We Get The Keys!

June 24th, 2011

by Victoria M. Johnson

I was as excited to be handed the keys to our new mobile home as I had been when we purchased our house six years ago. (The foreclosed house). The excitement and pride were equal and anyone who knows me would be surprised to hear that.

Now that we had the keys it was time for us to get to work. We stepped through the threshold and were greeted by empty rooms. The vacant home looked even more spacious—a short-lived condition—and I imagined how I would decorate it with our belongings.

The Keys to Our Castle

My husband pulled out the tape measure and I used the stud finder. I had to find as much wall space as possible to hang artwork.

“I like this green wall. Are we keeping it this color?” My husband asked, as he measured.

“No.” It’s hideous, I almost said. “It’s a nice color, sweetie, but it doesn’t go with our style.” There’s a diva lesson here. Avoid insulting something your husband just claimed that he liked. No matter how revolting it is. Instead say something like, “It’s not my taste.”

Looking over my husband’s shoulder, I saw the measurement of the wall in question. Uh-oh. There was a problem.

Preparing For The Move

June 22nd, 2011

Hi Everyone,

Sorry I’ve been away for a few days. I’ll be back Friday. There’s been so much to do in preparation for this move! Don’t worry. I’ll give you all the sordid details. Why didn’t anyone prepare me for this?

A Peek Inside Part II

June 15th, 2011

by Victoria M. Johnson

Before reality sets in, I thought I’d give you more views of my cozy new mobile home. I fear the packing process will be such a rude awakening that I might not be in such good spirits. I want to bask in the glow of merriment that we’re staying put in the city we love for a little bit longer. (Photo of staged kitchen. We haven’t moved in yet).

A Diva's Kitchen

This experience has certainly been a challenge, exhausting sometimes, and it’s nice to have the strain of the search behind us. I feel for the families across the country that has had to go through similar experiences with children to worry about. I know the loss of a home is bad enough, but add uprooting kids from their schools, their friends and activities, and that has got to be ten times tougher.

Maybe a family in your neighborhood is facing the same fate. I think we not only need to stick together as a family, but as a nation. We’ll get through this period. There will be good times again. Just don’t give up. If this Diva can move into a mobile home and be happy about it, anything can happen.

A Peek Inside

June 14th, 2011

by Victoria M. Johnson

Before I allow the panic to set in about squeezing my Diva life into 800 square feet, let me give you a sneak peek inside my new abode. Did I mention I love every inch of those 800 square feet? This mobile home suits my husband and I perfectly. In theory. (Let’s see if I change my mind when it comes to packing and especially when I’m UNPACKING)!

A Diva's Abode

It has two roomy bedrooms and two bathrooms. In fact it has nearly every item on our checklist. Though the home is painted quite nicely, I know I’ll change the color. I need more zing, more vibrancy and originality. The furniture in the photo belongs to the stagers, not us. But it’s still obvious that the home is a gem. Don’t you agree?

While it doesn’t have a community pool, there are other amenities. There’s the large community clubhouse that we can use for private events. The garden setting delights me every time I drive into the park. The location is fantastic and the neighbors seem friendly. We’re pleased with our decision!

We Did It!

June 13th, 2011

by Victoria M. Johnson

After receiving the fantastic news of being accepted as new residents, we were thrilled and of course we celebrated. I toasted my husband for finding the property and his vigorous negotiation to purchase it. I was so happy that we would continue living near our family and friends. Though a move that required a massive downsize would be a major change for any diva, I was grateful that my life wasn’t changing too drastically. After all, I would keep my current daytime employment as a grant writer, I could stay active with my volunteer work, and my writing colleagues and filmmaking connections were still close by. We lucked out, right? We weren’t forced to move far away.

Then it hit me.

How on Earth was I going to downsize from 1800 square feet to 800 square feet? What had I been thinking?

A Diva's Bedroom

There was no way I could bring all the things I needed from our old place to our new home. I was really going to have to let some things go. A new kind of dread enveloped me. Where would I begin?

This wasn’t simply a matter of losing a thousand square feet of indoor space. I was losing the functional exterior spaces and my large garage, too.

Why had I thought moving into a mobile home was a good idea?

The Moment of Truth

June 10th, 2011

by Victoria M. Johnson

The interview panel consisted of three people, two owners of the park and the park manager. To my husband’s credit, immediately after the introductions and handshakes, he got right to the point. He dove directly into the questions on everybody’s minds about losing our home. They listened compassionately and asked no further questions about our finances. Though we were with these very friendly people about 45 minutes, I cannot recall most of the conversation.

The one thing that vividly comes to mind is that my husband made the mistake of saying, “We really like this trailer park.” Everyone in the room squirmed and I squeezed my husband’s hand.
“It’s a mobile home park. Not a trailer park,” one of the owners said.
The manager went over a few of the rules, where visitors could park, the procedures for reserving the community room, seeking approvals before performing any construction work, rules for pets, etc.
My husband used the “trailer” word a few more times, causing others to correct him, myself included.

Time to celebrate!

The interview ended up being a pleasant event. But we still had to wait a couple of days to hear the news. “Your application is approved. We’d like you to become part of our community.”

Whoo hoo!

The Acceptance Interview

June 8th, 2011

by Victoria M. Johnson

Our offer had been submitted and accepted by the seller, the trailer park’s paperwork had been completed, and the background checks were underway. (Yes, the park performed a background check on us). The only thing left that stood in the way of us becoming residents of the trailer park was that acceptance interview.

I’m never nervous at job interviews so I wondered why I had butterflies in my stomach. Probably because my writer’s mind imagined all the things that could go wrong. The biggest thing I feared was answering a question incorrectly. What if they asked about my gardening prowess? My beautiful plots of roses and fruit trees and lawns at my previous home were due to my hired gardeners.  What if they asked about my hobbies? I couldn’t say watching disaster movies on my enormous TV with surround sound and the volume turned way up. What if they asked about how often we expected visitors? It wouldn’t do to tell them we enjoy hosting frequent parties with live music, lots of bubbly and exuberant guests.

The Acceptance Interview

To relieve my anxiety, I read up on co-op interviews so that I would know what to expect. Divas do not like being caught unprepared. According to a New York Times article, “in addition to being ready for a thorough grilling on finances, applicants should be prepared to disclose personal aspects of their lives.” Uh, that doesn’t help. A tip sheet on ActiveRain.com says, “More is less, do not elaborate or ask questions, an innocent question might offend a board member.” Great. As if I wasn’t already apprehensive about one of us putting his foot in his mouth.

What’s The Catch?

June 6th, 2011

by Victoria M. Johnson

Attractive home, fantastic neighborhood, low price… surely there’s no catch. Right?

As it turns out, we can’t just make an offer, have it accepted, and we get the keys. My husband tells me there’s a catch.

“We have to pass an interview by the park owners. There’s an approval process to live here.”
“We have to be interviewed to move into a trailer park?” I asked. I thought only exclusive New York co-op properties interviewed potential owners. I also thought my husband was pulling my leg. The worst part is, my husband wasn’t kidding.

What not to wear to a trailer park interview.

I expected there to be multiple offers and a bidding war to contend with. I never expected we might lose the home because of a personal interview by people who could say no if they didn’t like me.

For the first time throughout this process I was scared. What if they decided I didn’t fit in? This was a peculiar feeling for a diva. I didn’t want to blow it, for my husband’s sake as well as my own.

But my next thought was, what does one wear to a trailer park interview? I honestly didn’t know what to wear.

A Unique Opportunity

June 5th, 2011

by Victoria M. Johnson

“It’s located right here in town,” my husband said.
I hadn’t seen him that excited about a property before. “Okay. Let’s have a look.”

As he drove, I mentally went through my home wish list. By now I had whittled down my expectations. I was prepared to really cut back. We absolutely needed a roof over our heads, a kitchen, room for a bed and a TV, and a place for a desk. We also had to have high-speed Internet access. I’m a writer remember? I could live without the cable if I absolutely had to.

Reading through the realtor’s flyer more closely, I become very excited. Yet I didn’t want to get my hopes up.

Mobile homes aren't what they used to be.

Finally, we reached the park. It was nestled in an appealing residential area, surrounded by greenery. As we passed homes to reach the trailer, I was pleasantly surprised. “These don’t look like trailers at all,” I said. Many residences had flower gardens and fruit trees, some had decorative outdoor patios, and others had inviting porches. All were well maintained, freshly painted, and cared-for.

My husband pulled up to a nondescript doublewide trailer with a white fence. I jumped out of the car to see the interior. It had no pool, no lawn, and no garage, but to me it was beautiful.

From the moment I stepped inside, I fell in love. The living space seemed spacious due to the open floor plan. The kitchen was amazing. It had plenty of storage for all my Wolfgang Puck appliances and Sur La Table paraphernalia I had collected over the years. I could see us entertaining here. The two bedrooms and two bathrooms were suitable. The closets were exceptional.

“Do you like it?” my husband asked.

Make an offer,” I said. “Today!”

A Bit of Inspiration

June 5th, 2011

Focus on what you have, not what you don’t have.

With Time Running Out…

June 3rd, 2011

by Victoria M. Johnson

Prior to the recession, things that frustrated me were simple: a giveaway at your favorite cosmetic counter, and they’re all out of your shade; or the day you’re available, is the same day your stylist is on vacation; or your favorite book is being made into a movie, and they just cast lame stars.

However, since the downturn, I think dictionaries should add a new definition for the word ‘frustration.’ Here’s how I would describe it: Trying to work with your bank to refinance. Frustration increases due to your loan being sold to a different bank, which then sells it to another bank, further hindering your efforts. Frustration reaches its peak when the bank begins sending increasingly threatening letters.

With the clock ticking, my husband came through with another place to see. “I think you’ll really like this one,” he said, handing me a flyer.

“It’s in a different trailer park.”

Eating a bowl of chocolate chunk ice cream, I barely glanced at it. But the stunning interior photos caught my eye. I took the flyer.

“This is a trailer?”