Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Rutabega & Turnip Club

I know I can't be the only one to see the ridiculousness here.

A preface:

My mom has a baby brother, the youngest in her big Catholic family, who lost his job in Michigan 2 years ago & moved down here to find work. He & his teenage daughter moved in with my mom. He found work. My mom wanted to buy a smaller house & saw that the market was going downhill. She decided to go ahead & buy a smaller house while my uncle would rent her house. She only charged him around half her payment. She saw that she wasn't going to get anywhere close to what she owed on her big house based on what was happening to us. She decided to let the house go back to the bank. Before she did, she did try to negotiate with the bank. She bought the house in 2004 for $220k & owed $173k. My uncle offered to buy it for $150k. The bank didn't take it. 

Yes, I have an affinity for rutabagas. I identify with them. I detest eating them, however. My love of the rutabaga comes from an analogy my dad made. In his Finnish culture, rutabagas are a staple, so there were many situations when I was a kid where I was sitting at the dining room table starring at a serving of them through teary eyes. A few times my dad slathered them with butter, trying to convince me they were great. Eventually, one evening he caved & they were never again put on my plate. He told me that as time went on, with us living separate lives for the most part of my childhood, rutabagas came to make him think of me. When I was in college, during one of our kitchen table talks, I launched into a diatribe on how rutabagas, turnips, cabbage & cauliflower were all in one smelly, gas-inducing, gross food category for me. My dad found this hilarious & told me that he couldn't help but think of the phrase, "You can't get blood from a turnip". He always saw it, as you're supposed to, as that the darned turnip just doesn't have it within itself. It's not being stubborn or selfish. The blood just ain't there. That's how I was about the rutabagas.  So the phrase became applicable to me, in some crazy mixed up way. When I would talk to my dad about my marriage & how Biggie was expecting something of me I just couldn't bring myself to do, my dad would say, "Well, Rutabeggie,..." We never had a talk about it. I knew what he meant. He got me.

A few weeks before my dad died, MiniMe came home with a photocopy of a definite root vegetable, colored with red & purple crayon, decorated with sequins. She was just over 2 years old at the time. When I asked her what it was she clearly replied, 
"Disco Rutabeggie"
I LOVED it. It gave me one of those smile in my belly & heart feelings only parents & grandparents can get. I was saving it to send to my dad because it was just too priceless. I knew he would put it up in his truck & drive all over the country smiling at his girls' girls' silliness. He died before I could send it.

But, back to the banks. 

Our former home is no longer ours. If you were to go to the county tax appraiser's website & search for our last name, the same staggering list of eight properties comes up, but it's not right. (I though about using the word correct here, but I opted for right. It's more fitting.) There were a few things left in the house that we hadn't gotten out yet that I still wanted. Like the 4.25hp self-propelled mower I bought when we bought our first house, that I used up through my sixth month of pregnancy, & that my dad had taken all apart to clean, tune up & sharpen the blade when he came to visit me. I wanted to give it to my uncle as a gift. It's gone. As are our chaise lounges, planters, a floor lamp. The bank took the stance that the house was abandoned, changed the locks, & put those things in the landfill. I've got half a mind to go dig them out. It's so stupid & wasteful & lazy. & not right.

My mom's former house is up for sale for $46,500.00. 

I've thought about how it makes me feel to have been through this experience. It just doesn't make any sense. It gets worse.

I have a possible opportunity for a job. Two incorporated cities here are seeking to hire qualified people to run their Neighborhood Stability Programs, which I am very qualified to do. These programs give down payment assistance & rehabilitation money to people buying bank-owned or foreclosed properties. Ridiculousness: Currently we qualify for reduced cost preschool for MiniMe for me to go back to work & to buy a house through the program. If I took the job, we no longer qualify for either. Um. Work & never see sweet girl or stay home, send her to school on the cheap, & get a new house?

So, what was wrong with our money? If the bank had taken our buyers' $334,000 for our old home a year back, wouldn't they be in better shape now? I can't help but wonder how much the attorney charged the bank for the whole foreclosure process. Maybe they would have needed all these tax dollars to help them out if my money was good enough. Wait a minute. I pay taxes. I'm confused. My money wasn't good enough for the bank to take to pay for our house last year, but my money that went to pay taxes is good enough? 

Can't wait to see how much they list our house for. That's sure to send me to the liquor store.

I'm starting a club. When I get my sewing machine up again & some of Biggie's pants hemmed I've decided I'm making up some Disco Rutabega applique t-shirts. If you want one, you have to pay the membership dues. (cost of bourbon & root beer to drink while making said shirt)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

We have infiltrated the perimeter...

Our new place is in a gated community. When I say gated community I don't mean a place where you pull up to get in & have to punch in a code or call the people you are coming to visit. This place has guards (we like to call them Condo Commandoes), 24 hours a day. We have to have a barcode sticker on our cars to get in the gate without pestering (& really, they subtlely let you know) the Commandoes. I don't like it.

The primary reason I wanted to live here is because there are over 9 miles of walking trails here. By walking trails, I mean paved paths through true conservation areas with actual trees, not just telephone poles with shrubs on top (aka palm trees). The community is also on a slow-moving river that connects to the intercoastal & in the winter manatees migrate up into the river because it's warmer. There are complementary kayak rentals for residents. We are going to be checking this out as soon as we can find a way to try it without MiniMe

But there are two golf courses here. Very swanky golf courses. With golfers that meet a certain demographic that seems to lead them to believe they can look down on individuals they feel don't meet their criteria to deserve politeness. Case in point: MiniMe & I headed out for a stroll down to the playground with our dogs. It was a good mile to mile & a half walk. After a week of moving, I thought she'd be glad to be outside for a long time with my undivided attention. They have bathrooms on the course that are locked, opened by keys for the golf carts. MiniMe, being 3 years old, can't always anticipate very well yet that she might have to go to the bathroom before we reached the playground & doesn't quite understand why someone would lock her out from a toilet. As we were walking, there was one such bathroom directly across the street from our path & she very clearly asked to please use one. Thankfully, there were golfers at the bathroom. When I explained to MiniMe that the doors were locked & one of golfers were going to have to let us in, she walked right up to one man & asked, "Can you please let me go to the bathroom?" She was polite. She was brave. She was assertive. I was proud. The guy first acted like he didn't hear her, so she persisted with her previous request, but now proceeded with "Excuse me!". The guy finally looked down his nose at her, literally, gave her a one-sided smirk, & said, "Are you walking your dogs in your pajamas?" Completely bypassing her request. Completely oblivious to her manners & genuine patience. I was trying to get the dogs on a shorter leash, so I was too overwhelmed to actually speak up before that group rode off on their carts, snarkily chuckling at how smart they are that they can demean a 3 year old. The starter was just on the other side of the building, thankfully, so I asked him to let her use that bathroom. He seemed a little put out, but did grant us access. 

I have to explain that I was once the assistant manager at a private golf club in Ann Arbor, where the likes of Tom Monahan, Bill Clay Ford are members. I'm not a golfer, but I worked as a waitress in the clubhouse for 2 years & the members were so pleased with my service & attention to detail that I was put in this position. I can't imagine any of those members ever hesitating to allow a child access to a bathroom. 

This brings us to a brief discussion on gated communities. I don't like them. They don't make me feel safer. They don't make me more likely to approach a neighbor or wave at a passerby while walking the dogs. I do those things anyway. I don't like my visitors having to be screened before they can come to my house. More than anything, I don't like the idea that someone has to be qualified to be where I am. I'm not the first person, certainly not the first planner, to bring this up. I'm just reiterating my opinion, now more enlightened from the experience. I don't like someone else deciding who can be a part of my community. 

I've thought about some way I can say something that isn't redundant or obvious about the whole contrived community, here. What I've come up with is that I want to take a moment to recognize the blog community I am becoming a part of. The community where my old friend can stop by & catch up, where my neighbors know me by what has been written instead of the cars we drive, our dogs, or as the ones who never take their garbage cans back in & darn it, we've got to report them. I like this community where I can ogle over Rebecca's darling Fable, marvel at Sarah's preserves, worry over Ivy, giggle at Mimi, even offend Jim. It's much more diverse than reality while still maintaining some sort of relativity. 

But hey, the view out our backdoor is pretty swell...