Wednesday, December 31, 2014

NYE 2014/5

As I sit here and contemplate the year ahead and the year behind, I feel a bit two-faced; looking both forwards and backwards. Yes, the past is indeed behind me and unless I'm going in reverse, there's no need to be looking over my shoulder.

Unless there's a lesson to be learned to take forward. And I really can't think of anything new I've learned, just more about myself, most of which I've already expounded upon here.

Ad nauseum.

I do see some hope on the horizon as I've mentioned in a prior post. We shall see what that brings.

So, that brings me to the true point of this post, if I indeed have one.

How do I see the New Year in? Well, I don't make resolutions, because I know I won't keep them. The only one I've ever kept is the one never to make any again.

Though I do make New Year's Attempts. (Calling them 'attempts' rather than 'resolutions' sounds better. As long as I feel I have 'attempted' to improve whatever I've targeted, I will feel better about myself should I not succeed in keeping the pace for a full year which I usually don't.)

Anyway, I will attempt to eat better, I will attempt to take better care of myself- emotionally, physically, spiritually, mentally and financially. That last one really doesn't fit in with the others, but it does affect at least three of them; having no money can affect one's emotions and thoughts which in turn can affect one's sense of Spirit.

And I will attempt not to take things so personally.

Change is not easy, and personal change is even more difficult. Trying to change many years of bad habits of thinking is nearly impossible, but can be done. And I'm trying.

As I trudge stroll along this path, and take in the sights, and experiences, I will attempt to do so gratefully for having the experience to grow and get in touch with my true self.

After all, isn't that what life is all about?

Oh, and I will attempt to write more, be it here, or in my journal but especially on my works in progress.

Happy 2015 to you, my readers!!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Please Santa...

A friend posted the following video on his Facebook page. As I clicked on it, I recalled seeing it last year. As holiday travelers scanned their boarding passes, Santa came on a screen and talked to them, both children and adults, asking what they wanted for Christmas.

Please watch:

This time, as I watched the video, tears welling up in my eyes, I asked myself what would I ask Santa for?

And I thought.

And thought.

And thought some more.

I thought about what the people in the video asked for:

I really don't need another tablet, or a choo choo train. My sock and underwear drawer is kind of full at the moment.

I'm really not interested in a big screen television, right now. I don't even watch the small one I have now, and I realized having another one would take away from what precious free time I already struggle to find.

Then I looked around the house for other things I might need. Nothing came to mind.

What about non-material things?

No, I don't want Santa to bring me a boyfriend. Or a dog. Or a cat. Or a roommate. Or any of the appliances that are breaking down.

I did finally come up with something:


I want Peace for those with troubled hearts, because of:
  • Grief over the loss of loved ones;
  • Pain from whatever source, whether emotional or physical;
  • Relationship problems;
  • Family troubles;
  • Intrapersonal struggles 
I want Peace for a world where all lives matter, not just black lives or cop lives, not just gay lives, but ALL human lives.
I want Peace between people, whether the differences are based on religion or culture; gender identification or sexual orientation; or economic status.

I want Peace on our planet, as we strive for a balance between commercial and environmental concerns.

That's what I want.

Please Santa, bring us Peace.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Tightrope to Dawn

They say it's always darkest just before the dawn.


Both are in front of me. I can see the dawn in one part of my life, and while it is indeed visible, there is a dark patch just in front of it.

I say I can see the dawn in one part of my life because this one part is indeed coming to an end signaling a new beginning.

In a way.

No, I'm not getting married, ending my singleness. I'm not even dating anyone, nor looking to.

No, I'm not retiring, ending my teaching career; though that, too, is on the horizon, just a little farther out.

No, I'm not getting a pet, ending my loneliness.

Yes, I'm trying to write my next few novels, but that will take time.

I'm talking about my financial struggles. They may indeed be ending, or at least easing up a bit. (No, I haven't won the lottery.)

When my ex left me, I kept the house and had a sizable amount of personal debt. Over the last four years, I have refinanced the mortgage, and am now able to say that by May, 2015, I will have completely paid off my personal debt. And the money I have been sending to pay these bills will not be deducted from my bank account any longer.

Yay, me! Time to celebrate that milestone!

That is the dawn. A new beginning, a new chapter, lessons learned and all the other metaphors I can think of.

Yet, there is a dark side coming first.

Per a suggestion from my tax advisor, I have decided to increase a pre-tax deduction from my paycheck to establish a Healthcare Spending Account. I've had this account for a couple of years, and have made good use of it. A set amount per month is taken from my paycheck before any income taxes are paid. Therefore, I am paying tax on less income. The money deducted is set aside and any qualifying health related expenses are reimbursed to me. As one of my therapists doesn't take my insurance, I pay out-of-pocket and these expenses do indeed qualify. So, I will get this money back when I send in the receipts and subsequently, I break even. One small downside, I will be getting a smaller income tax refund in 2016 as I will be paying less income taxes.

This also means I will be living on less money per month, and tightening the belt even more, until I am reimbursed, which I can do at any time. (I am currently researching recipes for grass stew, if anyone has any to share.) And I will be walking a financial tightrope of trying to get reimbursed before any bills get returned to me. I've managed so far, but as I'm more than doubling the deduction this time, this is a big step even if only for a short while. The deductions will continue for twelve months, but by June the debt payments will be finished and I can breathe a little.

It has been this financial struggle that has been at the core of my decisions over these last few years. While many may see these as excuses not to 'get out there,' this was indeed my reality. If there is not enough money at the end of a month for even one movie ticket, how can there be enough for two? With the price of gas fluctuating, what do I need to give up in order to fill my tank to get to work when gas is high again? Can I afford that extra tank of gas this month if I drive any more than what I currently do? Yes, even my gas is budgeted. My income is limited, and became even more so when my district instituted furlough days cutting my salary. Until I was able to refinance, I had to resort to using my savings just to survive, which then depleted my savings rather quickly, as I didn't have millions tucked away, unfortunately.

Recently, several people have suggested I find a roommate to increase my cash flow. One person was even shocked I didn't already have one being I live in a large four bedroom house. Earlier, I tried, but no one even answered my ads except someone who needed to move immediately! (I saw many red flags on that one.) I knew of two guys I would have considered as roommates, but neither opportunity panned out. So, I have come to accept that I was meant to go through this phase alone in order to learn some lessons:
  1. I am a survivor, I have been through other difficult times, financial or otherwise, and made it. I will make it to May.
  2. I am self-reliant. I have learned to rely on myself and myself alone. I don't need anyone else.
  3. I am strong. I will do what it takes to survive. I may not like it, but I can do it. And I will.
  4. And, perhaps, the fact that since I've gone through this alone, I will appreciate my success all that more.
I've also come to realize that roommates are like boyfriends and pets. The right one will appear at the right time, if the Universe so decrees.

So, what am I doing to help me make it through this dark patch? I will work out a timeline to determine when to submit receipts for reimbursement before bills are returned. I have signed up to do some tutoring after school for some additional pay. It's not much, but every little bit helps. I will continue whatever cost-cutting measures I need to, like shopping at off-chain markets, buying off-brand items, increase using coupons, only buy what I absolutely need, etc. After all, this is only for a short period of time.

Another bit of news is that my union and district are negotiating a new contract, which includes a possible pay raise. And there is an offer on the table from the district, so I'm hopeful of something. However, my instinct is that it will be settled toward the end of the school year when the district sees how much money it didn't spend, if any; and when I've been through the rough patch. So, because my financial picture is improving due to:
  • all my personal debt being paid off soon;
  • a possible raise in the future, and maybe even retroactive to the beginning of the school year,
I'm feeling better about some things.

While I'm not expecting my financial picture to look like this one:

 I'm thinking it will be more like this:

 But, this doesn't mean I'm ready to date.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Holiday Party and Sushi

So, I was recently invited to a holiday party. After all, it is that time of year. 

When I got the invitation, I seriously debated whether or not I should go. The party was for a gay social group my ex and I belonged to many years ago. After a number of years in the group, and even serving on the board of directors for a while, I got angry, frustrated and bored and dropped out. My ex wanted to continue attending events and I encouraged him to do so, but he didn't. And all of this took place prior to our marriage in 2008.

Post-divorce, I contemplated going back for socializing but chose not to for a variety of reasons; 1) I'd left in anger, was it still there? 2) Did I want to drive into West Hollywood once a week after a long day of teaching and commuting? 3) Did I even want to get involved again in an activity I'd grown tired of? 4) Was there anyone in the group I really wanted to see again?

As I contemplated those questions, I came up with; 1) maybe, 2) probably not, 3) no, 4) yes. But we could arrange to meet outside the group. And she and I tried a few times, but our schedules didn't seem to fit.

It was she who actually invited me. 

As I contemplated going, new issues arose; as I said, this was an organization my ex and I belonged to. Since my life was moving forward, now in vastly different directions- would I be taking a step backwards? Would they ask about the divorce and my ex? Would this bring up other painful memories? Would they even remember me? And these fears weighed very heavily on me, and I really didn't want to go. But I wanted to reconnect with this friend and her girlfriend and maybe this was our next best chance.

On top of all this, my ex had actually returned to the group almost immediately after the divorce, so many of the members already knew of our split. And I wasn't sure I could face them after he'd been there.

Plus, on top of all  this, there might even be *gasp* new people there who didn't even know me then.

I grew up not liking fish. My mother never knew how to cook it well. Years later, a friend introduced me to nori, the seaweed used in wrapping sushi. She ate it plain. It was horrible. Therefore I never ate sushi. Fish and seaweed, together? Ugh

Vegetable sushi
A couple of years ago, a colleague introduced me to vegetable sushi, no fish. Not bad, and I got over my distaste for nori. After all, it blended in with the rice and vegetables, and the soy sauce and wasabi also helped hide it. So, I went and tried some of the fish pieces, and found them to be okay. While I'm not as adventurous as to try eel, sea urchin or jellyfish, I can now enjoy (some) sushi for a meal. 

I got over myself.

I took the step and went to the party.  After all, a step forward or backward means I'm not standing still. And life can be like a cha cha- a few steps forward and a couple back.

Some of the people there remembered me after they recognized me. I mean, it's been about nine years since I was last there. Plus, I was heavier then, my hair was bushier, had less gray and I styled it differently. Also, I didn't have a beard. No one asked about my ex, except to refresh their memory of what he looked like, -Short? Squat? Dumpy? Yes, yes and yes! Their words, not mine!

Will I continue with the group? Who knows- the fatigue of teaching plus commuting and my loathing of driving anywhere beyond the corner market haven't changed. My friend and I have pledged to try and stay more in touch, and see each other more often. 

But, what's important is I took a step forward, I ate the sushi and it wasn't bad. I just didn't care for the octopus. But, I did have a good time at the party.

But, am I ready to try menudo?

I'm not so sure...

Another step for another day....