Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Going the wrong way on a one-way...


Lena: "Hi gwampa, it's Lena. How doeeeng? I big twouble. I pay wiff Owiber. I not seeping. I big twouble. Daddy sad. I dunno where blanket stars. I dunno where blacelet. Daddy sad, Mummy sad, Kitty. I wuv my family. I be good. Ok gamma, I go seep now."

Monday, November 16, 2009

As Promised...

It's already the middle of November, and two weeks since Halloween?? What happened to the time?

Halloween was rather anticlimactic for us. We had, as you may or may not recall, been planning to take the kids out in the late afternoon to go trick-or-treating, before it got too dark and cold. As it turns out, the kids slept like logs from about 4pm to about 9pm. That obviously put a wrench in a bunch of things... like an early, insulin-induced bedtime. Nevertheless, since the kids had costumes, and our neighbors conveniently were hosting a Halloween costume party, we decided to get them dressed up. Oliver was a charm, as always, and wooed the crowd with his smile and clumsy antics. And Lena was in a haze of noncooperation, and toddler obstinacy, and resolutely rejected the notion of having her photo taken, or of even being remotely pleasant. As always.

So here are Cookie-Beard the One-Legged Pirate, and The Monkey Princess.

The Monkey Princess and the hostess.

Twirling with the royal tutu.

Cookie- Beard (and his beard), with his sword (a.k.a. a plastic knife, less likely to impale you even than, say, a bouncy ball)...

... And who hated his hat. (And who also has dried cupcake frosting around his left ear.)

At least I got more pictures than last year (I only took one last year, and that was of Oliver sleeping in his cow costume... I didn't even get one of Lena). Maybe next year I will get with the programme.

Friday, November 13, 2009


It must be a part of human nature to take things for granted. I mean, it's programmed into our brains to get used to things, whether that be something looking a certain way or tasting a certain way or feeling a certain way. All too often, I think this tendency shows up in expectations people have regarding things they "deserve".

The argument against government benefits on the grounds that it engenders a dependency in its recipients is a classic example of this... (If you've got the time, check out this blog for a great graph showing how government payments basically give people the incentive to continue receiving them) With government benefits, though, you've got a double whammy.

For starters, there are people out there who genuinely need help. Whether or not they deserve the help is a philosophical debate for another time and place. However, once some sort of benefits are in place, more and more people end up feeling they have a right to those payments or help. As time progresses, not only do new people come out of the woodwork wanting help, but the people currently receiving benefits want more. Anytime something gets taken away, you end up with an outcry about the fact that someone, somewhere, was entitled to that.

Along these lines, I have a bad habit of being nice. I'm a serious softy. Ask for help, and I'll usually go out of my way to do it. Need a favor? Give me a call, and I'll (literally) break down walls to get things done. But, in light of recent events over the past few months, I have decided that it is a habit whose time has come. I am done being nice.

More than anything, my feelings have to do with being taken for granted. In the same way that some get accustomed to the government taking care of their every need, people get used to having favors done for them. Curiously, I am in a position where I have the chance to do big favors for people on a fairly regular basis. One of the ways I am trying to provide for my little family is by managing a 12-plex of apartments. Without fail, a month doesn't go by that someone ends up getting their rent in late, and I make a practice of being fairly lenient and not charging a late fee. I'm on a tight budget myself and I understand how tough it can be to come up with rent. I can't remember the last time that someone thanked me for not charging a late fee, even though it saved them at least $50.00. Not to mention some tenants whose rents we've deliberately chosen not to raise due to financial straights they might be in... (easily saving each of them a couple thousand dollars.) But that's alright. It's a business, and there has to be a little bit of give for all the take.

There have also been a couple of times when we've rented to someone we might not have otherwise chosen, whether it be for credit history, or income, or pets, or other things. Again, the month wasn't out before I somehow "owed" more to tenants than what they signed on for. We've helped people get in touch with neighbors when trees fell on their cars. We've paid for other people's cars to be fixed when it wasn't our fault at all, and when it was definitely a favor. Other times, whether it was forgetting to switch utilities into their names, or wanting to switch parking spaces, or complaining that someone has taken their parking space, or complaining about how bad the neighborhood is, or complaining about any myriad number of things, the fact that someone might have been on the receiving end of a favor quickly fades from memory. Tenants trash their apartments, break things, and, generally, suck.

Sometimes I've kindly looked the other way when people's kids misbehave. Still other times we've gone and bought groceries for some of our tenants because I can't stand the thought of someone going hungry. Always, these favors are quickly forgotten or overlooked, because people come to expect a certain level of free stuff.

The worst part, though, is the lack of reciprocation. I know that tenants aren't in the same position I am, and don't expect them to give me a break on my rent or fix things for me. (In fact, I'd rather tenants didn't try to fix stuff, although that's another story...) But it would be kind of nice if someone ever recognized that I *might* have a lot on my plate, and am prone to forgetting things.

Before you know it, something breaks, and tenants want things fixed right away. That's fine. They're paying for it, and they should get what they're paying for. But I often forget. You'd think it would be pretty easy to remind me, since I live in the same building. Apparently it's not. Tenants need to be persistent. I do not avoid people on purpose. I gain nothing by not fixing someone's broken toilet, or heater, or window, or blind, or outlet, or stair rail, or toilet paper holder, or door, or floor, or dishwasher... (I'm sure you all get the picture). I generally put in about 100-110 hours a week across Job#1, Job #2, classes, and homework. Things just fall through the cracks sometimes. If people want something done, what's wrong with reminding me in a non-passive-aggressive manner? I won't take it personally; it's my job.

The worst part of it all is knowing that for all the bad-mouthing, for all the complaints about how "dumpy" their apartment is, for all the whining about something not being up to the modern standards they expect it to be, tenants are going to show up at our door with a smile, needing a favor. "Please, can we just be a week late with rent?" or "Please can you waive the pet fee?" or "I know my kids broke _____, but do you think you could fix it without charging us for it?" or "I know we still have X months left on our contract, but..." or...

As of today, the answer is no.

At least it's more likely to be no than it was yesterday.