Thoughts on the Third Hour

The messages in church today were exactly the ones I needed to hear. We talked about obedience in the second hour, and in the third an older couple in our ward talked about marriage and relationships, and how it is together that we make successful relationships. And as you have long lasting relationships, how you mold and influence each other, buoy each other up in trials, and choose who you will be together.

I thought about how wonderful the words of that lesson on marriage was, and how I wished Kyle had been able to hear it. But Ruby had turned into Ruby, Princess of Crank during the third hour, and I could hear her with Kyle in the hallway, serenading the entire building with her tears. And even though the lesson was wonderful, and even though it touched me and I wished he could hear it, how I was grateful for Kyle watching Ruby that third hour. For the time he spends with her, playing with her, comforting her, and changing diapers.

Because Kyle doesn’t need a lesson about marriage to know how to make one work. He understands about working together, supporting each other in times of trial–be they times of pregnancy sickness or unemployment or what else you have. He is kind and loving, and every week at church, he is the one who holds and comforts the baby who misses her morning nap (because church is evidently too interesting to nap through) and becomes increasingly cranky.

Nail Clipping

One of the many joys of parenting is clipping your children’s nails until they’re old enough to do it themselves. Seeing as how Ruby is many, many years from the doing it herself stage of fingernail clipping, the responsibility falls to me and Kyle.

Clipping Ruby’s nails used to be hard because she’d cry every we did it. Now it’s hard because there’s so much going on in the world that is so much more interesting than getting fingernails clipped. And she must point at it, and grab it, and wave her hands at it, and crawl to it, and, and, and…

Needless to say, cutting her fingers has made me better at wrangling. Before I’m done having kids I’ll be a professional wrangler.

Hoo, yeah! Just what I always wanted.

Just kidding. Is there a way to get nails to stop growing? Because clipping tiny, moving-at-the-speed-of-lighting nails is kind of a pain.

Salmon Fillets

Remember that salmon I talked about the other day? It turns out that it was closer to two feet than three, but it was still a big fish.

Yesterday, I used the trusty internet, found a video on butchering a salmon, and butchered me a salmon. I got about 10 fillets out of that baby.


My fillets weren’t as beautiful and simple as the chef on the video made it seem, but I’ll take my less-than-perfect salmon fillets. I did it all on my own, I don’t need them to be perfect on a first try.

So I invited Wesley over and we all ate salmon and zucchini, and then we played about five rounds of 7 Wonders and a couple turns of Zombie Dice. It was a good day, even if I lost every single round of 7 Wonders (not that I’m bitter).

Setting the Tone

This morning was the kind of morning where I had to prepare a lesson, which took longer than I wanted, Kyle woke up late (because I was supposed to wake him up and was late about it), and just as we were walking out the door, Ruby had a poop the necessitated a wardrobe change. Thankfully it was only her wardrobe that required changing.

This morning was that kind of morning. Fortunately, the rest of the day has not at all that kind of day.

Church was good, even though we arrived late due to Ruby. My lesson went well. Ruby took a nearly three hour nap after church (thank goodness!). I got a nap. I’m thinking of going for a walk with Ruby, and I have fresh halibut and a salmon in my freezer. That salmon is close to three feet long, too. It’s enormous. I’m going to see how good my deboning skills really are. One of my friends works at a grocery store that has to throw out a lot of their meat, so she gets really, really good prices on the fish that can’t be sold any more. Like 90% off good deals. Because she is an angel, she passes some of it off on me. Kyle and I are thrilled to be eating more than chicken and ground beef, and Ruby’s been enjoying it as well. I love me some fish. I also have frozen clams in my freezer, due to this same lovely friend, and I’m looking forward to making clam chowder with it some day (chowder chowder chowder). I just need to find a recipe that tells me what to do with whole clams. My friend got them alive (apparently that’s how they sell them), and decided that the most humane way of killing them, since she wasn’t using them immediately, was to put them in a bag and put them in the freezer. It’s about as good of a way as I can think of. I mostly just want chowder.

I’ve been looking at rentals for after July. I looked at a house this week that is being renovated right now that I really liked (pending renovations, obviously), but the landlord told me that I was a couple of people down on priority. I appreciated his honesty, but I keep thinking about that house. It would be cool if it worked out. But we’re not pinning out hopes on it, and have been looking at other places, as well.

And Kyle has an interview tomorrow. We have a number of questions about the company–we don’t know much about it–but it’s really encouraging to have an interview. Maybe something’s going to happen this week.

So thinks are going pretty well. It’s a good thing that the tone for a day doesn’t have to be set by a crazy morning. It can be set by the fish in your fridge and a job interview, instead.

How to Rent Without Getting Taken Advantage of, pt 2

Questions to ask the landlord. This is a followup to yesterdays post, How to Rent Without Getting Taken Advantage of, pt 1. That post addressed what problems to look for when viewing the house. Today’s post details what questions to ask the landlord, and a bit at the end on how to avoid getting scammed out of your deposit and first and last month’s rent.

There are basically two kinds of rentals; ones that are managed by the individuals who own the property, and ones that are managed by management companies. While there are exceptions both ways, in my experience ones managed by management companies are generally more responsive about taking care of the property and complaints, and ones managed by landlords are more likely to be neglected or fixed on the cheap. Management companies have a reputation to maintain for all of the properties that they manage, so they want to keep up with things. Often, individuals that manage their own property seem to do it because they only own one or two rental properties and they are able to keep up with them, or because they are too cheap to pay a management company. Individuals who manage their own properties are really potluck as to how well they keep up with things, especially for cheaper properties. Some of them are great! They care about their tenants and want to keep their property well maintained and usable for years to come. Others are more likely to put duct tape on things, or tell you that it’s tough that it’s broken. I had landlords who, when our swamp cooler broke, gave us another broken one and made us tough it out for a week in the middle of summer until they finally admitted they couldn’t fix it, and begrudgingly paid a handyman to fix it. We took advantage of the handyman being there and had him fix a slew of other problems with the house. I’ve also had landlords who stored their stuff in the house that I was paying them to rent. There were canned goods from the seventies (literally, it was dated) that they wouldn’t get rid of, even though we offered to clean it out. We couldn’t park in the garage because it was filled with junk that hadn’t been touched in years. Our current property doesn’t have managers, seeing as our landlord lives in another state, which would be a part of the reason it’s a dump (we learned all of these lessons the hard way, by the way).

Without further ado, Questions for Your Landlord.

What utilities am I responsible for, and what are you covering? A lot of landlords in Utah pay for water, because otherwise the tenants would never water the lawn, and it would die and have to be replaced. Some have flat rates for utilities, and others cover other combinations of utilities. Talk to the tenants and get an idea of how much they will cost, keeping in mind that costs of utilities varies with how much you use them.

As an extension: lawn care and snow removal. Who is responsible for it? Apartments and condos usually have a company that takes care of all of that, as well as snow removal. Houses or duplexes not managed by management companies might have you care for these things. If these are your responsibility, make sure that there is a hose, a sprinkler, a mower, a weed whacker, and that all of these things work. If there is an automated sprinkler system, make sure that the landlords will come and turn it off in the winter. Nothing is worse than slip-sliding on ice all over your driveway because it’s November and the sprinklers still run even though it gets below freezing at night.

What is the length of the lease? Is it month-to-month, or yearlong? And if it’s yearlong, what can you do to get out of a contract if you have to move for work, or perhaps buy a house?

What is the process for repairs? How long do they usually take? This is also a good question for the current tenants, if they will be honest with you. They’re more likely to give you a realistic picture of it than a landlord who’s trying to get you to rent. Keep an ear out for answers like “Pretty good” and “Most of the time”, and investigate why the answers aren’t more enthusiastic. What kind of repairs take longer, or get ignored altogether?

What is the parking situation? Make sure that there’s enough parking for your cars. Especially in Provo near BYU, there’s a dire lack of parking. It stinks to have to park three or four blocks away because there’s not enough parking at your house.

How much is the deposit, how much is refundable, and is the deposit used for regular wear-and-tear repairs? I think that it’s unethical to use deposits for regular repairs, but some landlords do it. Know up front. Some landlords will keep a certain amount of the deposit to pay for carpet cleaning, or other professional cleaning services, after a tenant has moved out. Some landlords are freakishly proud of how hard it is to pass their move-out inspections, which is usually another way of saying that you’re not getting much of your deposit back. Some landlords can be really good at quibbling over the “white glove” aspect, when the problems are more wear-and-tear damage of living in a house than something that you have done wrong. Landlords who don’t accept any damage, no matter how normal, are more likely to keep your deposit because they are too cheap to pay for regular repairs themselves (even though part of the cost of owning a property is keeping up with it). I prefer landlords who only keep deposits for houses that haven’t been cleaned before they were moved out of, or if there is obvious negligent damage, to landlords who are going to fight you over every dollar. Try and get a sense of how much of the deposit is usually returned to tenants.

Availability. When is move-in? If the previous tenants haven’t moved out yet on your move-in date (I’ve seen this happen, although it is very rare), what will be done for you?

Are there any expectations about internet or cable? I’ve talked to landlords who want you to use a specific company because they don’t want holes drilled into the walls or cables running everywhere. One of the places I’m looking at now would require us to go with Google Fiber for both TV and Internet. Make sure you’re willing to go with that company.

What kind of heat is it, gas or electric? Does it have air conditioning?

Is there storage? Not having any storage is a dealbreaker for me. I have a Christmas tree and baby clothes and unless there is generous closet space in the apartment or house, I don’t want a place with no storage.

Is it furnished? Just know, just to be clear.

I also promised a few hints on how to avoid being scammed. Here they are.

Deal in person when at all possible. See the apartment, speak to the owners and/or managers in person, or at the very least over the phone. Talk to the neighbors about the property and the owner. Try to see if they know the owner and are aware that the property is for rent. If you’re subletting from individuals, check with the neighbors to see if they know why the property is being subletted and if their story matches up, and check with the landlord to make sure that (s)he knows what is going on. If you are renting a place out of state and can’t afford to fly out to look at a place (this happened to us in Phoenix), it might be a better idea to go with an apartment complex with a management company–they are less likely to be scammers. See if they have a website with images. If you know someone in the area, have them look at the property for you in person.

Beware of stories from people who claim that they own property, but live out of state, and will mail you the keys once you send them money. Included in these stories are often bemoanings about how they tried to find some God-fearing person to manage their property, but they couldn’t find anyone. If you can’t find someone to manage your property, you’re probably a scammer or an enormous jerk (most likely both); it’s not that hard to find people to manage a property.

If you drive by the property and see a “for sale” sign in the front yard, investigate to find out why it’s supposedly being rented, while also trying to be sold. This is a red flag.

Try to see the property more than once, especially if you have a weird feeling about it. Usually, scammers “rent” properties sight unseen, but very occasionally they’ll show individuals a property that they don’t actually own. Seeing the property more than once can reduce this threat.

If it’s not clear, I’ve had some pretty bad experiences with renting over the past five years, and I’ve heard of even more. While following through on these things is no guarantee that I won’t have more, I wish that I’d done a lot more of them before learning the hard way. The place you rent is your home. You want it to be good, and taken care of. If you can’t afford a place where you and the property are well treated, then I’m sorry, I know how much it sucks being poor. I’m over the moon about the possibility of buy a home in the next year or two, and no longer having to deal with this particular set of problems. I hope that my experiences can help someone else avoid some of the renting pitfalls I’ve come across.

Best of luck!

How to Rent Without Getting Taken Advantage of, Pt 1

Or, my approach at it this time, seeing as how I’ve never quite managed it.

I’ve been living in places for the past four years where the landlords don’t take care of the houses they own, and only mostly or kind of repair dire or cheap problems with the rentals. I’ve also had landlords who use your deposit for repairs and even make you put down another deposit once they’ve spent your original one (this makes me crazy; that’s not what a deposit is for). I’m unsure whether landlords everywhere are kind of slimy, or if it’s a particular problem in Provo where it’s so easy to take advantage of gullible and too-nice-to-start-a-conflict Mormons. I’m also unsure if it’s a bigger problem with the poor population of Provo–maybe if we could afford to pay more, the landlords would take better care of the houses and apartments.

There have also been a number of people of my acquaintance who have paid deposits and first and last month’s rent, only to discover that the apartment doesn’t actually exist, or wasn’t owned by the people they paid the money to. It’s a scam, but it’s apparently pretty prevalent. This makes me particularly furious, because a lot of people can only afford one deposit and first and last month’s rent–it’s a lot of money, and they take it from rental to rental because it’s all they have.

But we’ll start with part one: How to Not Rent a Dump (if it’s possible).

Part two will be “What Questions to Ask the Landlord”, including tips on how to avoid getting scammed, and that will air tomorrow. This one turned out to be kind of long.

If the apartment is occupied, ask the current tenants about the generalities of the house. Ask about the cost of utilities, and try to get an idea for how much they used them. The first two winters we lived here, we only had the heat on for about four hours a day because we couldn’t afford the gas bill, so the cost of our gas utilities were comparatively low. We don’t have any window A/C units–just a swamp cooler and fans–so our electricity bill is also lower than tenants that put an A/C unit in. Ask them how responsive the land lord is, and how quickly things get fixed. Ask about the process for things getting fixed, and if everything they ask about gets fixed, or only some of it. If it’s only some of the things that get replaced or fixed, try to investigate if it’s reasonable things that get replaced, or only cheap things. If the landlord is also at the viewing, try to call the tenants or drop by at another time to see if they will talk to you more freely. They may not want to disclose everything, because they may be afraid that if they’re honest the landlord won’t give them their deposit back, but do your best. Talk to the neighbors if it seems like they might be helpful.

Utah is overdue for a very large earthquake. If you’re in the Salt Lake region of Utah–including Utah County–and the house or apartment you’re living in was built before 1990, it almost certainly wasn’t built to code, which means that it’s more likely to be damaged or destroyed in the earthquake unless it has been retrofitted. Consider that before you move in, too. A lot of people like to shrug off the possibility of an earthquake in this area because one has never happened in living memory or even historical record. But the earthquake is a very real thing! The Japanese said the same things about the Sendai region of Japan when geologists warned them, but in 2011 a magnitude 9 earthquake hit and caused a lot of tragedy. Geological cycles can run on thousands-year-long cycles–much longer than recorded history, particularly in the Western United States. The Salt Lake region of the Wastach Mountain Range is about 300 years overdue for an earthquake, so when it happens it’s going to be big to release all of the built up pressure. It’s impossible to prevent casualties in natural disasters like this, but having a house or an apartment retrofitted or built to code will increase your family’s chances of surviving, especially if the quake happens at night when your family is at home (check to see if your children’s schools are up to code, too. If the quake happens during the day you want them to be safe). Having buildings up to code dramatically reduces casualties. The 2011 earthquake in Sendai Japan and the 2004 earthquake in the Indian Ocean were of similar magnitudes (around 9) and occurred in places of similar population density, but the earthquake in the Indian Ocean killed about 15 times the number of people that it did in Japan, in large measure because the Japanese have earthquake-safe infrastructure. It’s worth it to get a house or an apartment that’s up to code! So find out when the house or apartment was built, and inquire about any retrofitting that has been done if it was built before 1990.

When you move in, if anything is dirty or broken, make record of it. Take pictures. You want proof–if you end up needing it later–of what damage and dirt was there before you moved it. Documentation can be very powerful.

When you look at an apartment, look at EVERYTHING. When we looked at our current place, I was taken in by the large kitchen and multiple bedrooms for an affordable price. Since we weren’t sure if our family would be getting bigger before we moved (and it did), I wanted a two bedroom apartment. What I didn’t look at: the details. Under sinks, in window sills, at ceilings. I watched the people who came to look at the apartment when we decided to leave do the same thing. All they saw was the size, not the gross details.

So, here is a list of things to look at specifically. If there’s something wrong, request that it be fixed before you move in. If the landlord’s not willing to do this, consider another place. If they won’t fix things before you move in, they’re even less likely to fix it when you’re living there. And request that things be cleaned–you should be able to move into a clean apartment, you shouldn’t have to clean it when you get there. The old tenant’s messiness shouldn’t be your new problem. I’ve known multiple people (myself included) who have moved into disgusting, or only superficially clean apartments. Everything should be clean before you move in. If it’s not clean when you move in, tell the landlord and try to get them to clean it, or to pay you to clean it.

Sinks. In them, at the plumbing, under them, around them. Sinks are one of the problem areas. Look for water damage and past leaks. Look at how gross it is in the cabinets under them. The cabinets under our kitchen sink are unforgivably disgusting, complete with dust bunnies, water damage, and exposed wood–no linoleum. Look at the plumbing for rust, or poorly done repair jobs.

The stove/oven. Look to see how clean it is. Lift up the range to see how clean it is under the range. Look inside the oven, look on the sides. If there’s a drawer, look in the drawer. Look under the stove. Bring a flashlight if you have to. If anything’s dirty, request that it be cleaned–even if it requires moving the stove.

Fridge/freezer. Again, look everywhere. On the sides, front, inside, in the drawers, the shelves. Look under the fridge. Request anything be cleaned or replaced. If there’s a lot of ice built up inside the freezer, request that it be defrosted and wiped down before you move in. Check to see if it smells.

Cabinets and drawers. Open them. Every single one. Look for holes, animal droppings, water damage, pretty much anything that could be wrong. Check to see if they smell.

Medicine cabinets. OPEN THEM. I don’t keep anything in my medicine cabinet because I’m pretty sure that anything kept there would make me sick. It’s scarily rusty. Make sure that they have all of the doors (seriously), and if they don’t request that they be replaced. If any of the mirrors are broken, request that they be replaced.

Toilets. Open them up, see how clean the bowls are. Look at the base to see if it’s been wiped up or if there are exposed screws (these hurt to bump against, and you don’t want your kids scraping themselves on rusty screws), and around the toilet for water damage or problems with the linoleum. Look inside the tank to see if there are any obvious problems.

Closets. Open them. Look in the corners and on the floors, look for holes in drywall. Check to see if the shelves are rickety or dirty. Check any rods to make sure that they are stable.

Tile/linoleum. Look at the tile and linoleum. If it’s tile, check for cracks. If there are cracks in the tile, it will only get worse while you live there. If it’s linoleum, look at the edge of the linoleum where it meets the wall, and corners. Look for holes or breaks in the linoleum, or exposed underfloor. One of my friends has exposed underfloor in her bathroom, and when her landlord shows the apartment, she sands it down so that it’s hard to see and refuses to replace it. If there are issues, request it be fixed or replaced.

Carpets. Look at ’em. If you can tell that they are dirty, there are pounds and pounds of dirt caked into that carpet. Don’t be afraid to request that they be cleaned, or even replaced before you move in. Some carpets, especially in really old apartments, can be really grotty and nasty. I cleaned the carpets in our front room once. I ran that carpet cleaner over the carpet five times, and after the fifth time the water I was dumping out was just as dirty as it had been the fifth time. I finally quit because it was 2 am, and I was pregnant. I’m not sure it’s possible to clean this carpet.

Walls/painting. Look for holes in the drywall, in particular where pictures may have been hung, where curtain rods are hung, and in closets and cabinets. Those are places where it’s likely to have holes, and may be easy to hide them. Look at the paint to determine if it needs to be painted before you move in. Look to see if the paint job is bad. A bad paint job can really irritate you while living there (it has really bugged me). Look at the floor boards, doors, jams, cabinets and shelves to see if anything needs to be painted. Request that anything be fixed, painted, or replaced.

Windows. Look for broken ones. Request that they be cleaned, outside and in. Look at the window sills to see if they are rotting or damaged. Look at the wood framing the windows on the outside as well. A lot of the older houses in Provo has the wood on the outside rotting out around the windows. If windows open, check to make sure that they open all the way or if they get stuck, and if they open vertically, that they stay open on their own. One of the windows in our current apartment opens, but it won’t hold itself open. Literally the day we moved in, we opened it because the house was roasting, and it crashed down and cracked a giant X shape in the window. We told the landlord about it and he has mysteriously never gotten back to us about it. We put duct tape over it and it remains cracked to this day, three years later. Our back neighbors also have a cracked window. Again, request repairs or replacements when necessary.

Corners. Look at corners. Look in ALL the corners, inside and out, up and down. Look for spider webs, filth, dirt, holes in carpeting, damage…just look. Nobody looks in the corners and it’s where the most disgusting stuff usually is. Request that things be cleaned, repaired, or replaced.

Ceilings. Similar to corners, nobody looks at ’em. Look for spider webs, damage, mold (especially in bathrooms, this is a good indication of how well ventilated it is), whatever. Look at the light fixtures and ceiling fans, which are more likely to be dirty or have bugs in them. In the bathroom, check the ventilation fan to see how powerful it is. Make sure that the lightbulbs all work.

Vents. Look at them, see how dirty they are. Make sure that they are bolted down or into the wall. Request replacements for missing screws, and request that they be cleaned if they’re dirty.

Water heater, electrical box, furnace, etc. Find them. See if they are installed up to code. If the earthquake happened while you live there and the water heater’s not strapped down it can start a fire and burn your house down, even if your house would have otherwise survived the earthquake.

Fireplace. If it has a fireplace, ask about how often it is cleaned (professionally, preferably) and if it is safe to have a fire in there. Fire places need to be cleaned every year if they’re used–they’re a major fire hazard otherwise.

These are the major things to look for. Don’t be afraid to write down what you want to look at, and bring the list to the viewing. I’m doing it, and it’s helped me catch a lot of problems with potential sites.

So. Ruby.

She’s standing, and walking along couches, and can stumble along if you hold her hand. It’s pretty adorable, but it’s also a little terrifying.

How do babies change so fast in a year?

Kyle’s sister had a baby girl a couple of weeks ago, and it’s got me thinking about how it was just a year ago that Ruby was that tiny and helpless (oh, and still waking up at 3 am for hours at a time causing temporary insanity, let’s not forget that). She’s babbling, and I can tell that she understands some of what we say to her. She’s almost walking. She’s so stinking adorable that it’s hard to tolerate.

She’s allowed to explore freely in the front room and the kitchen, but we keep the door to the rest of the house closed because there are things we don’t want entering the Great and Terrible Maw of Ruby and ending up torn or otherwise harmed. If that door is ever open, she gets quiet and heads straight for it. If I suddenly hear silence, there’s a nearly 100% chance that she got into the pantry and into the recycling, or that she’s making a beeline for the bathroom through the office/crib room. There is literally nothing in her reach in the bathroom that I want her sticking in her mouth. If you catch her heading towards the bathroom and tell her to come back, she stops, looks at you with this devious and knowing smile, then turns around and crawls faster to the bathroom. She knows she’s being a stinker! She just wants to try anyways!

Amy has discovered that Ruby’s hair that is growing in is kind of curly. The newest hair is curly, but the older infant hair is straight as a whistle. I hope that her hair is curly, because I love curly hair. It’s so adorable.

Also, due to Ruby’s restlessness at being held captive in our house all day, I have actually begun spending time outside, beneath the scorching summer sun, during walks and at the park. It has brought out Summer Sun Eliza, a being that hasn’t surfaced since I spent hours a day outside during marching band in high school. The past four summers have been spent more around a computer screen in an office instead of outside, leaving me as pale as I am during the winter. I think Kyle believes me now when I tell him that I have olive skin. I have also discovered that Ruby has inherited Kyle’s, ah, less olive and more lily skin. Sunscreen is her friend.

And thus concludes our Ruby update.

A Little Bit of Confidence

Part of the reason for the scarcity of posts lately has been that I don’t especially want to memorialize how demoralizing Kyle’s job search has been. He still doesn’t have a job, but in the past few weeks, I’ve been able to find a lot more peace about the whole process.

Part of what is helping is the fact that last week he started going to the LDS employment resource center for help. They have an accelerated job coaching session that meets every morning, and it gets him up, showered, and outside of the house by 8 am. It’s also motivating because you have to report on what you did the previous day to everyone at the session. Accountability is good. And being outside of the house, networking, and doing things other than sending in blind resumes has done wonders for Kyle’s confidence as well as his job prospects. Instead of silence, Kyle’s making contacts and networking with people. He’s already heard back from contacts that he met the very first day he started going to the coaching sessions.

Nothing is for sure, still no interviews, but a little bit of hope, and a lot more confidence. Here’s hoping those things take us somewhere.

The Scent of Roses

A friend of mine has hurt her back, and has needed some help watching her kids off and on. So the other day, I offered to watch her two-year-old. Ruby was napping, so it was just me and my toddler charge going to the park.

Provo right now is resplendent with roses. It’s actually one of my favorite things about this city–that there are rose bushes everywhere, and they are heavy with blooms for a significant part of the summer. They smell wonderful. So as this little girl and I were walking to the park, we passed several rose bushes. And at every single rose bush, the little girl stopped, cupped a large bloom in her hand, and smelled the roses.

Usually idiomatic phrases aren’t placed in front of you quite so literally.

But I’ve been thinking about this little girl with her small hands full of a large rose bloom, taking the time to smell every variety of rose before we passed them by. Right now my life feels very overwhelmed. It’s not that my time is full and busy, but it’s the fact that Kyle’s job search has remained fruitless. It’s overwhelming and terrifying in turns and then all at once. Our lease is up at the end of July and we have no idea what’s going to happen to us. We may move into a temporary place until Kyle can find a job, but I’m really hoping that he’ll have one and that there will be a little bit of stability in our lives. Not having an income is scary. Not knowing what’s going to happen to us in the next couple of months is scary.

And there are no answers. Nobody can assure us with any certainty that there will be a job, a place to move to, or any security. It’s all hope. Hope and faith. Believing that there will be a place, and an income some day. Holding to faith that God will not overlook our little family, but will provide for us.

But as I tread through these trials, life is still here. Still now. And I’ve spent a lot of time hurrying past the metaphorical roses in my life because I’m overwrought with worry. I want real, concrete answers. Faith is harder to hold to than the security of a job and a home. But worrying has brought me nowhere. Floundering and asking people for answers they cannot provide has given no comfort. And so I think of a little girl, cradling a rose in her hands, taking the time to smell what is only here for a little while. This moment in our lives will pass. Some day there will be a job and more security. But there are still things happening now that are worth holding onto, worth taking the time to stop and see. And in the small moments when I have a little clarity and I relish what is here–now–instead of pipe dreams and instead of worrying my heart out, those moments bring me the comfort and grounding that I have been trying to find from questions that have no answers, and worries that have no cure.

If only those moments of clarity were easier to find.

Tony Caputo’s

Yesterday Ruby, my friend and I trekked up to Salt Lake to visit Orson Gygi’s–a restaurant supply store–and Tony Caputo’s–a store that sells delicious balsamic vinegar, olive oil, cheese, and chocolate. Being at Tony Caputo’s reminded me of eating in Europe. Fine cuisine and I have a long lasting love affair, but it’s a tragic one because I’m only in a position to eat fine cuisine when I’m in Europe. It has been a sadly long time since I’ve been in Europe.

I want to travel to Europe with Kyle some day, and after nearly four years of hearing me speak wistfully of deliriously good food, Kyle has come to the conclusion that I’d rather eat the food than see the sights. He claims that I’d even rather eat the food than see the art.

I think he may be right.

There’s something really divine about food made with fresh, high quality ingredients that has been cooked by people intimately familiar with the ins and outs of the ingredients they’re working with. Everything from cheese to salads to desserts are made with ingredients that taste the best, and are combined with flavors that compliment one another. It’s really, really hard to find food that good in America. Now, I appreciate me some American cooking–don’t get me wrong. I love burgers and BBQ and all those good things, but it’s a different style of cooking. It doesn’t make me wax rhapsodic the way that French cuisine does.

And being at Tony Caputo’s, with imported and otherwise delicious vinegars, oils, and cheeses (I didn’t try any of the chocolates), well, it reminded me of that.