Friday, September 28, 2007

rental rant #2

I have another question for you: What happened to consideration for one's neighbors?

For the first time in our exciting management history, we have opted to NOT renew a tenant's lease. A paying tenant. In light of my previous rant, you're probably asking: 'Are you nuts?' Maybe so. But while these guys pay their rent - 2/3 of which is paid by the Longmont Housing Authority even - that is about the extent of their lease compliance.

  • These guys have had a dead car parked over there for at least a year. 'We're getting that inspected next week.'

  • They have 'gatherings' almost every night, where they and their friends steadily ooze across the entire front lawn area, smoking and drinking, and intimidating the other tenants in the building to stay inside their own apartments, or blocking them from reentering their homes.

  • Once they finish up outside they move it on inside, where, now drunk, the couple that lives there fights and yells for a while.

  • When asked how many times the police have been over there this year, an indignant 'only twice' was offered as a response. (The second time, the male tenant got arrested for mooning the cops as they were driving away. Smart fella.)

  • They have had at least 3 dogs - at different times - and a ferret, all on a lease that requires approval for animals.

It's a little funny being on the other side of the line now. I mean, as a renter, I thought some of the clauses in my leases were silly, but being the law-abiding soul that I am (if you don't count the speed limit) I never really considered violoting any of them.

Sad for many, but better for us, the increase in the rate of foreclosures - CO has ranked#1 in this arena for much of the past couple years, but has recently fallen to #5 - has really helped the pool of renters improve dramatically. Hopefully we'll be able to get a GOOD tenant in there in no time.

Fortunately, dealing with the renter drama really gives me some great practice getting over my fear of confrontation. It's been an interesting evolution of Kat, minimizing the emotional components of dealing with people and shifting into more of a complete mindset of 'it's just business.' What's that? You don't like me? That's a shame. I don't particulary care for you either.

So what's the word? Have you ever moved because the neighboring tenants have been so bad? Did talking to the landlord ever help? Did you ever get anyone kicked out because of their nonsense?

Monday, September 24, 2007

rental rant #1

Finally, you say, a posting to justify the name of the blog! I'm sure you - all of my vast reading public - have been waiting on pins and needles for some insight into the world of rentals in Longmont, CO. Well, your day has finally come.

First question for you: When did paying rent become optional? How is this not one's FIRST obligation?!!! Mr. 'I-can't-pay-my-rent' tells me he has no money this month as he's sitting on his rear watching 'platinum' cable programming on his 55" TV. He's talking on his cell phone, there's a big trampoline in the backyard, and evidence of many, many cases of Bud that . Hummm. I have basic cable, and in the past somehow always managed to pay my rent while going to school and earning my rock-and-roll-lifestyle wage of $8-10k/year. Ask me if I feel sorry for your mismanagement of funds. Go ahead. I dare you.

Out of the 20 renters past and present that we've had, there have been 7 total deadbeats. The partial deadbeats in there ended up making up their back-rent. Well, except for the 'midnight movers,' but they actually left the place clean, outside of a pot of beans on the stove. I don't really count them in the deadbeat tally.

  • 5 accounts are currently with a collections agency. Only ONE of those is actually making the required payment.

  • 1 we took to small claims court and garnished her wages - that one was GREAT! These tenants had the outside faucet 'magically' leap out of the wall, flooding the basement on the 4th of July for approximately 10 hours. The broken water balloons and balloon-filling attachment on the hose laying in the mud next to the faucet were purely coincidence.

  • The most recent one we evicted and won a judgement, but they bolted the state so now off to collections they go. These would be the same folks who claim they cleaned the place to 'move-in' ready. 'Someone must have came in after us and put a cat in there.' Ahh, yes. The infamous 'poo fairy.' Always running around, leaving presents for unsuspecting landlords. Also, bags and bags of empty aluminum cans are now considered a 'move-in' gift. If you aren't receiving these fine incentives from your current landlord, consider moving to Longmont. We can hook you up.

Contrary to popular rumor, landlords DO actually have live, warm, beating hearts. I can understand a glitch in the funding source. Things out of your control can happen. People fall ill. Even the 'accident' of being arrested and spending some time in the pokey can be an explanation - although I don't personally see that as something outside of your control. But it's your life. So then you make it up. I do NOT understand getting upset with ME because I am enforcing your half of our agreement. You have a roof over your head, it's not my job to pay for it.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


Roger has a goal to read 24 books this year. His kind of books - mostly real estate, finance, tax strategies - are not usually what I would consider real page-turners; HOWEVER, this one was seriously fascinating. It's a study of the 'tricks' people - particularly sales people and advertisers - use to get you to follow their lead and do what they want you to do, often against your own better judgment.

For example: Have you ever wondered why restaurants hit you with little mints when they bring you your bill? Is it because you had the garlic bread appetizer? Has your breath been sending patrons out the door before they've even been seated? Perhaps. (My breath has certainly warranted mintification at times.) But studies have shown that the giving of this 'gift' increases the amount of tip a patron will leave. More moolah, simply because of a cheap peppermint presented on the little brown check tray!

I know I have poo-pooed the 'soft science' of psychology for many years. In recent years, however, I have been coming around. There are actually many studies done with reasonably-sized groups which don't reach completely outlandish conclusions. (One of my favorite psych studies from the undergrad years was on the effects of sugar and learning. 4 students drank a glass of lemonade before being tested, 4 drank water. The lemonade students performed better on some memory test than the control group that drank water, therefore sugar makes people smarter. HELLO!) Now that I have a small group of test subjects under my own supposed control (n=2 so far), I have become more interested in the field.

This entire book is great. Pertaining to children, I found two studies of particular interest. Do these hold true for REAL children, or more importantly, how do they work in practice?

1. We accept inner responsibility for a behavior when we think we have chosen to perform it in the absence of strong outside pressure. Basically, if you want your child to believe in the correctness of an act, threats and bribes aren't going to cut it. They need to continue the desired behavior when we aren't there. Somehow they need to accept inner responsibility for the actions we want them to take.

Briefly, 2nd-4th-grade boys were forbidden to play with a fancy, expensive robot (1 out of 5 toys in an array). One group was threatened with stiff punishment, while the second group was simply told 'it is wrong to play with the robot.' In both samples, 1 out of 22 boys played with the forbidden toy initially. The interesting result comes next. 6 weeks later an assistant was sent to check up on the affects of the different instructions. Out of the 'punishment' group, 77% chose to play with the robot, while only 33% of the second group chose that toy. The author suggests that the children didn't play with the toy because they decided that they somehow decided they didn't want to play with it.

2) People fight against restrictions of their freedom. If something is scarce, we tend to want it more.

24-month old boys were brought into a room with two equally-attractive toys, separated by a plexi-glass wall. In one case, the barrier was 1 foot high; i.e., it presented no obstacle to them, as they could easily reach over it. In the second group, the barrier was 2 feet high; i.e., the boys had to walk around to access the second toy. With unrestricted access, they boys showed no preference to either toy. In the presence of an obstacle, however, the boys went directly to the obstructed toy, contacting it 3x faster than the unobstructed toy.

The author describes this behavior as the need for the 2-year old to determine 'vital questions of choice, rights, and control.' They are testing where in their worlds they can expect to be controlled and where they can be IN control. Naturally, consistency will help everyone. This would suggest that the more times you can provide choices - so that the child is making their own decision, even while YOU are controlling (at least some of the time) the choices they are choosing from - the better off everyone will be.

Just how naive am I?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

identity part deux

This is a bit of a post script, but it's still stuck in my brain. One of the gals from the 'my husband does this; I live here so I'm cool' group made the statement: 'I really hope that my daughter is pretty when she grows up.' This brought the immediate thought to my brain: ' I just hope that my daughter is smart.' Pretty you can fix - with enough money and paint - but you can't fix stupid.

It just struck me the funny - funny hummm, not necessarily funny ha ha - things one might wish for one's offspring. Like it's something that parents have THAT much control over in the first place. Sometimes I think people wish qualities for their children that were/are their own weaknesses. But are they things that are lasting or of actual value?

I mean, hoping that your kid is pretty? This kid isn't a complete troll. Not necessarily a kid you immediately gravitate to and say 'WOW! What a striking child.' But also not a little girl who needs to hide under a rock. What damage will be done to this poor girl if her mom puts out the VIBE of 'I hope you become pretty' instead of 'You are my child and I think you are GORGEOUS! '

What do you wish for your child? And how have you stopped yourself from trying to control this too much?

I have this crazy notion that if I provide lots of different experiences, or access to a variety of different stimuli, I can help GUIDE my children to finding out their own identities, as opposed to forcing my own notion of who they should be upon them. My 'wishing' for intelligence could be just as harmful as someone wishing for cuteness - if I don't accept my daughter for who she is on her own. But since she is cute and a button AND a genius, I guess so far we're ok. :)

Thursday, September 13, 2007


I've been thinking a lot about 'identity' lately. How people define themselves. How I define myself these days.

I hit many a 'park day' in my current phase of life. Who's got cabin fever? One day, I walked up to a group of gals, and the gist of the part of conversation that I got from them is that these gals are women who form their identities by what they wear, what their husbands do for a living, what their kids wear, and where they live.

Another day, I was talking with a gal who just moved here. We were doing the basic 'where are you from? what brought you out here? spiel. She phrased her answers like this: 'We just graduated from XX. We've always worked for smaller companies, but now we are trying working for a larger company. We're not sure how we like it yet.' Does this mean that you and the two-year old tag along to Ball with your husband everyday? Did you take the tests in college? Did you do the projects?

Does this happen when you don't have an education of your own? I am the first to acknowledge that I would not have finished my Ph.D. without the help of Rog. He was a tremendous support and a fantastic coach. I would have either quit, or harpooned the whale and been sent to prison without him to talk me down off the tower, so to speak. But he doesn't - at least I don't THINK so - consider my degree somehow his. I don't feel like I work at IBM. I might not think that ANYONE should work there these days, but it's Roger's job over at big blue, not mine. Is this way of thinking happen when you're a youngster and you get married?

I think I'm really just giving this knit wits too much credit for being representative samples of women. Maybe I just hit the 'outliers' all in one pod. After the first incident, some of my friends with small children showed up. One is an artist and one is a nurse. One actually helps her husband - a dentist - quite often with his practice. She's never used the 'we,' and in her case it actually does apply sometimes!

I guess right now, at this moment and not necessarily in any particular order, I'm a wife, mom, retired researcher, crazed canning lady, deep-in-the-closet glass artist who occassionally knits wee sweaters and reads to escape.

Who are you?

Sunday, September 9, 2007


I find myself actually daydreaming about sleeping. Dreaming about sleeping when I am actually finally asleep. It's such a strange phenomenon, how dominant sleep - I should say the IDEA of sleep - has become in my brain.

I have never had a huge need for a lot of sleep. I used to think napping was a total waste of time - think of the things that could be accomplished with that time! Think of the projects! How could anyone possibly need more sleep than what they get at night?

Of course, it needs to also be stated that I have been and occassionally still am sometimes delusional. Being 'opposed to' naps does not mean that there have not been times in my life when I have been obviously sleep deprived, and SHOULD have done something different. My sophomore year of college I literally slept 4 hours a night. It was a heavy 'playing' year, and my friends were studying disciplines that were not as homework/study intensive as moi. Typical days were, roughly, up at 6 am to study, class from 8 until 12 or 1 pm, work until 6 pm, come home and make dinner and hang out until 11 pm, study until 2 am (long after everyone else had gone to bed), start the whole game over. Good plan, right? As long as I kept moving, it worked.

There were, however, two classes that caused narcolepsy to hit without fail. No matter what I tried. Astronomy - a 1.5 hour 2x a week lecture class of about 200 students, so not a HUGE deal - and a neuropsychology class - more problematic, since it was a class of 30 in more of a seminar format and my seat happened to be RIGHT at the front of the room. I tried bringing my lunch, pinching myself, drinking gallons of liquid before hand, all to no effect. Every class from 1:30 to 1:45 pm I'd zonk right out. Biggest irony: that was the only class at Berkeley for which I 'earned' an A+. Crazy. Just shows how little professors actually know.

The above picture is so misleading. From this image, you would THINK that little Mr. Handsome is a guy who enjoys, and is good at, sleeping. And I guess during the day this actually does hold true. He is a good little napper during the daylight hours, which is great because then Miss Katie gets some mom-time all to herself. Nighttime is a totally different story. Every three hours, with the accuracy of the atomic clock, the little man is up and ready for chomping. ARGH! I find myself more and more often trying to manipulate time during the day so that I can sneek a nap. And my narcolepsy is GONE! No more falling asleep at the drop of a hat. This might suggest that a couple of three hour blocks of sleep is more effective than one 4 hours stretch, but it just doesn't feel like it. Of course, I'm also not 20 anymore. :) My brain just seems to be harder to shut off than ever. And naturally the more I think how limited my window of opportunity is and how I REALLY need to fall asleep RIGHT NOW to maximize it, the harder it is for that to actually happen. HELP!

post script
I scored a nap this afternoon. I am a new person - or more closely back to my 'normal' self - whatever that means. And Rog rocks.

Monday, September 3, 2007

is there anything your child could do that would make you stop loving them?

I recently taught a lesson in RS. (I'm currently the 4th Sunday teacher in our ward.) The topic this time was the Point of Safe Return. The talk is about repentance - no matter what you do, God loves you and will never stop loving you. It is never too late to fix things in your life that need some tweeking. My 'starter thought question' was the above - 'Is there anything your child/parents could do that would make you stop loving them?' Certainly they (children/parents/loved ones) are quite capable of doing things that we're not excited about. Actions that might make us really not LIKE them particularly at the time. This was really in my brain since the death of a friend's older brother. He had, shall we say, some rough patches in his life. Even physically threatened his parents at times. Yet at his funeral, his mother talked about how 1) at the end of his life, the two of them at the least talked on the phone every day and always closed with 'I love you' and 2) the day she found out that they would be able to adopt him was truly one of the happiest days of her life. It just made me think about how, if an imperfect mortal person can be so forgiving of the pain that someone - their child even - had caused them, how much more real God's forgiveness is.

I hesitated to ask that question, however, well, mostly because I tend to over-think things. I mean, does Hitler's (or Stalin's or whichever other mass murderer comes to mind) mother still love him? Does she see him as the small child learning to walk and talk, or as the man he became? No, I did not include this in the lesson. Just something I was thinking about. It's certainly possible to imagine lesser circumstances where the answer to that question would be something other than 'no.'

But there is something about the parent-child relationship. Replacing 'child/parent' with 'loved one' just doesn't have the same power. There is a unique bond between parents and children. With loved ones, maintaining that loving relationship seems to be more of a choice, it takes more of an effort. Perhaps we should put the same effort into our familial relationships, but that's a discussion for another time.

Anyways, I received two interesting responses to that lesson. Right after church, a woman came up to me and said that indeed, there was a time when she did stop loving her daughter. Apparently for awhile her daughter really put her through the ringer. She did eventually straighten up and their relationship is now o.k. again. This is exactly what I had feared when posing the question - that it could bring up painful memories for someone. However, that very question was actually a big help for someone else. The week after that lesson a woman called me and said that thinking about that question made her realize that she wasn't too broken to make things right again. It was time to come back to church and fix the things she needed to fix, and she needed to stop putting it off.

The power of words just continues to amaze me. The same words often cause such completely different impacts/bring up such totally different feelings in different people. Duh, right? But this example really impressed upon me anew the power of words. The same phrase, seemingly simple on the surface, brought up memories of heartache for one woman, while providing hope for another. Crazy. All because of the differences in their experiences, and the difference in perspective those experiences gave these women.

Small wonder then that when I say something as simple as 'the fishtank is dirty,' the reaction is sometimes greater than I expect.

Another note from the discussion - we ended up talking about what 'forgetting your sin' means. In the talk, Elder Uchtdorf desribes that while God forgets our trespasses, we don't, in part to keep us from committing them again. He quotes Alma 36:21 about the joy he felt when he had been forgiven. Earlier in the chapter, (v. 19) Alma said he remembered his PAINS no more. One woman said that she and her husband have completely opposite interpretations of this: He believes that when you're really repented you have no memory of the act anymore. She's of the camp that you remember the guilt and pain you felt to keep you from repeating yourself. I think I lie somewhere in the middle - the MEMORY of feeling pain and sorrow remains with us, but the actual feelings are removed.

So what do you think - do we ever really get over the pain of what we've done? There's no reason to beat ourselves up forever over mistakes of the past, but does getting over the pain somehow mean that we are taking it lightly? That somehow we aren't truly sincere in correcting our flaws?

Sunday, September 2, 2007

rites of passage

1. Here we go. I have resisted jumping on the blogging bandwagon, but the time has come. The family is getting too far-flung to keep close track of, and that bothers me. Plus, I have these gorgeous children to show off. I need a more effective medium than the occassional email with photo attachments.

It just seems a little narcissistic, presuming that anyone out there would be interested in reading the random inner-workings of kat's brain. But that's silly, because I really enjoy reading OTHER people's blogs, so that's just insecurity talking. And anyways, whether or not anyone else actually reads this is not really the point, now is it? While one purpose of this little experiment is to chronical some of our family happenings, and try and stay better connected with you all, another big part of this is to jot down some of the conversations that go on in my head. Random thoughts. Things that strike me. Just to get them out of the cue. Free up some RAM, if you will. Things that might go in a journal, if I could write as fast as I can type. Or as neatly.

2. This summer I finally took the plung and completed my first solo canning run. Peaches. Lots and lots of peaches. 28 quarts of peaches, 10 pints of jam, 4 pints of peach syrup. The Reese's tree was loaded, and I tried to move fast and beat the gals at mom's work to the produce.

There are so many crazy feelings associated with the whole canning process. I have been the slave labor on so many canning runs, it was a little strange to actually be the one in charge of the pressure canner. Not like it's this complicated piece of machinery, but for some reason the IDEA of all that pressure on bottles of glass brings explosions to mind. I don't know why this feels like such an accomplishment, but it does. Doing jam - big deal. Invert cooked fruit in a jar for 5 minutes and you're done. But actual canning? Now I feel like an actual grown up. I could go live in the mountains like some crazy hermit, and as long as I had a source of propane, I could put up food on my handy dandy CampChef. Not that I'm ready to go for meat yet. I'm not THAT much of a pioneer.

The question all this canning puts into my brain is this: If I can spend 7 hours - over 2 days, mind you - blanching and skinning and cutting and processing peaches, why can't I spend 1 hour or so a day cooking a decent dinner? Lately my first thought when it comes to dinner is either waffles or cold cereal. Cereal is at least fortified with vitamins and minerals. You eat it with dairy. Throw on a banana and you're covering all kinds of important food groups.

So here comes my first plea: What's for dinner? Katie's clearly willing to help. If you don't live close enough to invite me over to eat it, tell me if what you're making worked out and if it's something I should try on my guinea pigs out here!