I’ll Have My Cake And Eat It, Too

It’s time – well past – that I started digging myself out of this hole. You know the one, it starts with a “D” and ends with an “Eht”. The “B” is silent for everyone’s favorite word: DEBT. Silent much like the ATM when I go to take money out.

I am in the midst of a mountain of debt. A large pile, a ginormous hill, an overly large track of land. If I were to throw a stone, I’d hit a Balrog. Smaug is just down the corridor a bit, heating up some tea.

Things are a bit …overwhelming.

You know what’s sucky? Let’s say you sign up for a product that is there for your protection and assistance. A product that’s overdraft protection, but essentially a line of credit. It’s maybe a thousand bucks because you got in early and got grandfathered into the larger account. Why you weren’t grandmothered in is uncertain, but you have what appears to your early-20’s-self to be AN EXTRA THOUSAND BUCKS. Hey! Hey that’s awesome!! The best part is when you get let go from your equally-awesome job and have to LIVE off that money. Life is great!

So you drag your unemployed butt into the bank after a month or two and tell your very understanding financial advisor what’s happened, and they’re like “Well, maybe you should take out a personal loan. You’ve got lots of little bills everywhere, why not just consolidate and then you’ll only owe a million dollars TOTAL instead of six bucks here and thirty bucks there but it will end up being cheaper for you, and you’ll just make ONE MONTHLY PAYMENT.” You don’t hear the part where A) that monthly payment will go on for the next eternity, and the part about where as soon as you start getting regular paychecks again – bonus round if your bimonthly paychecks are less than $1000 each – that $30 will be taken from each check. That’s sixty bucks a month that could be going towards another bill, which you can’t pay because you have to fill up the Overdraft Protection/Checking Plus account that you drained. Fast forward to being 30 years old, and you owe your bank about a grand for that little helpful “protection”, on top of the personal consolidation loan, on top of the interest, on top of the car loan (about $8300), on top of the wedding credit card, on top of the mortgage. Spin it all out and you get about $400 per paycheck for food AND gas. Good thing gas is so cheap, right?

Good thing I never really wanted to go on a honeymoon. Or back to school. Or out to dinner. Ever.

Check this out. So you think – hey! I’ll get some cash to pay off the wedding, and the excess can go to pay down some bills, and THEN I’ll be able to start climbing down from my mountain! Maybe things will really go well and I can live a little… put some cash into retirement savings finally, maybe hit the bar when then second beer is FULL PRICE. Clearly the only thing that must be done is to have your car’s radiator blow, your cat gets worms, oh… and you get really REALLY sick. Three hours in the dentist chair (overpriced dentists only, please!), Urgent Care visit, the whole deal. LOL 401K Y U SO ELUSIVE.

Finally, finally, I’ve begun to see that there is a light somewhere. It starts with actually looking at your account. I’m not going to specify an account (checking/savings/etc), because that means there is enough income to actually put into some OTHER account, hahahahahhahahaAHHAHAAHHAHAaaaa….ahhhh.

So once you get the fear-vomiting out of the way, you look at your checking account. Not for a summary, but just to see how much money you have. Then you look at all your emails and determine when your bills are due.

That’s where I’m at right now. All my September bills were paid early, which is probably good because remember that part where the dentist was overpriced? So… that charge drained all my money away, meaning it screwed up my car payment, meaning that was the first time I’ve ever been late on that. NSF charge and all on the auto-debit. Anyway, Wachovia was nice enough to go “That’s cool, we won’t take your car, you just owe us double next month. Plus some fees; have a great day.”

I’ve been actually looking – kind of – at my balance, and all my emails. I know when things are due, and my next plan is to figure out how fast I can pay off the smallest debt. That way the payment for that then-non-existent bill will get applied to the next smallest, and you pay it all down. Good thing nothing cool is coming up, like Halloween or holidays or my birthday or more dental treatments.

So there is a light at the end of the tunnel. A flickering Christmas bulb, but it’s there. For a long time my way of dealing with debt was to have another beverage and pretend it would all just be fine. FYI – that doesn’t work, unless all your drinks are free.

One of the ways I’ve been saving money is by packing a lunch, buying groceries instead of something off a Dollar Menu (nothing I want is a dollar), making Starbucks a weekly treat instead of a morning ritual. Things like that. Did you guys know that $50 spent at a grocery store can (usually) last way longer than $50 spent in a drive-through? It’s kind of like that riddle: “What’s lighter: a pound of feathers or a pound of bricks”, except this involves spending $12 on a sandwich filled with sodium and sugar versus buying fresh spinach and tomatoes. You see where I’m going with this.

REALLY what I wanted to talk to you all about today was how I spent ten dollars last week and made this amazing cake which will last us several nights and …..CAKE!!!!!!!! YOU GUYS!!!!!!!

Most importantly, all food items made in my kitchen taste far better if I’ve been wearing my Epic Chef’s Apron. Shoutout to the Red Marlin and their delicious crab cakes. Call me Chef du Ausum.

Here we have the oven-fresh marble cake, which had risen to a scary height because I forgot to poke it with a fork. If that’s even proper baking protocol.

And here, finally, we have the most delicious cake I’ve ever made, seriously. Icing it only increased its awesomeness. You know how cakes are supposed to come out all fluffy and warm and accompanied by a cold glass of milk? THAT IS TOTALLY HOW IT WAS. I was alarmed at the goodness.

I asked J what he thought about the cake, and apparently it has broken him. He can now only say the word “cake” in response to anything. Last I checked, he was rolling around on the floor, icing smeared around his mouth. That’s a good thing, right?


What Are You Saying, Really?

A friend of mine is in town for the weekend. It was the first time seeing him in several years, and the first time ever meeting his boyfriend. They were both interesting people. My friend has calmed down and matured considerably since we last saw each other, and it was good to hear he has a plan to move back to town (with his new beau). We had Mexican food, went to the zoo, chatted and had a nice time. I have my hopes up at rekindling a friendship – not that we were ever unfriendly with each other, but time and distance changes people.

After the zoo, I sat quietly on my living room couch. The TV was off, the breeze was on. I read about a woman who worked in an asylum but ended up living in the woods because her patients had all been killed off during an intentional outbreak of typhus.

My mental space has been strange lately. This is either helped or hindered by the increase in my reading selection – lots of horror, fantasy, fiction. My head has hurt for several hours and it feels fragile. Like an egg about to splinter. My husband is playing some version of GTA and I have a very clear vision of shoving his monitor off the desk, but that would end badly for everyone.

I’ve been drawing weird things. There is no other option, it feels like my hand is forced to produce this overabundance of art. It’s just flowing. Images of gates and gardens and dark rooms with too many books.

I just want to sleep and sleep and sleep.

Lately, with the dawn of New Facebook, I have started to hate social media. I might have started to hate my “friends”. There is at least one person per week that goes on my blocked-from-view list, which is an interesting experiment with the human psyche. Is that even the right wording? Social media non-interaction. You add these people that you know, or don’t know, and then you tire of them quickly. It might be because they have nothing to say. A hundred and forty characters of absolutely nothing to say. Does it mean they are worthless as people? Trivial? I don’t know. I don’t claim to. But I do know that Facebook is bringing out the worst in people. Did you know they’ve extended the character limit on their status update? I noticed it almost immediately because it went from random vague updates about what they’d eaten for lunch or how their favorite sports team did, to someone posting a wall of text. It was a chain letter type, of course. Pass this status update on or die or don’t pass it on or do and if you don’t do it by next Tuesday at 3 o’clock sharp you’ll never have clean laundry again.

There is so much e-noise in my life. Three consistent email accounts. Facebook, Twitter, Livejournal. I check them all obsessively; they’re tied to my phone. There’s no need to, and yet I do. It’s like I’m searching for something. I don’t want to miss a moment, a photo, a potential connection.

I’m going to take a hiatus from social media because it feels like every time I open Facebook a million people are screaming absolutely nothing at all. It’s making me hate everyone. I’m just there for the photos right now, but if I post that I’m taking a hiatus, either I won’t or this terrible fear will come to light. The fear that …nothing will happen, which is basically correct. The Internet will go on and it won’t miss me. It won’t be a structured hiatus, where I announce – all pomp and circumstance – that my account Will Be Deleted and Give Me Your Phone Numbers and Hey By The Way I’m Leaving Just For A Little Bit, Perhaps A Week. I could never delete my account on purpose, but I don’t mind going away. Quietly making sure all the doors and windows are secured, but leaving a light and the TV on to make it look like someone is home, when really I’m off having a very nice lunch somewhere. By myself.

Sometimes I miss my old friends very much. I’ve been meaning to call them, individually, and catch up. Via phone. That reminds me I’m also planning on using my phone as a phone only this week. Just for calls. We’ll see how it goes; I’ll try to leave it in the car during work. People that need me in an emergency can reach me at my office, so it’ll be okay.

When did the Internet become less of something that you dialed up to connect, and more of something you had to forcibly go away from? I think it may have been the smartphones that did it. It scares me.

Things have changed for me lately, and that’s why I’m feeling so much like an island. There has been a weird ripple in the web of my friends, and I think I need to take time just for me. Focus on writing, blogging, art, health, fitness. Focus…on me. Spend time – real time – with people who matter.

I just want to go away from the Facebook sort of thing for awhile. Lately, mostly since getting sick (which has now become my life), the things I like to do involve doing things one at a time. Focusing. It gives me great pleasure to sit in a clean, quiet room with the window open and the breeze coming in. Maybe there’s a bird chirping, maybe the cat is letting me pet him. Just one or two things are happening.

I can’t have the TV on while reading because it makes my head feel weird right now. So I’ll sit and watch TV, then I’ll turn it off and draw for a little bit. I’ll leave the house to find a quiet spot somewhere – who would have thought such a place existed in this city of no parking spots? – and sit there, just looking. I just want to look. I don’t want to talk or touch or do anything, I just want to observe. At work, paper will come to me and I’ll sort it into neat little piles of boring certainty. I’ll process it according to whatever necessary self-proclaimed policy comes into mind, and if anyone ever asks me for that one piece of paper, it can proudly shine from its’ PDF display or its’ binder and there, at last, my processing will be validated.

No one ever asks me for the proof, usually. I don’t want them to.

But a social media hiatus will be nice. Not all media, because after blowing the dust of any sort of writing skill I have, it’s the blogs out there that make me really happy. Like in the good days of LiveJournal, where you’d become close friends with a screen name that you had never – would never – meet. Sometimes you got to meet them and then it was A Big Deal. I really, really miss that. I miss the good bloggers, the people who (even if they were just updating about their day) would tell you about the EXPERIENCE that was their day. They cared! Maybe they locked their posts because they didn’t want to share with the world, but they wanted to share *something*. They wrote, they gave a shit. Sometimes they’d say, “Oh, I’m not the greatest writer”, but they’d write anyway, and that was nice. It’s good to have the words out there. There were communities, and that was fun. Vox came along and it started to feel like old LiveJournal, but then it went away. Now there’s WordPress, though I am only slowly realizing just how connected it is. It’s a good place, like an old coffeehouse, but it still feels like the waitresses don’t know my name. I wish they did, and I’m going to work on being more active here. I’m going to work on not screening myself so much. We used to have “LJ-cut”, which was where you’d basically make an HTML tag that was like “Click here to read more”, because you didn’t want to clog up your friends’ feed with all that text.

I like text. I like reading. I don’t (currently) like small character status non-updates.

Facebook right now feels like cutting. You go and open the wound just because you want to see what’s inside, and you realize there’s nothing good coming from it.

People don’t have shit to say right now, and they’re clogging up the Internet. I get very quietly angry when I see my “friends” give serious lack of effort to what they’re saying. Punctuation? No. Spelling? Fuck no! Who cares?!? Who REALLY cares, I mean, I updated from my PHONE – WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT FROM ME?!?!

I hate it all, sometimes.

We went to the same classes, had the same teachers. We (sort of) had the same parents. Your family knew mine, we all tried to stay out of trouble, and I can’t fathom why you don’t care that you’re coming across as an illiterate fool. Do you not ctrl+t so that you can Google how to properly spell a word? Do you even know what ctrl+t does? I might have been a nerd in high school, but I will never regret getting an education. It hurts me when people say they slept through school “bcuz it didnt fukin matter”. That sort of stupidity can’t be fixed just by updating via a non-mobile device.

I mean, do you know what you look like when you type that stuff? Do you care? You don’t, I know. We know. You know. Or maybe you don’t know – or care – and that’s the terrifying thing. You SHOULD care. You should realize that people will be able to read what you’ve written, and judge you. Maybe you’re one of those people who delete your profile a lot. Why do you do that? Do you really have nothing to share?

That’s harsh. Not everyone cares about social media enough to share their lives with the world, and that’s fine. It is, really. But it seems like… the less people are online, the less important they are? That’s phrased as a question because I’m not sure of the right words to describe the feeling in my head. Maybe I don’t like how plugged in I am. Maybe it bothers me if people don’t know about technology. But I know some good people who aren’t really online, so it’s not that. It’s more the re-inventing. Rephrasing what I said above, what really bothers me is when somebody comes up with a fake profile name, for example, “MissAmanda YouSoAmazing”, and all they do is post photos of their kids in a yard with some dirty toys. Or the games they play make status updates for them. A week later they delete their profile, then start a new one, and it’s the same shit. It irritates me.

So, that said, I am going to do my best to just stay away from Facebook for the next week or so. The addict in me is screaming “But WHAT IF YOU MISS SOMETHING”, and the rational side of me is saying “There’s nothing to miss”. I won’t make a big deal, and I won’t say I’m not going to log in at all, but I am going to hold onto that feeling of logging in and frantically scrolling to find that THERE IS NO GOOD STUFF.

It’s not that I hate my friends. It’s not that I’m better than anybody. But it’s just been too overwhelming lately and I have this need to get away for awhile. I mean, what are they all saying? REALLY? No one seems to be saying anything, and you have to dig to get to the ones who actually are.

When it just feels like walking into a crowded high school cafeteria, with everyone screaming all at once, it’s time to take a break.

This wasn’t the most cheerful post, but it’s how I feel, and that’s alright. I’m tired of putting on a happy face all the time. To quote from my old days: “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

Where the hell are we all going to go from here?

I just saw a Freshly Pressed and it made me terribly sad but also …I agree.

There won’t be another Beatles or another Sex Pistols–there won’t be another group that challenges our collective cultural sensibility to make a large jump. There won’t even be an Elvis or a Madonna, a performer that challenges our ethics and morality. Instead, we will continue to have watered-down crap on mainstream media, as well as plenty of choices for those who take the time to look. But those choices will be marginalized, kept on the sidelines out of mainstream American-consciousness, and what we’ll lose is an opportunity to progress and enrich the entirety of our culture. Who knows though–I could be wrong; perhaps I’m just old and out of touch. Perhaps a wholly new and dynamic artist or group will come out that will capture the anti-establishment roots of rock and roll and inspirit a new and dramatically different course in contemporary youth culture. But I don’t see it happening again. I hope I’m wrong.

I hope you’re wrong too, buddy, but I have a bad feeling that you’re not.

Cookie Brownie Victory

Every time I start a post, it’s with the anticipation of getting a feeling out of my head and onto paper. Yes, it’s digital, but it’s still the same principle. So why is it that every time I open a new screen, all the words in my head go away? They’re like kittens, shying away into the darker corners under the bed.

You guys know what else? IT’S FALL. I’m not going to Google the exact date, but I think it happened somewhere around September 21. My favorite favorite season ever, and it only seems to last for a few brief weeks before it’s cold and awful.

Wait, who am I kidding? I live in San Diego!!!

It sometimes gets down to a blustery 40 degrees here, which is cold for SD but tropical for the rest of the country when you’re comparatively speaking about January evenings. When the weather is chilly enough to make me swap my flip-flops for socks, that means it’s time for one of my favorite activities: BAKING. I started it up early this afternoon by trying my hand at some Cookie Brownies. They’ve never been attempted or tasted in my home before, so there’s no time like the present.

Will they come out the way they do on the box? Who knows. Half of the fun was taste-testing the batter, which was delicious, so they hopefully will turn out to be edible. I accidentally added an extra egg, which makes for an eyebrow raise.

Let’s go check on them, shall we?

For a first attempt, not bad at all. They are a smidge on the less-chocolate-y/dry side, but with a cold glass of milk they’re pretty wonderful. Note to self: only 1 egg, not 1 egg per layer. Next up I’ll attempt a fudge marble cake.

I also did apparently jinx the labyrinthitis by talking about it. The past few days have sucked royally. Today isn’t really much better.

On Paper

My home computer finally crashed, and it seems pretty certain that all data on it has been wiped out. Including a recently gifted zip file with a bunch of new music that had not yet made it onto my iPod, which is exactly the way things should have happened. J is letting me borrow his laptop (mostly because I wanted to play WoW and the Sims), which is cool, although it’s not the same as having my own computer and I know he doesn’t really like me using it. I can’t blame him. I don’t like people using my computer(s) either.

In other news: maybe this is jinxing things, but the labyrinthitis appears to have subsided. The symptoms are almost entirely gone, so I’ve been slowly trying to get back to working on my fitness and my health in general.

Between the computer, the health, this that and the other, I’ve been reading and working on my art. Thank goodness for e-books, even though there are some local libraries that have been seeing a lot more of me lately. Did you know you can check out up to forty books at once? Forty. 40, four-oh. That’s like five trips to the car, but you get three weeks to read, so… yeah.

Mostly I’ve been getting art books, stuff on how to improve my techniques. I’ve been picking up books from the kids’ section, books from the fiction/art section. It’s a little strange to be in the kids’ section but the creativity factor goes way up. You just have to not have that creepy look.

Also, it’s Banned Books week, which reminds me that I can’t recall if I’ve ever actually read Catcher In The Rye or not.

I took a class that I didn’t realize would be only digital illustration, but it was, and it wasn’t too bad. I’ve been starting to ask around about maybe possibly someday showing my work, but it’s hard when you hate most stuff you do. A lot of the recent art has come from this massive sense of depression – the work flows out like blood because otherwise there’s too much pressure in my brain. It makes me more depressed when it doesn’t come out how it looks in my mind, or doesn’t come out at all. It’s hard, but as I immerse myself in the art world it’s sort of a double-edged sword: you expose yourself and learn more, but you also realize how far you have to go.

And that’s probably why I slept from 11PM last night to 3PM this afternoon.

Ups and Downs

dear bipolar madnesss:

look. i enjoyed my manic phase just fine. it was all day yesterday and most of this morning. so if you could go ahead and just knock it off with the downswing, i’d really appreciate it. i’d rather be “the hyper girl bouncing around the office” than feeling like somebody killed my cat.

i will be hitting the treadmill and/or kettlebell and/or yoga this evening. you’ve been warned. if this continues, i’m going to have to write you an open letter, publicly shaming you and all your suckiness.

no love,