Tag Archives: lessons

Where We Live

Money for housing

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here. Many things have happened with family, work and life in general. One thing that has continued to remain taunting me in the back of my mind is the situation with our apartment complex.

I realize this post is going to be lengthy, but if you have ever struggled with landlords/leasing agents just so that you could have a roof over your family’s head, please read the full post.

My family and I currently reside at Shorewood Heights apartments in Mercer Island, WA. We moved to this area a little over a year ago from the East Coast. At the time that we were viewing apartments, neither my husband nor I realized the swankiness of the area – we just knew it was clean, convenient and above everything else, safe. Yes, I’m one of those moms that actually checks the crime rates and registered sex offenders in an area when making a decision to call a place home. Now that I have a daughter, I refuse to leave anything to chance. I did have a basic understanding that the area had a higher income base, just from the fact that the rent was quite a bit more expensive than other places. This fact was not an issue for me because you can’t put a price tag on safety.

After viewing a couple of the apartments at Shorewood Heights, we expressed concern about the front door handles. The handles are very much like levers and even if the door is locked, the door can still be opened by pressing down on the handle. This is so easy that even our 3-year-old daughter could do it. I asked if we could have a door chain installed to prevent our small child from opening the door. The leasing agent advised us yes, that could be done. As a further comfort point for me, we asked if we could install a ceiling fan in the living room. I tend to be hot all of the time, even in cooler months, so this request was more about comfort than anything else. The leasing agent told us yes, that could be done, we would just have to buy the ceiling fan ourselves. No problem.

We went on to discuss the leasing terms and price. I was advised that my husband and I would have to pay a deposit of $250, but because of my employer, my $250 deposit would be waived. I was later advised that the additional $250 was not a deposit, but something else – yet at the time we were told it was a deposit, something that was confirmed in e-mail. Regardless, we were excited and made arrangements to have the lease sent to us so we could mail all documents back to the leasing office as we would still be on the East Coast a couple more weeks.

After we signed the lease, that’s when the troubles began. I was informed that I would indeed have to pay that $250 deposit that I was told would be waived because we had no mortgage history on our credit report. Now, mind you, I partially owned the house that we lived in because it was a family home – the house I grew up in. I could not understand this because it was if we were being penalized for not going into debt to buy a house so we had to pay more to rent an apartment. I do realize that a credit check is basically a risk assessment and companies are looking for evidence that you have made payments in good faith and on time. The no mortgage argument still didn’t sit well with me because my husband and I both had good credit and I had a very long history of student loan payments and car payments which were all made on time and without incident. We should have taken this turn of events as a sign, but since the move was already in motion we decided to go ahead and pay the additional $250 and be done with it.

During this time we were making arrangements with a moving company to pack all of our possessions and transport our cars. We arrived in the Seattle area and lived in temporary housing until our stuff arrived at our new address at Shorewood Heights. We soon learned that because the doors are metal, a chain could not be installed on the door without damaging it, so it wouldn’t be done. Disappointing, but we decided to baby-proof the apartment with more plastic alternatives.

While our stuff was in transit to Shorewood Heights, we went to the local Lowe’s and bought a ceiling fan. We were advised by the leasing agent to leave the fan in the apartment and maintenance would install it. In a couple of days we returned to the apartment to see if it had been done only to find out that since there was currently no ceiling light in the living room, the fan couldn’t be installed. In hindsight, I should have known this myself, but the fact still remains that the leasing agent made promises to us about things that she knew nothing about. Maintenance did acquiesce and install the fan in the bedroom where there was already a ceiling fixture.

The first 3 months of living there were fine, but things quickly started to go downhill from there:

  • Being a secure building we were advised that our phone number would be programmed into the system so that visitors could enter the front door. We were later told that – ooopppsss! – since we didn’t have local area codes, our phone numbers could not be used. My husband and I were not willing to change our cell phone numbers for this given that we had the numbers for years and in my case, I often use it for business.
  • There are not enough parking spaces to accommodate all residents. Each apartment gets one garage space and additional cars have to park outside, first come, first serve. Because of my back issues, we made the decision that I would park in the garage, closer to the elevator. My husband works non-traditional hours and often doesn’t get home until after midnight. He would return home and there would be NO outside parking available, so he would take one of the empty spots in the garage. Management began sending out notices that if you didn’t have a parking permit to be in the garage (I did, my husband didn’t) your car would be towed without notice. When my husband complained about this, he was offered garage parking – in another building – for an additional fee. When he complained about this because we already paid so much in rent, he was advised to have me park outside to save him a spot, then he could move my car to the garage when he returned from work. You know, because my back issues and partial disability at the time shouldn’t be affected with the extra walking.
  • More on my partial disability – my back issues were so severe that I would at times go numb from the hips downward because of intense pain. While I was in treatment, I was granted disability status because standing and walking makes the pain worse. I had multiple issues where I would return from work and one of the property carts – similar to golf carts that Shorewood Heights leasing agents and maintenance would use to travel between buildings – would be parked in such a way that it blocked the disabled parking space that I used. Yes, there was another disabled spot in the garage, but it was for compact cars and my car is not compact. I complained about this and was advised that they would alert all employees not to do this. A little over a month later it happened again. This time I took pictures and sent another complaint. Only then was the issue resolved. EXCEPT one time I returned home and a new resident had set their possessions in the disabled spot to be closer to the elevator. I complained about this and was told, verbatim (I have this e-mail too) “will follow up tomorrow and see if the items have been removed.  I am sure someone won’t just leave it there.  Thank you for the information.” That’s it! Talk about a lack of respect for disabled residents.
  • We received a notice that someone had complained about TV noise coming from our apartment late at night. I asked for more information on this because I checked our TV levels and went outside our door – you couldn’t hear it even if you put your ear to the door, much less be able to hear it through the walls or ceiling/floor. My requests were ignored except for an e-mail that had a thinly veiled threat that it was part of the leasing agreement that “quiet time” is observed after 10 p.m. Since that appeared to be such an issue, I decided to point out noise issues that we had to deal with after 10 p.m. – mainly from dogs barking and people having loud sex with their windows open. I even recorded some of the noise from my bedroom using my cell phone. You could still clearly hear things – from inside my own bedroom. I sent this information to the leasing office, along with one of the recordings. Still, the e-mails were ignored.
  • It came close to time for our lease to be up and my husband and I really wanted to move. Family sickness and family visiting from India at the same time the lease expired made us explore the option to renew the lease for at least 6 months. When we were finally able to get a firm answer on the leasing rates, we were advised that rent was being raised across the board regardless of length of lease agreement – in this economy, the property management company still made sure to get theirs – and of course, renting for only 6 months costs more than if you agree to 12 months. We felt stuck because we could not manage moving with family arriving and me traveling to the East Coast to help with family illnesses. We decided to sign a 6-month lease ($185 more than what we had been paying) and advised that family would be arriving and staying with us for 3 months. We were told we would have to pay a $40 application fee for each person and they would have to sign a lease. I explained that it didn’t make sense to me because they have no credit history in the U.S. and cannot fluently read/understand English. I was told that what they do for visiting family who cannot speak English is that the current resident explains the lease to them and they sign it. That’s how things are always done with family members who don’t speak English. I inquired if we could execute a power of attorney and after investigating, the leasing agent told me no, they would have to come in and sign – even when we ALL know that they wouldn’t be able to read and understand what they’re reading. I asked where this policy was posted and was directed to where it said that any visitors staying for more than 1 week would need to sign a lease. I complained that nowhere did it say that a different process was followed for people who didn’t speak English and that a power of attorney could not be executed – the only response I got was “sorry for any inconvenience.”
  • After family signed the lease, I was called on my cell phone at work telling me that I needed to come in and sign some paperwork. When I answered the phone, I told the man that I was busy – and he just kept talking like my time didn’t matter and it was more important for me to come in and sign papers. When I went to the office, come to find out that the paper I needed to sign was an addendum to OUR rental agreement because there were additional people living in our apartment. We had not been told, nor was it in the lease, that we would have to sign an addendum. As a matter of fact, the only thing the lease said was that the new residents would have to execute a lease. That’s it. When I asked where the policy was posted that we would have to sign an addendum when the lease said otherwise, I could not be provided with an answer. I could not waste any more time on this as I was leaving for the East Coast the next day, but I did send yet another e-mail complaining about all of these things and the assistant property manager – finally, not just a leasing agent – requested to meet with me in her office. I told her that I would be out of town for a while and it would have to wait. After thinking on the issue and getting some consultation, I e-mailed her to advise that I would not meet with her and that all communication would be in writing – e-mail or letter. Big learning point and something I’m glad that I did – keep ALL e-mails/photos/written communication. I can come in handy later.
  • While I was gone a notice had been sent out that multiple cars in our parking garage (and another) had been broken into. The notice advised residents to be extra vigilant with their property. I found this rather annoying because they can post notices in the garage that the garage will be regularly monitored and if you don’t have a permit, your car will be towed (need to encourage people to pay that extra fee) but they cannot see fit to monitor the garages to discourage criminal activity (the company makes no money off that) nor can they post notices telling current and future residents not to pile their boxes in handicap parking spots.

Needless to say, once our 6 months is up, we will gladly move from Shorewood Heights apartments. This type of stress does not make for a comfortable place to live.

I hope that you made it all the way through this blog. Please, PLEASE, be very weary of who you rent from and if you’re willing to take my advice, stay away from Shorewood Heights Apartments and any property managed by Pinnacle Family, Inc.

Bullying – What’s the Answer?

There is a lot in the news about bullying. A whole social movement has developed that is anti-bullying. This is a good thing. The emotional immaturity that goes with degrading another person just to make your own life seem less pathetic is an evil in the harm it can do to both the victims and the survivors. I say this because many are bullied and don’t go down the dark path of suicide. They’re the lucky ones. But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – the human mind is a miraculous thing in its ability to cope – but in its strength is also its weakness. I firmly believe that much of what we deem mental illness is nothing more that the conscious mind’s way of dealing with unconsciounable circumstances. Because of this, there is a VERY thin line between coping and breaking.

As bullying got more and more press, I began to think – is it really an epidemic? Or is this another way that the media is taking something that has been going on forever and is only now giving it attention to sell advertising space with the buzz word of the day? This is in no way meant to belittle the pain of the stories we see on the news and Bullyville. What I’m saying is that as I listen to these stories I think to myself – “I remember having that happen to myself” and “that happened to someone in middle school.”

For whatever reason, and maybe a subconscious push on my part, I’ve talked to people that I went to high school with about some of these things. I was shocked to learn that every one of them could remember a time of being bullied – and more than one admitted to attempting suicide. Actually attempting  – not just thinking about it.

Because of the media focus, it makes one thing that bullying is so much worse now that there is a higher rate of suicide. Is that true? Were my classmates just lucky in that their attempts weren’t successful? Did we cope differently then? Are kids – who by definition are emotionally immature – not taught appropriate ways to deal with things?

One difference I’ve noticed with my daughter’s play school. They teach that you don’t “exclude your friends” and if exclusion happens, they “talk” about their feelings and tell the “excluder” that it’s not nice and they don’t like it. This is definitely a different way than what I was taught by my father. I remember my father telling me that if anyone ever pushed me around, if I didn’t defend myself – to the point of beating their ass – then I would get my ass beaten when I got home. Still, even with this lesson, I was picked on to the point of delving into chronic depression as a teenager.

So where did things get worse? Is today’s approach better than what my father taught me? The media reports would suggest that, well, maybe not. But I know enough about the money-making goals of the media to know that they sensationalize things and focus on stories that more often than not, do not represent the majority of human experience. Again, this is not to belittle the trauma of those who are bullied. These are thoughts that have given me pause from saying “we need to go back to a time when we were willing to fight to stand up for ourselves rather than talk about our ‘feelings.'”

I don’t know what the answer is. I know it’s not suicide. Actually, suicide is not even the root issue – it’s what leads up to a child wanting to end his/her life that we need to focus on. My gut tells me it’s at least three things – the bullying behavior itself, teaching our children effective ways to cope and respond and a question that plagues every parent – if something horrific like this were to happen to my child, how could I have prevented it and why didn’t I know what was going on?

I guess one of the main questions is where did bullies learn the behavior and what is lacking in their own lives that bullying has become a way for them to create a false sense of self-esteem? I don’t know if I’ll ever know the answer to that question – and there may actually be more than one answer. I just hope that I can teach my daughter the respect that she needs – for herself and those around her so that she grows up into a strong young woman who defends herself, others and doesn’t need to bully people because she is comfortable and proud of who she is, the way she is.

All parents want this for their kids. It’s time parent actually start talking to each other on how to get this deadly social disease to stop spreading…before we have to buy more burial plots for our nation’s children.

Olympics and the good old days

Everyone is talking about the Olympics. At least it seems like everyone is. Many posts on various social media are all about Olympic athletes and different sports.

I have to admit, I’m not following the Olympics this time around and I didn’t follow them much in years before. But I must say that even the hype surrounding the festivities have made me yearn for the good old days.

Like many people, I played sports when I was younger. My main pastimes were softball, basketball and soccer. When I could find time, I also liked to play volleyball and even attempted to play tennis (rather badly I might add). It was FUN. I made lots of friends, got lots of exercise, learned lessons about working in a team and embraced the ecstacy of victory and the huge disappointment of defeat. One of the greatest lessons that a young person can learn is that becoming adept at dealing with winning and losing in a healthy manner.

Nowadays many young people spend all of their time playing video games, texting and playing on the computer – the fact that I’m on a computer is not lost on me. I’m not suggesting that these are necessarily bad things as technology has driven the changes that we see in our world today, and in many ways that same technology runs our world. Without intimate knowledge of it many of us, including our future leaders, would be lost. What is missing is the piece that fills the gap where young people can learn those valuable lessons that we learned when we were younger.

These are thoughts that often plague my mind. Every time there is news of a shooting, such as the recent one in Aurora, Colorado, I have to wonder where we went wrong in teaching our kids how to deal with others in good times and bad. Much emphasis is put on bullying today. Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely feel that bullying is wrong – but I was also bullied as a child and somehow made it through as did many of my contemporaries.

What does this have to do with sports? In all of the lessons that I learned, subtle messages included things don’t always go the way I want and when I have an adversary, what is I can do to improve my performance to best them. Are these still lessons that our young people learn in a world where if you’re losing the game you can just go to the last save spot and start over?

I try to remind myself of these things with my daughter. Instead of letting her watch television and play video games all of the time, I encourage her to go outside and play, be involved in sports and just as important (if not MORE important) READ A BOOK.

If you don’t like what you see in the world, the first step is changing yourself and what happens in your home – and always be willing to help others do the same – so our kids can look back on the old days and call them good, too.