Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A Full Time Life on Part Time Pay

About a year ago, out of the blue, the woman for whom I had worked for 12 years announced that she needed to cut expenses and since her biggest expense was me, she was cutting my hours from 40 to 25. After a stunned and hurt silence, I managed to choke out WHAT???? She explained that she had worked hard all of her life and didn't want to work that hard any more. WHAT???? She went on to explain that her priorities were changing, she wanted to travel more, and there were other things she wanted to pursue. WHAT???? I had one month to look for additional work. Again, I repeat, WHAT????

My immediate thought was to channel the old song Take This Job and Shove It with an accompanying video of me expressing my displeasure with her. There are times I still wish I had done just that. But after I had retrieved the cell phone I had flung across the room, taken a long walk around the block and ate some chocolate, I stopped complaining about her, stopped whining "how can she do that to me??", and started focusing on what my life would look like from that point on.

I work in real estate, providing marketing, transaction management and general support for an agent. Since I have worked full time for years, my first thought was to replace my current job with another one just like it.  There are always agents looking for experienced assistants and I was sure I could find another one with whom I could work. I immediately flew to Seattle to meet with several other agents. But something happened while I was sitting in the interviews.  I realized I didn't want to take another full time job. I didn't want to exchange the agent with whom I worked for another who might do the exact same thing in 6 months or a year. Instead, I began to imagine what my life might be like if I no longer worked 40 hours.

That I would miss the money is a given. I had become quite used to having more than enough to live a comfortable life with a little left over for travel and leisure. But let's face it, at 60 years old how many full time years do I realistically have? Why not start to ease back on the spending and see just how little I could live on.

After a year of part time pay, I'd say it's about 80/20 in favor of the good. On the plus side is my schedule. Since I don't work until 1pm, I can do all of my shopping in the morning hours while others are at work, and evenings out with friends no longer have to end at 9. I no longer look on Sunday evening as the beginning of the end, dreading Monday morning's alarm.  In fact, I no longer have an alarm...I do, however, still have an early rising dog who demands a walk, but that's another story.  I have time to read, design and make jewelry, blog, write, walk my dog...all in the hours when I would have been at my desk answering emails. Having to work in the afternoons keeps me from frittering away the hours (for the most part!) and keeps me on task. I have become much more conscious of the amount of money I spend. I am not ready to be on the TV show where the family uses cloth instead of toilet paper and shops the dollar store for dented cans, but I am definitely more reluctant to pay full price for anything.

One thing I have realized about myself during this past year...I would rather have a small amount of something wonderful than a large econobag of something so-so. One bakery fresh cookie rather than a bag of store bought. One elegant piece of dark chocolate instead of a jumbo bag of M&Ms. I would rather watch a movie on Netflix sitting on my very comfortable couch than spend $12 to sit next to strangers who refuse to shut off their cell phones and talk out loud during the good parts.

Are there drawbacks?  Of course. But I believe life is what we make of it. I am choosing to look forward, to be appreciative of what I have and not saddened by what I do not.  I have good health, a great family and a terrifically quirky dog. I live in a beautiful city that I love, surrounded by fabulous friends whom I also love. I live a full time life on part time pay and cannot imagine anything better.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Life is too short to wear beige socks

I do not care for beige.  Whether you call it offwhite, cream, tan, bone or ecru, beige leaves me cold.  So it was with some surprise that I recently found not one, but 8 pairs of beige/tan/cream socks in my sock drawer.  When did I buy these, I wondered, and why on earth did I think I needed multiple pairs of a color I do not like and do not wear? Perhaps they came bundled with other colors, like a land line with cable. But that would presume I have similar socks in other colors...the chosen ones in the bundle, as it were. Try as I might, I could not locate similar styles.  These non-colored socks appeared to be unique, related to my other socks only by virtue of the fact that they are, indeed, socks. Which made me think...what do you do with unwanted socks? I am a frequent shopper at thrift stores and can't for the life of me remember seeing a sock bin. They are not the kind of things you give away to least not to my friends.  I can just imagine the conversation.  "Do you think you might like these socks I found in my drawer? They are very nice, never worn, in a lovely shade of beige.  You say you don't wear beige socks?  Do you know anyone who does? Me neither." I can't see myself putting them out at a yard sale. What is the going rate for 2nd hand socks? A dime? Maybe I could put them in a free bin, or better yet a must-take-a-pair-with-any-purchase bin. I don't have any young children to make sock puppets for, and even if I did, who wants an off white sock puppet? I tried putting them on my dog's feet, thinking he would appreciate the extra warmth, but he looked so disappointed in me that I immediately removed them. 

So I googled what to do with extra socks and found ideas ranging from benignly helpful to truly bizarre. One site suggested using them as Coke can cozies, although why anyone would want to drink from a sock covered can is beyond me, and how would you set them down without them tipping over?  Another site urged me to fill them with flour so that "boys" could throw them at each other without doing any damage. I raised a boy with a rocket launcher for an arm and I find it difficult to imagine him not doing any damage with a flour stuffed sock, and more importantly, a sock I had given him with the express purpose of throwing it at something. Many of the "tips" involved cutting the socks into strips and using them for either curling your hair or tying up drooping plants or "many things around the house", while other tips included putting them on your hands to use as dust mitts/furniture polishers.  One helpful suggestion was to fill them with beans, heat them in the microwave and tuck them into your child's coat as she left for school.  "Little hands warm up quick", chirped the site. It neglected to say what would happen when my daughter dipped a hand in her pocket, came up with a sock of hot beans and then chucked it at the child in the seat in front of her on the bus. I gaped at a description of how our ancestors were much more thrifty than we are, and felt suitably chastised as I read how the author's grandmother, raised on a cattle ranch, used old socks as menstrual pads. I made a mental note to mention that to my daughter in Austin. Socks also, so it is said, make "wonderful dish cloths", but probably only if you don't expect anyone to help you wash/dry dishes. "Where are your dishtowels?" "Oh, just use this old sock! And when you are finished, would you mind running your sock-hand over my coffee table?" Apparently socks make "wonderful wet cloths to soothe a feverish brow". Keep them in your medicine cabinet with the Tylenol, it was suggested.  Give them to your daughter, one intrepid mother urged, to make doll clothes out of.  One site said if you live in the country with livestock, keep a lot of old socks on hand to "take care of something yucky" which, thankfully, was not described. The same site suggested keeping all of your extra money in a colorful sock in your sock drawer. Apparently burglars eschew stealing socks or perhaps they only steal beige ones, in which case I need to dispose of these quickly.

I am amazed that so many people have put so much thought into what to do with extra socks.  But, on the other hand, who am I to talk...I wrote a blog about it.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

I am dreaming of a house

As anyone who lives in an apartment knows, the maintenance staff might just be the most important people around.  Since one of the benefits of apartment life is not having to fix any of the various problems that can crop up, having a maintenance person who is dependable, competent and responsive can absolutely make your life easier. 

I lived in my last apartment for 2 years.  The day I moved in, I made a list of things that were not working in the apartment.  On the day I moved out, that list was still intact.  Every time I called for an update on where I was in the queue, I was told they were really, really busy and they would get to me as soon as they could.  Apparently having a window that did not latch, a loose faucet in the bathroom and an outlet that sparked when I plugged in my phone charger was not enough to move me up the ladder. I often wondered who and what was above me on the list. Giant, gaping holes in the wall?  Light fixtures hanging by a wire?  Washing machines running amuck?  One afternoon as I was walking my dog, I passed an apartment that had one of the window screens off and lying in the bushes. Thru the window I could see that the blinds were hanging at an odd angle, many of the slats broken and/or bent.  I wondered where they were on the queue. A few weeks later my walk took me by the same apartment...the screen was still in the bushes and the blinds still wonky.  Based on the piles of stuff around their front door, I decided the condition of their blinds had less to do with their position on the list and more to do with their lifestyle. When you rent an apartment, you also rent your neighbors.

I like my apartment, I really do.  I have had two minor issues since moving in, both of which were dealt with quickly and competently. The floorplan is great, the location even better. But lately I have been thinking about being a home owner again.  Both of the problems I had, although minor, were not things I could have dealt with on my own.  I consider myself fairly handy with a hammer and my screwdriver skills are up to par, but repairing broken things around the house is vastly different than being able to assemble a desk or bookcase. And I think my children will agree with me here that I should not touch anything that involves electricity. So the question I continue living in apartments or once again jump into home ownership?

I have been thinking about how nice it would be to paint my living room or change the carpet or put up crown molding.  With an apartment, decor is pretty much luck of the draw. I have had griege carpet, murky tan walls, and once in Texas, bathroom counters that had been painted! No more vertical blinds clickity clacking at the patio would be nice as would having a garage to park in or in front of instead of being irritated when the jerk two doors down parks in my numbered spot.  Not having to walk my dog in the sleet, snow or dead of night would be a definite plus as would not having to carry little baggies with me for the inevitable poop scooping.  Right now the lawn just off my patio is a field of doggie land mines...courtesy of pet owners who chose to believe that others will pick up after them or, more likely, don't care because it's not their lawn or their patio. Not sharing walls or the floor or the ceiling with anyone else would be outstanding. I once had guys in the apartment below me who would pound on their ceiling, which happened to be my bedroom floor, every morning as I got ready for work.  Apparently our work hours did not mesh. Since I was as fond of them as they were of me, I hate to say that my response was not to tiptoe around getting dressed. They were lucky I resisted the urge to take up clogging.

I have this image of the perfect house for me...a cozy one bedroom with a spacious kitchen in a neighborhood of similar homes. It will have a covered front porch overlooking flower beds and a back door opening to a small fenced yard. There will be a street light right outside for safety, an alley in back with a garage and a Starbucks on the corner.  My neighbors will smile and wave as I walk past with my dog. And since I am dreaming, it will have an amazingly low price that will drastically appreciate as soon as I buy it! Oh...did I mention my belongings will teleport into the house immediately upon closing?

I signed a one year lease, so I have plenty of time to think and plan...and dream. My dream looks something like this.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

My deaf dog

Now that he is getting older, my sweet English Cocker Spaniel is succumbing to the issue many of the elderly do...deafness.  I am a little amazed that some vanity doctor hasn't developed doggie hearing aids.  I read recently that neutered dogs can be fitted with prosthetics so as to not lose face with their peers although I question whether dogs who have been 'fixed' have any feelings of inferiority. I doubt my dog mourns the loss of his fact it seems to have barely affected him. It has had a definite impact on my life, though.

Some advantages to living with a deaf dog.
I no longer have to shush him when the pizza delivery person rings the doorbell.  Since his nose  works just fine, I still have to deal with his excited dancing, but at least now I can get the pizza inside the house first. 
He and I don't have to sit on the floor in the walk in closet during thunder storms while he quivers at each thunder clap.  Ditto during 4th of July fireworks.
The neighbor's yappy little doglette barking his head off doesn't affect him at all as we walk past, nor does the enormous growly dog who rumbles out a caution if Colton wanders too close to his window. If he notices them at all, he just looks at them and wags his little stump of a tail.  I like to imagine this lack of reaction confounds the other dogs but I can't be certain of that...although it does send yapping doglette into paroxysms of feverish barking.
He is always so excited to see me when I come in the front door.  That really hasn't changed except that now he is also pleasantly surprised.
He sleeps thru the being woken up in the wee hours of Saturday mornings when the motorcyclist that lives in the complex comes roaring home. I still wake up but since he doesn't, he no longer decides it is a great time for a walk.

Some challenges in living with a deaf dog.
He has always liked to sleep in the same room with me while I work.  Now he sometimes sleeps on my feet under my desk. I like to think that shows how much he loves me, but I suspect it is so that he will know when I move, which occasionally results in me tripping over him.
He no longer comes when called. Ok, so maybe he didn't come all the time when I called before, but at least when he heard his name he would look at me, allowing me to wave a dog bone at him. Food is his great delight and he never fails to come running at the prospect of getting some. 
When it's time for a walk, I used to just jangle his leash a bit.  Now I have to go find him. Sometimes this involves waking him up, which I try to do gently.  Since he has a wonky heart, the last thing I want to do is shock him awake.
He doesn't sit on command any more. I have always accompanied voice commands with hand signals, so I know he knows what is expected...I think he is just tired of being told to sit.
Ever since I have owned him, an open door has been an invitation to go out and explore.  When he could hear, I could whistle him back home.  Now, if he happens to wander out the door, he trots happily on his way, no doubt assuming that since no one is calling him back, he is free to roam. Since road noise has no place in his quiet little world, his door-dashing could be dangerous. Earlier this summer I had left him at a friend's house and he managed to squeeze out the gate.  My friend caught up with him as he was jogging across the street no doubt to see if the bushes over there were more interesting than those on this side.

It's strikes me as funny that some people doubt that he is really deaf. Since he has little in the way of gray on his face, he looks a lot younger than his 13+ years. Sometimes, when people learn he is deaf, they immediately have to prove it for themselves.  This involves them standing behind him and loudly calling his name or clapping or even whistling. I have no idea why anyone thinks I would lie about his deafness, any more than I would lie about my own slowly declining hearing. My mother lost a huge part of her hearing about 15 years ago. She never acknowledged it, though, preferring to tell herself and everyone else that she could hear perfectly fine, meanwhile responding to every thing we said to her with "What?"

When I lose my hearing I am going to take a page from my dog's playbook.  I am not going to be embarrassed, nor am I going to pretend otherwise. I am just going to go happily on my way, smiling cheerfully at everyone who talks to me. I'll stop short of wagging my tail at them, though.