More Telling Than a FICO Score

I’m about to become a landlord for the first time in my life. It’s a strange feeling. It took me 54 years to scrape and claw myself up into the middle class, and now here I am trying to judge the content of someone’s character based on their FICO score.

And I must say, it’s a very telling reference point. From it you can determine if one pays their debts, does not spend beyond their means, and basically if that person is a good financial risk. You can also get a sense of their level of discipline, their ability to hold a job, their integrity and responsibility. It’s not a perfect metric, to be sure. Life happens. But it’s better than flying blind.

Of course, we are using an application and doing a credit and background check as well. I’m trying really hard to look at this as a business, not as an emotional thing. As in, “I really like that couple. I want to help them.”

It’s really hard to pass judgment on someone you’ve just met. And it’s really important to me to do my best not to be biased. It’s not easy. But someone else gave me another measuring tool that is turning out to be even more telling than a FICO score.

When a couple is looking at your rental place, how are they talking to each other? Do they do so with respect? They don’t necessarily have to be affectionate. Some people are much more private than others. But are they being respectful to one another? Because if they can’t maintain that respect with the person that they supposedly love most in the world, then they’re not going to respect your house, and may not respect the need to pay the rent on time, either.

This makes perfect sense to me. And I think I’ll be using this yardstick in other walks of life as well. Because it’s true, when I see people who tease each other to an extreme, or are downright rude or cruel to one another, as a general rule, they’re not the type of people who I want to have in my life. How you treat your loved ones says a lot about who you are, deep down.

Respect. The ultimate FICO score.

Yardstick

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Wolf Connection

Once again, by listening to NPR on my commute to work, I’ve learned something that has broadened my horizons. This time it’s about an organization with a unique way of helping at-risk youth. It’s called Wolf Connection. (You can hear the inspiring 4 1/2 minute story here.)

This organization serves a variety of amazing purposes. First, it is a wolfdog sanctuary. Many people think having a wolf/dog mix will make for an exotic pet, but soon learn that they can’t really handle the responsibilities thereof. Often these animals get abused or neglected or put to sleep, as most shelters will not put them up for adoption. Fortunately, in cases like this, Wolf Connection can sometimes step in and give them a forever home where they work with handlers who understand their unique qualities and special needs.

This group also does presentations for schools and organizations. Using wolves as a focal point is an exciting way to teach students about the environment, human history and evolution, teamwork and ethics. Wolves are, after all, the first creatures that we humans made a long-term connection with.

But for me, their most exciting mission is their Wolf Therapy program. This eight week program for troubled teens who have been abused, or have been in and out of foster care, or were in gangs, is a really impactful way to reach kids who have rendered themselves unreachable out of pure survival.

First of all, they can relate to these animals, because they, too have been abused. And wolves don’t judge. Wolves can teach us much about teamwork and cooperation. They show us the value of being okay with who we are, just as we are. They teach us how and when to trust. Working with these animals can increase confidence and self-esteem and teach valuable vocational and life skills. The program also teaches you to be more introspective.

I love it when I see so many positives coming out of an organization. You can sponsor one of their wolves, too. By doing so, you’re also investing in the future of our youths. Win/win.

wolves

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Patient. Until I’m Not.

I got a unique look at myself from the outside the other day. It happened like this: I had a full-blown meltdown in public.

From the inside, it made perfect sense, because it had been building and building and building for hours. So the transition, for me, didn’t seem very abrupt. It was simply the last freakin’ straw.

But from the outside, I must have looked like I was completely and utterly unhinged. “What’s her problem? She was fine a second ago…”

I think most people would say I’m a patient, tolerant person. I take pride in those qualities. But every once in a while, you’ll go too far, and the Kraken gets unleashed.

I had a cold. A bad cold. And I had been struggling with it for three, count ‘em, three weeks. I couldn’t take it anymore. But my doctor had retried. And the new one I want to start seeing wasn’t taking new patients until February. I didn’t want to start up with a third, only to switch a month later. What a hassle. So I decided to go to an urgent care clinic. There’d be no loyalties to break there, right? They live for walk ins.

Indeed they must, because the waiting room was filled to overflowing with what looked like the walking dead. I was informed there would be an hour and a half wait. Sigh.

But what the heck. I just needed someone to prescribe me a z-pack and some cough medication, so when I finally got in, it should only take about 5 minutes. Worth it.

They gave me some “please don’t try to sue us” forms to fill out. Which I did. But even in my oversick, addled brain, I sensed that something was weird. Oh. They didn’t have me fill out anything about my medical history. Uh, don’t they care? They ought to care.

But I was so sick. I asked at the desk. They said to each other, “Oh, she’s urgent care.” The way they said “urgent” led me to believe that we, the urgent ones, actually were their lowest priorities. I was told they’d take care of that when I was called in.

So I settled back in my chair, between the man who was shouting that the birth date on his birth certificate wasn’t really when he was born, and the defeated looking woman with the five kids with green snot running out of their noses. And I think I dozed off out of sheer self-preservation.

Two hours later, I was called in. The usual stuff. Weight. Temperature. Blood pressure. Then the lady sits in front of a computer and starts asking me medical history questions. My answers never quite seemed to fit anything in her drop down menu. So she’d click “other” and have to type things in. Which was just dandy, because she couldn’t spell. I had to spell everything for her, and she kept stopping me in the middle and making me repeat it over, because she was throwing in random letters that I hadn’t said. I wanted to snatch the keyboard from her and do it my danged self. Heaven only knows what their file now says about me.

Thirty minutes later, she tells me the nurse practitioner will be in in a moment. I fell asleep again. When she finally comes in, the nurse practitioner confirms that I am, indeed, very sick. And she prescribes, as predicted, a z-pack and some cough medicine.

She also says she’ll write a doctor’s note so I can miss two days of work, which makes me want to kiss her on the lips. (In Florida, a right to work state, you practically have to be bleeding out of two of the five major orifices before a doctor will even consider writing such a note. God, I love the left coast!)

She says someone will come in and get my pharmacy info and give me the note. And then I can go. Yay!

Indeed, the same illiterate woman comes in, asks me my pharmacy info, and leaves without saying a word, and without giving me the note. I fall back asleep.

I wake up with a snort, look at my phone, and realize I’ve been in the clinic for 3 ½ hours. Seriously? I mean, what the actual F is the hold up? I open the door. I try flagging several staff people as they walk by, not meeting my eyes. I finally get someone I haven’t seen before, and I burst into tears and say, “Look, I’m supposed to have two prescriptions and a doctor’s note, and I’ve been here for 3 ½ hours, and I just want to go home!”

Much scrambling around. Turns out the prescriptions had been called in ages ago. But no one can find the note. They track down the NP, and she confirms that she wrote the note ages ago. Why had nobody printed it out and sent me off? Good freakin’ question.

The note was stuck in the printing queue. The staff had somehow forgotten I was there, and apparently, even though the place was overcrowded, they didn’t find it at all odd that some random woman was snoring in one of their exam rooms.

Finally, the note is printed out and handed to me, but in my sick fog, I can’t find the exit. The woman offers to show me out. Tears are running down my face. She stops. Says I look hungry and thirsty. Offers me a bottle of water and a granola bar.

I look at her. I screech, “I. Just. Want. To go. HOME!!!!!!!!”

All activity around me stops. I’m shown the door.

And I realize that from the inside, what appeared like a well-deserved, slow-building, epic last stand, from the outside probably looked like an abrupt and unexpected temper tantrum. Because I really am a patient person. Until I’m not.

When I got home, I finally read the note, and it only gives me one day off work instead of the promised two. Sigh. Whatever.

puu_oo_cropped

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We Are Five…

The other day I said to my husband, “Do you think we’ll ever settle down to a nice, quiet routine, or do you think we’ll always be in a state of barely controlled chaos?”

His response was, “Well, we are five…”

Indeed we are. Two adults, three dogs, all with different needs and desires. And while having dogs may not be as complex as having children, they do make an impact.

There are things we do because I’m suffering from a bad cold. There are things we do because our car was recently totaled. There are things we do because one dog is deaf and going blind. There are things we do because one dog is prone to biting and generally showing his a**. There are things we do because one dog is easily frightened.

We are still working on transferring my possessions from one location to another. We’re learning everybody’s sleep habits. We’re adjusting to various energy levels. There are work schedules to consider, and doctor/vet appointments, and errands. There are birthdays and anniversaries and relatives and friends. There are walks to be taken and cars to be repaired and a never-ending pile of clothes to be washed. There are meals to plan and prepare and eat.

When I was single, I could blow a lot of this stuff off. But now we are five, and things are exponentially more complex, chaotic… and delightful.

kk2up

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The Other Shoe

My whole life, I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop. That feeling intensifies when things are going well. Because I can’t have the nice things. I’ve never had the nice things. At least, not for long.

Sooner or later, everything seems to turn to sh**. If I’m braced for it, I can usually handle it, and come out the other side. I’m nothing if not a survivor. But if that darned shoe takes me by surprise, then that would be bad. Really, really bad.

I remind myself of Nelly, a wonderful dog, who flinches every time you reach out to pet her sweet head. She knows all about what having it bad used to be like. She learned early that flinching can soften the blow. How do I explain to her that I love her, and I’ll always love her, and I’ll never hurt her? She deserves to be petted and cuddled and adored. I want her to be able to own it.

I deserve the good stuff, too. I know it. And here lately I have been experiencing it. And I enjoy it. Mostly. But I can’t seem to get out from under that mental shoe of mine. It’s always there, stinking up the place.

I think there are a lot of people out there, walking around with a shoe in their heads. Please be patient with us. We may not show it well, but your goodness really is appreciated. Probably even more than it would be if we were one of those lucky shoeless people.

one shoe

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Reinforcing One’s Worldview

Come on, admit it. You like reading stuff that agrees with your already established mindset every bit as much as I do. It’s such a relief to surround yourself with a stereophonic chorus that’s chanting “You’re absolutely right!”

So imagine my sheer joy, my unparalleled delight, in finding two articles in a row that say what I’ve been longing to hear for my entire life. I want to stay in this emotional paradise forever. I don’t want to read another thing. You can’t make me.

The first article, entitled Cheese Protects You From All Causes Of Death, Says Science shall henceforth be my bible for all things dietary. I mean, come on. Cheese. You know what I’m sayin’?

The second article, entitled Hot Baths Might Be Just As Good For You As Exercise, Study Reveals is every bit as lifestyle affirming, as far as I’m concerned. Whenever I sink into a hot tub, my body screams, “Yes!!!!” So it’s high time I stop feeling guilty for listening to it.

Now, if I could find an article about sitting in a tub full of melted cheese, my cup would truly runneth over.

Cheese

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Where’s Your Sense of Adventure?

Someday soon, I’m going indoor skydiving! I’ve always wanted to do that. I was given a gift card to do so this year for my birthday. It’s going to be epic! (And it will no doubt spawn a blog post, so stay tuned!)

I’d also like to go ziplining. I’ve actually tried to do so a couple of times, but something always seems to get in the way. There’s a zipline in my future, though. I can feel it.

A friend of mine said, “I could never do that.”

My response was, “Oh, where’s your sense of adventure?”

And that, as per usual, got me thinking. Where is one’s sense of adventure? Where does it reside?

It certainly doesn’t live in your head, because it’s often your head that talks you out of doing things. “You fool! You’re going to get yourself killed!” “It’s too expensive.” “You’re too old.” “People will laugh at you.”

No. It’s definitely not in your head. Your brain can be your own worst enemy in these situations.

Could your sense of adventure reside in your heart? Well, the heart has a love/hate relationship with adventure. It starts to pound in anticipation of it. It certainly pounds during it. It nearly bursts with joy at having lived through it. How you interpret these reactions will greatly determine how much adventure you crave.

Did all that heart pounding and bursting feel exciting and wonderful? Then, yes, more please. Was it nauseating and terrifying? Then, never ever again. Ever. It all boils down to whether or not you are risk averse.

That’s what makes me believe that your sense of adventure resides in your very soul. Either you have it or you don’t. Either you’ll do these things or you won’t.

There’s no right answer. Only you can decide what’s right for you. But meanwhile, I’ll be over there, indoor skydiving. Woo hoo!

Indoor skydiving

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