An Unexpected Expense

Fiscally responsible is not how I would describe myself, but I have been working on it.  I have cancelled all of my pre-booked $160 hair appointments, switched my $5.95 daily coffee to a regular $2.00 coffee, and stopped drinking alcohol on a regular basis – not that I was a heavy drinker, but it all adds up.  I’ve set up automatic withdrawls from my chequing to savings account at each pay period, plus I have RRSP contributions coming of my pay cheques.  Automatic payments are set up for my loans, and I will put all my extra money towards my credit card and line of credit.

Small changes should in time equal debt reduction.  I can only make small changes right now, because my poor spending habits only involve the little things.  Last night I was feeling pretty good about my plan, finally I was making a serious effort to change my financial situation.

“BEEP BEEP BEEP – Dangerous Carbon Monoxide Level Detected” – What was that?  I listen carefully and hear it again.  The new CO detector I installed in my bedroom is in alarm.  My first thought – It must be faulty.  But again the alarm goes off and the display reads 70PPM.  Can this be right? Do I have a CO leak in my house?  I unplug the detector from the wall and try to turn it off, but it won’t stop sounding the alarm.  The volume is ear-piercing, and I contemplate using a hammer on it to shut it up.  STOP BEEPING FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!  Again the electronic voice reminds me there are dangerous levels of CO floating through my breathing air.

I shove the detector under the cushions of my couch to stiffle the sound and then go about opening all my windows.  Next I tear apart all of my “junk” drawers looking for the damn manual – there has to be a way to turn it off.  While I search the house for the lost manual, I pick up the phone and call my step-dad.  Yes, at 41 I still call my dad when I need help.

“Unplug it” He grumbles

“Tried that, it’s still screaming at me!” I frustratingly exclaim

“Well maybe you have a CO leak.”

“I gathered that, but how do I shut off the detector?” I say a little more calmly

“Hmmm, have you read the manual”, he say’s helpfully

After about 15 minutes back and forth, I finally find the manual and tell him I will call him back.  I read hurriedly through the manual; looking for the “OFF” instructions.  I find it after another 10 minutes of reading through the lengthy user guide.  I silence the unit allowing my brain to absorb the reality that – I have a CO leak.  Oh God this can’t be good.  Being a single woman, my first instinct is to Google “What causes CO leaks”.

  • Wood-burning stoves – nope don’t have one
  • Gas stoves – mines electric
  • Vehicles idling in an open or closed garage, or near a home – car engines been off for at least 2 hours.
  • Vent pipe connections vibrating loose from furnace – Possibly??? I have a furnace; no idea if the vent pipe connection is vibrating loose.  What exactly is that anyway?

Equipped with some information I call my dad back.  Immediately he tells me it’s probably my 43 year old furnace.  “The heat exchange is probably cracked”, he states. “It may be time to replace that old junker of yours”.

$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

EXPENSIVE – That’s all I hear.

My heart starts to race, as my mind tries to figure out how I will be able to afford this.  This, of course, is what happens with an anxious mind.  My exsisting debt is forefront in my mind, and I am trying to figure out where I am going to get more money.  I have plenty of room on my credit card, but I don’t want another $4000 – $5000 added to it.

My dad is talking to me, trying to tell me he will come haFurnaceve a look tomorrow, but I don’t hear him.  I’m thinking “what can I sell, what are my options, why is this happening”.  Finally I stop, I breathe, and then I listen.  Deep slow breaths, I say to myself, as I try to calm my shaken nerves.  OK, I can do this – one step at a time young lady.  I thank my dad and agree to have him come look at it in the morning.  I will have to take the day off of work, but this is my safety we’re talking about.

I go to bed with my window open, waking every 30 minutes to check the CO levels. The detector reads (00) all night, so at least the immediate risk is over.  The next morning, I wait with my coffee for my dad to arrive, and after some inspection he feels that I am safe for now.  The detector is still at (00) and he figures the strong winds may have caused a downdraft in my furnace flute.  He advises me to watch the detector, and if the levels go up again we can revisit the issue.  I should mention that my dad was a boiler maker for 40 years, so he has some experience with these things.

Feeling a little better, I devise a plan.  I have called two local furnace companies to come and quote me on a new furnace.  Although I may not need one now, it’s only a matter of time with a relic like mine.  Once I receive the quotes and settle on the best price, I will start to save.  I may need to pay my existing debt a little slower than planned, but at least I won’t be adding to it, or at least not as much.  With any luck the weather will get warmer soon, and the furnace will be off until September.  This gives me time to tuck away as much money as I can before I splurge on the new appliance.  Plus I have the day off work because I have to wait for the service techs to come by this afternoon.

Having a plan has calmed me, so maybe I will enjoy some time off and let my mind rest for a while.

 

 

 

A Dog’s Love

Olivia

OLIVIA

My eyelids flicker; something feels wet – what is that?  As my mind wakens from a dead sleep, I feel something softly brush across my lashes.  Once I reach full consciousness, I smile, as I understand that the soft carrasses across my lids are actually puppy kisses from Olivia.

My eyes open, and I am looking straight into her patiently waiting eyes.   She is excited, as she knows it’s time to get up.  Time to get out of bed, and go for a run…but first – belly rubs.  She lays her little head on my shoulder, and snuggles in under my armpit.  Rolling over, she shows her little pot belly and closes her eyes.  I run my fingernails lightly across her belly, as she snorts with contentment.

I love my dog, and my dog loves me.  Words alone cannot express the unconditional love that we share for each other.  Her name is Olivia; she’s a three-year-old Jack Russell/Shih Tzu mix, and one heck of a snuggler.  That is, when she’s not running cicles around the house and playing tug-a-war with her mousey.

This 10lbs of pure sweetness has me wrapped around her little paw.  She’s there when I wake, and stays by my side until I leave for the day.  I know she hears my car approaching at the end of the day, because she is patiently waiting on the other side of the door when I get home from work.  Her tail wags with excitement, and I swear she is smiling from ear to ear.  I can’t help but laugh at her adorable underbite; her not so menacing fangs almost reaching her little piggy nose.  Oh how I love her.

Last night, she was chewing on her mousey on top of my stretched-out legs.  This is her usual spot when I lounge on the couch to read a book or watch TV.  I reached a sad part in my book, and I began to weep; this is Olivia’s que to leap up and comfort me.  I don’t know if it’s the salt of the tears, or if she is trying to make me better, but she wipes away each and every teardrop with her miniture kisses.  Her tender nature amazes me, and I am lucky that she is mine.

Of course there are days when I am tested on my “unconditional” love for her.  Like when I find my brand new duvet covered in blue ink that has leaked out of a ballpoint pen, or I notice my favorate sweater is missing all of it’s buttons – suspicious.  But… I can’t be mad (or stay mad) at her.  I don’t have it in me.  I am sure she feels the same way towards me when I leave her home all day, or when I won’t give her another treat when she’s clearly trying to shake a paw.  But like me, she can’t stay mad for long.

I cannot imagine what my life would be like without Olivia.  She is my companion and child at the same time.  I share all of my secrets with her, and she doesn’t tell a soul.  I love my dog, and my dog loves me.  Unconditional is a dog’s love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Debt & Stress Out

Debt! How can one small four letter word cause so much stress and anxiety?  Why can I not escape from the clutches of seemlessly endless debt?  I don’t live in an over priced home, I don’t take lavish vaations or spend ridiculous amounts of money on clothing.  Yet here I am with $40,000 of debt, and I have no idea how I will ever get out of it.

Money has been the biggest stresser in my life for as far back as I can remember.  I was the oldest of three kids with a single mom working for minimum wage.  My dad did not pay child support, and we were frequent visitors to the food bank.

Growing up with little to no money, there is always the worry of “what if”.  Although it was never my mother’s intention, her stress over money was shared by us kids.  I hated seeing her cry when she didn’t know how she was going to pay rent.  I wanted to make it ok for her, but what could I do as a child.

You would think growing up poor, a person would grow up to be responsible with their money.  Unfortunately, the opposite is true.  I had no role model to teach me how to manage money, because there was never money to manage.  When you are poor, you spend every dime you have and hope there is enough to get by.

As an adult I have made so many mistake when it comes to spending.  I don’t spend my money on big expensive items; I spend mine on the little things.  $5 coffees every morning, books, occasional dinners out, drinks after work… the list goes on.  I’ve made attempts to curb my spending, to no avail.  On top of the stress that debt brings, I feel angry at myself for my inability to change.

I consolidate my debt, only to rack it up again.  I put myself on a budget and end up spending more than I did before the budget.  I get a better job with higher pay, and I spend more.  On what?  I have no clue.   I blame it on high prices of necessities, such as, heat, food, rent, vehicle insurance and repairs, grooming products, telephone, internet.  This all adds up when you are single and only have one source of income.  I make a medium wage, but life seems so expensive.  Maybe I spend so much because of how little we had growing up.  If only I knew why I can’t stop spending, then maybe I could change it.

Most of the time I try not to think about debt; it is just “is what it is”.  However, when a big repair bill pops up, my anxiety goes through the roof.  When friends complain about their measly credit card statement, I feel ashamed of my financial situation. I can go months without worry until something triggers me – and then I panic.  I lay awake a night chiding myself at the mess I feel I’m in.  I become frustrated unable to find an immediate solution.  I know that a forced budget would make a difference, but I’m not good at this.  I know it – I don’t know how to fix it.  One thing I am good at is making sure I pay my bills.  My loan payments go through, and I pay my bills before the statement date.  So for that I am thankful.

With most other parts of my life, I am so determined.  I make things happen even when I’m afraid.  Debt is the one thing I cannot seem to get a handle on.  This is who I am; this is my weakness.  I dream of a day when I can face the challenge of overcoming this obsticle.  A day when I can budget accordingly and save appropriately.  Until then, I will do the best I can and stay hopeful for personal growth with regards to my finances.

 

A Sunrise of Clarity

Sometimes I feel like I am living in a fog.  I question whether or not I am only going through the motions of my day without actually living.  These thoughts run through my mind on a prIMG_5229etty regular basis, and it’s only mornings like todays when I have some clarity.

It was 6:30 a.m., and the air was chilly as I walked to my car after teaching my morning spin class.  As I walked, I realized that I was making mental note of all the things I needed to do before getting to work.

“Get home, feed the dog, don’t forget to take out the garbage, pack my lunch, pack my gym bag…”

I could feel my neck and shoulders stiffen the more I tried to organize my morning.  Without thinking, I looked up, and I saw the sun begin to rise.  It was beautifully clear; an orange and yellow hew lighting up a big blue sky. It was completely silent, and everything was still. I stopped walking in the middle of the sidewalk and took a breath in.  I felt the cold on my bare skin, and the hairs on my arms raise.  I listened to the quiet and thought of nothing at all. I felt a peace and tranquility wash over me.  I realized as I stood silently, I was living – really living.

Moments like this happen to me at random, I don’t plan it, I don’t think about it, it just happens.  It’s like my unconscious self takes control and say’s, “Stop.”  Stop thinking about what you need to do or what you should have done.  None of that matters at this very moment; all that matters is what is happening right now.  Take this moment to enjoy just being.

I stood in that spot for no more than 2 minutes, but that was all I needed to start my day with a different mindset.  As I drove home to get ready for my day, I paid attention to my surroundings.  I smiled when the sunlight reflexed off my mirror and warmed my face.  The heater in my car was warming my chilled body, and I felt relaxed and safe.

As my day went on, I became obsorbed in my work, and I forgot about my morning of clarity.  It wasn’t until I was thinking about today’s blog post topic that it returned.  Before I typed my first word, I closed my eyes and returned to the peace I found this morning.  I could smell the freshness of the day; I could feel the emotion return.  While I write this afternoon, I am getting another chance to “live” in my life, and I want to document my thoughts as a reminder to take more moments like this.

I too often forget that living happens in the “right now”.  I cannot live in the past any more than I can live in the future.  I do not need to be doing something of great significants in order to feel alive – all I need to do is, stop, breathe, and be.

Morning Interrupted

The sound of the alarm startles me this morning; can it really be 5:00am already?  I hit the snooze button and snuggle back into my bed.  5:05am, off goes alarm number two – NOOOO I don’t want to get up.  And here comes the internal dialogue I have with myself every morning:

“Get up and go for your run, you will be happy you did”

“But I’m tired, I can go to the gym after work today”

“You could, but it’s Friday, so you probably won’t… you had that glass of wine last night, if you don’t run it off, you will have muffin top all day”

“I don’t want to”     “Get your lazy ass out of bed”     “F*ck”       “OK FINE”

My feet hit the cold floor, and I stagger into the bathroom.  The light is blinding, why am I doing this to myself?  I brush my teeth, brush through the tangled mess of my hair, and scrounge through my laundry hamper for clean LULU.

I’m no longer thinking at all; I’m on autopilot – If I stop to think, I might change my mind and climb into bed.  The car is cold, so I put on the heater, adjust my mirror, and crank up the raRoad2dio.

I DID IT, I’m on my way downtown, and I’m going to get my run done!!! I park the car in front of my favorate cafe, tie up the laces of my worn runners, and hit the streets.  I warm up with a slow jog until I round the first corner, now begins the laborious climb up 1st Avenue.  1st Avenue is six blocks of “hill” – Lung burning hill.  My legs want to stop, and they ache all over.  I make it to the top, give myself a pat on the back and continue on.  “Pop Goes The World” is playing on my Iphone –  I’m feeling pretty good.

30 Minutes later I’m at the door to the cafe and ready for my coffee.  Greg, the barista, rings in my 20oz almond milk latte, and I settle in to for a quick read before it’s time for work.

Just as I open my book, a man sitting in the next booth decides to start up a conversation.  From the looks of him, I would guess he lives on the streets and had come in to warm up.  I humour him (I’m polite that way) by engaging in some friendly chit chat, and then I turn back to my book.  This did not faze him one bit; he continued to talk.  Honestly, I have no idea what he is talking about.  His speached is slurred and quick; I hear something about Cleopatra poisoning herself, and “Ain’t that a F*cking thing.”

My patience is wearing thin by now, and all I want is to be left alone.  I  pretend not to hear him and stare at my book hoping he will stops talking.  It doesn’t work, I turn my body completely away from him and focus hard on the words in front of me.  Still he talks.  It takes 10 minutes for him to run out of steam before he gets up and saunters out the door.

Part of me feels bad that I didn’t want to talk to him, but mostly I’m relieved he’s gone.  If I were a better person, giving up 10 minutes of my day would be no big deal.  But I not and this is my time.  As much as it pains me to get up so early, I treasure every moment of it.  I enjoy the empty streets as I run, I enjoy the first sip of my latte, and I enjoy the piece and quiet.

Although my morning wasn’t completely lost, I felt annoyed by the interruption.  Generally I’m pretty social and I will talk up a storm when I feel like it.  MY mornings are sacred though, and I don’t feel I should have to give of myself all the time.

To Date or Not to Date

If you asked me when I was thirty if ever I wouldn’t be interested in dating, I would have said, “Hell No.”  I love being in love, or at least I used to.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have been single for three years, and I don’t think it is because I haven’t found the “ONE”.  I write potential mates off sometimes before I even meet them.

“Picky” is an understatment when describing my dating life.  I feel  when you meet someone you want to date, you should just be instantly attracted to them.  Maybe this isn’t how it is when you get older.  I can’t remember the last time I went on a date and didn’t have one or more of these thoughts:

  • Too short
  • Too fat
  • Too thin
  • No sense of humour
  • Lives too far away
  • Drinks too much
  • Drinks too little
  • Can’t pronounce Quinoa
  • Too educationed
  • Too dumb
  • Missing a big toe
  • Too in to himself
  • No self-esteem
  • Too young
  • Too Old
  • Has kids, recently separated, smells funny, no job…

 

“Clinger”

How can I be so picky when I, myself, am no where near perfect.  I don’t know when this happened to me either.  Looking back at all of my ex’s, I have no idea how they made it past the first coffee date.  Is it because of my ex’s that I now have a long list of deal-breakers?  Who knows.

I’m pretty sure I want to be in love; I want to have the feeling of lust and excitement that goes along with finding a new partner.  But, I can’t seem to get past the objections I make before even giving someone a chance.  For instance, I have invited a man over to my place this Saturday for dinner.  It will be our fourth date, and honestly, the only reason I  invited him over is to see if I’d be more INTO him if I were in a more comfortable setting.  It’s Thursday today, and I’ve been toying with the idea of cancelling.  THIS is not how I should feel about dating – But it is.

A co-worker told me today that everything will change once I find a man that can break through my tough shell.  His analysis of my unusual outlook on dating is that I’ve become hardened from past experiences.  Maybe so, but how does one change that? It’s not like it was a conscious choice.

All I want is a tall, dark, hansome man with a great sense of humour, a great job, no kids, who won’t make me make any sacrifies in my own life.  IS that too much to ask?  Ok, I know it is, but I’m hoping I can at least tick off some of those boxes. Wouldn’t it be great if you could see your future?  I’d look to see if Mr. Right was just around the corner, or if I should just give up the search and put my energy elsewhere.