Monday, January 21, 2013

Pret à Porter

First signs of Spring
I had a difficult day the other day.

Well, sort of.

It followed a difficult exchange with the ex after he came to take the dog for the weekend, and that sent my mood into tailspin. I understand this is normal for many, but it is new for me, never having had a living ex before, as I was previously widowed. The subject of the exchange is not the point and I stated my case clearly for more money for the children. Now, will he be able to comply? We shall see.

But, following that exchange, I came to the conclusion that living in seclusion is almost a blessing. I do not have to negotiate with anyone. I can listen to the music I want, when I want, how loud I want. I can walk around as dressed, or not, as I want. Though I am sure any future boyfriend would prefer to see me walk around with less on than with more. I can read when I want and not have to scream at him to turn the volume down on whatever he is watching or listening to. I can cook what I want, or simply go out for what I want. I can go see the movie I want.

Near the entrance

I went to sleep that night and woke up still in a funk. I was supposed to go on an excursion with a new social group, but the idea of meeting nineteen other people for the first time was a bit intimidating considering the mood I was in. So, I made an excuse, sent an email and went to run errands.  Being dogless for the weekend, I also wanted to go play in the beautiful Southern California weather. But, where?

I eventually headed for the Japanese Garden in Van Nuys, California. I wanted a place that would be quiet, meditative, and serene. I also wanted to see it in a different season than when I last went in the fall of 2011. Well, I got to see a change of season, the beautiful golds and other fall colors had given way to the bareness of winter. Now, the Japanese Garden is located within the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve, a large part of the San Fernando Valley given over to park space, wildlife refuge, and recreation areas. There are plenty of parks sprinkled throughout the basin for family gatherings and large parties. One such party had assembled right outside the park area adjacent to the entrance to the Japanese Garden. The music was so loud and with such a heavy bass, I thought I was in a gay disco. The auditory and visual cues were so conflicting, I hardly knew where I was at times.

Still a tiny touch of color in winter.
Still, I enjoyed the garden. It was still beautiful in its winter wear and I was outside in the sunshine, not in the house cleaning or doing something else just as mundane. Yet, something was missing. Someone to share it with; someone to walk the path with maybe holding hands, someone to share its beauty with, someone to relax and enjoy his company. And all that felt nice. It felt good, like the warm winter sun.

And yet, when I returned home, I realized I would have to go through all those awkward phases I hate about finding a boyfriend; the dating; the negotiating; the trying-to-figure-out-what-he-meant-by-that; the getting to know him intellectually, emotionally, spiritually and, well, um, physically. And then what if there's one part that doesn't quite fit with what matters to me? How do I rank its importance in my checklist of determining his potential for moving from boyfriend to husband?

Then there's my biggest fear. I admit I'm afraid of this happening again. I settle for less than Mr. Perfect. I mean, I know no one is absolutely perfect; but, I settled for relationships that weren't the best match for me. I didn't get out when I probably should have. But, there's no looking back to regret, only to learn. Then move forward.

So, I admit it. I'm lonely. I want company. I try to talk to my dog and cat, but my dog looks at me with his head cocked to one side listening for a word he recognizes. My cat looks at me as if I'm stupid enough to think she understands human speech. Then they both wonder when I'm going to feed them again.

Some of my friends tell me, enjoy 'the dance.' "Enjoy the unknown, trying to figure each other out, the mystery." For them, its exciting. For me, it's torture. I say, "Cut the crap. We're adults, let's behave like adults. Let's be honest with each other, at least." This may even be difficult as I realize many adults don't know how to be honest with others, because they are not honest with themselves, first.

So, here's what I want. I want to walk into "Boyfriends R Us" and pick one out. A genuine, ready made, drip dry boyfriend and then take him home. But then, there's all the negotiation after that. The cooking, the cleaning, who does what, and when? (and later, to whom?) The 'I like this kind of movie, but he likes this type.' All of this brings out my anxiety of how much I gave in to my ex, how much I surrendered, how deflated I became.

So, maybe I'm not ready for a boyfriend.

Maybe, I should just let things happen and take it one step at a time.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Expenditures, Part 2

Well, I tried documenting all my time this past week, but as time itself is a problem for me, I even had difficulty finding the time to document what I was doing in the time I had. But, I did get a glimpse of some of my issues. As I said in my last post, there are a few things I can't do without; sleep, eating and work.

I try to get a minimum of 6 hours' sleep a night, and as I am up by 4:30 AM to get ready for work and have my morning routine, I need to be in bed by 10:30 PM but that usually ends up becoming earlier as the week goes on due to what a friend calls cumulative fatigue syndrome for teachers. Teaching is a draining profession, as we are on our feet most of the day, and when the class is particularly hyper, energetic, or unruly, it becomes even more draining as the week wears on. And with older gifted students, there's a mental drain to stay one step ahead of them. Add puberty into the mix and and there are fires all over the classroom that need my attention all the while trying to teach the significance of Hammurabi's Code, or the Division of Negative Fractions. By Friday, I am usually in bed by 8:00!

My union contract requires a minimum of six hours on-site, plus there's another hour in there which is actually a 20 minute recess and 40 minute lunch which then actually extends the day to seven hours on site. The contract also requires a minimum of eight hours of combined on- and off-site work for the day to be considered a 'professional work day.' Yet, my paycheck only shows I am paid for a six hour day, which is the amount of time the students are physically in the room. So, contractually, two hours of work (planning, prepping, grading, recording) are expected outside of my instructional time; i.e, my own personal time. Above this, I am the GATE (Gifted And Talented Education) Coordinator, and am paid a small (very small) stipend for the extra work, which is supposed to be done off the clock as it is an extra job in addition to my regular teaching duties. It is a cause I believe in, and the extra money does come in handy. So, as I am to report on site by 7:20 AM, the earliest contractual time I may leave is 2:20 PM with two more hours of work to be completed, somewhere. My commute to work is about forty minutes in the morning and up to one hour (depending when I leave) in the afternoon. I usually arrive about twenty minutes early as part of my additional two hours (and I use this is an "LA Traffic Cushion"- extra time in case I encounter traffic on the way.) So, I am out the door by 6:15 AM and usually don't get home until about 4:00 PM barring any stops or traffic, though I usually stop for coffee, at the market, or run some other errand or two, or three.

Once home, I feed my dog and cat, clean up after them and try to give them some attention, while checking email, Facebook, Twitter, book sales, headlines, and then start dinner. If I don't give the dog attention he begs for it, by pawing at me until I sit with him for a while and throw his ball a couple of times. By this time, my adrenaline from being "on stage" in front of the kids all day is crashing and therefore, so am I. I am a great believer in cook once make multiple meals, so I will cook every 2-3 days and have leftovers for a day or two, sometimes three. (I love my Mexican and Italian meat loaves, as they last for four meals!) So, often dinner is simply reheating something.

Dinner is usually over by 6:00 PM, and I'm ready to relax, yet I still have those two hours hanging over me. But, my mind is fading. So, I make a vain attempt to correct some papers, but now that I am sitting for almost the first time all day, I am nodding off, and fending off the dog who wants to play fetch again or curl up in my lap. Or, I'm trying to convince the cat, the papers are not the ideal object for her to rub her cheeks on.

Let's recap,
  • 4:30 AM I'm up for my morning routine of showering, shaving, dressing, feeding the dog, the cat and me, giving all of us our morning meds, packing my lunch, corralling the dog into his run, cleaning the cat box from overnight, and filling the humidifier. 
  • 6:15 AM- (approximately) 4:00 PM, all my paid work time, and my commute to/from. 
  • 4:00 PM-8:00 PM arrive home, feed the dog and the cat, clean up their areas, check email, and social media, book sales, eat dinner and clean the kitchen followed by two hours (allegedly) of the balance of my 'professional work day.'
  • 8:00-10:30 PM  Dinner's over and the kitchen is cleaned, usually. Sometimes I leave it. I guess, here's where I can promote my current book, work on my next novel, begin upcoming blog posts, exercise, read, and learn to just be. But, most of the time, I am so exhausted from work and the drive, I am not in the mindset to do anything except play on the iPad.

I guess that is what weekends are for, besides grocery shopping, laundry, gardening, housecleaning, house repairs, car repairs, vet visits and all the other things I didn't get done during the week.

Perhaps, I need to take a mental health day once in a while to save my mental health. But, fitting that into the school year based on the forced-upon-me pacing plans and other school projects is a whole other blog post.

And with retirement looming, any unused illness days can be used to purchase additional 'service credit;' meaning, if I have enough illness days, I can convert them into a year of time worked and maybe, just maybe, retire earlier than the 7 years 164 days 14 hours from now as I had planned.

Wouldn't that be loverly?

Maybe then, I wouldn't be too tired to date some nice guy.

But, at least I'd have the time.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Expenditures, Part 1

There are several quotes in English comparing Time and Money. Three of my favorites are:

"Time is money." -Benjamin Franklin
"Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you." -Carl Sandburg
"Waste your money and you're only out of money, but waste your time and you've lost a part of your life." -Michael LeBoeuf

Taking the first quote in mind, it becomes evident that both time and money need to be budgeted. As one of my goals for 2013, I have decided to attempt to better manage my time, and therefore I have decided to embark on an experiment over the next few weeks. I am going to keep track of my time, how and where I spend it, as I would if I were reviewing my budget. My goal is to find two things:
  1. How am I actually spending my time; and
  2. When can I afford to go out to get more 'me' time, to exercise more and find more time to work on my writing, and maybe, by chance, somehow begin to look into dating. Possibly.
With money, there are certain expenditures we CANNOT ignore; bills, food, etc. And with time, there are certain time expenditures we CANNOT ignore. Sleep and time spent at work come to mind here, unless one is wealthy enough to not need to work or has retired. I am hoping to eventually streamline my time to get everything accomplished I need to in order to enjoy life more and maybe, just maybe, find someone to date, provided I conquer those fears as well.

As I begin to look at these Time Expenses, I see them in the following categories: Work, Home, Family, Writing and Personal, and I define them as such:
  • Work: Anything work related whether at school or not. This would include commute time; actual time at school delivering lessons; planning lessons, prepping for lessons, or grading papers whether at school or home; conferencing with students, parents, colleagues, administrators, etc. and any other school related duties as they relate to my other-duties-as-assigned-or-volunteered for.
  • Home: Anything involved in cleaning, maintenance, upkeep, repair, or decorating the home and garden.
  • Family: Anything involving my dog and cat, including play time, giving them attention, feeding, care, bonding, cleaning up after them, etc.,  and vet visits.
  • Writing: Anything involving my writing, including blogging about my own or reviewing a friend's writing, networking on Twitter, or my Facebook author page, or promoting my novel or any upcoming works.
  • Personal: Anything just for me where none of the other areas are directly involved. This might include; going out with friends, chatting online or the phone, just surfing the internet, playing on line games, counseling/meditation, just sitting enjoying a cup of tea or coffee, watching a program on the iPad, or reading.
As with money, there are unexpected events, such as assisting a friend in an urgent situation, emergency car repair, vet or doctor visits, home repairs. And those will definitely toss a wrench into the mix creating a lot of havoc, if we let it.

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

 To be continued......

For more quotes on time, click HERE.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Hole in the Bucket

I was first introduced to the folksong "There's A Hole in the Bucket" by my uncle. The version I heard was by Harry Belafonte and Odetta Holmes. The song is basically a dialog between characters Henry and Liza with Liza starting off by asking Henry to go fetch water. He replies there's a hole in the bucket, to which she suggests he fix it with straw which he then says is too long. This leads to a series of exchanges where every time Liza has a suggestion to remedy a problem, Henry finds an excuse not to do it and this ends up leading us all back to the bucket where they first began essentially getting nowhere. It's worth a listen:

There has been a hole in the bucket that is my life.

And I have been making excuses. And I have not been moving forward in my life, essentially going nowhere.

Call me Henry.

With 2013 fresh upon us, it's time I stop making excuses, and fix my bucket so I can fill it with water and get moving.

It's also funny how some songs just speak to us.

My music tastes are varied, from smooth jazz; Dave Koz, Chris Botti, Anita Baker, to a tiny bit harder; Journey, Cher, Cyndi Lauper. Anything much heavier (or overtly sexual) doesn't really reach out to me. I had some personal issues with some of Madonna's material in the 80's and have not truly gravitated toward Lady Gaga, though I applaud both women for their support for the LGBT community. So, I was surprised when one of P!nk's newest songs really made me sit up, take notice and wipe away a tear, or two.

So, I'm making it my anthem for 2013;

Try, by P!nk
From The Truth About Love

Where there is desire,
There is going to be a flame,
Where there is a flame,
Someone's bound to get burned;
But, just because it burns,
Doesn't mean you're going to die,
You've gotta get up and try try try
Gotta get up and try try try
You gotta get up and try try try

And while I do admit to having been twice burned (and now thrice shy) in love, that doesn't mean I shouldn't try to live a life that is full, and maybe entertain the idea of love. I also admit that love is not the only area of my life where I have been making excuses. Finances are improving, slowly, but improving just the same. My house is slowly beginning to reflect my personality and decorating style. I will still need to devote some time to prepping for teaching, after all, it is not a 6 hour a day job like so many people think. So, I need to stop making excuses and get out and meet people. And just LET things be.

So, with a little money coming in, my house needing a bit less attention, I will make an attempt to fill the hole in my bucket and get out and live.

After all, all I can do is try.