"Love My Way, It's a New Road"

Miami Money

I was in Miami this weekend because Taz and her hubby are spending a week relaxing in a quiet AirBnb house complete with heated saltwater pool. A pandemic haven. It is a beautiful, 2-bedroom, 1-bath oasis that is minutes from the airport and beach. I picked the kiddos up at the airport and we immediately went to Joe’s Stone Crab, a Miami institution, for lunch.

Let me back up for a minute. Everyone had a Covid test beforehand, Taz has been vaccinated, careful protocols were in place for this visit. Taz and her hubby are being careful and using only grocery delivery and outdoor restaurants.

Back to Miami. It was nice being back. Miami has a vibe to it that is unlike any other city in the US. People are out and about, with masks on. I was warned that masks were optional, but I didn’t see that too much What I did see was Miami money on full display. Have you seen a Rolls Royce Cullinan, their SUV? I saw two. The starting price is $330,000.

Another popular choice is the Audi Spyder. It starts at a more affordable $155,000. I have always liked this one.

Porsches are a dime a dozen in Miami. The 911 GT3 is a popular choice. I saw several. Starting price around $190,000.

How about Lambos and Ferraris? Yep plus Maserati and Bentleys. All told I easily saw over $2 million of autos in a 20 minute drive. Crazy, right? What’s crazier is seeing them as I drove past a park full of homeless people sleeping on benches. Miami is a city of extremes. Very, very rich and very, very poor. Living virtually next to each other.

Do I have any envy? Nope, just mild interest. I have let go of envy a long time ago. I have lived amongst blatant displays of wealth for decades and it means nothing to me these days. I know a lot of it is false displays of wealth, drug/illegal money, foreign capital hidden safely in the US, inherited. Some of it is rightfully earned by the entrepreneurs that come from all over the world to Miami because it is a city that will embrace anyone. However, most of the skyscapers in this city were built with laundered drug money, Hong Kong capital, wealthy South Americans seeking a safe haven for their legal and illegal gains. It is a crazy town.

But I always have noticed the cars and I am not a car person. It was the first thing I noticed when I arrived back in the summer of 1984. The next thing I notice with a smile are the handbags. Prada, Fendi, Louis Vitton — you name it, they are easily spotted. Once again, it is notable, but not meaningful to me. I drive a fully paid for Hyundai and carry a $20 purse from Target that I love (anything with a tassel wins my heart). Guess what? The Hyundai gets me where I need to be and the purse holds my stuff. I am at peace.

It was great spending time with Taz and her hubby. I haven’t seen them in over a year. I’ll pop down later this week for one more visit. They are happy, busy and have a lot going on this year. It is wonderful to see them and have some conversations that are best had in person and not on the phone. Nothing earth-shattering, just those things that are best in person.

More will follow, but for now, this is enough.

Food Challenge

I enjoy personal challenges. It enables me to make a plan and see how well I can stick to it. I started January with the idea of a food challenge. It was quite simple.

I had noticed my freezer and pantry were packed yet I kept buying more food. That goes against my emerging minimalist lifestyle. Then I wondered how long could I live off of my current food supplies. My guess was 3 months. Game on.

My rules have been:

  1. I can purchase perishables. If it goes in the frig, that’s fine. This enables me to have fresh fruits and veggies, eggs, milk and the like.
  2. Inventory what I have in both the freezer and pantry so I know what I have to work with. This resulted in a decent bag of things for the food pantry. It was stuff I simply won’t eat so why the heck did I buy it?

I just reviewed January’s scorecard. How did I do? Not too bad.

  • The major win was my grocery bill dropped to less than half my usual spending. I was impressed.
  • Although I did buy a few pantry items, it typically was due to a specific recipe that was missing a key ingredient (chicken stock was the main culprit).
  • I bought no meats except some ham for a recipe. I still have plenty of proteins for February. That is probably a large part of my savings.
  • I only had one large grocery purchase during the entire month and it was only $76. My other purchases were around $10 to pick up my perishables.
  • My portions and meals are reduced. For whatever reason, I’m looking at simpler meals. For lunch, this past week I had snack boxes of half a pita with hummus, tabbouleh and some grapes. My weight hasn’t dropped, but that’s OK. I will continue working on my portion control.

I’ve enjoyed the challenge. It’s been entertaining me and pushing me to be resourceful. Let’s see how February goes.

Not my pantry….

Existential Crisis

I have been pushing for answers to questions that don’t need answers for a year or two. I want to make plans for a retirement that is over ten years away. I am trying to stretch far into the future rather than focus on the here and now.

I am ignoring my own advice that I give to others. I reminded myself to calm the f@*k down and take my own advice. It made me chuckle and pause.

Last weekend when I was volunteering at a food bank, I gave the following advice: don’t try to plan more than 1-2 years ahead. Maybe 3, but no further than that.

I gave that advice to my son when he was graduating from college and I repeated it to another youngster who is also in their senior year of college. The youngster asked, I didn’t volunteer.

At the food bank, this youngster lead off our discussion with “do you think a college degree is beneficial?” I said yes and explained that even my liberal arts degree opened doors just because I had a college degree.

I asked if they were in college and sure enough they were approaching graduation and had no idea what their next step should be. Their mom has had the same job for over 30 years and can give them no context.
I said that there are jobs today that weren’t around when I graduated and the same would hold true for them.

Then I gave my suggestion to only look at a shorter time frame and not put pressure on themselves to figure out their entire life. I think they were relieved. My other advice was to get to know their professors so if they need a letter of reference, the professors will be more willing to write one. Then I bit my tongue and let them absorb my pearls of wisdom.

I later told my daughter about this conversation and she laughed. She said that all of her friends loved my mentoring and it is something I excel at. It made me feel warm and fuzzy to hear that.

Now I need to listen to my own advice. I have been looking at realtor.com incessantly over the past week or so. I love looking at houses, but I have spent a lot of time thinking about buying something and wanting to figure out a community and neighborhood that would suit me. I know that its too soon because I don’t have the savings to proceed with a 20% down payment, but I scroll through anyway. I also haven’t found a neighborhood that resonates with me. More scrolling.

Yesterday I read something that says most millennials take over 4 years to save for their first home. I am in a similar situation, so I paused and thought about that. I don’t really have 4 years to wait if I want to pay off my home by retirement. I have 2 years or so.

I need to define what I want. It dawned on me today that I could simply buy something close to work and then at retirement I could sell it to move to my happy place. Keep in mind that my happy place is yet to be defined.

This would all work because I would own the first spot for at least 5 years, probably 8-10 years. I have to loosen my thinking and realize that if I buy something, it isn’t forever. I am only looking at a 5-year or so commitment.

Plus let’s face it, this pandemic isn’t going away too easily. It is looking quite stubborn, so I want to create an oasis where I am content to spend my free time. That means a little extra room and a pleasant vista to gaze upon. Plus some other things I need to think about. Cicero wrote,

“Hours and days and months and years go by; the past returns no more, and what is to be we cannot know; but whatever the time gives us in which we live, we should therefore be content.”

Let me go back to focusing on contentment….

You are Blocked

Don’t send me an angry text full of baseless claims out of nowhere. Therefore, I had to change my phone settings so….

You are blocked.

Why don’t you have access to Roku and Netflix? Because…

You are blocked.

I hope you find peace. I wish you well. In order to keep my remaining warm feelings in my heart for you, I have to make sure….

You are blocked.

So you can’t burn down all that we once had. Please leave me in peace. I am protecting myself so…

You are blocked.

It Has Been Awhile

My apologies for going dark for so long. I just haven’t felt the itching to write. Now I sit on my lovely balcony with a glass of wine in me and inspiration springs forth – LOL.

Quick updates:

  • My Thelma & Louise trip was awesome. She cooked, we did a boat tour. It was fabulous. I loved the area and want to return. We talked about our vision boards, goals, etc. All good stuff.
  • My son’s holiday visit was lovely. We cooked, hung out, explored a little. It was wonderful spending time with him.
  • No, the former BFF has not attempted to make contact. Oh well. That speaks volumes.
  • I just got my final shingles vaccine. I am happy that’s over. Interestingly, they won’t give it to you within 2 weeks of a COVID vaccine, so govern yourself accordingly.
  • My parents and Taz got their first COVID vaccine. I am very thankful.
  • The Capitol riot got me stirred up, but I won’t delve into those troubled waters.

Today is a payday and I was thinking about getting a fancy takeout dinner. That lead me through websites of nearby restaurants that I am now itching to visit. Sigh. That won’t be any time soon though. I am going to cook a fancy pasta dish instead.

I do miss a semblance of a social life. The ability to sit at the bar of a nice restaurant and have a great meal with great ambience. I miss doing some of these MeetUp groups so I can try to make some friends. It’s OK, I am not going to be careless. Sigh.

My 1Q 2021 goals are so….boring. Do my taxes – both the LLC and personal. I have a license up for renewal, so I have to do an online class. Hopefully paint my dresser to match the bookcase. Yawn. All this solo adulting stuff. It’s OK, I keep telling myself.

I am buying lottery tickets though. The daydreaming of winning keeps my mind occupied…. I hope all of you are safe and well. More to follow, but right now I need to fix my fancy pasta dish.

Not mine, but mine will have shrimp….

Hello Dear Readers! I hope you are able to find sparks of happiness during this difficult season. It’s been a shitty year, hasn’t it? I, however, have been full of gratitude because I made so many major life changes in 2019 and the beginning of 2020.

The following major shifts created a safe place for me to ride out the pandemic:

  • I took a 9-5 job. This is the biggest of all. I traded the freedom and income instability of an entrepreneur for a set schedule, steady income and strong benefits.
  • I embraced a very frugal life which enabled me to pay off all of my debt, create an emergency fund and restart my retirement savings.
  • Getting a small apartment has freed me of clutter and stuff. I find I feel great when my apartment is tidy and uncluttered.
  • The quarantine and staying home has given me space and time to think, read and quiet myself. It also saves me money.
  • My job has provided a really nice group of folks that provide some of the social chitchat that I need. I will even say not working from home has been a blessing because it kept me sane in some ways.
  • My return to Toastmasters has provided a social outlet albeit in Zoom, but it is a small tribe I dearly love.
  • Parting ways with the Hunter has lessened my stress and feelings of obligation. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for him, but it was time to end our relationship. I haven’t heard from him in months and that’s OK. We need the silence between us. Hunter, if you are reading this, I wish you well, but we won’t be getting back together.

That was 2019 and 2020. A time of big, bold changes coupled with quiet space to think, write and read.

Now we move into 2021. What do I see? Not much of a change from my quiet 2020. I don’t think I will be able to get vaccinated until the summer. I want it ASAP, but there are others that need to be in front of me. That’s OK. I will just keep doing what I am doing. I am adding some new socially distanced activities of volunteering.

This time last year I was in New York City with my kids. What a magical trip filled with good food, family, laughter, Christmas lights. I am blessed to have those memories.

Today I am blessed to have my son with me for a few days before he heads off to see his dad. Yesterday we cooked together which was both delicious and fun. I helped him with some last minute Christmas shopping. Today we are planning a beautiful walk along the water. Tonight we are having dinner outside with my friends (who had COVID over the summer). Tomorrow I will take him down to his dad.

I know, I know – that all doesn’t sound very COVID safe. But we wear our masks, wash our hands and are aware of our activities. After I drop my son off, I will head back and take a long walk because I will use that time to count my blessings.

Here is my Christmas post from last year. It has a link to another Christmas past. I read both just now and found yet another from 2014 that all still resonate with me.

A special thank you to my Dear Readers. I know many of you have had serious challenges this year. I have been thinking, praying and sending positive vibes to you. I hope 2021 brings you better times. Merry Christmas!

My Pandemic Downside

Just over a year ago, I moved to a new place about 70 miles from Miami, my home for the past 25+ years. Back in the innocent days of 2019, I had plans to create a new social life here through a variety of activities. I had it all figured out. Then March 2020 rolled around and the world shut down. There went my social calendar.

At first I was fine. I had lots of check-ins with the family. The Hunter was still in the picture, so I had a warm body in my bed on weekends. Work was a bit scary, but I soldiered on.

Now I have no Hunter (my choice) and no new friends because I am not doing any MeetUps or other social activities (my choice). I have my weekly Toastmasters Zoom meeting and work. I talk to my kids and dad weekly. My life is a bit dull.

I tell myself that boring is OK. It is, but it is just so….dull. I do the same things each day. My work is very slow right now, so I whip through it in about two hours. Then I spend another 6 hours reading the paper, trade newsletters, doing some personal paperwork, etc. I have slowed my pace dramatically. Dull.

And boring will continue to be my new normal until I get my vaccine. I will be at the back of the line – not by choice but because there are so many that need it before me (elderly, healthcare workers, etc).

It is time to explore some new hobbies. Focus on my exercise and weight loss journey. Do the little cross-stitch project I bought. I use to love cross-stitch. Try knitting (again). I enjoyed my first couple of practices. My brain needs a bit more engagement. I need some new friends since most of my old ones are either geographically undesirable or crazy.

I volunteered at the food bank this weekend and that brightened my spirits considerably. Plus work did some silly Secret Santa activities that were fun. Next year I plan to schedule more in-person, but socially-distant volunteering. I will return to the food bank and there is a mentoring program I want to check out. That should help chase the doldrums away.

I wrote this last week and just updated it with the paragraph above. My son arrives soon. We have plans with my work friend and her hubby for Christmas Eve. I got past the sticky part, but I know I have to keep busy because it will return if I don’t.

I think I need more beach days…

How to Let Go?

I am reading a great book, “You Can Buy Happiness” by Tammy Strobel. It is about her journey to downsize her life, how she did it, why, her tiny house, going car-free and other changes in her habits. I needed this book in my life right now because I see some lifestyle creep occurring, and I need to nip it immediately.

Right now I am sitting on my patio, nursing a fading migraine and planning to clean up my cluttered, messy apartment in preparation for my son’s arrival. Once again, I need to figure out how to get rid of stuff that I don’t need or use.

One albatross that has been with me since my divorce is my grandmother’s mahogany dining room set. It is not too large, but it does seat 6, has insertable leaves to expand to 8. A corner hutch and buffet round out the set. It needs to be refinished and that will run me about $4500. It is too big for me. I want to live in a small apartment and it simply takes up far too much space.

One thought I just had is to call my aunt and see if one of her three daughters wants it. I would even pay for the shipping if that’s the case. I have been hanging onto it for my kids, but once again my shallow reserves of patience are draining. Hmmm, just writing this post is clearing my thinking and giving me a plan.

I will keep the set for another year or two. Ugh. Give Taz time to settle and let her make a final decision. If she says no, then the cousins come next. There are about 6 or so female cousins who are young and may love to have it. Once again, I will pay for the shipping and maybe a donation towards restoration to help everyone out. It would make me feel better about letting it go if I know it’s staying in the family. That would be a win-win for everyone. Whew, a plan is hatched! Now I just need to wait. Lovely, a test of my patience….

Mine is prettier, but you get the idea…

Thelma & Louise

I have planned a New Years socially distanced getaway to a picturesque beach town north of me. I got a two-bedroom oceanfront condo hoping my work bestie and her husband could join me. They have other plans, but I was undeterred and was going anyway by myself.

I envisioned leisurely walks on the beach interspersed with bike rides. Writing, reading and generally re-charging and saying good-bye in a quiet state of solitude. That’s not happening.

I mentioned my upcoming trip during my recent Zoom Toastmaster meeting and one of my long-time Toastmasters girlfriends perked up. She will now be officially as Thelma (Susan Sarandon’s character). She is a kooky blast and even resembles Susan a bit. She is an older Baby Boomer hippie, very successful although pretty much retired, tenacious, smart. When she walks into the room, she expects all eyes on her (in an endearing way). She is always my go-to for adventure.

Over the years, we have been seat fillers for an Oprah stadium event, sat third row for the taping of Trevor Noah’s show and met him afterwards, met the creator of the Moth ( amazing public radio story-telling show) and more. If there is fun and excitement to be had, Thelma is there.

She is so excited about the trip because she has been on lockdown very diligently since March. She suggested we do our Vision Boards (I loved that idea) and she is looking into other activities. I dubbed her the social director.

We plan on each bringing one meal so cooking is minimized. I’m bringing a very expensive bottle of champagne and she’s bringing the weed. LOL. Look out, because Thelma & Louise will be hitting the road after Christmas!

Update: Crazy Ladies

At work, things unfolded uneventfully. I was thankful I kept my mouth shut and waited. I have a standing Tuesday call with my boss and a consultant. My boss sounded horrible during the call and could not complete a sentence without coughing. I knew returning to work was not happening.

COVID has hit her hard. It’s a wonder she isn’t in the hospital. She uses a concierge doctor, and has talked to him regularly, so she is cared for. She acknowledged that returning to work was not in the cards. She had that pattern of feeling better and than WHAM, the cyto surge (or whatever it’s called) hits and you’re down again.

She continues to work, refuses to put her laptop down for long and rest. It’s sad to watch. I have avoided anything but essential communication. She got my full update during the consultant’s call.

Esther Perel made a comment on her “How’s Work Podcast,” that resonated with me about my boss. She was talking about people who choose to work all day and night without boundaries (my boss). She talked about often times this type behavior is the result of a person feeling unloved or unlovable, and thus they decide to behave in such a way to make themselves feel needed. “If I can’t be loved, I can be needed.” That describes my boss.

So first crazy lady is not putting me in harm’s way and I did not have to make any fuss. Whew!

I don’t have much of an update on crazy lady BFF. She has gone radio silent. I am not about to call her. She needs to reach out to me and atone for her awful accusations. I am still quite pissed. Once again, I will sit tight and let thing unfold.

Life has returned to the mundane. Secret Santa is this week. My office figured out how to do a socially distanced one. It involves Zoom, so to make it fun they have prizes for creative backgrounds, ugly sweater/creative attire and the like. I have pulled out the hot glue gun and will be creating something hideous for the occasion.

I am ambitiously baking way too much. Yesterday I made 4 batches of cookie dough which needed to chill. Plus I made some apple fritter bread. The bread stuck to the pan even though it was well greased. I have to decide what to do with it. One is not gift worthy. The other was salvageable. Today I will make cookies until I am exhausted. I feel the impulse to make stuff, do stuff, busily over prepare for a very quiet Christmas that I will fortunately share with my son. I am grateful for this too.

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