Life on a Budget

Small confession. I’m not terribly inspired to write a post today. I’ve had several topics rolling around in my head, but none are fully formed. I’ll do my best to put a few words together.

I’m adjusting to life on a budget. When I was poor, I simply didn’t spend more than I had in my account. Because I have simple wants, once I was making more money, I didn’t have to worry about what I spent. There was always enough.

Now I am making less than I spend and relying on my savings account to fill in the gap. While there is a good chunk of money left from my house sale, it won’t last forever. It won’t even last that many years unless I am careful. Thus, I must learn to live on a budget. I’ve just completed my first month in my house and am learning what my monthly bills will be.

So far my biggest struggle is groceries. If I’m going to eat meat, I want to eat grass-fed, or free-range, hormone-free meat. That adds a huge chunk to my grocery bill. I love avocados and in the past have found the organic avocados are a better quality. However, in the Midwest, it’s harder to find good avocados and they are more expensive. I’ve had to downgrade to the standard version.

There are lots of other little things I used to buy without thinking. I want to put up some solar-powered yard lights. Maybe get a hammock. And a daybed for my guest room. But now those things must be saved for. Whatever I don’t spend from my montly allowance will be tallied and used to buy those things when I’ve saved enough.

It’s a new way of living and one that’s not really terrible Things are just things. I love this new life so much, and am willing to do what is necessary to keep it going, even if that involves living without things I want. I work a few more hours a week than I used to work, but now only make in a month what I used to make in a week. Still, at the end of each work day I go home far more satisfied. I’m doing an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. I’m no longer being paid a ridiculous wage for something I could do in my sleep, and benefited no one but those above me to become even more wealthy. I’m more than fine with the pay cut.

However, in an attempt to supplement my part-time job, I intend to look for freelance writing work. One site that I signed up for 2 years ago, when I had no time to take any freelance work, was E-lance. It was touted by other writers as a great place to earn some money. I know the market has changed in recent years, and I’m guessing that’s what I’m seeing now that I’m back on the E-lance site. Most jobs pay next to nothing for a great deal of words. Writing, never a good paying gig, has gotten even worse. One job offer was to write 2, 10,000 word e-books a week for $50. Uh… yeah… why? If I wanted to do that, I’d just write them for myself and take the money earned from their online sales. Many other jobs are simply writing articles to help companies sell products. I’m done letting corporate America take advantage of my skills.

I subscribe to Writer’s Digets and Poets & Writers. I will start searching them a bit more diligently to find paying contests and freelance work. Again, I will do what it takes to make this life last as long as possible, if not forever.

Tonight I will go to my first writer’s group meeting. We’re discussing two manuscripts written by members. I went in with some skepticism, based on my previous two years at an online university. So many marginal writers would introduce themselves in class by talking of their dreams of becoming novelists. However, these writers seem to be truly talented. One book is something I would never pick up in a store, and I was starting on chapter 12. Despite this, by the end of that portion, I was fully invested. Would the protagonist rescue the love of his life? I was frustrated when I ran out of story. Now I will have to wait until the author gets more written.

Nothing has gotten me writing more than the idea that I’m going to be submitting pages to these talented people for feedback. It’s intimidating. I want to give them a good read, too.

So that is all for today. No insights or wisdom, just me figuring out this new life – learning to live in a budget, finding paying writing work, and getting inspired by other writers. That’s really a pretty good week.

 

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Do Be Do Be Do

The slo-MO life I envisioned has finally arrived. The major projects that took up my brainspace and free time have mostly been completed. So, now when I have time off, I actually have time to daydream, or just be, which is the precursor to writing.

This daydreaming thing is not considered very American. We are supposed to work 80 hours a week so that we can retire and afford to be, once we’re old and not able to do anything. The American mantra — DO, DO, DO, DO, DO, be, die. It doesn’t make for a very compelling lyric.

I once again fell into that trap when I first moved here. Suddenly all these things I wanted to do in Los Angeles were available here, but without the hour+ commute, paid parking, and hordes of people. Life seemed accessible for the first time in about 25 years. I was a kid in a candy store.

Granted, there were a lot of necessary tasks to be done, like rent a house, move, settle, get a Missouri driver’s license, etc. The transition period was naturally busy, but then I started signing up for things like the a cappella choir. My job turned out to be 8 more hours a week than I had anticipated. I was taking fitness classes. Three days out of the week I was away from home for 12-13 hours. I found myself feeling just as stressed as I had in LA. Where was the slow-paced life I craved? Had I moved 1/2 way across the country to be just as frazzled by obligations?

That’s when I had to do a dream check. I remembered the life I had envisioned for the last year while still living in LA. That vision had not included spending hours sitting in front of my computer learning complex music, or rushing from my job to rehearsal with only time to grab something unhealthy to eat along the way. It had not included every day being filled with one obligation after another. It didn’t include feeling spent on the weekends and needing to recuperate. Somehow I found myself in the middle of building a life I didn’t really want.

I had come here to write.

Period.

It was time for another course correction.

The a cappella choir has been dropped. I’m temporarily out of the fitness classes while I get some physical issues resolved. I’m refocusing on my priorities. That’s not to say I won’t take part in extracurricular activities, but they will be far less demanding, and more in line with my goals. I’ve joined a writer’s group that meets once a month. Once I’ve settled into that, I will join a meditation group I checked out when I visited here last fall. They meet every week, but only for an hour. Aaahhh! Better.

One creative project I do want to undertake is a vision board. Now, almost every spiritually focused gathering of women usually involves vision boarding. For all the magazines that have been cut up, and glue fumes that have been inhaled by us women, we should all be living our dream lives. Sadly, many of us are not. Still, I want to persue this project, not to help me create an ideal future life, but to remember the life I intended to create here. When I get off track again, which I likely will, I can pick it up and remember the things that are important to me here. I don’t want to just do, I want to be. Being allows my mind free rein to run, dream, and create. Being will allow me to write. Our American culture could do with the opportunity for more being.

You can’t live without doing, but you can’t have a life worth living without just being.

Do be do be do. That makes for a far better lyric.

Have you done a dream check lately? Are your ‘do’s and ‘be’s balanced? What can you do to have more time to be?

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Road Trip

One of the joys of living in the midwest is its central location. Just a few hours away are numerous large cities. Also, just a day’s drive away is my old college town and my best friend, as well as numerous other friends and relatives. Last weekend I decided I was finally settled in enough to take the new car on a roadtrip and visit some people from home.

The trip didn’t start out or end particularly well. Thanks to an iPhone update, my GPS was screwy and left me not knowing how to even start. It’s a little frightening how reliant we’ve all become on technology. Sitting in my car, wondering what to do, I had to ask myself, “What did I do before GPS?” Not sure I had any maps left, I remembered Google maps, went inside, fired up the computer, and printed out my route. That got me on the road, though I was thoroughly annoyed with having to check the map instead of listening to a pleasant voice tell me a turn was coming up. We’re reliant for a reason… because technology, when it’s working, is better than no technology.

The drive was beautiful and I enjoyed the rolling hills, limestone rocks, and tree covered landscape. It stayed this way pretty much until I hit South Dakota. Now, having grown up there, I do appreciate the unique beauty it offers, but after passing through the rolling hills of Missouri and Iowa, it suddenly seemed barren and bleak. Whatever trees I saw had been neatly planted in rows after the dust bowl to help preserve land.

It was so good to see friends and family. I visited with my newly engaged niece and another one heading off for a major backpacking trip. I saw an old friend from high school, and probably annoyed our waitress by monopolizing a booth during the breakfast rush hour as we happily chatted away. Of course, any time with my best friend is amazing and wonderful. As I’ve said, Missouri would be almost perfect, if only she were here.

Despite all that, my gut feeling that Missouri was where I should move was confirmed. The whole time I was in SD I could not picture myself living there. It just felt wrong. Missouri felt right. Much of my life has been run by listening to this intuition. I’ve lost it from time to time, and generally lose myself when that happens, but it’s nice to know it’s still there. I just have to be open and listen.

The trip home was a little traumatic. The night before I left, a huge storm came through the area. There I was with a brand new car that didn’t even have it’s permanent plates yet, and no garage. My best friend selflessly gave me her garage, which was humbling. She at least was willing to accept my help with the deductible if her car was damaged. Thankfully, it was not. However, the next day I had to drive home through parts of that same storm. I delayed leaving a little and thought the worst was safely past me. I was wrong. Suddenly I was in pouring rain that was so hard I could barely see the car that was 3-4 car-lengths in front of me. I told myself if I just kept driving, I’d be clear of it in a few miles. Instead it got worse. The only way I could see that car was when it put on its brake lights. I could also see a car 3-4 car lengths behind me. I wanted desperately to pull over, but know that is how pile-ups start. As I counted the passing miles I became more and more terrified. The clouds became heavier and darker until it was almost night out. I had to keep reminding myself it was the middle of the day. I finally saw an old road that had been fenced off, but allowed me to pull my car off the road. Unfortunately, once I looked at the radar, another one of those technoligies that is valuable and I have come to rely on, I could see that if I stayed there, it would only get worse. I was on the leading edge of it, which meant the entire cell would pass over me and then I’d have to drive through it again. My best bet was to get back on the road and drive out of it. Lightning was flashing everywhere. There was probably thunder as well, but the pounding rain was so loud on the car that I couldn’t tell. And I had to pee!

The radar didn’t lie. Within about 5 miles the rain returned to normal spattering. I pulled off to use the restroom, but by the time I got out of the gas station the storm had caught back up with me. Just a few more miles of low-visibility driving and once again I was free of it. It seemed to chase me the whole way home and finally caught up about midnight that night when I was safely in bed.

I missed weather in California, and I guess mother nature is having a good laugh at me now. I had forgotten that weather could also be frightening and deadly. Then again, that’s part of what makes life exciting. Adventures are adventures because there is danger, otherwise it’s just a walk in the park.

I’ve had enough adventure for the moment. This trip seemed to mark the end of “moving” in my head – like the last box I had to check before I could say I was here. For the next few weeks I hope to settle in, write, and find my groove here. Normal life sure feels good when you survive the adventures!

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Special Edition

This blog is getting an extra post today so that I may express some of my thoughts about yesterday’s ruling on marriage equality. I welcome all respectful comments.

For me, the day was odd. While everyone else was celebrating marriage equality, I had yet to learn of this historic decision, becasue I was watching SkyNews which was focused on the terrorist attack in Tunisia. It wasn’t easy to make the switch to joy when there was so much pain going on elsewhere.

Then when I pulled up Facebook, it was as if a rainbow had exploded everywhere. However, having come from a conservative Christian home and area, there were many FB friends who were conspicuously silent. I celebrated, but kept my response tempered. I didn’t change my profile picture, or post the White House in rainbow colors. I didn’t want this to be a rub-it-in-your-face moment, because I knew the blowback would start shortly. So I posted a couple of mild things, and liked my friend’s posts like crazy.

Having grown up with those beliefs, I understand some of the pain those silent friends are in now.

So let’s talk about that pain.

First, some of this pain comes from the belief that America is a Christian nation, favored by God above all others. They see America as the new Israel. Throughout the old testament, when Israel turns away from God, He turns away from them, and they fall into ruin. So, there is fear in their anger, that God will now turn away from America. However, there have been many times America has had policies that surely broke God’s heart – murdering, kidnapping, beating, torturing, enslaving, and raping Africans was perfectly legal within the United States, and the Bible was used to justify these practices. God did not turn from America and bring it to ruin for that. Instead, the very economic foundation of our nation was built and flourished on slavery. Are two people of the same sex who love each other so much they want to commit their lives to each other, somehow worse than the evil of slavery?

We went straight from slavery to genocide. We tried to wipe out the people who lived on this land for thousands of years. Yet God allowed that, the nation’s borders expanded, and we flourished. Are two people of the same sex in a committed, loving relationship more heinous to God than genocide?

As for the argument that this is a Christian nation, that’s an easy one to deal with. The fact that the nation was founded with the concept of “freedom of religion” at its core seems to say we’re not. Some would argue that those Puritans were being persecuted by other Christians, thus “freedom of religion” really applies to practicing one’s Christian faith freely from the limitations of other Christian faiths. So, going with that, yesterday’s SCOTUS ruling would still be acceptable, because there are many different views on the interpretation of the Bible. Since the government can not establish an official religion, or favor any denomination, then “I believe” is not a strong enough argument to deny someone a basic human right.

Whether you like it or not, the Bible doesn’t have one clear meaning. It was written down years after events, translated many times into many different languages, and you can find highly qualified Christian scholars who, when going back to the oldest texts available, find meanings that are not taught from the pulpit. The Old Testament is STILL being argued about in Jewish temples across the globe, yet the average American Christian is firmly convinced they know the mind and will of God. They believe that what they were taught, is the truth, and what everyone else was taught is a lie from Hell. See the problem here? Because the government isn’t in a position to pick the “right” denomination, they must leave all faith-based opinions out of the decision, and make the one that ensures that all people are treated equally.

You may see homosexuality as a sin. That’s YOUR belief. It’s not mine, or millions of other people’s belief. Why should yours win out? If you answer, “Because I believe it” then move on. You’ve lost the argument.

Let’s take another angle:

When did you decide to be straight (if you are)? If I asked nicely, and assured you it wasn’t a sin, could you change who you are attracted to? What if I legislated that you could only get married if you are homosexual. Would that get you to change that little flutter you feel in your stomach when you see someone you are attracted to? No? Hmmm.

If God doesn’t make mistakes, and millions of people (and even animals) have an innate attraction to the same sex, then it must not be a mistake.

Some argue that they should deny their attractions, get married to someone of the opposite sex, and live in the sanctity of a holy union. Yeah, well, do you want to be the person who marries someone who isn’t attracted to you and longs to be with someone else? I don’t. I want to be with someone who is as passionate about our relationship as I am. An empty, going-through-the-motions kind of marriage, is not the kind of marriage I see written about in the Bible.

Or perhaps they should stay celibate and not engage in sexual behavior their entire life. Yeah, that’s realistic.

Or perhaps we should follow other laws of the Bible and stone them.

Or we could just shame them so much they kill themselves. We’ve been doing that for years.

I’m guessing that those who are so angry, fearful, and hurt by this ruling don’t know any gay people personally. Oh, they may say they do… after all, that checkout guy is pretty flaming, and their hairdresser may be gay and they still go to him… so yes, they DO know gay people. But it’s not the same as caring about someone in your inner circle. It’s amazing (not really) how many politicians change their minds about being gay when their child tearfully comes out. Suddenly they are face to face with the pain their beliefs have caused. Suddenly someone whose heart is intertwined with theirs is in anguish. Suddenly they feel the same pain. When you have friends or family who you’ve watched spend their lives together in a more committed relationship that many straight couples, yet don’t have visitation rights in the hospital, or legal rights after death, and maybe even keep who they are, secret from their judgmental friends and family, it changes your heart. Legislating against gay people doesn’t stop them from being gay, but it does stop them from living full and open lives.

Something else to consider:

If God is in control, he allowed a conservately packed court to make this decision.

Or:

If homosexuality is such a major issue to God, why did Jesus never mention it even once? And why are there 300 verses dealing with caring for the poor, yet the church isn’t screaming out about the immorality of an unregulated capitalist system that creates poverty. Well, one guy in a funny hat is, though it’s pretty bizarre how suddenly he went from the infallible voice of God to a dangerous man who is to be ignored.

Despite my understanding of the beliefs, this is one thing that is a mystery to me. Why is today’s American church so obsessed with homosexuality? Is it because the majority of them find it easy to not be guilty of it. I mean, gluttony is also a sin, but you’d be hard pressed to find a church where everyone has repented of their fatness and takes excellent care of their bodies/temples. Those unrepentant obese Christians are not denied the right to marry or consider themselves Christians. That sin is overlooked, most likely because if the church made a stink about that, there’d be no one left in the pews.

Anyone can believe anything they want. This ruling does not change that. If you sincerely believe homosexuality is a sin, you are still allowed to believe that. Live by your beliefs and do not commit what you consider to be a sin. Nobody’s asking you to get gay married. You might have to face conflict when you don’t attend a homosexual family member’s marriage, but that’s no reason to deny someone their basic rights.

Nobody can say it better than Justice Kennedy:

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

This week America took another step towards living up to its ideals. That should make you happy, no matter what your personal religious beliefs.

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At Last!

Yes, I know I missed a week. I was tired of writing about things that were impending. If I had posted last Wednesday, I still would have had to talk about what was to come. But finally on Thursday, the house sold. Then there was a flurry of paying bills and buying a car. For the past two years I had been working hard to finish up my college degree, and on Monday, all those loans got paid off. Feels great! I have a degree, but no debt. Now life settles into normalcy and I am so looking forward to that. It was a little frightening to have made my leap and not have the safety net in place. Glad it’s there now.

I joined a local a cappella group. It is a bit more of a time commitment than I had expected. The music is very challenging and requires a lot of rehearsal at home as well as the 3 1/2 hour weekly rehearsal together. However, standing on those risers and hearing the voices blend together into beauty makes it worth it. I’ll give it a few months and if it is taking too much time from writing, I may try to find a less intense group to join. There are some interesting personalities, one type I’ve had recent experience with, and it makes me a bit leery of joining. Basically it’s the kind of person who puts on a smiling face and seems like the nicest, most helpful person in the world while consistently placing the dagger between your ribs. Lots of passive-aggressiveness. I’ll do my best to avoid them, but if I can’t, there are definitely other choirs to join. Life is too short.

Now that I’m settling in, I’m a little worried I will lose my attitude of gratitude. The honeymoon phase will eventually end. I can thank that honeymoon phase on my miserable life in LA. Pixar came out with a movie recently called “Inside Out” which I thoroughly enjoyed when I wasn’t dozing off because of exhaustion. The American culture is one that only allows for happiness. If you’re not happy, there’s something wrong with you. Stop complaining. Only be happy, happy, happy, happy, happy! And if you’re not happy, happy, happy, happy, then go away! But the truth is, we are bio-chemical machines and those other emotions play a role. “Inside Out” reminded people that sometimes sadness or anger is not only necessary, it’s useful. The misery I had in the last few years of living in Los Angeles did not feel nice, and I didn’t always react well to it, but it was necessary to spur me to change.

Even futher, the misery there in contrast to life here, has unleashed much of the joy and happiness that is required to be an American. Every little things floods me with gratitutde. The short commute. The civil drivers. Quiet movie theaters (I’m part of a movie group and now go see movies regularly, somthing I rarely did in LA). Ample parking. Friendly, helpful people. Fully being a part of the team at work. Using my intelligence and talents creatively at work – designing flyers, social media posts, and working on new ways to bring in more clients. Flexibility at work that allows for a social life. No entitled celebrities. No more entitled people who think they’re special because they work in TV. Car insurance at half the price. Long showers. Green! Thunder. Lightning. The ease of running to the store and it not taking an hour or more. Shorter lines. Lack of competitiveness – because there’s enough for everyone. Watching a guy play with his dog in the park across the street (which I’m doing right now.) Not hearing a Harley at 5:20 a.m. every day as it idles at the stoplight by my old house and then roars off, being audible for well over a mile away. The new definition of rush hour – when an older couple pedaled past my house on their bikes, followed by a pickup truck a minute later. Living on one level instead of having to climb stairs every day. Old growth trees in a big yard. Activities that are easily accessible. Feeling safe. Feeling supported.

The list could go on and on and on. As I said, I feel gratitude for every little thing simply because of the contrast of what I just went through. However, I know human nature, and that contrast will eventually fade. People here complain about traffic. They have no idea, but eventually I will probably complain too. Despite loving rain, after several weeks of it, I was ready for some sun. Just too bad it also comes with humidity. See, there’s a little complaint sneaking in. But, thankfully now that I’m heading in the gratitude direction, it will be harder to turn the ship back around. It will be easier to keep the heading, as long as I am aware, and stay present at the wheel. That’s my goal. Remember where I am, compared to where I was. As long as I do that, it’s so easy to be grateful!

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Next Week

Next week, next week, next week. Next week things will be in place. Next week we’ll have an answer. Next week we’ll have a closing date. Next week we’ll close. Except none of those next weeks ever really seems to pan out. For months I have been living with the dangling carrot of next week. Perhaps I did not learn enough about patience in 20 years of going nowhere. Apparently I have to have a little more beaten into me.

My soul’s desire right now is to go out into a field and just scream until my throat is raw. That is the level of my frustration. Once again, I’m waiting for next week. After the buyer dealt with 3 different lenders, each one re-setting the clock, things are finally in place, the paperwork is ready to be signed… except the buyer decided this was an ideal time to take a vacation, and now we can’t close until… you guessed it… next week.

My bank account is dwindling, my credit card balances are ballooning, I’ve been trapped in a one room hotel suite with 3 cats for 3 1/2 weeks. I’m missing a family camping trip because of this woman’s delays. My boss has been generous enough to lend me a vehicle, but I no longer feel comfortable using it after this long. It’s likely back to a rental in a few days. More money out of my pocket. My body aches from the hotel bed. My mind aches from lack of sleep. But hey, you just jet off and have a fabulous and restful vacation. I have a vague memory of how fun those are from the last one I took 11 years ago.

Yeah, I’m just a wee bit frustrated and angry.

But there is good news too. Despite barely having any money left to pay for it, I have been approved to rent a home. It’s ideal because it provides me that large field to go scream my bloody head off. Smack dab in the middle of town, just 10 minutes from work, I have a house that looks out onto an empty field. It’s the backside of a park that doesn’t appear to be used for anything other than lovely green space. That means there is no one across the street. The view from my office will be of this field. I can’t think of a more lovely place to write at the moment. The house itself is terribly outdated. Rugs and linoleum. Vinyl countertops in hideous colors (baby blue and snot green). Weird chandeliers. The kitchen is tiny with almost no counter space. But I intend to have a little fun with it and make it quirky and bring out its character. The backyard is bigger than anything I could have dreamed of in L.A.. with two huge, old-growth trees. Another huge selling point is the screened-in sun porch. Tomorrow I will sign the paperwork and write out a check. Friday I will finally leave this hotel room and sleep in my own tempurpedic bed. What a relief that will be. I will have access to my belongings for the first time in a month. There have been so many times I’ve wished I had something that is packed away. I can begin to settle in and perhaps, if I’m lucky enough, next week will finally arrive, and I can begin to sleep better and build this new life with some peace of mind.

I’ll let you know all about it… next week.

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Breaking Hab(ituation)

Habituation is mostly a good thing. We are able to live our lives because of habituation. If we didn’t, we’d be like infants that gasp with wonder every time they see something move. When things become predictable, we stop being awed, and just interact with them. There’s a fascinating show called Brain Games that explores the tricks this feature of our brain can play on us. For instance look at this picture:

It’s obvious this is a picture of a a dark gray rectangle above a white rectangle. Would you believe it if I told you both rectangles are exactly the same color? Our brains see what they see because over years of seeing shadows and light, and having them behave in a predictable way, our brain becomes habituated, and cease to react in any way other than to interpret what it sees based on past experience… that there is a gray box and a white box.

Now, take your finger, or a piece of paper, or a ruler would be perfect, and place it across the dividing lines of the two rectangles. What colors do you see now?

Amazing, isn’t it?

That habituation of my brain is something I have been fighting for the past three weeks. Over the past 25 years of life in Los Angeles, I have become habituated into knowing that things work a certain way. Despite being in a new location, my brain just continues along familiar pathways. I do things the way I have done them, because it doesn’t occur to me that things may be different here. I see black and white, when all around me it’s actually gray.

This is where being present can really help. Rather than skimming along the surface of life, letting thoughts distract us and giving the habituated mind free rein, when we are present we fully explore each experience. I have to admit that my meditation practice has been almost non-existant since the move, and that has to change. It will likely help me break out of my ruts and help me adapt more quickly. That’s good because once I wake up and stop doing things out of habit, I find the way to do things here, in a smaller community, definitely makes life easier.

As for the car…

Yep, the Honda dealer blew Toyota (Dealer 1) and Subaru (Dealer 2) out of the water. I liked the handling of the CR-V better than the Rav-4, though I think the Rav-4 may have had a slightly better interior design. I look forward to having the money to finally have a car of my own again.

And speaking of having some money…

There has been movement on the house, and though I’ve said this many times before, by next week, this should be wrapped up or at the worst wrapping up. There’s one small detail left, and then a whole lot of signatures. However, I won’t sleep any easier until the deal is done. After 20 years of feeling stuck, it hasn’t been a pleasant experience to once again feel  like I can’t escape. I want this over. I want to move on. I want my new life. I’m trying my very hardest to be patient and positive. It has not been easy. Yet another habit to break.

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Settling into Limbo

More business up front — The subscription plugin I was using stopped working. I have switched to another subscription service, however this means all previous subscriptions have been lost. Please re-subscribe if you so choose.

I have been in Missouri a little over a week now. I am settling in as best as I can when I am stuck in limbo. There have been further problems with the sale. It should have closed last Friday but instead, we are all scrambling madly to keep the deal in place. This means I am marooned without my “starting over cash.” I can’t rent a house. I can’t buy a car. I can just sit and watch as the money drains away into a hotel and rental car.

Despite not being able to touch, I can still look. This morning I paid the price of test drives — lengthy sales pitches. I made it clear that I had no money yet. One dealership respected that, and actually thanked me for being responsible. The other dealership pressed me to make a deal. The first dealership thoroughly explained my financing options and made me aware of better ones than I’d considered. The 2nd dealership glossed over the details and just tried to find a way to get me into a car. The unfortunate thing is that I liked the test drive at the 2nd dealership better than at the first dealership. However, there’s no doubt that I would adjust to either vehicle so the difference might not matter. As I was leaving dealership #1 I said that I would be test driving other cars to see which suited me best to make my decision. The finance guy replied, “And also judge who you want to buy a car from.” I had never considered that until today. It really is a factor to consider in the purchase. There is one more car that I’d like to test drive and then I will make my decision. Right now I’m leaning towards dealer #1. Let’s see if #3 can knock them off the pedestal.

My second week of work is also wrapping up. It was a bit overwhelming at first. I had not had a new job in 20 years. I had not been stretched in my work in 25 years. There was new computer software to learn. Lots of accounting methods to absorb. PR schemes to be created to bring in new clients. New faces and names to remember. Personalities to navigate. Regardless of that stress, the work environment is beautiful. When anyone comes to do the studio to do Pilates, yoga, tai chi, kettlebell, or massage, they are there because they chose to be there. It is a peaceful, happy, and relaxed place — a far, far cry from the frenetic, self-important atmosphere of the television industry. There are far fewer overblown egos to be soothed. The last 25 years are starting to feel a bit like a really warped dream spent in a sort of insane asylum. My Emmy is in a container somewhere traveling across the country, and hopefully not getting sucked into a tornado to be scattered across the prairie. It will be good to get it back in my hands so I have some physical proof that my time in LA was not a dream.

Speaking of tornados, we’ve had one tornado watch, which isn’t anything to get too worked up about. It’s the tornado warnings that cause concern. I easily fell asleep in the midst of the watch and we got little more than rain and some distant thunder. We had a better thunder and lightening show last night, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I’m still reveling in the lush greenness of the place. Last weekend I puttered over to my friends house to sit and talk while she planted her garden. It was just lovely to sit in her lush, green backyard and watch the bunnies, woodpeckers, and cardinals. It was also really lovely to be able to just drive a few minutes to casually see a friend instead of planning a week in advance then spending a 1/2 hour to an hour on the road to visit said friend. Life under the jet trails is lovely, but don’t tell the snobby fly-overs.

It feels like I’ve been saying this for a month now, but hopefully by the end of the week I will have some solid news about the house sale. Until then, I continue settling into limbo. Eventually I hope to be able to move forward and stop bleeding cash.

And oh yes, giving Whole30 another go. My body made it clear that’s what it wants.

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My Life in Slow-MO

First, some maintenance. If you have subscribed to this blog and are not getting notifications, it will be a few weeks. For some reason I cannot access the “activate” area of the blog through my iPad. When my things arrive, and I unpack my desktop, it will all get sorted out.

I have started my life in Slow-MO, though I’m waiting for the slow part to kick in. So far, it’s all been pretty rushed. But let’s back up…

The Drive

With everything packed in containers, and the house still technically unsold, I loaded up my cats and headed East. Because I started a little late, I ended up in Friday rush hour traffic as I left town. It was a good reminder of just why I’m so anxious to leave L.A. behind. Too many people!

The trip had it’s ups and downs, as does everything. Unloading the car in the pouring rain, and not being able to leave the next morning because one of the cats had hidden herself away, were two of the low points. The cats were clearly stressed and I felt guilt for the trauma I was putting them through. Night two, in a hotel room, they showed just how resilient they are. They had adjusted to life on the road, and were content to be out of their cages and exploring the room. They’ve been fine ever since, perhaps even better friends.

There were many high points. The scenery was spectacular. I had claimed New Mexico was a state I had been to, because I once put my foot in the corner of the state (at 4 corners). Now I know how bogus that claim was. The state was spectacular in its beauty. Texas was flat, but as I reached the Eastern edge of the state, heading into Oklahoma it shifted from deserty plains to lush rolling hills. After the past few years of severe drought in L.A. the outrageous number of shades of green began to be overwhelming. It was stunningly beautiful!

I learned some things on the road, and also now have some unanswered questions. Such as: what exactly does “bridge ices before road” mean? I get that they’re probably warning you that there might be ice on the bridge, but that combination of words is nonsensical to me.

Apparently in Eastern Oklahoma, heavy smoke is an issue as there were lots of signs saying, “Do Not Drive into Smoke.” Got it. Won’t do that.

Hitting the Ground Running

I arrived Sunday night, started looking for a house rental on Monday, and started my job on Tuesday. So things have not exactly been slow and easy going. They will likely slow down now that there is another glitch with the house sale. I am hoping it is simply a delay and will not lead to the collapse of this deal. Until the sale is complete, I’m back in limbo, pretty much unable to rent a house or buy a car. Still, life is good here and so far the leap feels fine. It will just feel better when I have some cash.

There are little details of life here that surprise me. Motorcycles can’t lane split (yay) but its strange to see them without helmets. They just give bags away for free at the grocery store! There is water standing around out in the open… not evaporating or anything! People will go out of their way to be helpful and kind. I wrote down the wrong number on a house rental, and the guy who answered offered to drive by the address and text me the right number. And he did it, adding smiley faces to the text.

Even with my worries about the house, life is suddenly and delightfully stress free. It takes me 20 minutes to get to work, and absolutely none of the drive is stressful. I was warned about the drivers here, but compared to L.A. drivers, they are saintly. I love where I work – the atmosphere, the mission, and the people. Everything is easier to accomplish in a smaller town. People are kinder. Life is more gentle. This is the right place for me to be right now, and I trust that the house situation will resolve itself eventually. If it doesn’t, this will be the shortest leap in history followed by a great big giant splat.

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I Yam What I Yam

As I had hoped in last week’s blog, there is positive news to report this week. Regardless of whether or not the sale falls apart in the last few days, I am leaving LA on Friday. My car has been sold. Reservations have been made. It’s so exciting I can barely stand it. There have also been sad goodbyes along the way. I just don’t understand why my friends don’t move wherever I move so we can keep hanging out. I mean really!

Whole30 came to a rapid close when my digestive tract decided to absolutely flip out. At the moment, eating anything but yogurt makes me nauseous and I have constant heartburn. Those are just the symptoms I’m willing to talk about. I lost 2 days to really miserable intestinal pain. I’m 50 so one of the first things I do when I get to my new home is find a doctor and get that fabulous colonoscopy scheduled.

But now the lazy, joy-following period is done. I’m glad I had it because recent weeks have allowed a lot of introspection and have been a revelation to me. As I have felt free to be myself, I have found joy again. When I first came to Hollywood I worried that it would change me. It did, but not in the way I expected. I was worried that I would become arrogant and entitled. Too big for my britches. Instead, I got too small for my britches. I became diminished. It didn’t happen quickly. Over the past… oh… 15 years, I have undergone a gradual transformation into someone I didn’t like much. Now that I’m out of that situation, I see so much more clearly. I look at that person and think, “Who was that?” I look at myself now, and think, “Hey, you’re pretty fun! Let’s go have an adventure”

So how did it happen?

The first 10 years of life in California were freeing. I grew up in rural South Dakota, a sensitive, liberal, creative person who just always felt out of place. In California, it felt like I’d finally found a place where I wasn’t different because everyone was different. First, I was freelancing, meeting new people and new celebrities every day, which was just thrilling. Then I was on a quirky late night talk show that nobody watched and so nobody paid much attention to our motley little group. I was the only woman on the crew, which meant I was often excluded, but on the good side, there was little pressure to be anything other than who I was. I fell into the traditional female role of the mother of the stage. I brought the baked goodies. I organized gifts and cards, and gathered funds for them. I had a role.

When hosts switched and our show became a little more mainstream, the staff and crew grew. As an introvert, I began to feel lost and constantly overlooked. Other people were more exciting and interesing… more shiny, as one friend says. My role disappeared and I wasn’t quite sure how I fit in with this younger, more hip Hollywood crowd. That’s when the gradual changes began. I started dressing differently. Got interested in the things everyone else was interested in. Quit talking about the things I was passionate about. Yes, it took until I was in my 40s but I finally succumbed to peer pressure. I began to be a warped version of myself. I was there, but not quite.

For the most part, my methods seemed to work. On the surface, I fit in. Superficially it all seemed fine, until one day I learned it really wasn’t. When others faced trouble, I’d seen the wagons circle, but for me they scattered. Feeling alone and vulnerable, I armored up. It was a painful period because I realized that I was tolerated more than included. Not only had I failed to be accepted, but now I was left with this person I didn’t like much. I slipped back into a familiar coping mechanism when faced with something I had to endure. I suited up with thick plate armor, looked neither left nor right, and marched down the field, warding off whatever blows came my way until I got to the other side. After one hiatus, wonderful periods where my true self would surface and gasp for air, I was talking on the phone with a friend and joked, “Yeah, hiatus is over, now I have to put on the armor of bitterness and anger.” We laughed, but it was actually heartbreaking.

Did I really need to have such strong protection? Of course not. It was just the method that had worked so well in the past. This time, having processed the entire episode as an adult, I am hoping to avoid going through the pattern again.

In fact, I am making myself a promise to help prevent it. From now on, I refuse to be anyone other than who I am. I’m going to like what I like, think what I think, do what I do, dress how I dress, and if those things agree with you? Great. Let’s hang out. If not, have a lovely life with people that are more your speed. If that means I end up alone, well at least I will have the company of someone I like.

I yam what I yam.

So now, the yam I yam is off to adventure. I’ll try to post from the road but we shall see.

The leap is about to commence….

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