Thursday, December 24, 2009

death and taxes

The two things that have plagued my life most in 2009 (actually, for the last year and a half)? Death and taxes. The two sure things in life.

It's Christmas Eve, and I know that I am on the verge of losing another grandparent. This time, even though I'm more prepared and have been for longer than I care to admit, it's been especially difficult watching my family struggle with letting go. My grandfather (step-grandfather, technically) has been bed-ridden for many months, and was nearly immobile long before then. He's survived three serious bouts of pneumonia over the last year when no one expected him to make it through the first. He long ago lost his ability to effectively communication, and sometimes getting a simple yes or no out of him is difficult. When I last saw him over Thanksgiving, he looked much worse than I had ever seen him. This is morbid, but he looked as though he was deteriorating in his bed, as though his body had already failed him but he didn't know that yet. When I was there, I spent a little while speaking to the Hospice nurses who care for him regularly, and they were just trying to keep him comfortable.

That was a month ago. When I spoke with my mother last night to check in, funeral arrangements were being made, and he was taking morphine every two hours to manage the pain of his body breaking down. I wonder if he knows he's dying. I wonder why, if he does, doesn't he let go.

My mother told me that two nights ago, he called my stepfather over to his bed. He held out his hand and John went to him. My mother said they sat there holding hands for more than an hour, as my stepfather told him stories and fond memories. John later told my mother that he thought my grandfather was waiting for him to say that it was okay to go now. But he couldn't. It's hard to let your parent leave the world even if you know that its time.

I cry every time I even think about them sitting there together.

When I lost my beloved uncle earlier this year, I was a mess. I thought this time was easier, if only because I was not as close to Pop. If I'm being perfectly honest, Pop was never especially nice to me. When we were kids, Pop clearly favored my brother and they had a very sweet relationship. I suppose I was a little jealous then, but I grew out of that. Pop used to spend every weekend with my family, and when he'd drive from my aunt's house to ours on a Friday afternoon, he would bring homemade pastries and fresh vegetables from the farmer's market that he passed on the way. At least one weekend a month, he would bring me whoopie pies, which were my favorite. I remember Pop also liked the pumpkin cookies I used to make in the fall.

My family has lost too many people over the last year and a half. I hope that changes in 2010.

Less significant than death, but more omnipresent in my daily life has been my struggle this year with my finances. My situation is probably worse than ever, but I've continued, for the most part, to go about my days as though it weren't. I've overdrawn my checking account more than once over the past few months and the more often it accidentally happened, the sense of embarrassment I felt the first time it happened diminishes. By not taking care of money, I am not taking good care of myself, and I know that at 28 years old, I should be there by now. I need to be there. I think that if I had expensive clothes and shoes and went out to eat for every meal, I'd deserve to be in the position that I'm in, but I don't. My monthly bills come just shy of my monthly pay and that will not change. If I worked fewer hours per week I could probably get a part-time job to supplement my income, but unless it was an extremely lucrative one (say, drug dealer?), I could not make enough in my "free" time to make it worth it. There's the taxes to consider. I was lucky enough to get a small bonus from my company for the holidays this year, and 45% of it went to taxes. I did the math.

I know that when I get my income tax refund in February I can kick start my bank account and get back on track, but that feels like its eons away. Even though I say that I really am trying, whatever I'm doing just doesn't work. Maybe I will just hit the lottery in 2010. That might help.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Watch as I punch my landlord in the face

Just when I was feeling jovial and light and in the spirit of the holiday season, my "family" and I get a notice in the mail from ConEd stating that our management company, which has been tipping towards disaster since we moved in in June, has neglected to pay their bills. The ConEd bill for the common areas of my apartment building (which includes heat in the lobby/hallways, elevator, and all lights in the lobby/halls/stairwell) has not been paid since AUGUST and is totaling over $18,000. EIGHTEEN THOUSAND DOLLARS in unpaid bills. If this goes unpaid, as of January 10th, all electric will be shut off to our common areas. This, thankfully, does not affect our individual apartments, as we pay our own ConEd, and ON TIME NO LESS. However, no elevator (we live on the sixth floor) and no lights in the stairwells means, essentially, that we cannot safely get to our apartment (I'm certainly not going to climb six flights in the pitch black darkness), which obvious has a huge impact on us.

This unpaid bill situation has now topped the list of complaints we have about our BRAND NEW APARTMENT, which includes uneven walls, window drafts, a broken intercom, no hot water in our showers... and more. We've been (relatively) patient with the company when asking them to fix things in the apartment but have largely been ignored. Only within the last two weeks did we get hot water in the showers. But this ConEd situation makes me furious. Like, I MAY MURDER THEM, furious. I have been storming around my office all day threatening physical violence on anyone who crosses me today. Beware.

The best possible scenario, at this point, seems to be getting out of our lease and moving elsewhere. Somewhere, perhaps, where the management isn't a troop of irresponsible douchebags. A girl can dream. One of our other options, according to the resources at 311 is to pool together a tenant association (which I am all for) and file a joint complaint with the city. Okay, fine. 311 and others have also suggested that each apartment chip in an equal share to foot the bill, and then deduct that money from our rent. To this, I say ABSOLUTELY NOT. I look at it as a parent paying for the college student's credit card bill. They will not learn that their actions are unacceptable if we simply pay their bills for them. Part of being an adult is paying bills. Part of running a COMPANY is also paying bills, not running off doing hell knows what with our money.

Option 23 is that we pack up and move to Florida. It's warm there, even in December.

And, even if the apartment is falling down and we will be stuck on the sixth floor until June, we at least have a pretty tree to look at:

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

I wrote a novel in November... what did YOU do?

As I've written about a bit, I took the month of November to write a novel as part of the NaNoWriMo challenge. 30 days. 50,000 words. And I actually finished.

I originally took on the challenge simply to take one month to do something that I really enjoy doing. And trust me when I say that I really needed to do that for myself. I love to write, and when I'm pushed hard enough (with, say, 50,000 words to write in one month) I am capable of being kind of good at it. I say "kind of" good not to be self-deprecating, but because it's the truth. A Harper Lee or a Dave Eggers, I am not. I am what I am. One thing on the list of things that I am good at happens to be writing. Just ask my colleagues whose press release was called out in an office-wide meeting for being outstanding. Yeah, that was mine. It's hanging on my wall behind me right now. Or who edits probably about half of the press releases that come through this place. See, I'm not self-deprecating, or even humble.

What I discovered over the past month is that I have more to say than I thought I did. I started writing on November 1st with an idea that I had decided on on October 31st, and just wrote. I wrote 50,270 words. For that, I am both pleased and proud. I worked hard a lot of the time, and there were a few days that I did not write at all out of frustration or because of my shoulder injury (ouch). Over the last week and a half, I wrote almost two-thirds of my novel, because I had gotten so behind in the front half of the month. As of Sunday evening, I had more than 11,000 words left to write in 24 hours. I "finished" at 11:43pm on Monday and uploaded my word count to the NaNoWriMo website with just minutes to spare. When I got home after 12:30 that night, my back, shoulders and arms ached from being hunched over my computer. I was as tired as I had ever been before. But it was done and I felt awesome. And now I am wearing my NOVELIST button on my coat.

Last night, on my first novel-free evening, I made cupcakes because I could. They were delicious.

Next Tuesday, I plan to start the editing process on the second draft, and someday soon I may even let someone read my currently untitled work. Rachel has requested an autographed printed copy. On it, I plan to write, "Thank you for your support. Sorry that I ignored you for a month. I'm glad our relationship survived this. Xoxo, Your Literary Highness."