Here again

Being alive means feeling pain. Both emotional and physical pain are going to happen, and as we mature we learn this.

Last night was a tough one for me, and this morning isn’t any better. This is my first morning without my Sadie dog. My baby dog. My special, precious girl.

As Hannah dog and I went through our routines last night and this morning it made me more sad to see her confusion that Sadie wasn’t there with her. To watch Hannah peek behind doors and into other rooms, scout the back yard, and to see her pace back and forth between her usual spot to lay down before a feeding and the spot where Sadie usually lay makes my heart ache even more.

It started storming this morning for a bit. There was rain, thunder, and lightening. Hannah dog doesn’t like any of that and she started quivering and quaking immediately. Luckily I have doggie Xanax for her and the storm passed quickly, so she’s calmer now.

In the last 12 hours, Hannah and I both have had our little doses of Xanax then. I decided to take some last night around 8:30 and just lay in bed until it sent me into a deep sleep for several hours. B was here with me again, but I was too sad to fall asleep unaided. I woke at 1:30 AM, restless, sad, and tearful. I got up and took half of another Xanax, then went back to a fitful sleep until the alarm prompted me out of bed.

It’s hard to work today, but I’m hoping that I can get myself engaged enough that I can stop thinking about how much I miss Sadie. For now, I’m leaving her leash and collar still hanging on the hook near the door and her bowls still sitting on her feeding mat. Hannah will have all the toys and bones to herself, although I’m not sure how interested she’ll be in them when there’s no competition driving her to tease and flaunt them.

A little over a year ago when I was grieving my failed marriage, a friend gave me a poem by Mary Oliver that I’ve been thinking about today. I’ve written about it before, noting that I kept it near my bed. I continued to do that for a long time, then one day I spilled a glass of water and nearly obliterated the writing. I still saved it, but I can’t seem to locate it right now. I’m glad I could locate the post I wrote in which I quoted it because it bears repeating today.

The Uses of Sorrow
(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.

I miss her, I miss her, I miss her.

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Sorrowful depths

My dog Sadie died today.

Sadie at leisure

That’s one of the last photos I took of Sadie. She was a highly photogenic dog, and I swear she used to pose quite frequently so one could admire her svelte figure.

We lived together for only seven years. Much too short a time.

Sadie was a stand out at the animal shelter from which she was adopted. Amongst the numerous shepherd mixes frantically barking, there was this dog that looked very different and quietly pawed at the bars of her cage, pleading to be let out. Ironically, Sadie was quite a barker once she got comfortable in her new home, but I liked how she warned me whenever a person came near the house. That was her job: to sound a warning and hold strangers at bay until I approved them to enter.

I lost her quite suddenly. I take good care of my dogs and she had a clean bill of health from the vet just a few months ago. All seemed fine this morning when we got up and went about the morning routine. About two hours later I found her weak and pale on the dog bed in the office. She had vomited her breakfast all around, but was too weak to move herself. I rushed her to the emergency veterinarian clinic where they did an x-ray and found that her pericardium (the membrane around her heart) was full of fluid.

The vet recommended that she have the fluid drained and that I leave her overnight to be monitored and assessed in the morning. It was possible she had a tumor on her heart that was causing the fluid to build up, but that wouldn’t be determined until the internal medicine veterinarian came in on Monday. So that was our course of action.

Two hours later, the vet called me to report that they had successfully drained the fluid and that Sadie was looking better. We planned to talk again around dinner time. But then an hour later she called back with a change in status. Sadie had suffered respiratory distress and cardiac arrest. They had resuscitated her more than once, but she just wouldn’t stabilize. By the time I got to the emergency clinic, she was dead.

Sadie was only eight years old. I had expected her to live until at least 12.

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For some reason, over the past few months I had been much more aware of the little moments of pleasure Sadie and I shared. She loved the sun and in the summer she would stretch out in the grass and just lounge. (I used to joke that she was working on her tan.) A few times this summer I would sit down next to her and stroke her as she enjoyed the sunshine. Just the other morning I spent several minutes petting and stroking her as we woke up together on a lazy Saturday. She would stretch out and let me stroke her belly and her back, then eagerly jump up to start the day.

I don’t know why I had to lose her so abruptly and it disturbs me that I couldn’t be with her in her last moments. Just before B and I left the emergency clinic so they could perform their procedures we were given a few minutes to spend with her. We petted her and I hugged her and told her to hang in there. As we walked away she stood up and tried to walk to me. And that was the last time I saw her alive.

I love you Sadie. And I hope you had as much fun with me as I did with you.

Technical challenges

I’m late with my post. I’m supposed to post every week on Sunday, remember?

Well, I was on vacation until Sunday and wanted to publish a really nice post (or two) about it, but for some reason I am unable to link to photos on Flickr tonight. So I’m declaring defeat for now and some basic text will have to suffice.

I’m not going to write about my vacation. I’m saving that for when I can actually put up some pretty photos to accompany it. But I will say it was a fairly local weekend trip that did a lot to recharge me. After I got back, I finally tackled a few things that I’ve been putting off for months.

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Monday was also a day off for me. I went to an orthodontist for a consultation on fixing my crowded teeth. The dentist has been advising me for years to do something about this since it presents all sorts of challenges to keeping my teeth properly cleaned. I was happy to hear from the orthodontist that I may not need to go through any extractions to make my teeth better align.

Unnecessary extractions were my big hang up about orthodontia. I consulted an orthodontist in my early twenties who told me I’d have to get some teeth pulled first, so I never went back. (The cost — which wouldn’t have been covered by the meager dental insurance I had at the time — was another reason to stay away.) I needed to get the orthodontia consultation this week so I can make a decision and plan for it in my 2011 medical flexible spending account.

My mother once told me that I wouldn’t need orthodontia unless I was going to be a movie star or a model; instead it seems I’ll spend 15-18 months of looking like a geeky teen during my fifth decade of life.

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Monday night I opened a Mint account to better track my expenses, savings, goals, and to build a budget. Too bad Mint doesn’t play well with the smaller accounts I have through a credit union and the one and only Visa account I have with a small, regional bank. This could complicate my ability to accurately look at spending trends and tweak my budget.

The credit union accounts are the first bank accounts I ever opened. The CU savings account was established for me as a child when bonds my grandfather bought for me as holiday gifts matured. When I was 17 I opened a checking account through the CU. I had been working for over a year and I wanted a way to write checks for things and not have to deal exclusively in cash. The CU was the only financial institution that would let me open a checking account at 17.

I almost closed these accounts last year since there are no branches near my home or work and it was a real pain trying to get to an ATM. Only one ATM is remotely accessible to me. (Really. I’ve checked all the websites and I know.) By remotely accessible I mean that it is several blocks from my office building downtown. The office out of which I rarely work, since I telecommute a lot these days. So depositing rent checks and getting out cash required me to plan days in advance.

Anyway, I decided not to close the accounts but to just move most of the money out of them into my online high interest savings accounts. (Where the interest rate is much better, believe it or not.) I still deposit a small amount into the CU checking account every pay period and look at this is my “hobby money” for the most part. When I head off to regional fiber festivals and yarn mill end sales, I bring along this checkbook to pay for any purchases I make. If the balance gets a little higher than I want to budget for my hobby, I transfer funds to my online account.

Mint doesn’t want to incorporate these CU accounts or the Visa card account I use for purchases where I don’t want to pay cash, but can’t use my Discover card. (I love the Discover cash back bonus every year!) I would feel just fine about exporting/importing the few transactions from these accounts, but Mint won’t allow that either. So I have to either figure out a way to hack Mint’s system for myself, or give up on using Mint. Oh, well. At least I finally got around to giving it a try.

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There are still two things for me to tackle this week in order to get a full sense of accomplishment. I need to write a guest post for a blog, and I need to put my auto maintenance plan in order.

I really haven’t been keeping good records on when the car needs what done to it, so I’m not quite sure if I should authorize certain maintenance services when they are suggested. The dealer used to figure that all out for me when I took my car there for maintenance, but now that Saturn dealerships are gone for good, I’m missing this perk. (I also miss getting a free car wash and a carnation every time I had service done. Shucks.) All of my records are in a paper file, so I just have to sort them out and chart things against the recommendations in the owner’s handbook.

So there’s my week all laid out for me: more writing and more spreadsheets. I hope the technology gods consent to be kind so I can actually accomplish these goals. And if anyone out there is a Mint user and can suggest a way around my conundrum, I’d greatly appreciate any tips.

A little PF

That stands for “personal finance” for those of you who may not know.

Last month I earned $44.36 for doing nothing. That’s the interest I earned on my “high interest online savings accounts.” These days, 1.10% is considered high. Sheesh. I could move some of that money to an account earning 1.40% interest, but I’m not sure the small gain is worth the time. We’ll see. Either way, I am reaping the benefits of compound interest. The previous month I made less than that, but every month the amount grows little by little.

The (small) joy of compound interest is one of the things I’ve learned in recent years. As soon as it became apparent that I was headed for divorce, I started searching out and reading personal finance blogs. I wanted to learn all I could about how to budget and live frugally as I was quite intimidated at the thought of handling a house payment on my own.

Before I got married I had very little money saved, although my debts were fairly low, too. As I recall, I had about $2,000 in credit card debt and about $3,000 in student loans. The credit card debt came about because I loved to travel, yet made little money in my job at a non-profit human service agency. I had taken a few (relatively) cheap trips and just charged the expenses to pay off later.

I guess this made my ex-husband nervous, because he was extremely reluctant to establish any joint accounts with me. He reasoned that the most important thing for us to focus on was paying our fair shares towards household expenses and it didn’t matter how we accomplished that goal. He ran some calculations to determine who should pay what so we came out proportionately even.

We had some spats about money and it took five years of marriage before he agreed to open any joint accounts at all. We finally set up a money market account for our emergency fund and then calculated how much each should contribute to it, again based on that proportional formula. We also set up a joint checking account at the same time but he never used it. Since his share of expenses was to pay the mortgage and I picked up everything else (food, utilities, household stuff), he didn’t see the point of cycling his share through the joint account.

I learned about the comfort of having emergency savings from him, but over the years I realized he wasn’t the money whiz I had thought he was. He never seemed to make his money work for him and just didn’t want to set any goals around savings. He just wanted to save, because it was the right thing to do.  

Through my judicious reading of personal finance blogs — including the comments — I’ve learned much more about how to make my money work for me. It is a great feeling to have emergency funds available in case something catastrophic happens, but I also have savings goals. In addition to the emergency fund account containing several months of expenses, I’ve created two other targeted savings accounts through my online bank (FNBO Direct): the “big-ticket” fund for the eventual expense of replacing my aging car or the roof on the house, and; the vacation fund, so I don’t fall back into those old, old habits of incurring consumer debt so I can take a nice trip.

I often look at online travel sites to figure out just how much I’d like to accumulate, but despite not having a firm decision on where to take my next big vacation, I’m still adding to the account and enjoy watching it increase over time. Checking my monthly statements and seeing that the account has gone up a few dollars with no extra effort on my part is a very good feeling.

I’m careful not to over-commit in one direction or the other around money, though. One phenomenon I’ve noticed is that some people seem to get a little crazy over number crunching and stockpiling their funds. (Most of these folks are men, for whatever reason.) These people tout “financial freedom,” which seems to mean they have no debts at all. They pay down their mortgages as fast as they can and preach about their money habits and hacks that allow them to squeeze their budgets down to insignificance.

I don’t understand this approach any more than I understand the folks who continue to spend themselves into bankruptcy or keep huge balances on their credit cards. I suppose I’d call myself fiscally moderate: not spending too much, not saving too little. It’s a nice place to be.