Friday, December 28, 2007

slow slow slow hops the bunnygirl

Sometimes I get a song stuck in my head and it feels like it will be there forever. This seems to be especially common on days when there is a hangover present, as though marked absence of alcohol has left room for songs to sneak in and play on repeat for hours.
Yes I had too much to drink last night and today even typing is difficult. I've got this hollow where my brain used to be and my eyes seem to get stuck to objects that have no significance (hello coffee cup you sure are looking nice today. so nice I just can't look away).
I forgot where I was going with that. Case in point.
Oh--I went into the restroom earlier and after washing my hands grabbed a paper towel to dry them off and licked it I have no idea where that came from. I watched myself do it in the mirror and wondered what the hell I was doing and then the taste hit me and I though "my god, why would someone do that?" all the while I actually was doing it.
I am very lucky I suppose that there is nothing of great importance entrusted to me today I would assuredly fuck it up. As it is the complexity of putting together a citation style guide is proving to be beyond my abilities.
I went to a wine and cheese tasting last night and it was quite fun, which sort of lured me into going to dinner and drinking more red wine which led to going to watch some music and drinking cheap beer which eventually led to walking home in the early hours of the morning, making a pathetic quesadilla (I just spell checked that twice and spell check doesn't know what it is. it wants to make it "odalisques" but I can't imagine trying to make one of those at one am while drunk) with some bottom-feeder tortillas and parmesan cheese (thankfully not shaker cheese but still not something that usually leads to a good quesadilla) and then stumbling off to bed to awaken at 6:30 very very confused about the world and existence and all its baggage and also obviously quite stupid. Unfortunate indeed then that I have to spend a fair amount of time with my mother (stuck in a car no less) this evening.
But we do what we must. Because we must.
And really I can't think of another thing to write, and typing hurts me.
goodbye 2007 bring on 2008 already.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

look out for the hydraulic crane

This morning was all about laying in bed and contemplating mortality. Only I had to get up and go to work. Its a hard push-pull kind of a deal, talking yourself out of warm covers on a gray day, made no easier by thoughts of death and sleep being so similar and pleasant and preferable to movement or faking motivation.
It keeps hitting me that I'm a grown up now. Or as close as I am ever likely to get. Its a freakily unfulfilling realization. What in the hell am I supposed to do with that?
I think most of my generation is having the same problem. Or at least I hope so, nothing sucks quite as much as being the only one in the middle of an existential crisis.
Why don't I have things figured out? I thought I'd just go with the flow and things would fall together in some sort of fateful way, but at the moment it feels more like things are falling apart rather than together and I don't think that fate really has anything to do with it.
Most likely it is just because I'm lonely. The person I talk to the most is the one I know is planning to abandon me for bigger brighter better things, and that doesn't really lend itself to too much confidence or admittance.
So that has to be part of it. Here I am alone and likely to stay that way. Really part of me is looking forward to knowing for sure I'm alone. The part after may not be so good, but at the moment a schedule sounds nice.
I looked in on an old boyfriend the other day--online, not in person--and was happy/sad to find him as pitiful and unable to deal with the world as when I left him. Happy because it makes me very sure I made the right decision there and sad because it doesn't look like things are ever going to change for the better for him, and that is always sad.
And I keep remembering that time after I left, and how good it was for me to be alone. And maybe this time will be just as good--cathartic, fulfilling, and I will be alright with it.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

red fish winging into the sky

The 26th is kind of a let-down day all around for me. Holiday day, the 25th, is all about the family and the giving and the staying at home and eating too much, and the 26th, for me at least, as a little kid I wasn't sure what to do with it--am I still supposed to stay in "family" mode? Is it alright to abandon them immediately? I always feel badly about that. And what about the presents we just opened? My mother is something of a consumer queen--she never knows when to quit, and I always feel embarrassed by the sheer amount of crap I am left with on the 26th. This is the first year that she has kept tags on things and told us all that she is okay with our returning things we do not want. In years past it has been viewed as something only an ungrateful child would do: if you love her you will keep the things she gives you. And she is always trying to top what she did last year, a continuous escalation of stuff: more packages or bigger packages or whatever. Every year is going to be different, bigger, better, best.
This year my father and I talked a little about trying to do things differently next year: limiting the number of gifts any one person can buy, trying to keep things small and simple. Its too early to tell right now, but I hope at least some of what we're planning comes to pass.
I've been thinking a lot about the necessity of contrast: feast and famine, holiday and workday good day and bad. You have to have one to define the other, right?
The general idea of contrast.
Only it would seem that in this day and age, in this particular country we don't want to have both. We want to have a holiday every day, every year to be a "boom" year, a growth year a good year. But it can't work like that, can it? I mean, we need some contrast. We need to have days "on" to have days "off". We need to fast before the feast--in order to enjoy it at all. Otherwise how will we recognize the feast at all?
I am concerned that we don't--that our quest for the "good life" our "pursuit of happiness" has led us into a spiral--continuously having to top what has come before, searching for the next "good" and after that the next "great". Without looking for the sacrifice that should come before or after, the day of fasting before the feast; for contrast, for reflection, for perspective. Instead of taking a day out, taking some time to reflect, regroup, recommit, we just make the next one bigger--that seems to be the only contrast or comparison we want to make. Last year was big, but this year will be bigger. Always bigger.
We can't go on like this, can we? We need some simplicity. Some down time. Some contrast. Some perspective. Some rest.
Instead, yesterday we (as a society and also, specifically, my family) unwrapped our gifts, and today we (all of us) will go out and return them for new things and tomorrow we (the great unending "we") will start planning how next year will be bigger, better, best. I am hoping that we (my family) can get out of this consumer spiral, can set our sights on what really matters about the day and the holiday and that we (as a society) can some how, in a larger way, shake the urge to go bigger always as well.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

holiday b&e cheer.

Here we are, solstice on the verge, snow on the ground, Christmas on the horizon, Cait on the edge.
Only not really. Things are good, calm, peaceful. There is joy and cheer and camaraderie that I am happy to take part in.
Only thing, I'm not sleeping. I don't know exactly why. Last night I laid awake for four or five hours thinking about engraving. Of all things. The night before it seemed like the heater was making so much noise I was never going to be able to drift off. And I didn't.
But it could be reversable: I went running this morning, just a short 4 miler because it is cold and snowy and I am a lazy slack ass, but usually exercize helps. Physical exhaustion can often win out over internal rambling--my own little hamster wheel that won't stop spinning.
Man I am such a drama lately! Why can't I let it go? I am really looking forward to a couple of days off and away--I will be going to my family's for the holidays and hopefully doing nothing more stressful than carrying on polite conversation with my mother and watching sappy movies and some good bad cable.
Happy everything, anyway.

Friday, December 14, 2007

let's not forget the Rum.

Its all merriment and cheer around here. And I’m totally feeling it. I’ve got my red boots--my favorite farm boots that make way more sense in mud and rain than snow, but which I wear anyway at any given opportunity because I love them: they’re big, they’re red, they rock.

Did you ever read that joke book when you were a kid that had the joke in it: “whats big and red and eats rocks?” in it? I was such a huge fan of that book and that joke in particular.

(answer: a Big Red Rock Eater! All the toddlers in the room fall down, all the grownups groan).

I made festive food last night, in the midst of a snowstorm. We got slammed, here on the coast. Lots of driving snow and wind-whipped road ways. It was quite romantic to be snowbound and baking with my sister.

Her boyfriend was trapped for about seven hours on a bus, which is totally unromantic, but he had his laptop, so he got some good paper-writing done I guess.

And today all the trees are tippled white and the snow is as pristine as it ever gets along the sides of major road ways. The roads themselves are already a brown churn, and much windshield-wiper fluid will be expended for visibility to stay good over the long haul.

I’ve got homemade candy to send to relatives all stacked up and waiting in the cold storage room, but because it is right there and already bagged and all, I keep giving it to other people. Not accidentally really, its just that I seem to want to give everything away lately. I am feeling a need to clean out my closet and crawlspace before the holiday--my mother has told me twice now that she thinks I have quite a lot coming to me, and I am worried that she has been thinking about the fact that I may be sad since August and taking it out on her credit card. I hate it when she does things like that. My parents, as a couple, and my father, as an individual, are big believers in sustainability and self-sufficiency. Once upon a not so far away time, they grew most of their own food and their house is as energy efficient as it was possible to make it (with the roof designed for the eventual addition of solar panels they’ve never been able to afford), my father is against all things consumerist and specifically “The Man”. Oddly, my mother only goes along with that to a fairly superficial point: she is something of an uber-consumer; she cannot say no to a “good deal” and thrives on discount shopping and post holiday sales and the like. She almost always overbuys in the cheap-plastic-crap department and it is something I’ve tried to talk to her about in the past, and totally given up on in the present. My dad feels the same way. When I balked a few years past at accompanying her to some post-thanksgiving day buy-buy-buy frenzy my father took me aside and reminded me that it was a small thing, I didn’t have to participate myself, and it would make her happy. My dad is good like that.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

cradle and the cookie jar

I get a little fixated sometimes, on the finance thing. I begin to obsess about numbers and they way they impact my life today and will impact the future course of my life. My sister and I have been having arguments lately about how warm our apartment should be at night and during the day, because I am interested in keeping costs as low as possible (within my measly budget) and she is sort of oblivious to costs, rising costs and the stupidity of heating a building that no one is in.
Its a hard thing about this time of year; the budget--It seems like there are suddenly a lot of things that require a small gift or item--holiday parties and Yankee Swaps and I have fifteen coworkers in my department who all send each other Christmas cards. I've been trying to keep things on the low end of the scales by home-making as much as possible--the cards for example--and toffee for party gifts and for the people I actually share an office with. I like to think that, on top of being cheaper it also is more personal. But even if other people don't see it that way, it is at least a little cheaper. I like getting to go to these little parties and being included in holiday gatherings and traditions, but I want to try and do it in a way that doesn't compromise me financially.
The heat thing, the continually skyrocketing cost of oil has me worried. I don't want to get myself into a situation where I have to abandon my savings plan to just make ends meet. My sister isn't on any sort of plan--though she is a student with a fairly small fixed income, she has that feeling common to students (at least in my experience) that things will work themselves out and time spent in school isn't time to worry about money. I'm a little frustrated with the attitude myself, but that might just be because I am a perpetual worrier, and financially fixated besides.
On the upside, Christmas is within striking distance! So it is almost over, thank goodness. I've got most everyone done--my mother is the last person I need to buy for at this point I think, and I stayed pretty well within budget for everyone except possibly her (I'm doing her stocking this year, so I've kind of gone overboard on the small-but-expensive items, like makeup and fancy beads, that I would want in my stocking, because thats the way I want to do it, I'm not going to cheap out on my mom, thats just not cool). But it is sort of troubling, you know, the massive commercialization of Christmas--really of holidays in general and the huge emphasis on gift giving . I don't have any children, but I have friends with small children, and its becoming apparent that this may be the last year I get away without buying toys--or books, I suppose, but boy could that get expensive fast!! I read an article or blog entry (and I don't remember quite where, so no link) about some people who made a conscious effort not just to not have children, but to not make friends with people with children so as to avoid the costly outlay for various holidays. I do think that is a little extreme, but at the same time I wonder if there may not be some sort of drift, over time, where people who have children and people who do not may begin to have less and less in common and a certain amount of annoyance for one-way cost cropping up on the child-free side of the line.
Not that I'm opting out of ever having children, just with circumstances the way they currently are, I'm pretty sure its not in the 3-year-plan anyway.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

the cookie in the cookie jar

When I was in graduate school I got kind of obsessed with personal finance literature. I don't know exactly why--I know the first book I read on the topic was some Suze Ormond thing and it left me with more questions than I had started with, so I went looking for another book, and after that one another, and then once I found out they existed, for blogs on the subject(and there are lots of them, very good ones) and web pages and the like. I am fascinated by it, and possibly if I had discovered it earlier I might have ended up with a degree in economics or in the field of financial planning.
Occasionally I look at academic programs and think about going back, but from this vantage point it doesn't make that much sense--I already like what I do, and it would cost me a fair amount of money and time take that path and see if it was really as interesting as it seems at first glance.
So instead, I keep reading, and doing my little "run numbers" sheets (occasionally also referred to as "bistro math" or "Cait's ridiculous percentage obsession") and trying to figure out what I should be doing with what I've got. It changes a lot. Every time I read something new I want to integrate it into my planning and also I don't want to be totally in the thrall of minute finance at every waking moment. I like the idea of simplicity and automation where it comes to financial things (I read about that someplace early on, of course).
For my first two years out of school I focused solely on getting rid of my credit card debt, I got rid of it for good (fingers crossed) early last year. Then I started on the current quest: a 60-40 split of income; where I live on roughly 60% of my take home pay and save the other 40% of it in various vehicles (high-interest savings, CDs, and Index funds predominantly). Incidentally this doesn't count my pre-tax 403b plan: into that I had been putting 8% of my gross income (with an employer match for the first 7%) . So I've been doing alright. Generally I'm pretty proud of myself. But then I read something new; for instance the fact that the limit for pre-tax account contributions this year is $15,500, and my measly 8% of my measly income doesn't even come to half of that. Also, I'm not debt free by any measure: I had to take out some considerable loans to complete graduate school, and during my debt-repayment phase I was sending double payments every month to the folks that hold those loans. But this fall I had a talk with my uncle, who was outraged that I was paying double (and in June was technically all paid up for the current year) on a loan that was only earning 2.65% interest. He said I was doing myself a disservice by not saving or using that money for myself, and education debt being considered "good debt" it was the kind to have around. I thought about it for awhile, and then I reached my 36th on-time payment and qualified for a 1% interest rate reduction and decided that I could make minimum payments on a loan earning 1.65% interest, let it live forever and be okay with it. So now I am, and I'm taking that money and hopefully offsetting an increase in my pre-tax 403b, from 8% up to 15%. Well, I say that but I think at the same time I may also have put that extra money into an index fund...I rebalanced my 40% savings scheme and set it up so that an estimated 25% of it is going into index funds (and of course the stock market is thats not the smartest thing ever I suppose, but over the long term it should give me a decent return, again, fingers crossed) and the rest is sort of unevenly distributed between savings for a new car in about two years and a house in about five and a "fun" fund (about $25 a month) for the misc good time stuff that I will likely never buy.
Does any of this make sense? Its hard to say. I am not necessarily very good at keeping track of this stuff: I am not 100% sure how the increase in pre-tax savings is going to affect the size of my next paycheck, but I want to at least try to get a little closer to the maximum next year, because there is hope that I am young enough to have compounding interest working in my favor and helping me into early retirement. Which is, at least sometimes, a goal of mine.

Monday, December 10, 2007

what if the mice get to it first?

This sums it up perfectly:


Man, why can’t I get words like that? That’s exactly it; what I’ve been feeling in the back of my head for days now, but my attempts at expressing it are so much more amorphous, when I really just needed to come out and say that, and then it would all make sense.

I went to a memorial service on Saturday and it was really good, in that way that something sad and terrible can still be good, because it is about a whole lot of people getting together and remembering and loving someone (even if it is, okay, a whole lot too late for that person to get much out of it, it is nice to know that people care) and I enjoy the community feeling and the commiseration that make you feel like you are part of this group instead of all alone (as we all are, inevitably, at death). Of course it did make me ponder the point of continuing to live at all because (as stated so clearly above): LIFE HAS NO PURPOSE, COMMUNICATION IS IMPOSSIBLE, THE EXISTENCE OF MAN IS ABSURD. Yeah. Good times.

I don’t know how many people would come to my memorial service, if there was one. I know my mother pretty much planned one once (I was in a bad accident, and on the way to the hospital apparently my folks had the necessary talk about the necessary arrangements, but she still won’t tell me the details). Which is nice to know, I guess. At least there is a plan.

A plan generally makes things better I think. I get more done with planning and deadlines. I enjoy a certain amount of structure. If it were not, for instance, for the need to get up and go to work on weekdays, I would most likely have spent today laying in bed listening to Nirvana. Usually my laying-in-bed-questioning-the-futility-of-living music of choice is Tool, but something in me really wants to hear In utero back to back to back for a period of eight or nine hours.

But I don’t have a choice in the matter (or at least I tell myself there is no choice in the matter) I need to get up and go go go like an animated doll: get in the car, drive ever so slowly through snow and slush to work, and sit and type-type-type and think-think-think and make little to-do lists of the things I want done by the end of the week. My lists are always a little mixed up: I have a tendency to run together all the things I want done in work and out of work in one non-prioritized list:

  • Make new book display,
  • eat fruit for breakfast,
  • finish CSE citation guidelines page,
  • get to the gym at least three times,
  • do some actual collection development and get the slush pile off my computer desk,
  • make Christmas cards,
  • lose five pounds or grow five inches, your choice.
  • Write something you might enjoy reading sometime in the future
And honestly this probably does not fulfill that last one, I am just a rambler and do not really merit re-reading truth be told.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

waxing pathetic...I mean poetic

You need to write about the awesome.

So I know I haven’t done so well with the writing every day thing, for November. But I did write (I think) on the majority of days, and almost always was able to produce something on a day when I was in front of a computer for more than a half hour anyway. But looking back I think it was still good and worth trying to keep going: keep working on. I still haven’t actually submitted anything to anyone, I’m still all talk on that front. But I am at leas castigating myself about it (that’s the start of something, right?) and I know that it does help, so there is that.

About the awesome: often lately I’ve got that horrible stained thrown away feeling (you know the one, or would if you’d read anything from early in November I guess) and its bad in the crappy-getting-crappier kind of way, but if I look past it and try and find something good and fine and worth keeping, worth doing or looking forward too, there usually is something. And I have a feeling it would totally help the world view to write about the awesome instead of the crap-suck-a-potomous that is daily existence sometimes (well, except it feels so good sometimes to just write it all down, like blowing your nose: hah gunk! Now what are you going to do? Huh?). So yeah, the awesome: my best and least responsible friend from college has had a beautiful baby girl. She came to visit this weekend and called me at 7:30 on Saturday night because she hadn’t made plans for where they were going to sleep that night…its nice to know that babies don’t necessarily change people. Another one of my friends from college--who used to get rip roaring drunk and threatening to any and all comers, has a beautiful wife and a gorgeous one-year-old and he doesn’t drink at all anymore (his wife, actually, has never seen him drunk) and it doesn’t seem to matter--he is still fun and opinionated and insightful about things and he doesn’t miss it (well, he said sometimes he misses drinking Jim Beam at 1’o clock in the afternoon, but he gets over it)…so its nice to see that sometimes things do change and families make people feel whole in ways you didn’t know they needed to feel whole. I got fantastically farm-fresh produce today out of the back of someone’s mini van and was reminded how cool it is to participate in the local scene of something: you’re helping them and they’re helping you and there is really no downside because I have fresh cabbage and they have money to feed their chickens. And there is snow on the ground outside, and its new enough that it is still all white and stuck to tree branches in a decorative fashion and so I am loving it even though it makes it harder to run.

And its already Wednesday! How did that happen so fast?