House-iversary 4

August 30 is our 4 year anniversary of being in this house. We bought it on what would have been Ted Williams’ 100th birthday. The sole purpose of this house was to keep Jude, Simon and I together. Our apartment had been taken over by a new landlord who doubled the rent and stated the building needed to be pet free. We had to leave or be evicted. All other rentals in the area are either no pets or one pet only. What parent is going to choose between their children? I’m not. We had to stay together.

This house keeps us together. For Jolene, it is the only home she has ever known. Simon has been in the house longer than he was in the apartment. Jude will pass that milestone this winter. It will be another decade before I reach that milestone.

As grateful as I am that this house keeps us together, I don’t want to be here. I wish I could pick up the house and move it someplace else due to the bad neighbors. I can’t even use my living room or my front porch (both reasons why I even bought the damn house) due to the neighbors driving into the front of it twice now. Every day I live in fear that I will be murdered in my own house. 

Selling this house will be difficult, as I will have to do the bad neighbors disclosure. It is also possible that by the time I sell, there will no longer be a garage and there will be many things that needs to be done to the house. I’m expecting that I will lose money when it comes time to sell. On top of that I will have to pay back $10k to the low-income program that helped me. 

This will be the only home I ever own. I was repeatedly denied a mortgage due to my student loans. I am in PSLF. I had applied for forgiveness after 10 years of teaching. The only reason why I was approved for this house and my mortgage is that the bank thought my student loans would be forgiven through PSLF. Boy, were they wrong. Here I am in this house and about to enter year 26 of student loan repayment with no end in sight. I have been denied student loan forgiveness twice now. Brandon refuses to forgive student loans, instead choosing to simply waive a few months of interest.  I know I will never be approved to buy another house due to my student loans. Once I sell this one, I will be stuck as a renter for the rest of my life.

This house is what is keeping us together. You can’t have pets in apartments here. 

Once the cats pass away from natural causes, I do intend to sell the house. I won’t need it anymore. I don’t want to be here. I will be leaving the country and moving someplace more affordable that also has healthcare. I will, after all, be paying my student loans until I die. I need to decrease expenses as much as possible,

So, while we celebrate the fact that we have been in this house for 4 years and that it is keeping us together, I am also looking forward to the day when I can sell it and leave the country permanently. 

My only goal is to outlive the cats. They need to be together, cared for, and loved. This house keeps us together. 

We are so grateful to be together in these horrible times we live. Thank you for this house keeping the 4 of us together. Here’s hoping it holds up long enough to keep us together for the rest of Jude, Simon and Jolene’s natural lives. I just need to outlive them and keep us all together. This house keeps us together. Happy house-iversary. 

Creating Yourself

During a recent conversation with someone, I came to the realization that I used to have a life. You are probably laughing, but it’s true. I had a very full, active life before the pandemic. I ran marathons with 40,000+ people, I traveled all over the USA and into Canada, I went to coffee shops, the library, and was gearing up for a run for local political office before the pandemic hit.

As an immune compromised person in the pandemic, my life literally stopped in March 2020. I have not been in a store since February 2020. I have not been indoors with other humans except for medical care and essential house maintenance. I have not been touched or hugged. I am alone with the cats. The only reason why I even drive anymore is because the mechanic told me not to let the car sit. I need to take it out at least once a week to be sure it will be in working order when I do need to drive it to a medical appointment.

Before the pandemic, I had a full life. I ran a book club at the local library. I wanted to run for local office to make my community a better place. That all stopped. Now life has become an act of survival. I’m just trying to outlive the cats to keep them all together. I am also trying to realize my goal of reaching 26 medals. I want to achieve 26 medals before I get covid in the off-chance that it doesn’t kill me like it has everyone I know. There is a very tiny possibility it will only permanently disable me and not kill me.

The pandemic is a huge line in the sand between before and after.

Despite what the government may say, the pandemic is not over, by the way. The refrigerated truck returned to town this weekend for the dead bodies. Yes, here we are August 2022 and once again the hospital cannot keep up with all the dead bodies from covid, so the refrigerated trucks have returned. That’s ok. Just keep living your life like it’s 2019 without bothering to wear a mask.

As an immune compromised person, at this point in the pandemic, I am just waiting to die. After all, I am on the government euthanasia list. America does not like to talk about the death clinics that were open for 7 weeks in the fall of 2021. The government wants people with disabilities to die. So keep going out and socializing with no mask like covid is over while the bodies pile up in refrigerated trucks and mass graves once again.

My life as I knew it ended when the pandemic started. It has been a hard realization that life will never be the same again. No one cares if I live or die. In fact, every maskless person in this country is actively trying to murder people like me. It’s America. Murder is acceptable, after all.

Moving forward, my only goal is to attempt to outlive the cats so I can give them the best life possible and keep them together. I have no other purpose in life. The entire country wants people “like me” to die in the pandemic. The CDC even says that people like me are the ones who SHOULD die.

My life may not matter to you, but it matters to the three furry lives I have saved.

In order to keep us together and for me to fulfill my obligation to them, we need to pay the bills to keep us all together. We also need healthcare.

The biggest obstacle is figuring out new ways to make money and bring in income. The economy is more important than any human life in America. All Americans are expendable. I am not willing to risk my life for any job. There is no job on this planet that is worth risking your life.

So this is now a time of reinvention. I need to figure out how to bring in income in a way that does not threaten my life. While the government wants everyone to work in person and does not care who dies of covid, I am not willing to risk my life for the economy.

Moving forward, I am looking for ways to bring in passive income, freelance, and work online. My doctors say I am only supposed to have fully masked outdoor visits, so I can no longer work in person. This is going to be my life for probably the foreseeable future. I need to learn to pivot to a 100% online format.

Some ventures I am looking into include accepting donation for writing this blog through buymeacoffee/rachelgoes262 

I am also looking into publishing an e-book in the near future. To be honest, I am hoping that the book just sells enough to cover its publication. We will see.

Anyone else have any suggestions for how to bring in income virtually? I need to recreate my life so that we can survive the pandemic. How has your life changed now that we have been reduced to survival? 

A Kind Soul


It’s been well over 5 years now since Afshin died. I was working my dream job at the time. I was the human resources / training supervisor for a prestigious American research firm that worked projects not only across the country but also internationally. I supervised over 50 employees.
 
There are many people and moments during the course of my time working my dream job that stick out, and one of them is Afshin. We will use his first name to respect the privacy of the deceased.
 
I remember Afshin as a good worker, but even more importantly, as an amazing human being. He was one of those people that when they pass, you wish you had the opportunity to have more conversations with them. They just brought so much joy and life to those around them and had so much to give.
 
In fact, I remember Afshin’s work as exceptional. He had even been offered a management position, and turned it down. He said that he preferred to remain in the job he was doing. We were always hopeful that he would change his mind about the management position, but he never did.
 
Afshin was highly educated with an engineering degree, yet he stayed in an entry level position at a research firm. I remember in some of my conversations with Afshin learning that he was brought to the USA by his parents from a very young age. Unfortunately, I do not remember what country they immigrated from, just that it was a war-torn country and they had come here for a better life. Afshin said both of his immigrant parents worked hard and sacrificed so that he could get his engineering degree from an Ivy League school.
 
Both of his parents had already passed away by the time he started working for us. The rest of his family in their home country had been killed. Some of the family members were confirmed dead. Others were presumed dead, as he was never able to locate any living family members. Afshin was truly alone in the world.
 
He had many friends at work. Everyone loved Afshin. We always made sure he had invitations for holidays.  People enjoyed spending time with Afshin. He was just a great guy.
 
So it was extremely unusual when Afshin did not show up for work two days in a row. No one could get ahold of him. This was not normal. 
 
The day that Afshin died, he had been out to a movie with a friend from work. The friend remembers they talked for a little bit after the movie, then went home.
 
Afshin lived in an apartment alone and did not show up for work for two days. We contacted police to do a wellness check. Afshin was found dead and alone in his apartment.
 
The coroner determined that there was no foul play involved in his death. However, there are questions as to whether it was intentional or accidental. As a friend who valued Afshin, I like to think it was accidental. As someone with experience performing psychological autopsies, I’m afraid it looks intentional.
 
Whether accidental or intentional, his death was a horrible tragedy. There was not a single employee in our company who Afshin did not touch in a positive way. The entire organization was in grieving.
 
As Afshin had no family and no will, his body became a “Ward of the State” in New York State. This means that the Adult Protective Office was responsible for his corpse and in charge of his remains. 
 
Did Afshin want to be buried? Did Afshin want to be cremated? No one knew. As a Ward of the State, it did not matter. His life, death, and corpse became just another piece of paper that some bureaucrat in the Adult Protective Office pushed across their desk.
 
Do you know what happens when a corpse becomes a Ward of the State and the Adult Protective Office is declared the guardian? 
 
I will tell you.
 
First off, heaven forbid you have any friends that care about you. Friends have zero legal standing when you have no will and no family. The State does not care. You are just a dead body they don’t want and are now responsible for disposing.
 
As his employer, we fought for information about Afshin’s corpse and what would happen to him. First off, how many employers would fight for a dead employee like that? We did. We cared.
 
Deceased Wards of the State are buried in an open field. There is no funeral, no graveside service. There is no stone or grave marker. The deceased body Is quite literally given latitude and longitude coordinates of where it is buried. That is it. These latitude and longitude coordinates are marked in a file. The file is placed in a drawer for 7 years. After 7 years, the file is shredded. You are gone, dead and buried with no grave marker and not even a human that knows the latitude and longitude coordinates of where your body is located.
 
We fought tooth and nail to get those latitude and longitude coordinates disclosed to us. Would the Adult Protective Office let us know when they planned the burial so we could have a small group stand there with respect and offer prayers? No. They refused to release that information. Graves are dug at night and never announced. The Adult Protective Office does not want anyone there. They don’t want anyone to know they are burying some poor person who died with no family, no will, and no money.
 
We were able to obtain the latitude and longitude coordinates of where Afshin was buried after he was buried there. Of course, that’s assuming he actually is buried there. They could have just provided us with random coordinates. Maybe they provide the same set of coordinates to any friend of a deceased person who inquires. 
 
Once provided the coordinates, of course we visited. It took a GPS to find the location. There was no marker. It was just an open field. Families could have picnics there. Children could play tag. No one would know they were playing on a mass grave site of poor people who have been buried as Wards of the State.
 
My employer paid for a marker for Afshin. We had to go through several hoops to have a marker placed at his coordinates. The marker was so small, we could only put his name. There was not enough room for dates. We were allowed a small phrase. The phrase we chose was “A Kind Soul.” There is a small marker with his name that says “A Kind Soul” and nothing else. That is all that remains of Afshin. 
 
I have a feeling that the only reason at all why we were able to get coordinates and other information we did from Adult Protective Office was because we were the employer. Also, this happened in a relatively small city, where you could get people to show some compassion in certain situations. I’m sure if this had happened in a much larger city, we would not have gotten the coordinates or any other information we did.
 
Both Afshin’s life and his death is something that I’m sure will stay with me for a very long time. I have never before known someone whose corpse became a Ward of the State under the supervision of Adult Protective Office. 
 
Afshin should be remembered for his life. He was A Kind Soul. He was an amazing person. His death was a tragedy. The way his corpse was treated as a Ward of the State was horrific. There has got to be a better way to honor the dead than burying them unmarked with just a latitude and longitude coordinate to mark the body. 
 
I’m not sure what the answer is here. I just know that Afshin deserved better.
 
To be completely honest, I do not want a death like Afshin’s. I want to matter. I want someone to care. For the record, we cared. We were his coworkers. We were his friends. It was just a challenge that as friends, we felt completely helpless when he died because we had no legal ground to be able to have a service or handle any arrangements. The last thing anyone wants in death is to become a Ward of the State. 
 
Afshin was a kind soul, and he was my friend.  

Reducing Water Use by Half


The average American uses about 60 gallons of water per day, or about 5,400 gallons per quarter. That is a lot of water. Our water bill arrives quarterly. I am usually in the 4,000 – 5,000 gallon range. I thought I was doing pretty well compared to the “average” American.
 
One of the benefits of being home all the time in the pandemic as a permanent remote worker is that I am actually home and have more control over my environment. I am not in a rush to get out the door, tearing through the house and throwing things around just trying to make it out the door. Being home all the time, I am more mindful of the resources I am using. 
 
Being home all the time, I am better able to manage things like the temperature in my home. I can open and close windows when needed to cool off the house and not rely so much on the air conditioning unit. I can do things like reuse the grey water from the dehumidifier for flushing the toilet and for washing clothes. 
 
If I had to work outside the house, I would not have the time or energy to do these things that are not only saving me money, but also reducing my energy use and helping the environment. 
 
I have been trying to reduce my water usage by reusing grey water. I take the water from the dehumidifier and use it when flushing the toilet to refill the tank. This way, I am not using “fresh” water to fill the tank. I am reusing the water the dehumidifier took out of the air. 
 
For the record, dehumidifier water is NOT safe for drinking water.
 
I have also been taking dehumidifier water and pouring it into the washing machine to reduce the amount of water the washing machine needs to use to fill to launder clothes. Reusing the grey water from the dehumidifier are little steps that I have been taking to try to reduce water usage. Many areas of the United States are in a drought, after all.
 
Reusing grey water made a small adjustment in my water usage. It was not very noticeable in my quarterly water bill.
 
However, there was one water changed this past quarter that made a HUGE impact in not only the amount of gallons I use, but also my bill.
 
The amount of water gallons I used dropped almost in half.
 
What did I do?
 
Well, it’s more what I have been forced to do. This was not a choice and it was not something I thought to do. It was an adjustment made out of necessity.
 
Back in March. Shortly after my birthday, the hot water heater died. I am still on a waiting list with two different plumbers to have it fixed. It is hard to do anything around here because the covid rates are so high. Of course, covid is affecting the plumbers, as they have to go into people’s homes.
 
So for the past quarter, I have had to find work arounds for hot water. I have been heating water in a pot on my stove to use to wash dishes and for bathing. This means that instead of water just running down the drain, my water use is now measured.
 
Did you know the average American uses 50 gallons of water to shower? That’s all water down the drain. 50 gallons is the size of my hot water tank. Since the hot water heater is not working, I have to heat water on my stove and have been taking bucket showers. This means that I am using about 1.5 gallons of water to take a shower. It is more than sufficient. 
 
Yup. You read that right. I have gone from using 50 gallons of water for a shower to 1.5 gallons.  That is assuming that the average American shower uses 50 gallons of water statistically. That’s a huge savings. 
 
In addition, when washing dishes, I am only heating about a gallon of water. Prior to the hot water heater breaking, I would just turn water on and let it run down the drain waiting for it to heat up. Now, I just turn water on, fill up the pot and heat it on the stove. There is no lost water going down the drain. 
 
Of course, I am using cold water in my washing machine. However, I was primarily using cold water in the washing machine prior to the hot water heater breaking. Occasionally, I would do a warm wash, but for the most part, I am washing clothes in cold water. 
 
Of course, I am privileged in that I am home and have time to heat water on my stove to use for dishes and bathing. I can tell you right now that if I had to work outside the home, it would be a hell of a lot easier to just turn on the shower and bathe than it is to take a bucket shower. 
 
The shower does work, by the way. I just can’t bring myself to take a cold shower. This is why I have been heating water on the stove and taking bucket showers.
 
I am still on the waiting list with two different plumbers to have my hot water heater fixed. Worst case scenario, it will be fixed this fall when my furnace is serviced. Heat is a necessity. Hot water is not a necessity. Hot water is a luxury.
 
Yes, I do want my hot water heater fixed. Life would be so much easier if I could just get hot water out of the faucets again. However, it is hard to believe that I have literally cut my water use in half since the hot water heater broke. It’s all because my water use is now measured. I only heat the amount of water that I absolutely need to use. I am using less water overall. It is not just needlessly and mindlessly running down the drains anymore.
 
It is possible that I will get the hot water fixed, and then still use the heating water on the stove method. I will probably use both. To be honest, I would love to take a normal shower again. However, having to make do without the hot water heater these past few months has not been all that bad. Sure, it takes more planning. However, I am home and able to implement the work arounds. 
 
What tips do you have for reducing water use? Do you try to lighten your environmental impact? I am only one person, but I do what I can to be earth friendly. I am privileged to have running water, even if the hot water heater is waiting to be repaired. 
 
 
 

The Aesthete Blogger Award

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Thank you so much to @CompassStories for nominating me! I’ve been so glad to meet you and to read your work. I enjoy following your stories on wordpress and on twitter.

To learn more about the Aesthete Blogger award, here is the original post and creator:

Admita @ The fictional journal and their 

https://thefictionaljournal.wordpress.com/2021/03/23/the-aesthete-blogger-award/

(I am not the best on technology, so hopefully I am doing all the rules correctly.)

Tell me something about this world that you admire.

I would have to say resiliency. Even in the face of adversity, people persevere. We are able to find creative solutions to difficult problems. No matter how bad things get, people keep going and don’t give up. When people use that resiliency to show kindness to others is when I think humanity is at it’s best. 

What is your favorite form of creativity?

This one is so hard! I love art, music, photography, writing, theatre. It’s just hard to choose. If I absolutely had to choose, I would say slam poetry. Slam poetry combines a piece of those other elements I love. It is a performance art form of the spoken word and is a type of theatre. I have written and performed one slam poetry piece, only because I find I have to be truly inspired to work in that medium. 

 

@CompassStories questions:

What do you enjoy most about your work?

To my surprise and delight, my work has evolved in ways I never thought would happen. I started my blog as a way to showcase my photography with short life quips and posts on simple living. In addition to simple living, I am also writing reflective autobiographical pieces (Tales from my Surfboard) and have started writing fiction. I am very proud of the fact that all of the images on my blog over the past six years is my own original photography. However, I have gotten away from the landscape photography focus and have put more of myself into my writing. I have been vulnerable in ways I didn’t think I would allow myself to do. It’s been freeing, really.

How have you gained an audience over time?

I’m still not sure how many people that follow me are real or are robots (sorry, folks!). I try to keep things real, genuine, honest. I just keep putting myself out there. I figure even if no one reads it, it’s an exercise for me just to put myself out there. I’m honestly not sure about gaining an audience. I’ve never gone for the numbers. To me it’s more an outlet for my voice, whether my voice is heard or I’m screaming into the abyss.

What’s your favorite season and why?

My favorite season is fall. I’m a marathon runner, and all the best races are in fall. It’s easier to train through summer than it is through 4 feet of snow in winter! I love the fall weather and the leaves. I also have MS, so fall weather in the 50 degree fahrenheit range is perfect for me. It’s the magical time of year when it’s baseball season, hockey season, running season and football season all at the same time. I also love to go camping in fall.

What are your current favorite shows?

I don’t have cable and I do not stream shows online. I work at a computer all day, so streaming a show on the computer during leisure time is not relaxing for me! I do have favorite shows that I watch on DVD, so they tend to be older shows. My five favorite shows are: Cheers, MASH, Star Trek: The Original Series, Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, and Six Feet Under (only one of the 5 I don’t own on DVD – I borrowed them from the library). 

Share something you created:

I recently started writing fiction. I am currently working on a three-part short-story series set in a fictional town called Golden Fork in the Gold Rush Era of the United States. I have had a few private readers of part one. I am currently working on part two of the series. 

In Honor of my Aesthete Blogger Award nomination, here is an exclusive: 

Never before published or revealed: The Golden Fork Series (working title) Part One: Prologue 

Prologue

The peddler turned his carriage around the bend late in the afternoon. This would be his last stop of the day before bedding down for the night. The past few days, he had been traveling through remote homesteads with miles between each one. After this house, he would travel almost a week to reach the booming town of Golden Fork that had sprung up near a mine.

It was a good thing, too. The peddler was low on wares and needed to reach a place with more people to replenish his wagon. Business had been good on this trip. Many people were stocking up on things for the holidays coming.

As the peddler started up to the last house, a young girl started running toward him. He stopped, unsure of whether there was some emergency or she was just eager for his wares.

As she approached him breathlessly, he could see she carried a bundle. The peddler stopped the horses and waited for her to catch her breath. He tipped his hat “Ma’am.”

“Hello, Sir. Are you by chance heading towards the mining town?”

“I am,” he replied.

“I’m wondering if you might be willing to give me a ride to the town?”

The peddler was puzzled. The mining town of Golden Fork was a week’s trip on horse. “Ah, look here, miss. I don’t take passengers. I’m not a ferry or a train. You don’t have kinfolk to go to town? What do you need and I can see if I have it here in my wagon.”

The girl was insistent. “Please, Sir. There is no train here. I just have to leave. I won’t be any trouble to you. Look here,” she uncovered the package she held in her arms. “I can pay my way,” she continued. “I do fine embroidery and millinery work. You can have these linens to sell in exchange for my passage. I have skills. I intend to find work in the town.”

The peddler looked at the most beautiful handiwork he had seen and thought of how much he could charge for it. The holidays were coming and people were spending their savings on fine gifts. He pulled on his beard, thoughtful, and looked towards the house. If there was someone else home, they were either inside the home or out in the field. He looked at the girl more closely.

“How old are ye, miss? It wouldn’t be proper for me to take a traveler all that way with no chaperone. Are you running away from something?”

The girl stood taller and looked more dignified than her 18 years. “I’m old enough to know my own mind. I need passage to the town for work. They won’t miss me here. The wages are needed more than my company.”

The peddler looked back at the home again. It was still quiet. He was thoughtful. “What else do you have in that package?” He asked. “I’m low on supplies and would not want to be accused of being inappropriate with a female as I roll into town.”

The girl answered, “I have enough food for myself for 5 days. If you can share some supplies, I am willing to do more handiwork to earn my passage if you have something in your wagon that can be embroidered or sewn.”

He continued to stare at her.

“I’ve lived here all my life. Worked the land too. I’m fine sleeping on the ground if you sleep in the wagon so it is proper. Please, I need passage to town.” 

The house continued to be silent. Still skeptical about the arrangement, the peddler gave a slight nod. He knew what it was like for your wages to be needed more than your company. He held a hand out to the girl and helped her into the wagon. 

“There are some linens back there. You can do what you can,” he said. 

“Thank you, Sir,” she beamed back at him as she accepted his offer of a hand into the wagon. 

With the girl named Rose aboard, the peddler looked again at the forlorn house. He turned the horses and started on the trail that would lead to Golden Fork. It was time to be going and find a safe place to bed down for the night. 

Rose did not say much on the trip to Golden Fork. The peddler still wondered if she was running from something. At the same time, he was glad for the quiet. The peddler had never before taken on a passenger. True to her word, Rose went through all of the items in the wagon and was able to sew and embroider even the most simple of scarves into things of beauty. He would definitely be able to raise his prices on those items for the holidays. 

Being a gentleman, the peddler did not take her up on her offer to for her to sleep on the ground on the journey. He had her sleep in the wagon and he slept on the ground. He figured it would be safer if she was out of sight. The last thing he wanted was to be accused of being inappropriate. This arrangement was weird enough as it was.

After a long week of traveling, Rose and the peddler were only about a mile outside of Golden Fork. 

“Where should I drop you when we get into town?” The peddler asked. 

Rose tried to think of a way to evade the question. She had never been into town and had no idea what was there or what to expect. “Oh, just on Main Street will be fine,” she replied.

The peddler raised an eyebrow. He seemed to know that she didn’t really have a destination in mind. He wondered again if there was something from which she was running. She was a polite young girl, but not much of a conversationalist over the past week they had traveled. 

Rose stayed in the back of the wagon as they made their way into town. The peddler ignored her request of Main Street, thinking it would look improper for him to just drop her off there without a chaperone. The peddler made his way to a side street of town, where he could stable the horse and park the wagon. There was a boarding house in town for miners and other traveling menfolk. He had never seen females at the boarding house and wondered where Rose would stay in town.

That wasn’t his business. The peddler had already become too involved when he agreed to take her on as a passenger. He pulled up to the stable where the horses would stay and let Rose know she could come down from the wagon. 

Rose exited the wagon with bright, wide eyes. She seemed to take everything in as if she was seeing town for the first time. She actually was, but the peddler didn’t know that. 

“Look here,” the peddler started. “You have kin or someplace to stay? There is a boarding house, but it’s for mining men. I’m not sure where a young lady would stay.”

“Oh, I’m off to find a job with board,” Rose jutted her chin out with confidence. “I’m sure that my skills are in demand here in town.” 

The peddler looked at her skeptically and then offered, “Hey, you did nice work on those scarves. You should take one with you so you have a piece of your work to show them like how you showed me.” 

Rose nodded and thanked the peddler for letting her take a scarf. He knew she would not accept coin for her work and it would look improper if he were to give her coin here in front of the stables. 

“Well, time to get the horses taken care of and the wagon put away. Good luck to you,” said the peddler.

“Thank you for the hospitality,” Rose replied.

She hesitated before leaving. The peddler reminded her “I’ll be at the boarding house for a few days before I take off again.”

Rose nodded. She smiled, and then started off from the stables towards Main Street and her new life.

Main Street was busy. But then, being from the country, Rose had never seen an actual Main Street. She knew Golden Fork was a mining town but it didn’t dawn on her just how many men would be about. 

Main Street held a boarding house, a saloon, a barber, general store, a dinner room, and a post office. It appeared that there were other businesses on some of the side streets too. So far she had not seen a dress shop or a millinery. Those might be on a side street. 

Rose looked around to try to find a friendly face to ask for directions. It seemed like there were a lot of men in a hurry. It was early morning, and they all seemed on their way out of town to the mines. 

Out of the corner of her eye, Rose caught a woman, a little bit older than herself, duck into the general store. Of course! The general store would be the perfect place to start her search in looking for work. She could sew and make clothes for them to sell. 

Determined, she hiked up her skirts and headed towards the general store.

(This has been your exclusive sneak peak at the fictional Gold Rush town of Golden Fork in 1849.)

Nominate some people and spread the love:

Lou Farrell @LouFarr00389955

Ami @DaysWithAmi

Lia @ConduitOfMagic 

Rebecca @chipmunkofpower

Sue Kerr @PghLesbian24

My four questions to my nominees:

What inspired you to start your blog / writing? 

What is your favorite time of day and setting where you feel most creative?

What is your favorite coffee or tea and why?

What is your favorite era of history and why?

Aesthete Award Rules:

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  • Mention the creator (Asmita@ the Fictional Journal) and link it back to the original post.
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  • And lastly, just so you know: I LOVE YOUR CREATIONS!

My Best Life Now

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There is a country song that talks about living like you are dying. Often, I think that only people with terminal illnesses fully appreciate this song. We do not tend to think about death in everyday life. We are too busy living to think about death.

This past year, I have not been able to avoid death. It has been front and center in my face for the past 15 months. I have lost so many people to COVID. If bad luck comes in 3’s, I have reached it. COVID deaths, job loss, and identity theft. The pandemic has been life changing.

A few months ago, I started a photo project to curate my photos into a collection of the greatest hits of my life. I now have one photo album of 200 photos of my happiest memories. Curating the collection was an amazing experience. I made the book in case I end up in a nursing home or for when I die, I can lay there and look at my happiest moments.

While that may sound sad, in reality, it is making me very happy. I am enjoying the book now. It beings me such joy to remember and relive happy times in my life. My photo album reminds me to be grateful of all the wonderful things that have happened to me in life. Even though this past year has been downright horrid, I have had a lot of positives in my life up until this point.

Looking back on my greatest hits photo collection, I also realize that I have a lot to look forward to. There have been a lot of huge changes in my life as the result of the pandemic. You don’t grow and change without a little pain.

As difficult as things may be right now, with no job and no unemployment due to identity theft, I realize that I am actually living my best life right now.

I am secure in who I am as a person. I have goals in life. My goals are simple – to keep my family together and to keep us all safe. When I do die, what I will remember and think about is my family. It won’t matter what jobs I had or what I did for a living.

Work is what you do to pay the bills so that you can live your best life.

My best life is being home with the cats and running. In order to meet both those goals, I have to keep us all housed and together. I have to keep us all COVID-free in a reckless world that mistakenly thinks the pandemic is over. (Far from it – in fact, this is the most dangerous phase of the pandemic yet.)

My future goals are to continue to work remote permanently. I want to be home with my cats so we are together and safe. As long as I am doing respectable work that pays the bills, it doesn’t really matter what I do. All that matters is that we are together.

I recently found two part-time jobs that both allow me to work remotely. I have started one job, and I love it! I have returned to teaching, which is truly my passion. The other part-time job is a remote office position that does not start until late June. I am confident that I can make it work, as it is a prestigious and professional company. They value my skills and my life by allowing me to work from home. In return, I will work very hard for them. I value the privilege that remote work bring in allowing me to realize my goals and dreams.

Losing my job was the biggest threat to my life, family, health and safety I have ever faced. However, it has resulted in great opportunity. I now have the opportunity to live my best life. 

Being able to keep the cats together and outlive them is my only goal. It’s pretty easy to be happy in life when you are happy about what you have and don’t want much. I just want to keep the cats and I together and take care of them.

I am doing my best to pick up the pieces of the worst situation and move on. 

No matter what the future may bring, I can confidently say that I am reaching for my dreams and achieving them. I am truly living my best life now.

The Gorges

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Disclaimer: This post discusses the very sensitive topic of suicide and mental illness and may not be suitable for all readers. If you are having thoughts of suicide, please call the Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

The bells went off at 1:38 am. This was an outside alarm, not an inside one. That means instead of just heading down the hall in cartoon slippers to listen to someone’s dilusions, I actually had to leave the building for action. I was the counseling member of the Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program (CPEP) team. It was time to be mobile.

Awoken from a dead sleep, I was disoriented at finding myself in the on-call room of the hospital. It was hard to believe I had only been passed out on my cot for 15 minutes. As I raced down the hall, the other three members of the team were with me.

We quickly loaded into two vehicles. I rode shotgun in a plain sedan driven by a plainclothes police officer. The officer was just there for my protection in case the person had a weapon. In over 90% of cases, the person had a weapon. Granted they were usually using it on themselves, but occasionally, it was pointed at me. I’m just a therapist who weighs 100 pounds soaking wet.

They plainclothes police officer often just watched. The other two members of the team were EMTs. The both went in the ambulance. We raced through the city streets with lights flashing, but sirens silent. We never used sirens on these calls. It may spook someone into doing something rash. Besides, what they were doing wasn’t a crime. They just needed help. 

Over half of our calls took us to the gorges. The gorges were where people went to jump. We were averaging four jumpers a month. The city is home to a popular ivy league university that is well known for it’s high suicide rate. It has one of the highest suicide rates of all colleges and universities in the entire country. 

We make it to the gorges in record time. The 911 call came from a bystander. Someone had gone beyond the safety fence to stand dangerously close to the top of the gorge. They were threatening to jump.

I opened the door and was out of the car before we even stopped. I hit the ground running to the spot that was mentioned to us by the bystander. I could just see the person at the top of the gorge through the foliage. 

Almost at the exact moment I came within speaking distance of the person, I watched them fall. I didn’t get the chance to say anything to them.

It was silent. One moment they were there, the next moment they were gone. You always see in movies or imagine someone screaming when they fall. There was no scream, just silence. There was no slow-motion like the movies either. Bodies drop hard and fast. 

Our suicide prevention mission just changed to body recovery. We put a call into the fire department to let them know they would need to bring the helicopter and the propelling team. They were now looking for a body at the bottom of the gorge. No one has ever jumped and come out alive. 

I walked back to the three other members of my team stunned. It was not often that we witnessed the loss of life. We had saved literally thousands of lives over the past few years. In debriefing, we talked about how we did everything we could. We got there as fast as was humanly possible. You just can’t stop a person who truly wants to die. They didn’t even reach out for help – the call had come in from a bystander. 

Oh yes, you can do a psychological autopsy and find the signs of suicide the person exhibited before their death. You can go through all the coulda, shoulda, wouldas. The person is gone. There is no way to bring them back. The only thing we can do is to talk about suicide to remove the stigma. Let people know the signs of suicide so that they are comfortable asking others if they are having thoughts of taking their own life. It is all about normalizing the thoughts, talking about it, and educating others about suicide. 

The other members of the CPEP Team and I returned to the hospital. It was still the early hours of the morning. I returned to the on-call room to go back to sleep. I was exhausted, but needed to be prepared for the next call. 

It felt like only 15 minutes since I laid down when the bells went off again. This was an internal call. It was one brief bell followed by a page. I was being summoned to talk to one of the residents in wing 1-B. This was the locked in-patient psychiatric ward of the hospital. When the bells go off, I never know if I will be paged to someone who is in-patient or someone who just came through the emergency room and is on their way to being admitted for in-patient. If it’s an external call, we could be going into the field.

This call is internal. The technician had me paged because they cannot get the patient to calm down. They need to calm down before they wake up everyone else on the unit.

“What’s going on?” I ask the agitated person. Their shoulders relax. They’ve seen me and spoken with me before. They know I will listen to them and help them work through what they are experiencing. That’s what I am here for. This particular person has had a schizophrenic diagnosis for over 20 years. Every once in awhile, they need a hospital stay, like now. That’s why we are here. I’m here to listen and talk you through this moment.

It’s going to be a long night.

I finish with the person who is in the in-patient unit. I return to the on-call room to go to sleep once again. I barely lay down when the bells go off. It is now 5:24 am. This is an external call. The CPEP Team springs into action once again. 

This call comes from the person themself. They called 911 on themself because they were sitting in their garage with a loaded gun in their mouth. They were going to pull the trigger. But, they called 911. They obviously wanted to live.

We pulled up to the house and I jumped out of the car. I walked towards the garage, the person, and the loaded gun. The rest of the team stayed back. They took their queue off me. 

I walked over to the person while maintaining a respectable distance. I did not want them to get antsy or trigger happy if I got too close. I was surprised to see that I knew this person. It was someone I had grown up with as a child. I don’t mention that fact. I blatantly ignore our prior association. I’m here to try to save their life, not to make small talk.

We do talk. In fact, we spend about an hour talking. We do all of this with the rest of the team hanging back and watching to see what we need. We talk about why this person wants to die. We talk about why they want to live. Eventually, I get the person to take the bullets out of the gun.

The person sits there with the gun in one hand. The other hand is massaging the bullets. I listen to the sound of metal clanking. We keep talking about why this person wants to live and how important it is. There is a future. We should not make a permanent action based on a temporary situation. I get the person to put the gun down. 

The EMTs move in and assist the person onto the stretcher. We are transporting the person to the hospital for advanced psychiatric care. 

When we arrive at the hospital, I will not be doing the intake. I will be handing the person off to other staff in the psychiatric unit. My job is only to respond to the immediate crisis, defuse the crisis, and transfer the person to more advanced care. 

It was the last call of the shift, and I have a lot of paperwork to do. There will be no more sleep tonight. I have to fill out paperwork on every case I work and every person to whom I respond. 

Since over 50% of our external CPEP calls were to the gorges, we did a lot of advocacy around those gorges. How do we prevent people from jumping? We can talk about suicide, we can post the Lifeline number, 1-800-273-TALK. We installed fencing to try to block access to the gorges. People simply climb the fences. If you truly want to die, you will find a way. 

Many people jump from the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco too. They put up netting under the bridge to catch people who jump so they have a better chance of saving their life. We decided to try to do the same with the gorges. We kicked off this massive fundraising effort to try to raise money to purchase nets for the gorges. 

We wanted to be able to prevent people from reaching the bottom of the gorges. The fall was always lethal.

The nets were installed. There was actually a lot of technology involved with them. The tension was set so that if a body landed in the nets, it would set off the alarm for the CPEP team. We knew we needed to respond to a live person in the net. The person was in need of emergency psychiatric care. 

When the nets were first installed, the tension settings were too sensitive. We had squirrels that would land in the net and set off the sensors. Personally, I didn’t mind. I was happy to respond to a confused squirrel caught in the net. At least it wasn’t a person trying to take their own life.

Eventually, we got a handle on the technology so that now the nets only react if there is an actual human there. 

I performed my duties as a mental health first responder for about four years before I stopped. As you can probably imagine, burnout is extremely high in the field of suicide prevention. I needed a break. Self-care is important in any psychiatric profession. If you do not take care of yourself, you cannot take care of others. You cannot pour water from an empty pitcher.

Last month I lost my job. I have been applying for new jobs. I reached out to my former employers to let them know I was job searching and to confirm that they were still able to give me a reference.

In this process, I reached out to the agency I worked with when I was providing suicide prevention services. They asked me if I would want to pick up a shift.

Even though I really need the money, and I KNOW I am not supposed to “turn down work,” I said no. I have had over 10 friends and family members die of COVID this past year. I have been on the phone with some of them as they died. There is no way I can go back to working with people who are actively trying to take their own life ON PURPOSE right now. I have lost so much to COVID. Life is so precious. I don’t think I can handle working in the field of suicide prevention right now. 

If I were to go back out into the field to do this work, and break down, that would be horrible. It wouldn’t be fair to the person whose life I am trying to save and it would not be fair to me. I just can’t do it right now.

I’m sure I’m going to get a lot of backlash for turning down work when I’m unemployed, but after what I have experienced in the pandemic this past year, I just can’t anymore. I have nothing more to give.

Please remember that if you are having thoughts of suicide to call the Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. There are trained counselors on the line able to talk to you 24/7. They will not respond in-person like I did on the CPEP team. You can talk to them by phone. I also answered the suicide prevention lifeline when I was not actively responding to CPEP calls. 

Someone is there to listen. Always. Call 1-800-273-8255

Through a Bus Window

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Note: The following is the true account of how I experienced graduate school starting back in 2011. I worked three jobs and battled homelessness. Many people will ask, “well why didn’t you move?” 

It’s not that simple. First, rents in Boston at the time were 5x what I was paying in Upstate New York. In Upstate New York, I lived in a 2-bedroom apartment with two cats. For 5x what I was paying in rural New York, in Boston I would have had: a single one-room the size of a closet in a house shared with 9 other people. I would not have been able to take my cats. I will not live without my cats. Not to mention, in order to afford the 5x rent, I would have had to take on a job that was paying me $2 less per hour. Even if you are not good at math, you should be able to figure out that living in Boston was not affordable. It is one of the top 3 most expensive cities to live in the United States. 

So, this is the story of my graduate school commute and what I did to receive an education.

Other people will ask, “well why go to school in Boston? Why not go to school in New York?” I had that idea too. The problem is that no schools in New York State accepted me for admission to graduate school. All of the schools that accepted me were in Boston.

It was my dream at the time to return to Boston. I left in 1997 and regretted that decision. Leaving Boston in the 90s was my only regret. I was trying to rectify it. So here is what one of my weeks looked like and how I came to live my life through a bus window.

Monday

It’s 8 pm on Monday night and I am driving home from work in the pouring rain. It will take roughly an hour to get home. I am exhausted, as I have been going all day. I will be so happy when I get home just before 9 pm to see the cats. They need to be fed and Kip needs his medication.

It’s 9 pm. The cats are fed and I have set up the automatic pet feeder to provide them with their next 2 meals. I take as much time as I can to play with them, love them, cuddle them. At 10 pm, it’s time to pick up my back pack and lunch box and head out the door.

At 10 pm, I start the hour long drive to the city of Binghamton, NY. In Binghamton, I arrive at a friend’s house. I park the car without going inside. The friend is someone who I went to undergrad school with at Binghamton University while finishing my bachelors degree. She has given me permission to park my car in her driveway so that I can avoid parking lot fees in Binghamton.

At 11 pm, I leave the car in my friend’s driveway. I put on my backpack, pick up my lunch box, and start walking 3 miles to the bus station. It’s late at night and I am walking through a not very nice part of the city. I am alert. I have to keep moving no matter what the weather is doing. I have to arrive at the bus station before midnight or I will miss my chariot.

At midnight Monday into Tuesday morning, I board a Greyhound bus. I had purchased my ticket more than 2 weeks in advance to get a discounted rate. It was only about $10. My graduate school financial aid was paying for my transportation. 

I decided to ride the bus instead of drive for two reasons. First, I did not want to kill my car with mileage. I was living paycheck to paycheck and did not have money to afford a new car. Second, I was exhausted. I had officially been awake for going on 24 hours. I needed a nap. The one hour drive to Binghamton was hard enough. I did not have it in me to safely drive any further.

At midnight, I board the very crowded Greyhound bus. I hoped for a window seat to rest my head. I tried to sleep as best I could sitting straight up on a crowded bus. I was so exhausted, I was out like a light. My lunch box was under my seat. My backpack was nesteled between my legs to deter theft. My backpack held my laptop and school materials.

Tuesday

It’s 5 am and the sun is rising. I’m awake. I was fortunate enough to get a window seat, so looking out I see the skyline of New York City. For the “city that never sleeps,” it sure looks groggy. Anyone who is out and about is up to no good. I’m being generous with my assessment.

Between 5 am and 6 am, the Greyhound rolls into Times Square. We arrive at the bus station. I have to fight through the crowds to try to go from one bus terminal to another. I have to be sure that no one is pick pocketing me or touching me inappropriately. 

I have my knife in my pocket. I had to use it once to stab a would-be rapist so that I could get away. It was the only time in my life I had ever caused bodily harm to another person, but I did not want to be raped. The unknown assailant had come up and pinned me against a wall in Times Square between terminals. No one in NYC cares what happens around them, so screams are meaningless. I used my knife and ran.

I digress. It is between 5 am and 6 am. I navigate NYC on foot to go between terminals. 

At 6 am, I am on another bus. At least, I hope I’m on another bus at 6 am. It is often late, and I have to take the “next” bus at 7 am. I am going on 5 hours of fitful sleep on a very full bus and almost asleep on my feet.

By 7 am, I am on a bus, even if it wasn’t the one I was supposed to be on. However, it’s going to the right place, so all is well. 

I attempt to sleep on this bus as well. It is full, and the sun is out full force. I am sitting up. I’m so exhausted, I sleep any way. I get about an hour of sleep.

Many people think that I should have been doing my school work on this bus. The problem is that any time I try to read in a moving vehicle, I get motion sickness and vomit. It only happens when I try to read in a vehicle. If I am simply riding, or engaging in almost any other activity that is not reading, I do not get motion sickness. I sleep on the bus as much as I can.

Sometime between 8:30 – 9 am, the bus arrives at South Station in Boston. The city is bustling with the morning commute. I leave the bus terminal and go on foot to the T station. This is the subway system in Boston. I plan to grab a train to campus so I have some time to study before my first class of the day.

I pull my Charlie Card out. The Charlie Card is what holds the fares for the T. I scan my Charlie Card and it says “denied.” I have 80 cents on my Charlie Card. It costs $1.10 to ride the T to campus. I am 30 cents short. I can’t put more money on my Charlie Card. My financial aid for graduate school has not arrived yet. My checking account only has 5 cents left in it. I have no cash.

It’s pouring rain and I walk outside to start the 3 mile walk to campus. I have an umbrella, but it does no good. This was the year it rained so hard in Boston that the baseball field at Fenway Park was flooded under 4 inches of water. I arrive to campus with my feet completely soaked, as well as both legs. The water traveled up my jeans and I was completely wet as if I had no umbrella at all. 

I arrive on campus just in time for my first class. I don’t have time to study. 

I sit in the very back of class hoping no one will notice my rain-soaked state. No one realizes what I just went through to get there. I remove my socks and shoes hoping no one will notice. I try putting them by the heater to dry them out. 

I go through my classes for the day. I eat the food in my lunchbox. My lunchbox has now provided me with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I don’t have money for food. I didn’t even have money for the train. 

I have a reusable coffee mug in my bag, a spoon, and a packet of oatmeal. I go into a convenience store and use the hot water at the coffee station to make my oatmeal. I don’t buy anything. I don’t have any money. I leave as quickly as I can after having taken some hot water in my coffee mug for the oatmeal.

I am in classes all day long. All of my classes are scheduled into Tuesdays and Thursdays. I am a full time graduate student. I am taking 4 classes.

At 8 pm on Tuesday, my classes are done for the day. I head over to the library to work on my reading and class work.

I set an alarm for when I need to leave the library to head back to South Station. I’m lucky I do. I fall asleep in the library. The alarm awakens me. The librarian has a concerned look on her face over the obviously homeless person who looks rumpled after not having slept in a bed or had a real shower in over 24 hours. 

I quickly put all my school materials back in my bag and head towards the door. I have to make it to South Station before 10 pm. 

At 10 pm, South Station is locked for the night. You cannot enter South Station after 10 pm until it is unlocked in the morning. My bus did not leave until 1 am. However, the only way to catch that 1 am bus was to be inside South Station before 10 pm when it was locked.

I walk through the City of Boston from campus to South Station. It is late, but I feel safe. Walking alone at night in Boston is much safer than both NYC and Binghamton, NY. I still have my knife in my pocket. But I know I won’t have to use it here.

I arrive in South Station before 10 pm. Some nights I cut it close. I get in before they lock the doors and head to my terminal. I get in line. I sit in line for my bus for 3 hours. Sometimes I work on school, sometimes I sleep. I try not to sleep. There are pick pockets every where.

Wednesday

At 1 am Wednesday, I board a bus in South Station in Boston. The bus is heading for NYC. I blissfully fall sleep sitting up on a completely full bus.

I transfer busses in NYC to head back to Upstate New York. I am doing the entire trip in reverse. I arrive in Binghamton. I walk 3 miles to my car. I drive an hour home.

I walk in my house so happy to see the cats. I feed them, love them, play with them. I take a shower and repack bag. I have to go to work. But I will see my cats tonight.

I work from noon on Wednesday until 8pm on Wednesday.

At 8 pm on Wednesday, I go through the exact same process I went through on Monday night. I drive an hour home from work. I spend time with the cats. T repack my bag. I drive an hour to Binghamton. I park the car. I walk 3 miles to the bus station. 

At midnight on Wednesday, I am back on a bus again after having worked a full day. I am going back to Boston for my Thursday classes.

Thursday

It’s Thursday. Thursday looks just like my Tuesday. I arrive in Boston. I go to class. I travel back to work through the night.

It is now Thursday night and I have not slept in a bed all week. Every single night I have slept on a bus – Monday night, Tuesday night, Wednesday night, Thursday night.

I arrive back home late Friday morning.

Friday 

I am so happy to see the cats. I feed them, spend time with them, love them. I take a shower to wash off the grime and dirt of the city. It is my first shower in two days.

I have to go to work. I repack my bag and set up the automatic pet feeder for the cats yet again.

It’s Friday, and I work at one job from noon to 8 pm.

At 8 pm on Friday, I leave work. I can’t go home this time. I have to go to my next job.

My next job is an overnight. It starts at 10 pm. I have roughly 2 hours between jobs. I sit in a cafe downtown and work on my school work.

I start my second job doing an overnight shift at 10 pm. The good news is that if it is not busy, I am allowed to sleep. It is an on-call overnight job. As long as I wake up when the bells go off, I can sleep when things are quiet.

I work from 10 pm Friday night until 8 am Saturday morning.

Saturday

It is 8 am Saturday morning. I just finished my shift at my overnight job. I may have gotten one hour of sleep. I may have gotten 6 hours of sleep. It all depends on how busy the work was that night.

The next shift comes in at 8 am. I take the opportunity to take a shower at work. I can’t go home yet. I have to work to make money to pay my bills. I have another job to go to.

I work at my third job on Saturday from 9 am to 4 pm. When 4 pm on Saturday comes, I am exhausted, but also excited.

Once I get home on Saturday night, I will be able to be home for 24 hours. It is also the ONLY night of the entire week that I get to sleep in a bed. I get to be with the cats and I get to sleep in my own bed.

Saturday night I get home and I am so happy to see the cats. I can’t just relax, though. I’m in graduate school. I have a lot of school work to do. My Saturday nights were always spent writing 20 page papers for class. This was the time when I got all my school work done for the week.

On Saturday night, I get to sleep in my own bed.

Sunday

On Sunday morning, I wake up in my own bed with the cats. This is bliss. I still can’t relax. I have to keep going. 

It’s Sunday morning and I have to do my long run. I am training for another marathon. I use the three mile “walks” during the week commuting as training runs. Sundays are for long, slow distance. Each week miy mileage increases until I top out at 22 miles a few weeks before my marathon. 

I get up Sunday morning. It’s time to run 18 miles. I have a race for which I am training.

I get home from my run and have lunch. I do everything I am supposed to do to recover from my long run including icing my legs. The cats are so happy to see me and have me home.

Sunday afternoon, I spend the entire afternoon cooking and preparing food. I have to prep all of my meals for the week so that I have food to throw in the lunchbox when I come home to repack my bags. 

At 8:30 pm on Sunday night, I leave the house. I have to go to work at my over night job.

At 10 pm on Sunday night, I start my overnight shift. This is the job where I can try to sleep if it’s not busy. I work until 8 am on Monday.

Monday

I finish my overnight shift at 8 am on Monday. I shower at work. I have to go to my next job. 

Today is Monday. I have another job I have to work from 9 am to 4 pm.

I work.

It’s Monday. My third job ends at 4 pm. I still can’t go home. I have to work my second job.

I go to my second job Monday night from 5 pm to 8 pm.

Once I get off work at 8 pm, I get to go home.

But now, I have to start the communte to Boston for school.

Conclusion

This is where we started when I began writing this piece. We started with 8 pm on Monday night. 

I’ve seen the world through a bus windshield. This is the sacrifice I made to receive an education. I did not get accepted at any schools in New York. I could not afford to move to Boston. Yet, I wanted to learn. It was important to me to get an education and get a degree.

When I bought my house a few years ago, I decided to be a “responsible adult” and do some funeral planning. One of the things I planned is that I want a celebration of life party with a playlist of songs that I have curated. One of the songs on my list of 26.2 is “Old Blue Chair” by Kenny Chesney. I have literally lived every word of that song. I have seen the world through a bus windshield.

This year marks 10 years since I started the Boston commute to pursue my graduate degree. To this day, I’m not sure how I ever survived the experience. However, I must say I do not regret it for one moment. I am very proud to have a graduate degree.

Dare To Dream

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Last fall, as COVID number spiraled out of control, I realized that the pandemic is here to stay. Schools have been open for in-person instruction here since September 2020 with no mask requirements. The COVID positivity rate in my area right now is 19% and no one cares.

I do not have a death wish. I care.

Despite all the people claiming the pandemic is “over” as the death rate continues to climb, we are actually in this for the long haul. 

I started to evaluate my life with the pandemic in mind. This is no temporary thing. Masks, social distancing, and death will be with us for quite awhile. It is getting even worse now as everyone throws caution to the wind with the vaccines.

Given the deadly normal, I decided that working from home needs to stay. 

I am able to safely obtain groceries either by delivery or contact-free pickup. The only other reasons I have to put myself at risk of death are for medical purposes and for work. 

No job is worth your life. <tweet that>

There is this absolutely disgusting and cruel LIE going around that people do not want to work because they are making more money on unemployment. That is untrue. Many people are unemployed and not receiving any income because they cannot get through to unemployment to file a claim. 

The real reason – in fact, the ONLY reason – why employers cannot find people to work is because no job is worth your life. My life is worth more than $15, thank you very much. 

Unfortunately, in America, the economy is worth more than human life. The USA has to be first in everything, so they are doing the best they can to reach a million COVID deaths by opening everything up and telling people to stop wearing a mask.

I digress. However, this is the reality in which we live.

Last fall I decided I wanted to find a part-time work from home sidegig for extra income. Prices on everything have increased substantially, yet my income did not. Hey, I just paid $35 for a quart of milk a few weeks ago. That’s a huge increase from $4 for a quart of milk.

So, last fall I began investigating the possibility of making remote work permanent. 

It was a lengthy process of trial and error, learning new technologies and trying to trouble shoot. I figured if I could just find a part-time remote job it would give me extra income. The plan was to ask my full-time employer at the time to make remote work a permanent option. I knew this request would be a long shot. Indeed, I lost that job in April 2021.

With life in a global pandemic that is not getting any better, my dream has been to make remote work permanent. This way the cats and I can be safe. I have to figure out how to live another 15-20 years to be able to take care of them.

Losing my job in April 2021 was the worst thing to ever happen to me. It was my only source of income. It was a direct threat to my very life. If I am forced to go back to an in-person workplace, I will not survive the pandemic. Losing my job threatened my ability to keep the cats and I together and to take care of them. It was a greater threat to my family than when I needed to exit my apartment a few years ago.

Making my dream of permanent remote work a reality now became a need and not a want. It is the only way for me to save my life so I do not die. This is not an exaggeration.

This past month I have been unemployed, I have no income. I have not been able to get through to unemployment to file an initial claim. At this point in time, NYS has no clue I am unemployed. Their website crashes. Their phone system says high call volume and hangs up.

Finding a new job and finding one quickly needs to be done so that the cats and I do not end up separated and homeless. Yet I cannot just do any job. If I don’t want to die, I need to be able to work remotely.

My initial dream last fall was to be able to make remote work permanent so that I could focus on being home with the cats, running, and (someday maybe) travel. Travel will have to wait at least a decade for the pandemic to end.

With remote work, I will be able to be more in control of my life and human interactions. I do not, after all, have a death wish.

In between the over 100 phone calls a day I make to unemployment these past few weeks, I have been job searching for remote work.

Another goal I have is to go back to working 2-3 jobs instead of just one. 

I know, I know. In my bio for this blog, Rewind Live Slow, I state that I stopped working multiple jobs to try to slow down my life. 

The reality is that you should not put all your eggs in one basket. Only working one job and then losing that job means I now have no income. This is the worst situation ever. To prevent this situation from happening in the future, I need to be sure I have multiple income streams. So I need to either work one “main” full-time job and find something part-time to supplement or work multiple part-time jobs. 

I’ve done it before. I spent 20 years working multiple part-time jobs while putting myself through school. 

There is a difference this time.

Those 20 years I spent working multiple jobs putting myself through school, I was working 60-80 hours a week to make ends meet. This was before I started on my minimalist journey. This is when I was going 110% all the time.

This time, I am not going to work 60-80 hours a week. I can’t do it anymore physically. Not to mention, I want time to be with my cats. Life is short and precious. I want time to be with the ones I love.

So my goal is to work multiple jobs, but not to work more than 50 hours a week to make ends meet. By having multiple income streams, I will hopefully not ever be in this situation ever again of not having any income at all. I am making sacrifices in my life to reduce my expenses so that I can get by on less income.

I am proud to announce that it appears I have realized my dream.

I was recently offered and accepted two different part-time jobs that are both remote. With the two jobs together, I should be working about 35-40 hours per week. The income should hopefully be just enough to make ends meet (barely).

I’m realizing my dream.

One part-time job starts now, and the other starts next month. The jobs only pay once a month, so I won’t see any real income until July. That means I am going three months – April, May, June – with no income. It’s hard and it hurts. It would help if I could get unemployment, but they are too busy to answer their phone. I will not give up trying to contact unemployment. When I am finally able to file a claim, they owe me for these three months I am unemployed. 

The good news is that I have a month to get used to the one part-time job before I have to start the other one. The part-time job I am starting right now is only 3-5 hours per week so far, but at least it is something.

My new dream that I am daring to dream is to take control of my life, my interactions and my schedule by working remotely 100% of the time.

I am making that dream a reality.

Dare to dream. I am so blessed. As long as I can keep this house to keep the cats and I together, everything is fine. All I need to do is outlive the cats so I can give them the best life possible. If I can do that, then I will have lived a good life. 

That’s what rewind live slow is all about.

No Spend 2021

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Simon looks a little irritated he cannot reach the birds he sees out the window.

The pandemic has been playing havoc with everyone’s finances. It has been at least a decade since I have had this much difficulty making ends meet. One of my favorite bloggers, Courtney Carver, has a saying “instead of trying to make ends meet, focus on having fewer ends.” To accomplish this, I am going to institute a no spend 2021.

No spend challenges are typically trials that last for a short amount of time. Most people will institute a no spend challenge for one month or maybe three months. If successful with the short term challenges, sometimes they are extended for a year. It is an extreme method of trying to bring finances under control and save money. 

Given that I have been paying 3-4x for food in the pandemic and have been having challenges meeting my basic needs, I feel it is necessary to institute a no spend challenge for the entire 2021 calendar year. On top of the struggles I am already enduring, we are scheduled to begin repaying our student loans again in January. The relief from student loan payments for the pandemic will be ending unless the new administration decides to bail us out of our student loans.

Given that I am instituting a no spend challenge, I can tell you right now, that if you are looking for people to stimulate the economy, it’s not going to be me. I do not have enough disposable income to stimulate the economy. Disposable income is an oxymoron in this pandemic.

No spend challenges look a little different for everyone. Each person who does a no spend challenge has their own rules. It’s best to use the rules that work best for you. 

Here are the rules for my No Spend 2021:

  1. Only pay for needs. This includes things like mortgage, electric, gas, etc. While they are primarily fixed expenses, I am doing my best to try to decrease each one. For example, I have lowered my heat 3 degrees this winter compared to the temperature I had my thermostat on last winter. Yes, we are cold. But I can’t afford heat. I have to cut back.

Reducing fixed expenses is something I have been working on over a period of time. 

Over the years as part of my minimalist journey, I have made some behavior changes that have served to decrease my fixed expenses. Some of these include my movement away from paper products towards reusable items. If I am not buying disposable items, then I am saving money. Examples of this have been my transition to cloth handkerchiefs, cloth feminine hygiene products, replacing paper towels with cleaning cloths and cloth pee rags.

  1. The only expense I have that is not fixed but is still a need, is food. More on my food strategy will be coming in another post.
  1. Beyond needs, the only purchase I am authorizing for 2021 are new running socks. First, even though last year I updated my regular socks, underwear, and bras, I did not update my running gear. In fact, what I typically do is “retire” something from everyday use and start using it for running. This combined with the fact that I am very rough on running gear means that my socks are either threadbare or full of holes in the toes and heals.

Instead of just spending $20 on a package of 6 white socks that will probably only last me one running season, I have decided to invest in 6 pairs of Darn Tough socks. I anticipate that the Darn Tough socks will hopefully last me 3 running seasons instead of just one. Plus, with their replacement guarantee, it is totally worth the investment. I love supporting small American businesses, especially during this time. If I can support a small business even during a no spend year, then I am going to do so. So I will be saving money and trying to gradually replace all my running socks during 2021 with Darn Tough socks instead of a cheapo white 6-pack. 

The Goal

My goal with a no spend year is to replenish my savings that has been completely decimated by the pandemic. Not only is my savings gone, but I have had to use my credit card for groceries, so I need to get that paid off. 

My no spend 2021 will hopefully help me pay off the credit card and get money into my savings. I need savings to be able to cover house maintenance, car maintenance, and cat needs. So obviously, those three items are not included in the no spend year. 

For many people, instituting a no spend plan is very hard. Many people spend money on books, clothing, take-out coffee, prepared (not grocery – prepared) food delivery, etc. If you are one of those people, then it is going to be more difficult to institute a no spend plan because you are going to feel like you are giving something up. That’s because you are giving something up. No spend challenges are hard. That’s why it’s a challenge.

While an entire no spend year may seem extreme and overwhelming, try a no spend week or a no spend month. If you try a no spend week and it seems too painful, you can always stop. For me, a no spend year is a financial necessity in the pandemic. I do not have any disposable income and I really need to get money back into my savings account to cover any emergencies that may come up (on top of the global pandemic we are all experiencing). 

 Have you ever tried a time period of no spend? How did it go?