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

Archive for May, 2020

Just Thinking….

It is an absolutely beautiful morning and my plan was to head to the beach. The beach is my Zen spot, my oasis. I got up this morning, weather is perfect and I thought “meh”. WTF?

So I made a cup of coffee, a PBJ on Ezekiel bread and am sitting on my patio. I have told myself that I don’t have to go immediately and that helped. I am thinking I should walk as part of my beach time, so I am not a walrus on the sand the whole outing. Meh.

I have recently discovered that avoiding the stress of current events is nice. I am a print news junkie with subscriptions to 3 daily papers, 2 magazines, 1 biz journal. I read them all almost every day. Perhaps I need to slow down. I need a bit more escapism.

News this week has been both uplifting and cruelly distressing. Men in space – amazing. The upheaval around George Floyd, heart-rending. The actions of Amy Cooper disgusting. The politicians – disappointing. I won’t get started on that because everyone is so polarized I won’t change anyone’s mind, so why waste the writing space? Perhaps I will write more about that, but not now.

One thing I don’t understand is how wearing a mask has suddenly become a political act. WTF? Have people lost their common sense? Can they no longer put the greater good above their own self-centerness? During WWII, people bought war bonds, planted victory gardens, obeyed blackout orders, had rationing. We pulled together as a nation. Can you imagine if the government issued ration stamps on TP? What happened to our patriotic cooperation?

It you claim to be a patriot today, many will think you are some far Right extremist. Since when did they get exclusive rights to that term? When did being brown or black relegate you to second-class citizenship? Why am I, a privileged, educated white woman, now a Karen? Or even an OK Boomer (even though I am on the cusp and identify as a Gen X).

There are so many rotten things under the thin crust of our outwardly successful appearing country. 2020 has exposed so much of these rotten underpinnings. Our healthcare system is collapsing, the record unemployment increase has been breathtakingly swift, the fragility of our essential workers has been exposed, the economies of small businesses collapsed as politicians failed to protect them adequately. We are a hot mess.

And here I sit today debating if I go to the beach. Perhaps I should because obviously I need to clear my head. I think a day of salt, sand, water, heat will soothe my soul. Off I go….

Vacation

I took some extra days off to have a lovely 5-day Memorial Day. I have spent it alone. Plans with others have fallen through, but don’t worry. I totally enjoy my own company and have filled my days.

I hit the beach, went biking through a beautiful state park, walked the coastline before the rains began, cooked some fun things, watched some entertaining movies, played a new addictive video game that I really should delete, read a really good book. Keeping myself busy isn’t a problem even with social distancing.

My first vacation day was spent at the beach. I was suppose to rendezvous with a women’s MeetUp group late in the afternoon. I have lived in Florida way too long and realized that our rainy season has started. If I waited until late in the afternoon, my beach afternoon would be rained out. Instead, I went earlier with a picnic lunch. It was glorious. I watched the surfers and thoroughly enjoyed my day. It started raining 30 minutes before the MeetUp which promptly was cancelled.

I spent that day at the beach just sitting. Letting my brain process things. So much of our lives have changed so quickly and dramatically. In a few short weeks, all that we have known has been turned upside down. What’s in the future? I couldn’t tell you.

There is so much out of my control these days. The future of my job – out of my control. The financial security of my kids – out of my control. I need to focus on what I can control – me. I can stick to healthy habits, both physical and mental. I can watch my spending and keep saving every penny I can.

Thinking has been the bulk of my vacation. Just digesting the events of the past couple of months. March, April and May simply disappeared. Except for Taz’s excellent week of turning 30 and getting her rockstar fellowship, those three months have been numbing.

I am one for goals and planning, however, this year has been turned upside down. I am sticking to a few, but others are discarded. Traveling to Europe is the biggest one kicked to the curb. I did get my will completed. I need to finish my notebook of instructions to make things easier for my kids. That was my mom’s best gift to me and one that deserves to be passed on.

I have this final day of vacation. Let me enjoy it. No news, no Covid. Just me, myself and I enjoying a good book, good food and cold glass of wine.

Photo by Rafael Barquero on Unsplash

Close Call

Last week I had some work anxiety. I am 100% overhead for the company – the best I can do is save the company money.  I don’t make money for them.

Every week people are leaving – furloughed, laid off.  What difference does it make? They are gone. I have seen it in every department except a handful. In a meeting last week, my boss made an offhand remark about leadership looking within her department to make cuts.  She stood her ground and headed it off. Let’s be honest – she saved me specifically because her department is quite small. Everybody else in my department has clear functions.  Well, there is one guy but he has been with the company for many years and just shifted into her department.  No, it was me. My role is newly created and has always been a bit fuzzy.

My boss also mentioned some feedback about me they received from an out-of-state market leader (ML). Yeah, this was a banner meeting.  This ML had been on a call with me, my admin and his admin. I met him in person and liked him at the time, but now I know he was on his best behavior. On our call, I found him to be a bit petulant and whiny because he needed to get some shit done and we can’t do it for him.  He and his admin need to do it. We reported back to our boss in our standing meeting which resulted in her whispering in the CEO’s ear. This prompted the CEO to call him.  Yes, it was that concerning that it needed to be addressed.

ML played it off that everything was perfectly fine. Liar. That’s OK, we knew he throws people under the bus because of previous drama he caused. However, to jab me (I think), he mentioned to the CEO that I told him specifically to remove a Foosball table from the office. First of all, I cannot tell him to do anything.  Not my position.  I did tell him that said table did not meet social distancing standards, but his fucking ping pong table did. Apparently I dared to interfere with their “culture”. Jerk.

After our group meeting (me, Boss & admin), I popped back into my boss’ office because both the “saved my department” and the asshole Foosball story had me a bit unsettled. I asked her if my Foosball thing had caused her political grief and offered an immediate apology.  She laughed and said no. I explained that I worked in companies with huge office game cultures including Foosball, and I love it.  Seriously, I think it’s fun. For Christ’s sake, I had been playing Connect4 with another department the week before.

She went to describe me as Speed Racer. One who starts running down the road before anyone else. She said she is the same way. What she meant is that I am self-initiating, I don’t wait to be told to do something. She loves that about me.  Whew!

But then she laughingly questioned if I thought the Senior Leadership was “stupid” – her exact words. That gave me pause. I immediately replied honestly, “No, they are some of the smartest people I have worked with”. She said some of my ideas and questions are for companies far larger than ours. This conversation ended up being great because we cleared the air. I explained that:

  1. I mention things only to be a resource and to make sure they have thought about some things in my area of expertise. This actually helped a lot last week when I had mentioned several things nobody thought of during the office re-opening planning.
  2. Did she want me to stop anything? No, she loves my initiative.
  3. I asked her to always, always give me direct feedback. It doesn’t hurt my feelings. Seriously. I didn’t tell her that on rare occasions it might sting a little, because I need to hear these things.  I did tell her that I value the directness.  I simply don’t do subtle – it goes right over my head.

We ended our chat very positively. We laughed because our admin had nothing bad to say about me except for one incredibly minor thing. Plus the admin had collaborated and elaborated on my version of the call with the ML.

Our work atmosphere is a bit tense these days. I see friction among the senior leaders as they try to guide the company through this crisis.  It isn’t easy. They fully understand each decision they are making could adversely affect employees and their families. This has caused some strong debates both behind closed and open doors.  They also understand they must keep money coming in the door faster than it goes out. I am so grateful that I do not have make those type of decisions.

Overall, life at work is fine. I am keeping busy and have no complaints. I only hope to surf this horrific tsunami of a pandemic with my job intact. I have absolutely no desire to join the 30+ million unemployed.

musicfox-fx-ANpeikC7Up4-unsplash

Photo by MusicFox Fx on Unsplash

Chickens

My neck of the woods is entering Phase 1 of re-entry and my company is on a full court press to bring folks back to the office.  Although I understand the necessity of both, it makes me anxious. We all know C-19 cases will surge, and since we don’t have enough tests coupled with leadership who prefers to hide reality under a rock, it will be difficult to monitor hot spots. We simply don’t have enough data to make nuanced decisions.

Bringing people back to work means more people in my building. I don’t know where these people have been, who they have associated with, etc. There are several things that are helping me contain my fear:

  1. My company is being careful about how folks will return to the office.  It is being done incrementally spread over two months.
  2. Cleaning and other hygiene protocols are increased.
  3. Every morning every employee will undergo a temperature check and brief health screening.

Now we all know that the health screening is largely BS, but it is emphasizing the fact that the company prefers you stay home if you feel off.

The biggest thing at work that helps me tap down my anxiety is my environment. Nobody wanders into our area because it’s home to senior leadership and isolated. My area is self-contained. We have our own bathrooms, so there is no need to go out into the building common areas if I don’t want. We have large work stations with high partitions.  I scoffed at them when I started. Now I love them. They provide a good buffer both in terms of height and size. I can spend my entire work day in that area never having to leave if I want. I am already thinking about wearing a mask in all common areas and bringing cold lunches to avoid the kitchen.

My boss has a great question for this re-entry process.  “Will you be a raging chicken?” Meaning will you immediately be running around happy to be free and hitting stores and restaurants or will you continue to sit up in your roost? She and I along with our coworkers in our section plan to be the latter. Time will tell.

My county has already opened hair salons and restaurants.  The raging chickens are flocking to both.  The restaurants in particular make me shudder.  People sitting just a trifle to close and no masks because they are eating. Restaurants are packed. I am horrified.

The Hunter tempted me last week to be a raging chicken. He’s done with it all. He is one of those rebellious people who walks into stores without a mask. He invited me to a guided moonlight swamp buggy excursion complete with barbecue. It sounded like so much fun, however, I am a roosting chicken. I asked about masks, social distancing, buggy occupants (i.e. single family units per buggy or mixed) and the answers did not meet my comfort level because they are operating like pre-C19. I simply couldn’t do it.

Instead he apparently headed across the state to pick up some fishing gear and hang out with a new hunting buddy. Nope, not for me. He had been so good with quarantining and being careful up until now. I don’t know if he actually went.  We haven’t spoken in days.

Last week we had a conversation, several actually, about all of this. I explained that he is free to make all of these choices, however, I am equally free to decide he is too high risk for me. He is. Unfortunately this means we won’t be seeing each other and I don’t know for how long. It makes me sad.

The Hunter has been a comfort. I consider him my boyfriend.  Although we live an hour apart, we had been talking every day and would see each other every weekend. Most of our daily conversations are a simple check-in, but it is a meaningful human connection with someone who loves and cares for me.

I have never been particularly good at confrontation or standing up for myself when I am in a relationship. This current situation with the Hunter could literally be do or die.  Maybe that is an exaggeration, but do I want to risk it? I don’t have enough data to calculate my odds, so I prefer to be safe in my roost. Safe and boring. I will continue, albeit sadly, to say no thank you and no longer see the Hunter for the foreseeable future. It’s not just my health, but those I work with daily. I make a promise to them to avoid high risk situations.

The Hunter reads this blog and I can hear him snort with disbelief about my stand on this. He thinks I will get so horny that I will throw caution to the wind. He is amazing in bed, no doubt there, but even that isn’t enough for this chicken to leave the roost. I am sorry, Hunter, but this is the way it must be.

With much love,

Maggie

wolfgang-mennel-W9shWmGHp3g-unsplash

Raging Chickens Not Social Distancing – Photo by Wolfgang Mennel on Unsplash

Spending Fast

My primary financial goal right now is to save.  Save as much as I can.  Hoard it. I am not increasing my 401k.  I am simply stashing as much as possible into savings.  I am doing a minor amount in an SP 500 Index fund because I do think dollar cost averaging could benefit me in the long run.

I have spent too many hours looking at porn and need to stop.  Wait – porn? Yes, Zillow.  Real estate porn.  That is a rabbit hole of wasted time.  I need to delete the app. I am not buying anything any time soon, so I need to stop.  All I need to do right now is save and wrap up my Will, etc.

Saving is not easy for an over-buyer like me.  I prefer to spend. I have line items within my savings earmarked for things like my car fund (repairs and future new car), travel fund (that’s not being used anytime soon), emergency (#1 priority).  You get the point.  I need to save.  I need to be prepared.  For what?  Life.  It has a way of forcing you to spend money when you least expect it.

I keep telling myself that I don’t need anything, and I don’t.  Then I go out and buy a steam mop and cordless vacuum.  I could replace a pair of shoes or two.  However I am fine. My pantry is full, my apartment is furnished, my closet full of clothes spanning three sizes so no matter what I will have clothes to wear.

I use to shop to try to fill the emptiness I felt in my marriage.  Often I would shop when I was feeling blue.  It didn’t really help. I ended up filling my house with crap.

When I separated, I wanted all new stuff so I shopped some more.  I bought new kitchen things, furniture, linens.  That felt pretty damn good, but I went over my budget.  I should have saved that money.

Now I catch myself wanting to shop from boredom.  No bueno. My apartment is small.  I don’t need anything (except shoes – I can always find a place for shoes). I need to save. With 30 million unemployed people, I need to be very careful.  Careful with my job and careful with my money.  Both are key to my survival.

I doubled my monthly savings rate two months ago.  It is ambitious for me, but so far doable. My savings is on auto withdrawal and sent to my USAA account.  I like it there – just far enough away to be a bit inconvenient to use.

The only debt I have is my car.  I use one credit card for things like take-out and groceries, but it is paid off every month.  The only other discretionary expense is my son’s monthly stipend.  That will last another 12-18 months probably.

He will be finishing grad school at a horrible time.  It will be interesting to see what happens.  His field of studies is very specialized, so perhaps he will surf through this tsunami.  Time will tell. The good news is he is a frugal guy, so I know that he already has a plan and savings.

I quickly ran through my April spending.  Hmm, I ran at a minor deficit overall.  When I poked into it, I discovered $300 of discretionary spending.  Not great, but not devastating.  Not too bad considering I was panic buying:  citrus for everyone, wipes for Taz, face masks for my son and me, rice cooker and pots for the Hunter (Easter gift), clothes for me.  Occasionally my Love Language shifts to gifts.  Easy cowgirl, rein it back in.

I just bought a cordless vacuum and steam mop.  I can’t seem to get my floors clean enough, so I am trying something new.  I consider that a long-term investment.  Let’s see how that works out. I also keep buying kitchen crap.  It needs to stop.  Seriously.  Time for a spending fast.  I just bought an ample supply of wine, cleaning products, toilet paper.  The only thing I will need for the 30-45 days are perishables (veggies, fruit, etc.).

Yep, 30-day spending fast, minimum.  Starting today.   I need to be smart with my money.  Step one is to stop spending.  Period.  I will report back weekly to keep myself accountable.

fabian-blank-78637-unsplash

 

Here & Now

What’s missing? That is the feeling that has been rattling around in the back of my mind.  It didn’t materialize until I put pen to paper.  What is missing these days?

The answer for me is social occasions.  Forming new friendships with women in my new town.  That was my top 2020 goal and now a formidable one.

I am not lonely, but I do want to broaden my social circles.  My Zoom Toastmasters helps.  I did a pleasant Zoom Meetup with a women’s group.  We had 5 on the call and it was nice.  I had been seeing the Hunter every weekend. I talk to my kids frequently and check in with my dad and BFF weekly.  Plus I have an office of friendly coworkers for idle chitchat and lunch. I cannot complain.

However, I am looking 10 years out to my retirement.  Holy shit, I only have about 10-14 years to go.  Crap, I am getting old.  What is my retirement going to look like?  Will I move close to Taz to help her with the grandkids?  My dad advocates for that.  I am happy to help.  I would love to do something like help run the marketing for her medical practice or help oversee the management side of things.  That would keep me busy, but that is the future.  What is here and now?

Here and now is no Meetups, no clubs, no concerts, no festivals, no beach, etc.  Here and now is a brilliantly beautiful day with cool air wafting on my bare legs.  Birds chirping, traffic humming past.  Here and now is a delicious cup of coffee.

Instead of searching for the missing, let me have a moment of pure gratitude.  I am so grateful for everything I have:

  • My kids – they are wonderful, accomplished and a source of joy, not grief or angst.
  • My cozy apartment – it’s cute, perfect for me.  It has nice, upgraded appliances,  granite countertops, a nice balcony with a pleasant view.  My apartment is filled with decor and furniture I selected.  It is a trifle eclectic, but very comfortable and I like it.
  • My job and steady paycheck – something I will never take for granted.
  • My health – I am strong, healthy with absolutely no issues other than my weight.  My thyroid may be a bit wonky, but I am taking no medications and feel great.
  • Friends and family – I have people in my life who love me and who I love in return. No drama – what a blessing.

I am so incredibly lucky and blessed.  My only debt is my car, which is very manageable and soon to be paid off.  This time last year I was in such a panic.  I had over $40K of debt and little income.  I was praying night & day that I would get this job because there was nothing else in sight.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring?  All I know is that today is a blessing and I am happy with all that I have.  I need to remain present and not fret about the future.  I am missing nothing, not a damn thing.

img_8343

 

Mother’s Day 2020

I have ranted about Mother’s Day in the past.  You can read a rant here.  I recognize that my mothering woes are nothing like those facing moms today.  My heart goes out to all of you.  The world we are living in rapidly skittered to something never seen before.

As mom, you somehow have to keep your shit together even while home schooling, feeding, cleaning plus worrying about finances, job security or lack thereof, work if you are lucky enough to have it.  Wow, it truly blows my mind.

I salute you all.  Please be kind to yourself, be forgiving and all that self-care stuff because we need you.

Peace & love,

Maggie

The reality of family photos… Photo by Jose Escobar on Unsplash

Tag Cloud