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Posts Tagged ‘Adulthood’

(It’s my 1.5 year anniversary living in Annapolis. My first week here was less-than-awesome.)

You do not realize the full extent of boredom until you’ve moved to an entirely new town and everything decides to go haywire all at once, as karma smacks down the boastful claim you made a few days back that, “everything is perfect!”

Basted in butter, these guys are delicious.

Your car breaks down in protest of all the extra miles you’ve put on him in the last three weeks; your laptop screen goes bright and shiny for a few seconds in the middle of a movie, then gives up the ghost accompanied by a loud-pitched shriek; you have no furniture in your new apartment to rearrange and the only books in sight — you’ve read 200 times each. And then – voila! A three-day weekend descends upon you. A time that should be full of wine-infused joy with friends becomes a wasteland of time stretching in dusty piles before you.

What to do? You clean. And you become obsessive. You clean the entire house once, then twice, then a last time. Then you get a drink of water to give you something to do; namely, put the glass in the dishwasher. And then bite your fingernails nervously because it’s too unsettling to know that ONE UNWASHED THING is within reach. So you hand-wash it, burning up three minutes.

Then you call your family members one-by-one and remember on call numero uno why you only do this on occasion, as your dad cracks himself up for the umpteenth time over the topic of your mythical Swedish boyfriend, Sven, asking if he’s at long-last coming home with you this year for Christmas because the family would really love to meet him. Dad, I promise you, this isn’t any more hilarious the thirtieth time around than it was the first.

After hanging up, you spot a smudge on the shower door across the apartment from the den. Three walls lie between you and it, but your X-ray vision pierces the thin plaster – the same inadequate plaster that lets in the sounds of the bickering couple next door at 2 a.m.  Relieved, you race to wipe it clean. You are thankful, also, that you never had the chance to go to Target to buy cleaning supplies, because that only adds to the challenge of figuring out how to clean things armed only with mismatched argyle socks (bought in a moment of weakness), bleach scrub and ear swabs.

You begin to pace back and forth. You open the door to your balcony and envy the squirrels as they dash about in the fresh air. You begin to feel like a prisoner. You raid the few remaining groceries left in your refrigerator and make up your own recipe for scrambled eggs, then pull out a cookbook to lust over all the things you cannot make because you don’t have a car. You’d do anything for a steak at this point. You happen to again catch sight of the squirrels flitting about, and they suddenly look fat and delicious. You contemplate snaring a few, but you have no bait, unless you sacrifice the eggs on the altar of chance, and no string to make a trap (the five inches of dental floss left in your cabinet is insufficient). With a sigh, you eat your scrambled eggs.

Then – freedom! The car repair lady calls you to tell you that your car is ready to pick up. You dash down the blocks – you spot it! You run your hand lovingly over its dirty gray surface, not even feeling the urge to clean it, because you.have.a.life.again.  You marvel as you hear once again the rattling purr of its motor that you haven’t heard in ten days.

It’s intoxicating! What to do? Where to go? What magical paths lay ahead?

Well, the evening only ended up window-shopping at Old Navy and reading books at Barnes and Noble but, nevertheless, I felt as if I had been handed a tropic vacation. And as a final act of wildness, I left a dish in the sink and a heap of clothing inches away from the hamper testifying to my non-existent basketball skilz. No judging, please.

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My cousin advised me to dabble in some sort of advice blogging, so here I go: Six Ways for Singles to Budget.

A few disclaimers: First off, I suck at this kind of writing, so bear with me. I’d much prefer to just continue to write nonsense. Secondly, a lot of friends and family use Dave Ramsey and have given me the advice that has helped shape my financial worldview, so if any of these are a faint echo of Mr. Ramsey’s fine work … I don’t know what to say. I tried to check out his website, but you have to pay for anything substantial (geez). Lastly, I doubt any of this will be helpful for couples or families or homeowners, since varying incomes and dependents and payments aren’t in my life yet. Or helpful for anyone, actually …

This year, I decided  three New Years’  resolutions: Restart my blog (ain’t ya glad?), get my finances in order, and work out (yeah, this last one took one for the team and died in February). It was super intimidating; I’m definitely the type that thinks, “Hey if it’s there, spend it on a flatscreen.” However the big 3-0 is not toooo far away and I’m beginning to realize I need to get my shiz together financially for me and my future cats.

1. Look at the entire year ahead and determine what is paid at a fixed rate. That is, what will always be the same amount and wouldn’t benefit you to pay ahead? For me, this was rent and car insurance. It comes every month and twice a year, respectively, and in the past three years has stayed pretty regular in amount.

2. Look at what is very important and is paid regularly, but can vary in amount because it would behoove you to pay ahead. Student loans and credit card debt were my immediate concerns. Others could be car payments, savings/financial/retirement plans, health insurance, other types of personal loans, mortgages, and the like.

3. List out the day-to-day expenses and determine how much you need, within your lifestyle, to spend on them. It can take trial and error to nail these down; took me about a month to trim what was excess and add where I had estimated incorrectly. For me, this looks like:

  • Food (me like steak)
  • Gas (the car kind)
  • Utilities/internet (hot showers are as necessary as coffee and my attempts to use carrier pigeons to blog failed hence internet)
  • Phone (hardly use it, hate the thing)
  • Medications/prescriptions (if you’re healthy like me, this could be vitamins, deodorant, contact solution)
  • Medical co-payments
  • Basic Clothing (*sadly puts beautiful $300 pink trench coat back on the rack*)
  • Household Miscellaneous (such a pain to spend money for cleaning supplies. It’s like paying money to stub your toe.)
  • Charity/Tithes (if you’re into that sort of thing)
  • Fun (because you will snap it don’t budget for it, I promise)

4. Only spend the cash you have in your wallet. I made envelopes for each category and withdraw the appropriate amounts of cash each pay period and file away the bills. When it’s gone, it’s gone. The things I can’t pay for in cash, I pay online. That is utilities, some medical payments, phone and some charity stuff. I write a check for rent and use my debit card for gas. Food, medications, co-pays, clothing, household items and fun are cash-only. If I use up my allotted gas amount, the needed amount comes out of the “fun” budget. If by any chance there’s any money leftover from fun or food, I put it in a “for vacation” envelope.

5. Then, pay off any “damn, you’re killing me, Smalls” debt, ASAP. This was credit card for me. It is now paid off and I will only use if my car is in deep trouble. Next for me was student loans. After I figured out the money I needed to set aside for each pay period for all the things above, I looked at my net pay for the year and subtracted the total of all the things above from it. Then, I divided most of the remaining (setting aside some for vacation and emergencies) by 12. That is amount I pay for student loans each month (Currently, I’m able to pay three times the payment amount.)

6. Enjoy life. Hilariously, I am so much better off than when I spent money willy nilly. I don’t feel guilty when I buy a beer or splurge on a new dress, because if the money’s there, I can spend it!

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The other day, in my favorite coffee shop, stood a small girl with a headful of curls and angelic eyes.

Her mom was ordering coffee, when, lo and behold, her sharp eyes came level with – oh glory – a whole case of donuts behind a glass counter.

Except – they were not donuts. They were bagels. Really gross, uninteresting bagels.

FAXZ3JOHAWBX3TK.LARGE

Alert to small children everywhere: Those are flecks of onion, not candy.

Yet, her small mind, not very discerning, apparently had yet to discover the difference between a heavenly jam-filled, sugar-frosted bomb of fried carbs and a tasteless bland bagel smothered with equally bland cream cheese.( Raisin bagels, in fact, adding another layer of deception to those who prefer chocolate.)

“Mommy, donuts!” she exclaimed, her nose pressed to the glass in gluttonous anticipation of the feast before her.

“No, honey,” said Mommy, absently counting change.

“DONUTS,” Shirley Temple said firmly.

Mommy snapped out of her lethargy and realized shit was about to get real.

“Those are bagels, honey. They are gross.”

Shirley’s brow was furrowed in utter disgust. Her mind was racing: Lady, do I look like I was born yesterday? Clearly those rings of goodness are donuts and nothing else.

Yet, she patiently said one more time to poor, dumb Mommy, “Donut. I want a donut.” To clear all confusion, she pointed to the glass case.

“Those are not donuts, honey, those are bagels,” Mommy reasoned desperately, with the look of a woman who knows she’s going down into fiery defeat.

Shirley hit the floor about the same time her voice hit 100M decibels.  Cruel world, evil mommy, elusive, unattainable donut! Mommy alligator-wrestled Shirley outside leaving the placid baby brother alone in his stroller.

Not exactly sure how she was appeased, but she was sullenly munching a chocolate scone when I left.

As much as I want to say I don’t act like that kid, I guess I do. “Come on, God, just give me that donut already.” And no matter how many times God tells me, “Dude, it’s a bagel, just trust me, I’ll give you an awesome donut later,” I know better and cannot.think.of.anything.else.but.the.donut.I.cannot.have.

Thank the good Lord for chocolate scones …

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And my car, “Rathole” hath come back to join the living.

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Rathole being loaded onto the ambulance after he decided to be a jerk.

Rathole and I have been through a lot together. I bought him new 10 years ago and he was my pride and joy. He has since become the bane of my existence and I’m totally cheating on him with a red Mini Cooper online.

His loyalty leaves much to be desired. For example, Friday evening, he decided to crap out on me whilst I was indulging in much needed retail therapy. Not only was he sneaky enough to crap out and cause me stress, he lured me into false security by getting me to the shopping center, then thumbed his headlights at me.

Anyway, Rathole has been declared somewhat functional by the repair dude next door. Apparently the computer chip in the key is messed up … a problem it had before and takes 2 seconds to fix. This tricky maneuver of turning the key a certain way and pushing a hidden button only cost 110 bucks. A steal, I think.

Now just to see if we can go another two years without him knowing about Mini …

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This was written five years ago in memory of the worst time in my life. As requested by Valerie, I have resurrected it here. I contemplated editing it but decided to leave it in its original style AKA all the raw horror.

Old men creep me out.

Well, not all old men. For example, my grandpa was my favorite person in the whole entire world. But most old men.

The latest in a long series is a random, withered guy at work who pops into the break room at awkward times. No one is sure who the hell he is or why exactly he is always chilling out in the Northern Virginia Daily’s break room, but he haunts it as if it’s his own private club. I mean, don’t get me wrong, the NVD break room’s OK as far as break rooms go, but it can’t be the hottest spot in town, even if it is Strasburg, Virginia. Seriously dude, go sit in the park or in the bar or in the coffee shop or by the ice cream stand, not my freakin’ break room, the only quiet, air-conditioned place in the building. Pardon my rant. Anyway, he asks slightly too personal questions and calls me by endearing names: “Sweetheart,” “Angel,” and “Honey” among them. Around my dinner hour, I always cautiously walk past the doorway and if he’s in there, I’ll either wait a few hours to go back down or just eat at my desk, both of which make me grumpy for the rest of the day.

I never used to be so creeped out by old men before. I used to be able to take all sorts of people in stride and not let them bother me. Back in the day, I would have just kept right on eating if the NVD Creepy Man walked in during my second course (my yogurt). However, life has never been the same, post-Mr. S. He scarred me for life. I will never forget the hellishness that was the month he and I worked together. To this day I feel nauseous when I think of him.

Right after finishing college, I stuck around Steubenville while job searching. I needed money to pay the bills (surprise), so I nannyed some cute little kids for a while and did house-cleaning for a sweet lady whose husband worked at the University. These were pleasant, nice jobs which I enjoyed doing. But I was still short on cash.

Then my roommate, Valerie, offered to let me have her side job as a maid for Mr. S. I was wary at first. Val had told me frequent stories about him, and he seemed the epitome of weird. He told her she was beautiful, took her to dinner, and invited her along to family reunions. Seemed sketch to me. And he was like a hundred years old. We loved telling Val that he was her Italian sugar daddy and she would get all freaked out. I really didn’t want to take this job. However, my bank account was running on empty so I decided to take it on. I really had no other way to make money and he paid pretty well. Seriously, how bad could he be?

She had convinced me by the time that she took me to meet him that he was perfectly harmless, albeit psycho. I was willing to give anyone a chance if he paid me $12 an hour.

When we walked up to his apartment, Val whispered to me, “I always knock really loud so he knows to get his clothes on.” And she pounded vigorously on the door.

“WHAT!” I croaked hoarsely. Great. She hadn’t told me about this. At her knock, I heard a screeched, “Come EEN!” And I met Mr. S for the first time.

Mr. S was a shriveled, tan little Italian man with enormous glasses, tufts of grizzled hair and disturbingly white teeth. The top of his head came to my chin. His apparel of choice, I was to learn, was usually a long t-shirt. I was later to find out that if I was lucky, he’d be wearing a pair of awkwardly short shorts along with the t-shirt. Or, if I was not so lucky, he was just chilling in his underwear. Yes, his underwear. Not boxers. Underwear. High cut. And that’s all I want to say about it. I don’t want to think about it anymore, and I assure you that you do not want to think about it, either. It don’t think it was anything dirty or perverted on his part (I hope), he just forgot to put on pants.

His living space was a 50-foot square apartment. His kitchen was miniscule, his living room could barely hold his recliner (no room for a sofa), and his king-sized bed (quilted in bright red satin hearts) took up the entire bedroom. However, he had two bathrooms … a master bath and a bathroom next to the kitchen. The two bathrooms themselves took up half the space. Makes sense to me. I mean, you never know when you’ll have to go.

He owned three televisions. A flat screen in the living room (it would have not fit otherwise), one in the kitchen, and one in the bedroom. At this particular point in time (Val and I had entered and he was shaking my hand my hand vigorously) all three Tvs were tuned into some sort of Italian beauty pageant … Creeper clue #1. As he shook my hand, he gave me what I assume he meant to be a flirtatious wink and said to Val, “Ah! Anotha beyewtiful lady!” [Mental note to self: Make yourself ugly]

My first task, after Val showed me the usual tasks (cleaning bathroom, making bed, sweeping floors, taking care of dishes, etc.) was helping Mr. S in his Italian cookery. On his stove was a cauldron big enough to fit Hansel and Gretel, full to the brim of some boiling hot tomato substance. I was to stir this tomato shit until it evaporated by half. Great. In August. In a stuffy kitchen the size of a linen closet. Oh, and by this time, “Miss Italy” had run its course and now we were watching some random Italian soap, over which S grew quite engrossed, occasionally dabbing his eyes over what I assumed (it being in Italian) was some tragically sad interlude. For an hour I stood there, stirring tomatoes with a big wooden spoon. Twice it boiled over, and S, standing nearby washing canning jars, darted over, yelling gibberish (I’m assuming Italian profanity) as he took it off the stove. Then we had to painstakingly pour the goop into all the cans and seal them. It took hours. We made a bajillion cans of it. They were all tomatoes from his back yard, and the produce would feed a small family of 200. I finally waded through that day, and was paid a parting compliment on my beauty and a jar of homemade tomato paste, as well as my wages.

From that day on, I wore my yucky work-out pants, oversized t-shirts and no makeup. I pulled my hair straight back from my face and wore my old geeky glasses. He got a lot more cranky after I started showing up ugly to work, but I infinitely preferred that over his attempts at flirtation.

Not only did I have to do his laundry, which awkwarded me out, I also made his bed, making sure the red, ruffled satin bedspread was perfectly even and smooth or he would go ballistic. God forbid I put the pillows on the floor while changing the sheets. “Do not poot the peellows on tha FLOOR! I do not poot my HEAD on tha floor!!” he screeched to me. But seriously, he made me vacuum the damn floor every day. There couldn’t have been anything even remotely resembling a bug or a speck of dirt in that carpet. Oh, and there was the time he came into the bedroom while I was making the bed and started changing his clothes. Yes, he did. When I tried to slither out quietly, he told me, “Oh, I don’t mind.” No, no I’m sure you don’t.

I also had to pick garden produce, and was given a dainty little basket with which to do it. In vain I asked for a bigger, sturdier basket. No, no, I was to pick, then transfer to kitchen, pick, then transfer to kitchen. Ugh.

He had no qualms asking the most personal questions. “Do you hava boyfriend? When-a you get-a married? How a-many kidsya want? Where-a you live?” He patted my shoulder, rubbed my back and squeezed my arm. The only thing that kept me from belting him across the Ohio River was the $12 an hour I was getting and the knowledge that I had three job interviews out of state in the next three weeks. I needed every penny I could rustle up to pay for my gas out there. So, against my better judgment, I stuck it out. I felt guilty that in every phone call back home I failed to mention Mr. S, but I figured the less my parents have to worry about, the better.

Fortunately, I learned that usually he left for work around 9:30 a.m., so I tried to always get there at 9:35. It worked pretty well for the most part, but sometimes he would still be there, waiting to say “hello” before he took off for work, and would I like a pancake with tomato chutney? Also, he asked me eighteen times exactly out to dinner at Red Lobster … and he was very disgruntled that I was able to manufacture eighteen excuses not to go to Red Lobster with him. I think that’s when he began to dislike me. Valerie would have gone with him … only for the free meal, of course, but he didn’t know that.

I’ll never forget the morning I came to clean, and he, having taken the morning off, all but forced me into his car. He informed me we were driving out to the country (his ex-wife’s house, I learned later) to pick figs. Sound creepy to you? I mean, it shouldn’t, right? Lots of people take the day off to drive out to the wilds of West Virginia to pick figs. OK, so, yeah, I was creeped. Seriously, don’t ask me why the hell I actually drove out there with him. The $12? The knowledge I could break him in two if I had to? But we did end up picking figs and, by the way, they are disgusting. And then we drove to some other Italian house where he presented the wife of the home with the figs, and she called him “Guiseppe” and tried to feed us, and kissed me on both cheeks. It wasn’t awkward at all. But I made $36 that morning.

Oh, then there was the time he had me help him gut out a rental apartment he owned. In the overwhelming excitement of getting started on this, he mixed up the brake and the accelerator on his truck and promptly crashed into a neighbor lady’s car, putting a generous dent into the hood and peeling off the trim on the door. He went spastic, flew out of the truck cab in a passion, kicking the hapless car that had, after all, just been sitting there parked. He swore, he yelled, he jumped, he cursed the gods as he shook his fist in the air. A little dramatic? Yes. He was Italian, after all. In the end, he picked up the trim and hid it in the bushes and roared away in the truck. I, sitting in the passenger seat and feeling like a hit-and-run perpetrator, felt compelled to timidly surmise aloud that perhaps we should notify his neighbor that he had just caused several thousands of dollars worth of damage to her car. “Da beetch shouldnotta park her car there,” he grumbled under his breath. “Da beetch.” Clearly, he did not regard his neighbor with favor.

Eventually, I found a real job and I was able to quit all my side ones. Mr. S and I did not even pretend that we would miss each other. Apparently, I was too uptight for him. I mean, most normal girls would have no problem with him wandering around his apartment in his underwear, right? He was so happy that finally his sweet little Valerie would be coming back to him and the tall “beetch” (that’s me) would be on her merry way.

Except … Valerie couldn’t take the creepiness after a month-long reprieve. I wonder who housecleans for him now? Maybe some creepy old Italian lady. They’d be oh-so-perfectly matched.

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