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Archive for December, 2019

Santa Delivered

I am sitting at the airport patiently waiting for my flight. I got here extra early to miss rush hour and deal with the onslaught of holiday travelers. The airport is packed and hectic. I polished off a large glass of wine and plucked out my contacts, so I am very comfy now. They just announced my flight is delayed. No problem.

My Christmas trip with the kids was amazing. Fun, no pressure, lots of just slow chat time. It was a wonderful reconnection. My son was my wingman as we explored the city. No drama, very relaxing. I had a blast.

On Christmas, Santa delivered. If you read my post questioning my relationship with my dad, you will snort with laughter over his gift. He gave me and the kids exactly the same thing. It was my stepmom’s idea. If you didn’t read my post, go there first. I’ll wait.

OK, did you read it? So what did he give each of us? A check. A check that wipes out all of my remaining debt, half my son’s grad school cost and a sizable chunk of my daughter’s student loans. We were speechless. I am still in shock. My SIL said it best, “Granddad for the win”.

My reset is complete. I am able to move forward. My mind is still trying to wrap itself around this great gift. I am so incredibly blessed and lucky.

There are some loose ends to tie up. Primarily the closing on his house must happen and that’s scheduled (for the third time) to happen before the end of the year, so we need a pause so the funds clear.

My mind has been racing and I am itching to get home to my spreadsheets, so I can run my numbers. I am trying to figure out my next steps for my budget. How quickly can I pay off my car? How quickly can I fully fund my emergency fund? When can I bump up my 401k and HSA? What will my budget look like with this extra money? I am so incredibly happy and thankful.

My son-in-law is right. It was Grandad for the win. Grandad and the Stepmom who doesn’t care for kids… I never saw it coming….

Merry Christmas!

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Photo by Chad Madden on Unsplash

I am packed and ready to go.  I spent a lovely weekend with the Hunter.   One of my cookie batches was a fail, but I have other goodies to take, so I’ll leave the gooey (still delicious) mess at home.  Taz, my son and I are giddy with excitement about our upcoming visit.

I hope you, Dear Readers, have a peaceful holiday season.  Best and warmest wishes to you all.

With much gratitude,

Maggie

P.S. If you want to read about the type of man I wished for the Christmas before the Hunter and I began dating, read it here.  It’s only a little naughty….

 

Santa

One of my step-aunts shared a photo of my 80+ year old dad in his Santa suit waving to commuters. This has been his holiday tradition for untold years. It is pretty cute, but as his child, I am mildly irritated. Irritated enough to write this post.

First, a little background. My parents divorced when I was 6 and I saw my dad for holidays and two weeks in the summer thereafter. He wrote monthly and made little effort to spend more time with his kids. He quickly married my stepmom, but they had no kids. I always felt that a) she didn’t like me and my brother because we were a reminder of his previous marriage and 2) she really doesn’t like kids generally.

This meant that any holidays spent with him were with her family. I liked them, but we were the only kids there. Her three sisters had no kids until the youngest adopted. One has a stepson, but she’s divorced from the father. They had their own holiday traditions and we fit in where it was convenient for them. Suffice it to say, those Christmases were not packed with fond memories. They were what they were.

Back to Santa. To me, my dad’s Santa tradition is an example of how little I know about the man. Did he start this because he missed Christmas with his own kids? I seem to recall he was Santa for a non-profit he volunteered for and things grew from there. But I don’t know for sure. I guess I could have a conversation about this with him.

This man, a pillar of his community, put virtually no effort into parenting. He allowed his wife to delay child support checks and write scathing letters to my mom. He is smart and funny, but I have always said he does much better with young adults rather than kids. He tried harder with my brother who went to live with him when he was 15. That didn’t go particularly well, but he paid for my brother’s college and fraternity which is a lot more than he gave me. I got one year of college paid and $2500 for my wedding.

I am asking myself why is this bitterness emerging? I don’t know. I guess I wish I had a better father, but I could have done far worse. I will take benign neglect over abuse any day. I was lucky my stepfather, who was a horrible person, never physically abused me. Here I am 55 years old with my childhood so far behind me still grappling with the aftermath of my childhood. Interesting.

But I agree with Maya Angelou and wouldn’t take nothing for my journey. And most importantly, I have to remember a quote of hers. “It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.”

So in the spirit of Christmas, I forgive the adults of my childhood. I forgive them for the times when they put their needs before a child’s. I forgive them and I fulfilled my promise to myself. Do better. Be a better parent and a better person. I proudly think I am.

Wonderful

My 6-hours with Taz was magical.  We don’t get many moments like this, so I reveled in the time we spent together.  We kicked the day off with a mimosa-filled breakfast, enjoyed the beach for a couple of hours and then got manicures.  I had plenty of solo time with Taz because my Ex and his fiancee finally rolled in around lunch time.  We enjoyed some appetizers and drinks with them.

I had suggested that we all hang out at a nice hotel so Taz would have access to the spa locker room for a shower before her cross country flight.  Thus, the manicures secured our access to the locker room.

We chatted about how things were going for her work, her hubby’s work and all the mundane things going on with me.  She is doing fabulous.  The hubby is kicking butt and getting steady promotions.  They are very happy.  Working incredibly hard, but happy.

The Ex was pleasant and gracious during his portion of the visit. Apparently the row he had with Taz is behind them.   He had the opportunity and invitation to show up earlier, but he didn’t.

Interestingly, he had more info on my Son than I was aware of.  Sigh.  My son is a pretty tight-lipped young man and I realize that having to tell his news to both of us leads to him forgetting who he told what to.  Meh, not that big a deal.

It was a really pleasant day and I was happy, happy, happy the whole time.  Then I popped over to see my BFF.  She is winding down on her miserable job and figuring out her next chapter.  The good news is that she suddenly has two very good, lucrative job leads.  I told her that 2020 was destined to be her year.  I just feel that she has hit her bottom and will now begin working her way out, just like I have done.  Time will tell.

However, there was one cloud over the weekend.  The Hunter.  His holiday angst has kicked in.  He is feeling very depressed.  He describes it as a pressure sitting on his chest.  This has caused him to push me away with some angry words about my neglect of him during his struggle.  I do empathize with him.  He pushed me away on Sunday, so I just drove down to his apartment anyway and waited for him to show up.  He was relieved and happy to see me.  We took the Kracken to a nearby park and spent a few hours sitting in the park enjoying the outdoors.  It was nice and mellow.  We grabbed a late lunch and then he was tired, so I headed home.

I am not the most nurturing, empathetic person, so I have to pause and remind myself not to be callous.  I need to treat my loved ones the way I would want to be treated if I was feeling so anxious.  I actually did the right thing with my impromptu visit.   Whew.

Life is wonderful right now.  I am very blessed.

Taz Let Loose

My daughter, Taz, is not one to let misbehavior go unchecked.  In high school, she insisted one of her teachers re-grade 300 midterm exams because the teacher had a mistake on her answer sheet.  The teacher only wanted to give the credit to Taz, but Taz insisted that wasn’t fair to everyone else and advocated (i.e. tormented) the teacher until she relented.

Taz called me over the weekend to let me know that she is making a surprise visit to my neck of the woods for 48 hours.  It’s for work and our time will be very limited.  That was one part of the call.

The next part was her telling me about the knock down, drag out brawl she had with her dad.  My Ex.  She was telling me in the context of her visit, my holiday trip and, well, she needed to vent to her mom.

Apparently my Ex sent a nasty, passive-aggressive text to her and her husband about not getting an invite to spend Christmas with them.  Taz’s hubby asked her if he should respond and Taz’s response was basically, “Hold my beer.”

Due to work issues (she’s on a nasty shift and is working about 80-100 hours a week – I have no idea how she does it, but that is a discussion for another day), she didn’t get back to her dad for a couple of days.  Plus she wanted to think about how to deal with him.  It did not go well.

Basically he tried guilting her about the fact she has not been home in four years.  Uh yeah, it’s called a medical residency and she does not get much time off for the holidays. He had no empathy for her work.  He compared it to his law practice.  Uh, no comparison.  She tried to explain that she has no control over her work.  He refused to comprehend that.  He had false facts in his arguments with her. Plus, get this, he can’t even come visit her for Christmas because his fiancee’s daughter is having a minor outpatient procedure a couple of days before Christmas, so they cannot travel.  His whole argument was over a moot point.

She ended up screaming at him that he was a “psycho” and needed to go back to counseling.  She felt awful because they have not fought like that since she was 17.  Don’t feel bad for him — he was yelling also.  I felt so bad for her.  I told her several things.  First, this was not her fault.  It sounds like he is regressing as he gets closer to a second marriage.  Oh boy….

I also told her about a huge fight I had with my mother when I was pregnant with Taz.  My mother expected to dictate the when, where, how of the holidays.  I was ready to start my own family traditions and she was just not having it.  We had a huge fight that resulted in me not only not spending Christmas with her, but not speaking to her for three months.  We finally started speaking about a month before Taz was born.  I told Taz that some parents are slow to understand and accept the changing dynamics of adult children.

My other insight was that she is very much like her father, which is why they clash so hard. I admire her fearlessness, however, since they both have no fear of a confrontation and when you combine it with his litigator’s thirst for the big win, it becomes a toxic combination.  Neither will back down if they feel they are right.  They used me as the intermediary during my marriage and it was not fun at all for me.

I think there is some serious shit going on with my Ex and his fiancee.  She still has a high school age daughter in the house, so he has to deal with that.  She has family, so his can no longer take precedent for all family gatherings. His priorities are not always coming first these days.  Or at least that is my guess.  They are planning a decent size wedding because my son mentioned that they were still looking for a venue.  From the way my son said it, it sounds like there is some friction.  I cringed.

My daughter felt bad about burdening me.  She did admit they fumbled the holiday announcement to him.  Apparently my son tactlessly mentioned it and then threw his sister under the bus.  Sigh.  My son is like me when it comes to dealing with my Ex — RUN AWAY!  Don’t confront him because he will go psycho. Although we have all learned that if you continue to stand up to him, he tends to subside.  In theory. Old habits die hard in all of us.

Of course, Dear Readers, you are all wondering if this is dampening my enthusiasm for my trip, right?  Let me reassure you that I am not dampened for a nano second.  This has absolutely nothing to do with me.  I am still thrilled.

I told Taz that I had told my son that we needed to show up prepared to entertain ourselves.  To that end, I have a long list of activities and have suggested that he come up with a few ideas or face the prospect of being dragged around by his mother.  LOL.  Taz outlined the plans they have put in place – Christmas Eve dinner at a nice restaurant and hanging out at their place on Christmas Day.  Lovely.  We determined that everyone will get one stocking stuffer gift for each person ($20 limit, thank you very much).

I also told Taz that if she needed to spend her precious free time on this whirlwind trip with her dad to straighten things out, I understand.  I would be seeing her soon anyway.  I said it would be great if she could come check out my new apartment, but I also completely understand that it was not in the cards.  Just wishful thinking on my part.

Right now I am on stand by.  Her plan is to stay with her sorority sister, a lovely, kind, funny young woman who is just the right breath of fresh air that Taz needs right now.  That’s more important.

But I have to say, the gossipy side of me is truly wondering WTF is going on with my Ex.  I think that all is not rosy between him and his fiancee, but I am just speculating and you know what happens when you assume…it makes an ass of U and ME.  Stay in my lane…that needs to be my 2020 mantra…stay in my lane….

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Photo by lee junda on Unsplash

Big Chunk

I have been procrastinating about paying down some of my debt and dealing with my finances.  I need to reconcile and check on my spending, update my budget and debt payoff spreadsheet.  Very mundane stuff.  Here it is the 10th of the month and I really want to have this done right at the end of the month.  I am late.

Tonight I asked myself why am I stalling?  What is preventing me from taking care of my personal business?  Why don’t I want to attack this debt?  I have the money put together to pay down 25% of my debt.

I decided it’s just old habits that are hard to die.  I am not feeling anxious about any of this, so I simply pulled out the laptop and got to work.  Even though it is a true pain in the ass to login and make a one-time payment to the IRS, I did.  I paid off half my debt to them.  HALF!  That is quite a chunk of change! Next month I will pay off the rest of my 2016 taxes and be able to tackle 2017.  Yippee!!

Next I paid off the balance on one credit card that had just over $1,000 on it. The interest is high and I wanted the sense of relief to have one card 100% paid off.  DONE!

Then I paid off the amounts I had put on my other credit cards for my upcoming Christmas trip.  Hotel and airfare – PAID!

Well look at that!  I am making quite a bit of progress.  My bills are paid.  I feel good about it.  Things feel manageable.  I still have things to do like my bookkeeping for Maggie & Co.  I need to comb through my budget and spending with a fine tooth comb to make sure I am staying on track.

Part of my problem is “out of sight, out of mind”.  In that if I do not keep my debt in front of me to remind me that things are not hunky dory, sunshine and unicorns,  I could feel more inclined to spend money I don’t have.

Saving is not really in the picture right now.  Yes, I put money in my HSA and my 401K, but it is mostly so I get the match from my employer.  No sense in letting free money go by the wayside.  Plus that money is for my future.

But for now, I have spent about an hour working on the finances.  It is a start and I did stay focused on the important stuff.  I have to think about somehow patting myself on the back for this.  It is definitely progress.

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Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Kindness

The Hunter can be a very kind man. This weekend, he was leaving his apartment to come spend the night with me. As he left, one of his neighbors dropped her grocery bag on the stairs and shattered her 6-pack of beer. She almost burst into tears. She is a foreign medical student and had just finished a grueling week. The beer was her special treat for an evening of Netflix and unwinding.

Another guy stepped out of his apartment and made a comment about her choice of beer causing the destruction of every bottle. The Hunter responded with a joke about how would he feel if he got pulled by a cop and forced to dump his weed. That cracked everyone up (they are all much younger than the Hunter).

The Hunter didn’t leave it there. He pulled out a hose and a broom to help his neighbor clean up her mess. The other guy fled when he saw there was work to be done. Once it was all cleaned up, he turned to her. “Want a little bud?” He asked.

He made her a joint and went on his way. She was gratefully thrilled. Her evening was not a total loss.

This is a classic example of how kind the Hunter can be. How many people would go out of their way for a stranger?

Then he came to see me and was quite randy. We had a fun evening of romping. He got up at 4 am and left with the Kracken to go hunting. He is a kind man.

Staying on Track

I have been trying very hard to adhere to a spending fast. Some weeks are better than others, but all in all, I have improved. I only shop with a list and rarely add any extras. This time of year is a true test of my resolve.

I spent five hours shopping today and spent about $200. I did OK, but I did go AWOL from my list. My list included one pair of jeans. I ended up with two (one is a chocolate denim that goes great with an existing jacket). I added two shirts not on the list and bought two pairs of booties, not one. I also bought four Christmas gifts.

I have to say I got a lot of bang for my bucks. That $200 included: a hardcover book, 2 pairs of the aforementioned booties, jeans and shirts and the gifts. A total of 12 items. Yesterday I used my store credit to buy my Toys for Tots donation for work, so that is no money out of my pocket. The store credit is the result of returning a work gift a few months ago.

A recent habit is that if I buy clothes, I have to get rid of an equal number. Today was a bit tricky, but I did find four items to donate plus the booties I tossed because they are unwearable.

That is all the not-so-bad of the day. I also abstained from buying a new handbag when I realized I was happy with an existing one I had stopped using. The worse part is that now my closet consists of clothing in four sizes. Yes, I moved up one more size. Ugh, ugh, ugh. I am not putting a ton of guilt on myself right now and I am trying to be a bit forgiving, but this has to stop.

This week was a bit tough on the exercise front because I was waking up with migraines several mornings. I combated it with a new 30 minute walk at lunch. My diet had way too many carbs this week, so I need to cut those back and go back to more veggies over everything else.

I am not sure what works best for me on the diet front. The last time, six years ago, it was exercise combined with portion control. Plain and simple. I lost 40 pounds. I have tried intermittent fasting with limited results. Whole 30 resulted in about a 10 pound loss in 30 days, but what a miserable diet. My plan is to be more plant-based. Lots of veggies, limited carbs and meat. Thanksgiving knocked me off track. I have discovered if I have sweets in the house, I will eat them. All of them. Quickly.

I am also recognizing that a lot of my food issues are tied to emotional eating. I feel good, let’s eat. I feel bad, let’s eat. I’m sad, give me sugar. I’m happy, let’s celebrate with food or drink. I need to figure out how to break that habit. Right now, I am sitting here after a filling meal and debating if I want another cosmo or a dessert smoothie. Why? I’m not hungry or thirsty. But something in me wants a hit for the dopamine fix.

I am giving myself a little space before I tackle my next round of goals. I am not spending too much. I rarely eat out which is a huge savings. I take my lunch to work every day. I don’t shop – today was a big exception. My expenses have plummeted, so financially I believe things are under control. I just need to start making payments rather than hoarding the money.

I have no complaints (other than the weight gain). Time to focus on my health – that’s one of my big focus areas for 2020.

Too Close

Did you see the news about the hijacked UPS truck and the subsequent shoot-out? I was less than a mile away, driving to a Christmas party to support a girlfriend. I saw the police, saw a K-9 unit speed past me as I parked.

That was too close. If I had taken a different route, I would have passed that intersection at just about the same time as the shootout.

I was praying for the UPS driver. My heart is aching for him and the other innocent bystander. So incredibly tragic. WTF was wrong with those criminals and the police? So senseless, selfish, violent. I can go into a whole rant about the police and their response.

The Hunter called me in a panic because he knew I was in the area. I am thankful he looks out for me. I was lucky today. I am safe at home. I am so grateful and thankful.

Oh and that party? Complete waste of time.

I Survived Thanksgiving

On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, my plans for the holiday completely changed. Instead of having dinner with the Hunter’s extended family (a gathering estimated at around 60), I hosted an intimate late lunch/early dinner for me, the Hunter and my BFF.

I was thrilled to host. I have come to realize that I really do enjoy hosting a small gathering. I need to do this more often.

I quickly figured out a traditional menu including gluten-free options for my BFF. I grabbed a fresh turkey so I didn’t have to fool around with defrosting.

But first I spent a wonderful Wednesday with my son. I showed off my new apartment, showed him the community and we enjoyed a leisurely lunch at a waterfront restaurant. We sorted the Christmas ornaments so I can send some to Taz. It was a lovely day of pure quality time with him.

Thanksgiving dawned with my apartment full of Christmas boxes. “What the heck?” I thought, so for the first time ever, I had Christmas decor up for Thanksgiving. Why put it all away to simply pull it back out next weekend? I enjoyed the Macy’s parade while I got everything ready.

My BFF showed up earlier than I thought, so I didn’t have a chance to get gussied up. That just saved me time. I pulled out a nice bottle of champagne someone had given me and we polished it off before the Hunter arrived. She loved my new apartment and its amenities. She marveled at how organized I have everything. I was quite pleased!

Dinner was lovely and went off without a hitch. I sent my BFF home with a goody bag of leftovers. I had a great FaceTime chat with Taz who was also hosting a small gathering. The day wiped me out, so I was in bed early. The Hunter spent the night because we were going camping for the weekend. We laughed that we were crawling into bed about the time dinner was being served at his family’s dinner. We had no regrets on skipping it.

Camping was great. Right now I am trying to ignore my mosquito bites. No matter how much repellent I use, they still find unprotected tender spots. My fingers (?!), inner thighs and butt are the popular spots this trip. Damn mosquitoes ambushed me in the composting toilet.

We took a long bike ride which wore out the Kracken. We took sunrise and sunset hikes. A raccoon snuck into camp the first night to snack on the Kracken’s dog food. I spooked it when I headed over to the composting toilet for another round of skeeter bites. Then apparently coyotes ran thru the camp howling during the night. I slept thru it, so a I wonder how close they actually were. I heard them the next night but they were far away.

I returned to my sanctuary (a.k.a. apartment) before noon and I was tuckered out. I got my laundry done and that’s about it. Turkey stew and creative leftover ideas will wait until tomorrow.

This was a good way to spend the holiday. It kept me away from the stores or even thinking about them. I spent it with loved ones and I got my turkey with all the fixings. Next up – Christmas.

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