Archive for the ‘Money’ Category

It’s my birthday!

I have always been a kind of “it’s my birthday month!” kind of person. I have been known to remind people all year round, in fact, of the exciting day at any time of year. I used to post on FB items that might make a great birthday present, reminding people that it was only 6 months away and it was never too soon to buy. Not that I really expected to receive hundreds of gifts – nor did I. I considered it fun – or funny, even, to let the world know what I wanted.

Like this beauty I saw for the first time last year

Like these beauties I saw for the first time last year

This year, I’ve found myself flummoxed twice when someone asked me about a gift for my birthday. I couldn’t think of what to say and really, didn’t answer either person with a very direct response. I think part of the reason is because I’m really feeling the strain of the end of grad school (read: educational poverty) and I have many things on my “Wish List” which seem to me to be necessary items. Like shoes. Or car repair. Or glasses.

lems primal

Dude. They’re zero-drop and I can wear them to present!

I decided to set about making a wish list that I could share with people. It was really hard to do. It caused me a lot of brain energy, wondering what to put on the list, adding things and then deleting them over and over again (all this while I was studying, you understand). And then last night it came to me – I remembered/realized why making a list was so hard!

birthday list 0

While I used to laugh and joke about what people could buy me, in real life, telling someone what I want for a gift is actually the LAST think I want to do.

Here’s why:

In my family, my mother had a real thing about gifts. There is a long (probably apocryphal) story about my father’s first gift to my mother, which was disdained by my mother (for cultural reasons that my father could not have possibly guessed). Since that first, fateful gift, my mother made it a habit to tell my father, and even her children, what to buy for her. I remember gathering up my babysitting money at 12 years old to pay for a portion of a shoe and purse pair (sharing the cost with my sister and probably my father) that my mother requested.

Till the day he passed away, my father never bought a gift for her (as far as I know) without her direct (or indirect via one of us kids) approval.

The older I got, the less I liked this, although I surely understood his point of view. I remember my mother’s response when I brought something I’d made at school to give as a Mother’s Day gift – “What is that, anyway? Huh. Dust catcher.” Yeah, who wants to risk that kind of response?

Some mother’s like them, apparently...

Some mothers like them, apparently…

But I did, occasionally, give my father a hard time about it. I’d ask him how many years he had been buying gifts for her (40 years) and then run down a list of her strong likes/dislikes. Then I’d encourage him to choose something he thought she’d like. But he never did.

Even now, when she is “forced” to engage in Secret Santa or some such gift giving thing at work or church, she tells people to wrap a gift for a child for her, so that she can then give it, un-opened, to some child at her church.


After leaving home, though, I had a friend who bought me a book by an author I’d never even heard of, and I loved it. She knew my tastes well enough to find something for me that I didn’t even know existed yet was completely engaging to me. And other friends repeated that amazing feat, time and time again. A friend I haven’t seen in years has sent me fabulous gifts from Italy. One friend knows how to pick the perfect shirts for me. One far away friend has delighted me every year since I left MN with treats and surprises that quickly become parts of my every day life.

On the one hand, I can understand not wanting to receive things that you don’t want or like. I do. But when I compare that to the absolute DELIGHT that comes from receiving a gift that makes you feel like the other person really knows you…well, that just seems silly. Those are my favorite gifts. The ones that called out to you, when you saw them, that they would be perfect for me. They are things I would never buy for myself, and am delighted to own anyway. They are things that may or may not actually arrive on my birthday or any other holiday, which suddenly and immediately become irreplaceable. So there you go, that’s my wish list.



Follow up

Just a quick follow up note on the car. It’s in the garage. It has been since the last post. The good news is that I live in San Francisco, where getting around by bus can be slow, but can be done. I’m loving the city these days.


Morning Migraine

I woke up with the worst kind of migraine this morning. Although my research is purely anecdotal with an n of one, having suffered with anywhere from 4 to 23 migraine days a month since 1999, I feel I can say this with a fair degree of confidence. What makes it the worst kind of migraine? I’ll tell you.

1. Waking up with a migraine is definitely disagreeable. For me it usually means that very little will be accomplished that day. If possible, I will take migraine medications and head straight back to bed for an hour or two. If that isn’t possible, it means not taking the medication and still not getting much done, pushing through a fog of pain to do a lackluster job. It is depressing to wake up with my head aching – much worse than having a migraine come on in the late afternoon – at least I can see it coming! Also, because it is much more likely for me to have a migraine in the late afternoon, I have learned to do things in the morning to be certain they get done, for instance, running. A morning migraine negates this practice, obviously.

2. Knowing in some way, I helped it along. You might think it is worse to have a migraine come out of the blue, with no warning and no idea what caused it, but that isn’t the case for me. For me it is much worse knowing that I made some choice(s) that increased the chances of a migraine, like staying up way too late or going running when I already knew a migraine was simmering in the background. Or waiting too long to take the migraine medication so that by the time I take it, it’s too late, the migraine has gained too much ground for the medication to help.

3. Finally, a clear presence of valid stressors makes this morning’s migraine land firmly in worst place. Of course, everyone has stressors and many of us stress out about things that are beyond our control or that mostly exist in the “whatif” dimension.


But this week, many of my stressors are real and not imagined. Once I woke up with my head pounding, my first thought was, “Damn, I was supposed to go out today and hit the ATM to get the money for my rent.” Which led me to —> “I wonder if my paycheck cleared? Because if it didn’t then I will have to call my landlady and ask her to hold it – (a fate almost worse than death).” —->

—–> Oh, what about that automatic payment that is supposed to come out of my account on the first? Will there be enough money to cover that? Do I have to call them, too?

—–> Well, if I’m not going anywhere today, I better work on my dissertation. Wait, what? with this migraine? Who can even look at a screen?

—–> Hold on, where is that program that I am supposed to be using for my research analysis? 

—-> Whatif I left it in my old house? Is it still there? Will I have to call someone to go and get it? Then mail it to me?

—-> What kind of person leaves something that important in another state?

—-> Maybe it’s self sabotage. Maybe I’m afraid to graduate?!

—-> I’m so behind on my dissertation now, I may not make it in time to graduate.

—-> If I don’t graduate, I can’t do the postdoc!

—-> I need to get started on that right now!

—-> Except I still need the transcriptions done, and I was waiting for the student loan money to help offset that cost.

—-> Of course with my head throbbing like this, good luck getting any real work accomplished.

—-> I wish I had heard about that grant sooner – I really need some $$ help on the dissertation.

—-> I cannot believe it has taken so long to get this loan!

—-> What was I thinking I could do all the transcriptions myself?!

—-> Is there some way I can get people to donate money for the dissertation?

—-> Only a loser has to ask their mom to cosign a student loan at my age!

Ok, well, I did say that many of my stressors are real and not imagined. At any rate, obviously my financial concerns are real, as well as my dissertation timeline. This pushes the migraine into the worst category because again, it is something I did to myself.

Hmmm. Typing that last line I was reminded of something my therapist said. She posited that I have “a high tolerance for crazy.” I won’t go into the details of that theory, but part of what she was saying is that I find myself in these chaotic situations and at some level, I believe that I can – or should be able to – get myself out of them. While that is sometimes true, and on some levels that very quality has proven beneficial to me, some of the time, the situation really is kind of crazy and/or completely out of my control. My attempts to “manage” these crazy situations leave me feeling frustrated and often demoralized. Not to mention incompetent. I’ll have to let that percolate a while.

Either way, morning migraines suck.

Pastries, or rent?

I jokingly said to my co-worker that it was a good thing pay comes before rent this month, because I might not make it. I went on about my life as usual, however. I filled up my gas tank, bought Bodhi’s medications, and hit Costco for tofu. While I was there I picked up blueberries (for salads!) and pretzels (for work snacks), too. Seriously, there were 8 items in my cart.

I got home and went online to deposit my paycheck. At which point I realized that I was actually in trouble for my rent. This floored me. I have not been that broke in…a long time. I cannot even remember the last time I was worried I might not make my rent!

And then I started thinking about the money I spent in just the last 2 days. I could have just put a few gallons of gas in my tank – my work is only 2 miles away and I usually only fill up once a month (unless I go into Boston, then twice). I could have skipped the damn blueberries or $5 worth of pretzels. I could have bought half a month of meds for Bodhi – there’s no weird insurance thing and that would have saved me $30!

Then I realized I am out of brown rice. Which is what the dog eats. Yes, I could go buy some kibble at the grocery store, but that would mean he’d be sick until I can get the rice. So I pulled together all the cash I could find and went to buy a bag. The Korean store I get rice from is in the next town over – not far, really, but I only go over that way once a month and it happens to be be right by my favorite pastry shop. I seriously considered going over there as I pulled out of the parking lot, thinking, “I’ll just get one little pastry.”

Tripoli (not Libya)

This is when it struck me that my thinking about money is radically out-of-sync with my financial situation.

I’m currently making a grand total of $15,000 for the year. No one is silly enough to call this a salary, rather it is considered a stipend. I took out a small “extra” student loan to keep me going while making $880 a month and paying $850 for rent. I also paid for my CSA before I came out here, with the money I was making before I moved. But these stopgaps are not working for me any more.

Here’s the thing, I have been poor before. Very poor. But apparently I have forgotten how to live that way. I have been able to buy pretty much what I want to when I wanted to for a long time. And now my foolish decision to fill up my gas tank has me worried about paying my rent.

Yup. Nearly $65.

I told a friend today that this is a good reminder for me. I know that most of my clients are living below the poverty line, but I have forgotten what it’s like to have to juggle such little money around. I have forgotten that it is a kind of privilege to be able to drive further to get a better deal. To be able to pay a little more up front to get a lower per-use cost. That there is privilege in my going to the next town over to pay $18 for a big bag of brown rice that would cost me so much more if I had to buy it in little one pound bags from the local grocery.

Yes, I chose rent over pastries today. 

From November, people...I didn’t actually go there today

I’m supposed to be sleeping

I did, in fact, put myself to bed about 10 minutes ago. But as I lay there, looking at one of my bedside books Savor, I began to think about all the different kinds of stress in my life. In the past, one of the things that helped me to get to sleep was to write down all the things I needed to do – sort of a to do list for the next day – but really more of a “get it out of my head and on the paper” kind of list that was supposed to stop the thoughts from spinning endlessly in my head.

Sometimes it works. Sometimes I journal, and getting those thoughts out helps too. But lately I find that blogging has become something like a journal for me, and so, here I am. I actually think late at night is the perfect time for blogging, both reading and writing. I know it isn’t late now, but since I feel like I ought to bed in bed, it feels late enough.

But back to my stressors. I have so many these days that they need categories. And sub categories. Money, for instance is a common stressor. And I can easily claim it for myself. My money stressors fall into different categories. One category would be Immediate Financial Difficulties, like the idea that a check might bounce or a payment might be late. My bank balance used to live there, and in those days, it was kind of a minor stressor. These days, though, generally that is not where my balance lives, and so the slightest chance that it might happen feels much bigger. Anther category would be Consumer Debt – all that money I owe that is accumulating interest at an absurd rate which is directly related to last year’s break up.

That stress is more of a “stupid, stupid, stupid!” kind of stress wherein I say nasty things to myself about the issue. I have ridiculous student loan debt (with a much lower interest rate) that feels more inevitable than stupid, and at this point is a very minor stress (as it is not in repayment).

I have Billing stress which is related both to work and money and is a very high stressor these days because it feels pretty big and if I don’t get it under control, well, I don’t get paid. Which would add to the Immediate Financial Difficulties….

I thought I had more categories for money, but I guess that’s really it.

Then I have graduate school stressors, in order of lowest to highest – stupid poster board presentation, stupid final paper, methodology section to my dissertation, IRB forms for my dissertation, internship application, military application…

Which leads to the OMG I need to “release” (this is my attempt to fix the very imprecise language set-up that we usually use – if you “lose” weight, doesn’t that imply that you will “find” it again someday?) some weight for the military stress. This is a stressor as changing body weight always is – and has the added benefit of needing to do it because your (oh, hey, here it is) Financial health is directly related to it. Also, it seems so wrong to me that I would get into better shape for the military. Everyone knows you are supposed to do it for yourself, right? Not for vanity, but for health. Not for your job, but because you feel better…blah blah blah.

In a nutshell, the average internship will pay about $18,000. I have to manage all my stupid consumer debt and my mortgage on that amount WHILE living in a different state (and so needing to pay rent) with my large dog (ch-ching – add that to the regular rent) who is part Rottweiler (ch-ch-ching) and not being able to do any work on the side. IF the Army takes me…well, the rate of pay is considerably higher, I can stay very cheaply on the military, eventually there is a possibility of student loan repayment…uh, yeah. I kinda feel like everything hangs on this.

Meanwhile, the truth is even if I were svelte (which I shall never be) this is no guarantee that the military will take me. So, yeah, that just leads back to all the other financial worries again.

And this doesn’t even touch the relationship stuff!

I gotta get some sleep.

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