So, by now you can probably tell I’m a Southerner. And I’m proud of it. My flair, my flava, my lingo – all dutty South. But I’m also educated. Don’t come at me sideways LOL I got wit! So, yes. My southernness will also be sprinkled in my words. Can’t help it.
Anyway, Heeyyyyyy y’all. So, on to today’s post. I want to be a little vulnerable. Being vulnerable is hard for me. Not because I think anything I’m doing is top secret, but I do think some level of privacy is essential for sanity. Especially these days when everyone’s whole lives from the moment they open their eyes to the first thing they put in their mouth and what’s going on in their day to when they’re going to bed are documented and publicized – voluntarily! It’s just tew much.
So, here goes.
(I actually took a break in between the last sentence and this one to breathe, because just thinking about it has me emotional again)
Years ago I made a decision I wouldn’t open mail when I got home from work. It’s an easy habit to fall into: You get home, you have mail, you open it.
But what if it’s not-so-good news, and you need to talk to someone’s customer service, but they’re home now just like you are? You spend the rest of the evening deliberating over said not-so-good news and thinking about how soon you can call customer service in the morning.
I’m an Aries. I don’t need more reasons to think than I already do.
I’ve spent many a sleepless night stressing over unanswered questions, possible situations I’d conjured in my head, and every scenario I could think of only to get me nowhere but sleepless, worrying over what I can’t control, and grumpy in the morning.
So I decided I will only open mail at work, or at least during business hours. Just in case. In case I need to call someone and get some answers. No more sleepless nights. Well, at least not for that. haha
But this past weekend was a holiday weekend. So it was a lonnnng weekend. And when I got home from work this past Friday there was a letter from the Tax Commissioner. I told myself, “Definitely don’t open that til Monday!” and I put that thing in the open-at-work pile.
I’m so serious.
My peace… is my responsibility.
I decided not to take off Monday. I could have, but it just seemed like a waste of vacation hours because I knew it would be quiet and we’d go home early anyway.
So, come Monday morning, I made my morning smoothie, as usual, grabbed my purse and grabbed the stack of mail from the open-at-work pile and stuffed it in my bag.
When I got to work, I’d forgotten all about the mail, until I went looking for some lip gloss.
Oh yea! The tax letters. Lemme see what they talmbout. It’s too soon for my annual statement, but whatevs.
I open what feels like an unusually stuffed envelope for my annual tax assessment documents. But I proceed anyway.
What I find is a letter that says (paraphrasing because if I go get it I’ll get emotional, again), “According to records, you do not reside in the home mentioned above so your homestead exemption is denied, which means we haven’t been charging you enough taxes, and you have about a month and a half to pay us for the last 3 years’ worth of unpaid taxes in the amount of …oh, about $2500.”
W. T. F.
I read that letter at least 3 times. Then I looked at the included 3 blue documents behind it. One for each of the corresponding years I’ve been renting out my home.
It all felt like a bad dream.
And on July 4th weekend?! Dis-re-damn-spectful.
But it was actually dated May 25, 2017 – the letter was forwarded from my last address. (Sidebar here: People, always, always, always forward your address! A guy who lived at my home previously is still getting mail here, and some look verrrry important)
Let me pause for a moment to say this: I’m an honest person. I may not have always been, I’ll admit it. But over the most recent years of my life (say, about the last 3-4 for certain), I’ve come to appreciate the value in honesty. I used to lie. Often. Led a life of lies, easily. But now, maybe it’s maturity or it could be apathy, but I just don’t have time to lie. I don’t have time or the energy to remember my lies.
I won’t say I want to do something I don’t want to. I won’t say I like you if I don’t. I won’t wear something that makes me uncomfortable and say “Aww! I love it!” And I’m a vegan now so I won’t even eat anything that compromises my values. Cause, for why!
Now, back to this. Yes, I did file for homestead exemption, which, for those who are unaware, is a property tax discount given to homeowners, but it must be your primary residence. Yes, I filed when I was a homeowner, because I took all the discounts I could get. But I, in all my (almost 10) years of homeownership never even thought to or knew where to begin to remove the exemption when I decided to rent my home out.
My home is my pride and joy. Besides my three degrees, it is the hardest and most rewarding challenge I’ve ever accomplished. I worked my BUTT off to get my home. I researched, I had an outstanding mortgage guy who I still communicate with to this day and took ever piece of advice he gave, I forfeited many temporary pleasures to save, and one of my best friend’s mom found my house after countless views and searches and offers that went no where.
When I bought my home at 23, it meant Everything to me. The only outside assistance I received was a $700 loan from my stepfather toward the final closing costs, whom I paid back within 3 months. All other funds came from saving, budgeting, and one cool ass house party attendees donated toward my closing cost funds. It was a longer road than expected filled with many ups and downs, surprises and detours. When I signed those papers and got my keys, to tell you tears of joy came from me would be an understatement.
Fastforward five years: I’m always in the city. I work in the city, I party in the city, the guy I dated was in the city. The house was a lot of space. It was just me and my baby Champ, but it was a lot of house. A three bedroom, 2.5 bath, fully-fenced backyard, 2-car garage house for a single female and her 5 year old Boxer dog was just a lot. I wanted less maintenance. I wanted more culture and diversity. I wanted city life.
I decided to rent it out. Selling crossed my mind, but we hadn’t quite recovered from the recession, and my home would have been under water. A home just up the street from mine had sold for half of what I’d bought it for just months earlier. I was hot. Selling was not an option. I needed equity. That wasn’t there. And likely wouldn’t be for a very long time.
Fastforward again: I’m a city-dweller! I found a property manager I could trust, tenants I could depend on, and a lovely condo smack in the middle of downtown. It was everything I wanted. I survived my first year as a landlord – which was no walk in the park – and when time came to renew their lease I happily said Yes!
So, here I am in 2017. I’ve had my address updated everywhere important since I moved. Mortgage, student loans, credit cards, post office, HR, you name it. If I was trying to hide my official residence I would have been doing a terrible job at it!
These letters came completely out of nowhere. I had no freakin idea I was still claiming an exemption I wasn’t due! Companies have no problem at all informing you
at the worst possible time that you owe them money and expecting you to pay up like you just had said funds lying around, just waiting for the day they’d finally come after you for payout.
My first reaction: disbelief. No! This can’t be. This just can’t be!! There must be some mistake!
My second reaction: cry. I cried the ugliest Miss America tears. The worst, “No you can’t do this to me!” tears. Just hurt tears. All, “the Devil is a LIAR” Nooooooooooo tears.
My third reaction: Do something. You not gon’ take my got damn house!
And that is where I am now.
Here’s another thing about me: I’m not the GoFundMe type. Honestly, I think it’s become a crutch far too many people lean on. Now, in times of immediate or dire situations, sure. It has it’s place. But it should NOT be your first nor only resolution to your own damn problems.
Cut it out, people. It’s not the world’s responsibility to save you!
So, as you probably know, I picked up dog walking just about a month ago now. My last blog post is an introduction on it.
I’m a new Walker on the Wagwalking.com site that has become “the Uber of dogwalking”. Granted, Uber is in some heat right now so they might want to change their catchphrase, but, at any rate, the service is exactly that.
I just hit my 30th day today and my total payout is $894.30.
Not bad for walking some dogs, huh?
Don’t get it twisted though, I bust my ass in this biz my first 30 days! I drove more the past 30 days than I’ve driven all year. And that’s no exhaggeration. I don’t like to drive, people. I have walked large and small dogs, old and puppy dogs, trained and ill-mannered dogs, one and multiple dogs – I was HUSTLING.
To get the walks, I requested everything I could grab, which is tough. Wag doesn’t have a huge presence in Atlanta yet. There are more Walkers than walk requests, which make the requests extremely demanding. I’ve had clients request me directly but because I happen to close my eyes for a nap, walk to the restroom, or don’t have my eyes glued to the app for one moment, I miss the request because another Walker snagged it up. It drove me nuts! Days I’d want more walks but just missed a request by 3.6 seconds. No lie. It doesn’t take long. It was gut-wrenchingly annoying.
So after I composed myself and stopped crying the I-don’t-know-what-you’re-saying-please-stop-crying-so-I-can-understand-you-ugly-bawl tears, I called a friend, who shall remain nameless. I rarely
EVER ask for help, so when I do folks know it’s genuine. My goal is to bust my ass as much as I can for the next month and a half, until August 28 when the 3 bills of a total of $2500 are due, to come up with the money. If I’m short, my friend will be my backup, which I will repay as quickly as I can. This saves me from losing my damn mind and thinking out of character, but I will still do all I can in my own power to come up with these funds. (A lesson in maturity: Ask for help, but always be willing to help yourself – first. In my younger years I would struggle alone. The difference now is at least the month and a half won’t be looming over my head. My friend has given me more time, and peace of mind.)
This little surprise hurt my heart because I’ve been saving for my TEFL certification tuition – the certification to teach English abroad – which has been a dream of mine for the past four years. Damn near everything I’ve done has been in preparation for this goal. And every dollar I’ve made from dog-walking has been put into a separate “For TEFL” fund. The tuition is $1400, and I’ve already been able to save over 50% of it… until I got those letters.
The Tax Commissioner informed me my home would be set to delinquent status and then be up for lien that would be reported to the courthouse.
But I can’t lose my damn house. I’ll be damned!
So, the tuition will go on hold until these bills are paid for. It puts me slightly behind my plan, but I’ve been doing this life thing long enough to know everything happens the way it’s suppsoed to.
I’d planned to enroll in the certification course this fall, having had raised the money in its entirety with no temptation to put anything on my credit cards. Back in Novemeber I made a vow to myself to stop using my credit cards altogether and pay down on one by one. And so far, no matter what comes up, I’ve maintained that promise. Even when I went on vacation to Hawaii. If it wasn’t in the travel reserve I’d saved for, it wasn’t available.
Discipline, people. It’s not about desire; it boils down to will. And no promise I make to myself will I ever break. Never again.
So. There it is.
I’m not rolling in dough, although the way my family asks me for money you’d think I was. I don’t have it all figured out – I have my days where I’m like “WHY! Why am I doing so much? What’s it all for?!” And every day isn’t roses and sunshine. I have sucky, sucky days. And, because I’m a loner, I internalize way more than I’d like to admit. I have tons of supportive, loving, compassionate friends that I just think, “Everybody’s going through something; who am I to burden them?” moments.
I am human. I am flawed.
But I am also full of life. And purpose. And kindness. And dreams.
Sometimes I do a great job at being my best self, and sometimes not so much.
I will keep my house, if that means I have to go door to door with leashes and poop bags asking for $10 a walk. And I will fulfill my dream to teach abroad if that means I go later than when I planned.
I don’t really have a summary for this story. This was my (long) attempt at being transparent, hopefully motivational, and written documentation to myself for the future so I can look back and say, “See, Dani girl. You did it! Again!”
I love challenges. They excite me. I get knocked off my game temporarily, and then I jump back in it and say, “Aight then. So, what we gon do about it though?”
So. Cheers to opportunities, lessons-learned, friends with benefits (hahahaha!), friends who have your back, and going after your muhfuggin dreams!
(oh, and by the way, if you’re a dog owner or know a dog owner (both in and outside of Atlanta), try out Wag! at wagwalking.com, and use my code DANIELLE2775 for $20 off your first service, plus the referral will help me toward my goal! thanks in advance :-))