Category: Angst

A ramble.

Tomorrow is payday.

Never in my life have I felt more grateful for a paycheck…and never more convinced than ever that basic protections for individuals, workers, and families should be rights not luxuries.

We are seeing in real time what CAN be done by states, cities, companies and governments. Now, we need to confront that fact that the reason this hasn’t happened before is because those in charge chose not to. And of course they would! We’ve stopped referring to people as citizens and prefer to message in terms of “taxpayers,” as though the benefits of collective belonging are something you buy for yourself, rather than a public trust we all invest in.

What if the only measuring stick for success wasn’t just a bottom line or ledger? What if we stopped treating poverty like “lack of character” rather than a “lack of cash,” as historian Rutger Bregman put it? What if we respected the dignity of work of all types with a living wage rather than a constant negotiation and squeezing that leaves workers resentful of their bosses and bosses contemptuous of their workers? What if we treated public health as a public right…we might have fewer MLMs, people drinking bleach to cure disease, or be able to stop using GoFundMe as a kind of twisted healthcare to start!

Society should not be pay to play.

Perhaps I’m just unduly maudlin this evening but I have to believe that something is going change out of this mess. That something significant will change to materially improve a system so that the Dow isn’t the only thing people think should be lifted up. The alternative just feels…a bit bleak…



Late Night Musings After a Trip to the Bank Instead of Yoga

“While I don’t believe that money guarantees happiness, I know it helps. Because money can buy you the freedom to live life 100% on your own terms.”
– Brian Tracy

I’m loathe to confess this, ducklings, but it’s the truth: I’m a walking cliche.  Money concerns have stressed me out over the past year and a half, and it’s probably made me a bit less good humored.  Winding down my first Real Live Grownup job is contributing somewhat to that stress.  I know it’s the right time to leave, J. has a signed contract to start a new position in mere months, we’re not going to starve and we’ve planned pretty wisely for it, but the truth is I’m a bit freaked out.

Getting our student loans for J.’s graduate degree and then immediately turning around and paying it to a school was a whiplash inducing experience: I’d never personally handled that much money in my life and in a matter of weeks it came and went.  Our usual expenses became much more tightly managed with those loan payments every month.  We’ve streamlined and budgeted and still almost every penny is spoken for each paycheck.  It’s a satisfactory but not very reassuring state.

Here’s the thing – we’re good with money.  Really!  I put 10% of each paycheck into savings without exception, I pay into my 401k and have made smart choices in managing it, we take care of our property for reselling when it becomes necessary, and we’re not extravagant.  J. and I both operate under the frugality now, security later mentality; we believe in delayed gratification.  But money and its management have gotten a lot more complex over the last few years and frankly I now understand why my parents (who were not wealthy but were very comfortable when I was growing up) were always talking about it and making financial adjustments and budgets.  It doesn’t matter how good you are with it, I think money is terrifying, especially when you don’t make much.

And I don’t.  Part of the reason I feel it’s the right time for me to try and move on is because I don’t think I’m paid enough – which feels weird to write.  I spent the first couple years of my job just thankful to have it, but I’ve watched duties and responsibilities add up without review of what those jobs are actually worth and it’s been frustrating.  The university doesn’t do merit based wage increases and the opportunities for raises are almost nonexistent.  My boss actually told me at my last annual review a month or so ago that if I were staying they probably would have had HR come in and complete an inquiry to see if my salary should be raised.   Which is nice to hear, but would have been nicer a year ago when my duties were upped significantly after Hennessy quit.  I know that I’ll probably start whatever job I take next at a much lower rate than what I currently have (which, I promise, is saying something), but I’ll be willing if I have the option of merit based raises, especially since I expect to start at a bottom rung wherever I get a foot in the door and am willing to work hard to move up.

I graduated just before the financial meltdown, I got a job literally just as Lehman Brothers collapsed and when faced with the pretty terrifying prospect of joining my friends and associates in parents’ basements or collecting unemployment, I chose safety and stayed where I was.  Probably longer than I should have, if I’m honest.  Nowadays I’m ready for a bit more risk.

A few financial boons have eased the nervousness somewhat as we plan our escape and next stage.  Dad found an old bond in my name that I can collect on (after completing the task of tracking down who holds it now since the companies and ownership have transferred quite a bit, especially since the Recession hit).  That baby is going straight towards loans and savings!  J. picks up odd jobs where he can and assisted writing an article for a business magazine which brought in some extra income.  We’re not starving – if I’m objective and rational we are a long ways off from it.

But.  If the last four years have taught me anything, watching my grandparents’ retirement vanish practically overnight with the financial collapse, feeling my financial obligations grown disproportionately to my income, working on the MP and seeing how hard hit some professions in particular have been by the new financial reality…it’s that I know exactly how quickly monetary security can go away.  I think I’ve become just a little more paranoid.

Weigh in, minions, and be honest!  Have financial concerns taken on a different hue to you because of external forces?  What have the past couple of years looked like for the Minion Coterie?  Do money and financial planning cause you stress, even when you’re good at it?  Am I unnecessarily paranoid – or is this worry common?  Talk to me, I’m really interested in a broad perspective here.

PS – As a further effort to cut expenses I just made my last want-based purchase for the entirety of 2013.  Hold me to it, minions, if I breathe a word about shopping in anything but hypothetical terms before Christmas, strike me down!

Murphy’s Freakin’ Law. Again!

“Frugality is misery in disguise.”
– Publilius Syrus

And, suddenly and as inconveniently as it always is, our car needs a $1500 repair.  The day before we fly out.

Seriously…plane tickets home for me, plane tickets for both of us to the East Coast, a week in a hotel in London while we hunt for a flat for J., and the food we haven’t even bought yet.  Come on, universe, just give us a break.

Thank Jupiter, Odin, and Quetzalcoatl we built up a decent pile of savings against the day of reckoning for grad school and can afford it.  Which pile is swiftly depleting.  Minions, send me your tips and tricks to spiff up Ramen, I’ll be living on it for the next six months!


Another Humorless Interlude – Hyperbole Will Return Shortly

“Anytime you suffer a setback or disappointment, put your head down and plow ahead.”
– Les Brown

Thanks, minions, don't mind if I do.

Kittens, I’m bitter.  Talking it over with Peregrine helped, as it so often does, to really organize my bitterness into manageable and coherent issues and I finally realized why I’m so disappointed – you know, besides the fact that my best friend and lover is moving to London without me.

The real problem is that I feel horribly left behind.  I gladly put J.’s schooling at the top of my priority list and considered my ambitions and goals on hold and never considered it a burden or bad decision.  I still don’t.  I can write from anywhere, but there are only a few really great schools for accounting and finance and I was perfectly content to go where he schooling took us, and wherever his jobs will too.   But suddenly, I’m not going with him anymore (and yes, I know I am eventually, but just indulge me in this mini sulk, alright?) and I’m not sure how that fits in.

I’ve delayed grad school or other academic ambitions, writing is hard when you can’t really devote yourself to it because you’re earning the bread/bringing home the bacon/whatever, and I’ve stayed an extra three years in my dinky university town waiting for him to catch up to me in schooling.  And now, the sacrifice I was willing and glad to make (and still am!) isn’t really paying out the way I thought it would.

I hear you now, “G’DUH, Small Dog.  Welcome to life, you whiner.”  You’re right, I’m sure, but that doesn’t stop the disappointment.

I’m grateful to have a job, goodness knows not everyone does these days.  I’m proud to be able to support my family and keep us out of debt while we finished up undergraduates, internships, and the first few years of marriage.  I’m ludicrously proud of J. and what he’s achieved and thrilled about where he got into school…

But what about me?

Yes, I’m perfectly aware of how selfish that sounds, but I can’t help it.  What about me and what I wanted and planned for?  Three years isn’t a long time in the grand scheme of things, but honestly it has seemed horrendously long to me.  I’ve been working a job that I can say I am grateful for and usually enjoy (and you can bear witness that the stories I’ve got out of it are amazing, eh, ducklings?), but I don’t want to be a police department receptionist for the rest of my life.  It’s a job without the possibility of promotion or progression.  Ditto really for the town we currently live in, and frankly most cities compare unfavorably to London.  J. really was the only reason I stayed where I am now…and he’s leaving.  I’m having a weird time processing that.

So, I’m bitter.  Six more months of slogging (yeah yeah, I hear you again, “Cry me a river, C.”) past when I thought I’d be moving on and forward with our/my lives/life.  It’s not the great tragedy I’m making it out to be, I know that, but it’s still not…what I planned.  And I hate having my plans messed up!

At the same time, I’m feeling a little smug that I’m holding up as well as I am.  I’ve only really whined to Venice, Peregrine, and Hennessy, and in the meantime I have packed up a third of my house to store (the reason for which you will just have to wait and see!), kitted J. out fully in sweaters and suits, researched places to live, made due when Her Majesty’s Government turned our plans on their heads, and generally kept on keeping on.  I’m tired, disappointed, but proud and damned effective.

Rant over!  Thanks for listening, kittens, you’re all sorts of awesome.  But you knew that.

My 30 Minute Pregnancy Scare

“Another school dismissed confinements with a cheerful brightness, a ‘so-sorry-I’m-late-darling-I’ve-just-been-having-a-baby-where-shall-we-go-for-supper-afterwards?’ sangfroid which Flora, curiously enough, found equally alarming.”
– Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons

Minions, it’s been at least half a dozen posts since I last confessed my idiocy, I’m sure you’ve been on tenterhooks the whole time to see how I would be able to best my sock freakout.  I’m pleased/dismayed to be able to confirm that I have indeed topped it.  Read on.

This is me rising. Enthusiastically.

So, first J. and I were going to Britain together.  Then Her Majesty’s Government changed their visa laws so we were going separately, him in September (next month, ack!) and myself probably in February.  I’ve reconciled myself to my fate charmingly and just like a Real Live Grownup should.  In spite of the occasional bout of annoyance/minor depression, I’ve risen.

And then, a couple of weeks ago, I torpedoed my emotional scaffolding.

(Dad, don’t read this next bit.)  It was the first scheduled day of my period.  I’m on the pill and regular as clockwork.  And I made it through the entire day until 4:30pm.  The office was practically empty, I was alone with my thoughts (first mistake) and realized that the usual torso-bending cramps that I should have been “enjoying” had failed to put in an appearance.

Consequently, angst.

How shall I put this delicately?  You’d think that impending physical separation from my husband for months at a time would reduce the the, ah, threat of unplanned pregnancy, right?  How wrong you would be!  Suddenly, a cramp free afternoon (which, had I been in my right mind would be an occasion for joy) became and fear-scape of previously unseen proportions.

I saw myself great with child…with said spawn’s father on another bloody continent.  An entire pregnancy by myself, freaking out about every flutter, ultrasound, craving, and ache, without J. to tell me I’m being silly/order me to hospital.  No one to send out on late night runs for ice cream when I’ve overreached my gravitational ability to haul myself upright.  The fear that I wouldn’t be able to drive myself to work, since my feet only touch the pedals when the seat is all the way forward in the car – which would not be remotely possible with a fetus between me and the wheel.  A new horror of my klutziness as I pictured myself slipping and sliding on winter ice, which is nothing new, but suddenly far more terrifying with the risk of harming my child.

AUGH! It's trying to escape!

I saw myself going into labor with only my mother beside me – whose hand I couldn’t possibly reduce to pulp in my agony since she’d, you know, originally reduced Dad’s hand to pulp having me.  It would have smacked of ingratitude.  J. not being able to be there for the birth of our first child, perhaps watching and offering helpful tips (no doubt ungratefully received) via Skype.  I saw myself trying to juggle a newborn and still working so that I could retain my insurance to pay for this wrinkled, squalling, helpless thing… without childcare – this particular vision made me break out in a cold sweat.

I’m tough.  But childbirth scares me.  Childbirth without J. there to take my expletives, hold my hand, and remind me that our kid will totally be worth the current pain – that petrifies me.

As you may have guessed, the torso-bending cramps showed up just after I got home from work and the universe righted itself.  Except for one single trembling woman who had to restrain tears of gratitude as she reached for her “feminine hygiene” products with an unsteady hand.  I’m better now, but you’ll observe it took me a couple of weeks to be able to even write about it.

We Knew it Was Coming…

“What had she been thinking of?  She just wasn’t the kind of person who lost it.  Other people did, and good luck to them.  But not Lisa- like it or not she was a survivor.  Not that she didn’t feel raw and lonely and wretched, she did.  But nervous breakdowns were like colored contacts-fine for other people, but they weren’t really her.
– Marian Keyes, Sushi for Beginners

Ah, Rage. We were all wondering when you'd show up.


Coming as unexpectedly and I expected, as unpredictably as I predicted, a sudden, intense burst of anger and disappointment.  A vivid desire that I was not so self-contained so that I could throw myself on the floor and wail.  A distinct and palpable sense of cosmic betrayal.

I was supposed to move to London in two months, and now I’m probably not moving there until February, and J. is going to be on his own, we’ll have to meet up halfway in Virginia for Christmas, six months without my best friend, etc. etc. etc.   Angst, angst, angst.

If J. and I together had decided from the beginning that I would stay behind and catch up later using a visitor’s visa, or even just extended trips, that would have been one thing, but for the past several months we’ve been operating under the scheme of going to London together.  It’s one thing to make travel plans, and entirely another to have travel plans “thrust upon ’em.”  I’ve also been planning on leaving me job in mid-September and have been preparing accordingly… which is just too darn bad because I most likely won’t be going until February instead.

Which is not to say that there isn’t a plan.  Of course there is (don’t you know me at all?).  It’s just that I had this other plan and it’s be been throw completely off course and Small Dogs do not deal well with such things.  I’m ferociously disappointed about not getting to go to London as planned, and I’m less than thrilled at the thought of being stuck here for an additional 6 months while J. is stuck equally alone across the ocean.

The separation will hardly be fun, but it’s entirely doable.  The real underlying frustration for me was the sense that going to London for grad school was the Next Great Step in Life…and now I’ve stagnated again.  I’ve felt thus ever since graduating and waiting for J. to finish his undergraduate as well.  I was ready to move forward onto the next phase…and now I feel that I’m going to be (even if just temporarily) left behind.  And it makes almost unbearably sad.

Pictured: a sensible aunty sort of freak out. You can't tell but all of her family has just died of smallpox and she had to sell the farm. Composure, kittens, that's the key.

Truth?  I’m going through the most sensible freak out of my life right now, which is hardly as satisfying as a good old fashioned tantrum…but I must face it.  I’m one of life’s Make It Work types.  As gratifying as it would be to take to my bed and demand my smelling salts, I’m just not that girl.  So I’m pressing on with the moving advice, tips, posts, and general attitude.  After all, it’s only been delayed.

However, in all fairness, it’s been rainy and muggy all day so my attitude may be entirely a byproduct of the weather.

More likely I’m just having a bad day.

Adversity and Other Drugs

“Something cool,
I’d like to order something cool…”
– Julie London

Bad things come in threes, minions.  As if problems and delays in moving to only the only city I have ever loved wasn’t crippling enough (and can you tell that I’m trying hard to maintain this facade of adult-like maturity when I really want to throw a monster temper tantrum?), a very rude patron decided to complain that I was the one being rude to him!  In spite of a wide smile and attempts to help him as quickly and efficiently as possible.  And then our air conditioning went out and we woke up to a 90 degree flat yesterday morning, an event which was unfortunately repeated this morning as our landlords haven’t been able to fix it yet.

False accusations + heat + crushing disappointments = severe snark.  Although I fully admit Sav is having a much worse time.

Perk me up, kittens.  What’s going on in your corners of the world?


Paradigm Shifts, or When Things Go Wrong

“I’ll just have to rise to the occasion and do something spectacular again.  Spectaculars always take so much out of me.”
– The Slipper and the Rose

Let's all follow Mr. Adam's advice here, eh?

And now, piglets, we come to the most dangerous and destructive incidents in preparing for a move: when things go wrong, or at least ridiculously awry.   Because they will, and you need to be able to turn on a dime.  Airlines, families, governments, private crises, and various other instances and entities can and will throw your plans off rail and the savvy traveler knows how to land on his or her feet.

For example, Parliament enacted a policy yesterday that changes how and when dependent spouses of students can accompany them to the UK.  And, surprise surprise, we’re affected.  So was our holiday as it was spent forming a new stratagem to get back into a country that the US was currently celebrating it’s freedom from (the irony was not lost on us).

It’s not too tragic, my loves, never fear, but enough for us to largely scrap our plans and start over again in things like housing, travel, and other arrangements.  You may imagine how much this thrills a control freak like me.  My actual response was something along the lines of “Expletive expletive expletivey expletiving expletive!” but after a few minutes of intense angst and a couple hours agonizing to a lesser degree and research, J. and I solved it.  We’ve worked out several plans contingent upon these changes and are feeling, if not chipper about them, rather proud of turning about so quickly with panache.

You rang, m'lord?

Sidenote: world leaders, dictators, movers, shakers, celebrities and Very Important Persons, do any of you need a personal assistant?  One who can face nuclear disasters, ambassadors vanishing into the ether, botched public appearances, wardrobe malfunctions, catastrophic paperwork misfilings, and seemingly crushing misfortunes with a quick comeback and immediate, impressive action?  Call me.  I’m your girl.

In any event, my point is thus.  When planning a move, vacation, road trip, military expedition, weekend in Paris, or minor invasion, expect that something, somewhere will go wrong.  It’s the rule, the gods of travel have decreed it thus.  And more importantly, don’t panic.

If your plane is delayed, rerouted, or vanishes into the Bermuda Triangle, you can reschedule, sightsee, and make a good impression on the Higher Beings from the New Dimension as you settle into your new life.  If you are struck down by broken bones or falling crockery, you can get yourself patched up.  And if the British government changes their visa policies, you regroup, thank your lucky stars you didn’t book that weekend in Edinburgh already, and decide to go to the country as a visitor instead.  It’s a separate immigration headache, but it’s highly doable.

As Mum reminded me (in the sensible, crisp tone that she uses to pull me back from the ledge of entirely unwarranted freak outs) there is very little that constitutes a crisis.  J. not getting into grad school last minute, me losing my job, our passports getting stolen, our car breaking down irrevocably, and one of us coming down with a disease previous unknown to science is a crisis.  Having to fly back and forth to the US every handful of months is merely very, very inconvenient.

Perspective, kittens.  When things go wrong it often takes little more than the ability to 1) not whine and 2) get to work setting up a Plan B to set things right.  Because you are all do-ers, aren’t you?  That’s right!

Financial. Aid.

If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.
~ Andy McIntyre

Woof, ducklings!  I thought the application process for J.’s grad school was grueling and soul destroying…but it is as nothing compared to working out how to pay for it!

Where will we live?
How much can we contribute ourselves?
How much, then, will we need in loans?
Federal, private, or both?
and most importantly…
Will we have to sell any kidneys and/or future children to pull this off?

We must write such moving personal statements that the entire selection committe will be moved to tears/frenzy/generosity. See photo for desired effect.

Last night we stayed up past 1am writing (another!) personal statement, this time for a scholarship application.  Let me just say here, that between J.’s experience and my editing, we have streamlined this sort of midnight activity to a science.  In fact reading the earliest application essays and comparing them to the last one we put together was hilarious – especially considering that earliest and probably least polished piece of work is the one that got him into the school we’re most excited about.  Who can fathom the ways of grad school selection committees?

Naturally staying up that late working on something that will only decide the course of our destiny is not conducive to stress free and happy Small Dogs.  I was frighteningly stressed and humorless about it all, I’m afraid, but J. seems to find this sort of angst in me amusing – granted I was especially klutzy last night and after midnight all sorts of incoherent things start coming out of my mouth, so maybe I’m better company than I thought.

So far this work is paying off, though.  J. has one fabulous scholarship offer to school A and now we’re just waiting to see what school B will throw at us (we’re dreadful tarts, you see, money buys our affections).  We’ve callously kicked schools C and D to the curb.

We’ll be making a final decision sometime in the near future.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I simply have to go breathe into a paper bag just thinking about it…

Ducklings, May I Ramble?

By all means marry; if you get a good wife, you’ll be happy; if you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher.
– Socrates

Confession time.  I was an excellent girlfriend when J. and I were dating.  I was independent, clever, fun to be around, liked trying new things, was optimistic, and supportive (oh, and definitely humble).  By anyone’s standards I really was a catch.

Alternatively, I’m starting to think that I really suck at being a wife.

To start out with, I am stressed all the time…but I think this is pretty understandable.  When we got married, I assumed the rent, food, utilities, car payments, insurance, two credit cards, and the general livelihood of two people, solely by myself.  Just so we are clear I am happy to do this, but I can’t lie, it’s an awfully big pressure.  I live in fear of unlikely events (pregnancy, job loss, etc.) because of how it will affect my family.  It’s a Great Big Worry to carry around all by myself and I confess, I probably exacerbate the stress by trying (in all my control freak, Small Dog glory) to plan and be prepared for every eventuality.  Which is, of course, impossible.

It’s also very hard for me to adjust my thinking to his.  His life revolves around school, I graduated two years ago and now work full time.  Most of his friends still live in the area or within an hour’s driving, most of my friends (exception of Margot and Angel) are in different states/countries and my nearby family is pretty busy these days.  Honestly, it can get terribly lonely working a subsistence job, having a thinned out support system,  and bearing the financial weight of two people.  I’ve always been pretty good at entertaining myself, keeping myself busy, but honestly it’s downright exhausting these days.

This stress builds up to the point the small things violate my sense of order.  If the rubbish isn’t taken out when I ask, if the house is a mess, if I have a bad day at work, or if…you get the idea.  Complete transformation into a snarling Gorgon.

Small things become massive disappointments, such as when J. applied for a job and didn’t get it (even though they wanted him) because he’s graduating in six months and they want someone for longer.

I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m not fun to be married to these days.  I’m worried, shrewish, tired, easily irritated…I’m the exact opposite of what I was as a girlfriend.  And even though I’m sure a good chunk of this can be tied to my birth control being out of whack, I’m feeling miserable about it.