January 23, 2017

Fundamental irreconcilable(?) differences on money

It might surprise you, with the not-exaggerated idyllic (for us) descriptions of our marriage, but PiC and I truly struggle to internalize each other’s perspectives on certain aspects of money.

When we talk about planning for the future, he rightly pointed out that I plan for the future as if I were an island, as if no one would be there to help.

Friends, I laughed and cried at the same time. Well, yeah!

My family had nothing. They were almost the personifications of the rags to riches trope, arriving at the Los Angeles embassy with just the clothes on their backs, striking out on the entrepreneurial road, and managing to earn enough of a living to get by for long enough we even thought we’d buy a house someday. They paid our bills and helped their siblings who didn’t strike out on their own. Unfortunately, in the course of doing business, and helping family, they also amassed quite a lot of debt.

The biggest lesson I learned from that point on was never rely on anyone. When the chips were down, I was mostly alone. Not entirely – relatives who cared didn’t have money, but they would help out by spotting the occasional bargain on groceries and bringing us some extra produce. Sage friends mentored me so I could build my career and blogging friends pitched in to tide me over a particularly rough spot in the year I spent job-hunting during the Great Recession.

Otherwise… My sibling was a hopeless case. My parents were reeling with the loss of their business and their health issues, and my entire extended family that had benefited so long from my parents’ labor had no use for us if we were no longer useful to them. Once we didn’t have money (to give them), they made sure we knew we weren’t welcome to drop in for a cup of tea, or a visit over a meal. Not that I had time to eat but it makes quite an impression to have my grandmother, who my parents had supported for longer than I’d been alive, sneer in my face about the family’s misfortunes, deciding that made me a worthless human. (I never spoke to her again after that day.)  ((Yes, I hold grudges.))

Over the fifteen years during which my parents lost their livelihoods, their savings, and their health, after I buried a grandparent, my mom, and destroyed my health taking care of my family, I thought about what they could have done to help. It’s not that I expected them to support us until we got back on our feet, or even to lend us money, or put us up if we couldn’t make rent. It’s that I expected them not to spit in our faces while we struggled but that was too much to ask.

Naturally, I learned to rely on no one, for anything.

It was a great triumph of hope and human spirit that I decided to learn to trust PiC and I’ve never regretted that decision.

But. It’s as hard for me to imagine believing that if I need it, someone will help, as it is for him to imagine living with the knowledge that no one will be there to lend a hand if we fall down.

Maybe it’s a difference in perspective.

Maybe he thinks of “needing help” as a single bill that’s just too heavy to shift on our own. In that case, he’s right. One-off expenses tend to generate sympathy or empathy and it’s relatively easy for people to find a few dollars to help out.

But in my view, if anything went so wrong as to need help, it’s not going to be a single bill that we can’t quite manage whether it’s $1,000 or $10,000. Leave aside from the fact that I’m unlikely to ask for help with a single bill, the deeper issue is this: If we can’t absorb that bill, by dipping into savings or doing without luxuries for a while, it means that something catastrophic has happened to our financial system or is about to happen. We couldn’t cash flow a $250,000 medical bill for example. If something that bad has happened, I’m dropping my towel and I’m panicking. Why? One, we’re much older. I’m 40% as capable as I once was at 18 years and we’re both nearing the peaks of our earning ability. If we’re talking about a full system meltdown that our salaries and/or savings can’t cover, we are not at the point in our lives where we can double our hours and earn overtime to cover it, even assuming that both of us are still fully capable of working our normal jobs and they exist. Two, if our entire financial system has gone down the drain, which presupposes that we’ve already gone to bare bones on our necessary expenses and also that our savings and assets are gone, who on earth can give us the help we need to recover from that? There aren’t grants for People Who Worked Really Hard and Tried Really Hard but OUCH Life Happened. I would like to fund such grants, but they do not exist. In which case, it’s utterly beyond my comprehension to believe that “someone would help” if we suddenly became poor.

Also I cannot bear the thought of being poor again. But that’s a topic for another day.

I’m not trying to prove either one of us right or wrong here, obviously, I feel right and he feels right. In the long run, as the financial planner, I’m much more comfortable planning my way – assuming that we are on our own except for infrastructure issues which should mostly be covered by our taxes – so I will. It’s just such a fundamental difference in thinking that neither of us are yet able to find a spot in the middle to meet. It would really help if we could.

Belatedly, I should say that this isn’t a cause for strife, it’s just a Really Big Something we have to take into consideration when we’re not seeing eye to eye on how we expect to accomplish our desired goals.

:: Do you sympathize with one or the other perspective more? Do you have similar, seriously different, perspectives with your family members?

Swagbucks: Swag Slopes Team Challenge

Pre-register here for the Swag Slopes Team Challenge that starts on Monday, January 23rd – I’m on Team Sledder Shredders!

Anyone who contributes at least 400 points to their team’s total will receive an award of a SB Swag Up Rebate, you’d use this when you redeem SBs.

The 1st place team gets a 50 SB Swag Up Rebate.
The 2nd place team gets a 25 SB Swag Up Rebate.
The 3rd place team gets a 10 SB Swag Up Rebate.

Swag Up Rebates are available by 5pm PT on Friday, January 27th and expires on Sunday, February 12th at 11:59pm PT.

Here’s a handy tutorial if you’d like to join Swagbucks and earn. I track my earnings here.

January 19, 2017

Just a little (link) love: tiny octopus edition

LinkLove

CAREER + MONEY THINGS

What do you think of this? “…80 percent of women and 70 percent of men say that they want a relationship with “flexible gender boundaries” and prefer sharing over specialization.”

We specialize more than share but we also do a better job of dividing the thinking and non-thinking things as well. Except the money stuff. That’s MINE.

I expected this to fall under another category but Constance Wu on acting turned into a lesson on knowing yourself and having meaning in your life that isn’t about material things.

HAPPY THINGS

THINKING THINGS

What many million American families are having to consider under the incoming administration

An experiment with gendered clothing

SOS Children’s Villages in Illinois sound like an amazing concept

Gerry Conway on money, American myths, and the myth of personal exceptionalism:

“Unfortunately, when history demanded that the benefits of the American social compact be extended to embrace everyone in America and not just white people, America decided it was time to break the compact and establish a new order:

The Myth of the Individual Hero.

Once African Americans demanded to participate fully in the social compact, white Americans decided the compact didn’t exist. Rather than share the benefits, white Americans insisted there was no social compact and never had been, for anyone – that Individualism was the Real American Way. Ignoring the realities of their own lives, middle class and blue collar Americans turned against the vision of the American Dream as a shared destiny.”

Octopus, in living colors!

January 18, 2017

My kid and notes from Year 1.10

JuggerBaby in Year 1 and 10 months Words, words, words

JuggerBaby is a veritable treasure trove of gibberish. This month’s additions are mangled versions of “Thank you” (tant-too!), “cheers” (dis!), and “Seamus” (deee!). We can just about figure out what the heck ze wants between a combination of signing and listening to the 7th repetition of zir’s “word”.

There are also a lot of signs, like opening and closing a fist over zir head means sing Twinkle twinkle little star, or flapping arms in a certain way means to sing The Wheels on the Bus.

Disciplining a toddler

JuggerBaby isn’t, in any sense of the word, obedient. Not unless ze wants to cooperate which makes it cooperation and not compliance. Staring a not-2 year old down just does not work, not this one anyway. It’s worked on every other kid but of course not the one I’m legally responsible for. I had to find other ways to get zir to do what I wanted. Sometimes bargaining and bribery is useful – ze will do most things with the promise of giving Seamus a treat. Sometimes a more direct approach is necessary.

TICKLE ATTACK!

Ze loves being tickled so much it’s nearly an addiction. When ze is a recalcitrant toddler, it’s time to go on the offensive. Not only does it break the impasse, it puts zir in such a good mood that ze either forgets to be stubborn or chooses not to be anymore. It’s also become useful as a threat. When ze runs away and wants me to chase zir, I cock an eyebrow and ask “Are you coming back?” [NO!] “Ok, I’m gonna come GET you!” [NO!!! *giggles* *runs back*]

This morning…

Me: Put on your socks.
JB: No.
Me: You sure? Put them on.
KB: NO.
Me: Last warning.
JB: Nope!
Me: *tickles*
JB: *cackles*
Me: Ready?
JB: No
Me: *tickles harder* DO YOU STILL HAVE THE COURAGE OF YOUR CONVICTIONS?
JB: Noooooo
Me: *tickles harder* ARE YOU PUTTING ON YOUR SOCKS NOW?
JB: *cackles* YIISSSSS
Seamus: ???
Me: Ze is FINE. Ze is just learning who the boss is.
Seamus: *snort* *judging*

Parenting skills: not helping

We let JuggerBaby do a lot of things on zir own, and we were pleasantly surprised to see some of that pay off last week. Ze went from trying to put zir socks on through the toe side, to being able to get them on sole-side up, and then on entirely correctly. This happened in one 20 minute car ride, without help.

Then ze put on zir own pants! Then ze tried to put a shirt on zir legs and another pair of shoes on top of zir sneakers, reminding us that we are still quite far from There.

Surprising things about parenting

The dog is a DOG

JuggerBaby really does seem to be oblivious to the fact that Seamus is a dog. Ze has been insisting on offering him a pair of shoes every morning, after zir shoes are on, before his morning walk. I get the feeling that ze is judging us rather harshly for not providing him with his very own shoes, and ze is determined to make up the lack.

Ze is in turns more affectionate than ever, bestowing on him kisses and hugs as bribery for looking the other way when ze gets up to shenanigans.   The jury’s out on whether this is acceptable currency because of the meanness, but he benefits nightly from zir insistence on giving him treats when ze gets home so probably he continues to look the other way anyway.

Just after the affection, though, there arose this complicated thing where ze acts territorial or jealous and runs over to push him away even though he’s not in zir space and isn’t doing anything to anything. It’s really frustrating to have zir yelling NO at him for no reason, being a big jerk to him when he’s just a big loving dog. We’ve scolded and disciplined, seemingly to no avail, but after weeks of this, we finally seem to have broken through a little. We have always insisted that ze be gentle with him, and so this is just a repetition of old instructions but it took several adjustments to our approach to get good results. For some things, consequences work just fine. In this case, they never did. So instead of scolding or punishing zir for being mean, I would insist that ze apologize for being rude, and say kinder things like “hi brother” and “how are you?” And when ze did act out, ze was instructed to apologize. We would remind zir that ze wouldn’t like it if he pushed or pinched zir, and that it was quite rude to do that to him.

We finally had a day when ze resisted the urge to pinch him, and he was patient enough to let zir make a mistake, correct it, and pet him gently without getting vindictive. Later that night, ze reached out to pet without trying to hit or pinch or push, and had a whole five minutes of petting him with kindness. *deep sigh of relief* I know we’re not there yet, but I really needed to see that progress was going to be made.

Things we are loving

Favorite books

Anything about space that includes a rocket blasting off. Currently we’re reading a children’s level biography about Mae Jemison, the Curious George book about space monkeying, and Roaring Rockets.

Dinosaurs. Ze particularly loves re-enacting this book.

Pulelehua and Mamaki: I have my suspicions that ze likes this one because it’s easy to say “mamaki.”

Favorite bath toys

Empty shampoo pump bottles! We’re learning about how water is heavier than air, and so when you submerge an empty bottle, it makes BUBBLES. Because that’s the air being pushed out of the bottle by the water, and the air floats. Something like that. I’m not sure that ze was following the lesson very well but we have time.

Things that are my fault

JuggerBaby refuses to wear costumes.

Things that are PiC’s fault

Ze eats 4 times as much as the normal toddler.

January 16, 2017

The cost of safety: filing for a restraining order in California

Some of you who follow me on Twitter will have seen some bits about this already, but I thought I’d share the unpleasant experience that derailed my last week. You know the horrible neighbor who escalated to making threats? He came back. Yes, that’s AFTER the police told him that we hadn’t done anything wrong and that he needed to stay away from us.

Utterly exasperated by his increasingly aggressive behavior, I called the police again, and on that visit they strongly recommended that I visit the superior court to file for a civil harassment restraining order. They told me that they would again advise him to leave us alone. If we file that order and he harasses us again, he’s subject to arrest.

I tried searching online but the only information that I could find on the process was the Clerk’s office hours, so I packed my bags and headed out, much to Seamus’s concern and dismay. He doesn’t like it when I abandon him immediately after his breakfast, it disrupts our whole routine. I don’t like it either, pup! So here’s how the day went…

Step one:  Get the paperwork

My first visit to the Hall of Justice took an hour and all I was able to do was pick up a quarter-inch thick stack of paperwork. The very bored clerk instructed me to fill out 15 pages, then return at 2 pm to see the judge. Totally inefficient! I could have just downloaded this paperwork online and saved myself a trip! But that would mean someone would have had to organize the documents with instructions, and put in updates for the judge’s court house. Somehow I doubt anyone’s inspired to make life easier that way.

But paging through the documents, I could see there was information that would be easier to provide from the comfort of home, so off I headed to get a few hours of work done and complete the packet.

There was a lot of repetition as I filled out the confidential information with my personal information, and the restrained person’s information that I knew, then transferred much of that to the three documents that would go to the court, one of which would go to the restrained person informing him that he was under a temporary restraining order. They asked for an extraordinary amount of information: his height, weight, hair color, eye color, date of birth, full name, phone number, email address, place of business, hours of work, type of car, license plates. I understand why they want to be as detailed as possible to be sure they’re identifying the right person but who asks their harasser for their birth date? I don’t even give that out to colleagues I like.

They asked about the latest incident, then for the history of the incidents. This is where my experience as a manager, or watching way too many episodes of Bones, NCIS, and courtroom dramas, came into play. As much as I wanted to shred all physical evidence of his attacks on us, feeling like they were a contaminant in our home, I filed them away. The ones that I did discard were documented in emails, so we had dated documentation, as well as physical evidence of his escalations, and I didn’t involve the police until a clear threat was made. That made it easy to carefully, and as dispassionately as possible, describe the incidents for the filing, taking extra pages as allowed, to clearly establish the pattern.

The keys the judge needed to file in our favor was a clear or compelling threat of violence or harm, or a history of harassment, both of which I was able to provide with my records at my fingertips. The threat of harm was also the reason that both the filing and the service of the restraining order by the sheriff were free.

Step two: See the judge

Back I went to court for the 2 pm courtroom hearing. I didn’t know what to expect so I’d come prepared with the filing, my written proof, a battery pack for my phone, and a book. The judge stayed in chambers the entire time, and a lawyer would present each case to her for a decision. It was a relatively efficient way to process the dozen cases presented in the 90 minutes allotted for “ex parte” cases. Mine was dead last so I waited for an hour and 20 minutes before the attorney came to ask some clarification questions.

I had to explain our neighborhood geography and the timing of the threatening note, but otherwise the judge was satisfied to grant a temporary restraining order good until we have a formal hearing at the end of the month. I can’t tell you what a huge sigh of relief that was, at least for a few weeks, to know that we have *some* recourse if he comes to harass us again.

Step three: File the paperwork

With the signed paperwork in hand, I had three more destinations. If only I’d known, I might have worn my running shoes!

  1. Clerk’s office for filing. Quick pause for me to drop off the papers and run out into the cold, pay the meter, and run back in and go back through security for the third time that day. The clerk took 20 minutes to process my paperwork
  2. Then off to the Sheriff’s office for another 40 minutes of paperwork and filing so that they’ll actually serve the orders.
  3. You’d think I’d be done, having hit every floor of the courthouse, but no, I had to then drive to our local PD and give them the paperwork to file as well.

Temporary restraining orders are only effective after the restrained person has been served so you have three choices: pay a process server ($20-100) to serve them, have the sheriff serve them (free if there’s threat of violence), or ask any adult over the age of 18 to serve them. That last was a new one on me – as long as the adult isn’t a named protected person in the paperwork, and are willing to fill out the proof of service form which you also have to schlep to the police department, you can just ask a friend to do it.

Alas, I have no friends in the area that I would be willing to ask to serve in this capacity and I wasn’t about to involve either set of coworkers’ in our home issues, so I had to leave it up to the sheriff.

The frustrating thing about that is that the sheriff’s office prefers to wait 1-2 weeks to even try to serve the papers so the neighbor still doesn’t know he’s subject to a restraining order right now. Thankfully, the police department informed me that should he harass us again, they will serve the papers while they respond to the call. They won’t take the initiative to serve the papers since that’s rightfully the county sheriff’s job, but they have a copy of the paperwork in case they have to respond to a call in the meantime.

Step four: Go home and collapse

The entire ordeal, from the morning visit to the last visit to the police department, involved 75 miles of driving and 7 hours of my day.

The courthouse is only open between Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5 pm. Between the business hours, and all time required to pass each hurdle, the process of getting even sketchy legal protection is incredible. When I worked the night shift, I would have been hard-pressed to be able to manage this. I was able to take the time to deal with it but I paid a huge physical toll the following several days, in exhaustion and pain, which I’m still reeling from. Hiring a lawyer to deal with all of this was an option, according to the paperwork, that just emphasizes how money buys you privilege.

Step five: Go to the actual hearing (pending)

This happens in three weeks.

This is where the judge decides whether to keep the restraining order and for how long it stands. I don’t know how this part will go, I’m unhappy at the prospect that he’s going to show up to the hearing and I’ll have to deal with him there. The filing states he’s not allowed to communicate to me there, and I’m not precisely afraid of him but I’m highly concerned because we’re fully cognizant that he is not operating within the bounds of civility and has been happy to defy authority to continue to harass us. He may  escalate as a result of the hearing or after the hearing. Fat lot of comfort it’ll be that he can be arrested if he manages to hurt one of us or damage our property.

It makes me wonder how people who are subjected to less clear-cut harassment manage to get any protection. And so far, our harasser has not been the brightest bulb in the lot. Most harassers are smarter than to be writing up their intentions and literally handing them to their targets, and most are smarter than to admit to the police that they ARE doing the harassment they’re accused of. He actually tried to justify it!

It seemed more prudent to wait until this was all over, or at least the hearing is, before posting about it but I really could use all the good positive thoughts because the fact that this isn’t going to be over for a long time keeps repeating in my head.

The judge could rule to discontinue the restraining order, and he would feel emboldened to escalate further. The judge could rule to keep it in place, and he could choose to violate it. Whatever happens, the headache continues.

We’re thinking about security systems but this mess honestly made me go look at homes online again and debate whether it’s worth spending the kind of money we’d have to spend to put miles between us and this guy.

The fact that nothing guarantees our next neighbors won’t be just as bad is holding me back, along with the horror of a new mortgage, but it’s coming down to a matter of safety.

Update to add step six: realize that a restraining order isn’t protection 

Four days after he was told to leave us alone and that a restraining order was forthcoming, he left another threatening note hinting that the officers have to go on vacation “anytime now.” He’s so fixated on his revenge and bullying – as if we live in Mayberry and we only have one sheriff and deputy, and boy howdy when they go on vacation the rest of us citizens should quake in our boots because he’s coming after us! There ARE other police officers.

He’s been served with the order as a result of that note. The next time he approaches us, or attempts to contact us, he’ll be arrested.

Nevertheless, I don’t take any confidence from that because a) I doubt he’s going to be prosecuted unless he does something egregious that we can prove was him. We’re working on that, but b) he’s clearly flung all common sense to the winds and I’m not about to become a statistic.

It utterly upends our saving and retirement planning but our family’s safety is most important so we’re moving up our timeline on moving. If it were for any other reason, we’d tough it out, but it’s now about the safety of our family. How many times have you heard people say, “I knew he was mad but I didn’t think he’d go that far”?

Folks, I believe he would go every bit as far as you can imagine if he can find a way. He’s got all hours of the day free to plot, and he’s obviously using them to do so, so we’re marshaling our resources and making plans.

I hate this utter derailment of our financial plans.

My next few months: security and finding a home we can afford.

Naturally, it’s taking a very long time for my latest severe fibro flare to calm down, it’s being fed by several forms of stress. I haven’t taken time off since 2014 and I’ve had to take several days off just to recover. Seamus senses my feelings but thinks that all I need is a 100 lb dog on my lap. Thanks, dog.

:: Have you ever used a home surveillance system with cameras and recorded footage?  Something like Ring? Recommendations are welcome.  Positive wishes for both a good result at the hearing and our decamping safely are also greatly appreciated.

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