Monthly Archives: April 2012

And Now for Something Completely Different…

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(In honor of having to grade final portfolios and with my apologies to both Dr. Suess and the writers of Johnny Bravo.)

I‘ll be damned

Damned I am

Maybe I’ll start giving final exams!
Next time I’ll teach with a battering ram.
I do not like this writing, no ma’am!

Do you like
these papers and writing?
I do not like them, where is the citing?
I do not like
these papers and writing.

Would you like them
here or there?

I would not like them
here or there.
I would not like them anywhere.

I do not like
these papers and writing.
I do not like them, for there is no citing.

Would you like them in a house?
Would you like them with a mouse?

Sam and fox in box

I do not like them
in my house.
I do not like them
with a mouse.
I do not like them
here or there.
I do not like them
anywhere.
I did not like them once before.
I do not like them,
anymore.

Would you put them
in a box?
Would you feed them
to a fox?

Not in a box.
Not to a fox.
Even if that fox was Courtney Cox (sorry, Johnny Bravo!).
A’s and B’s?  Bitches, please.
I would not read them
here or there.
I would not read them anywhere.
If I must keep sitting here,
Somebody better bring me a beer.

Looking Up From The Bottom Line

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Apologies for any extended internet absences as I pull my jaw off the ground and my heart back into its proper place.  Weirdly, blogging gives me a sense of routine, so I really should do it more often.  That being said:

I’m amazed at those of my friends who have no interest in their personal finances.  They, in turn, are amazed at my obsessive interest in such things.  I didn’t realize I was obsessed with such things until somewhat recently.  I thought all people were as concerned as I was.  When money topics arise, things sometimes get a pinch uncomfortable.  Not overly so, but palpably so.  I think these friends consider me a money grubbing freak, while I regard them as cash libertines living one small disaster away from ruin (graphic imagery usually goes along with this notion in my own head).  It usually happens when they start talking about charging their trip to Europe on a credit card or completely renovating parts of an already overpriced house (when I know their mortgage payment is already way too high).  Or when I demurred about buying a bike later because I want to be sure of my summer funding first.  We usually just eyeball each other warily and change the subject LOL.

One thing I think they might learn from me is how to avoid those sorts of financial pitfalls that they end up bitching about later.  It’s hard to bite one’s tongue when six months after bragging about their renovations, new furniture and expensive trip taken over a university break (charged) they’re complaining about their salaries and the amount they need to live on and pay off their debt.  Sure, go ahead and look at me like i’m a conspiracy freak just because I happen to mention a pantry.  Just don’t kvetch to me later that you shouldn’t have eaten out so many times last month.

But on the other hand, one thing I could learn from them is how to define life in ways other than the bottom line.  The fiscal sunglasses are one of the first lenses I pick up and put on when I want to think about my life.  And in many ways that’s not a bad thing.  There are things I’d like to do and those things either require money or they require me to not have too many life costs.  Having control of the one leads to freedom to do other things.  But there are other ways of having a sustainable life that have nothing to do with funds.

And that is what those of my friends who don’t necessarily obsess with finances are teaching me right now.  Interestingly, when my bottom line improved a little, I looked up and it was as if that part of the world was OK for once.  That led to seeing all these other interests that had been neglected for a long time — health, personal relationships, etc.  It’s like a brave new world out there!  It also causes me to re-evaluate my choices.  Instead of taking some Craigslist gigs that would take me out of the house many nights and weekends just to make an extra buck to meet my goals, I held my breath and crossed my fingers that something more life appropriate would show up later.  I have a young teenage son.  The last thing I need is to cut my time with him by 20 – 30 hours per week, especially in the evenings and during the weekend!  Such a thought would be automatic to my non-money-sunglasses wearing friends.  It was a veritable revelation to me.

Currently, while my little heart is broken and I’d like it mended, I think the new thing on the horizon should be my health.  Since I’m not traveling anywhere glamorous this summer, and my biggest plans include vrooming around on the Honda and doing some fishing, I’ll have lots of time to devote to healthy practices.  I FEEL GUILTY ABOUT THIS!  What on earth for?!  I feel like it’s taking time away from money I could be making.  That I could be figuring out how to scrounge up more dollars for debt pay offs, for retirement and for entertainment.  Talk about an unbalanced perspective!

I’m trying to come to terms with putting on the HealthyPants Sunglasses this summer, but my Money Sunglasses are clinging to my face like they’re stuck on with superglue!  Clearly, there is more to life than the bottom line.  But giving oneself permission to go there…well, that’s another matter.

Very Un-glamorously Barely Resisting Temptation!

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I do a good job of basically saving money over the past few weeks, brag about myself in a post and then what happens?  My school’s student center installs a small sushi bar!

AAAHHHH!

What am I to do?  I went to the student center to eat lunch and grade things online.  I see this little outpost with people actually making the sushi in front of my eyeballs.  The smells and shapes were intoxicating.  I’m not sure how I picked out sushi smells from the domineering Burger King and Chic-fil-A smells, but I did.  (And no, it wasn’t because the fish was spoiled!)

I probably circled the little work station half a dozen times before they started eyeballing me warily.  As well they should have.  Then I scurried off and tried to forget about it.  Which obviously was so successful, since I’m now blogging about it…

Glamorously Resisting Temptation!

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As I’ve gotten my financial priorities lined up, I’ve noticed…ye gods, but it’s hard to find a hobby that doesn’t involve spending money, and boy is it hard to resist the urge to go into a shop!  I like looking at pretty things, whether that’s dresses or furniture, home decor (lord, especially home decor!) candles, art, seeds, you name it, I like looking at it.  The problem is, the more I look, the more I want to buy something, and even if it’s dirt cheap, it’s not a bargain if I don’t need it.  Further, I’ve also got a terrible hankering for eating out, whether that’s a couple of beers and some chicken wings at the local pub, a quick pizza when I’m tired at night, or a few pieces of sushi.  If i’m not careful, I nickle and dime the hell out of myself on food out.  There are few things I like better than places to eat.

I need other activities that don’t involve spending or at the least don’t involve spending too much money.  I’d also like to not be bored, so there is only so much of curling up with a laptop and some netflix movies that I can stand.  Community events sometimes help.  I recently went to a Chocolate Lover’s Day downtown, and for a mere $5 each, my friend and I walked around the downtown area to the various shops listed on the choco-map sampling all the chocolatey goodies.  We ate well over $5 worth of chocolate, much of it homemade nomnoms.  The chocolate cheesecake in the yarn and sewing shop was particularly delicious.  I’m hoping to figure out how to get into more events like that.

The gym should factor into my daily life more, but it just doesn’t.  This is appalling, as I’m paying for the membership every month straight out of my paycheck.  It’s cheap, because I’m faculty, but still, it’s money wasted.  There always seems to be something in the way of going, when in reality it’s just because I don’t prioritize taking care of myself.  I also don’t look at the gym as fun.  I see it as sweaty work.  Maybe if I followed a session with a round in the pool and hot tub I would think differently.  I’m already paying for it.  It’s stupid not to get my money’s worth.  And then I’d be too tired to think about nickle and diming myself for food out.

The bike, once I get into a higher gear than first, seems like it could be some nice and cheap amusement.  With gas at $4 a gallon, the bike gets 70 miles to that gallon.  My only fear is that I’ll try to stop in places along the way for a pit stop…involving beer and chicken wings.  My solution to this is to try to orchestrate some fishing expeditions for the warmer days.  I can put my collapsible pole and tackle in the saddlebags and zoom off for the afternoon.  A fishing license even with a trout stamp is pretty cheap.  And I have a couple of buddies ready to show me some great spots for fishing.  Hopefully a day of being lazy in the sun with a pole will get me past the urge to pop myself into the corner shop and just see what’s in there.

If I am going to spend money on events, I’d rather it end up having some lasting effect.  I’m headed to the Kentucky Derby soon — my annual pilgrimage to the state of my birth.  Every Derby we try to do different activities.  Sometimes we’ll go to concerts.  Last year we went to the Kentucky Horse Park and saw some of the retired great horses, like Cigar.  This year we’re doing something called “Sips and Strokes.”  We’ll be walked through creating a painting appropriately called “Derby Girl” while we sip on wine.  It’s for complete beginners and I’m very excited about it.  It’s $40, but unless it becomes “Slips and Slurs” it’ll give me something to put on the wall back home.

One of the things I’m still kicking around is a monthly potluck.  My sister has weekly dinners with her girlfriends, but I’m just not that coordinated.  I could manage to do it once a month, though.  I’ll have to see about getting this done.  That would be lovely fun.  Oooh, and there would be food too!

What are your suggestions for cheap amusements?  Besides heckling passersby from my porch with a beer?

Marking the Cost of Being Alone

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Cue the music:  All byyyyyyyyyyy mysellllllf…don’t wanna be….alllllll byyyy mysellllllfff…

Wait.  Maybe I do.  Sigh.

To make a very long and painful story mercifully short, I rebounded into a relationship and a couple of weekends ago the man just up and r-u-n-n-o-f-t, to quote O Brother, Where Art Thou?.  I am now personally starring in the sequel to that movie entitled O Dan, WTF Happened?!  Now, I have had my share of painful breakups, but I have never before experienced someone just packing up their tools, clothes, guns and dogs and gittin down the road.  There is the expected shock and dismay, the anger, feeling like a fool, and all that.  But in the end, since money sunglasses are what I put on, I found myself marking the costs of being alone.

For one thing, it’s tough financially to be alone, unless you make an outstanding wage and/or have a limited cost of living.  Quite simply it helps to have an extra paycheck when it comes to paying the bills.  There’s also a sort of emotional security blanket that comes from having a second wage earner in or near the household, because if the economic chit really hits the fan, you have exponentially expanded your options for dealing with the fallout.  When you’re on your own, there is no such safety net.  The fruit of your hand is truly the only harvest you can expect.

There are also increasing in-kind labor costs.  No one there to help with the lawn means you have to figure out how to either do the work yourself or pay someone else to do it for you.  If he fixed things and you didn’t, you either have to scrounge up the money yourself to pay for the repairs or you hit Google and YouTube and pray you can figure it out.  But on the other hand…my home is cleaner.  I’m doing less laundry.  My utility and grocery costs are down.

The money stuff is just a surface coating over all the deeper emotional issues, of course.  At the core of it, I feel abandoned.  It’s easier to worry about how I’m going to pay for groceries now that he walked away from his job and from me.  That’s a tangible thing toward which to vent my frustration.  Less tangible is my need to march around the house squalling “Oh my God, he abandoned me!  Bastard!”  Shortly followed by, “I really am alone, aren’t I?  What now…?”

What indeed?  What does it mean to be alone?  I have a young teenage son, so technically I’m not really alone physically, though at times I have to be when he goes to see his relatives for periods of time (like this summer when he’ll be gone for a good two and a half months).  But since I provide for my son’s well being and not the other way around, I don’t really see that as a partnership (nor do I really want to, truth be told).  So being alone means a lot of different things right now.

It means no one to help pay the bills.  No one to make random comments to about the world around me.  No one to blame but myself for things that go wrong.  No one to advise me immediately on those parts of life for which I have no experience (“Honey, why is this thing dripping water?”).  No one to have dinner with or cuddle up next to at the end of a long day.  No one to make coffee for in the morning but me.  No one to go mucking up my very important interior design schemes!  No sex.  I’m not really a one night stand kind of person.

I’m not sure how to value some of these things. My outlook on life is strongly centered around personal finance and metaphors of wealth, so part of me tries to weigh these things as a cost/benefit analysis.  If my heart is a wreck, what is the value of that, compared, say, to the fact that my home is the cleanest it has ever been and my grocery bill is super-cheap right now?  What is the value of not having to endure yet one more ludicrous fight about religious issues?  What is the true loss of not being able to have coffee with him in the morning and laugh at his jokes?  I think I just lost 1.4 years of my lifespan because I am no longer in a committed, long term relationship.  But how many did I add by de facto removing on average one to two crying jags per month?  Were the crying jags releasing toxins that are still hanging around my body now?  Was he the toxin that just got released?  (Watch out, a free radical is on the loose.)

If he started projects that require a carpenter to finish, do I knock them down and burn the wood in a fit of whooping and soul purging, or do I find the money to finish them?  Which experience is really “worth”  more?  What is the value, exactly, of my time, now that it isn’t being poured into the relationship?  Did my quality of life just go up or down?

These are the things I think about when I don’t want to think about that basic, stone-in-the-belly thought:  he left me.

Ultimately, I am not at all sure what I think about all that.  For now, it’s enough to get through the day and realize, yes, that is one more day proving you can do these things by yourself.  Or at least figure out how to get them done.  What if my middle age and older age is characterized by being alone?  Is that the same as being lonely?  I don’t think it is.  But I have so few models to follow that are not steeped in suffering and a measure of insecurity — widows, like my mother, come to mind.

I know few older women living purposefully and happily alone.  What does it mean to be a single woman again in her mid-thirties?  What about the 40s and 50s?  What about beyond?  I have no model for such thoughts.  Perhaps it’s time to pour some wine and instead of tearing about the house ranting about what a bastard he was for r-u-n-n-o-f-t contemplate what that model of a successful and alone-but-not-lonely woman looks like.