Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The value of long friendships

I met P in 1988; I was married to my first husband then, and my kids were five and seven. She and I connected immediately and became very close friends. She was there with me through all sorts of major life events, good and bad, and she’s said I did the same for her.

We drifted apart in the mid-90s, partly because I wasn’t in a good place and also I moved from Lawrence to Kansas City. But a few years ago, she found me on Facebook and we reconnected. She doesn’t live all that close by any more (it’s a three-hour drive, much of it on two lane roads). Saturday she got married and I was there.

I was very nearly late, which always stresses me out inordinately, so I was a little anxious as I slipped into a pew in the back of the church. Then a door behind me and to my right opened, and I caught a glimpse of her dress—nothing but a flash of fabric—and to my surprise, I immediately started crying.

Now I am not a crier. Yes, I have feelings, but generally speaking I don’t express them with tears. I teared up at my own wedding just once, not at all at my younger son’s wedding and once at my older son’s wedding. Tears aren’t my normal way of expressing my feelings. But Saturday was different.

And she cried too. To be honest, I knew she would cry (she is a crier); what got me was that she cried because she saw me.

I had a lot of time to think over all of that the drive home and I think I know why we both cried. You don’t have that deep of a friendship and not carry the love forward even if the daily contact is no longer there. You can’t have the kind of shared experiences we did and not have that kind of emotional response.

Before I left the reception Saturday night, I hugged her and told her that I had never stopped loving her. I wish we lived a little closer to each other, but I’m so glad to have reconnected with her and so very glad she wanted me there at her wedding.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

My Fitbit and me

I got my Fitbit in June, 2013—I wasn’t sure how much I’d use it, or if it would change my workout behavior or activity levels. But I was willing to spend $100 to find out.

Turns out I loved it. I like the days when I hit the 10k mark for steps and get the light display and buzzing wrist, I like seeing my friends and where they are in their steps (I’m always third), and I love, love, love that I can set a daily alarm. There’s something far more civilized about waking up to a buzzing wrist rather than the abrupt loud blatting of an alarm clock.

Two weeks ago, my beloved Fitbit quit taking a charge. I went through all the recommended steps to troubleshoot the issue, and ended by calling customer service (the last step when nothing else works). The conversation was a bit surreal. The customer service rep didn’t speak American English as a first language so the tone of the exchange was beyond polite, especially the way he said my name (Ee LIZ ah beth, very precisely).

He walked through all the trouble shooting options and then looked up my account. There was a longish pause (long being relative when you are talking to a call center employee and they are measured by call handling times).

Customer service rep: Elizabeth, you bought your Fitbit in June of 2013.
Me: That’s correct.


CS: So you have had your Fitbit, Elizabeth, since June of 2013.
Me: Yes, that’s correct


CS: Elizabeth, the warranty period for the Fitbit Flex is three hundred sixty-five days.
Me: OK


CS: Elizabeth, that means your Fitbit is no longer covered by a warranty.
Me: OK

Longer pause

CS: Because the warranty is for three hundred sixty-five days, Elizabeth.
Me: Yes, I understand.

I think he thought I was going to get mad. But honestly I called because the website said if you do all these troubleshooting steps and still have issues, then call us.

Long story short (with much more exquisitely polite conversation), he offered me 25% off the purchase of a new Fitbit. I hadn’t asked for that, or asked for anything actually, but I was sure pleased to get it.

Thank you and good-bye
Once the new one got here, I told Kent I felt a little sad just tossing the old dead one. After all, I’ve traveled to three continents with it, and gone to seven countries and a whole bunch of states. He asked if I needed to thank it for its service a la Konmari and I realized that yes, actually, I did.

So that’s what I did, I thanked my dead Fitbit for its service and moved on. My new Fitbit is performing like a champ, my wrist no longer feels inappropriately naked and I’ve got my preferred morning alarm all set up.

Friday, August 5, 2016

In which I don't look so good

I manage a large team at work, and we are in our extremely busy season. All of us are putting in 60 to 80 hours a week and will be doing that until nearly the end of October. Last year when things were this crazy, I’d sometimes bring snacks. I couldn’t ease the workload but I could provide something to nibble on. The company didn’t pay for these goodies, I did, and it was no big deal.

Now we are down to the lesser of two incomes. Right before Kent got laid off, I’d brought in snacks—about $30 worth of clementines and a large package of those individual sized bags of assorted chips. We have a fairly open seating plan at work, and my team isn’t isolated. In fact, three other teams sit in the general vicinity. That means others not on my team saw the snacks and (as happened last year) helped themselves. Last year, I didn’t care. This year . . . yeah, it bothered me.

So I’ve been wrestling with that ugliness in myself for the last week or so. I brought the snacks in to be eaten. They were eaten. That some of the people who participants weren’t on my team shouldn’t matter. Yet I felt that internal stinginess.

I’ve struggled with this off and on throughout my life, always when times are tight or trending that way or I think it will be that way. I remember worrying (yes actually worrying) in high school how I would earn enough money to pay for rent and food and of all things tampons once I graduated from high school and moved out.

In my 20s, my ex and I made very little money. We couldn’t afford things like cable TV or two cars or air conditioning in the house and I worried about money all the time.

In my late 20s and early 30s, I worked with a man in the Army Reserves who had a very different attitude toward money than I did. I came at it from a position of scarcity, as though it were an extremely limited and hard to get thing. His attitude was this: it’s just money and I’ll make more.

That blew my mind. To have that kind of confidence that I could earn more any time I needed to was not how I felt at all. But I wanted to have that confidence, that knowledge that I could take care of myself no matter what.

In the years since then, I’ve mostly been able to stay in that frame of mind, except when one of us gets laid off. Then my old fears come right back. This time those fears aren’t based in fact. We have enough. We’ve run the numbers and can scale down enough to fit my salary. Sure, Crazy Trips™ are off the table but we can have the occasional date night at our favorite place. We won’t lose the house. I can afford to occasionally bring in snacks (although probably cheaper ones).

It’s easy to be generous in times of plenty, when the cost is minute in the overall scheme of things. I want to be generous, full stop, no qualifiers. That means I need to stay grounded in reality, not in my fears from the past.

Monday, August 1, 2016

August's cat

For my mom, here's the cat from August.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

An average of seven times

A blog I occasionally read cited a study that says on average, we wear our clothes seven times before we discard them one way or another.*

At first I thought no way, that’s not what I do! I wear my clothes way more than seven times before they’re gone. As Kent pointed out, if you buy a season-specific item of clothing (say, a light sleeveless top), you’d have to wear it at least once a week for the entire season to hit seven wearings. If you chose ultra-cheap clothing (think H&M or the like), chances are good that the top might not last more than one season.

I was still skeptical. After all, I have a Gap jean jacket I bought at an outlet mall in Nashville, TN in September 2006 that I still wear almost every week. I have shoes from before our flood in October 2009 that I still wear—or what about that leather jacket I got at that one high end consignment store in Boston (think it was 2008)?

I also have a really lovely long dress I got earlier this year; I planned to take it to Jamaica only we didn’t go and I still haven’t worn it. It’s still got the tags on it. A couple of years ago, I got a maxi skirt—black with white polka dots. Super cute and totally not me. I wore it maybe four times before I donated it.

Ever since I read that article, I’ve been mentally tracking how often I wear the things in my closet. Some of them are total work horses. I wear them frequently and year-round. In fact, a lot of my clothes are that way.

I’ve also got some things that I don’t wear as often. This summer, I’ve been reaching for those items deliberately, wearing them again. After all, I paid for them so I might as well get the cost per wearing down while increasing my average number of times wearing the darn things.

*Despite searching, I couldn’t find the blog post I mentioned. This takes you to the one article I could find. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

It’s the small things

In keeping with my strong desire to focus on the positive (rather than freak out which does no good anyway), here’s a list of random things for which I’m grateful:

  • We deliberately chose to buy a less expensive house, one that we could pay for with the smaller of our two salaries
  • We left Verizon last month and switched to Google Fi which cut our cell phone bill in half (we did have to get new phones but we were on the hook for new phones anyway)
  • We don’t have any recurring subscriptions to anything—no cable, no Netflix, no Hulu, nothing
  • We both know how to cook and are quite good at it (sounds snotty but it’s true)
  • We don’t have a habit of eating out (with the exception of our date night on Friday nights—we’ll be dialing those back but not cutting them out altogether)—I bring my lunch every day to work
  • We have a good emergency fund saved up
  • We paid cash for our cars so we don’t have car payments
  • (This will sound weird) I recently bought new underwear—because of the stress at work, I’ve dropped four to five clothing sizes and those didn’t fit anymore. The good part here is I already bought them.

So there’s my list of random goodness. Also here's another cat picture to sooth us all.

Taken on my lap just now

Sunday, July 24, 2016

We’ve done this before (or I hope this is like riding a bike)

Several years ago, I wrote a series of three posts about how we’d managed on a single income in a very high cost of living area. You can read them here, here, and here.

I've been rereading them because we are back to one income again since Kent was laid off on Friday effective immediately.

In looking back over my blog posts from then, I don’t think I ever posted how that went down.

He got the news mid-morning at work. I was at home (we were living in a temporary apartment while reconstruction was—well it wasn’t happening yet but the insurance company mulling things over) because I still hadn’t found a job. He waited until he got home and we were sitting together so that he could be with me when he shared the news. He knew I would be completely undone and didn’t want me to be alone. That right there is what love looks like in our house. I was blown away that he held that news to himself and waited to share.

That night, we were both pretty anxious. I’d say freaked out but that’s not exactly right. Suffice it to say that we drank a bottle of wine pretty quickly as we watched a movie (I don’t even remember what we saw) and then a second bottle as we watched a second movie (again I have no idea what it was) and then I turned into a complete chatter box and thought we should open a third bottle of wine and maybe watch a third movie. By that point, Kent was nearly asleep on the couch. He managed to tell me that it was already midnight and that a third bottle of wine and a third movie didn’t sound like great ideas and could we please go to bed. If you know me, you know I rarely see midnight by choice so that tells you a lot about my state of mind.

The next day, I told my mother I’d earned every bit of that hangover, and I had.

So fast forward to the last couple of years. The company Kent worked for got spun off from another company two and a half years ago and has just never gained much traction. I told Kent two years ago that I was pretty surprised they hadn’t let remote employees go already. Having people work remotely in other states is expensive because the company has to pay state unemployment insurance and account for all the state, regional, city and local taxes. That all comes at a high price tag so for a company to pay for one employee in Arizona, one in Kansas, a couple in Ohio etc., well you’re not talking small change.

I guess they finally figured it out, since from the sounds of things all remote employees were laid off on Friday.

I will admit that my first reaction on Friday was gut churning fear. We came so close to losing everything we owned six years ago; even though we are in better shape today, that fear lingers. I’m still pretty anxious to be honest. Yes, I have a job with benefits (and I’m very thankful), and we should be OK (tight, but OK). But I’ve been here before and now I’m sort of waiting to see what else (bad) might happen.

Edited to add a soothing photo of Eddie from this morning. That way, when I reread these posts later on, I'll have something calming to look at.