Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category

First Number In Action: Vet Bills

Monday, March 15th, 2010

Among the delays for getting posts up on Life of Pookah has been illness within our home. One miserable week laid out in bed followed by another week of slow recovery.

Pookah has been very, very worried! Pookah has worn herself ragged trying to take care of Pookah’s pet humans. The extra effort on Pookah’s part has required massive consumption of tasty foods.

Now Pookah is searching for this “Pudgey Pudgins” individual is, and why “Pudgins” is in Pookah’s house!

Then, Old Lady Cat was ill, then took a nosedive for the worse. Translate this to additional vet bills. On the heels of Pookah’s daughter’s illness and ongoing slow recovery, this is extra expense that is breaking our monthly budget.

Did this qualify as an emergency, and why?

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Should and Shouldn’t

Monday, December 21st, 2009

Should and Shouldn’t are close relatives of Can’t.

Should and Shouldn’t are those little monsters inside us that whisper FAILURE at us, when we’re most vulnerable.

“I shouldn’t feel this way…”
“I should be up doing X…”
“I shouldn’t rest…”
“I should have done Y instead of…”
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When the Hits Keep Coming

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

It has been a rough few weeks out here in the primordial scrub.

Lawnmower broken – repaired.
Tiller broken – at shop.
Car AC/emissions system – at shop.
Death in the family.
Dying family member.
Sick Old Lady Cat.

old_lady_cat21

Old Lady Cat does not feel well

That deceptively short list is just the last four weeks. It is more accurate to list it as:

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Death in the Family

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

Pookah is very worried about her human. Both humans have been upset and sad. But Pookah’s purring will fix it. Pookah is even willing to share human’s lap with Old Lady Cat… sometimes.

Pookah makes human feel better

Pookah makes human feel better

It happened to us recently: We lost a grandparent.
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Toxic People – Different Worlds

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

If you haven’t read my post on Toxic People, please take the opportunity to do so now.

Ok, ready?

Many years ago I had to work with John Doe. Within ten minutes of talking to him – after he’d been hired – I knew several things: John was a pretty darn smart guy. John had an easy-going personality. John had in-depth knowledge of the type of work we did, and knew the buzzwords to prove it. John was a little weak on the documentation side, but most techies are. John didn’t mind sharing information about his own life. John had some problems with letting other people participate in the conversation.

That last one is what I call, “A CLUE.” I really should have paid more attention to it at the time. The management that made the hire/no-hire decision REALLY should have paid attention to it.

See, if a smart person can’t shut up long enough to let someone else finish a statement, they are A) Rude, B) Egotistical, and C) Blind.

You can’t have an in-depth discussion or transfer of information with someone who is Rude. They will keep interrupting you whenever they feel like it. Their reason is simple: You’re just not good enough compared to them, you don’t know as much as they do, and, frankly, you’re not as smart as they are. They have stopped seeing you as a person. They have stopped listening to you. What you have to say isn’t important. They already know the answer. You’re not worthy of listening to.

You can see the Egotistical part already. They already know the answer because they already know what you’re going to say. Talk about a Geek Social Fallacy! Once a person becomes so impressed by their own knowledge, skill, and ability that they stop listening to people in general, they have become the problem. They are so certain of their own greatness that they can’t even conceive of the “help” they’re giving you is actually toxic.

Once they stop listening, they quickly become Blind. They can’t see that they’re actually damaging the person they’re talking to. Since they have stopped listening to you, and willfully blinded themselves, they will cheerfully lead you off a cliff – dragging you the entire way in spite of your yelling, screaming, and pleading to stop before you both die. In a business situation, if they are not the manager, they won’t be there for long… unless the management is also toxic.

Now, if you’ve read this far, and thought about what I’ve written, I’d like to point something out. Rudeness, especially the egotistical, casual kind, was actually the second Clue that John Doe was a Toxic Person. The first Clue was his buzzword proficiency. See, the hire/no-hire management didn’t actually give him even a simple test of basic competence (do you know where the on/off switch is on this model of equipment that you say you’re expert on?). They certainly didn’t invite any of the techie staff in to ask questions and make sure personalities wouldn’t clash, or, maybe, find out that John Doe was extremely good at talking the talk, but only mediocre at being a techie — in that environment. Talking is only so much hot air. Actions make the difference. However, being able to talk well, speak to the benefit of the listener, and use good people skills in the process will determine whether your John Doe is a Toxic Person, or not.

Don’t get me wrong – John Doe had techie smarts. But because he was in that particular kind of work environment, dealing with the personality types that already worked there, he became a Toxic Person. Three full-time staff lost six months of effort trying to contain the poison. That’s four (including John Doe) full-time employees dedicating 90% of their 50-hour work week to… poisoning. That’s some expensive damage control on so many levels.

When John Doe left that work environment, he was hired into a different one. There, from the little bit I heard, he wasn’t a Toxic Person. And I am very glad.

So watch out for people who might be Toxic to you: They talk a good game, use casual rudeness in conversation as a habit, and do not listen to you. The other lesson is this: Toxic People may be Toxic to you, but not to others. But you still need to get them out of your life.

Idiot Parents

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

Attention to all parents with very active offspring!

No, not you skilled and/or harried herders of the next generation of homo sapiens, who have skipped meals and eating out when your offspring fails to maintain self-control. You’re fine. Kids need the chance to practice, and you obviously recognize that there are designated areas for child exhuberance and high-energy release. You also recognize that a grocery store or food establishment (barring those dedicated to children) is NOT one of those designated areas and requires a modicum of balanced behavior in one’s conduct. It is my pleasure to smile tolerantly and with understanding as you train or discipline your child in the manner of acceptable public activity, or remove your misbehaving child to a more appropriate location as needed. I tip my hat to you and will gladly hold the door for you, while you look after your child’s safety and that of the people around you.

I’m talking to the so-called adults responsible for producing the little villains spreading crushed chips and apple juice all over the floor around the cash register. Or the bratlings running up and down the aisles screaming, yelling, and throwing things off of shelves.

Yes, you.

Especially you who think it is my responsibility to put up with your offsprings’ atrocious behavior, because, “he/she is just a child!”

You, sir or ma’am, are a thoughtless, selfish, jerk who shouldn’t have been allowed to reproduce.

I’ve got some sad news for you: Your child is your responsibility. Not mine. Yours. Because I assure you that if little precious becomes my responsibility, I will remove said offensive brat from the premesis with great alacrity and judicious application of appropriate reminders that little men and little women will BEHAVE in public.

You do NOT have the right to impose your family’s history of self-indulgent, histrionic, screeching, tantrums, and inflicting harm to body and property on others. You do NOT have the right to permit your spawn to disrupt or disturb me except as required by basic courtesy – such as a polite, “Excuse me,” while you drag your out-of-control hellspawn out of said public eating establishment and to your transportation vehicle (or other semi-private location) for a quick and appropriate lesson of how little men and little women will BEHAVE in public.

So don’t be surprised when, after your hellspawn dumps my tray of food on the floor, I walk over to your table, wait patiently for you stop yakking into your high tech brain replacement communication device and actually NOTICE the DAMAGE that your offspring is causing, and pour my 16 oz. caffeinated sugarwater in your lap and purse when you fail to close your yap and act like an adult. That’s called consequences. See, you are RESPONSIBLE for your hellspawn’s behavior, and the consequences of little master or miss wonderful’s actions. Your lack of basic attention to your offspring’s safety also means the consequences can be quite severe.

I can also pile the now inedible food that your pampered, over-indulged, ill-trained dogling wrecked, and ceremoniously bestow it upon you, the new owner. Dreadfully sorry about your food, though. But I do hate to ruin perfectly good food, so I am loathe to do this.

Or I can announce to the establishment at large about how wonderful it is that you are allowing your child to destroy the restaurant’s property, aggravate its patrons, and otherwise show what an ass you are. I don’t often get to use my oratory skills. I was quite good at Debate in college, and my voice carries well. I find that publicly pointing out what a mean, venal, lowly, maggot-brained twit you are will often have the desired effect of embarrassing you into leaving. I can also drown you out your usual incoherent shrieking. Personally, I’d rather not be so rude to the other patrons myself, but this method is less likely to result in physical violence for both of us, so it is my preferred way.

Your choice.

However it goes, you WILL get your misbegotten, out-of-control, untrained, bastardized little terror away from me.

Oh, don’t even try that line of, “Do you have children?” It is pathetic and makes you look more stupid. I’ve hauled more squalling and bawling brats, ostensibly members of my own genetic line either by marriage or biology, back out to the car, while my companion tries to enjoy what’s left of a ruined evening out, than you have. Obviously.

Grow up or your brat will beat you to it.

Unexpected Links

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

For many years now, S.O. and I have worked with each other to achieve financial stability and success. I buy or borrow many books on both finances and on personal issues in an unending quest to face my own foibles, improve my people skills, and increase my financial acumen. S.O. frequently reads them, also. S.O. tends to handle the more people-related matters of our household because I, frankly, am bad at them.

I have had a personal financial balance sheet for many years. I use it to track monthly expenses, predict future financial famine, predict future financial plenty, and maintain an overview of current status. It has allowed me – with S.O.’s invaluable input – to navigate our financial ship of state through several crises, and put us on a course that we expect will lead to stability and comfort.

This is “monologing”, yes? From the movie, _The Incredibles_?

S.O. has, on numerous occasions, requested copy of this balance sheet for S.O.’s own use. I have provided such, along with the best encouragement and advice that I know how. My encouragement and support in this endeavor is whole-hearted; with the addition of month-to-month tracking of S.O.’s finances combined with the prediction abilities, we can sail our financial ship more accurately and safely. We might even be able to upgrade from a rowboat to a sloop. However, over the course of these years, S.O. has never filled out a personal balance sheet.

There is another matter that we did not realize was linked: In our rock pile, we have a kitchen desk with a number of wooden cubbies. Neatly taped above each cubby, in S.O.’s elegant handwriting, is a name – one for each member of our household. Our mail goes here, divvied up for the labeled individual to process however he, she, or it thinks best. When I get home, I empty my cubby and sort through the mail – needs immediate attention, read on the weekend, and shred. I typically open the letters, scan them quickly, and write a due date on the envelope prior to placing it in the appropriate processing location next to my computer.

S.O.’s cubby rarely gets emptied. In fact, when I get the mail to sort, I often have to fold, contort, or jam the mail into S.O.’s cubby.

These two seemingly unrelated facts that came to a crashing head one weekend.

Unable to put any more mail in S.O.’s cubby, fearing that bills were going unpaid that would undermine or sabotage our efforts, and finally just tired of the stuff piling up, I grabbed the whole mess, set it in S.O.’s lap on the couch, and gave voice to a Request That Shall Be Fulfilled Right Now, Dangit. (If you, gentle reader, are of the gender persuasion known as “male” or “knuckle-dragger”, you should know that this is a dangerous, potentially life-threatening, undertaking if your S.O. is of the gender persuasion known as “female”, “Lady Mistress Of All I Survey”, or “One Who Dictates Sleeping Arrangements”. On the chance that your S.O. is not of a “traditional” demeanor, please take a moment to consider on which side of the knuckle-dragger/One Who Dictates Sleeping Arrangements spectrum he or she tends to fall – and take all reasonable steps to ensure it doesn’t fall on you. If, somehow, this bit of knowledge has escaped you during your upbringing, You Have Been Warned.)

Pookah will now proceed… no, *run*, to the hidey-hole under the bed. Pookah gently reminds blog readers of human’s statement near the top about people-related matters.

S.O., who was quite busy at that time with other matters gravely important, was not amused. I Insisted. The mail had been piling up for months. In addition, I wanted all the financial documents in there so that *I* could fill out S.O.’s personal balance sheet. S.O. was very unhappy – all out of proportion to the request, I thought. But I had Insisted. It needed to be done. I was NOT going to let it go any longer. I would not allow our financial ship to founder due to easily-corrected neglect.

With great reluctance and trepidation, S.O. went through the accumulated stuff. Much of it went into the shredder. Some of it was credit card offers that may be suitable for stoozing (a fact that raised S.O.’s opinion of the effort, since it proved that S.O. really *was* succeeding). Still others were handed over for scanning into the computer and entry on the personal balance sheet. I proceeded to scan and enter the data, letting the numbers percolate through well-tested formulae to spit out understandable and useful results.

Is it safe for Pookahs to come out now?

My first clue that all was not well within our pile of rocks was S.O. hovering behind me, blocking the light. This required three requests, of varying emotional intensity, to kindly move out of the way and let me finish, Dangit.

Not safe.

My second clue was my two requests, again of varying emotional intensity, interspersed between the aforementioned requests concerning light blockage, to please stop asking me questions while I’m trying to enter lots of fiddly numbers. I would be happy to answer, and ask, questions afterwards, Dangit.

With all the numbers entered in and double-checked, I then started asking S.O. for additional information. Where financial statements were not available, I asked for conservative estimates (low on the income, high on the debts) and noted them as such. I also started answering questions about what I was doing and why.

The net result of my efforts were two-fold.

First, S.O.’s finances were in MUCH better shape than S.O. had thought. By a large margin.

Second, S.O. suddenly realized why S.O. hadn’t made a personal balance sheet before, and why S.O. didn’t clean out the cubby.

It was very simple: Fear. S.O. was afraid that all the effort over the last TEN YEARS to get the personal finances under control was a failure. S.O. was afraid that getting regular control over the overflowing mail would show this fear as true. S.O. was afraid that creating and maintain a personal balance sheet would show S.O.’s efforts as a complete failure. S.O. was afraid that I’d find all this out, thus proving once and for all that S.O. was an incompetent fraud. S.O. had all those little tape recorders silently whispering in S.O.’s brain about failure, lies, failure, uselessness, and failure. So S.O. avoided facing the notices, financial statements, and other information necessary for creating a personal balance sheet. Problem solved by taking a short-cut. Not. The fear was slowly poisoning and weakening our relationship. The poison would only grow and get worse until we did something about it.

With the information and estimates available, S.O.’s fears were shown as phantoms. S.O. *had* changed the personal finance habits. Now we had numbers to prove it. (Even if S.O.’s fears were shown as true, the problems would now be out in the open, where we BOTH could work on them.)

I *could* have gotten angry. I *could* have yelled about all the time spent dithering back and forth over this matter. I *could* have gnashed my teeth, torn out my hair, and covered myself with ashes.

Yeah. All of that would have been useless drama. Drama is too much of a drain on life. If I want drama, I’ll rent a movie.

Instead, I looked on all of this as a learning journey. It was all time, emotion, and energy well-spent, if S.O. learned something new and grew because of it. I know I learned and understand more about S.O., I know that S.O. learned more about S.O., and I am PROUD that S.O. is a part of my life!

We’ll see how S.O. fares with gathering up those last three months of e-statements so we can finish filling out the personal balance sheet. That will be a real test of facing one’s own fears.

This particular problem is not over. It’s a habit that S.O. has spent years building. It will take time to tear it down and build something better in its place. And I’ve got my own work cut out for me, too: Remembering to be patient because not everyone (including S.O.) approaches problems the way I do. Remembering that it is far, far, FAR easier to see another person’s problems clearly than it is to see your own problems clearly. Even if that problem is whacking you in the face with a 2 x 4.

The moral of this story is: Sometimes you need to act like a knuckle-dragger and beat on those useless tapes until they shut up, break, and let you live your own life.

(You can come out now, Pooks. It’s safe.)

“You’re lucky you don’t have debts like me.”

Thursday, March 5th, 2009

Yeah. Real lucky.

* While you took out a 5-6 year loan to get that $22,000 new econo car, that you’ll end up paying $28,000 for, I saved up my money and drove a junker so I could pay cash for my new used car.

* While you were driving your new, $22,000 car to games on the weekend, I was going to used car dealerships checking on the makes and models I researched, or working overtime to save up money.

* While you were skimping on routine maintenance so you could afford the monthly payments, I paid $5300 cash for my gas efficient, low-cost maintenance, butt-ugly, 8-9 year old used beater.

* While you are sitting in my car complaining about your debts because your new $22,000 car is in the shop for major repairs, I’m driving carefully and incorporating my shopping into the trip to save on gas. Then I’m taking the money saved and putting it into a high-interest online account to save up for my next car purchase – planned for 7-8 years from now.

This is a small, very small, sampling of why I don’t like listening to you. Luck had nothing to do with it. I worked hard for what I have. I admitted my mistakes. I learned from my mistakes. I swallowed my shame and swore to do better. I changed my behavior. I did without all the cool stuff that you bought on credit. And now I put up with your whining about the bill collectors coming after you. I got hit by medical emergencies, car emergencies, job emergencies, and family emergencies just like you. I even bummed rides off friends when I had to, thanked them for it, and bought gas and dinner for them by way of thanks. Only I saved up for those emergencies, just in case they happened. You didn’t.

So you can do something about your situation, or not.

But at least be gracious about the help I’m giving you and quit whining while riding in my car.

Toxic People

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

If you don’t have any Toxic People in your life, you are very, very, very lucky.

Toxic people are people who are bad for you to be around. I don’t mean dangerous. I mean bad. They make you ill. They waste your time, energy and resources.

1. During or after a conversation with this person, do you feel insulted, depressed, worn-out, drained?
2. When you are about to meet this person, do you feel tense? Does your heart rate increase? Do you have an immediate, internal, silent groan of, “Oh, no, not him/her!”?
3. After one brief meeting with this person, do you feel tired for the rest of the day?
4. Do you complain about having to deal with this person to other people in your life?

If the answer to ANY of the above is “Yes”, then you may be dealing with a Toxic Person. If the answer is “Yes” to two or more, then you are probably dealing with a Toxic Person.

I don’t pretend to understand Toxic People. It doesn’t make sense to me why someone insists on insulting me or belittling me in casual conversation. I don’t know why it ends up that I’m the one doing all the work of keeping the relationship alive (planning the movie trips, the lunch/dinners, the games, all the social interactions). What I do know is that I’ve spent countless hours ranting to my S.O. about certain people. Then finally, one day, I picked one of these people, and started applying the Rule of Three. The Rule of Three basically states, if I have to ask someone to stop doing something a third time, I will operate under the assumption that they will not stop doing it. Applying the Rule of Three is pretty straight-forward:

One. “You know, Bob, that embarrassing situation that you keep bringing up? The way you tell it isn’t the way I remember it. It happened a long time ago. I’m really tired of being reminded of it. So let’s drop it, OK?”

Two. “Bob, I asked you last week to stop bringing that up. I’d rather spend my fun time with friends talking about something else. Like politics. What do you think of McCain’s tax plans versus Obama’s?”

Three. “Bob, when we meet, all you want to talk about is that embarrassing situation from five years ago. I’m tired of it. Goodbye.”

I stopped calling Bob (see, it was always me calling Bob to set up a meet). I stopped meeting Bob socially. If Bob and I met by chance, I politely said, “I’m very sorry, but I’m on a schedule and I don’t have time to chat. If you like, you can call me tonight at eight.” Bob didn’t call.

After about two weeks of this, Bob asked, “What? Don’t you want to be friends anymore?”

To which I responded, “Bob, we haven’t been friends for five years. Friends support each other instead of one of them constantly cutting the other one do-“

Bob interrupted, “You’re not still upset about me joking about that thing from college?”

“If you can’t show me the basic courtesy to let me finish talking, then go away.”

Bob didn’t get it. I don’t think Bob ever will get it. I finally realized that Bob and I hadn’t been friends for years. Bob had attached himself to me like a leech, constantly sucking on my emotional resources and putting me down to make himself feel better. I was the sack that he poured the poison of his own life into. I had just cut that sack of poison away.

I felt great. I had removed the leech!! I felt scared. I’d just cut off part of my social network. I felt great! I didn’t waste my time with my beloved S.O. ranting about Bob anymore!! I felt scared. What were my other friends going to think about this – especially because I’d have to start avoiding get-togethers that included Bob. I felt GREAT!!! I wouldn’t be going to those get-togethers and have to deal with the leech!!!!

Suddenly, I have all this time and energy. I can finish a couple of projects I haven’t had the motivation to do. Or maybe I can go out and meet new people. Maybe I’ll make friends with that lady at the coffee shop…

Setting Limits

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

What are your limits?

How far will you go to help your brother/sister?

How far will you go to help your mother/father?

How far will you go to help your grandmother/grandfather?

How far will you go to help your best friend?

How far will you go to help a regular friend?

How far will you go to help your neighbor?

How far will you go to help a complete stranger?

How much money would you give each of these people?

How much food and water?

What if your food and water were severely limited, such as in a Katrina-like disaster?

How often will you give them a ride when they ask for it?

When does generosity go from kindness to contracted duty?

When do the requests change from cooperation to parasitizing?

When do you tell other people, “No. I can’t give any more.”?

If they tell you you’re being selfish, do you give in?

If you’re the one doing the giving, why do you feel miserable?

What reason – physical or mental – prevents the person you’re helping from doing it him or herself?

Why are you the only one being asked for help?

Why are you the only one helping?

Where is the line between helping and being used?

Where do YOU draw the line?

Where do you set the limits?

When you can answer these questions, and stand by your answers, then you have set limits.

When you set limits, you can concentrate on making your life better.

The limits aren’t for you. They’re for other people. You are limiting THEIR control over your life. Setting limits immediately gives you more control over your own life. Setting limits, and enforcing those limits for yourself and others, is a key step in getting control over your finances. YOU decide how much you can give, and when, and where. Because if you give more than your budget can handle, then you put yourself in debt.

If you put yourself in debt, then you have to go find someone else who hasn’t answered all these questions — and persuade them to help you.

So, where do YOU set the limits?