant “before the Cowboys game started”). So I dropped her off at church, then went home to seed my yard.

The new spreader worked way better than the old drop spreader I’d used, and I was able to seed the whole back yard in about ten minutes. I then broke out some insect control stuff that’s also supposed to be spread like that (which I never used, because the old spreader took so long), and put that out, front and back. D– came over early in that process, asking me if I wanted to hit Best Buy, but I told him I was busy. So he pulled out his laptop and read some webcomics on my couch while I did yard work.

Anyway, got all the poison down and set up a sprinkler, and then grabbed a quick shower, and was able to pick up T– just a few minutes after church ended. That was a lot accomplished in one hour.

And when I showed up to pick her up, she was proudly brandishing her silver spatula! She got second prize in the contest, which was much deserved. If you haven’t already, send her a congratulations for that.

We dropped her off at the house, then D– and I ran up to the barbecue place next to Blockbuster and grabbed a small family deal to go. Chopped brisket and hot links, which was enough for all of us to have heaping plates, and still enough for my lunch on Monday. Awesome stuff.

Then K– called to say he couldn’t make it over, so D– and I watched the game together. It was an incredible game. Both teams were playing really well (Dallas vs. Chicago). In the second half, though, Romo just laid it down. I think we won 34-10. Woot woot.

Monday, September 24th
So, anyway, Monday after I got home from work, I went to Best Buy with D–. He’d finished Bioshock and the anime series he was watching, and needed something new for entertainment. We looked through all the games, but the only one that really tempted was Madden ’08 for the Wii. Then we went and looked at high-end TVs instead. That was a lot of fun. He’s still needing to make the upgrade to HD, and his small apartment (and bachelor lifestyle) makes a big ol’ wall-mount LCD the perfect choice.

Anyway, we were there for a while, then came home and T– made us some chicken crescent squares that are just awesome. It’s a recipe she started on just after we got married, and I always love it. Yumm. After dinner, it was already 8:00-ish. We watched the season premier of How I Met Your Mother, and an episode of Rules of Engagement which is another show in the same vein, but it’s got David Spade. Then we watched the season premier of Heroes, which didn’t really disappoint.

Then D– went home, and I did the last little bit of homework I had to fill out, and then it was bedtime.

Tuesday, September 25th
Yesterday, I found a chunk of free time in the afternoon, and spent a lot of it typing up the many pages of Royal Holiday that I had handwritten (and I’m starting to think it’s going to have to switch back to “Royal Holiday,” which is a shame, because I was looking forward to trying to push the short-format novel). I’m nearly caught up on the typing part, and the longhand part is nearly done, so that’s the sort of news that appeals to my manic drive to complete a project. Wahaa!

Around 4:00, I got a call from T– saying she’d just heard from the people leading our marriage seminar with a reminder that we were supposed to provide the snacks this week. Ack! I suggested chips and salsa, because I knew we had the stuff handy, and it feeds a crowd. She ran up to the store and got some extra chips, and the stuff to make guacamole. It was a real rush to get everything done before the class started at 6:30, but she managed. And she made some delicious grilled cheese sandwiches for D– and me. She’s the whole package.

So, we left AB with D–, and went to class for two hours. Our snacks were a huge hit. I think everyone there complimented either the salsa or the guacamole, if not both. So, y’know, good for us. Woohoo.

I got home, and I was feeling too socialized, so I retreated to my office for some video games. I played Heroes for a couple hours, and made it to bed around 10:30.

And, amazingly enough, I’m finally finished with that update.

Journal Entry

I don’t know why I have so much trouble updating over the weekend. Maybe it feels like work, and I’m just convinced I shouldn’t have to work on weekends (in spite of much evidence to the contrary). Anyway, here’s the weekend’s posts.

Friday, August 17th
Friday was my RDO. I planned to take full advantage of that (read: sleeping in), but somehow didn’t. I stayed up late Thursday night (probably playing Civ, but I don’t remember for sure), then woke up around 9:00 on Friday morning. So, yeah, technically I slept in (I normally wake up at 6:00 for work), but when I think “sleep in,” I’m thinking noon. It’s not a non-specific designation, as far as I’m concerned. It means “not waking up in the ante meridian,” plain and simple.

Anyway, yeah, woke up at nine, and I was kinda thinking that if I helped T– out with some housework on Friday, good karma would kick in and I wouldn’t have to do any chores for the rest of the weekend. So I vacuumed the whole house before T– got home from walking AB, and then I took out all the trash (including the diaper pail, so that actually counts). After that, I did nothing useful for the rest of the day, so karma didn’t really take me all that seriously.

I’m really not sure what I did with my afternoon. I read some and did some stuff on the computer, and played with the baby and talked with T–, and the day just sort of melted away. It was a pleasant one, though. T– made some really good sandwiches for lunch, and we already had plans in the works for pizza for dinner. She’d been seeing tantalizing ads on TV all week, so how could we resist?

So, when evening finally rolled around, we ordered some pizza from Pizza Hut and tried to watch a movie. The guy at Blockbuster really recommended I Think I Love My Wife as a hilarious comedy, but ten minutes in we decided to turn it off. It wasn’t funny. Have you ever seen Bye Bye Love, with Paul Reiser? Yeah.

So we turned that off, and started Wild Hogs, and then heard back from B– and E– who we’d invited over (and who sounded like they were having a real hell of a day), and it turned out they could come over after all (yay!), and seconds after that phone call the XBox glitched (that’s our story), and instead of resuming the movie where we were, we waited for B– and E– to get there and we started it over.

D– saw it a long time before we did, and said it was mostly hilarious to middle-aged people. While we were watching it, about a third of the way in, B– said, “So, this is basically City Slickers, no?” Basically, yes. It was good though. Easy fun. Easy laughs. We had a good time, and then we talked for a long time before they headed home. It was a fun night. I love it when those two can come over.

After that…well, I went to my office to play Civ, and T– went to bed.

Saturday, August 18th
AB turned six months old. We didn’t have a party or anything, but the fact got mentioned more than once this weekend, so I’ll throw it in. A short paragraph doesn’t really cost me anything.

Saturday morning I woke up je ne said quand, and pretty much immediately headed outside to mow. At that point, it was eight days since I’d mowed last, and such dry days that I was thinking I could probably skip it, but I had the whole day free so I might as well get it done. Ten minutes in, I felt a couple sprinkles and thought maybe I should quit. It didn’t rain, though. It was brutally muggy, but it didn’t rain. Not while I was mowing.

A little later, I got cleaned up and then when I came into the living room (10-ish), T– suggested that we invite K– and N– over for lunch. That sounded fun, and we ended up eating with them around noon and socializing until two-ish, then they went home to take care of some stuff before coming back a little before five. I probably spent the whole afternoon on the computer, though I may have read some.

At some point in there it started raining, full-on storming, and I discovered it was a really good thing I’d mowed. I hear we got four inches of rain in just a few hours. No big deal, at least at the time, but it kept raining all evening and became a major storm sometime in the night.

The thing at five was one T– has been planning for a little over a week. She invited all her girl friends to go out for the evening. I think only three were able to make it. N– was one of them, and she dropped K– off at my place to watch the second Cowboys preseason game while they were at the movie (they went to dinner, then shopped at the mall some, then went to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix again). We had AB.

K– brought some steaks with him, and the makings for Tattoo and Redbulls, so we had the stuffs for a party. We also had two hours until the game began, so I suggested watching the Chris Rock movie again in the hopes that it would turn out to be funny. It didn’t. Bye Bye Love, seriously. It was brutal. It had a happy ending, eventually, but it was never anywhere close to a comedy.

Also, my nerves were worn a bit by AB, who skipped her 6:30 nap entirely, opting to spend that hour crying instead of sleeping, no matter what I did to calm her. She finally went down around 8:30, and that gave us a little under two hours to watch the game without her screaming.

Anyway, it was a good game (Cowboys are looking really good for this season — I’m optimistic), and K– and I had some time to talk, which was pretty cool. We also had an awful lot of salsa which went uneaten, because nobody came by with chips. But, then, that just means it’s still available, and the invitation is an open one. I’m just saying, is all.

But, yeah, we played the last quarter at double-speed on the TiVo while the girls told us about their evening, and then K– and N– went home and, if I remember correctly, I went to my office to play Civ, and T– went to bed.

Sunday, August 19th
I woke up this morning at 6:40 and 7:15 and 8:00 and 9:30, and since church is at 10:30 I finally got up around 9:45. We had some wild storms last night. I don’t remember exactly when it was, but I remember lying in bed with the sheets up over my head, listening to the howling wind and just waiting for it to break out the windows. It never did, though, and by dawn the rain was mostly gone.

When we marched out to the car to head to church, I was just putting AB in her carseat in the back when T– looked over the top of the Honda to our stupid old Saturn and said, “Oh, shoot!” The windows were cracked, to relieve a bit of the brutal heat we’d had for the least three weeks or so, and when we looked inside the car it had several inches of standing water in the floorboards. Yuck.

There was nothing for it at the time, though. We went to church, and K– and N– didn’t make it (N– had a headache), so we just went home for lunch which left us with a weirdly-early afternoon. We almost always go to lunch with them on Sundays, so we ate some chicken and veggies that T– cooked up, and found ourselves home and fed more than an hour earlier than usual. It threw us both off our games.

I decided to spend the hour fixing a drip in our guest bathtub, and spent an hour and a half trying to get the cold water knob removed. I never managed it, either. I know how to remove a cold water knob from a bathtub faucet, this one just didn’t work right. I researched it on the internet. I called my parents. I banged on it with a hammer and pried at it with a crowbar. It just wouldn’t come off. So I gave up, put everything back together as it had been, turned the water back on (slow drip and all), and put all my stuff away, and chalked the whole thing up as two hours wasted.

Sometime in there, T– took our shopvac out and completely cleaned out the water in the Saturn, and even vacuumed the Honda just for cleanliness. Jeez. It looks really nice now, though.

Around 6:00 we went over to K– and N–‘s for pizza and Psych, which was a ton of fun. While I was there, I missed a call from D– on his way home from Wichita, so after we got home (and T– and I each had a bowl of ice cream and we watched another episode of Psych together), I got back in touch with D– and we went for a walk.

I keep trying to think of a non-gay way to say, “we went to D–‘s apartment and had a bottle of wine and talked.” Turns out, there’s not one. But we did that (and nothing else), and it was a lot of fun. Then I came home, drank a cold glass of water, and wrote an ass-long blog post. And now, exhausted, I’m going to bed.

Watch Stranger than Fiction, if you haven’t. Read The Three Musketeers and all of Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber if you haven’t. You’ll be glad you did. I’m going to bed.


Journal Entry: July 8, 2007

Saturday, July 7th
Today was a long day.

First, in spite of my insistence that I should go to bed instead of writing last night, I did stay up late. I didn’t write, though. I was up until nearly 3:00 finishing this week’s Civ game. It was a monumental victory, but probably not worth the late hour.

I’m not sure exactly when I got up this morning. It was between eight and nine. I spent a couple hours working on our finances, plotting out a general budget through December, and then I watched AB for a couple hours while T– went to try to find someone interested in a free kitten. She found no one.

When she got back, we discussed what we should do about the kittens, and I ended up finally checking out Craigslist. I’d heard and read a lot about it, but I hadn’t actually visited before. We placed an add for the kittens on there for free (the cheapest ad in the Daily Oklahoman is $60). We’re going to see what kind of results we get before spending money on it.

Speaking of which…is anyone interested in a free kitten? They’re adorable and friendly, and litter box trained. What more could you want? Eh?

Around noon K– showed up to help me with a couple projects I’d been waiting on for a while. We were going to put a faceplate in the wall for my rear speakers (they’re already wired through the attic, but the wires were just hanging out of a hole in the wall), and then T– also wanted me to hang an outdoor swing for AB. The best tree for that required a much taller ladder than I have, thus the need for K–‘s help.

Also, he’s got this wood saw he’s been bragging about for three weeks, so I asked me to bring that along to clear some of the deadwood out of our big tree out back while he was up on the ladder.

Everything but the swing ended up being a lot more work than it sounded like it should have been, based on the descriptions I just gave.

We had some…difficulties installing the faceplate for the speakers. For a while, I thought I was going to have to call an electrician, or possibly spend a whole Saturday working up in the attic to fix the problem. In the end (for very odd reasons), it ended up being a lot less painful than that, but what should have been a 10-minute job ended up taking over an hour as we tracked down and resolved that extra problem.

Then we went out back. I have tons of overgrowth among the various trees and bushes in the backyard. While K– started climbing his way-too-tall ladder like a little monkey (meaning “without fear”), I stayed on the ground and worked on the yard. He started on the deadwood, to get that cleared out before we hung the swing. While he was sawing away, I got out the power hedge trimmers and set to work on the mess along out back fence.

Then he took a break, and I took up the saw to cut some trunks too thick for the hedge trimmers. I fell in love.

Okay, that’s a little over dramatic, but it was an amazing wood saw. It cut through live wood like nothing. We piled up all the limbs and trees (I cut down whole trees along the back of our house, to keep their roots from damaging the foundation) in a big bunch on a muddy, grassless area in my back yard, to wait for Big Trash Day (now a month away). That pile came out about five feet tall, twelve feed wide, and six feet deep. That should give you an idea how much work we did.

The difference was amazing. It opened up the yard a lot, and it’s going to make ongoing maintenance a lot easier. It also gave us a clean, clear place to hang the swing, which K– did really quickly and easily. AB’s already taken a ride in it, and she seemed to have a pretty good time. There’ll probably be pictures on T–‘s blog any day now.

After that, our friend Julie and her man came over for the evening. We had chicken soft tacos and played Wii. They’d never played before, so we got to show off all the Wii Sports games, and then Carlos asked me to show him Zelda. Between us (after a couple hours of trying) we figured out how to catch a fish, and progressed through the puzzles pretty quickly from there. It was so funny seeing how much fun he had using the remote like a sword to control the character’s sword fighting. That really was pretty cool.

And that stretched on, even after T– went to bed, we were still playing Zelda. Fun stuff. Around 11:30 they decided to call it a night, and I reluctantly convinced myself to go for a walk (even after all that work this afternoon!). I’m home now, and my water’s gone, and I’ve got church in the morning. No Civ 4 this time, really. No writing, either. I’m off to bed.


Journal Entry: July 2, 2007

Biggest news of the day: I finished Josh’s story. I won’t post the last three pages until tomorrow morning, because that’s what my schedule says to do, but it’s done.

The book isn’t quite finished there. I’ve got an epilogue — a single scene that ties up the book, and reframes the whole story you just finished reading (if it works, anyway). I plan to post that on July 4th. So, the real end is very much in sight. Josh’s tied up the way I wanted it to, too, but I’m not sure if it reads the way I want it to. I’ll require extensive reader feedback to figure that out.

When I got home from work today, I learned AB still isn’t gaining weight as fast as the doctors want her to. That’s pretty frustrating, mainly because the solutions involve making T–‘s life a lot less convenient. And there’s already a person in this family filling that role. There’s no room for AB to help out with that!

I also discovered that my computer was off (we had a power flicker during the day), and when I tried to reboot it, it did something really wonky. I got that fixed, though, by swapping the jumpers on the hard drive and DVD drive. They’d been giving the BIOS problems anyway, and K– suggested making that switch a month ago. It solved the problem.

Then I did some more yard work, because we’re hoping to have people over for a cookout on the 4th. The bugs have been terrible, so I did another (different) treatment, to hopefully get that under control before Wednesday.

After that, the evening was already well on its way to 7:00. We watched a little TV, had some pizza, and I played Civ. Then I went for a walk, and thought through the dialogue for the closing scene of Sleeping Kings (and a little of the rewrite of the intro). That went pretty well. I’m looking forward to writing it.

For now, though, I’ve got to get to bed.


Journal Entry: Wednesday, June 20th

Strangely busy night last night. I’d go so far as to say hectic.

Work was mostly uninteresting. I was late getting in, and then over lunch I wrote an SK post that introduced a scene I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. Then Xanga was down for the rest of the day, so I didn’t get it posted until this morning.

D–‘s mom stopped by shortly after I got home from work, on her way back to Wichita from someplace Texasy. That was not unexpected. We had an Ed’s Massive Burger, which was delicious, and then she hit the road to get home at a reasonable hour. I loaded up Civ 4, honestly thinking that would be the end of my day (with, y’know, pleasant coasting as I wasted the next three hours playing video games).

Oh, right. “D–‘s mom.” I’ve decided, as a very flimsy sort of privacy protection, to truncate everybody’s name. I almost did the same thing with Wichita, but it could eventually get a little silly. I realize I’m not just documenting my own life here, though, but those of everyone I interact with, to one degree or another, and a surprising number of those people have serious secrecy concerns. Here’s hoping not-spelling-out-their-names every time will sufficiently soothe their anxious little hearts.

Obviously, it’s a thin disguise, but it’ll thwart Google, at the very least.

Also, using the dashes….that’s a really old convention. Lots of novels used to use first-letter-dash-dash in place of a full name for pretty much any proper nouns, especially ones existing in the real world. It still kinda throws me off when I’m reading through a Dumas or Scott and hit a word like that, but I thought it’d be fun to throw it into my blog.

Anyhow, D–‘s mom left around 7:30, and just as I was settling down to play some Civ, T– got a call from N– (isn’t this going to be fun?) saying she and K– wanted to stop by on their way home from church and borrow a couple books. A few minutes after they showed up, we were all talking, playing social, and then I got a call from B– saying their water was off, and could I come help them turn it back on. I just happened to have the right tool for that, so I hung around until K– and N– left, and then headed over to B–‘s place, and fixed his water.

It’s nice to have the right tool for the job. Easiest plumbing project I’ve ever done. We got their water back on, and then I hung around to talk a little. Lots of new complications in the home-buying project. Ugh.

I got back home around 9:30, and found T–‘s friend R–‘s car in the driveway. Oh, and D– was still there building his new computer. Yeesh, busy night at the Pogue house.

And as I’m going to be gone all weekend, and my Friday night’s already accounted for (and I was wearing the right type of shoes for the job), I talked myself into going ahead and mowing the back yard, which badly needed it. I have this to say of mowing at night: there are a lot more bugs out, when it’s dark out. You don’t see many of them, but that’s as much a curse as it is a blessing. Yuck.

Anyway, I got done around 10:00, and but didn’t get to sleep until a couple hours later. So, short night, and it’s been a very long day today at work. Still, I did half the diner scene for SK over lunch, and I’m in a pretty good mood about that.

Journal Entry: June 18, 2007

Hmm…okay, I’m only four days behind, so far. So today’s will be a long one.

Friday, June 15th
I took off work last Friday, because I get one day per pay period, and my regular day off (this coming Friday, the 22nd) I’m going to be busy with work, so I took it early.

Thursday night, I agreed to spend my Friday keeping an eye on K– (who’d just had surgery), but I got a call from N– early early Friday morning saying she could take care of it, so I could just stay in bed. Unfortunately, by the time I learned this, I was already out of bed. Alas.

T– and I went to Sears, and I finally got repair parts for my week-dead lawnmower (that died mid-mow, so my front yard had been weird looking). I also did go over to K–‘s for a few hours in the afternoon, and we beat Gears of War on his new XBox 360. Sweet.

‘Round about 4:00, “B and E” (as they like to be known) were closing on their house, so we threw a housewarming party for them. D– brought the wine, I ordered pizza, and toward the end of the evening K– and N– bought us all gellato. Oh, and we watched Ghost Rider and ridiculed it without mercy. Again, alas for what might have been.

Saturday, June 16th
Saturday was awful. B– kept insisting he would need no help moving their boxes to the new house (and I was getting the feeling he wouldn’t accept any, anyway), so after I repaired my lawnmower (I say “repaired” because it sounds a lot more impressive than “replaced the air filter and spark plug for the first time in five years”), I decided to go ahead and mow. And while I was at that, I pulled out the ol’ power hedge trimmers to clean up the overgrown clutter along our front fence, and to chop down the unpleasant shrubs growing along our front walk. Chainsaw work, but I did it with hedge trimmers. In the hot and humid. For a couple hours.

What I’m getting at, is I fully wore myself out working on the yard, then went inside and crashed on the couch, only to have D– call me lazy and instruct me to go help him start loading up B–‘s stuff. Which I did, because I don’t like being called lazy in spite of the fact that I’m amazingly lazy. Kinda like Back to the Future 2, when you think about it….

Anyway, D–‘s a vicious taskmaster anyway, so we sprinted through getting B–‘s stuff loaded, then sprinted through getting it unloaded so I could be back at the house in time for T– to leave for an evening of scrapbooking. I’d promised to watch A–b–. Daniel was kind enough to watch her for a couple hours while I went to dinner with T– and K– and N– mid-crop, and other than that she slept for most of the evening, so that was a relief. I played a pretty amazing game of Civ, and then went to bed when I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer, around 2:30.

Sunday, June 17th
Okay, Saturday morning and midday I used myself up, and then spent the whole evening and night folded into an extremely soft couch, so my options for Sunday were extremely limited before it ever began. I woke with an extraordinarily sore back. In addition, all A–b–‘s good sleep Saturday evening meant that she wasn’t as tired as she should’ve been during the night, so she kept T– awake late and woke her up early. Between the two of us, we were a pretty sad sight for most of the day.

It was my first Father’s Day, though, and T– gave me an awesome book of pictures of A–b–. She made the book, and picked such cute pictures. I brought it to work this morning, and naturally it was a big hit.

We managed to make a trip to the grocery store, and T– made some delicious Amish Friendship Bread. I fiddled around with stuff on my computer (some WoW, some Civ, lots of just fiddling). T– watched half a dozen episodes of Numb3rs. We’d intended to go over to B– and E–‘s new place sometime in the afternoon, but they were overcome with the many demands of new homeownership, and so that was postponed. We ended up meeting K– and N– for dinner at Jersey Mike’s Subs, and then crashing for the evening.

All told, we accomplished very little. I finished Saturday’s Civ game with the option of winning in any of 4 different victory paths within the last 5 turns. That was pretty cool. We went to bed early and I slept the sleep of the dead.

Journal Entry: October 16, 2006

What incredible friends! I mean really!

Friday, we went to Tulsa to work on the house. I think I mentioned before that that was the plan. Basically, everyone I know offered their help, and/or expressed their frustration that they wouldn’t be able to come help us work on the house. I can tell you this: if you’d been completely available, I would have had to make you stay home anyway. We easily did as much as we could do, without having a big bundle of cash to fix the place up. And we certainly don’t have that.

So that takes care of the friends who couldn’t help. Those that could: Trish’s dad let us use his truck for the trip. He was driving down to OKC anyway, with Trish’s brother-in-law John, to catch a flight to California for an air show. (They got back yesterday evening, and by all accounts had a great time.) He was kind enough to drive the truck down, giving us the opportunity to do a lot more than we otherwise could have.

Kris and Nicki went with us. All of us but Kris had Friday afternoon off anyway, and Kris was nice enough to take a day of vacation. We moved a spare refrigerator back to Tulsa (it had been sitting in our garage since we moved down), and took along a bunch of cleaning supplies, and lawn machines. That is, I brought a lawn mower, and Kris brought a whole assortment of torture devices designed to make a yard talk. Oh, and I brought hedge trimmers.

We got in about 2:30, and headed to dinner four hours later. I was thinking we had about two hours of work to do. Even with Josh, and Vicki and her husband all coming to help out, we were fully busy for four hours, and we left at least another hour’s worth of work for Josh to do.

Let me tell you about Josh. We were best friends in elementary school. Not actually in school — he went to school in Claremore (outside Tulsa) and I went to school in Foyil (outside Claremore). We saw each other at church, and hung out most weekends. When I moved to Wichita (summer after sixth grade), I missed Josh most of my friends from there. He’s the only one I’m still in touch with. We lived together for some small amount of time. We were in each other’s weddings.

A lot of life has happened since then, and we haven’t spoken nearly as much as we should’ve, I’m sure. I was kind of scared of seeing him, spending time with him, just because I felt like I hadn’t done nearly enough to stay in touch. I didn’t know how much we’d each changed, or how well we would get along.

Friday, seeing Josh, it was like being six again. I love that guy so much. It was good to get to talk, to stand on the porch of my old house and hear him say how much fun his kids would have in the back yard. At dinner, his dad offered him tickets to the OU game Saturday, and he invited me and the Austins to come along. It was an incredible day.

Sunday, I stayed home. I got to spend the whole day on the couch (which is the way I like it). OU won on Saturday, the Cowboys won on Sunday. What more can you ask for?

We still don’t have a definite answer on the house in Tulsa. Every time I visit, I realize how much more work really needs to be done on it. It could easily have been a frustrating weekend, loaded with the stresses and distractions that that house represents in my life, but instead it was a lot of fun. It was a reminder, at every turn, of the incredible friends and supportive family I’ve got. I smiled a lot, and I laughed a lot. Thank you, Josh. Thank you, Austins. Thank you, Trish’s Dad. And everybody else. Mom and Dad, Dan, Toby et alia, Julie, Bruce, everybody who was so ready to do anything they could to help us out.

You did. Thank you.

Journal Entry: September 26, 2006


Trish just called. (No, that’s not why!)

Right, well, as you all know, we lost our renters in Tulsa a long time ago (however long it’s been since the last time I posted — so, ages). Actually, we lost them a month before that, but it took a month for our rental manager to let us know.

Here’s how rental managers work: They take the first month’s rent to pay for their advertising, cleaning, repairs costs associated with getting the house rented in the first place. They do all that, tidy the house up, show it to people, and they track down people to rent the place.

Then, when they have renters, they handle any problems that come up. They generally have a few handymen on-call who can do small repairs, and anything beyond that the manager takes care of tracking down repair guys to fix. Now, mind, they don’t pay for any of this. And the renters don’t pay for any of this. It all comes out of the owner’s check. Every month, the renter pays his rent to the manager, the manager takes out 10% to cover his answering phone calls and arranging for repairs, then he takes out any money that went to repairs or whatnot, and if there’s anything left over, he sends that to the owner. Bear in mind that, no matter how much the manager sends, the owner has to pay the full mortgage.

When we were unable to sell our Tulsa house, after moving to OKC, we got a rental manager who came highly recommended. It took him about two months to get the house rented out (which is the same as saying we had to pay three months’ mortgage (remember he gets the first rent check) with nothing coming back to us. That hurt us financially, but I was getting contract work from Lowrance that cushioned the blow. Around March, when we got our first rent check, I also stopped getting work from Lowrance.

So now here we are. As you know, our renters bugged out sometime in July. We never got an August rent check. We heard from our manager early-August, around the time we were expecting a check, that we wouldn’t be getting one, then or for the foreseeable future. He did tell us that the renters had left the house in pretty good shape (thank goodness), and that he’d be getting to work finding us new renters.

Three weeks passed, and when Trish called he said that he’d had a few people interested, but that we would need to put carpet in two rooms to make the house more attractive to renters. He estimated $400. Bear in mind, we’re already significantly negative, and he’s asking for more money. Trish and I talked about it, came up with a couple workarounds. She knew she’d be going to Tulsa soon, so she decided she’d maybe pick up some carpet scraps (room-size) on the cheap, and we could just lay them in the rooms. Something like that.

Well, it took her longer to get to Tulsa than she expected. Finally happened today, and while she was there, she went by the house. Then she called me.

Apparently, the manager lied to us. The house is a wreck. There’s crappy old furniture in some of the rooms, and in the garage. They’d asked permission to paint some of the walls (and we gave them a significant discount on one month’s rent to do it themselves) — Trish says that they only half-finished the painting. They stole the very nice fan from the living room. They left, just, trash all over the floor. Apparently there’s old milk cartons in the middle of the living room floor. And, because of the trash, there’s roaches all over the place.

Okay, all of that is kind of expected. That’s how renters leave a house when they leave, really. But, well, it was expected to be that way when they left, two months ago! Our manager’s job is to clean up exactly that sort of stuff. He lied to us, told us it was clean when they left, and then he did nothing for two months to fix it. In the meantime, he’s supposed to be showing the house to potential renters, which means he’s either failed to do that entirely, or he’s been showing it in the state it’s in.

That’s infuriating.

And I mentioned the bugs, right? The ones that are there because of all the trash left out? That is entirely his fault. That’s probably a $150-$200 fumigation bill, that is entirely his fault. And at least two months without rent because he failed to do his job.

Bah. I know, it’s whining. I’m sorry for that. I try not to use my blog to complain, unless it’s in a philosophical-sounding essay, but this one is just…argh. I’m angry at this guy. He has, personally, deliberately, caused a significant amount of grief to me and to Trish.

Bah! Beh. Angry. Furious. Anyway, we’re firing him. That much, of course, that’s obvious. Beyond that, I don’t know what we can do. We’re stuck, once again, in a position where it would be really hard to sell the house (we’re already past the end of the season). We can go find another manager, but, y’know, this one came highly recommended. How do we find someone better? Even if we do, or if we try to manage it ourselves, we’re still months away from seeing an actual rent check. And it’s probably going to cost us (and some subsection of our friends and family, godblessem) a weekend between now and then, whatever “then” is, to get the place fixed up.

Since we hired that rental manager last October, we’ve had to pay about $7,700 in mortgage. After subtracting his fees (and, remember, first month’s rent), we received about $2,600 in rent. If you know us, you know that’s not the sort of loss we can just absorb, y’know? And we’re looking at it getting worse before it gets better.

Yeah, I’m praying about it. And I’m confident it will work out. God’s never let us down, financially, but he doesn’t mind letting it get scary, I guess. My parents have never let us down, either. Nor my friends. I’ve got a great support network, I just hate being a burden on them. On you, basically. Anyway, keep us in your prayers. That’s the long and the short of it.

Journal Entry: August 11, 2006


We lost our renters in Tulsa.

Seems they disappeared, and their July rent check bounced. That leaves us with no rent check for August (although the mortgage has already come due and been paid), and means that even if our manager there got us new tenants tomorrow, we wouldn’t see another check until October (he gets first month’s rent as part of his pay for managing things).

The good news is, he’s been by the house and he says they left it in pretty good shape. Most times, you don’t get that treatment from tenants.