Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Next time we'll set the alarm

There is nothing quite like the delicious feeling of waking up slowly in the warm, cozy comfort of your bed to the soft, filtered light of morning, feeling very rested and ready to tackle the day. Feeling like you slept well.

And then noticing the clock says it's already 8am and it's a school day and your kid has already missed the bus.

So much for Nicholas and Lauren ALWAYS, without fail, waking up at 7am, no matter what. Welcome to my day.

Monday, January 28, 2008


So you may remember my post about my sketchy neighbor with the criminal history? The one who has, at last count, between 5-8 cars/vans/truck cluttering up their garage, driveway, and curb? Real beater, junky cars - unsightly to say the least. Well, Mr. Chick researched our city's ordinances and found the applicable municipal code pertaining to parked cars. Apparently people within the city limits can't park cars (storage on the street) for more than 72 hours. If convicted it's a $500 fine, per citation. These people park at least one car, pretty much permanently, on the city street.

As do the people directly across from me. You might remember them, too. They're the ones who called the school bus company to complain when Nicholas' kindergarten bus driver would occasionally beep the horn as they stopped at our house. You know, as a courtesy to let me know they were there. A friendly little "beep beep" from time to time as they arrived. And yet, she complained. She also complained about the smoke coming from our chimney when we burned a fire in our fireplace literally smoking them out of their house. Anyway, I'm not a huge fan of hers, but her husband? He's a nice enough guy. However, there are 4 cars and one boat between just the two of them. They keep them in meticulous condition, but the cars they rarely use (a minivan and a pickup truck) are parked permanently in front of their house, directly opposite my driveway. Which means it can be tricky for me to back out of my own driveway for fear that I might hit one of their cars. They keep her car in the garage, so nothing usually gets parked in their driveway so she can have full access to the garage as she comes and goes each day. All they need to do is park their "daily use" cars on the street and the cars they rarely use in the garage/driveway and it's no problem. Less convenient, yes, but not in violation of the city municipal code.

So I blew the whistle and called to complain about all the permanently parked cars on my street. It's a hazard! If/when the kids go out to play, other cars can't always see them because of the parked cars obstructing their view. It makes me very nervous, especially since Nicholas likes to ride his bike. And the sketchy people 2 doors down? Sometimes they have so many cars stacked in their driveway that they extend out into the sidewalk as it crosses their driveway, making it hard for people to walk or kids to ride bikes without going into the street.

The city responded immediately! Like, within an hour the lady I spoke with on the phone was there, issuing warnings on the parked cars. Amazing! And, even better, she told me she checked the tags on the cars stacked in sketchy neighbors driveway and they're all expired. That means they're now "junk" and there is a code violation there as well. The lady is all over it! She's going to hit them with the parked car on the street violation first (and really, where can they put it? Their driveway and garage are already full of cars, and if they don't drive the car regularly it's still a violation. Just moving it to a new parking spot isn't good enough, apparently. She checks mileage. I love this lady.). After the parking issue she's going to warn them about the "junk/debris" violation. Hopefully they'll clean up their act and put the cars into storage somewhere or get rid of them.

But for everything good there has to be a downside, right? In this case it's the neighbors across the street from me. As I said, I like these people. I don't like their cars cluttering the street, true, but I like them. However, when I call to complain about sketchy neighbor, their cars get tagged, too. I can't simply cherry-pick which neighbors to complain about if the violation applies elsewhere.

Nor could I remain anonymous - someone who receives a warning could call and find out who complained. The lady across the street is just the sort to call.

So on Mr. Chick's advice I went over - before the city arrived with their warning notices - to give them a heads-up and let them know that I'd called to complain about sketchy neighbors, not them, but that their cars might get tagged, too - just a heads-up. I didn't want them to think that I'd called to complain about them specifically.

I think I pissed him off.

He let me know that having to rotate the cars and keep the overflow vehicles parked on their driveway instead of the street is a real inconvenience. Blah blah blah. I feel bad, but not bad enough to put up with sketchy neighbor and his car junkyard (aka driveway), and really, he IS in violation. His problem, not mine. But still - I feel bad about him getting warned, too.

I've already let the other neighbors who have expressed concern and dismay about sketchy neighbor and the car situation (and, if I'm being honest, they usually include across the street neighbor when they're discussing all the parked cars on the street and how it sucks.) know who to contact at the city to register a complaint. The more people who call, the more the city will stay on top of it.

I hope they do and we get several other households to be whistleblowers, not just me. I don't like feeling like the resident bitch of the street when I'm not the only one who doesn't like it.

Please don't let any disgruntled neighbor retaliate!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Star Struck

A few days ago I was invited to attend an awards luncheon with the web design company who I'll be working with doing some part-time project management and marketing communications work. They were finalists for Business Of The Year from the Better Business Bureau in our area, and they asked me to be at their table during the event. It was a huge honor for them to be nominated, and I was flattered to be included.

The keynote speaker for the event was Bill Rancic. Anyone recognize that name? Any Apprentice fans out there? Bill Rancic was the Season 1 winner of The Apprentice and went to work for Donald Trump following his victory. He recently got married to Giuliana DePandi, who does E! News and various red carpet stuff for E! Entertainment. Anyway, he's an entrepreneur first and foremost, and it was in that vein that he directed his speech to the audience at this event.

I have to admit to being a little star struck. I watched him on the Apprentice and he was my favorite to win the whole time. I think he's very handsome and smart, and that's definitely my type. His talk was very interesting to hear as it was essentially the story of his career through winning The Apprentice. How he was successful in business from a young age (he started a business - a cigar-of-the-month type of thing - with a friend/partner when he was just 23. It's now publicly traded and worth many millions. He's on the Board of that company still. Anyway, as someone who has always had an interest in business (hey! my degree is in business administration - marketing and management, baby!) I listened with rapt attention. I have always flirted with starting my own business. I have an idea of what I'd like to do business-wise, but can't quite convince myself it's a viable-enough money maker to take the risk.

That's what separates me from successful entrepreneurs: FEAR.

Bill (yes, we're on a first-name basis now. Shut up.) talked about this. He made some comparisons between various captains of industry, and they all share a few similar traits. One is a willing to take the risk. In other words, not letting fear of failure stop them. Fear of failure is totally stopping me. I'm too risk-adverse, at least, at this point in my life I am. Perhaps down the road....

After the awards luncheon my hosts were eager to meet Bill and shake his hand. Get a picture with him, etc, which they did. He was very generous with his time and interested in speaking with them about their business. He specifically asked them for a business card because he's currently having a little trouble with a website and said he might give them a call for their help. How cool would THAT be? I wasted no time in telling my host/client/employer I'd be MORE than happy to be the project manager on that account! Ain't gonna happen, but it would be sweet if it did. :)

I totally wimped out and didn't introduce myself to Bill. I hovered in the background like a lame groupie (along with quite a few other lame groupies - I was not alone), but never had the balls to approach him and shake his hand. I always feel like the famous/semi-famous people must get so SICK of that routine that I wanted to stand out by NOT doing it. Not that he noticed me, but still - I didn't want to appear lame and star-struck, as I clearly was. God, I suck sometimes! I missed my opportunity, but that's OK. I was happy to admire him from afar and prevent myself from morphing into a babbling pile of incoherent mush in his presence.

But if he calls the web company and tosses some business our way, you can be sure I'll find a way to speak to him on the phone! That's a promise!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

From The Mouths Of Babes

What Lauren asked me as I was making dinner last night:

"Mama, is Santa as fat as Grandma?"

Good thing my mother wasn't there to hear her! Yes, my mother is fat. Not just "big", but downright fat. Obese, even. She's battled her weight her whole life, it's seemed to me, but never with much success. She's in total denial about just how much or how badly she really eats. She goes out for a lot of meals. She's doesn't really exercise much. She walks from time to time, but doesn't like to break a sweat. She's strong and has endurance to spare, but she's fat. She's reached a point where she seems to sort of embrace the whole fat image, saying things like, "I can't get up from this couch easily - I'm too fat!" and laughing at herself. In a way, she's made peace with being heavy. She could stand to lose 100+ pounds, and I worry about that. If it wouldn't offend her terribly I'd submit her as a candidate for The Biggest Loser. She's mostly-retired and could easily be gone from her normal life for a few months. She clearly can't do it on her own and would need something like that to get the weight off. I fear she'll end up taking the easy route and get gastric by-pass surgery or something. Which is serious business. But she's a nurse and a fan of all things medical, so I wouldn't put it past her.

I think my mom's weight is part of my motivation to exercise regularly and eat well. I fear ending up fat like her and have resolved not to. I'm down 15 lbs in 2007, want to lose 15 more before my 20th high school reunion this fall (which would put me at right about my high school weight - yay!) and I'm comfortably wearing size 10 pants and medium tops. I'm content with my size - it's not gnawing at me. I think I look pretty good, actually. Healthy, shapely and strong. But my reunion is motivating me to drop a few more and look damn good when everyone sees me again after 20 years!

Just Because

For no other reason than I love this man. He is kind and funny and a great husband to me and a fantastic father to the kids. He takes good care of us, and I try to do the same for him. We're good together, y'know? It's rare I like any photograph of me, but I thought this one was cute of the two of us, taken this past weekend at my father-in-law's 60th birthday bash (even though Mr. Chick's eyes are a little squinty and he looks like he's stoned, which he was not).

Lovin' you, Babe!

Friday, January 18, 2008

If A Door Closes, A Window May Be Opening

A quick update about my job: I'm on a temporary (?) hiatus until the guy I've been working for can pay me what he owes me. I asked him to pay me before Christmas, and he was able to get me a check for my October (that's right, OCTOBER) wages right before the holiday. I called the bank to verify funds (he bounced a couple of checks to the web designers, if you recall, and I thought it might be prudent to verify the check would clear) and the bank told me the weren't sufficient funds. Great. So I called my client to tell him and he assured me that he had just made an ATM deposit that likely wasn't being reflected by the bank yet and that my check was good. So I deposited it based on his assurances. It took about a week, but then it came: the notice from my bank that the check bounced and I was assessed a $15 fee. As a result, a big check I had written to my credit card wasn't fully covered and my credit line was tapped (I pay off my credit card in full each month and I don't carry a balance on my credit line - it's just there to protect against just this sort of situation). Of course I called my client again to inform him. He told me he was meeting with his bank to clear things up. Whatever. After the meeting a few days later he told me he would be able to send me a check for a little less than the full amount for October, and the following week another check of the same amount would be sent, which would then cover October and some of November. I got the first check and again called to verify funds and yep, you guessed it, the bank said the check wouldn't clear. At this point I've about had it. I called my client to share this bit of information and he was quite snippy when he said that the check would be covered by his credit line and to go ahead and deposit it - it's good. Not trusting him, I drove all the way to his bank - quite a distance, actually - so I could cash the damn thing. I got to the bank and presented the check for cashing and YET AGAIN they tell me there are insufficient funds and they can't cash the check for me. Not even from his credit line. Now I'm pissed. I call my client from the bank and he acts pissed and asks to speak to the manager. They talk and she agrees to cash the check for me. The teller and the manager are all giving me signals that this is typical for this account. I'm encouraged to require cashiers checks for my payments from him. By this point I'd already sent him an email informing him that I would prefer cashiers checks at this point and that I would no longer accrue hours on his behalf until I could be brought current. He owes me just over $2k. After I was able to cash the first check that total is now down to just over $1500. Remember he said I'd get two checks, one right away and the other the following week? Well, the "following week" was this week - it's Friday and I have no check. It's total bullshit. Mr. Chick, my in-house attorney, is ready to file suit suing him for the money he owes me. I'm not quite ready for that step yet, but I'm certainly no longer working for him until I'm paid in full.

In the meantime, the web designers I worked with and who hired me for a small freelance writing job have invited me for a lunch meeting so we can "chat" today. They're so cool they've even specifically told me I could bring Lauren along. I'm very curious about what they want to chat about. I'm hoping it's more part-time freelancing type projects. After we made the lunch date they called me to invite me to another event - they're finalists as Business Of The Year and the award presentation is happening next week at a luncheon in downtown Portland. Bill Rancic - the first Apprentice from Trump's show - is the keynote speaker. I was invited to join the web designers at their table at this event. I feel very flattered to be invited and have already made arrangements for childcare so I can attend. What an opportunity to network! So, today at lunch should be very revealing, I hope, as to what all this wining & dining is about. At least, I feel like I'm being wined and dined. Hopefully this turns into a great opportunity for me.

Where one door closes (see first paragraph), a window usually opens (see last paragraph). Good things may be brewing. We'll see. In the meantime, wish me luck in collecting on my outstanding wages.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


My neighborhood is all a-buzz. A neighbor of mine received some unsettling information about another neighbor who just moved in this past summer - 2 doors down from me. Not wanting to rely on gossip, I've been doing my own due diligence.

It's not good news.

Turns out, my new neighbor (who has generally annoyed all the other neighbors on my end of the street with their collection of junky cars clogging up their driveway and curb) is a convicted rapist. Nice, huh? Rape 1. Which is the worst one. Rape 1 is when the victim was forcibly assaulted with sexual intercourse (vs. fondling, for example) and the victim was either physically or mentally disadvantaged (like drugged or asleep or mentally challenged), or the victim was under 16 yrs of age. I don't know which it was with this guy, but I aim to find out. It was at least 20 years ago and he's kept his nose clean since then - at least according to our court/legal system - but still.... not exactly a flattering tidbit. He is not considered predatory and was under "supervision" by the county until 2 years ago. Another neighbor will be trying to contact his former parole officer to find out more.

There is nothing we can do about this other than be armed with the knowledge that this guy is a dirtbag and keep our eye on him. Granted, a potentially rehabilitated dirtbag, but regardless, this is not an individual I'm going to seek out for neighborly interaction. I have kids to protect, not to mention myself. I am going to make sure that every neighbor on this street with children is aware of this guy. Of that you can be sure.

My friend/neighbor has a brother who is a detective and confirmed the information I received from my DA brother-in-law. This is fact. Her brother, the cop, said that the only thing that can be done is to make his life unpleasant by calling the cops each time he is in violation of some city ordinance regarding the plethora of crappy cars stacked 2 deep in his driveway and garage, and the curb. The cops have already been to his house a couple of times regarding something to do with papers (restraining order? subpoena?). The police wouldn't share the details - rightfully so. But the fact remains that they've been here. Might be nothing, might be something. But now given this new insight into his past, I'm inclined to think the worst. Right or wrong, that's where my mind goes.

This is a VERY quiet, pleasant suburban neighborhood and street. Nice people, lots of families, good schools. And not a single sex offender within a mile of my house (according to the state online database). And really, very few scumbags that I've seen or noticed in the nearly 2 years I've lived and interacted in this community. Low crime, big-time community involvement - nice. The kind of place you seek out in which to raise your family. People stay put here - not a very transitory type of place. Mostly owner-occupied homes. And the one convicted rapist in the area moves in 2 doors down from me. Of all the luck - !

So, I'll have one eye on my kids when they play outside, and one eye on this house, making sure they keep their distance from us. Benefit of the doubt? I'm willing to consider it, but I'm of the mindset "better safe than sorry."

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