Friday, December 18, 2009

Be of Good Cheer

This year is the second in a row that I will be alone on Christmas Day. Last year I braved the weather and thankfully made it to Vegas for Christmas by myself. Though I was alone, I enjoyed my stay and it kept my mind busy. It wasn't bad.

Again, this year, I will be alone. Circumstances have not made it possible that I get to see my son and new granddaughter on the 25th, so I'm planning once again for day alone. I don't have room in my apartment for a Christmas tree, so there are no decorations except for some tinsel and lights across my fireplace mantel.

When Christmas morning arrives, there will be no husband next to me in bed to wake up with, and no pitter-patter of anxious little feet that can't wait for the rising of the morning sun. There will be no ripping of wrapping paper off presents, or squeals of joy or moans of disappointments filling my apartment over given gifts. Dinner time will arrive, and my dining table will be empty and no aroma of turkey will fill the air. Probably the only thing I'll hear is the buzzer from the microwave telling me my frozen dinner is done.

It's times like these I often don't think people who have it all realize how blessed they really are. I hear so many complain about the holidays and all that comes with it - family, shopping, dinners, and stress - while I, who have none of it, look at wonderment and envy at their lives.

What will I do with myself? I guess Christmas eve I will go to church and enjoy the beauty of Christmas in a gorgeous building with lighted candles. I'll watch families sitting together as they sing Christmas carols. I'll probably feel a pang of loneliness, like I usually do, struggling with the moment alone.

I am reminded, however, that Christmas is a time to be of good cheer, and I refuse to feel sorry for myself. After all, that is what Christmas is all about!

"Behold! I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour,
which is Christ the Lord."

So come Christmas morning when the world around me is enjoying time with family and those they love, I'll get up like I do every day. I'll wander around my 625 sq ft apartment with coffee in hand, let the dog out, check the weather, and eventually get dressed for the day. Perhaps I'll go to the show later on, write a few chapters, call my brother in Michigan, wait for my son to call, and then remember in the silence of my apartment that I'm not really alone.

Above all, I will remind myself to be of good cheer and reflect on the reason for the season that it's not about me and my situation - it's about Jesus.

Vicki

Friday, December 11, 2009

Is it really better?

Alfred Lord Tennyson's famous words. Is it really better? Boy that's a loaded question!

Just about every single can ponder this statement. Perhaps you have never married, but lost that one person you thought was the love of your life or your perfect soul mate. Was it better to have loved and lost them, than never knowing or loving them at all?

Perhaps you are divorced and dealing with the pain of a broken marriage. You once loved that person deeply, or you wouldn't have married them! Now, that love is lost. Would it have been better to have loved and lost than never having loved them at all?

Perhaps you have lost a spouse through death. The pain must be horrendous and the loss great. The question remains for you as well, is it better to have love and lost than never to have loved at all?

Frankly, I think it's better to have loved in our lives, rather than never knowing love with a certain individual. What would life be like if we never had the opportunity or blessed experience of loving another? I think it's dreadful actually.

Funny, the thought came to me the other day while sitting in my green recliner watching a couple kiss on TV that were in love. It's been SO long since I've felt those emotions for another human being - a man to love. It's a huge void in my life and an emotion I terribly miss.

Of course with each state of affairs comes pain. It's painful to love and lose. A broken heart is undoubtedly the worst emotional pain we suffer as human beings - at least it's been for me.

Yet there is another type of pain - it's the type of pain of never having loved at all! Loneliness and being unloved is just as horrible on many levels.

So I ask my readers this question - is it better to have loved and lost than never having loved at all? Let me know your thoughts. I'm curious.

Hugs,
Vicki

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Baked Apples & Memories

Every time I buy fruit at the grocery store, it usually rots before I have a chance to eat it. Today, I was looking at my three golden delicious apples shriveling before my eyes and knew I had to take matters into my own hands. They were on the verge of rotting and drawing the last living fruit fly of the season indoors to circle above my kitchen sink. As I pondered those apples, a memory drifted back into my consciousness. I knew what I had to do to save their pitiful lives - make baked apples.

You would think making baked apples would be fun, but not MY baked apples. I once made the best baked apples in the neighborhood - so said my ex-husband and young son. Looking at those apples, I hesitated. I haven't made them in eons - in fact, I can't remember the last time I baked an apple since my divorce. I was about to embark on a memory - a fond memory - those very few from bad marriages that take you back to another time or place you sort of miss - togetherness with your family eating and praising your stellar baked apples.

It bothered me. Though I love baked apples, after 10 years of being alone those baked apples with every delicious bite (now cooking in my oven) will no doubt flood my mind with a time that once existed. After so many years of being alone, I'm faced once again with the holidays looming ahead. For years I've been alone and this year is no different.

As far as Christmas, I've been alone so long now I don't even bother with it. Last year I flew to Las Vegas and spent it at the Venetian by myself watching the Phantom of the Opera on stage. No family - no friends - no nothing - just me and the opera ghost.

Buried deep inside all these blogs lays another post about accentuating the positive and minimizing the negative during the holidays dated Thursday, November 22, 2007. I should re-read it and preach to myself.

If you're a single out there, dealing with memories of times past or mourning over memories you've never had the chance to make, please know you're not alone. I promise when I'm cooking my turkey in the next few weeks and wake up with no Christmas tree, presents, or Christmas dinner to attend, I'll think of you. Perhaps if we think of each other, we really won't be alone.

Should you need a cyber hug and encouragement those days, shoot me an email and I'll try my best to lift your spirits. If you're bored, you might want to buy my new book - a romance novel! Boy, that ought to make you feel better. (A link is off to the side.)

Hugs,
Vicki

PS...Those apples will be done pretty soon! I'm going to enjoy them immensely.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I Have a Broom

I have a broom with my name on it. Let me explain.

This afternoon I came home to my apartment, and noticed that the birds I love to feed made a horrible mess of my patio. Seeds were strewn everywhere, and I bet that Stellar Jay is to blame! So, like any other good housekeeper, I went to my hall closet and retrieved my broom to sweep off the mess.

On my way to my sliding door, I passed my dog. When she saw the broom her ears dropped and she cowered. It broke my heart.

Five years ago, I adopted my Golden Retriever from a rescue group that caters only to Goldens. Ruby, my dog, has not had the best in life. She was originally used for breeding. The first six years of her life she spent locked up in a puppy mill, pushing out babies, and sleeping in a kennel. After she was no longer useful to the breeders, she was shoved from home to home, abused, dumped, and eventually rescued.

When I brought her home, I was totally surprised at her nature. She's a dog that doesn't know how to be a dog. She won't sleep on anything of comfort. Ruby would rather scrunch up by my front door on the cold tile hugging the corner of the wall. She doesn't know how to play either. The first few weeks I had her in my home, I went to the pet store and retrieved the usual fluffy toys and balls. This dog is totally clueless as to what to do with them. Her eyes look back at me with a blank stare and not once has she played with me since I gave her a home five years ago.

Today I was surprised, as I passed her by with the broom on the way out the door, she still remembers being beaten by one. After five years, Ruby still doesn't trust me not to hit her. I never have, and I never will.

In a way it reminded me of myself. I guess, I have a broom with my name on it too. In my single blog, I've never really dealt with abusive relationships in our past, but I'm sure there are a few of you that have come out of those situations.

When I watched my dog today, I pitied her, but sadly related. There is a broom in my life, with my name on it, and there is still a fear inside of me that the next man I meet may turn out to be an abuser in disguise. I don't know what it will take for my dog to totally trust me that I will not beat her as her other owners did. Frankly, I don't know what it will take for me to trust another man not to hurt me.

For every single who reads this post and relates, you no doubt have a broom out there with your name on it as well. I found this picture on Photobucket and thought it appropriate. It represents the abuse, but it has a pretty bow tied around the handle. I guess that's what I need to do, is put some beauty back in the broom and not be so afraid of it.

I've cleaned the patio, and put the broom back in the closet. My dog is back to her old self now, but thanks to her I learned a lesson about myself today. Inspiration comes from the strangest places.

Vicki

Thursday, September 24, 2009

One Independent Woman

I discovered this past week that living by myself for 11 years, come this November, that I've turned into a fiercely independent woman. It was a stark realization actually, and I'm not sure if that's good or bad!

Years ago I was worried about being co-dependent, and now I think I've flown over the edge to independent. How did I get here? Well, I guess it's because I've had no one to lean on for the past 11 years. I've made all my own choices, acted for myself, been an independent thinker, and haven't succumbed to the influence or control of others! Hum, sounds awfully freeing to me.

In addition, I manage my own money, financially support myself, fix my broken things, haul my stuff, and cook my meals. The independent list goes on and on like the Energizer bunny. There is no one to do things for me, which just adds to my independent thought of, hell, I can do this myself!

On the other side of the coin though I've recognized that living my life in close proximity with other human beings again is going to be a huge challenge! At this point, I'm certainly not going to match well with a man who is looking for a submissive wife.

Since I doubt I'll ever marry again, this may not be a problem. However, if by some divine intervention from above I do meet a man, they will need to respect the independent woman I have become over the years alone. I won't need to lean on a man to protect or rescue me, nor will I need one to take care of me. Looks like I've done okay by myself. What I will want, is a companion.

I guess I will look at marriage more like a partnership arrangement. Two independent individuals, who respect one another and blend together well. Sounds like a recipe for success. I just hope I get to taste it!

Vicki

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Overdrawn Checkbook Syndrome

Years ago when I tried to save my failing marriage, back in the dark ages, my ex-husband and I went to marriage counseling. It lasted about three sessions.

Well, anyway, I did learn something in my three 50-minute visits, and that was the analogy of the checking account. My counselor told us this: Marriage is like a checking account. You start off with a large deposit, and then each of you take withdrawals throughout the years from one another. However, if you don't continue to make deposits into the account, you'll eventually end up in the red - overdrawn as it were - ending in a bankrupt marriage.

That story always stuck in my head for some reason, but today it really hit home. Life was pressing in, and I remembered the checking account. I have a single checking account now. When I opened the account, it was a low beginning balance. Since I've had it for 10 years now, I've written checks and made deposits. Lately though, I think I've overdrawn myself. I'm feeling burned out, tired, lonely, neglected, always giving and writing checks, and never making deposits for myself in return. And dang it, I don't have overdraft protection either!

I guess this is turning into a personal checking account lesson in life, that as singles we are the ones who make the deposits into our own lives. We don't have spouses or boyfriends or whoever to replenish our dwindling funds with periodic deposits. If we're not careful, we can write too many checks spending our lives for others and end up overdrawn.

So today, I went to the beach. Took a three hour ride. Looked at the ocean and the white waves I hadn't seen in a year. Stuck my CD in and blared it full blast while traveling down the road. Stopped and had a fish fillet at MacDonalds, played a twenty spot and the casino, and came home.

I keep forgetting to make deposits into my own life. If I don't, one of these days somebody just might close my account for non-sufficient funds! Then I'd really be in trouble.

Take time for yourself folks! Make a few deposits. It helps when you're feel overdrawn.

Hugs,
Vicki

Monday, August 17, 2009

Boiled Frog


Warning: This is going to be a weird post.

Lately I've arrived at a very strange point in my single life. I can't quite put it into words. It's sort of a combination of emotions where I have arrived at a new level of singleness. Let me explain.

Right now I feel pretty satisfied with life. I'm consumed doing something I love, which is writing. In addition, I'm busy with other things like hosting an Internet Radio Show, roleplaying with friends, and taking a trip soon to Vegas. I had a funny thought the other day that if I met someone, and I ended up getting married, I might have to give up some of these time-consuming activities! The thought actually scared me! I feel like I'm clinging to a security blanket, because I've come to love busyness as a substitution.

I'm not saying I don't still mumble to God about my single state, because I do. I still would love to be held, kissed, and have a good roll in the hay (pardon my frankness). However, I think I've come to a place of - that's all there is folks! I'm making the best of my life "as is."

For some nagging reason though I keep thinking of the story of the frog in the pot and am wondering if I'm just getting slowly boiled to death. You've probably heard about it. You put a frog in a kettle filled with cool water and then gradually heat the kettle until it starts boiling. The comfortable frog isn't aware of the changing temperature. When death is imminent, he feels the discomfort, but then it's too late and he ends up cooked! Why in the world I equate that to my single life is quite bizarre.

I guess I wonder if I'm that frog! I've been in the pot alone for 11 years now. I haven't noticed my heart becoming hard as a rock, my desires for love dying, or the fact I've come to accept a fate that might not even be mine! Perhaps I'm using my current life filled with busyness as a substitution for a loving and caring relationship. I have to admit too that getting in another relationship does scare the daylights out of me, and I use all sorts of excuses not to.

For now the water in the pot is comfortable, but I'm thinking if I stay in this frame of mind for too long I'm going to end up emotionally dead. Yes, I know, bizarre post. That is what happens when you write hungry.

Vicki

P.S. I should dedicate this to my deceased mother who loved to eat frog legs. Yuck.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Count Your Blessings

This week at work was horrible! We had a heat wave come through our area and temperatures topped 111 right around the corner from where I live. To make things worse, the air conditioning at work was not working, and it was a stifling 88 degrees at my desk with hot hair blowing on top of my head.

Well, the heat was the topic of discussion around the water cooler. I went home early a few days and worked from my apartment, and mentioned to some of my coworkers it felt great to strip down to my undies before checking my email. After a few brows raised with the visual I gave, a married person mentioned how they wish they could run around the house with nothing on. Of course, with children afoot that made it impossible. Then the comments came once again from the married folks about how lucky I am to be single.

One remark sparked a discussion, and singles and married jumped right in. As much as we complain about single life, I must admit it does have its benefits. Here's a list of top 10 benefits we came up with:
  1. You get to walk around naked and not worry about who sees you. (Hum, except I always have to make sure my curtains are closed!)
  2. You can eat what you want, and you don't have to cook for others. (Thank God, my ex-husband always complained about my cooking.)
  3. You only have to clean up after yourself. (True, no dirty socks, towels on the floor, dishes left everywhere. If my house is a mess, it's my mess, and I find that less irritating for some strange reason.)
  4. You don't have to comprise during an argument. (I like that. No strife or butting heads. I always get my way.)
  5. You don't have to listen to someone else's snoring. (I confess though, I talk in my sleep and sometimes wake myself up!)
  6. No arguments over money. It's all yours and you can spend it as you like. (Though I wish I lived in a two-income household. I could use the extra cash!)
  7. You can come and go as you please. (It's your choice to hibernate or paint the town.)
  8. You only have to do your laundry. (Yipee! No more looking at men's briefs!)
  9. The toilet seat is ALWAYS down. (What woman isn't thankful for that?)
  10. And last, but not least, you have total control of the TV remote. (You're Queen of your entertainment domain.)
So I guess next time I'm in the dumps over my life of solitude, I'll read my top 10 blessings. "Count your blessings, name them one by one."

Cheers,
Vicki

PS - If you have any others beyond my top 10, feel free to comment. Of course, my blessings are written from a woman's viewpoint. I'm sure the guys have their own take on it all! For some reason I think "no nagging" would be at the top of the list. ;-)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Bigger and Whiter

Sigh.... I'm so tired of receiving spam emails to tell me I need to take a pill to enlarge a body part I don't possess. Do they not read names when they send out these stupid emails?? It's Vicki not Victor. Are all the men getting the enlarge your breasts spam emails, while the women get the enlarge your.....? Well you know. Are we suppose to forward these offer for pills if we don't have those parts to our friends or spouses of the opposite sex?

When I'm done dealing with tons of trash emails a day to enlarge and peek at what I don't have, then I go to web pages and am bombarded with pictures of people's mouths grinning at me with their yellow teeth turned white. Please, be honest with me. Do you find these ads enticing? Are you going to buy those products from clicking on open gross mouths of white or yellow teeth? Frankly, I despise those ads and can't wait to get off the page of gaping mouths peering at me.

How about the wrinkle cream ad? There you go. Right up my alley. Take a picture of a 20 year old girl, make her look like 80 with computer photo manipulation and tons of wrinkles, slap the cream on her face, and tell me I'm going to look like her at 20 again. Sorry, I've tried it. Don't work.

Those are only a few irritating reminders that come my way every day that I need to change something to be acceptable to the world around me. White teeth, straight teeth, no wrinkles, scars gone, split hairs mended, body odor masked, nails trimmed, smooth feet, and the list goes on. In fact it's endless. Every part of our body is targeted for sex appeal.

What is wrong with us? Please tell me people are really not making money off these ads from vulnerable lonely individuals wanting to look bigger and prettier in order to find love. What message are we sending ourselves or our kids for that matter?

Let's get back to basics. We are a society brainwashed by the media that if we don't look right or smell right, there's got to be something wrong with us. Even the movie stars who have all the beauty in the world don't possess the greatest love lives or lasting marriages. It should be a clue to us that perfection and beauty isn't necessarily the pill for success or happiness.

As a single, I really think there is a lot of pressure from the media on us in our search for love. We are constantly bombard every single day that our appearance in one way or the other is the most important thing in our lives for acceptance and success. It doesn't seem to matter if a decent personality goes along with it or not. We are visually stimulated by beauty, strive for an ideal that is almost impossible to reach, and spend millions of dollars in the process of doing so.

If I can give anything to anyone in life, it's the gift of unconditional love and acceptance, and it doesn't cost a dime.

Sorry for the rant. Gosh that last set of teeth just set me off!

Vicki

(PS...hope you appreciate the humor in it all. My Phantom friends will understand that all we really want is to be loved for ourselves.)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Online Dating Sites

All right, folks, hold onto your computers. I'm about to spill my guts and complain on the worldwide Internet once again. Now that my disclaimer is out, here's my beef today - online dating sites.

All this week a certain popular online dating service advertised on television "view your matches for free" this weekend. After 10 years of single life, I can honestly admit I have probably paid over a thousand dollars to various online dating services on the Internet looking for love. You name it, I've been there: Match, PerfectMatch, eHarmony, Matchmaker, PeopleMatch, MingleMatch, Yahoo, Chemistry, and a bunch others that I can't even remember their name. If you've read my entire blog, you know about my one online disaster in 2001-2004. If you ever think of relocating for love, read it!

Okay, so it's been two years since I've tried online dating. I did talk to some guy for three weeks over the telephone that I had hit it off pretty good with. We had wonderful intelligent and honest conversations. After driving three hours on the other side of the state to meet him for lunch, it was just another rejection. An awkward moment going down in the history books. Driving back three hours, takes you through a desolate stretch of land in eastern Oregon. Frustrated as hell, I pulled over the side of the road, got out of my car, and screamed into no-where land at the top of my lungs I'd never do this again....and yes, I cried.

Well, I succumbed to the free trial again this weekend. I guess I'm a glutton for punishment. Took me a full hour to fill out the questionnaire so they could make sure I wasn't a psycho before being accepted. Of course, do people really answer these things truthfully? It's very easy to check "yes I never get mad" when in fact you have a raging temper from hell. People lie all the time, so I doubt an hour's worth of clicking on circular dots answering questions that spin your head is really going to be 100% accurate for anyone. By now most are wise to this service. If you answer the questions that indicate you're mentally incapable of having a relationship, you can't play inside the sand box with the others.

I finished the thing once again, and instantly 10 matches were flown my way. Some of them looked interesting, but I'm not allowed to look at the pictures because I'm not a paying member. What's up with that anyway? After reading all the possibilities, I still didn't have the heart to contact anyone. Of course, I had only been on the site an hour and it was time for bed.

This morning I woke up, logged on, and someone communicated with me - Al. Hi Al! Read his profile...hummm...fairly interesting. One of his interests happened to be writing! I did not, however, contact him back right away. Thought I would have breakfast first, and suddenly I received a message he had closed me out. The reason? "I don't feel that the chemistry is there."

Chemistry? Wait a minute. How can you determine "chemistry" when we haven't met? Then I remembered, that's why I quit this site before, and actually I wrote the dating gurus who own the place an email about that dumb comment suggesting it be removed. How can anyone determine chemistry over the computer? By a picture? By typed words? By reading a person's profile and never communicating? Perhaps this statement is suppose to be a kind phrase instead of saying I think your just plain ugly and don't wish to get to know you. (Don't get me started on that one!) Of course, if he was on a free trial, he couldn't see my picture anyway.

Chemistry, in my opinion, is that feeling you get when someone touches you. It's the charisma between two people that sparks when you're near each other physically. It's the touch of a man or woman that makes you melt. Chemistry is something that can only be felt personally in real life, not through the Internet cable connection on your computer. At least I haven't felt chemistry oozing through my keyboard coming my way. Have you?

:Big Sigh:

Back in February of this year, a movie was released called, "He's Just Not That Into You." There was one line in there that really said it all:
“I had this guy leave me a voice mail at work, so I called him at home, and then he emailed me to my BlackBerry, and so I texted to his cell, and now you just have to go around checking all these different portals just to get rejected by seven different technologies. It’s exhausting.”
It is exhausting. I'm off to delete my profile once again and throw in the towel. There just has to be a better way.

Your ranting single,
Vicki

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Simple Joys of Maidenhood

I took Friday off last week to catch up on "stuff." It's the kind of stuff, if I were married, I could have my husband do. You know, ladies, it's those chores we live for every 3,000 miles, if we are good about it.

Friday morning started with a car wash. The last time I washed my car was August of 2008. I can see all the male eyebrows raise. Yes, it's been that long. It rains a lot in Oregon, so why bother. I figure whatever dust it collects, the next storm will rinse the dirt away. Funny thing happened, though on the way through the car wash. While the blower was throwing 80 mph winds toward my car, it ripped off part of a strip that holds the front window in place. Thank goodness, I was able to snap it back. Lucky me.

Then I went to get my Armor All wipes to take a year's worth of dust off inside my car, and I must have left the plastic lid open last August, because they were all dried up. I improvised by scooping up a few leftover water drops the 80 mph didn't blow off from my car and was able to get one moist enough to clean months of dust and dog hair. Yes, and I even vacuumed the car floor, after remembering to bring millions of quarters for that vacuum that gives you 45 seconds for 25 cents. What a ripoff.

Then I was off to Jiffy Lube! I was only 100 miles over the little window tag, but why I have such fear of oil changes I'll never know. Probably because I never check my oil. I always think I have only a few drops left, so I procrastinate thinking I'm going to get some horrid news when I do show up that I've blown my engine by not topping off the oil. Lucky me, only 1/2 quart down. Whew! Good for another 3,000 miles. Of course, then they try to sell you everything under the sun from filters to flushes, all of which I usually put off too.

Then I drove across the street to Les Schwab to get my tires rotated and my brakes checked. My brakes make more noise than a rusty hinge, so I figured I was due. Frankly, I can't remember the last time I rotated, needlessness to say the girl behind the counter raised her eyebrow at me when she saw my record. Right away, I said, "Hey! What do you expect from a single woman?" I sat in the waiting room eating my free popcorn and sniffing the aroma of rubber. Why do men like that odor anyway? If they could, I'm sure someone would make an aftershave with rubber smell. Instead of Old Spice, we could name it Old Tire. I'm always so glad to get fresh air when I leave the tire joint. Well, lucky me, my brakes are still okay, but why they squeal I have no idea.

Then it was off to shop, bank, and groceries. As usual, I leave the 24 count of bottled water from Costco in the car, because I can't haul that sucker into my apartment. I only buy the 20 pound bag of dog food, because 40 can't make it to the door. A lot of times, I just leave stuff in my trunk that's too heavy to haul and get it as I need it. Works for me.

Then there's the garbage. I hate hauling my garbage. The bins at the apartment building are a pain. You have to lift the black rubber lid, throw the bag up over your shoulders, and hope it sinks to the bottom of the smelly thing. I usually wrench my neck or shoulder in the process, especially on those days my garbage is filled with leftovers and spoiled everything I've purged from my refrigerator.

Such is the life of a single woman. I'm reminded of another song, "The Simple Joys of Madienhood." It's days like these, I wonder where those simple joys are! Maybe I just need a personal male assistant to help me with all this junk. I'm taking applications, for Knights in Shining Armor, if anyone is interested, that can save me from all of the above.

Where are the simple joys of maidenhood?
Where are all those adoring daring boys?
Where's the knight pining so for me
he leaps to death in woe for me?
Oh where are a maiden's simple joys?

Shan't I have the normal life a maiden should?
Shall I never be rescued in the wood?
Shall two knights never tilt for me
and let their blood be spilt for me?
Oh where are the simple joys of maidenhood?

Shall I not be on a pedestal,
Worshipped and competed for?
Not be carried off, or better st'll,
Cause a little war?
Where are the simple joys of maidenhood?

Are those sweet, gentle pleasures gone for good?
Shall a feud not begin for me?
Shall kith not kill their kin for me?
Oh where are the trivial joys?
Harmless, convivial joys?
Where are the simple joys of maidenhood?

ARTIST: Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe
TITLE: The Simple Joys of Maidenhood

Friday, June 19, 2009

Hopeless Romantic & Alone

Why do I torture myself watching romantic movies? I'm a glutton for punishment, that's for sure. The longer I am alone and single, the more often I cry at the end of chick flicks. Last week, I blubbered over Emma. Handsome Jeremy Northam plays gorgeous to die for Mr. Knightly. At the end he longingly looks into Emma’s eyes and says:

"I do not wish to call you my friend, because I hoped to call you something infinitely more dear."

Of course, then comes the marriage proposal to make you swoon.

Then last night I tortured myself with Persuasion staring Rupert Penry Jones, a knock-out as well, as Captain Wentworth, who pens these words:

"I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means
as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony,
half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings
are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart
even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years
and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman,
that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you."

Well that did it! Gushing tears, and my usual complaint I pour out to God that I am still single. What cruelty! At my age, I feel robbed and cheated that I have never known lasting love my entire life. The movies usually end with me slamming down my footrest, blowing my nose, and being miserable for the next hour. Finally, I resolve myself to my fate and settle back into my reality of single life.

To make things worse, I am a hopeless romantic. I love Jane Austen, who wrote some of the most beautiful love stories ever penned. Ironically, she was a woman who never married and found lasting love in her life either, though she once had a beau. I often wonder if she wrote to live her dreams of love on a page, becoming the characters herself, and living vicariously though the quill of her pen. No doubt her inspiration came from her loneliness.

Last week I went into a local bookstore and just browsed. I happened down the “Romance” aisle and could barely move around all the women checking out the books. Like forlorn souls begging for love on a page, they drooled over covers, read pages inside, and walked off with a few in hand to the cashier. It was an interesting moment of human study. I guess I’m not alone. The number of romance novels that sell in one year is astronomically in the multiple millions. Women read to fill holes in their lives by imaginary situations. Whether they are married, widowed, divorced, or single it doesn’t matter. Every woman wants romance.

Of course, then comes the reality. Our real life experiences often lack the men who look like Fabio, the romantic music playing in the background during a kiss, a man sweeping us up in his arms and carrying us off to the nearest bed for hours of passionate lovemaking. We sure love to dream about though, don’t we?

Well, I’m not a romance novel reader frankly, though I’m trying to write my first romance novel. I pretty much stick with movies dealing with 19th Century romance, because I love and long for a period long gone where women wore gorgeous gowns, men bowed in your presence, and everyone was polite and courteous in social settings. It’s a world that no longer exists.

Well, I’m not sure how the rest of you deal with romance either on screen or in a book, but I know that it both comforts and tortures me in a variety of ways. I guess next week I’ll watch Pride & Prejudice and blubber over that one. Nothing much else to do!

Cheers,
Vicki

Monday, June 15, 2009

How to Handle Loss

The majority of singles have arrived at the unmarried state through two avenues in life. One, we're divorced or, two, we've had a mate that passed away. Whatever unfortunate avenue you were forced to walk, dealing with loss can be a huge challenge as a single person.

Each instance of loss we experience carries disappointment, but some instances of loss carry great pain and suffering. Loss affects our lives deeply. It steals our joy, ruins our hope, and brings despondency to our hearts. In dealing with the pain, we can lose part of ourselves in the process as well. We can acquire a distaste for everything in life. The things we once enjoyed become tedious or boring, or they bring memories of times we shared with the person who is no longer there....and it just plain hurts.

Loss is simply defined as something or someone we once possessed or knew that is no longer ours. Everyone relates to the loss of "things." We can lose tangible possessions through accident, misplacement, thievery, or it just don't work anymore! Those kind of losses are often superficial and replaceable simply by buying another.

However, the losses that affect us most are those that are relationships. Sometimes friends fade out of our lives, and others come across our path to fill the void. However, losses in our lives that are irreplaceable hurt the most. They are those we dearly love - a parent, sibling, boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse. In those type of losses, we have the potential of losing part of ourselves in the process while we struggle to deal with the pain.

What helps us through loss? Often it takes others intervening in our lives during the process of grieving who come to comfort and encourage us through empathy and understanding. Perhaps they've been where you are now, and can say tenderly - been there, done that...I understand.

Other times it just takes time. Does time heal everything? I think eventually it does, but I often think not fast enough. We are all wired differently. Some individuals are able to bounce back in a short amount of time, others grieve for years.

Even though we all experience loss in our lives, we can gain from it as well through the process of restoration. A new friend, a new outlook, a new inspiration to spur us on in life. I truly believe that in the hour of our greatest losses, our greatest achievements can be born as well. In addition, our own personal losses give us empathy in the future for others. We come to a place where we can weep with those who weep and ultimately offer the same comfort we ourselves received.

So if you are single and hurting from loss, I encourage you to take heart. Whether you have lost a spouse through divorce or death, you have the right to take the time to grieve and feel the way you do. For some of us it takes a longer walk through that dark tunnel to find the light at the end of our pain. From living through my experiences of loss, I can honestly assure you that you will eventually arrive to a place of healing.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Fly On the Window

The fly on the window. What’s the analogy of that little ugly insect peering either into your window or out of it? Well, that became a topic of discussion between myself and a good friend at work. We both have the fly on the window syndrome. Let me explain.

My friend is blissfully married to a wonderful man she loves dearly, and her husband loves her in return. They have a beautiful home, wonderful grown children, grandchildren, and a great life together. She often shares with me her life, and I often share with her my own.

We have discovered over the years of our conversations that we are really both flies. I’m on the outside window peering in wishing I had a married life filled with love and family like she does. She’s on the inside window peering out wishing she could have moments of quiet, times alone, and the independence of single life. How odd!

Her window experience envies my freedom, especially when life overwhelms her. She thinks it would be great to occasionally come home to an empty house, not talk to anyone, spend the evening just doing whatever she wanted. In addition, my independence of not being tied down to another human being seems enticing too. There are times she’ll encourage me to just go for it, follow my dream, pick up and move, because there's nothing holding me back. Don’t get me wrong, she loves her husband, but there is a longing in her for space, private times, and no one around.

I, on the other hand, am the fly on the outside of the window peering in. I’m tired of coming home alone, having no one to talk to, spending the evening bored in a silent apartment that taunts my every move. I often hate my independence, though I’ve learned to deal with it. Frankly, it would be so nice to have a man to have dinner with, go to a concert, take a trip. I don’t care about the freedom to pick up and move anywhere. What’s the point if there’s no one to share your life with? I often think of the lyrics in a song,“I Want to Run to You" sung by Whitney Houston. Here are the poignant lines that hit home to my heart:

Each day, each day I play the role
Of someone always in control
But at night I come home and turn the key
There's nobody there, no one cares for me
What's the sense of trying hard to find your dreams
Without someone to share it with
Tell me what does it mean?

So yes, I guess in the end we are all flies on a window in some way. We are looking out or looking in wishing we had the lives on the other side of the plate glass longing for the things that lack in our own.

Oh well. I just hope somebody doesn’t pick up the newspaper and swat me! Now that would be the end of it, wouldn't it!

Cheers,
Vicki

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Marriage Advice From a Divorcee

You'll find my writing sprinkled throughout the Internet. I have articles on Helium, Hub Pages, and Squidoo. Sometimes I wonder if what I write does much good, and then something amazing happens ... I receive an email or comment. The article below has been posted for sometime on one of those sites. This week someone wrote and told me they were rethinking whether they should go ahead with a divorce that was about to be finalized after reading my frank confession and advice - words producing fruit. Even though this blog is dedicated to singles, I'd like to post the article here, because I wrote it from my own brokenness and from the lessons I learned through my divorce. Should God grant you the gift of remarriage, I wish you a successful and happy marriage next time around.

What marriage advice can a divorce person possibly give? It would seem divorcees would have very little advice to hand out, since we have failed at our own marriages. However, we often learn more about ourselves in retrospect than we do at the present moment.

It takes time to step back from the hurt, pain, and disappointment of a broken marriage. At the beginning of a divorce, there is a lot of blame. But after the dust settles, the tears have dried, the ink on the divorce papers have made their indelible mark, there comes a time when we see more clearly and we understand more fully what part we may have played in the dissolution of our own marriage.

What have I learned from being divorced? It takes two to make a marriage. Not just two people living side by side, but two equally willing people, who are committed to keeping the relationship alive, fresh, living, vital, and ever evolving. When either party becomes complacent in marriage, a slow creeping death ensues. Love and marriage requires diligence to make it successful. It's not something that stays alive on its own. Like a garden, it has to be tended, watered, weeded, fertilized, and watched over.

Successful marriages take commitment, forgiveness, sacrifice, compromise, and above all maturity. We often marry without these qualities in our lives, or we come into a relationship without a clear understanding of the work involved to keep a marriage healthy. Acts of love, respect, honesty, communication, and partnership are extremely important, and it's a juggling act to keep all of these actions in play throughout the seasons of married life. Marriage is an all-out effort, and the most intimate covenant relationship you'll ever enter into with another human being. Our ever changing throw away, give-up society plays havoc on our commitment. We're told if we don't like it, replace it. It's easier to walk away than to stay.

Many people ask the question: Should I get a divorce?

Statistics are alarming. The U.S. Census Bureau reports the following: The average age for a first divorce for males is 30.5 and females 29. The average age for a second divorce for males is 39.3 and females 37. The duration of first marriages that end in divorce is approximately 7 years, and the duration for second marriages is approximately 7 years. (Must be the 7-year itch!) Only 52% of all marriages make it to their 15th wedding anniversary, only 33% make it through to their 25th, and a slim 5% make it to their 50th. People who have divorced at least twice, have a 73% chance that their third marriage will fail too.

What's wrong? Is it because divorce is so easy and commitment is so hard? As humans, we haven't learned the basic skills of intelligent loving relationships that last. It's obvious, because statistics show we bring our mistakes from marriage to marriage, and couples find the pain of staying and working things out greater than the pain they may have to face in a divorce.

The decision to divorce should never be left as the last decision to be made in any marriage relationship. It's obvious as humans we're missing it somewhere after the rings go on our fingers. Our love is transient, convenient, and self enhancing. We have lost the skills to stay married, because we never learned them to begin with before we tied the knot. We married in the height of love and passion, but didn't consider the consequences or cost of what it takes to make love last.

Staying married is a decision we need to make at the beginning of the relationship that we will do absolutely everything in our power to make it work, whether it takes swallowing our pride, getting counseling, reading books, going to seminars, or forgiving daily the offenses that could pile up into ugly mountains. We need to make the effort to keep our marriages alive and not let them stagnate into divorce court. If you're at the breaking point now, it's not too late to reassess your vows and make that decision with your mate, if they are willing.

I'm reminded of a movie entitled Laws of Attraction staring Julianne Moore and Pierce Brosnan that was released in 2004. They were both divorce lawyers who fell in love. One statement that stood out in that movie was the passion people showed in the divorce court. The character played by Pierce Brosnan asked the question, "Where was that passion in saving the marriage?"

Things I Learned From My Divorce
  • Don't try to change each other. You fell in love for a reason with that person. Why change them?
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate. Don't keep stuff bottled up.
  • Speak the truth in love, not anger.
  • Don't lie to one another....ever.
  • Forgive and forget, forget, forget.
  • Keep romance alive at all costs.
  • Touch, hug, and kiss often.
  • It's not always about the sex.
  • If you're Christians, pray together ALWAYS and about EVERYTHING. If you're not, try it.
  • Be patient with one another.
  • Focus on the good in each of you.
  • Words can heal or kill a relationship. Watch what you say. A harsh hurtful word is like a nail. You might be able to pull it out and say your sorry, but you'll still leave a hole where it's been and scar a heart.
  • If things get hard, go to marriage counseling, read a book, talk to your pastor, attend a seminar. Be proactive to preserve your marriage. Don't be too proud to get help. Pride comes before failure.
  • Rule your money or it will rule you and your marriage.
  • Don't make big decisions alone about anything - make them together.
  • Marriage is like a checkbook. You both need to make deposits into the relationship. If you keep writing checks and taking from one another and never giving, your marriage checkbook becomes overdrawn - the late fees are relationship killers.
  • Remember the things you are thankful for in each other. Tell each other -- tell God.
  • Clean up, dress up, look good, and have a date once in a while.
  • Don't take each other for granted.
In summary, marriage is a gift, take care of it, and don't lose it. It's irreplaceable. Once lost, it may never be replaced or given again. Take it from someone who knows.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Relocating for Love

As you enter the world of online dating, you'll soon find out that you can search for your potential mate from 1 to 2,000 miles away or more. While this gives you a wide range of choices, it presents a wide range of problems. If your long-distance relationship succeeds and you fall in love, the next obvious course of action will be one of commitment. One of you will need to relocate so the two of you can be together. Here are some things to consider before you hire the moving van and pack your bags.

Housing Issues

Depending on how settled you are in the town in which you live, you may be giving up little or you may be giving up lots. There is little risk of loss if you currently live in an apartment, but there are potential risks should you own your own home. You should consider the following if you're a homeowner.

Will you gain or lose in the current marketplace? What expenses will you have in selling your home? Will the cost of a realtor eat up any equity you may have gained? Will you need to invest money to make any repairs to make my home marketable? Will the proceeds from the sale of your home give you enough cash to get started in a new location? Does it make more sense for you to keep your home as an investment and rent it out, just in case you need to return?

What you leave behind is important, but where you're headed. Do you have the money to move? Will you haul it yourself or hire a moving company to do so?Have you thoroughly checked out the housing situation in the town you're moving to? For example, rent and housing pricing, location, schools, shopping. What is the housing market like? Is it thriving or in a down swing?If you decide to move in with your new found love, what will you do with all your furniture and other items? Will you bring them? Will you store them? Will you sell them and just move with essentials?

Career Issues

Career issues are huge decisions. If you're not getting married right away, how will you take care of yourself? Have you checked the unemployment rate in the area you're moving to? Have you checked the median salary ranges for your career job type? Does it make more sense for you to relocate or for your partner? Who will lose the most if they quit their job? Will you move first and find a job when you arrive or will you find a job first and then move? What will you do about benefits if you're unemployed, such as health insurance? What will you do if you can't find work or a long period of time?

Family Issues

What about your family? Will you be breaking ties locally with close family members? Do you really wish to leave them? What about your lover's family? Will you be moving close to them and will they accept you as part of their world? What about children? Will you be relocating your child or children to a new area, new schools, and having them leaving their friends behind? What kind of support system will you give your children in the relocation process?

Relationship Issues

The fact that this relationship started on a long-distance note, gives it extra challenges for survival. Before you decide to relocate, you should be extremely certain of the following:
  • Have you spent enough time with this individual to truly know who they are?
  • Do you have a commitment for marriage or are you going just hoping it will come to that?
  • Have you thoroughly checked out this person, done background checks, etc. to make sure you're not being scammed?
  • Do you like their family and friends?
  • What will you do if after you move, it doesn't work out? Do you have a Plan B in place or any contingency backup plan?
  • Has this person committed to helping you in your relocation or will they let you sink or swim?
Personal Experience

The author has personal up-front experience on relocating for love. Having done so myself, I met someone online who lived 450 miles away. We became engaged after eight months. Our relationship consisted of telephone calls, occasional meetings, and tons of emails. I eventually made the decision to move, since we were going to be married, but had not set a date. His career was more settled than mine, so I made the sacrifices. I left a brand new home I had only been in for one year, a wonderful job, a thriving business on the side, and my son's senior year in high school.

The outcome? Three months after I got there, he got cold feet. I spent the next 18 months dating him, but couldn't find a job. The town in which he lived was "quaint," but economically depressed, small, and I was an outsider. No one would hire me. After 40 job interviews, I finally found a part-time job that paid $600 a month before taxes. He gave me no financial support, so I lived off of retirement money and paid steep penalties to the IRS for early withdrawal, plus outrageous taxes. I lost over $40,000.

Still cold in his marital commitment, I finally decided to return to my hometown and restart my life. After I returned, it took me another four months to find work, and eventually our relationship died a quick death. A few years later, he married another woman, who he found on the Internet that moved across state to be with him. I guess his feet were warmer this time around, and I hear he's miserable.

Before you make the decision to even start a relationship online with someone who lives far away, consider the potential costs There are success stories. Yes, some relationships have happy endings; however, not all moves for the sake of love are successful. I'm a prime example of live and learn.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Technology and Relationships

Recently I became a Twitter. I saw it mentioned on a cute Sprint commercial, so I checked it out. It's a social networking mini-blog. You can get on and "twit" anytime of the day from anywhere. Think of it as text messaging your life over the Internet for everyone to read. That's Twitter. I noticed quite of few businesses use it to drive traffic to their website, and I joined for that purpose to drive sales to my Phantom blog. I must say tweeting works. The more Twitter friends the more people click on your link and viola!

However, someone posted an absolutely hilarious link to YouTube about twitting that really hit home. I've posted a link below so you can watch it. When it is suggested that social networking doesn't necessarily mean you have "real friends," the reality to all the Twitters is devastatingly hilarious. I can't stop laughing when I watch it!

Social networking on the Internet is how "today's generation communicates." We make friends on MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and wherever else we can pop up a profile and add friends. Is it really helping or is it a sign of our social depravity of having lost the ability to communicate face to face and make lasting relationships with real human beings?

I admit that I am as bad a the next person. MySpace was my first chosen place to make friends. Oh, I did meet real live people there, but I also met people who claimed to be friends that loved and cared for me, but I never knew their real names. I, on the other hand, told them everything about myself to prove my sincerity. In the end, anonymity on their part gave way to unpleasantness and a broken relationship. As I write this article, I sincerely challenge myself to consider the meaning of true friendship when you have no human contact and no idea who is behind a profile.

Then I went to Facebook. At least I found real people there with real names and have even enjoyed lunch with a few. People are more open about who they are in real life, which I think builds better relationships. It's a little more mature group of social networking individuals. but it's business as usual. I collect those little friend icons all over my page for self-affirmation and networking.

Now Twitter! I can tweet my thoughts at any moment and send them out in the airwaves! Between two Twitter profiles, I have nearly 800 fellow tweeters to tweet to! Yes, there's even Twitter jargon to learn.

Does all this social networking help us as singles or has it really contributed to the breakdown of relationships rather than the building of relationships? I guess it all depends on how you look at it. Our lives are busy and filled with devices that are suppose to make our lives easier. I agree in a lot of sense they do, but I think as humans we are also losing the ability to communicate face-to-face and express ourselves through our voice and have lost the art of basic social skills.

As I think about it, I wonder if it's contributed to the divorce rate, because we've lost the ability to sit down and communicate with one another. I think it's also increased the crime rate. Cyberbulling is now considered a Federal offense and an increasing problem over the Internet due to the anonymity it provides.

Do we really make friends online? Or is it like the video suggests, "none of you have any friends!" We're all duped into thinking these avenues will make lasting relationships and fill our loneliness - a profile, an icon, friend requests, friends accepted, and comments and posts on our pages. Technology is redefining the meaning of friendship drastically. Friendship is now a water-downed version called social networking with easy participation that costs little investment for us as real humans, except for our time.

As I write about the 19th century in my new novel, I see a different world where people met in public places like cafes, strolled public gardens, attended the opera, and met at social gatherings in homes. They strolled, they talked, they met face-to-face (rather than through a webcam) and made lasting relationships that evolved into love and marriage.

So has technology helped or harmed us? It's another one of those two-edged swords in our lives that can influence us either way. I've enjoy it, and I've been stung by it.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to post a link to this article on Twitter. In the meantime, go have a good laugh at the video below.

None of You Have Any Friends!



Saturday, May 2, 2009

Worry












Ever heard the term “worry wart”? It’s a great description of a person who is a consistent worrier. The wart is the unsightly blemish of worry that burdens your life!

Well, I’ll be the first to admit there are plenty of things to worry about these days as singles. Here’s a small list that can be expanded extensively with sub-categories of additional worries:

• Finances
• Losing our job
• Getting sick
• Gas prices
• War
• Natural disasters
• Another bad relationship
• Being single the rest of our lives

I’ve learned an interesting fact about myself. The older I get, the less I tend to worry. When I was younger, I worried about everything. I was overly cautious, never took risks, and always had the “What If’s” screaming at me every day. Why that voice has suddenly silenced, I don’t quite know, but I can speculate. It’s like the picture says – most things we worry about never happen. Surprisingly all those things I worried about didn't happen.

So what is worry? Is it worth it? Is it a waste of time? Does it do any good? I guess healthy worry about being cautious might be good, but worry about what tomorrow will bring probably isn’t. It seems we have more to worry about these days thanks to technology making our lives easier. We hear about every disaster of one sort or the other worldwide, and we can even watch it real time or after the fact everywhere on the news. Then a new bug like the swine flu comes out, and the media hypes it into a pandemic that will eventually kill us all. Then there’s the wars, the end of the world, global warming, and the list goes on and on.

As singles, what do we do about worry? For me, I’ve sort of come to that point in life to stop wasting my time and energy over worry. I try and stay away from all the media hype, because it only breeds fear that leads to worry. When I feel overwhelmed, I take a moment and say a quick prayer and cast all my cares on the big guy upstairs. Whether you believe He’s there or not, it helps to throw your worry onto someone else to carry it.

So stop worrying! Here’s a couple good thoughts:

Matthew 6:27 - Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life ?

Matthew 6:34 -Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 6:25 -Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life…

Well, if the Lord in heaven is telling me not to worry, I guess I won’t bother.

Peace out!


Friday, May 1, 2009

My First Work Released

Hello dear friends! Today Lessons from the Phantom of the Opera was released through Xlibris in the United States. Here is how the process works.

It's been posted on my author site at: Xlibris - Vicki Hopkins, Author

It will be available for sale in 24-48 hours through Xlibris only.

The next step in the process is worldwide distribution. Registration has been submitted to Ingram, and that submission process takes 30 days to complete. Afterward Lessons From The Phantom of the Opera will be available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com, and Borders.com approximately 30-60 days later.

Xlibris will only fill orders placed in the United States. They do not process international orders. For those, you must wait until worldwide distribution is complete.

The price is $19.99 through Xlibris and $11.99 through resellers.

Once again, I want to thank everyone for your support and kindness. My dream has come true, and I hope you enjoy my words, pick up your pen, and write all over it! The book contains all of my posts on my blog and is 163 pages in length. After each post there is a page called Box 5 that contains a section of questions for you to ponder on how the story reveals itself to you, along with a place for you to write your own personal reflections. I guess you can call it your Phantom of the Opera journal.

Big hug to you all who have followed me on this journey through Phantom-land.

(P.S. My Author Bio is undergoing extensive revisions and should be updated shortly.)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Amazing Hope

The fact that 3,000,000 people have viewed this video is a miracle in itself. Frankly, it touches the core of my heart my heart.

Susan Boyle, 47, never married, and never kissed! But listen to the voice God has endowed her with to touch hearts. Such a sweetheart given a gift to move the hearts of people. I've been married twice and kissed until my lips were swollen! But as far as I'm concerned in her few minutes of fame she has more than I have in my lifetime.

I will say this from honesty that of late I have been attacked by a pitiful person who has told me my blogs are "worthless." How foolish! 30,000 hits on my Phantom blog, countless emails and comments from people encouraging and blessing me for my words. Sure only 3,000 here, but I found a place where I have value; and that absolute and perfect value is touching the hearts of other people.

Yes, like Susan Boyle, I may be alone and no longer kissed. But you can be assured I have purpose and it's to move hearts by the stroke of my quill. When all is said and done, it will not be who made the most money, who signed with the biggest publishing company, or who sold the most books. What will last through eternity is the words written that touch a heart, minister to a hurt, and help encourage the downtrodden. Bet on it!

Watch and let her song touch you too! If you have a Dream - Dream it! Live it! And don't let ANYBODY take it away from you.

You Tube - Susan Boyle

Romans 8:31-32 (New American Standard Bible)

31What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?

Amen and Amen!


Saturday, January 31, 2009

Taking Care of Ourselves Financially


Let’s talk about money. It’s on everyone’s mind these days. The market is down, we’re in a recession, people are losing their jobs, houses are foreclosing, and we are one-income households. Talk about scary!

All of the above sent me packing to my financial advisor for a meeting yesterday to review my small pittance of a retirement account. Actually, it was my husband’s retirement, half I which I received during the divorce settlement. I’ve buried my head in the sand for the past four months afraid to look at the balance on my variable annuity. In case you don’t know what that is, it’s a pool of money you invest in the market that is suppose to guarantee you a monthly payout when you retire. When I finally opened the darn statement and saw I lost 64% of my retirement, I nearly fainted.

So here I was sitting in the office of my advisor. “So when do you plan on retiring,” he asks me. I look at him thinking you’ve got to be kidding! I shot back with the cold facts I already knew, that I won’t be retiring until I’m 70 or older at this rate, and he agreed. Things look pretty dim. So we did a bit of shifting of funds that might guarantee me a tad bit more than $1,600 per year in benefits. You’re laughing. On this account I’ll get $1,600 per year in benefits, plus my Social Security, if it isn’t bankrupt by the time I live to be 70.

So like any other human being, I drove home in a daze. This is looking pretty bad. All the thoughts of what would I do if I lost my job? Where would I go? Will I end up living in my car? My son can’t take care of me; he’s living at poverty level. My parents are dead and my inheritance spent from 18 months of unemployment. I have no family, except a brother I haven’t seen in 12 years and he lives 2,000 miles away and I wouldn’t have the money to get to him anyway. I’m toast!

Okay, so if the economy gets worse, what am I going to do? Here are the stupid panic thoughts that went through my mind:

  1. I need a “sugar daddy.” That probably won’t work, I can’t find a “salt daddy” and the “sugar daddy” has probably lost everything in the market too.
  2. I need to find an old man to marry that has a good retirement account now and pool my tiny bit of money with his. Might be doable, but I hate grey-haired 70 year olds. (Shudders fly through my body at the thought of my wedding night.)
  3. I stock up on can goods in case I have no money to buy food. Well, actually I’ve been buying a little extra, but I picked up a can I purchased about two years ago and noticed the darn thing had an expiration date! I didn’t know canned goods had expiration dates. If I’m starving, should I risk eating it anyway?
  4. I need to pay off my car in case everything goes belly up and it’s another depression. At least I can sleep there.

Well, after considering the above, I still felt lost. So what’s a single to do? Well, here’s the few things I’m doing. Perhaps I’m over reacting, but hey no one else is going to help me.

  1. I’ve checked out my bank to see how solvent it is. My current savings is in a bank that’s not doing so good and has been given millions by the government in bailout funds, so I’m thinking of shifting the money elsewhere. Bankrate.com has a page where you can check how your bank and credit unions are fairing in this economy. Check it out.

  2. Watch your credit card statements and the interest rates. Why? One of my credit cards shot up from a fixed 6.99% to 14.99% in one month! I have excellent credit, and no late payments. I called to complain and the scoop was that this credit card company was having to borrow more money, and I’m paying for it! Well, after a long discussion, they said that they would lower it back to 6.99%, however, they would not renew my credit card upon expiration. Fine with me! I have plenty others, but I’m going to watch those statements as well.

  3. Shop around for cheap insurance. Another bone I’m picking is car insurance. So this year I ran into a pole cutting a corner too short in order to miss hitting a kid in the parking lot. The front of my car went into the parking stall just fine, but the back of it hit the pole and scraped the back door. So it was $2,200 of damage. Now get this. I haven’t had a moving violation since 1970. I haven’t hit another car since 1985. I haven’t had a car hit me since 1990. I have a stellar driving record, and because I hit a pole, they upped my premium over $462 a year for the next three years. At that rate, after three years of paying higher insurance, I will have paid back into the company $1,300 on a $2,220 claim that I paid a $500 deductible. What the H*L!@. Sorry, why have insurance. I wrote them a letter complaining, and I’m waiting to see if they lower the rate. If not, I’m going shopping.

  4. Spend less. Boy, that bagel I buy for $2.00 every morning sure tastes good at my desk with my cream cheese and coffee. Of course, you’ve heard of the latte factor. I spend $10 a week on a bagel and $40 a month. Suddenly my bowl of Cheerios looks more appealing and cheaper. How about lunch? Do you pay $5.00 a day for lunch at work? $25 a week, $100 a month. It adds up.
Here are some things I do to save money:
  • Cut out the lattes and morning bagels; eat at home.
  • Bring your lunch. I only treat myself on paydays for lunch out.
  • Shop close to home and drive less. I live 3.8 miles from work, and if I really try hard, I can make a tank of gas last me 3-1/2 weeks, just because I stopped driving around everywhere!
  • Check the rates on your credit cards, and shop for lower rates.
  • Shop for cheaper insurance.
  • Shop at cheaper grocery outlets. When items you regularly use or eat are on sale, buy more than one at the lower price.
  • Find good clothing resale shops. I’ve found one for women and it’s terrific!
  • Skip the movies and wait for DVD’s. Actually, my video store is charging me $4.99 to rent a DVD, and for $2.99 I can watch it on Amazon.com. They have tons of on-demand DVD’s.
  • Live on the basic TV channels. Hey, I’ve had the $10.04 per month TV plan for years, and I don’t miss having 100 channels I never watch. If you really miss some great TV show on Showtime you have to see, rent the season on DVD! I did for The Tutors and it worked for me. I’m not paying $50 a month to watch the tube that sits turned off the majority of the day.
  • Try to save money. Even if it's a pittance of $10 a week. What you save by cutting back above can be put in savings for a rainy day. How much better is that?
These are just a few ideas, and if you really want to cut back, I bet you can think of more.

This post is a bit long, I know, but I had a lot to say. If I’m concerned as a single about taking care of myself in the future, I am sure you are too. It’s no secret we are one, not two. And you may be a single parent of one, plus children. I feel for you.

Hang in there. We’re all in this together, and if anybody has some great thoughts on how to save more, pass them along! The more the merrier.

Just Another Single Like You