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Archive for December, 2008

It’s December 31st, can you believe it? The year has flown by and most of the bad things we worried about never happened, some of the good things did, and now it’s time to march bravely into The New Year.

 

While most people think of  New Year’s Eve prep as getting in hors doeuvres and stocking up on bubbly and probably getting a spiffy new outfit, I require slightly different props: A new three-subject notebook complete with pocket dividers that can hold “stuff ;” a good pen; last year’s notebook; and a 12-pack of Starbuck’s bottled vanilla Frappuccino.

 

See, once upon a time, New Year’s Eve was my wedding anniversary. And then, after about a decade, it wasn’t anymore. My first New Year’s Eve as a single-again woman was just not a festive time for me so I did something a little different, never dreaming how well it would work for me, or that it would become THE New Year’s Eve ritual for me for … apparently … the rest of my life. At least so far.

 

It started in the wake of a break up that left me wondering what I was going to do with myself from then on and realizing that I needed to take stock and do a lot of reevaluating of… everything. Friendships, goals, living conditions, finances…

 

Being a list-maker, the first thing I did was bought one of those spiral notebooks that was divided into three sections by slightly-heavier-weight paper in manila with a pocket on each side of the divider for keeping loose papers and coupons and notes and whatever. I loosely categorized the three sections as “ME,” “MY CAREER/FINANCES,” and “MY HOME.”

 

The “ME” section is for personal ATTAINABLE goals as well as my sometimes far-fetched wishes and dreams… this can be anything from changing my hair color to finding a comfortable church home. It’s what I want for me, and some of it’s silly and some of it’s embarrassing and some of it is actually important. In this notebook that no one else sees, I can say anything.

 

“MY CAREER/FINANCES” is in for a big overhaul this New Year. I’ve reached the point in my life where how I earn a living is starting to feel like it should occupy a smaller wedge of the pie chart that represents my life. Not that I’ll ever give up the dream… ever since I wrote my first short story when I was four years old (another reminiscence for another post), I’ve known I was a writer. But it’s becoming increasingly difficult to earn a living as a freelancer, especially one who aspires to write Things That Matter. It may just be that any career moves this year will be more of a means to an end, a way to stay alive and be able to afford to continue to do the things I do on a volunteer basis. The other side of this tarnished coin is that it is really REALLY hard for me to do what feels like giving up: working in some mundane job for someone else. My parents never believed in it and my mom told me constantly how a woman has to be her own boss in order to be truly successful… but my parents are gone now, and while their ideals are ingrained in me like the rings of a tree, I’m finding them hard to live up to today. And that’s a bitter pill I’ll have to try to make the best of swallowing.

 

“MY HOME” has taken on new importance to me as I’ve escaped by the twinkling of an eyelash the dreaded jaws of foreclosure (and can still feel that monster breathing down my neck). Frankly I’ve never been much of a housekeeper and while I’ll probably never live up to the standards my Dutch Nana kept, even I can see that I really need to do a lot better, and this is going to be the year for it. Don’t bother bringing over your white glove, it won’t pass that test, but I might actually be able to clear the table for once so you can come over for pizza and I’m really determined to make this the year I turn my dungeon of a living room into a home theatre room (on a small scale). Lemons to lemonade, right?

 

So we’ll see how it goes and if I’m lucky I’ll still be living here next New Years Eve and my pets and I won’t have starved to death and I’ll be getting out my new notebook to try to do even better in the next 365 days. Because for tonight only, it’s Anything Can Happen Year.

  

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Am I the only person who’s ever longed to live in a mansion?

 

I blame my (on-hold) real estate career. That’s right, like everyone else in this state I have a real estate license, have pretty much forever, though I don’t take it terribly seriously. I stay up on real estate just because I truly LOVE IT on a personal level and always have; it’s why I got my license in the first place. While I don’t care to do battle with the hair-sprayed, manicured, Mercedes-driving, top-producers whose assistants do all the work while they take all the glory, I DO care to stay knowledgeable so that when someone comes to me to buy or sell I know what I’m doing. I only work on a few deals a year for friends or referral clients, so all the more reason to do my best. “Quality over quantity,” and that goes both ways of course. But I digress…

 

Anyway, you just can’t keep showing those waterfront places all day and going home to your little writer’s hovel every night without it at least crossing your mind that it would be sooooo cool to live in any one of those beauties, even for just a little while. When I’m really working real estate I actually have dreams … like in the night when I’m asleep and all the REM stuff is going on… about living in the places I show. The dreams are so real that when I’m waking up in the morning and trying to get my bearings, at first I think I’ve sleep-walked into the mansion’s shed during the night… and then of course I realize that I’m in my for-real house. (Sigh)

 

Though I haven’t been active in real estate since the housing market tanked I’m still licensed, so I still get the daily dozens of emails from upscale Realtors desperate to sell these places. The subject line is always something like “Waterfront bargain reduced another $1,000,000.00!” or something like that, and I can never resist looking at the beautiful slide shows and drooling on my keyboard. It almost makes me wish my evil twin… the money monger who takes over when the market is good… would get off her ass and do something.

 

Meanwhile The Real Me Twin … the writer… vents about it here or in other thinly veiled accounts about poor single women who long for the good life, usually as one of my warm up exercises for whatever I’m really writing. No one ever sees that stuff, and they aren’t intended to: If I just sit down and do a little stream of consciousness typing, eventually it turns into whatever I’m really supposed to be working on. But recently a strange thing happened: the twins collided on the page.

 

I was trying to get into the new screenplay/expose I’m doing (called “Retail,” hopefully coming soon to an e-book or theater near you), and I got this genius idea: What if I did a new reality T.V. show about poor people secretly squatting in multi-million-dollar mansions and seeing how long they could get away with it undetected and … once discovered … how long they could bluff their way through with the neighbors etc. to stay? There could be teams and whoever made it for the longest time would get a prize… which should probably be to be allowed to keep the house they’d successfully been living in, but I’m not sure how the network would feel about coughing up that much money.

 

Think about it. There’s already an opposite version in which millionaires (poor babies) try to survive in the world of the homeless. I’m sorry, but having been close-to-homeless on many occasions myself, I JUST don’t find that entertaining. (Does anyone?) But this! Don’t you think people would LOVE IT? I know I would. In fact, a stipulation of selling the idea to a network would have to be that I get to be one of the competitors. And I know JUST the place I’m going to settle into: Yup, the bargain basement one that’s been marked down another mil. No point in being greedy.

 

OOOOH! I know what I’m going to call it. Are you ready? (Wait for it….) Here it goes:

 

“Poorhouse/Dreamhouse.”

 

Huh? Do you love it? 

Who knows a smart executive producer that’s ready to back the next big reality show TV hit?

 

Call me. Wherever I’m living, I’ll have my cell with me.

 

 

 

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          An acquaintance who somehow stumbled upon my blog actually called to ask me if it was truth or fiction. (Obviously she is not a close acquaintance or she’d know.) I told her that it was all fact so far, with a few names/identifying circumstances changed to protect the embarrassed.

            “Why would anyone be embarrassed?” she demanded with what I can only assume was mock naïveté.

            Could she really be that oblivious?

            “Well, you know….” I explained, “last year these people were donating to charities and doing volunteer work for them, and now they’re recipients of their services… if they can bring themselves to apply, and if they qualify.”

            She responded that that was “just silly” (or something equally dismissive) and I surrendered any possible crusade to enlighten her because, as we all know, some people just don’t get it. And while I don’t suffer these fools gladly, I do sort of understand them. I think.

            For instance, when you vent to them that you’re sweating out when your utilities will be turned off and they respond that they’re spending the equivalent of your two-month past-due electric bill on holiday outfits for their dogs, and go on to describe in great detail how adorable they are, they don’t REALLY intend to be hurtful. It is their money after all and … whether those funds are coming from the job they’re fortunate enough to have or a trust fund or a significant other or whatever … they are not in anyway obligated to hide the fact that while you are struggling to survive they are having frivolous fun. They aren’t trying to be mean … are they?

            It brings to mind how F. Scott had Gatsby describe Daisy: She was careless. That word is open to a lot of interpretations, some of which appear in Wikipedia:

            Careless – Adjective:

  1. Careless (Not giving sufficient attention or thought, especially concerning the avoidance of harm or mistakes.)
  2. Not concerned or worried about.
  3. Showing no interest or effort.

       While those all apply, I would also add “without a care,” although I guess “carefree” would be the more appropriate word for that.

       When people are not under the gun, especially if they never have been, I think it’s hard for them to be empathetic. Oh they may think they’ve had similar experiences, but if they’ve always had some kind of safety net or back-up, they really can’t understand what it’s like to be on a greased tightrope over a moat full of alligators with no one below to catch you. They probably shouldn’t be faulted for that.

       And it goes full circle, in the tradition of “I cried because I had no shoes…”

       Probably even those who are having a tough time here in America and think losing their utilities and jobs and cars is a major deal could take a look at what’s going on in other parts of the world and know that there are undoubtedly millions of people who would trade places with them in a moment, viewing these perceived  “major malfunctions” as mere bumps in the road of what to them would still be a pretty cushy life.

       I try to remember this when a friend or relative doesn’t seem to understand or appreciate what I consider to be the urgency of certain needs and situations, when they brush me off or make careless empty promises to help “tomorrow;” they aren’t experiencing it, so how can they understand?

       While every day in everyone’s lives may well be Anything Can Happen Day, if it isn’t happening to them on that day at that moment, if they aren’t feeling the discomfort and frustration and panic and sense of hopelessness, it isn’t really happening.

Not for them.

At least not yet.

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