February 22, 2017

Being realistic and knowing thyself

I tend to equate my value as a person to what I can do for others or what I’ve achieved. I’m frequently guilty of fighting against being overwhelmed by things that I cannot control by taking on the burdens of others to distract myself.

I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
– T.S. Eliot.

Sitting with my own problems, not solving them because they’re complex and take time, is hard. Having chronic pain and fatigue is isolating. Losing connections with others, by way of service, is another level of isolating.

It’s no surprise that my worst days are those days when I feel like I’m not doing anything. Days when I can barely sit up in bed, days when I should be working during JuggerBaby’s naps but if I do, I pass clean out halfway through the afternoon. In those moments, I get a stab of insecurity, forgetting the lessons we learned in chronic pain classes: these are moments, and they pass.

I do an awful lot on a day to day basis even if I’m not launching a massive year-long, or month-long, challenge with a billion readers following along. It’s ok that I didn’t manage to start a business or 10x my salary this year. 

I’m…

living in pain. Sometimes teeth-gritting, excruciating, hold your breath til it passes but grey out, pain.
writing for this blog three times a week.
working a traditional full time office job, at least 40 hours a week.
co-raising a rambunctious toddler and co-running a household.
nursing Seamus and managing his medications and special diet.
managing my own medications and diet.

I also struggle to remember, while I’m kicking myself for not being capable of cooking dinner every night as I do when my brain is functions and I have four halfway decent limbs, that PiC remembers I’m not superhuman. He easily stepped into my shoes to head up planning and preparing dinner without a word from me. He admits that he misses my cooking but that’s the extent of it. So I shouldn’t feel guilty.

It feels to me like I really need to be spending less time on things of pleasure or leisure (as I write this post at 12:30 am), and spend that time on income replacing activity instead. Maybe that’s where the guilt comes from.

January 30, 2017

Slow goals are long term goals

With the whole house thing dropping down on my head like I’m the Wicked Witch of the West, plus the feeling that the world is coming apart at the seams, I need a reminder that slow and steady has brought us through some pretty tough times, and can still serve us well.

I’m reminding myself that not having a cool million in cash with which to buy a home in cash does not a massive failure of me make. (Sherry bought her half of their new home in cash and I’m STILL chuffed by that.)

Highlights

  • I weathered a year of unemployment during the Great Recession.
  • I started investing in 2012 in one stock, 7 whole shares worth $500 in total. We now hold 1100 shares of mostly dividend bearing stocks, worth $60,000 at our brokerage with Tradeking. I heartily recommend them. It was so easy to use when I first started out and continues to serve our needs.
  • We once had a large mortgage loan, a bit of retirement savings, and my cash. Now we’ve halved that mortgage and double my cash savings, doubled the value of our tax-advantaged accounts, and own an investment property.

We’re by no means wealthy, but we have done well. A dear friend pointed out my money management was nearly miraculous given the obstacles and commitments we’ve honored. While I think she might have been at least a little hyperbolic, I respect her opinion immensely, particularly with regard to money given her background in financial fields.

Health and Fitness

I’m uncommonly tickled about this discovery. I was aiming to establish an average of 2000 steps per day starting last June. It was a struggle to get out from behind the desk twice a day, but Seamus and I have hit a nearly 100% success rate in getting out the door for walks two, and even three, times a day, every week day, even when pain was so high I could barely feed myself.

We walked, dadgummit!

My average to date is about 3900 steps daily.

I haven’t been nearly as good at the yoga, so that’s a work in progress. There’s something much more compelling about telling yourself that it’s for the dog’s good, and having Seamus yodeling at me, that gets me off my duff faster and more consistently than telling myself to stretch because it’s good for me. Maybe I need to train Seamus to yodel at me until I stretch every night?

This month, I signed up for an account with Achievemint which pays you $10 per 10,000 points earned. I’m already pushing myself to walk consistently and a little more each day, why not get paid for it?

This took me three minutes.

1. Use my referral link to create an account. This nets both of us 250 points, so right away, you get points.
2. Choose an app to link to Achievemint. My choice was the existing Health app on the iPhone. You can choose from, among MANY others: Fitbit, Foursquare, MapMyRide, Microsoft Health, MyFitnessPal, even Twitter!
3. Download Achievemint to your phone if you’re linking to an app on your phone. Linking an app nets another 50 points.

I only started out with 50 points since I didn’t have a referral link (sadface) but you can (look up there!) leapfrog over with a lot more points. It doesn’t look like you’ll earn remarkably quickly but this is my one of my favorite things – getting paid for doing something I’m already doing.

The world

Like I said, the state of American politics and government in this very moment has me incredibly concerned for our democracy and Constitution. Is the American experiment over? Did it fail?

I was raised in the bosom of staunch Republican families, surrounded by serving men and women, but none of them recognize what the party has become today. I sure don’t. To see some conservatives still speaking out against what’s happening now does give me a little bit of heart, but I think we’re still deep in the muck and a whole lot of vulnerable people are going to be hurt before it’s over.

This weekend was Lunar New Year. The airports were filled with protests against the unconstitutional Muslim Ban, and Custom Border Patrol officers were refusing to enforce court orders. Lawyers were on the ground doing pro bono work to help those who were being illegally detained: green card holders, visa holders, citizens with dual citizenship.

It’s hardly been any time at all in the new administration and we’re already seeing civil rights being violated left and right. There is almost certainly an intent to fatigue citizens who can’t protest forever, while it’s quite easy for the administration to roll out EO after EO violating our rights. It can be overwhelming.

BUT.

PiC and I are going to stand up for ourselves and our neighbors, families and friends, all of whom are fully deserving of the rights that our Constitution affords us, regardless of age, race, sex, religious convictions, disability, sexual orientation and any other way we can be defined and divided up. I can’t physically march, but we can speak out, organize on a one-on-one basis, donate to those organizations and individuals doing tireless work to protect our civil liberties and reminding us that we were never perfect and that we can improve.

:: Can you share any financial or fitness goals you’ve achieved over time? What’s a great activity day for you? What’s your approach to defending our civil rights?

January 25, 2017

The day of unfortunate events 

The day the ATM stole my moneyPiC and I went to a doctor’s appointment together in the middle of the work day. The skies would not stop pouring down rain and a hint of ice. I really should have taken a hint and just gone straight home afterward.

There wouldn’t be a post, though, if I did, so onward we went, though the weather be foul. (Apologies to Dr. Seuss.)

We went to exchange my discounted gift card that I’d bought for a clean one that didn’t have marker scribbled all over it.  Nope, they can’t use a gift card to “buy” a gift card, and can’t transfer the balance, so I was stuck with the ugly card to gift. Classy.

Having trudged out in the rain, I figured we’d make the most of having to be at the mall. We stopped in at Target to find a pair of boots because daycare requires them. Nope. Nothing on the shelves anywhere.

Fine. I had $1000 burning a hole in my pocket. It’d been withdrawn for the appointment but it turned out that we didn’t need it after all. We went to the bank to deposit a huge wad of cash, and like a fool I told PiC it was fine to just hit the ATM. THE ATM ATE MY MONEY.

In 16 years of banking primarily through the ATM this has never happened. So of course it’d happen on this day. Me and my big mouth. “I always use the ATM, it’s fine.” “No, of course we don’t have to go to the teller.”

Idjit.

7 minutes later, I had a claim number from the Citi rep, and an assurance that when the ATM’s take was reconciled, they’d match the overage to my claim and all would be well. “Give it 1-2 business days,” she said. Mmhmm.

Four business days, and a lot of semi-panicked grumbling later, the rep I spoke to found the claim after 30 minutes of searching. “Odd, it was archived, so I couldn’t find it. But I found it! You just have to call the disputes department directly to have them complete the process though, they’re open from 9 am to 1 pm EST.” That’s great.

Another 2 business days later, because of course this would happen when I was traveling and didn’t have time to sit down and deal with it, I remembered that another phone call was due and reached for the slip of information … that wasn’t in my wallet. Many bag searches later, I had to conclude that JuggerBaby had stolen and eaten it. !!!!!

Almost exhausted, I just gave up and called the branch to appeal to them for help locating any of the claim information that would help me duke it out with the disputes department. The almost jolly young man on the other line put me on hold to go a-huntin’ and returned 8 minutes later having opened a new claim, credited my account with a provisional credit, and an assurance that that money would stay put and they’d match up the new claim to their general ledger and confirm that the money was really returned to me. I thanked him profusely, he apologized for the inane contortions they’d made me go through, and I have my money back.

It’s an ante-Christmas miracle.

:: Do you have strong feelings about ATMs or a preference for going to the teller (is it worth having to talk to people)?

November 14, 2016

A whole lot of I don’t know

I had some thoughts about money but they’re hiding under my sadness right now. I’m still heartsick by the elevation of someone who is supremely unqualified to the office of the President.

I don’t disagree that politics as usual has been terrible for some parts of the country nor that we haven’t done nearly enough to address those ills. Some of my dear friends live in those economically depressed areas and I’ve spent a fair bit of time in medium-small towns, enough to see how wholly devastating it would be when the primary source of employment shuts down and leaves you with next to no choices. And I have tons of firsthand knowledge of how much being poor in America sucks. And because I understand all that, I particularly can’t see why anyone thought that DT would actually do anything to fix that. He’s certainly the brick through the window of the Washington establishment, I can understand a resentment running so deep that you’d do anything to express it. Remember my dad? But then what? If you’re wielding a vote to Show Them, should you be putting your vote into the bucket of a con man? Is he really the guy who’s going to help your problems? Or is he going to carry on blustering about unconstitutional changes to make it seem like he’s addressing your resentments? He’s a reality show host, a failed businessman who by his own admission hasn’t paid taxes in many years so hey when you wonder why we can’t afford to properly educate our kids he’s part of that problem. He’s all about flash and celebrity. What could possibly pass for a reason to have faith that this person would actually address that which ails the working poor? When I was holding down three jobs, and sick, with a sick grandmother at home, tended by a sick mom, and an unemployed dad, things were pretty damn tough. I didn’t love where the Bush economy went and I struggled mightily under Bush policies. There weren’t enough hours in the day to cover the bills. I for damn sure couldn’t afford health insurance for my family and if I was no longer able to work, there was absolutely no way I was going to get insurance coverage or have the means to live a marginally useful or tolerable life. At any time during those years, had someone proposed DT as an answer, I still might have just thrown up on them.

Note that I am aware that HRC is an imperfect choice. But guess what? Any career politician would have been. It’s the result of having spent your life in public service that you have a record to be judged by. When has DT ever served in the government or military? Half my family is military. I was military bound as a teen, if my body hadn’t betrayed me.
All that said, I’m not going to say “not my president”. I’m not going to say he IS because I’m not there yet either and I may never be but I’m not going to do what Obama haters were doing all eight years either. If the American experiment is to stay alive, if we are to continue to have a peaceful transfer of power, we have to respect the process even if I cannot respect the man. Not that I could blame anyone who is saying that because part of my soul is still hollering NO NO NOPE.

We have midterms in two years. We need to work towards breaking the stranglehold in Congress. I don’t say this as a Democrat, I say this as a thinking person who doesn’t think it’s good for either party to hold all three branches of government, no matter who it is. That’s too close to absolute power for my comfort.

My grandparents witnessed the rise of fascism and communism, my parents lived to escape it and gave us a shot at better lives here. Now I hold my child close as I observe an awful lot of parallels between DT’s rise to power and Hitler’s: rising to win the election by preying on unrest and discontent, fomenting hatred, making sweeping claims to make the country great again. There are plenty more if you’re looking. It’s enough to give this history student the shakes. “…make the trains run on time”, indeed.

Edited to add

Nicole and Maggie published this today, and it’s timely considering what I’ve been wondering we need to do: Getting an oxygen mask on: Protecting oneself monetarily

And while I’m working on that in the background, I’m also doing what Cait has wisely shared. As much I can without tipping over my boat, I’m reaching out to metaphorically squeeze a shoulder, tell a friend I’m here for them, tell another friend I’m thinking of them and promise to help in any way I can. I need these bright spots of positive to help me deal with the dark.

July 13, 2016

Who are your unsung heroes?

When we talk of heroes, I imagine people doing big, important things, of the lifesaving variety.

I grew up on dramatic heroics, capes and cowls, and icons like Amelia Earhart, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman. People who stand up to the whole world, sometimes against unspeakable odds, and changed the world long after they were told to sit down and be quiet.

This video brought unabashed tears to my eyes and got me thinking. It’s not often that we get to see the results of our good deeds for others, if at all, but it’s the rare person who hasn’t benefited from the help of others who never expected thanks in return.

These are a few people who made a bigger difference in my life than they knew.

Bus driver #1

Randy was driving the last route of the night and, as usual, I had lost track of time. Running out into the deserted street, in the dark, in a bad neighborhood, I leapt onto the bus’s steps, making him jump. I made it!

But I hadn’t. He’d just returned from the last drop-off. When he understood why my face fell, he swung into rescue mode and stomped the gas pedal all the way to the nearest train stop. I thanked him profusely as I ran for the train. I never got to thank him in person after that – he stopped driving that route soon after.

Bus Driver #2

The second driver, Johnny, was driving my regular route during a particularly bad time in my life. Everything was falling apart. Mom’s illness had suddenly progressed, leaving a Bizarro Mom in our house, and my bosses had gone ’round the bend. Things were bad bad bad but I still needed that job. Every morning, I tried to breathe deeply to make it through another day, and held back a surge of stress-induced nausea. Johnny would drop us off, booming: Have a good day and don’t let anybody steal your joy!

It always made me smile. It was often my only smile of those working days, and I was grateful.

Mentor, Codename Sabrina

I’d worked several years years of retail by the time I started on my first industry-job but I was still a young pup in the white collar professional world.

My introduction to office life was tumultuous. It was rife with poor management and terrible people, and directly led to my discovery of Alison at Ask A Manager (Googling “is [terrible boss thing] normal?”).

There was one person I met in the course of that work who made it survivable. She was an institution at her job, working with us from her coordinating office, and she taught me so much I needed to know to succeed at my job and more. Without her almost daily feedback and steering, and diplomacy when our managers were being even more unreasonable than usual, I’m not sure if I would have overcome the many and barbed hurdles thrown up by my direct colleagues and managers.

With it, I went on to be a high performer both in that office and well into the rest of my career.

We kept in touch over the years, and I’ve always been grateful for her friendship, wisdom, and warmth.

:: To whom do you owe thanks? Why? What little things made a difference in your life? Tell me your stories?

This website and its content are copyright of A Gai Shan Life  | © A Gai Shan Life 2017. All rights reserved.

Site design by 801red