Category: personal

Adulting 301: Safety Deposit Boxes

Well, it’s official. I managed to make it 40 years without opening a safety deposit box, but those days are now behind me. Today Denisa and I traipsed into town to the bank to make it official. We now have a spot to put all our gems, gold, and illegal substances. If we had any of those things. Sadly, our lives are much less interesting than that. We just wanted to get the box to have a secure place to store our important documents.

See? How boring and adultish have I become?

I mean, I really wanted to have something cooler to put in that box. At least a few passports from other countries, as well as stacks of bills from a scattering of different currencies. I didn’t even have any mysterious keys to stick in that could lead people on an exciting adventure. No, instead I had a living will. Movies and television has taught me so much more is possible from a safety deposit box, but instead I put in What to Do If I Am Comatose and Not Likely to Recover.

Funnily enough, Denisa and I prepared those documents 4 years ago. Living wills, regular wills, powers of attorney. All that flashy stuff that makes any sane person’s eyes want to glaze over. We got them all set and done, and the last thing we needed to do was put them someplace secure, in case our house burned down or something.

Instead, we did the standard immature thing: stick them in a drawer and forget about them. (Hey, it’s an approach that’s never really failed me yet, so . . . )

For the record, getting a safety deposit box is more complicated than I thought it would be. I pictured us walking in, signing a piece of paper, stuffing the documents in, and being on our way. In reality, it took about twenty minutes. Our cost around $50/year for a small box just big enough to fit a rolled up stack of Very Important Documents. But at least that cost includes a cool set of keys that make it so you can’t open the box without having two keys present. Kind of like entering nuclear launch codes, but without the messy aftermath.

Why did we do all this? Because we have studied, and in studying, we have learned that man is mortal.* Stuff happens. And as much as it would be nice to never have to talk or think about that stuff, it’s still not a bad idea to prepare for the bad stuff, just in case. If Denisa and I both died, what should happen to our kids? If we’re brain dead, what do we want to happen to our bodies? Who gets to inherit the gazillion dollars I have stashed away in gold bullion from that adventure with the dragon and the dwarves from back in my early days?**

I dislike even thinking those thoughts, let alone writing them. They make me want to glance over my shoulder to see if a train’s about to barrel through my room. But as attractive as sticking my head in the sand seems . . .

We still signed the documents, and we still (finally) put them in a safety deposit box. So now I can legally forget about them and not feel guilty when I remember they’re not in a safe spot. I’ve got the cool double keys (and the yearly fee) to remind me I’m done with that for now.

In the meantime, if any of you are looking for a place to hide a very small piece of stolen artwork, have I got the spot for you . . .

*We also learned never to get involved in a land war in Asia.

**Bilbo was actually 50 when he first set off to the Lonely Mountain, so I’ve got almost a decade before I really need to start worrying about being behind on that plan.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

How to Stop Being So Judgmental

I can’t imagine I’m the only one out there who has a bad tendency to judge other people. It’s something I’d rather not be doing, but it’s a bad habit that I have a hard time putting behind me. There are areas where I make snap judgements about a person based on their actions. In some cases it’s justified, but in many (most?) cases it’s not.

That’s why a quote I read this week stood out to me so strongly. I’m reading Dare to Lead as part of a book group on campus. There are some aspects of it that I’ve found less than useful, but there are some really good ideas in parts of it that have stuck with me. For example Brene Brown, the author, talks about the different nuances of shame, guilt, and embarrassment. Embarrassment is typically momentary, and often a shared experience. We do or say something stupid, we feel bad about it, but we know and recognize many other people have done or said the same thing, and we move on.

With guilt, the thing we did or said (or didn’t do or didn’t say) is more significant. We feel genuine remorse for our action or inaction, and that remorse spurs us to improve in the future, so that we don’t feel guilty anymore. I’d always thought of guilt as a bad motivator. I’m not saying it’s the best motivator out there, but I’ve come around to believe it’s a good feeling to be capable of having, It makes us want to be better people, but it does that because we feel guilt for our actions, not for our character.

Shame, on the other hand, comes from feeling bad about who we are as a person. As Brown says, “the majority of shame researchers and clinicians agree that the difference between shame and guilt is best understood as the difference between ‘I am bad’ and ‘I did something bad.'” You feel guilt when you did something bad. You feel shame when you think you are bad. Shame leads to destructive behavior.

This sets the context for the specific quote I want to highlight:

Based on research, there are two ways to predict when we are going to judge: We judge in areas where we’re most susceptible to shame, and we judge people who are doing worse than we are in those areas.

The thought is so compact it almost sailed past me when I was reading it. I had to stop and read it again, then think about it for a while to understand what she was getting at.

Each of us is susceptible to shame in different areas. For example for me, weight has always been an area where I’ve felt shame. (Just keeping it real here, folks.) Other people might feel shame about their intelligence, their looks, their job, their temper, their relationships, and so on. Any area where society has caused us to believe we’re supposed to be X, but we know we’re actually Y. As Brown puts it, “Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love, belonging, and connection.”

We are most likely to judge other people, then, in areas where we ourselves are most susceptible to shame. I might have a tendency to judge people because of their weight, because I personally feel shame about mine. And when we do judge in these areas, we judge those people who are doing worse than we are.

It made so much sense when it was outlined like that. We naturally try to defend ourselves in the areas we feel weakest, and one of the instinctive ways to do this is by diverting attention to people who are even weaker than we are in those areas. If we feel our relationship is bad, we judge people with even worse relationships. If we’re self conscious of our social status, we pick on people who are lower than we are.

Now that I’ve read that, I’ve tried to consciously catch myself whenever I start rushing to judgement. I turn the feeling inward instead of outward. Why am I judging in that case? What is it about myself that makes me want to feel superior in that area?

I’m not saying I’m perfect at this new approach by any means, but it’s been a significant mind shift for me, and I wanted to pass it on in case it might help you as well.

(Because you know I’m judging you because of how awfully judgmental you are . . . )

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Getting a Bit Rusty

When we bought our Honda Civic back in 2007, it was with the plan to drive it until it dropped. Civics are generally fantastic when it comes to longevity, and ours has been no exception to that rule. It’s served us well (knock on wood), with no need to pay for anything other than oil changes since we bought it. (A far cry from my first car, a Pontiac Grand Prix, that needed serious work almost perpetually.)

Except now we’re facing something we hadn’t necessarily planned on: rust. In the undercarriage of the car, rust spots have developed. We can get them fixed for around $800/piece, but I’m not really well versed in rust lore. I know it theoretically is fostered by the heavily salted roads we have out here in Maine. I know it eats away at metal. But I don’t really know how to deal with it.

That’s where you lovely people hopefully come in. There are far more of you than there are of me. What sort of experience have you had with rusty cars? If we could patch these two spots up and then know we’d be fine for the next several years, I’d much rather do that than buy a new car. However, if these rust spots are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, perhaps we’d be better off selling the car now before it gets too bad, and moving on to a newer car.

How do you avoid this over all? I’ve heard washing your car more frequently keeps it at bay, but then again, I’ve heard other people say it’s inevitable, and there’s nothing you can do. Yes, I’ve got Google, and I can research this some, but once you start delving into these sorts of questions, it can be difficult for a relatively inexperienced person like myself to really sift through it all and tell what’s worth listening to and what isn’t.

We’ve had the car for coming up on 12 years. It’s certainly served us well. But it’s still doing just dandy, and I see no reason to abandon it now if this is a problem we can get through with not too much trouble . . .

Any and all advice would be appreciated.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

First Day of Work

Tomas is now gainfully employed. He started work today as a swim instructor at the community center in town. It’s part time, and he’s a backup to the regular instructors, but it’s still honest work for someone he’s not related to. (That’s a key part of an actual job, in my book. Especially early on. You learn a lot by being answerable to someone who really just wants a task done for a price, and doesn’t have to care about your emotional well being outside of work. Not that I’m all for slave drivers, but there’s a far cry between working around the house for money, and going to an actual job.)

Of course, the experience has made me think back on my first day of work. I was sixteen, as I remember, and I worked for McDonald’s as a cashier. (Eventually branching out into the drive thru, and the fry station, but never venturing back to work the grills.) I remember a few of the things that surprised me the most. One was the fact that I got paid to get trained. I remember watching a bunch of training videos in the basement, marveling that I was earning $4.25/hour to watch TV. True, it was boring TV, but it was still TV. Another was my frustration with the fact that I always had to be doing something while I was at work. If the manager saw us chatting at the register too much, he’d send one of us out onto the floor with a rag to go wipe down tables.

I learned a ton at that first job, though. For one thing, how it didn’t really matter if I thought my manager was wrong or not. I still had to do what he told me to do. (Or quit. That’s always an option, though I never took it. I saw some people use it, however.) How to deal with the public and still maintain your sanity. (A skill I continue to use as a librarian today.) The importance of standing up for your employees in the face of an irritable public. (I had managers go to bat for me against angry customers, and I’ve never forgotten how grateful I was for them doing that. I’ve tried to do the same as a boss myself.) How you can have fun while you work, even in conditions a lot of people think are horrendous. I’m not in contact with any of my McDonald’s friends anymore, but I still remember them and the antics we would get up to.

A few examples:

  • The speakers in the drive thru were terrible, so as long as you said something that sounded remotely like “May I take your order,” that’s what people heard. “My a date your daughter?” was a popular alternative.
  • We would cook up chicken mcnuggets by the batch, fifty or so at a time, and then store them in a warming drawer. We were allowed to eat a meal every time we worked, and somehow in my teenaged mind, that entitled me to a mcnugget whenever I had the hankering. I’ve often thought a chicken nugget drawer would be very handy in my office . . .
  • We would have soda chugging contests to see who could down a supersize Sprite the fastest. I was quite good at it, though the carbonation gets to you if you drink too much too fast.
  • McDonald’s food tastes excellent when you take care to prepare it properly. It just often ends up like junk because you’ve got hurried teenagers who don’t care slapping the burgers together. But I loved being able to go back to the burger station and have all the condiments I could think of to make a burger just how I wanted it. At the time, I was a fan of a triple quarter pounder with cheese and Big Mac sauce, a soda, a super size fry, and then a sundae in a small cup for dessert. (I mean a small soda cup, not a sundae cup. With strawberries, chocolate sauce, caramel, and nuts in the bottom and on the top.) I gained 10 pounds in my first two weeks working at McDonald’s, but I didn’t gain anything after my body got used to the extra calories.
  • Customers had trouble pronouncing the menu items sometimes. Once, an elderly gentleman came up to me and said, “I want a vagina.” At least, that’s what I heard. I blinked, frowned, and then told him, “We don’t sell those here, sir.” I know the customer is always right, but there are limits, after all. He scowled at me and said, “Yes you do! They’re right there on the menu!” I turned to look at the menu, stunned. And then I realized he’d said his “v” more like a “f”, and his “n” more like a “t.” He’s asked for a fajita. He’d just pronounced it terribly.
  • You’ve got a headset when you’re working the drive thru windows so you can communicate with the team easily, but they have spares, and I’d try to wear one whenever I could. There are two channels on them. One for speaking to your co-workers, and one for speaking to the outside. You could make snarky comments about customers. You just had to be sure to be on the right channel.

Actually, it’s amazing how many things I still remember about that job. Yes, it had its crummy aspects (cleaning toilets and tables where people had made huge messes was my least favorite part, and I had to wear a neon pink shirt and hat . . .), but overall I enjoyed my two years there, and best of all, it helped me start understanding the value of money and work. So I’m very happy Tomas has the chance to start doing the same thing. I look forward to hearing how his day went when I get home today.

Good luck, Tomas!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

What are the Current Fashion Rules of High School?

Life used to be easier for me. When I was in school, there were some simple rules to follow to make sure you weren’t labeled a dweeb. First off? Make sure you never buttoned your top button on your shirt. Ever. Unless you were wearing a tie, in which case you kind of had to. But other than that? No top button. And don’t pop your collar unless you wanted people to make fun of you and say you looked like a Ken doll.

No top button. No popped collar.

When it came to baseball hats, you had a bit of leeway. You could wear them the normal way or backwards, if you wanted to show how laid back you were. If you were borderline insane, you could try to wear them sideways, but come on. Who were you really kidding? But there was one rule that reigned supreme: only complete losers didn’t curve their brims. Yes, you’d buy a hat and it would have a straight brim sometimes, so it was up to you to break that hat in, molding the curve just right.

But always a curved brim.

These days, I realize I no longer know which way is up and down when it comes to fashion. I see people with straight brims. Brims that would have gotten you laughed out of the building when I was in high school. And yet there they are, clearly cool and en vogue. When did that happen? And I see people buttoning their top button. On purpose. I’ve even seen people popping their collar. And yet they’re not treated like a human piñata when they go to school. When did that get the green light?

Not that I’m complaining. I mean, the less there are fashion rules, the better, as far as I’m concerned. I don’t really care what I wear, so long as I’m comfortable. But I still remember how important image was when I was in high school, even to me, who didn’t really care all that much about it. And so I’m all for keeping my kids as ridicule-free as possible in their classes. Realizing that the rules I once knew are out of date, could someone please clarify what the new rules are? Or are there no rules? Have we reached a higher plane of existence now, and kids just don’t care what you wear?

Inquiring minds want to know.

(But good luck ever getting me to button the top button of my shirt, or wear a flat brimmed hat. Because there are some people from the cool crowd of my high school lurking somewhere still. Just waiting to jump out and laugh at me as soon as I break one of those rules. I’m sure of it.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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