Posts Tagged ‘ money ’

Singles Discrimination

If you’re a long-time single like me, you know what I’m referring to because you’ve experienced it. If you’re not single, you’re probably guilty of doing it.

There’s the way single people are often excluded overtly as well as subtly in social situations… For example, my church offered a “Dinners for Eight” event, until someone pointed out that not all people come in pairs.

Singles get stiffed when making travel arrangements—everything is offered based on “double occupancy”. I’m penalized monetarily if I want to have the same experience on a cruise or tour as a twosome does, because I don’t happen to have anyone I want to share the experience with in close quarters.

Never mind that I don’t have anyone to share it with, why don’t you just rub it in? Or what if I like to travel alone? I still have to pay a “single supplement”.

What am I supplementing? I’m compensating them for the business income they are surely losing without another body on the same cruise/tour, in the same bedroom, and consuming the auxiliary amenities. By an odd twist, I recently got a better room rate at a hotel in Scotland by changing my seven-day stay to eight days. Even though I added a day, the overall charge went down, because to get the extra day, I had to switch from a room with two twin beds to one with only a double bed. Although I had originally booked the two-bed room in hopes that a friend could go with me, I’ll be more comfortable on my own in the double bed. And I save about $200, which I interpret to be the difference between washing only one set of sheets and towels instead of two.

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a free-dinner sales pitch for estate planning. Here as well, they charge a single person the same as a couple for the identical package of estate documents and services, or rather a married couple gets a 50% discount. How is that OK? How does that make sense?

Are we all supposed to die in pairs, too?


What Do I Want?

I was just surprised to receive a $50 Amazon gift certificate in appreciation for a presentation that I gave last month for my local STC chapter (Lone Star). This was my first time to be “the speaker” at a monthly meeting and therefore a professional milestone. After 12 years of STC membership, I knew that speakers agreed to present at their own expense (even the ones from out of town). But I also knew that the chapter typically presented an appreciation gift to the speaker.

I had no idea that it would amount to $50! especially for a “local” speaker. So I was surprised to receive the gift by way of email yesterday.

It’s an interesting coincidence that just last month I sent an Amazon gift certificate to a friend in honor of her 60th birthday. Prior to that purchase, I had placed my first ever order on Amazon for 2011 tax software. Other than these two purchases, I am not familiar with Amazon at all.

But now I have the opportunity to purchase $50-worth of anything I want from Amazon! The problem is that I have no idea what I want or where to begin.

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but I am not a shopper. So window shopping, or its present day equivalent, browsing, I just don’t find to be inspirational nor a good use of my time. Besides, with the breadth of Amazon, I think I could easily start down that path never to return…

I am not someone who always has the goal of her next acquisition in mind. My goal is to satisfy my financial obligations and ultimately, to have financial security, whatever that is.

I am not an extravagant person. While I do claim to have educated taste and to enjoy things and experiences of sophisticated quality and value, somehow I don’t have a list-in-waiting of “things” I need to satisfy those abstract desires.

I want to be comfortable in every sense.

I want to be sated with good quality, well-prepared food .

I want to be challenged and ultimately gratified in meeting the challenge in my professional career.

I want to be respected.

I want to be accepted and embraced in all of my uniqueness.

I want to be celebrated despite the fact that my birthday is on February 14.

But … I just can’t figure out how to buy any of these things on Amazon.

And that’s because my wants are simple. My wants are basic.

In other words, I just don’t “want” anything that can be bought on Amazon. Either I already have what I want or

I need to keep shopping.

What color is my house?

The walls, that is. The interior walls. I don’t know!

Actually, it’s not “my” house, my residence–it’s my rental property, whose walls I personally painted every square inch of in a most pleasing, warm, “designer” color. But I can’t remember what color it is!

I still have the Kelly Moore swatches from which I picked the color in 2004. I even have the receipt from Kelly Moore for the purchase of five gallons of #26. That has to be the color I chose for the walls, right? But the swatch looks nothing like the color I see on the walls in 2011, the color I gambled on, the color I love. This bland color “Oyster” cannot be the color of satisfaction that I see on my walls.

As the responsible owner and maintainer of this property, from my initial remodel through three tenants, surely I kept a record of my original color choice? And most definitely I have at least a partial gallon of it in my inventory of supplies. I’m that organized! Because I know there will always be paint touch-ups to do between tenants.

But after the most recent three-year tenancy, I am horrified to find that among the many cans of paint, I have not one labeled to indicate it is THE wall paint. In fact, I have several cans of paint of various mystery colors and applications. Interior or exterior? This house or that one?! This lack of documentation is uncharacteristic of me and just plain irresponsible of a landlord and businessperson.

But chastisements aside, I need paint. I need more than “touch-up” paint. I’ve just had drywall repair done in one of the upstairs bedrooms, the result of water damage from shingles that blew away. I have to have the exact right color of paint. In this large of an area, it will be noticeable if it’s not.

Despite my original receipt for #26 Oyster, the day after Christmas I went to Kelly Moore and confidently requested that they mix a quart of #231 Spanish Sand. The name Spanish Sand has a much warmer feel to it, don’t you think? 

And the swatch more closely matched the color in my memory, the color I had risked my neck to paint on every inch of a two-story stairwell. In that house, the light is so changeable. The paint seems to vary from wall to wall as light hits it from different angles at different times of day. But Spanish Sand had to be my color. It’s warmth matched my feeling of satisfaction that I had chosen a good color, my gamble had paid off the first time.

Later that day I began to apply the paint to the repaired wall. The very first stroke of paint raised my suspicion. Several strokes later I told myself that it would dry to a lighter color. By the time I finished the area, I knew that it most likely would not.

What could I do? At this point, I could only wait for it to dry. I had plenty else to do to restore the house to its pre-tenancy sheen.

OK, so I bought the wrong color! I guess you could say that at least I ruled one out.

Saturday I went back to Kelly Moore. I took the 2004 receipt in hopes that they would tell me their numbers had changed! Or that they had mixed this paint incorrectly. I still couldn’t believe that #26 Oyster was the welcoming color that covered my walls. They told me the best thing would be to bring them at least a quarter-size piece of the painted wall so they could match it. Right. And where exactly should I cut into the drywall to deface my beautiful walls?

It occurred to me that I could get such a sample from behind the thermostat. So the next day I unscrewed the thermostat to find that I had only painted around it. No paint sample there. But there was the security system keypad. Had I painted around it? or removed it from the wall to paint underneath?

The wall underneath was painted! So against all common sense, I cut a wedge out of the wall, which widened the gaping hole already there for the wiring. I can always put it back later, the Kelly Moore guy had said. Painters do it all the time. The small drywall sample threatened to crumble into less than quarter size, so I gingerly laid it aside.

After a full day’s work at the house, I brought the sample home to compare to the swatches. Silly me. It was immediately apparent that my beloved color was in fact #26 Oyster. Forgive me if I still prefer to think of it in terms of more appealing imagery.

And I found that I did still have a partial gallon of “Oyster”. I knew it! I would not have left myself without at least a dried-up can of each of the colors that adorn my two houses. As to why I hadn’t labeled them more clearly, well, that was a $16 mistake.

Anybody need some paint in Spanish Sand?

The colors continue tomorrow…

Almost Reached the Summit

(continued from 6/26, “Time to Commit”)

At 4:00 a.m. Sunday, May 15, I left home headed for off-airport parking. My final destination that day would be Sacramento, CA. I’d never been to Sacramento. I hoped that my early arrival in town would allow for at least one local sightseeing pleasure. Otherwise, I was going to regret the decision to pack, not only my laptop, but also my weighty old Minolta X-700 SLR in my carry-on suitcase.

When I arrived at the parking lot, there was a shuttle van about to leave for DFW. I asked for the driver to wait for me while I signed in. Good. That put me on my way to the airport right on time, according to my carefully planned schedule. I felt even better after we arrived at my departure terminal, after making stops at another terminal first.

Now it was time for the next dance—the Security Shuffle. You know how ballroom dancers wear a completely different costume for every performance? Going through airport security is almost like changing your clothes for the next dance, except that you hope you end up putting back on the same ones you took off, not someone else’s. And you hope that someone else is not looking to steal the show, the impostor who dances off in your costume.

The security dance also requires choreography to be sure every component of your presentation for x-ray scanning is in proper form, in the specified type of container or not. If you rehearsed the timing correctly, you can move through scanning of the human component to be reunited with your partner components right on cue. Then begins the part of the dance where you reassemble the remaining pieces of your dignity and walk away as if nothing happened.

OK. I and all of my component parts made it through security without incident. Now all I have to do is find my departure gate and wait for boarding. I’m in good shape. I can relax from now until we land in LAX—no more hurdles ’til then, except for hoisting the lens- and laptop-laden Travelpro® into and out of the overhead bin. But that’s what eyelashes are for.

The flight left and landed on time at 9:35 a.m. Dallas time, 7:35 in California. Now I had to make an American Eagle connection to Sacramento. When I first booked this trip, the LAX layover was reasonable, if not a little too tight for comfort. But a few days after booking it, AA changed my itinerary to a later connecting flight. I had more than three hours to hesitate at LAX, so close to my anticipated destination—Sacramento—but unable to reach The Summit just yet.

Ah, but this was one reason I decided to lug my laptop. After finding some breakfast, I would spend the time writing on my book and looking as important and interesting as all the other people typing away on their own novels I’m sure. In the main terminal, Burger King had a line waiting to get in line, but BK fit my budget. Starbuck’s next door was a tempting option (I did have a gift card), but I wanted some protein in my breakfast calories. This would be a long day.

Getting and eating breakfast trimmed my layover time a good bit. I wandered toward the American Eagle terminal, which was in a different wing. It looked like once I set off on that path, there would be no going back for food service. I purchased a large Diet Coke and headed toward the last leg of my journey toward The Summit.

(to be continued)

You Can’t Be Serious

Last week a friend confessed that he’s jealous of me right now. Seriously?

Sure, I don’t have to get up in the mornings on a schedule. I don’t have to be anywhere in particular at any certain time. I don’t have to deal with people in the workplace. I don’t have to get dressed. I don’t have to get up in the mornings at all.

Many mornings when I wake up, I do have to choke back the fear that rises from my stomach. I have to consciously push away the panic. It takes effort to stay calm and rational to try to do something constructive about a situation that could end up in financial disaster.

I worry with the knowledge that the longer I’m without work, the less employable I become in the eyes of those with hiring authority. I’m concerned that my colleagues will think I’m a slacker. I fear that I could lose touch with the profession in general. I struggle to be creative, but truthful in keeping my resume current-looking.

I don’t spend money. I buy groceries only with coupons. I pay bills. I put gas in my car. But I don’t go anywhere. The less I drive, the further the gas tank will get me when it has to.

Today I learned that my current hottest job prospect fell through. Yes, I can see how one would envy the opportunity to deal with rejection on a regular basis.

I second guess my job search decisions. Maybe I should have… Why didn’t I?… If only… This is all my fault.

Typically, during times of unemployment, I lose weight from the emotional stress, if not the scaled down grocery bill. I’m not sure whether it’s a good sign this time that I haven’t begun to lose the extra pounds gained during better times.

I check my bank balance several times throughout the day. Sometimes I need to cover bills I’ve sent for payment, only right before they hit my account. I don’t want to withdraw from savings to cover them until the last minute. I have to be vigilant as I watch my savings go backward. I need to witness the loss of every penny.

Though I’ve always lived within my means, that’s an impossible challenge now. Yet some months, I miraculously break even on unemployment (when I get it) and rental income, which totals less than a third of my previous income. I am a long-time witness to the multiplier effect of loaves and fishes.

During the 2008 break in employment, my toaster oven died. To date I have not replaced it. My security system lost critical functionality last summer. Recently it died altogether. And last week the police left a notice on my door about recent crime in the neighborhood. They’ve never done that before.

The master bath toilet stopped up during the February freeze. How can I justify calling a plumber, when I have a second bathroom? My car has been leaking brake fluid. I’m afraid to even get it checked to see why or where. Last Monday, my kitchen garbage disposal croaked. Actually, it became terminally silent.

The list ranges from petty annoyance to valid safety concerns, but none of these repairs will see any money. To me, they all represent dollars I’m not willing to spend. Sure, I could get all of these issues resolved with the money I have. But rather than help it run dry, I prefer not to spend that money until the well begins to replenish itself. I consider it wise self-punishment to endure these inconveniences in my otherwise carefree existence.

But worthy of jealousy?

Oh yeah, Saturday my old PC gave up the ghost, at least I think that’s what that noise meant. The good news there is that I also think I had already retrieved all the information on it that I needed as material for this book. You know, the one that I have so much time and luxury to work on right now, because I don’t have anywhere else to be.

Sorry to ruin your day with so many reasons to be jealous.

God Speaks Burrito

I’ve discovered that I’m motivated by food and money.

I come from a long line of eaters. Whenever I spend time with any of my family, the main form of recreation is eating. We’re not big on activities that involve much of anything else.

Going out to eat is one of my favorite things to do. But I don’t do it very often. It costs money. The fact that I don’t eat out often makes it all the more special. If someone actually takes me out to eat, that is, pays for my meal, to me that’s an indication that they care for me. The fact that they are willing to spend money for my benefit is a meaningful expression. And their company along with the meal means that we share something more than just food (or money). We share our time. We share our stories.

Money is like food, in that we all gotta have it. And some have more than others.

Money is important to me because I’m solely responsible for my financial well-being. So like eating out, I don’t spend money very often. I mean I don’t spend money on anything other than the bills and other necessities to live. And what I consider necessities are generally less than what most other people think they have to have. So when I spend money for something “unnecessary”, it’s a significant decision and act for me. Even treating myself to Taco Bueno is special!

God speaks my language. He speaks to me with food and money.

Sometimes I find money, cash even, when I’m in financial stress. During one time of unemployment, I found a five dollar bill in my front yard when I went out to go to church on Sunday. The five bucks meant that I could go to lunch with the singles group that day.

Back in June 2010, right after I first learned that my contract renewal (set to expire in July) would likely be even more problematic than previous times, I found three dollar bills in the ladies room at work. The folded bills had obviously fallen out of someone’s pocket or purse. My first impulse was to post a lost-and-found note on the mirror as people often do. But then I decided that perhaps the $3 was “put there” for me, it was meant as a sign to me. God would provide as always.

On one of my “can walks” last December (recall the Macy’s bag lady post), I was almost back home when I noticed what looked like a bill in the grass. It was in someone’s yard but relatively near the curb. I debated about picking it up. Chances are the wind would blow it elsewhere and if it had belonged to the homeowner, they would never see it again. If it had been lost by one of the neighborhood children/youth who traipse the street to the convenience store, and if they realized it, would they have any idea where to return to find it?

To further rationalize, I’d say it was almost technically lying in the public easement and thus fair game, but I still hesitated to breach someone’s yard. Then, I decided this small token, this too, was meant for me. Whether it was meant as a sign or not, I chose to see it that way, not to justify my taking it, but as another reminder of God’s care. It was just a buck, but it had great value to me.

Last week was a bit of a downer. Nothing catastrophic, but several things occurred that upset or depressed me, things related to work and money. Early this week, I was still trying to pull out of it, and I allowed myself to visit Taco Bueno for lunch one day between (necessary) errands. (Note the import of eating out and spending money!) After getting my food, I noticed a wrapped, unopened burrito on a nearby table. No tray, nothing else on the table. At first I thought it was trash. Then I thought someone must have just gone to the salsa bar and would be back to eat or retrieve it.

Finally I realized that for whatever reason, the person had left it there for someone else to take and eat. While your mother might tell you that it’s dangerous to eat food when you don’t know where it’s been, I was pretty confident in knowing where this came from. God had provided me food for the next day and I accepted the gift. The fact that it was one of my favorite menu items—a bean burrito—how can you not understand the message in that?

God speaks my language, rich in well-timed inflection.

Don’t Ask a Writer an Open-ended Question

Yesterday, a friend asked me an innocent question in email: “How is your day, moving right along?” The following is what he got from me in response.

I’ve been outside since about the time you sent this. (You realize that you just asked for a long story, right? Because I have to start at the beginning …)

Yesterday’s schedule got messed up – a lunch appointment had to be changed to dinner – which messed up my plans to go out for a walk after lunch, and so I just wasn’t very productive yesterday. Only a page and a half on the book. Was also still taken aback by that vehement response to my blog subscription reminder. So ONE person doesn’t appreciate what I’m trying to do here!

I was determined to get in my walk today. But it was raining more and later than the previous day’s forecasts had seemed to indicate. Soooo, I had no choice but to suck it up and write the part about when I was laid off from [company name]. That was definitely procrastination worthy. But I did it. With fear and trembling and four pages later, there it was.

About that time it stopped raining, appropriately, and I thought I deserved a break. First lunch, then my neighborhood exploratory “can” walk. (Did I tell you I’m a bag lady?) I’ve taken to combing the streets to pick up aluminum cans for cash recycling, and I get a little exercise (and a lot of strange looks) in the process. I did this back in 1990 when I was out of work! Back then, I rode a bicycle on my rounds. I got more than strange looks then.

After what was maybe an hour and a half sojourn and a Macy’s bag full of cans, I returned home. (I love the juxtaposition of a Macy’s bag to contain the pittance that the cans will bring, as well as the dichotomy in being a Macy’s bag lady.) The cans are “processed” in my backyard, where I have a large tub full of rainwater to wash them in. Some of them can be pretty nasty and I’m not just talking about dirt. (Oh yeah, I wear gloves when I comb the streets. But I did get a cut on my finger today by a jagged edge. I am nothing if not hygienic at my every, earliest convenience, and I think I shall live despite this injury.)

So now that the wind has dried up just about everything including my skin, I cannot resist hanging out in the yard to tackle some of the weeds that dare show their ugly heads so soon. (Did I tell you that I’m a weed fanatic, aka the neighborhood crazy lady?) I got out my trusty little stool that I always sit on to get up close and personal with these here weeds. I want them to know who’s yanking them out of the ground on which they trespass!

And by the time my back says “Enough!” it’s well after 4:00. That, my friend, is how I rolled today. From here, in the absence of any phone calls or emails that say they absolutely must speak to me to offer me my dream job (or any ole job), I am about to do some coloring.

I’ve gone completely round the bend! I’ve regressed to childhood. No, my roots are showing, dude, so I’m coloring my hair. If only my hair could regress to childhood. Shocking, I know, but I’m not a natural grey head. Gooey, smelly fun awaits!

Later, P 🙂

OMG. I think you just witnessed my next blog post!

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