Looking Up

Every so often, it’s important to acknowledge the good things that are happening, to put forth the “attitude of gratitude,” if you will.  The last few months have been something of a whirlwind for me.  The winds of change blow hard and fast, and I’ve been lost in the turmoil of it.  But a large part of it has actually turned out for the better.  It’s so much easier to see that once the dust has settled.

It’s generally a good idea to shop around on insurance every few years, especially if your carrier does a lot of advertising.  They pass that cost to you, and if you’re like me, intimidation over the entire process keeps you complacent enough to keep you paying in far too much.  Thanks to a little help from a dear friend in the know, I was able to save hundreds on both home and auto insurance.  Both of those policies were about to rape my wallet when they renew next month, and as of last night, both of those policies are replaced.  Auto insurance is only saving me a couple bucks a month over what I was paying, but it’s saving me $40 a month over what it was about to be.  House insurance is saving me a couple of hundred over what I was paying per year, and they were about to kick that up a few more hundred on account.  Not so anymore.  There’s no stress quite like financial stress, so this is pretty freaking amazing to me how well this has turned out.

Along the same lines, credit card debt has been consolidated, credit cards are eliminated, and I am officially on the road to liberation on that front.  It’s not easy, but it’s certainly within my means now.  Those habits which caused the debt are now being scrutinized and systematically eliminated.  You can’t plan for everything in life.  Emergencies happen, and safety nets are needed.  But safety nets were never meant to carry extra loads all the time.  I have a budget, I have a line item review of absolutely everything on that budget, and I have means of slashing it further on a temporary basis should one of life’s little emergencies rear its ugly head.  The money I’m saving from the insurance is now being redirected.  Some of that will go towards this debt.  Some of it will go towards a bit of savings for those things I enjoy, such as next year’s visit to Scarborough.

To aid in both the financial burden and in the mental / emotional burden of the various collections I’ve built over a lifetime of being a fan of too many things, I’ve taken a new approach.  I’ve mentioned a lot recently that most of modern pop culture has disappointed me and burned me out.  Much of what I own — in addition to wracking me with debt — has simply stopped bringing me the same levels of joy and inspiration that once justified things.  This past weekend, my sister introduced me to The Minimalists, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, via their Netflix documentary.  I was a bit skeptical at first simply because I’ve heard similar messages from others in the past, but this seemed very different to me.  This didn’t feel like the standard kind of generic self-help BS where they beat you over the head with something that confirms what you already know, offer a solution that’s so drastic that most people with depression won’t bother to finish, and the end result leaves you still circling the drain even though you think you want more of it.  I truly despise the vast majority of the self-help industry for exactly that cycle.  That’s another blog.  These guys made real sense to me.  It’s about redefining personal value in a consumer society, and they’re not harsh about their approach.  Quite the reverse, it’s incredibly compassionate.  I’m sure a large part of this was simply that I was ready to hear what they had to say.  “When the student is ready, the master will appear,” so the saying goes.  I’ll be exploring more and seeing where the journey leads.  I have a feeling that this will open avenues of possibility that I’ve not even considered before now.

I have some new next door neighbors.  With the exception of some drama in the backyard this past weekend, I’ve heard virtually nothing from them since they moved in.  I’ve met them a couple of times, and they seem nice.  The other usual suspects that are habitually having the cops called on them for all manner of things have been toning it down considerably.  It never lasts, but the reprieve is welcome.  It’s like the adults have finally stepped up and took control of the kids, even though the adults are actually worse in some cases.  All I know is it’s been nice to come home to something resembling peace and quiet the last couple of weeks.

Related, gunfire has decreased quite a bit lately.  We have a little gang warfare, and we have people shooting at coyotes and bobcats that make their way from the nearby nature preserve (which is now overcrowded by people) because they’ve discovered that small dogs and slow-moving cats make good snacks, and now they know where the vending machines are located.  Since the gunfire has decreased a bit, I don’t know if that means people are finally hitting the targets, or if the wildlife is running low on snatch-able pets.

On the minus side, the aircraft patterns have been shifted again recently, and since I’m in the lower income neighborhood, guess where the planes are flying.  Interestingly, I find that this doesn’t bother me so much.  I figured with my sensory perception issues, I’d be freaking out from this, but my trusty headphones do a pretty good job of blocking that out.  And since it’s a steady thing instead of a percussive boom, it doesn’t rattle my nerves.  I’m calling that a win.

With all of that in place, professional therapy continues.  The preliminaries are out of the way.  It’s time for the real work to begin.  I’m ready.

I mentioned yesterday that I’m going to start learning Linux Ubuntu.  I checked Half Price Books for some educational resources to get me going.  I discovered that what was there, even at the main HQ store, was a minimum of five years old.  You know, that really says a lot if people are either holding on to their resources or simply not getting the physical books in the first place.  I managed to do some digging, and I found a handful of Kindle manuals on the cheap, as well as some free online resources.  All I need now is time to pursue the goal.  I’m going to dedicate a couple of evenings each week to this to start.

I also mentioned that the Sherlock Holmes buddy read is now officially back in rotation.  It’s one of those cases where these are light, fast reads that I’m rather familiar with already.  Not much research involved.  It makes it ideal to keep me entertained, to get some content here on the site for you fine people to read and hopefully enjoy, and it helps to kick-start my creative side again.  We’re picking up with the first story in The Return of Sherlock Holmes this week, “The Adventure of the Empty House.”

Once I figure out a balance for all the things happening, I’m going to start ramping up the Tolkien buddy read again.  I’ve been chomping at the bit to dive into Unfinished Tales.  But I’m also under no delusions that it’ll be as easy for me as Holmes.  It’s worth repeating: I want to do this properly.  Professor Tolkien demands that extra effort, especially as we move from the canonical works into the more esoteric stuff that he never imagined we’d ever see.

Other projects… I’ll slide something in here and there as I can since nothing else is in conjunction with other people.  I’ll get there.

All in all, things are finally looking up.  I’ll be celebrating that idea properly with another visit to Scarborough Renaissance Festival this weekend.  It’s the last huzzah of the season for me as I simply can’t afford to go again after this, as much as I’d love to.  It’s even supposed to be nice weather this time.  Here’s to positive change!

32 thoughts on “Looking Up

      • I’m in the middle of getting my finances together and to save more than what I’ve been doing. I would love to find out more about your budgeting habits. You should do one of those ‘self-help’ posts or something.

        Liked by 1 person

            • Absolutely. It’s come to that on my end too, but mine was multiplied by music, toys, and all manner of repair bills. It adds up and gets stupid real fast. Eventually you just have to draw that line in the sand.

              Liked by 1 person

              • I understand. At the beginning of the year we were traveling somewhere every single weekend, which cost money. And add in the yearly vaccines for dogs, house payments, student loans, etc. it came to be a lot. I’m just now starting to relax *slightly* about finances. But it’s a daily battle. Getting groceries at Aldi really helped to cut that bill.

                Liked by 1 person

                • *nods* Every little bit helps, but there’s also something to be said for quality of life. If cutting back on everything to make things worse still makes life a living hell, then that system will ultimately collapse. Ultimately what makes you feel better about the choices will make them stick and become a new habit. Aldi has certainly become my friend.

                  Liked by 1 person

    • Hey, it’s Texas. The reason stereotypes exist is because they’re unfortunately true in a lot of cases. lol. But seriously, it only takes a few bad apples to make the whole neighborhood look bad.

      Liked by 1 person

      • There are legitimate reasons for having a gun: a farmer shooting pigeons, being in the army, being a New York cop…And there are illegitimate reasons: being a Mafia hitman or, most popularly, being a right-wing nutcase with a very small dick. But surely having a very small dick might be an excuse. :) It is not a good reason though.

        The USA is like a sick drug addict, completely in denial of how damaging its addiction to guns is to its society.

        Sorry Troy. Today I need to vent to someone…

        Liked by 1 person

        • No argument from me. I grew up in the country. I know what the legit reasons to own firearms are. Problem is, those reasons increase in the cities where all the thugs are armed too, like it or not. Regulate the innocent, the criminals still find a way to get the guns. It’s a cycle that grows more complex in a country that was literally founded on the idea of an armed citizenry overthrowing the authority of a king and the best-armed military in the world. No easy answers… except the most obvious one: it’s time to re-evaluate as a country, and we’re too polarized to actually do that anymore. I fear the cycle will continue until the whole thing implodes.

          Liked by 1 person

            • By contract, the state is supposed to be the same as the citizenry here. It’s not really been that way for a while. There’s always an “us vs. them” element. The more progress we make, the more we sacrifice in other ways. That’s the tap dance that keeps us divided.

              Liked by 1 person

              • I do not know American law, but if the 2nd Amendment is a fundamental right, what’s to stop me owning any “arms”? Can I open carry a bazooka or own an anti-aircraft gun?

                What I’m getting at is there must be some kind of limit on what constitutes “arms” already – so what is it?

                Liked by 1 person

                • That’s been the argument from the beginning. The 2nd says “a well-regulated militia.” It can be argued a militia is no longer needed. It can also be argued that without the citizens having guns, that militia would very much be needed in short order. The founders left a lot of wiggle room for generational interpretation, and a lot of people can’t wrestle with the idea that it’s no longer 1776.

                  Liked by 1 person

        • Interestingly, some of the most irrational defenses of guns I have heard have come from women. Maybe I would understand more if I were single and felt that need to defend myself. I don’t know. I try to understand opposing sides of situations, but that’s a tough one.

          Liked by 2 people

          • It takes very little experience from either direction to convince people once that experience is there. A person whose life is threatened may opt for a gun. A person in a neighborly community may opt never to have one. All I know is the Canadian police officer who’s making the social media right now proved a non-violent solution to an armed thug can be accomplished. Conversely, Dallas crime rate is up because they have 1/3 fewer officers to do the job by city mandate.

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          • If the government tried to forcibly take people’s guns away, there would most likely be another civil war in America. Apocalyptic thinking is very much promoted through the American entertainment and advertising industries. People who think the world is going to end make bad decisions that play into the hands of politicians and marketers. Poor religious people with nothing to lose but their guns would rather go down fighting than capitulate to what they see as demonic forces. But I wouldn’t know. I’m not American.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Sometimes an outside perspective is needed. Right now, every little thing could conceivably lead to civil war. I tease people all the time that we no longer have Republicans and Democrats; we have fascists and socialists, and it’s hard to tell the difference. Fact is, we have plenty of moderate voices, but none of them are loud enough, and that part of us isn’t really united anymore. The monkeys control the zoo right now.

              Liked by 1 person

              • It’s all about the money and big corporations and sustained by a culture of fear. Pro-Gun Republican politicians and especially a president is terrible for the gun business. As we see in today’s new Remington filing for bankruptcy. The gun market in the US is completely saturated, as that 3% shows, the market is mainly to sell guns to those who already have lots. With a Republican controlled federal government, they are not so worried about gun control, they don’t go buy guns in a panic. With Obama or another democratic president–even though actual gun control remains dead legislatively–they gear ‘fraid they’re coming for their guns, so they go out and buy more guns in panic. The Obama presidency was heyday for gun manufacturers.

                I bet you anything CEOs and other major stakeholders in big gun manufacturers vote Democrat. The threat of gun control is fantastic for business.

                Liked by 1 person

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