Sunday, September 27, 2015

day of reckoning

The world came to a screeching halt.
 
Not for me and any readers obviously, but for my brother, who finally paid the ultimate price for his long love affair with alcohol.  Richard was found dead Thursday morning (9/24).  It appears that he’d had a seizure and asphyxiated.  So it goes.  We all knew the day was coming, and my other brother (Mike) and I marveled every time we got together that Richard was still alive.  We expected him to last no longer than a year once we moved him into his house.  In fact, he survived nearly three years. 

Mike and I use to joke that we would put his ashes into an empty vodka bottle for burial.  Now that the end has come, it’s not so funny to think about that.  The memory of seeing my brother tip the vodka bottle and chug on it like he was drinking milk from a carton is something I can never forget.  For the past year, his alcoholism became too difficult to manage.  Drinking made him sick, but not drinking made him sicker.  He withered away to a rack of bones, and this under-60 year old man walked and moved slower than my grandfather when he was 93.       

I had to make phone calls to our parents to tell them the news.  Nobody was surprised.  Now I must write an obituary for him and plan a memorial service.  Mike and I began cleaning out his house yesterday.  We learned a lot about our brother in this unhappy process.  Fortunately, it was all good things about him – things I wished I’d known before he died.

Richard never made the connection that he couldn’t keep a job or a girlfriend because of his drug and alcohol problems.  He didn’t seem to comprehend that his health was affected by drinking so much.  He refused to believe that his “friends” were taking advantage of him.  That’s how denial works.  Rehab was never an option.  At one point about a year ago, after a very close-encounter with death and a long hospital stay, he told me he was finished drinking.  We talked about AA and what changes he was willing to make to stay sober.  He assured me that he would attend AA meetings and never drink before 3PM, and only beer, no more vodka.  As I was leaving the hospital, I said good-bye to my brother in all the ways a person can say good-bye.  I never saw him that sober again.


In the words of Cat Stevens, we’re all “only dancing on this earth for a short while.”  Richard was ready to sit down.  I wish we could have changed the music and had one more dance. 

in better days
    

Thursday, September 24, 2015

I'm the man

KYLady was in the foulest of moods earlier this week.  It’s a very long story, but rest assured, KYLady’s mood is way above the tippy-tops of the highest cirrus clouds today.  In fact, she was so excited with the news she got last night that she could hardly sleep.  And even today at work, with a staff meeting going on, KYLady is only pretending to listen while she writes a blog post because she has no interest in work AT ALL just now.
   
So, the backstory is that old KYLady has been itching to retire from her primary job for a very long time.  Finally, she collected lists of her expenses and assets, and implored Someone to give her lists of his assets and expenses.  Without getting too personal, perhaps it was because Someone and KYLady had prior spouses, both decided when they got married that managing finances separately made good sense.  They’ve always had his and her bills to pay.  KYLady makes the most money (not bragging, just stating fact), so KYLady pays the most bills.

So, everyone wants to be KYLady’s financial advisor because of her age and the company she works for.  She settled on two advisors from two companies, which is a bit like having multiple clocks and not really knowing what time it is.  Financial Advisor #2 wants more information, but told me earlier this week that unless I could get Someone to take on more of our expenses, I could definitely not afford to retire until the mortgage is paid off (in like 7 more years).

That was the start of the foul mood.  Then Someone and I got into an argument about it.  Someone flatly stated, “Hell no, I’m not going to start paying YOUR bills.  That’s not fair to me.  You’ll just have to keep on working.  It’s not that bad, you just have a bad attitude.”  Yeah, I’m the one with the bad attitude.  Right…what would his attitude be in my job?  He works 30 hours a week at most and gets 15 paid holidays.  Me?  It’s like 45-60 hours a week with 10 paid holidays.  I’ve worked at least 8 years longer than him, even though I’m younger than him.  Don’t talk to me about attitude, ASSHOLE.



With that, I began making mental plans.  Such as, it’s time for “us” to downsize…I’m going to put “my” house up for sale.  You never answer your cellphone any way; I’m going to cancel you.  You know what, I can’t really afford the insurance on your new car anymore.  I’m cancelling your policy so I think you’d better start looking for a buyer.  You can have my old (2002) Camry and I’ll go back to driving the old (2004) minivan – we’ll be better off.  I vented to a certain person who gave me the best advice I’ve had in a long time.  She said, “You just tell him you’re the man and he’s the little bitch.”  Yeah, he’s the little bitch alright. 

So, then last night, we had a meeting with Financial Advisor #1.  First thing when we sat down, he asked us if we were planning a divorce.  It caught us both off guard.  Someone and I agreed we were not planning or thinking of divorce.  Advisor said, “Well good, because I combined your expenses and assets for this analysis.  I hope that’s OK.”  With our expenses and assets combined, we have plenty of resources for me to retire next January.  Like PLENTY.  Then, as if that were not good enough, he reminded me that the discount rate is expected to increase, so it might be advantageous for me to quit at the end of the year rather than working a month into 2016 as I was planning.  On the drive home, Someone seemed to be a little more open to the idea of me quitting.  Maybe he’s starting to see things my way.
      


Here’s the bottom line, I’m going to retire at the end of January, or I’m going to retire at the end of December.  Of course, I will listen to what Advisor #2 has to say when he gets the numbers together, but my brain has already locked in R-E-T-I-R-E-M-E-N-T.  It doesn’t seem real.  It’s not real yet.  The discount rate for 2016 will be announced on November 15.  With much hope, I wait.  



  

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

wash-rinse-repeat

It was a lovely, wonderful weekend for KYLady.  There’ll be no gloom and doom in this blog post…OK, it’s going to be tough but I’ll try to remain cheerful and optimistic through the end of the last paragraph.
 
I took two hours of vacation Friday afternoon so that leaving work early for a round of golf was possible.  It was a beautiful day for golf – sunny and 80 degrees, and the course was not crowded.  Someone and I teed off at 3:45 PM and finished well before dark.  I had two birdies which always makes golf fun, even when a great shot is just pure luck.  Someone could not buy a tee shot and so was a bit whiney and sullen, but I didn’t let his foul mood interfere with my glorious afternoon in the sun. 

Saturday, Someone and I went to the Simon Kenton Festival in Old Washington, KY.  That was loads of fun.  The sky was completely clear when we left home, but by the time we arrived at Old Washington, it looked like rain.  In fact, it did rain lightly for a bit, but not enough to make things miserable.  We went to listen to Sarah sing, but the festival itself was wonderful.  Some people were dressed up as Indians and settlers, and I saw a couple of men wearing old revolutionary war uniforms.  All sorts of good-smelling food (barbecue) was being cooked and sold, and there was no scarcity of fair food.  Churches set up and were selling baked goods, and lots of crafters were selling things.  I bought a hummingbird feeder that I probably won’t hang outside until spring.  I think the hummingbirds have already left Kentucky for winter, but I’ll consult my expert friend who takes photos of hummers around her feeders as a hobby.  She will know.  Old Washington is a neat place.  It’s a historic district with old cabins and buildings from as long ago as the 1700s.  Up and down the main street, carriages pulled by a horse and oxen were giving people free rides. 

Oxen are BIG!

video

On Sunday, I slept in and then took my kayak out for an adventure.   After some research, I found Raccoon Creek ramp, about 7 miles upriver from my usual put-in place on the Little Sandy River.  To be honest, I almost talked myself out of going there.  I knew it would be isolated; that part of the county has high-crime, wildcats, and bears.  But sometimes, adventure is just what a person like me needs.  The ramp was completely deserted and I quickly learned why it’s not so popular.  The ramp is very short and steep, with giant ruts on both sides.  It’s really more suited for a small carry-in boat.  In fact, I decided to park at the top, put my kayak on a little cart, and pull it down to the water’s edge.
 
So based on the map, I thought I was putting my kayak into Raccoon creek.  I paddled what I thought was downstream (it was), thinking that around every next bend I would see the river.  Then I began wondering if I was paddling up the creek rather than down.  It was so windy that I couldn’t tell anything about the current.  Finally, it became obvious I was on the river.  When I returned to the ramp and paddled upriver a little way, I found Raccoon creek which was nearly dried up and not obvious.  Too bad the waterways are not marked with signs like roads are.  Then again, absence of civilization and the unknown adds to the adventure aspect. 

Somewhere on Little Sandy between Raccoon Creek Ramp and Dragonfly Adventures

  
The Little Sandy snakes through the hills, and there are lots of little and big creeks that feed into it.  It’s mostly farmland and woods on both sides, but also there are areas with small cottages and campsites.  The property along this river is most likely not expensive; it floods terribly in the spring.  All those campers and little ratty cottages are how us average folks live the good life – home away from home.  In my dreams...

So yes, the break from University #2 has been wonderful.  Someone and I met with my financial advisor last week.  He had many more questions, so I still have no answers.  We have more information to collect for him, so it’ll be a few more weeks yet.  The preliminary report is not optimistic, but we won’t go there per my promise to stay cheerful through the end of this post.  Meanwhile, I updated my CV again and will begin applying for more teaching jobs this week.  Rust never sleeps, and neither should I.


Thursday, September 10, 2015

breakdown

Things have been desperate lately.  Well, it's not really the things as much as it’s me…I have been desperate lately.  Things are very hectic.  By nature, I’m very laid back.  It’s hard to be me in this place in time with so much stuff going on.



University #2 wrapped up Sunday night.  I had 48 hours to get last assignments graded, but wouldn’t you know it, six students crawled out of the woodwork and dumped assignments for the entire term into my queue for grading.  The university has a culture of what they call “compassionate accountability”.  I call it utter bullshit.  With no penalty for late work, why worry with deadlines?  The deadlines only apply to me.  It’s not fair to the other students, because I have less time to evaluate work of the students who submit on time.  All but a handful of students submitted a few last assignments late.  Needless to say, it was two days of sitting in front of my computer grading papers with only a few hours of sleep.  Fortunately, Monday was a holiday so I didn’t need to take vacation time to finish.



University #1 is about a month into the term.  The herd is starting to thin, especially in the Microsoft Office class.  Some students have already decided it’s too much work and have dropped the course.  Several are already struggling.  If they were to ask me, I’d tell them it’s only going to get worse.  Truly, most any technology can be tedious to master.  It’s especially difficult for people who don’t have the brain for it (and by no means am I implying that you have to be smart to learn technology).  Some students sign up because they think it’s going to be easy.  Sure, almost everyone knows how to use Word and PowerPoint, but this course requires them to learn the features most people rarely use. Once we get into Excel and Access, students drop like flies.
 
I had a roommate in college who was an accounting major.  She was valedictorian of her high school class, a straight-A student, and really very book smart (common-sense smart, not so much).  She was required to take a few computer classes for her major.  She did well with the intro to computers class, but when she got to Basic (the most elemental and user-friendly programming language back in those days), she floundered.  I helped her as best I could, but she just didn’t have the brain that’s required to deconstruct a problem and create a solution set with logical tools.  She barely passed, but she passed.  She became a CPA and no doubt has earned at least three times more money as I have over the course of our careers.  That’s OK, I’m grateful for people who like accounting.  I hate money.
         
Oh well.  Next week, I have an appointment with my financial advisor to see if I can afford to retire from my main job.  If he advises against it, *sigh*…I don’t even want to go there.  I’m setting a date of January 29, 2016.  If that will fly, I will ask my employer if I can stay on part-time until we get a big project finished (which has almost 3 more years to go).  If not, it’s pull the trigger and adios.  Meanwhile, my job hunt has come to a screeching halt.  There’s just no time to work more hours or look for another job.


So here I am blogging because I don’t want to clean house in my “free” time.  Sadly, this house needs a major cleanup.  That’s my fourth job – house slave.  I’m a slacker.