A Brief Moment over Wine and Tom Robbins

When I heard her say, “Tom Robbins..something, something.” My eyes narrowed. I turned to look at her and I cocked my head sideways, like a dog would when he/she hears/feels a meaningful sound vibration. Listening.

We were a group of 10 or so enjoying the Memorial Day Holiday from a friend’s back porch. There were the usuals and the unusuals; veggie burgers, cheeseburgers, hotdogs, chips, baked beans, potato salad, gluten free cupcakes, non-painful conversation (thanks to the small talk Gods, we are past that), wine, IPA’s and the “house cocktail”. I love there was a house cocktail on offer. How unusual!

I didn’t believe I could be more delighted with this gathering of good friends and my good fortune until the mention of the novelist, Tom Robbins. Tom Robbins has a huge cult following among the weirder people of the world. I immediately went from mildly engaged (and mostly entertaining myself in my head) to fully engaged. Kaboom. Present and participating.

The conversation went at a quick pace and somewhat like this:

Did you say, “Tom Robbins?” I asked my friend who sat across the table.

“Yes.”

“You’ve read Tom Robbins?”

“We both have.” (We being her and her husband), who nodded in agreement.

“Did you read Jitterbug Perfume?”

“Yes”

“I read that book, too!”, piped up another friend who sat to my right, “wasn’t that one about a dying God?” I looked over at him with incredulity, triply impressed that three people besides me temporarily inhabiting the same space had read Tom Robbins. I bubbled over with happiness.

“Yes, Pan was dying because people stopped believing in him,” I answered.

I asked the group, “What about Still Life with Woodpecker?”

“We quoted from Still Life with Woodpecker in our wedding vows,” my friend slyly reported with a smirk.

Duly impressed.

And did you like the movie, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues? This was my test. It isn’t possible to honor this majestic novel in movie form. Albeit, the film was a good effort, justice wasn’t done.

“I didn’t even watch the movie,” she replied and took it to a completely different level as a Robbins loyalist. Anyone who reads Tom Robbins knows full well his novels aren’t translatable to screen.

“Wasn’t Keanu Reeves in that movie?” and DINK my other friend cemented his inclusion in our nerd stan for Tom Robbins.

A moment with friends. See it for what it is….grab it, savor it, enjoy it, taste it, relish it, feel it, be present with it. Precious and awesome. And no selfies were taken in the making of this memory.

The little things.

Brutal Barbarism

Yesterday, I walked out of my divorce workshop with Legal Aid completely numb. I went through the machinations of the help session and then that was it. A 15-year relationship simply rubbed away with a notary’s signature.

On the drive home, while I was processing that little death, I ruminated on the three people on the periphery of my life that died this week too.

And then the death of a women’s right to her own body sent me to bed when I got home. I never go to my bed and just lay. It’s not something I do. I might sit down on my recliner for a few minutes and talk to my dog, but being sideswiped by life and rendered immobile isn’t a regular occurrence. Damn.

What kept popping up for me over the last few days was anger. So much anger and disappointment. I watched the barbaric anti-abortion legislation being signed in by Georgia, Alabama and Missouri. I considered the consequences of the legislation.

It makes me sick to think of the horrors we are going to witness as a result. Especially with social media and how it will all play out online. Oh, don’t be fooled. We are going to see some foul stuff happen. Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter aren’t always perfect pictures of women holding colorful balloons in front of the Eiffel Tower.

I thought of the demise of Planned Parenthood and how the torches and pitchforks have set it alight and is almost destroyed. Planned Parenthood is a safe place for women and families not only to prevent unplanned pregnancies but to foster healthy, safe environments for expecting parents. The hypocrisy of it all.

And then I thought of that scene from the movie Dirty Dancing where Penny had to suffer through a botched abortion.

And then I thought of the criminalization of abortion in Northern Ireland and then the loophole where a women from Northern Ireland can get free abortion care in England and Wales under the National Health Service…and I grabbed a ray of hope.

I scrabbled around to try and figure out why this is happening? We are backsliding. Ten years ago, people were talking about our nation backsliding and I waved it away, counting on legislation somehow getting killed in one house or the other. Today, the bills are passing and I’m alarmed.

I vividly remember marching on the Mall in DC at the National Organization for Women March for Women’s Lives in the early 90’s. What a day. I’ve never seen so many people in one place supporting a cause. Not for one millisecond did I entertain the idea that I would have to do it again. I found myself wondering what I can do?

All this bullshit and for what? Because we spoke up. We put our foot down and said, “No more!” We came out in droves and told our stories. We rose. We revealed the beasts around us.

The result…a women gets raped by a man and is criminalized for taking action and the victim receives a harsher penalty than the rapist.

No wonder I took to my bed. No wonder I’m mad. We all need to get mad. Will our anger make a difference? I’m not certain, but we can’t sit and watch and pretend it’s OK.

We just can’t.

Here, Take a Swig of This

At that moment, I was here, “Wow, can I screw up this parenting thing any more?”

Out of the blue, (well, not entirely out of the blue) I get a text from an old friend who was reflecting back to a thing that happened years ago.

She said, “I’ll never forget,” [that I said], “take a swig of this, Bron…” (Bron = Daughter)

I wasn’t exactly sure what she was referring to, so I texted back, “What was it?”

Old Friend: “You, handing a bottle of Benadryl to her in the back seat. She was just a baby in the UHaul…lol”

Me: “I was such an excellent Mom just plying her with drugs for the long haul trip…”

Old Friend: “It was awesome…I needed that example. I was strung so tight!”

Me: “You are more relaxed now, though. Yay!”

Old Friend: “Yup. No need for perfection anymore. I truly don’t give a shit.”

The moment when you realize how much your words and actions impact others.

My friend and I’s exchange brought me here. In the months leading up to the panic of the birth of my daughter, I repeatedly asked myself – what kind of parent will I choose to be? My response was the same as it was since I was about 18.

Paige’s 7 Parenting Tenants

1.There is no value in hiding things/life/dumb stuff/bad stuff from the children.

2. Don’t throw up a wall between parent and child. “I am the parent and thou shalt obey me” is steep bullshit. It doesn’t work. Create mutual admiration, respect and trust.

3. Things don’t have be perfect.

4. Attempt to stop worrying. It will turn out OK.

5. Be vigilant and also be chill.

6. Introduce the world religions. Let them choose or not.

7. Do your best not to fuck up your kid. Forgive yourself right now because it’s full out trial and error time.

Sounds about right. 7 is an auspicious number.

20 years later, my daughter is flying to Japan.

I was worrying myself into a puddle about the decision to send my daughter by herself to study for 5 months to Japan. The thoughts were rampant. Have I done the right thing? Is she going to be OK? Will she flourish? Am I going to have to go get her? Is she eating? Does she have enough money? I was completely overwrought.

At the perfect moment, when I needed it the absolute most, my friend reminded me of my own parenting rule. Insert parenting tenant number 4 here; “Attempt to stop worrying. It will turn out OK.”

Here, take a swig of this, Paige.

And it did turn out fine and my daughter is fine and I am fine. She trusted me and I trusted her.

AND there is nothing more precious than a genuine friend.

Good Things and Shitty Things

I could’ve said, “the good with the bad”. Whatever. “Good Things and Shitty Things” is more funny and the good with the bad is played out.

I have many good things happening in my life, but I also have a healthy smattering of shitty things dotted throughout too. Without the shitty things, I wouldn’t appreciate the good things, right?

Let’s look at what is happening with the recent college admissions scandal. Talk about having an overabundance of good things, and it all blows up in your face and turns shitty. Can you even imagine thinking you were admitted into *insert prestigious university here* and feeling good about your personal achievement and then discovering it was all a sham? And your reality simply crumbles to dust? And who you think you are is not who you are?

All because someone thought, above all else, how things “look” is more important. The word, “look” being defined here as “social status”. There are more someones in our world that think how things “look” is more important than how things “are”.

As a result of this perception, people fall into the unconscionable zone and offer wads of money to other people to forward the “how things look is more important” group think.

This bad behavior has been accepted and occurred for generations. Cycling over and over…unbroken…until last week..at least for a little while..until it begins again in a deep, underhanded and malicious manner.

Oppositely, can you imagine having all the requirements for admission into *prestigious university* and you aren’t admitted? The takeaway here is “you aren’t good enough”. An admittance system you thought you could trust and depended on isn’t real. Shattered by privilege. And the cycle remains unbroken..until now..and things will change and policies will change.

Everyone that has been to college or is going to college or is in college is affected in some way by this. Everyone.

And the someones that think “how things look” is more important will think twice about cheating the system.

And so we revisit the importance of the delicate balance between the good things and the shitty things. The shitty thing has now possibly become a good thing. Funny how things work.

“There is the mud, and there is the lotus that grows out of the mud. We need the mud in order to make the lotus.” – Thich Naht Hanh

What, no rainbows?

What, no rainbows?
I was hoping to wake up on this first day of 2019 with a smile, rainbows shooting through the window and sprays of confetti, (hooray, it’s a new year. whoo-hoo, 365 days to do it right) but instead I woke up screaming and crying from a nightmare saddled with a crick in my neck and a headache.

I reflected on my New Year’s Eve and began to process last night’s clearing ceremony where I burned (literally – see featured photo) away all the things I don’t wish to carry with me into 2019. Apparently, my subconscious started processing all the stuff while I was asleep.

The Dog Remedy Approach
Anyway, forging ahead and being the positive person that I am, I made a pot of coffee and thought, “All I need is a long walk outside with my dog. It’s warm and sunny. Let’s get rid of this physical manifestation.”

I walked the dog for 40 minutes. It was hot and the sun hurt my eyes and the jarring of the walk made my head hurt even more and I cried.

The Holistic Approach
I considered taking a few ibuprofen, but instead, I decided to go holistic and I pulled out my yoga mat, incense and singing bowl. I flipped to the yoga station on Pandora and round and round the Pandora logo went. No wi-fi. I took a deep breath, flicked the wifi slider off and back on. Waited. No wi-fi. I restarted my phone and wondered what I would do for music with no wi-fi. I decided to do yoga without music and my patience was running thin. I turned my phone back on and after I “forgot” the network and “remembered” it again, my wi-fi sprang to life.

Meanwhile, my dog sprawled on my yoga mat cleaning his paws. I said, “Eli, get off the mat” and he looked at me like, “yoga mats are for dogs too” Lick.

The yoga session went well. “Nowhere to go. Nowhere to be” was today’s mantra. The next thing I knew an hour had passed and I was lying in savasana. I gave myself 5 minutes for meditation. I was successful for approximately 30 seconds until I decided to be finished and turned over on my side to push myself up. I hesitated, closed my eyes and watched the swirling colors behind my eyelids. God, I hope everyone has swirling colors. If not, then I’m certifiably mad. My main swirly was a deep magenta. I concentrated on my magenta and managed to go deep (with no intrusions) for at least two minutes. Success! Hip openers and twists are the perfect medicine for muscle tightness and I felt relaxed, but my headache was worse.

The Modern Medicine Approach
My holistic approach worked to a lesser degree than I anticipated, so I sucked it up and downed 3 ibuprofen. And 20 minutes later the pain edged off.

The Assessment
In an effort to put the good things in my pocket and throw out the bad things from 2018;  I decided to take a stress inventory to assess where I sit on the “stress” spectrum. The following is taken from the Holmes Rahe Social Readjustment Rating Scale. You get points for certain stressors. The scale assumes a time period of 12 months. In this instance, racking up points isn’t the goal.

Here we go! 

  • Divorce or ending long-term relationship (12+ yrs.) ~ 73 pts.
  • Death of close family member other than parent (step-brother) ~ 63 pts.
  • Death of close family member other than parent (pet) ~ 63 pts.
  • Change in financial state ~38 pts.
  • Change in living condition ~ 24 pts.
  • Change in working hours/condition ~ 20 pts.
  • Change in residence ~ 20 pts.

My Score: 301
300 & up: Major Life Crisis; 80% chance of stress-related illness

The Growth Approach
About 1/3 of stressors on my list were self-imposed. Although the points still dropped for the things I made happen, I was also hyper mentally prepared for them, ergo not as stressful. I had to disrupt my life in order to orchestrate great change and growth. The focus now is how I choose to react to my stressors. I choose to tend to my new garden of friends, relationships and goals and balance them (as well as I can) with smiles, love, wit, careful thought before I speak, exercise, meditation, money management, simple living and clean eating (not all the time because that’s boring).

And biggest of all, forgiving myself.

SO, PAIGE

It’s OK to have a less than stellar day even if it is New Years especially after the shit show that was my 2018.

All the things ~

Paige

 

“Joy”eux Noël

Think of moments of past, present and anticipatory joy. The barely containable joy. The kind of joy that finds you grinning from ear to ear. Bubbling inside. The cusp of orgasm happy. The kind of joy that occasionally shows up and in my case is synonymous with experiences like the stretching room of the Haunted Mansion ride at Disney World or stepping off the plane in Paris or being side-swiped and swirled by a manta ray while scuba diving. You know the feeling. The kind of joy that steals your breath and leaves you perceptibly trembling.

Is joy fleeting and occasional? Is it required that we feel joy only when something out of the ordinary is happening or because of something?

Like simply waking up feeling safe, secure, worry free, stress free with nowhere to go (for the moment). It happened to me this morning. My dog was watching as I opened my eyes – patiently waiting for me to wake up and play with him. I felt unabashed joy that lasted throughout the day and into the night. Damn, I’ll take it. What a great feeling (and no mood altering substances were involved).

Or it could be that I love all the pretty holiday lights.

Or I’m excited for what 2019 has to bring.

Or it could be that I’m excited for the winter solstice (longest night of the year) and the days will begin to get longer. AND this year’s winter solstice coincides with a full moon AND the Ursid meteor shower. On the eves of December 21-22, go outside and look up and experience joy and delight at the amazing celestial event (that will not occur again until 2094).

Is it possible to experience joy in simple day-to-day things? I believe, “Yes, it is possible, but it takes inner work”. Lately, I’ve been meditating more often and it helps me be more present. When I am present, I am happy.

Do you want to have a go at meditating?

Try my favorite meditation app: Insight Timer

Enjoy,

Paige

Smashing the Glass Ceiling

Last week, I dropped by my SIL’s office for birthday hugs. During the mini-celebration, SIL mentioned she had something in the car for me, so we walked outside together and she handed me two articles from wealth management.com. This event is good for two reasons.
1. A financial adviser likes my blog. Win. 
2. I got a second hug.

While I was driving home, I scanned the articles (who reads and drives? raise your hand.) and smiled to learn that Edward Jones is joining the ranks in female upward leadership mobility.

On January 1, 2019, Ms. Penny Pennington will become the first woman to lead Edward Jones. We (women in finance. women in general. my SIL and I.) are excited to see her step into the managing partner position at Edward Jones. Not only is she taking the leadership position at one of the most prestigious brokerage firms in the US; at 55 years old, she is defying the ageism ink-blot. Read the article from the Ten to Watch section of wealthmanagement.com here.

It’s a hopeful time for women, especially for gender-parity in workplace leadership. I am witnessing huge punch-throughs in the glass ceiling. Women are doing smash-n-grabs all over the place and I’m jumping with joy. I don’t believe for a nanosecond that the ability, talent, passion, will and intelligence to effectively lead was ever absent from the female collective. What I know is that the establishment didn’t believe or want to believe that a woman could lead and lead well.

One of my first experiences with adulting and misogyny shook me to my core. I watched this exceptionally talented woman get passed over for a VP position at an insurance conglomerate. It was terrifyingly clear she was perfect for the job, but of course, it went to a cross-eyed dolt with a bad haircut. She walked out as a result and I admired her courage, but how it happened stayed with me. I watched this type of thing occur over and over through the years.

On a positive note, throughout my career, I’ve noted small incremental changes for the better. One wee victory comes to mind. A few years ago, a co-worker of mine did the unmentionable. She was a graduate of a top notch university and her male predecessor (who had the exact same position) was also. They both had commensurate experience, so I’d say equals in every way.  She discovered his beginning salary was more than hers. This brave, young woman jumped the invisible boundary of salary silence and convention and approached the CEO with the data in hand. Yee ha! 

These small little wins have a created a wave and a resulting fluidity. Women are empowering women and thank goodness, men are empowering men to empower women. Of course, small steps, but it’s darn good to see value and inclusion for women not only in the home, but in the workplace.

Paige

 

Learning to say, “No”

Over Thanksgiving, my daughter was home from uni and she asked me to go somewhere and do/buy something. I don’t exactly recall where she wanted to go or what it was she wanted to do, but I remember my reply.

My reply was a big, loud (slightly hesitant) “No.”

Most of the time, she gets a “maybe”. And the maybe inevitably turns to “yes”.
“No” has not been my typical response in regards to my daughter. To my surprise, in the last 7 months or so, “No” has been popping up more frequently. It feels good to say, “No”.

What an empowering word, “No”. Women are socialized to be gracious and compliant and accommodating and quiet and accepting and all the other words that connote suffocation and suppression. Even to their children. 

Last month, I talked to a friend (who reached financial independence in her late 40’s) and she gave me stern advice to “close my wallet”. To paraphrase, she said, “it’s time for you to stop being nice and be the parent. You will never get ahead if you continue to put your kid in front of you. Yeah, your kid wins, but you will be the loser in the long run.” Gulp, those were tough words to hear. She is right and I needed to hear it.

And so it goes. Yet another thing I’m learning on this weird journey is the power of “No”. I’m not advising to go around saying, “No, No, No” like a 2 yr old, but if something isn’t serving you or won’t serve you in the future, then consider a “No”. You will be plenty surprised how easily your “No” will be accepted ( By most. It will make some people angry).

Actually, it sucks saying “No” to my daughter. It pains me a little, but she (we) are adjusting to our new normal. When I said, “No” to my daughter that night, I was pleased to hear this response…”living the life of former rich girls”.

Yes, we are. Yes, we are and I am stupid happy about it.

Paige

Be the Exception ~Know your Net Worth!

What is net worth and why is it important?

The official definition of individual net worth: Assets – Liabilities = Net Worth

If your assets are more than your liabilities, then you have a positive net worth. If your liabilities are more than your assets, then you have a negative net worth. 

Negative Net Worth Horror Story
There was a time (most of my adult life) when I had a negative net worth. At 21, I got my first fancy job, financed my first (new) car and acquired my first credit card. All this courtesy of producing my undergrad diploma for the credit card company and car dealership, respectively. In hindsight, I think this was some predatory shit for a kid just out of college. I financed the car and I maxed out the credit card. 

Girl with zero financial literacy starts her life here…

Car loan: $15,000
Maxed out credit card: $3,000
Let’s look at the numbers:  $0 – $18,000 =  -$18,000.00.
Voila, at 21 yrs old, I had a negative net worth. Not a fantastic way to get started is it? I know this is nothing compared to the amount of debt people are entering adulthood with today, but it was alot for the time.
(As soon as I drove that car off the lot, the value of the car was immediately less than how much I owed; therefore upside down. Bitches.)

Which brings us to the importance of knowing your net worth and smashing your debt OR never acquiring the debt in the first place. Now is the time to start talking to your kids about finances. Unfortunately, financial literacy is taught at home and most American’s are not literate (I’m not an exception) and the cycle of overwhelming debt continues. The negative net worth horror cycled on for years, but I had a lot of stuff that I didn’t need and the Joneses were impressed. I tried to keep it dialed down, but oddly, the people around me wanted me to have more things.

Positive Net Worth Success Story
In the ensuing years, I’ve never purchased a new car again and I never will. Cars to me are instruments to propel me from point A to B. Nothing more, nothing less.  I do wonder what it would be like to be able to plug my smart phone into the car stereo? Is it nice? 

What are assets? I don’t think that’s a dumb question.
Cars (paid off)
Savings accounts
Checking accounts
Investment accounts
Life insurance
Gold or Platinum
Artwork
Good Health (quantifiable? maybe not, but still)

I’ve worked my way into positive net worth because I own my car, have property (for now), artwork, investment accounts and no credit card debt. (There is some question if property should be considered in the net worth formula. I’m on the fence there.)

And guess what? My positive net worth led to a positive self-worth. Win Win. Everyone gets a snickers bar.

What’s my point? As long as you have debt overshadowing your assets, you will never tip the scale in your favor to wealth acquisition, financial freedom and the thrill of it all, compound interest. 

The 3 M’s recommended financial planning tool – Personal Capital
Among the many tools I use to steadily trod the path to financial independence, knowing my net worth is, by far, the most useful.

To help you discover your net worth and thread it into your daily life, below is a free financial tracking tool/app called Personal Capital. I like watching the app update on my phone in real time with pretty colors and fascinating bar graphs. I’m such a nerd.

Easily link all your financial accounts to the app and like magic you will see everything in one place.  The Personal Capital features include:

  • Net Worth
  • Transactions
  • Cash Flow
  • Budgeting
  • Portfolios
  • Holdings & Allocations
  • Investment Checkups
  • and more…

Sign up for a free Personal Capital Account here!

Have fun! 

Paige

The 3 M’s is using a referral link to Personal Capital.

Step Away from Black Friday

Hey, You! This Friday. Before you step out to your car or bus or train…Stop for a second. 

Ask Yourself… Do I need it? Do they need it?

  • Is what I think I need worth fighting the traffic?
  • Is it worth driving all over parking lots or up and down streets searching for a parking spot?
  • Is it worth standing in an infinite check-out line, or possibly even camping out on Thursday night at Best Buy?
  • Is it worth dealing with the utter bullshit?

Maybe, if you like that kind of stuff. Personally, I’m OK with standing in lines. I peer into people’s grocery carts and wonder about their meal plans ~ trying to get ideas or when I’m standing in line at the airport, I study people’ attire and their carry-on’s and try to figure out if they are going north or south, east or west.

Oppositely, I’ve seen people go OFF when they have to stand in line and it’s not a pretty or enjoyable experience. How a person behaves while waiting is a choice and I choose to be entertained or entertain myself.

“Wait!” you may ask yourself.

You just said, “Don’t go out on Black Friday because of the lines,” and then you said, “You are OK with lines. Stop being confusing.”

My line acceptance philosophy is simple. I am in line for a necessity 90% of the time. (The other 10% is under consideration for a different post. 😐)

I’m not subconsciously mad because I’m spending money that I don’t have or don’t want to spend because it’s a cultural norm and expected of me.

One year, I happened to be in Manhattan on Black Friday with the kids and I shudder when I think back to that day. Firstly, the entire population of the world was in mid-town and we had to hold hands like a chain gang to avoid being swept away by the crowds. We walked by the Plaza Hotel. I think the Plaza is beautiful and I wanted the kids to see it. Unfortunately, PETA was there too. The kids didn’t see the Plaza because their eyes were melted by gigantic, terrifying posters of animal cruelty. Everybody has an agenda including PETA ~to ruin kid’s positive holiday memories.

We escaped to Central Park and spent the rest of our afternoon climbing rocks and enjoying the peace and quiet.

All that to say, think again. Do you really need whatever it is? Do they really need whatever it is? Is it a good deal or are you getting sucked into the hype?

Lastly, consider going for a walk or playing a board game or making turkey soup. Whatever it may be, but step away from Black Friday and enjoy what Thanksgiving was originally meant to be..and that’s time spent with the people you love. 

Paige