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Amusement Park Rides and Marriage

SwingI remember clearly the last time I was on an amusement park ride. It was not a pleasant experience. It was one of those rides that throws you through the air and swings you side to side roughly, abruptly changing directions so suddenly and with such force that you wonder if your internal organs have departed your body. Then you immediately wonder how can the mechanics of this ride sustain such momentum and force.  When will that one bolt work it’s way loose.  When will my chair…or my daughter’s chair in front of me…be the one to go flying wildly into the air as if forcefully flung from the contraption. I remember gritting my teeth, dreading every moment, wondering when the ride would end. My daughter on the other hand reveled in the moment.

It was the last amusement park ride I ever rode.

I learned something about myself that day.  I learned, I don’t really like amusement park rides. Not even the tame ones.  Too much of my psyche is preoccupied with enduring the experience.  There’s no enjoyment.  Even more of my energy is consumed with fretting about that one in one hundred billionth chance that something will go desperately wrong.

Then, of course, there is the time and expense.  At many amusement parks, you pay a premium for a two minute ride. And…you stand in line for a very long time for that short ride.  Even at a small county fair, you can expect to pay way too much for way too little in terms of entertainment time.  And then what?  When it’s all over, you are broke and miserable, with nothing but a bad memory to show for it.  At least, that’s my experience.

No matter how many rides I go on or how many different venues I experience it’s always the same.

It’s interesting how similar my experiences with marriage are to amusement park rides.

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Weight Loss, Motivation, and Suffering

Transitions have alweight-lossways been difficult and often turbulent for me. In my last position, in the last two years before I ended up on what amounts to an extended (maybe permanent?) vacation, I remember it taking me a good month before I felt like I had control of my schedule so that I knew when and where I needed to be at what times and could make arrangements for the kids. Since the children were older, these arrangements largely meant making sure I had food in the refrigerator for them and that they knew what time to expect me home and where to reach me in an emergency. It just always seems to take so long for me to feel like the transition is finally our life. But we made it through that transition and before I knew it I was busier and more stressed than I ever imagined possible. There’s a point to where trying to achieve too much is just…too much. Read the rest of this entry

Early Retirement

keep-calm-early-retirement-beckonsI started writing this blog, because I figured if I was awake maybe putting some of my worries and rants down in print might help me dish off some anxiety.  I hoped maybe it would allow me to work through some of the stress and tension I experienced on a daily basis. I certainly wasn’t having any success tossing and turning at night.  I usually ended up exhausted from the ordeal of attempting to force sleep.  So, I started writing down what bothered me, or stressed me out, or sometimes what interested me. When I first started this blog, I was living with a man that was a sorry mess.  As I look back on my life, there are a few episodes I wish I could completely erase.  This man was one of them.

As the relationship unwound, I found myself filled with anxiety and I brought that anxiety here. I also found myself awake at night worried about my career and supporting my family.  In those days, I was struggling financially, after a divorce where I ended up with ALL the marital debt.  That was my reward for marrying a man who never paid his bills. I worried about everything. It kept me up.  I ranted through it all here.  My life is in a very different place than when I began this blog almost four years ago. Read the rest of this entry

Finally! Funded!

Three days short of being a full month from the date of the accident, I called my new lender to let them know that the insurance pay0ff had gone through.  When I got through to my contact, I was greeted with the words, “Oh yes, your loan funded this morning.”

So ended a month of wondering when the next call from the lender would come and what the requirements would be for me this time.  So ended a month of wondering how long the process would take and whether or not I’d be car and loan hunting again soon.

So ended the last of my March and the first of my April.  A small blemish in my otherwise wonderful year.

On Again…Off Again

This morning, right in the middle of my first client meeting I get this text from the finance guy at my dealership:

Good Morning. You need to call Your New Lender today to do a three-way call with Your Old Lender. You have to call today or they will decline your loan and potentially return the car.

He left me a number to call.

“Really???” I thought to myself. “I thought this was settled long ago.”

Read the rest of this entry

Stressful Vacations

Vacations are supposed to be relaxing. They are supposed to provide a way of escaping the day-to-day dilemmas and disasters. They are supposed to provide us with an opportunity to slow things down, to get done those things we want to do but which we often don’t have the time to do, they are supposed to provide us time to relax, to recreate, to even escape our realities in some way, if need be. At least, this is true in theory.

Read the rest of this entry

Every Parent’s Nightmare

It happened Wednesday. I was in a meeting with 25 clients and colleagues. I never pick up when I’m giving a presentation, but this time I did. It was my daughter. She never calls, she usually texts. I went with my gut, excused myself from the meeting and answered the call.

Read the rest of this entry

Same Song, Second Verse Same As The First…Other Side

I must confess. I have not been up late at night…much…lately. I’ve been sleeping very well and feeling good when I wake up the next day. Never mind that I was sick for two weeks with food poisoning. My bills are paid. There is food in my cupboards. And there’s a wee little bit to offset the unexpected thing that might come up. It is amazing how having a little extra cash in the bank and a car that is reliable changes one’s outlook on life. It’s also pretty incredible how that makes it easier to sleep. It’s been a good month. Or rather, a good couple of weeks. I can’t complain. And I won’t start now, even though, life has turned on the proverbial dime for me, once again. Read the rest of this entry

Bootstraps, “You Didn’t Build That”, Victims, and Miracles

A while back, like last July, there was a great deal of hoopla about President Obama’s comment, “If you’ve got a business,  you didn’t build that.” Okay, I can see how the hardworking business people of this country could get really sideways about that, but reading the entire comment in context it completely makes sense. After all, in context, what Obama was really saying is that others have paved the way to make us successful…no man or woman or business person is an island.

I’ve recently heard people, friends and colleagues, espousing the ideal of “pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps”.  I have been thinking about this a great deal lately, in conjunction with President Obama’s “You didn’t build that” statement.  I have a lot of questions.  I mean, I love the idea of rugged strength and determination overcoming all obstacles, but…I wonder…what if the bootstraps were to break?  Who’s wearing the boots?  If I’m wearing the boots, who’s supporting the ground the boots are supposedly firmly grounded on while I do my own bootstrap pulling up activities?  I don’t know.  Kind of makes me wonder.

So often people experiencing hard times are accused of taking the victim mentality just because they are experiencing hard times.  Yes, I know.  There are people out there who are making choices that lead them to a place of dependency on others’ good graces, whatever form those good graces come in.  There are many who appear content to live this way.    They milk the kindness of other people and “the system” for their benefit all the while escaping the responsibility of every citizen to give back and help pay for the freedoms and luxuries our great country affords us.  They do this, in spite of the fact that they are able to do more for themselves.  For them, it is a lifestyle choice rather than a helping hand in a time of need. We could accuse them of being lazy.  We could say it is the system’s fault.  We could point fingers at a number of different reasons why this is the case, and all of it, to some degree, will be valid.  All of it, to some degree, will also be bunk.  I know of people who have received more in food stamps than I, as a working professional and single mother of four children, can ever afford to pay for groceries.  It is these very same people who sell their food stamps for money.  This should not be.  I agree.  But not every person who is a victim has a victim mentality.  And not every person who needs assistance at some time or another requires it forever.  Not everyone collecting welfare is a victim.  And not everyone, experiencing hard times is able to get themselves out of their hard times on their own.  Sometimes, even the most stalwart need a helping hand….or a miracle.

I, myself, have been a “bootstraps” person for most of my life.  I figured if I just set my mind to it, I could make it happen.  And…generally…that was the case…when I was younger…and prettier. Two divorces and four children later and, try as I might, no matter how hard I work, or how hard I try, or how much effort and genius I put into things, I can’t catch a break financially these days. Well, okay, I lied.  My water bill was half what it was last month and I’ve paid off the surgeon that did my cancer surgeries this year.  Wow.  Big deal.  I’m still pretty, but the wrinkles are beginning to be obvious.  No one has a clue what my age is unless I tell them (they often guess I’m in my mid-30’s, I’m not).  Wow. Big deal. I have worked hard to pay off debt that belonged to me only because an ex-spouse incurred it.  I have experienced drama and demise of one disaster after another none of which I was responsible for. Try as I might, I can’t seem to catch a break.  I really am trying.  I’m not taking handouts.  I’m working extra hours.  I pay my taxes, my insurance, my bills. I’m not getting ahead.  When I am able to get a little bit together, something unexpected and totally out of my control descends upon my life to evaporate the savings as quickly as I deposited it. I mean seriously.  I couldn’t control my getting cancer.  I had no say in the decision about health insurance costs and premiums and deductibles. I have no control over my daughter, one very normal Sunday morning, getting into an accident that meant yet another cost ($500 deductible) and stress (What the hell are we going to do for transportation now?).

I have changed my opinion about the bootstraps thing.  I mean, sure, people can have an amazing impact on the course of their own lives.  A child from poverty can go to school, do well, make plans and achieve great things.  A child from wealth can squander all the benefit he/she started out with and end up being pretty much nothing.  We all have great power to do great things with the energy and intelligence we’ve been given, in spite of our circumstances.  I still firmly believe this.  Sometimes, there are things that happen that are just beyond our control.  Sometimes these things are so monumental or so continual that we can’t, no matter how hard we try, change our circumstances.  We are, in essence, pulling as hard as we can on our bootstraps, making progress even, but someone, something cut the bootstrap just a little higher up.  I know.  This is tough for people who’ve never really known hardship to fathom.  If life has always been pretty easy for you, it is difficult to imagine others’ struggles.

This bootstrap cutting from higher up has been my life this year.  No matter how hard I try, I can’t catch a break.  I worked extra hours, I cut back on expenses, I even moved and made colossal changes in lifestyle to try to get ahead.  Under normal circumstances, the efforts I’ve expended would have paid off.  What I didn’t account for was the stuff in life that no one can really ever account for.  Early this year, I knew it was going to be bad when the biopsy came back with results that required surgeries, radiation and additional out-of-pocket medical bills that I could not have planned for. (Remember, I’m a divorced, single female trying to support four children on my own salary which is decent, but not what someone with a graduate degree in a professional position should be earning.)  I also filed for bankruptcy, and that has not gone well.  I was assigned a trustee who is Evil Incarnate and completely non-communicative, so I couldn’t plan for the surprise billing she threw on me in late September. A billing of over $738.  In spite of all my attempts, and my attorney’s attempts earlier this year to avoid this scenario, it happened and it is beyond my control.  To add insult to injury, my daughter recently was involved in a fender bender.  She rear-ended someone.  No big deal, but the deductible is $500.  Since I just paid $817 on this vehicle to service the transmission and replace brakes, rotors and all just a month prior, I have absolutely no discretionary spending or savings to get this vehicle repaired.  It isn’t because I haven’t tried.  The point I am trying to make is this:  From cancer costs, to Evil Incarnate Trustee, to daughter wrecking car, to insurance deductible, to unexpected but required car repairs, none of this was in my control.

What the bootstraps people don’t seem to take in to consideration (and what I didn’t consider for years) is the fact that sometime shit just happens.  Sometimes that shit can be dealt with quickly, and other times the shit just keeps coming and you can’t recover before the next load drops.  Such has been my life this year, which gives me a greater appreciation for the words President Obama uttered when he said, “You didn’t build that.”  I understand the value of having others around to collaborate with and to support you in your efforts.  No man or woman is an island.  Though success does require our own initiative and efforts.  Our own initiative and efforts can’t always guarantee success.  There’s just too much out there that we can’t plan on, budget for, or anticipate.  Sometimes the bad fortune rains heavily on the parade we are trying to conduct in life. These days, I can’t catch a freaking break because the shit just keeps dropping.  It keeps dropping in spite of my good choices, in spite of my efforts to be a responsible, contributing, law-abiding citizen of this great country. Sometimes, the bootstraps don’t help.  Sometimes, your success is predicated on the kindness or efforts of others, whether you are willing to admit this or not.  Sometimes it is just complete chance or fortune. Sometimes it’s a miracle.

Last month, as I endured the worst month ever since my divorce and trying to feed a  family of four on $350 for an entire month, I needed a windfall.  I even whispered the prayer, “God, I know you’ve done miracles for other people.  I’ve tried.  I worked.  I couldn’t plan on the demand from the BK attorney.  I need help.  I need a windfall.  And not a $500 or $1,000 windfall either.  I’m not asking to win the lottery, but I need help with the car and Christmas.”  Okay, sometimes in desperation, we beg for the miracle.

****

Call was at 12:30.  My daughter had stressed how important it was to be on time to the call for her show, so I made sure I was ready. !2:15.  12:30.  She drove up in my Durango at 12:45.  I didn’t wait.  I hurried out, locked up the house and turned to climb into our beloved SUV that we  affectionately dubbed, “Rango.”  I glanced in the window and panic shot through my psyche.  My daughter was in tears, her eye makeup streaming down her face.  My daughter is not prone to obvious displays of emotion. I was alarmed.

“What happened?” I asked.  “Are you okay?”

She sputtered and sobbed and finally got the words out. “I was in an accident.  My phone vibrated.  The sound startled me.  I looked down.  I hit the car in front of me.”

Every mother’s nightmare.

My daughter, who is usually so very careful and cautious behind the wheel had rear-ended an F-350 which tore out the fog light on our vehicle, leaving a gaping hole.  The Durango, otherwise, seemed unharmed.

As insurance issues tend to do, this one unfolded in slow motion, as did my understanding of exactly what was going on.

“Oh no,”  I thought.  “Another at-fault accident on our insurance and a $500 deductible to fix. Great.  How’s this going to work.”

Remember, I had $350 to my name and I had to feed my family with this and I still had most of the month left.  I drug my feet for a week getting my car into a body shop to get an estimate.

****

“I’d like to take your car back to my tech to have a look at this,” the young handsome adjuster said.  He was getting to know me by name.  This was the second time this year my vehicle had reported to his shop for repairs.

Before he took the car to the garage, I asked, “So, what are the chances that this vehicle is actually totaled?”  He smiled, “I’m not sure, but that frame is bent pretty far back there.”

We waited.  My daughter cried.  I waited.  As I waited it dawned on me.  If the vehicle is totaled, then there will have to be some sort of cash settlement.  I glanced over at my daughter and whispered, “Honey, don’t despair.  This could be a blessing in disguise.”

****

Three weeks later, and I am I going to pick up my 2012 Nissan Altima tomorrow (today).  Never in a million years would I have anticipated ever driving, let alone being able to afford a recent model anything, let alone a vehicle which is fuel-efficient, comfortable, reliable, has low miles on it and is absolutely luxurious in a color I like!  I would love to sit down and detail all the ups and downs between then and now, but it would be tedious for you though it was an exciting ride for me.  The insurance settlement came in much higher than I dared hope.  It provided a substantial down on this new car, and will replace the money that Evil Incarnate took out of our Christmas/Emergency Fund coffers.  In addition, it will allow me to pay off the rest of my medical bills and pay down my credit cards. It is an amazing windfall, and not a little one either.  And one further thing…there was nothing I could do to make it happen.  It just did.  I’m grateful, but I’m fully aware that, “I didn’t build that.”

Sometimes bootstraps and strength alone are simply not enough.  Sometimes we all need a little good fortune or a helping hand.  I got an  assist through some bad/good luck and a bunch of events that were beyond my control which happened to turn out well. They could just have easily turned out badly, leaving me without transportation at all.  I’m really grateful for how things turned out, but I did nothing other than make my insurance payment to deserve this. I didn’t do any of this on my own, but all of it seems to be the turning point for my little family as the savings in gas costs and repair costs will far outweigh the new car payment, plus it will put money in the bank for us. I just wonder, does this make me a victim or does it mean I’m able to recognize that I am not all-sufficient.  I can appreciate the miracles in my life, even when they walk in clothed in disaster.

Uncle

Ever had one of those weeks when you were a day ahead of yourself?  You thought it was, say, Thursday, but it was really only Wednesday.  All day long, you’re excited as anything that tomorrow’s Friday, then somewhere, oh, around 4:00 pm, you realize that you were off by a day.  Welcome to my world.  I don’t know what I was thinking in my last post.  Eleven days left till payday?  Ha!  I don’t even know how I arrived at that number, except that I must have been so exhausted when I wrote that post.  It registered today, when someone mentioned that it was only 14 more days until Halloween.  I then remembered my 11 day thinking and got myself all in a wad trying to figure out how I even came up with the whole 11 days until payday thing anyway.  Early onset Alzheimer’s?  Clearly, this was more than just a minor soon-to-be-senior moment.  Even so, the disappointment was not nearly as great as it might have been, had I been a day ahead of myself.  I’m in the same place I was when I wrote Countdown.  Nothing much has changed, except, I’m adding another thing that I’m counting down to.

A few days ago, my daughter arrived home late from an activity.  She was in tears.  She’d just rear-ended someone.  It seems that her little sister had texted her, the phone vibrated, startling my daughter.  She glanced down to see where the noise was coming from (the car had been totally silent) and when she did, she hit the car in front of her, who apparently had either slowed or stopped.  I don’t know many more details than this.  The accident happened so recently.  My daughter is 18, so she will be dealing with the insurance company, the DMV, and whatever entities she must in order to resolve this, as much as possible, on her own.  Fortunately, she is fine.  Our vehicle, however, is not. Welcome to another completely unexpected financial disaster.  This time?  The $500 deductible.  The best part?  This is the third time this vehicle has been in an accident like this, this calendar year. (Each incident involved a different driver.)  In fact, I just had the same repair done on this car in January.

This year has been, for me, the absolute worst on record.  The year my dad died, 1984, was pretty bad, but only that part of the year.  The rest of the year had some pretty wonderful aspects to it.  All of the years between 2000-2005, when I was married to The Evil Ex, were completely disastrous. This year, however, I just can’t catch a break. There has been one disaster after another each month, all year long.  Just when I hope life might let up just a little and grant me a reprieve from the deluge of bad luck, another crisis occurs. I’m finally calling “Uncle.”  I really can’t take another disaster.  I’m going to be glad to be done with this year.

I’m counting down the days to January 1, 2013.

2 months and 13 days left.

Unless the world ends in December.

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