64 – enter the curmudgeon

Curmudgeon snuck up on me while I wasn’t looking and got all up in my grill yesterday.

Oh, I always knew I’d get there–my patience with stupidity has become nearly infinitesimal over the years, but I honestly thought it was because I had a very stressful job, and just didn’t have the time to waste. And, not to put too fine a point on it, I’m a lot like my mama. Not in her near-infinite store of patience for the little ones that she took care of in the church nursery for 15 years. No, I didn’t get the good part; I take after her other part.  As in, my daughter told me how she explained me to the new boyfriend: “Mom tells you exactly what she’s thinking. No matter what.”

grumpyI found out how wrong I was about being impatient because of my job–I haven’t had a job in five months, and I would have cheerfully slapped someone yesterday just to get things to move a little faster.  The nearest small town is pretty much our only place to get the items and the services we need these days, so I won’t give the specifics.  They don’t matter anyway.

Mantra for yesterday was:  I can’t change them, I can only change me. Om. Oh, sorry… ommmmmmmmmmmm.

My sister, who is quite a bit more in tune with her spirituality than I am, warned me off the subject some years ago, “Never pray for patience, because the good Lord doesn’t give you patience, he just gives you opportunities to practice.” And the last word is pronounced very carefully… PRACK-tissss. Ah.

curmudgeonSo, I’m not asking for more patience. Seriously. And, looking back down the years as I near my birthday, I realize that, if you’re only talking about patience, I was well on the way to curmudgeon-ness by 25.

My mother told me something once upon a time that still occurs to me once I’m settled down from the most recent encounter with the clueless: “Ignorance is forgivable; the cure for it is learning.” Of course, then I hear Ron White’s voice saying, “But you can’t fix stupid.”

For those who remember my internal voices–Ethel is the curmudgeon. Britni can’t even spell “curmudgeon.” Dexter… ah, Dexter HUNTS them.

 

50 – don’t believe everything you think, the banality of everyday evil, and banana bread.

Look, I love being 50.  OK, 53. And a half. As much as I’ve learned through five decades plus, there is one thing I have always struggled with, and apparently always will.

dontbelieveeverythingyouthinkI’ve heard them called negative tapes, negative thoughts, many, many ways to think about these things that haunt us.  Not so much regrets, as just the low-level echoes of the voice we created for ourselves early. The one that speaks up when we’re self-conscious, or shy, or scared, or worried…or despairing.  The easiest way I’ve found to express it is the quote in the graphic.

“Don’t believe everything you think.”

Hard to do–we keep being told “you must love yourself, or you can’t love anyone else.”  And that voice that is such a part of our lives does not love us. For the religious, it’s the voice of the devil: “You’re too stupid to pass this test on your own, you might as well cheat.” For those who think in terms of electronics, it’s an infinite loop: “No one wants you, no one’s ever going to want you–you know you’re going to fail, and when you do, no one’s ever going to want you.”  For the self-help gurus, it’s the subconscious, to be fought with affirmations: “I am strong, I am invincible, I am…woman.” Or something like that.

Then, there’s the middle road through all of that.  Just don’t believe the voice. Easy to say, hard to do–in my more relaxed moments, that inner voice is Ethel, the keeper of all that is depressing. Britni’s relentlessly cheerful attitude is almost bearable when the alternative is Ethel, the schoolmarm, the one that assesses everything, and always finds a flaw. By the way – I’m not schizophrenic.  Probably.  And it’s not paranoia if they really are out to get you.

Voices to the side, If we let the banality of the everyday evil that haunts our self-assessments win, we spiral out and down, we burn out, and we feel we deserve to do so. We don’t.  No one deserves that.

If it will make you feel better, here’s a recipe for banana bread.  I got it from my best friend about thirty years ago. Friends, too, can help you assess those voices… and best friends can tell you that you’re full of crapola. It’s oddly helpful.

Banana Bread

Note:  Apparently, I just bring bananas home to die.  So, I throw overripe bananas in the freezer, where they will turn very dark. You don’t have to wrap them or anything, just leave them until you need them.  I pull them out to thaw when I pull the butter out to soften.  They will peel very easily.  The bananas’ flavor intensifies as they freeze.

Preheat the oven at 350 degrees.
Grease a loaf pan with a bit of butter, margarine or shortening.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened (one stick)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 cup (or three bananas) mashed
  • 1/2 cup of chopped nuts (Pecans are best, but you can use almonds, walnuts, or any other nut, just make sure to chop them–they absorb some of the moisture in the bread, and eating a big wet walnut is urky.)

Instructions

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar, add eggs, beat, then all dry ingredients except nuts and beat until smooth.  Add bananas and nuts, fold them into the overall mixture.

Pour into a greased loaf pan, and bake at 350 degrees for 55 to 65 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

28 – scenarios, side notes and laundry

Spent Thanksgiving with the brother- and sister-in-law, was glad to be there, glad to hug some family that we love, and glad to come back to the House McNugget*, which we left parked in the RV park.

I was pretty quiet coming back, to the point that Corey noticed it and ask me about it… and yes, he does read this blog.  Hi, honey! Mostly, my fertile brain was turning over a number of possibilities in the seven-hour car ride back to Fort Stockton.

Side note: The reasons we bought the used car that we did were all made quite clear in driving down to South Texas and back.  Cruise control for that kind of driving is nearly a necessity. You can do without it, but it really does make it a LOT easier. For my husband.  I didn’t drive. 😀

Anyway, so I’m turning over scenarios in my mind every minute that I’m awake (most comfortable car to sleep in EVER).  Don’t know if you do that, but I always have. Snoozed twice, and both times, woke up in the middle of the plot.  Evidently, Britni* was first up, because the programs ranged from wondering if I had enough quarters to get the laundry done today all the way up to being recruited by almost anyone as a division manager for almost anything, almost anywhere.  My cheerleader alter ego gets a titch overheated when it comes to speculative futures.

I’ve always figured this kind of mental activity just keeps me from being surprised by events.  When I was married to the ex, I buried him about once a month.  Seriously, the scenario would lead off with him being already dead, and I’m greeting people at the funeral home, including his mama, who pretty much hated me anyway, and then I would skip right to throwing the dirt on the coffin, and then getting an apartment in East Texas near my family and getting a dozen cats.  Those scenarios started about the time he had a “cardiac event” at 47.  The man did not drink, smoke, dip, chew or anything interesting, and still ended up having a heart attack and having a stent put in to keep the blood flowing. I’m happy to report that he is, to my knowledge, still alive.

My sis told me some years later that she decided it was time to leave her husband when she started hoping he had driven off a cliff on the way home.  Apparently, wishful thinking and scenario playing are kinda tightly wound.

This Little Pig
This Little Pig

So, back to the stories I tell myself–the tape that was playing when I woke up this morning was the one where I write a best seller, and then settle into writing for a living, while residing quietly at the ranch where my husband will be working. Oh, yes, and getting in shape, losing weight, and photographing the flora and fauna of West Texas for yet another book.

Side note:  If you’re too young to remember “tape,” it’s essentially this brown plastic stuff that wound around reels and… oh, never mind.  Think of it like recording a show on the DVR while you’re sleeping and playing it back later once you wake up.

Not sure about the best seller bit, though I do have a sequel in mind for “This Little Pig,” which I’m trying to get edited, along with everything else. The book cover is at right, but not linked at the moment, until I can get it in good enough shape to go back up on Amazon as a Kindle selection. I’ve also got two non-fiction books already begun over the years, which may or may not be worth returning to, and then there’s my autobiography.  Some might THINK it’s fiction, but you just can’t make up stuff like that. You can, however, get sued for stuff like that, so that’s one I’m going to have to send to a lawyer first. 🙂 

Anyway, the husband is up and around, and it’s time to finish at least one of the scenarios, where I get the laundry done.  Low-hanging fruit, you know.  Advice for today, if you get dismayed by long to-do lists, pick one that you can finish quickly and successfully, and it’s actually fulfillable–which I’m pretty sure isn’t a word, but you know what I mean. Yes, I am that person who makes out a to-do list and always puts one at the top that I’ve already completed.  So now, I can check off, “write blog post for TTAADD* today.”

Have a grand day, my peeples… 😀

27 – mixed blessings and budgets

The company that was interested in my qualifications has put a pause on all hiring until the new year.  I am bummed and yet, somehow, incredibly relieved at the same time.  I wonder why?  Ah, that would be because of right now, if nothing changes, I have at least five weeks off. Unpaid, yes…unwelcome? No.

Corey starts his new job on Monday, Dec. 2.  In order to be able to take a deep breath, I had to put together a budget that makes sure that we can do more than survive on his paycheck, we can thrive. The tentative answer is “yes,” but to make sure, I had to go through the exercise below.  I threw numbers into all these categories to see where we ended up.

You’re welcome to use the table below to start your own process, but please note, and I’ll say this over and over… THIS IS NOT ADVICE. Nor do the numbers below reflect our budget, or the budgets of anyone alive or dead.  And no animals were harmed in the making of this budget.  And don’t spill it on your lap, the contents may be hot.

This is an extrapolation that I use each year to sort out what the monthly budget is going to be.  I've filled it with estimated numbers for two wage-earners combined, and three people for groceries, etc.  This bears no resemblance to my budget, number-wise.
This is an extrapolation that I use each year to sort out what the monthly budget is going to be. I’ve filled it with estimated numbers for two wage-earners combined, and three people for groceries, etc. This bears no resemblance to my budget, number-wise.

There are also a ton of things that aren’t included above, like school clothes for the kids, business clothes for the parents, haircuts, oil changes on the vehicles, home insurance or renters insurance, property taxes, income taxes, income tax refunds, and on and on.  Both columns can have dozens of lines that aren’t there now… but for me, there are three key pieces.

Key 1: That bottom left hand number matters.  As long as it’s a positive number, we’re doing OK.  If it is a negative number, I have to adjust my income or my outlay to change it to a positive – for instance, if that was a minus $55 dollars, I could adjust the amount I put into savings to nine percent, and my number would go back into positive.

Key 2: I put into a savings account or somewhere safe the amounts for insurance and other non-monthly bills.  I hate getting slapped by a $600 vehicle insurance bill that I’ve totally forgotten was coming up, or $300 for life insurance that bills once a quarter. I put the amounts away each month that are needed to get those bills paid in full when they show up.

Key 3: The emergency fund is crucial.  This is the part, oddly enough, that was the hardest.  For my own peace of mind, I really needed to have six months of outlay in the savings account to be comfortable.

OK, I’m done now… for anyone who’s attached to the alter egos*, Ethel is sitting next to me poking me with a sharpened elbow to make sure I get this right.  Britni’s eyes glazed over by the second paragraph, and she’s bedazzling something over in the corner. Dexter’s hunting down the turkey for tomorrow. There will be no presidential pardons for the fowl beastie, but the way in which it meets its demise will at least be painless, at my request.   Thanksgiving is the happiest time of the year for Dexter.

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all. Hope it’s filled with family, love and laughter.

25 – bouncing back

My alter-ego Brittany has, apparently, bounced back from the layoff news, and has returned to her insanely cheerful outlook. I can tell, because she’s decided that she needs another “i” in her name so she can draw more hearts over them when she signs her name to the latest office birthday memo.  She also says she needs one less “t,” because “it’s such an aGRESSive letter, just totally non-positive, you know?” She will be referring to herself as “Britni” in future.

Virtual Band-Aids  for virtual healing?
Uttering healing mantras and a virtual X marks the spot of the owie.

Yesterday was one month post-layoff date, and am finally catching up on my reading. Been perusing the webrary, flitting around from topic to topic.  Nothing off-limits, have ranged through many, many subjects.  Often, in following pig-trails through my research interests (virtual environment’s impact on human communication) the information I find there has supplemented my own healing process. Reading as much as I can is also taking on an urgency, because I don’t know how much longer I’ll have time to do so.

There has been some interest in my qualifications–it may come to nothing, but having someone interested in me has been of enormous help in my bounce back to my sunnily-sarcastic self. At that link, they also talk about research results showing that those who’ve been through traumatic events are actually stronger and faster to recover than people without that history.

Works for me.

24 – I think I am catharted (is that a word?)

Over the last few weeks, as I sat down in front of this same laptop and worked on more optimistic things, I also let the internal voice that is Brittany assist me in writing a draft that poured out all the heartache that came with being laid off.  Have you ever been around a pissed-off cheerleader? They’re oddly terrifying.

Brittany and I wrote in exquisitely excruciating detail about moving through the stages of grief, built numbered lists of heartache with the company, bulleted lists on what my manager is, was and how she should have been, and a searing, heart-tugging description of the less than wonderful day that I was laid off. A thousand words later, I was still writing about how everyone still loves me, no one understands what happened, how awful it all was…Thanks to Brittany’s assistance, this was one of the more satisfying writing jags I’ve ever been on.

maelstroms of the mind
maelstroms of the mind

Finishing that missive was much like how it feels when you are walking through hurricane winds, pushing you, battering at you–and finally, a few yards away, you see a door.  Opening it, you step inside, shut the door behind you and finally take a deep breath of the calmer air.  Ethel waits there (the second voice inside my head).  As annoying as she finds Brittany, Ethel was the first one to help her dry her tears, repair her makeup, then pat her on the back and tell her to get back in the game.  Dexter has been mostly absent from these conversations. Considering how I felt in the 48 days since I heard the news, probably best not to express a need for his services.

So, here’s the deal. If you take nothing else from the passage that I’ve been walking, take these steps:

Step One: Write it out. Say all the truths you need to say in text and image forms as necessary.  Put your truth out there–channel your inner Britanny. 🙂 This is not the time for understatement. Pour your heart and soul into it. Telling all those truths that you could never say to anyone that you worked with, worked for, or who worked for you will be gleefully amusing, starkly dramatic and enormously satisfying. 

Step Two: go ahead and hit the “save” button… but wait! Be very, very careful–it’s really easy to push the “publish” button on a blog, or the “send” button on email.  Don’t post it, don’t email it, don’t link to it. Push it to the side… but keep it.  You’ll want to read it again someday, I promise you.  Save it somewhere that only you have the password.

Step Three: Get on with your life.

There is so much satisfaction in finishing that rant!  But you gain SO much more by not sending it. You gain the respect of those who take note of such things, among so many other possibilities that can’t even be thought of while you’re onstage posturing in grief.  The comparatively tiny bit of satisfaction you get if you hit “send” will be quickly overwhelmed by the “oh, CRAP, did I really SEND that?” In a networked world, burning bridges is a bad idea…you’ll need them later. 

When you’re done, take a breath.  Write about something else.  Revisit the yammerings of your tortured, abused soul at some later point, and delete it.  By then, you will be walking in those calmer passages, and you will be able to breathe again.

Promise.

Regards,
Lisa

22 – which hand to pick?

Remember the game where a sibling or an adult would extend their hands, obviously with something clutched in each fist, and you were expected to choose one? Then they’d turn their hands over and open them and happiness or sadness would ensue, dependent on if you picked the right hand.  Well, actually, the third reaction was “Ewwww!” when my brother had a snail or a frog, or something else that was squishy and/or yucky.

Life is, once again, extending its hands for us to choose… and there is no ick factor involved. We have to decide between two possibilities.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

On one hand…(left hand, if it matters)

  • I have a job waiting for me in an industry that I love.

On the other (right hand–which kind of presages the result now, doesn’t it)

  • If he gets it, his new job pays more than twice what my job offer does, and does it from the jump.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

On one hand…

  • My job’s a sure thing.  They want me, they actually wanted me to start today, but I’ve put them off until next week to give us some breathing room. Went and talked to them, and they understand what the choices are that we have to make.

On the other…

  • They haven’t told him that he has a job yet, and his job has a probation period.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

On one hand…

  • If I took the job offer, we had planned to move the House McNugget out to Corey’s friend Phillip’s land, and he didn’t want rent–we would just have to pay for electric and water and TV.

On the other…

  • If Corey passes the probation period of about a month, they will put us up in a just-remodeled house to live in, at no cost to us at all.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

On one hand…

  • His workplace is isolated, and getting to town would be a 45-minute drive to even get to a convenience store

On the other…

  • If you take the possibility of obtaining the drug of choice (food) from this food junkie, that is a really, really good thing, as it would mean a 45-minute drive to get to convenience stores or fast food.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

On one hand…

  • There’s no correlative job offer for Cor with my job.

On the other…

  • There is with his. It’s sporadic, but the hourly wage is approximately 50% more than I would be making at the job I’m being offered.  So 27 hours at that job is equal to 40 hours at the job in town.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Other unknowns… the new job has a 401K with match, and just don’t know what the job they offered me has. Both jobs have health insurance, holidays, etc., and both have paid time off, probably comparable but unknown.

The voices inside my head have parked themselves on opposite horns of my dilemma–or at least the girls have.  Ethel is plumping for me taking the job in hand, as she sees it being worth two in the mesquite bush.   Brittany is all on the side of “show me the money!” as the deciding factor.  She’s a bit of a gold digger, that one.

Dexter’s not talking to me at the moment–all this dithering makes him twitchy. What do you think?