In with new, out with something else

It seems I am about to get a different car yet again.

First and foremost, M and I are not frugalistas; we have zillions of ways to waste money and probably do so routinely without giving it a second thought. However, we are also very responsible with money. Big things like savings for retirement, HSA-funding, future spending goals (home and car maintenance and repairs, vacations, birthdays and other gifting events, kitchen remodel, replacement car, etc.), secondary emergency fund investment account all get funded before we start spending each month.

That said, from a purely financial point of view, it makes no sense to sell my 2013 Rav4 and purchase a brand new 2017 Camray. We take care of our cars, and my Rav has less than 35,000 miles on the odometer after 3.5 years in our household and looks pristine. It’s serviced per manufacturer’s schedule and would likely be fine for another 10 to 15 years at the rate it gets driven. Plus, I LOVE that car.

Unfortunately, it has no trunk. The windows are tinted and it is not a simple glance to see whatever I might have in my car (usually nothing but my reusable shopping bags and the plastic box I keep them corralled in when full), but every week I drive and meet with clients and have both personal and business financial documents in my possession. Recently I walked up on a guy trying to break into my car while my work box of files was in the back. I have no idea if he was actually planning to try and steal my car (it has an alarm) or if he was after its contents, but it freaked me out to the point that I now carry my box around with me to meet with other clients.

So there is that.

Add to this that M also drives and AWD SUV, a 2008 Highlander, and it is the go car for us. The Rav commutes to the office, goes to the gym, toodles around town when I go to client offices, but the rest of the time, it’s at home in the garage. M and I are going anywhere, he prefers to take the Highlander.

The Rav has again become “too nice” to take out for a spin on the weekend.

This happened with the first Rav we had, a 2007. I owned it for 4.5 years and sold it with just over 40,000 miles on the odometer because M and I became paranoid about something happening to it. M far more so, but it was infectious. I wanted something older may with a few scratches in the paint to make me feel better.

A 4Runner and a Honda Civic later, and we arrive at the present Rav4. For awhile it was the go car, then we sold M’s older (silver) CRV in favor of a newer (blue) CRV, and in it’s plushy-ness became the go car. Then the Highlander became available, and as it had belonged to my former boss, I knew its entire history and knew it had been well maintained and kept in good repair. So the blue CRV was set aside in favor of it and went off to its next owner. M loves that hulking Highlander beast, so he is set for awhile. But our time with my present Rav4 is about concluded.

Entirely possible the Camray will remain “too nice” to take anywhere, but I doubt it. This would be the ride we choose for coastal adventures where we do not go boonie-crashing down gravel fire roads just because they’re there. And it has a trunk, so I can stash my crap out of sight. I would be really upset if my car was broken into and my gym bag stolen, but I’d be frantic if I lost client documents.

In my life, I have learned that sometimes purchases make no sense on paper or financially. This is another of those occasions. However, as in all things personal finance, it is personal. Yet my inner budget professor is scratching her head trying to make sense of this decision. To her I can only say, the emotional impact of finding some strange man standing next to your car with the slimjim is not to be underestimated. My own sense of personal safety is very well developed, probably overly so, and while this will not advance us financially in any way, shape, or form, it will also not set us back in dangerous ways. So I work another 5 or 6 months before leaving the paid work force, but for me, for us, it makes emotional sense.

On another matter, I have been sorting through photographs from my mom’s house. I’ve taken dozens out of frames and sorted them into me and my kid and my sister and her family. I don’t keep in touch with my nephew, no idea how to reach him, and will keep the pictures in envelopes until I get some motivation to find him.

There is one picture of my oldest daughter, her last school picture. I have dozen of the same photograph, but mom had a wallet framed and kept it in her bedroom. I cannot remove it from the frame and have no reason to keep yet another copy. I am not sentimental; I do not need the framed photo to remember my daughter or my mother. So after 2 weeks of vacillating and trying to decide what to do, I stuck it into the trash and threw it out.

I’m not sentimental at all, yet my stomach aches and I feel out of breath (in the bad ways) thinking about disposing of it this way. It’s not my daughter or my mother. It is simply a duplicate of something I already have and don’t actually need. As for my mom, our relationship was more toxic waste than warmly fuzzy. Thinking about her does not make me happy or sentimental or misty with nostalgia. Frankly, think about mom makes me furiously, irrationally angry, feelings and emotions I would really rather purge from my system and my life.

Even now, 21 years later, I mourn the loss of my child, miss her every single day, and shed a few tears throwing away this single copy of her final school picture, even if I have a framed copy in my family room and dozens of other copies carefully preserved in storage boxes. At the same time, it is one more step in the wall that separates me from my toxic family of origin and the truer horrors of my life.

Life is not fair, and rarely does it balance evenly. But for every bad thing in my history, there is something better, richer, more rewarding.

This week, there will be something new and different, a tool that makes my life easier and work better and strengthens my sense of safety. Out with something else that at once breaks and heals my heart simultaneously.

 

Death and financial train wrecks – different types of devastation

While the post title sounds like related issues, in fact they are two separate soundtracks running through my thoughts the past few days. Nothing pretty to see here, so if you are looking for my usual glitter-bombing unicorn outlook, this may be the post to skip.

Yesterday I spent a couple of hours with my client who lost his 13-year-old son last week; the young man took his own life. While he is a client, most of my self-employment clients are people I consider friends as well, the business just another anecdotal box of experiences we happen to share. Understandably, he is completely broken, destroyed by what has happened. That little boy was the sun and moon and stars in his world, and now he’s gone. Interlaced with grief, though, is this intense, white-hot anger from the circumstances that may time will cool and bring peace. I am not an especially religious person; I offer no platitudes about better places and safe from harm. As a mother who has been through the grief that comes with the death of a beloved child, such statements tend to piss me off even as I know that my children are only on loan, they are meant to grow up and become independent beings well outside my scope of control and direction. But 12, 13 – it is way too soon. Please do not ever suggest to me it’s God’s will, or it’s part of a bigger plan, or they are happier in their place in Heaven. Fuck that shit. Our children – we are good parents; our children should be her on earth with us, getting awkward and hormonal, getting angry and screaming at us, assured in how little we know and growing up into people who again like and respect us for the mere mortals we are as they mature into adulthood and realized that their parents are imperfect, do not have all the answers, but try their best.

In a lot of real and direct experience ways, I am someone who understands. I listened and pretended not to notice when he cried. There are no words of comfort in these situations, and sometimes it is only human warmth that makes us feel less alone and lonely with our tragic losses. As I still think to this day, when there are no words, hugs speak volumes.

Into this profoundly emotional and poignant time with one slice of my life, comes all the bullshit and pettiness of small-ball problems. Comparatively speaking, anyway. There are no universal bandaids that remove physic pain and perceived injustice, and sometimes my patience with those who want to escalate petty grievances into something bigger, badder, much more complicated and time-consuming – let’s just say I’m short and dismissive. Every person I know who works or has any type of relationship with expectation of performance and results has similar stories of such disagreements and less motivated, less first-choice options for bosses, coworkers, worked hired out. So I know I am not the only manager at any level in the world having to deal with people and their problems. And I also know what is a Very Big Deal to them is smaller than small-ball to me. Most of the time, I try to deal with them professionally and compassionately, even while telling them to grow up and get real.

In other words, more drama in the office. And it is not that I don’t care – I care very much, particularly as it impacts perceptions about me and my performance of my job functions – but when you are dealing with a slice of pirated information (salaries) and without complete context, the leg you’re standing on is kind of weak and shaking. When it comes up, I will deal with it. Right now, my head is filled with thoughts of death.

And I hate it.

I hate that my client and friend is suffering so miserably. I hate that another dear friend is thousands of miles away and alone and facing a procedure on his brain. I don’t think it’s just me that gets nervous when people speak of brain surgery, and to not be able to be present and there at this time – it’s really, really hard. While telling myself thousands of times daily that it will be fine, he will be fine, I cannot get my mind to buy the reassurances. Sometimes being a “hope for the best, imagine the worst” version of Pollyanna does not work out all that well for me.

Truthfully, I cannot imagine my life without him somewhere in it. M is far more stoic than I am, thankfully, but even he has his reservations and concerns. It’s BRAIN surgery, and no matter how normal and routine it might be for the surgeon and the specialized team of doctors and nurses, this is someone we love and it is a world-class BIG DEAL to the rest of us sitting on the sidelines and metaphorically wringing our hands and trying not to be consumed with worry.

So yeah, head is kind of stuffed to overflowing out my ears with thoughts of death and what life is like imagining and trying to shut off the imaginings of life after the worst.

Ugh.

Another of my clients asked begged (his term, not mine) me to work with his niece on her finances. I thought it would be relatively straight-forward; after all, my client is very intelligent and sensible, his sister (the referral’s mother) seems the same in the times we have met. I figured at worse she would have student loan debt and need some help with her budgeting.

Oh my, I was so very wrong.

We met yesterday, and after 30 minutes of discussing the state of her life, I put away the green tea I was drinking and order the fully caffeinated, full-sugar version of a coffee-flavored milk drink to fortify myself. It is quite ugly.

She is a college graduate with degrees in chemistry and literature. Her parents paid for college so no student loan debt. Her home was gifted to her from her grandmother along with just over 6 figures in cash. She is employed in the local hospital system, which brings to mind decent wage and benefits. The car she drove up in a later model Camray – nothing fancy or flashy. While she is telling me all this, I am listening and nodding and thinking she needs a financial planner more than she needs a budget coach.

Then she pulls out the sheaf of check stubs, bank statements, credit card bills. I am still thinking, okay, everyone gets into trouble with credit cards; it’s almost a right of passage. I can help her, I’m sure.

It is with the documents that the real story comes out and why her mother and uncle asked me to talk with her and see if I can help her out.

This girl is 29, working at a job that pays about $42K per year, because she only works part-time (20 hours per week) by choice. There is a maxed out line of credit on her paid-off home, she has less than $500 in the bank, and an astonishing amount of credit card debt racked up in just a few years. On top of which – before inheriting her home and money, she had declared bankruptcy because of other credit card debt accrued in college.

I asked her how all this debt came about and got some pretty vague answers about shopping and paying for a couple of fender benders to keep them off her insurance and travel and charitable giving. I asked what happened to her inheritance, and got similar responses, with the addition of … plastic surgery. Did I mention she is turning 30 in a couple of months?

Ugh. Financial train wreck? More like mushroom cloud of financial devastation.

While I suspected this was going to be a huge challenge, I valiantly tried to help her.

Does she have a budget? Yes, but she routinely runs out of money and has to use her credit cards. Okay, can she show me her budget. Well no, because she keeps it in her head. She does pay all her bills when she gets paid and lives on what’s leftover. Except with this much credit card debt, there is a whole lot more living going on than a single person should be doing.

Or so goes the judgmental budget coach in me.

I did not have time to crunch the numbers to even get a sense of where she was, so we set up another appointment for this weekend after I had a better chance to look through her stuff and figure out how truly bad things are for her. And after looking through all her stuff last night, it’s really bad.

Since I know quite a few people in her age bracket, I know it is not just an issue of financial literacy. Yet I cannot fathom how someone could go blow through a just over $100K in inheritance, take out (and then max out) a line of credit on a paid-off home, and run up enough credit card debt to owe just over $150K on a $42K per year salary. And yet, I have seen so much worse through the years.

I know and have heard all the arguments and sob stories about the evil banks and credit card companies taking advantage of the consumer. Bullshit. No one makes us take on debt, although I do know sometimes it’s an uncomfortable only option we have. My sympathy in this is primarily with her family, who – rightly – refuse to bail her out of this mess and merely try to find her resources to help resolve it.

The discord in this is that she is in such a deep, dark place of denial. The typical millennial mindset is stronger than average in this one (and I do apologize to all my very level-headed millennial friends who may be reading this vent).

Either way, she’s in a huge financial bind and it will get worse long before it gets better. I want nothing but success for her, but from conversations with her uncle and her mother, she is not listening to them and is unlikely to listen to me. However, I will do my best.

I think she sees herself as living a life of freedom, whereas I see a young woman anchored by debt and being smother by the increasing interest and monthly payments. She could sell her home – the only assets I see that she has – which would likely clear her debt. But I know already the idea will float like a lead balloon.

At a very minimum, she needs to request a full-time schedule and accept every single hour of overtime that is offered to make more cash. With some negotiation with her creditors we might be able to get her squeaking through each month and with a very strict beans-and-rice type budget.

Buuuuttttt – one of the first comments out of her mouth is that she is unwilling to work more hours. Her debt is a combination of shopping, world travel, philanthropy, and just plain deranged, out-of-control spending. Seriously, I cannot think of another way to describe it.

I cannot save anyone, except perhaps myself. For the sake of my client, I will do my best to create a realistic plan … that she’s unlikely to agree to much less follow through with. When I met her, before we began discussing her finances in detail, I thought she was smart, funny, interesting, and quite physically beautiful. We chatted briefly about fitness – she works with a trainer 3 times per week and does yoga religiously 4 or 5 times per week – and I briefly, VERY briefly, thought she should meet trainer J. Or one of the associates I work with.

No, oh no. I love and adore my trainer, I really NEED my trainer, and I simply cannot do such a horrible thing. And my associates, it’s important to me to maintain my professional relationships. My goodness – what if someone I happened to introduce her to actually likes her? No, just no.

I was actually relieved to find out she likes girls.

The bottom line, at the end of a difficult day on a multitude of levels, what I find almost sadder than the real life agony is this silly, silly girl with the great big entitlement boulder resting on her shoulder.

Some things, some choices, some events are so far beyond my understanding. Where I can help, I try my best to do the right thing and provide what assistance I can. Sometimes it’s out of my realm of expertise, and the eventual outcome is in the hands of others far more skilled and more knowledgeable than me.

I have my hopes for the people in my life – I want what I want for them, whether it peace of mind or recovering their health. When someone new wanders into my midst, if I can help I will try. If they refuse help, I can and will step aside and let nature take its course.

Doesn’t mean I have to like it much, any of it. Sometimes I just wish people did not have to endure so much hardship, and sometimes I just wish people would be realistic and make better choices about their lives.

From nervously glad to horrifically sad in less than 12 hours

Yesterday one of my closest friends texted to tell me he was likely to be undergoing a surgical procedure to correct a brain injury. This has been an ongoing issue for several months, so it was big news that he was finally getting scheduled and ready for it. While happy and excited about it, I am equally terrified of the potential side effects, complications, unexpected consequences. I seem to have no healthy outlet to express that anxiety – after all, it was almost 9 when he texted to tell me and I could not go back to the gym for a third workout. So overnight I was plagued with nightmares and poor sleep and woke up with a blinding headache that pushed me to push back my exercise until after work. Not the end of the world, and I know I will be calmer about this whole process once I have more information, including specific date and time range for the procedure.

Open my email this morning and first thing I read is from one of my private clients – his 13 year old son has taken his own life. I do not have a way to react to that; in the moment of reading the words, having my mind process the meaning of the words, I find catching my breath impossible. Such situations, expressing sorrow is so very inadequate. Nothing I can do, nothing anyone can do. Something I understand all too well, life changes in a blink.

Both events have triggered strong emotions within me, and I find myself flailing around in search of safe harbor. POSITIVE safe harbor. Last thing I want or need is to be seeking out chocolate and soda and things that will make me ultimately feel worse. I ended up skipping out on my practice this morning because of aforementioned blinding headache and tentatively bailing on a Wednesday night thing of practice with a tribe member and friend. But I may change my mind as the day progresses. Or I may go to yoga with one of my friends here in the office.

Choices, healthier choices, are obvious and available to me. I could go to the gym tonight in my crappy mood and mini band walk and do enough lunges and squats to burn myself out and kick-start the endorphin production. I could blog here and at my health and fitness site more. I could turn even infinitely more selfish and ignore the long list of to-do projects at home and read more. Or I could even get more assertive about clearing out that list of to-do projects.

Before all this, I had a post brewing about K and her career stuff. We have become close, K and I, and she confides and bounces ideas with me all the time. I love that. As much as she is enjoying her present job, she has now been there more than 1.5 years and has yet to have the performance review/salary adjustment that was promised year when here hiring supervisor left and she took on that role and responsibility. First it was to be at the beginning of 2017, but it’s now been 3 months and not a word has been said. The job has expanded considerably and has far more responsibility, yet her present supervisor and his boss really have no clear idea of all she does. While compiling that list and preparing to ask for a meeting, she had been doing research for other available opportunities and essentially hit the motherlode.

While not actually serious in her search, she did apply for a couple of other jobs that are similar to her present role and a good match for her experience. For one she was asked for compensation guidelines, and I said to offer a range that was at least 10% more than what she is presently making. The range presented started at $10K more than her present salary and he immediately invited her for an interview. Score! Except she’s not sure she wants to commute to their offices (across town from where they live and through downtown) and she is not 100% sure about the job. But it would be good experience to interview and learn about another industry. Then there is a second job for one of the larger and better employers here in town, applied for on Sunday, contacted for an information pre-screening interview by phone yesterday (passed with flying colors) and now going for the first face-to-face interview today. This job starts at $15K more per year than she is making now, has a better insurance/benefit package, and is less than 10 minutes from home (versus her 30 minute commute now). These are very happy events.

For me as well, while not looking I also acquired another new self-employment client. It is a small job, probably less than 10 hours per month, but potential for more work exists in the future as they grow. It’s interesting project work, though, so in truth I might have gone for a lower hourly rate just to get the work. Thankfully he didn’t even blink at my hourly rates, which is partly due to the glowing referral from an existing client. I am delighted with that.

I recognize how little room I have for complaint in my life. M remains the imperfect guy who is just about the perfect partner for me. I have jobs I truly enjoy and the husband with enough going on in his own life to allow me a lot of room and freedom to pursue my jobs and healthy lifestyle that benefits both of us. Both my kids are living independent lives and blazing their own paths through adulthood.

For every old friend I have had abandon our long friendship in light of my lifestyle changes I seem to have acquired one or more new ones that are more like-minded, encouraging, supportive. Relationships are like living organisms that are left to grown and change organically as time passes. As I have come to understand more fully and continue to learn to management my expectations, I am far happier and more secure in the progression of my days. So when the truly bad days do hit – like today – I am not flailing around grasping at anything that will somehow comfort or make the awful fade even a little bit. Not precisely sure what I am going to do, but I have an associate standing outside my doorway prodding me to join them for a healthy lunch and walk around the block.

As far as choices for coping go, that’s a good place to start.

 

Car stuff, weekend random

First and foremost, thanks so much for all the kindness and support from my last post. While there are still several days left in March, my personal March madness has quietly concluded. Never do I underestimate the intensity of emotions that surround anniversaries.

M has an older car with nearly 200K on the odometer. He loves that vehicle, except for the fancy-smancy gizmos and gadgets that are designed into it.

This week, the battery died of old age. It is a 2008, battery has been in there since 2010, so it has had a good long life. With the push button start and keyless entry systems, it was not so simple as to replacing the battery and everything is fine. Oh no. While it did start up fine just after M put the new battery in it, our keys refused to electronically open the doors or start the vehicle when we walked out of the grocery store. Apparently our fob batteries failed as well? Or it needed to be repaired, like my phone with my car’s bluetooth? Not sure. But we consulted the manual, followed the emergency steps, and voila! Car started without issue. Get home, read more in the manual, decide there is some graduate course out at Toyota U that must be successfully taken to know what to do with this vehicle. Unfortunately when I go back to put the manual away, key fob is again not working correctly for some reason. Maybe its batteries die sympathetic deaths with the car battery?

M goes through the whole process again of manually opening the door, repairing the key to start it, and drives off in search of the super special battery needed. I stay home just in case he needs rescue. When he gets back he replaces batteries in both fobs and voila! Both keys are working again.

For good measure, every time he gets up throughout the night I hear the front door open and know he is going outside to check to see if the key is working. So far, so good.

We knew buying an older vehicle with lots of miles the potential for it needing repair increased. Since I am familiar with the entire history of this vehicle (purchased from my former boss), I knew it had been well maintained and not driven too crazily with its prior owner. But M seems to have a far lower tolerance for repairs than I do, but more than the expense the gadgetry of later model vehicles and his ability to diagnose and do repairs himself tends to drive him crazy. This too shall pass.

Or we’ll be hobnobbing around in some 70s vintage POS car that M can fix himself. Assuming he can find parts, of course.

Not a whole lot going on around here right now, other than the car drama. Busy work weeks. Busy trying to get my crap organized at home. We are in the process of moving from one storage to another smaller, closer space. Because we have waaaayyyyy too much crap. Good news on that is we are winnowing down our crap this go-round. Stuff we (M) has been keeping and storing 20+ years is now going into the trash or the donation box. Unfortunately, we still need a storage unit. I have big dreams of someday not needing an offsite storage unit, but at long as M owns the project car (that has been in pieces for the entirety of our relationship) we will likely need storage.

Once we get that stuff sorted, though, I plan to get cracking on our garage. It’s a mess. It’s a mess of crap that (1) we no longer need, (2) we no longer need to keep in the garage, or (3) we have no idea what it is or was or why we (M) actually own it.

Work is a messy schedule this week. Tuesday is usually my work from home day, but this week my admin had to take emergency leave so I will e going into the office tomorrow and moving my work from home to the weekend. Thankfully my private clients are understanding about my schedule.

But work is good, remains 95% satisfying and 5% somewhat dreadful tasks I wish I could delegate to anyone else. Allergy season is also winding down, thankfully. After a severe sinus dust-up and almost 2 weeks mild yet ongoing congestion, I am happy for the break and return to normality.

Everything else – things are good. And for that I am always grateful.

Parenting is hard

It’s St. Patrick’s day. In 1984, my oldest child was born. I remember checking into the hospital and the nurse saying I would be having a  St. Patrick’s day baby and in honor of that, they would be tattooing a shamrock on the baby’s butt. Whether my serious expression was primarily fear of this whole birthing process or I was so tired I looked as if I were taking her seriously, she quickly assured me she was only joking.

B was probably 6 before she realized that the St. Patrick’s day parade we took her to each year was not actually held in honor of her birthday.

It’s 21 years this month since she left us, and I miss her still.

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3/17/2017 – B, Jan-1985; about 10 months.

And her final school picture, taken not long before she passed away.

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B – Jan-1996; not quite 12 yet.

March is a challenge every year. Not a day in the last 21 years passes that I do not think about her, and I would not have it any other way. Mostly I smile. Occasionally, I tear up and feel the weight of loss. Mostly, though, I really do smile. So much life and memories packed into 12 years and 5 days. In my heart I cherish all she was to those who knew her and turn away any and all thoughts of what might have been. Our time together was limited. I am glad to be someone who was present with my children, so my regrets about that time are so tiny and insignificant relatively to the balance of my life.

But parenting young adults is still hard.

C called early this morning after a major fight with her husband. Unfortunately this is not the heartbreak drama of teenage angst, but the seriousness of a grown-up married people. Trying to be fair and balanced – out the window. My kid is crying, having a panic attack over the telephone. Forget fair and balanced. A said cruel things and there is blood in my eyes.

Okay, not quite that bad.

Being her mother’s daughter, I cringe at some of C’s decisions and mannerisms that come directly from me. I know that when this kind of dust-up happens, it’s not just because A came home and decided to be a prick that day. Having been in Florida only a few months, there are a billion details that one takes for granted growing and becoming an adult in your own hometown. Finding doctors and dentists and making new friends – it is a process. And when shit hits, the gap between what you had before you moved crossed the country becomes the grand canyon.

I talked her down off the ledge, called and checked in on her more than I have in 20 years, since that first summer that she and her brother stayed home alone while M and I were both working. By the end of the day, she’d calmed down and made significant progress finding healthcare providers and making appropriate appointments … in a few weeks. But she found stop-gap help with a local clinic – a referral from an assistant manager at their apartment complex. And with a little guidance from me, began the outline of The Plan for what she would do if this type of thing should come up again.

As for me, it was a busy day at work with a lot of gratuitous meetings that did little other than frustrate me with stranger’s ability to demonstrate their cluelessness. I am a master at compartmentalizing, though, and chugged along and got through it. By the end of the day, though, I was unrepentantly swigging sugary soda.

Parenting is hard sometimes, something no one really stresses before you take on that role, and I am honest enough, selfish enough, to say I do not really love the responsibility and the job itself. But I love the kids involved, all of them, and my hopes for them hinge on their overall happiness. Even when things are not going so well and they do stupid shit that frustrates and/or irritates me, I have to believe they will learn from the experiences.

Another St. Patrick’s day, another of B’s birthdays in the history books.

I miss her.

 

 

The Princess bone

It has been a long day at the office, and for the second night this week, I found myself hanging out with the bosses while they enjoyed a beer (or 3). We started out in an actual meeting discussing our upcoming recruiting efforts and how the rest of the staff are holding up under yesterday’s events. In truth, I got very little actual work accomplished today, outside of attending a couple of meetings with clients. The rest of my time was spent reassuring staff and helping with reorganizing workloads and office spaces.None of this was unexpected.

My bosses are very good guys. They are extremely disciplined professionals with high standards and expectations for themselves as well as the staff they employ. However, they are also good guys, close friends as well as business partners, and I have falling into the fold nicely. So in many ways, I am conversationally one of the guys.

Since all 4 are in some stage of single and dating, the topic comes up fairly routinely. While I am not quite old enough to be their mothers (and I have met all their parents – lovely people), I am pretty far removed from the women they tend to gravitate toward in social circumstances. The joke is if there is a second or third date, I start wondering if I need to invite them to a office lunch so I can size them up for myself. Hopefully they continue to be secure, confident men who are highly unlikely to ask me what I think about their squeezes;  my honesty could go to war with my sense of employment self-preservation.

Just last week one of them told me my “Build a Better Butt” project (as I refer to my ongoing training with J and exercise pursuits) was working out well for me. I jokingly reminded him that he should be careful what he says to a female subordinate, that sort of trash talk could find him on the wrong end of a harassment complaint. He gives me the puzzled face – am I insulted? Should he not compliment me? Is the workplace hostile because he thinks I am looking fitter? Because I know he’s teasing in his defense, and genuine in his compliments, and not a slap-and-tickle disrespecting mysogenist, I do not take it seriously and have to laugh with him. Plus I take it as a huge compliment that he and the other bosses feel comfortable enough with me to know that I am not going to take their kindness in a wrong, litigious sort of way.

So today we somehow got on the topic of breast implants. One of their sisters is in her mid-30s, getting married later this year, shopping for a wedding gown, and considering breast enhancement surgery. The boss is very upset about this, feels his sister is absolutely beautiful just the way she is and immediately suspected this was coming from the fiance. Since we were just shooting the breeze anyway, he brought it up and asked me what I thought about it and what else he might say to try and get her to embrace her unaltered shape.

The whole conversation made me vaguely uncomfortable. Not because I was talking boobs with men I work with, because that part was perfectly fine. No, I was vaguely uncomfortable because I find the topic of plastic surgery of any sort makes me uncomfortable. And I am not precisely sure why, although I did try to articulate my general thought that while it seems like a bad idea she may come to regret, I was sort of stumped as to why it is I feel that way. But thinking about it driving home, chatting with M about it, I think I have a better and more complete reasoning on the subject.

Essentially, I lack the princess bone. Or gene. Or whatever it is that makes people have more vanity than I seem to possess.

When it comes to bugs, vermin, snakes, and frogs, I got a big giant body of skin in the princess game. I want someone to take care of the bug, vermin, snake, and frog post haste, while I cower on a high surface where the evil creepy things cannot get me.

But when it comes to issues like plastic surgery, it all seems rather pointless to me. And for someone who has felt like being invisible is preferable to being recognized for my basic average (at best) appearance, my logical mind says my insecurity about my appearance would make me a prime candidate for anything that would make me appear more mainstream pretty. Except my mind does not work that way. If it did, I would probably have a drawer full of cosmetics that I paint on daily. Instead, I have an new tube of chapstick waiting to be deployed when I lose the one in my purse right now, a rarely used tube of mascara, and I think maybe a lipstick that might have escaped my most recent decluttering mania. I could write whole blogs on my anxiety about cosmetics and fears of being viewed as a clown school candidate reject for my efforts in using them effectively.

With any type of elective surgery, my mind says it is dangerous, painful, not covered by insurance and therefore ridiculously expenses. And for me personally, really kind of pointless at this waypoint in my life. Many of my friends have had some work done, or are desiring to have some work done, and frankly my understanding does not seem expansive enough to be able to successfully empathize with them on the subject. Everyone ages. Everyone has some piece or part of their body they wish to change, and I am not sure doing so that way is ever going to be a good idea. Then again, I am not the one who has to be convinced or encouraged to embrace their new look. If you are my friend, you with less wrinkles and perkier butt or boobs or flatter stomach is not going to do much anything to alter that.

I think my discomfort comes from someone else’s level of dissatisfaction with their own body. Believe me, I have plenty of body issues myself and if elective surgery did not have risks and was not painful I might be tempted to consider that route to altering body as well. But it does have risks and surgery is painful, so I shall continue my build a better butt project within the confines of the gym, thank you very much.

I also think know there are reasons well beyond vanity that people undertake such drastic measures, and somehow it’s easier for me to understand breast reduction than breast augmentation. Removing patches of skin cancer and maybe having some nipping and tucking done at the same time seems reasonable. Having noses reshaped while having some sort of sinus problem repaired seems perfectly understandable. Essentially, if there is some medically necessary reason to go under the knife and you a couple of upgrades, it does not seem like such an extravagant decision.

Obviously, at my core, I am a practical person.

But for a young woman to consider breast implants before getting married just seems extreme and wrong. I would rather see her invest the money she would spend with a good therapist talking about why she wants to do such a thing and seeing if improving self-esteem without surgical body modification.

Sometimes it seems many of my male friends do not know any regular, down-to-earth women they can have candid conversations with, or I am just naive enough to be perfectly honest about what I think and how I feel. I was telling M about this exchange tonight and he says it’s probably because of their current relationship status. Maybe. Divorce does skew your perspective for awhile, as does ending of long-term relationships.

At the end of our conversation, I simply told my boss to continue to remind his sister that she’s a beautiful young woman and perfect just as she is right now. Because maybe that’s what she needs most of all: encouragement to be comfortable in her own skin and to be both supportive and specific about why she is beautiful, inside and out. With family and family dynamics, I am kind of fuzzy about whether or not such statements make a difference. In my own family of origin, it was not normal or natural for my sibling or my parents to compliment me ever. With M and my children, though, I am unwavering in my support and encouragement of the development and good people qualities, including physical appearance when appropriate. My theory is that sincerity of affection is more meaningful than being told not to do something because big brother does not like or is terrified of the consequences of such action.

 

 

 

 

 

Death and taxes

Things have been humming along in my little world. Work, gym, more work, more gym. There is a lot of other stuff in between, but the bigger events seem to revolved around work, exercise and the better health quest.

M and I have been trying to declutter, although it is slow going. Where I am a slash-and-burn sort of toss first, contemplate later type decluttered, M is more a contemplate, ponder, let sit, contemplate more … and then decide to keep anyway sort of person. Not a lot of progress being made where it’s “our” stuff or “his” stuff. Our stuff, slightly more than his stuff, but still not enough stuff leaving the homestead to satisfy me.

I have become an expert at counting to 10 and reminding myself that I love this man and that compromise is part of life and happy marriages. I still wonder why it must be that way. Why can’t he’s just nod, smile, agree with me and pitch crap into the donation boxes and bags?

After nearly 4 years, I am finally dealing with the last of the stuff I kept from my mom’s house. Considered how much she had crammed into that little house, I actually retained very little. Most of it is sentimental, but really, what do I do with photo albums of people I don’t know and cannot identify? What do I do with 6 photo albums full of photographs from my sister’s wedding showers and wedding? The 26 total pictures from my first wedding and showers are tucked away somewhere in these boxes, but it is a painful reminder of the inequality of child rearing. Then again, it could be an oldest/youngest thing as well. There are definitely more pictures of my oldest as a baby than the younger 2, but I have never been much of a photographer and their dad and his family have far more photos than I do. I can live with that.

But the pics of my sister – I thought one of her boys might want them, but I cannot reach either of them at the moment. There are some other personal papers to be shredded, but I will keep their birth and death certificates for awhile to come. There are also a couple of pictures of my very young parents that I may have framed to hang in the house.

Funny, but I never saw my parents wedding album until after my mom died, and now I don’t know what to do with it. I might feel more inclined to keep it if I had memories of looking at it with my folks, or even my mom. Now, it’s an album of strangers.

It’s funny to me the things she kept, and the ways she kept them. Since I am not very sentimental, I cannot imagine keeping keepsakes boxed and neatly labeled and never opened after being packed up and put away. Yet there was all sorts of stuff like that in her home. I found lovely clothes still with tags attached that she’d bought 40 years ago that were “too nice” to wear everyday. There were so many things like that in the house – too nice to use for special occasions, and holidays were not quite special enough. I am absolutely sure that attitude fuels my feelings that nice things for special occasions are completely wasted on me. My kids, my closes friends – we have fond memories of special occasions with paper plates and Round Table Pizza. It’s the company that is memorable and important, not the place setting and fancy flatware. I appreciate those things, especially for people who enjoy and pride themselves on setting a fine table. For me, its not a priority.

I feel some sorrow tossing or giving away things she saved and that were somehow important to her yet are completely meaningless to me. Even my daughter’s dolls, when she died 21 years ago next month, hold little sentiment. I did ask C about it, if she’d like me to save for her, but even she said to let them go, because there are no memories of her sister playing with them.

Such a surreal thing that I’m the last one standing in my family of origin.

I have been trying to put our vast quantities of stuff into a fiscal form so that M can better understand my frustration with the stockpile of stuff he might want or need sometime in the future. There is a cost to storing and keep all this miscellaneous crap. Our 2 car garage has shelving on either side completely stuffed to the gills, we have a small storage building out back (fun fact: prior owners were pot growers) that has tools and equipment and stuff that is rarely used, but when he needs it, he needs it. My point: when he needs it we could rent it.

After dealing with my mom’s house and all her stuff, I know I don’t want to leave such a legacy for my own children. M and I are both in good health and do not anticipate expiring soon, but in addition to getting our end-of-life directives, wills, and trust documents prepared and now to be updated for the kids’ marriages last year, decluttering our crap seems in order.

The job is getting done, but not quite at the peppy pacing I would prefer.

Maybe nothing is certain but death and taxes, but ours are done for another year. I did taxes last week, and each year seems to be getting better, inching me closer and closer to breaking even at tax time and knowing I am doing an accurate job with estimated tax payments through the year. This year, we owe the state $287 and will receive $17 back from the IRS, for a net taxes due of $280. I can live with that.

Hopefully it’s a good long life. We have a lot of crap to go through.