Consistency Week 4

​​So, here I am to keep record of my challenge for 2017-Consistency. One year of giving others my attention each week; one contact to build my network and one hour to my girl.

This last week has been a rough one. I made contact with a friend regarding two crates of belongings he’s been kind enough to make room for. The guy goes by Hawk, and he is a pretty interesting character. A fellow Marine, I figure him to have lived through Vietnam, but I don’t ask. Mostly, I don’t want to be asked about my time and I assume others don’t, either. Seems reasonable to assume his line of business goes along with trying to handle society in the wake of his service. He spent a number of years as a hermit and reckoned he was better off. Health issues finally drove him back to society to the VA hospital. He’s an odd guy, but he still carries himself and talks like a hard charger. He gets it. 

I almost missed a week without spending just one relaxing hour with my girl, and I only managed it by surprising her. Moving pretty much absorbed our whole week. We originally planned on celebrating the move on Friday night, but the kids were crazy and it was St Paddy’s Day. So, she went out and drove the drunkards around while I made dinner and reassembled the bunk bed. Saturday night, we had a bottle of Old Knucklehead to mark the occasion with. However, once again we went out driving since Nanna and Papa were nice enough to take Kiley. We wrapped it up around 1 am and came home. Instead of time together, she decided to have a bath (with the beer). In the morning, she made the last cup of coffee and hit the road again. I went to the store for coffee, and decided a proper breakfast was overdue. So, peppered bacon and eggs it was. She came home for a break just as it was all done cooking and we finally got our time together for the week. 

Consistency Week 3

​So, here I am to keep record of my challenge for 2017-Consistency. One year of giving others my attention each week; one contact to build my network and one hour to my girl.

The weather here finally broke this weekend for a quick bit of spring sunshine. With life being so busy, we have to appreciate the simple things like taking the kids to the park. While we may not have been able to devote a full hour together in one shot, we were able to get a couple juggle sessions in. Things are still muddy and my shirt was a modern art masterpiece by time we were done. 

I tried to make contact with a gentleman that is heading up some sort of support group for dads. Well, details being lost somewhere along the line, I never connected with him. I also missed meeting my friend Seth downtown, but doing so made the kid-work logistics work out better.

The tough part of consistency is keeping at something, even through periods of limited return. It’s important to stick with it, keeping in mind that some days or weeks will be better than others. 

Mental meltdown

I feel crushed, like an aluminum can under some magnanimous invisible foot. I can’t quite get to the bottom of the cause of it. Three major changes mark the turning point in my career, my finances, and other vital parts of my being. Kim and I moved in together, I dropped out of school, and student loan bills started to come in. In less than two years, my credit went from the 700s down to the 300s. My school and my ex are playing tug of war with my tax return, and I am facing the reality that all of this might be preventing us from having a place to live. We have 2 weeks left to be in our current rental. The property management has already listed it, and we can hardly use our driveway with all the people pulling in to have a look. Literally every 30 minutes, someone is pulling up and scoping things out. 

Then there’s our 6 year old girl now starting self-mutilation. I tried weeks ago to get family counseling through the VA, but never got a call back. I’ve been calling counselors like crazy, but either they are too busy or it’s not their area of expertise. 

The clutter. I have been cleaning and picking up mess for weeks in this moving effort. Mess and clutter stresses me out, and even with nearly 2,000 cubic feet of crap in storage there somehow is still enough papers, clothes, and random objects to get in the way of having dinner or sitting on the couch. 

“It’s okay, don’t worry about it” Kim tells me. I want to scream, and have done so at times, “IT’S NOT OKAY!” 

I need to get on with my day. My head is swimming with the stress. I can’t figure out how to pull it all together. My entire life, I’ve been a 90th percentile person. Whether it’s a test of knowledge, physical stamina, or job performance, I’m pretty much the one running circles around the average Joe. What happened to me? Why am I stuck in the mud, failing to provide, failing to perform, feeling like a disgraced bum? 

I want to close my eyes and forget the world. I want to disappear from everyone and go somewhere all by myself and heal. I want to escape this crushing trap, but I don’t know how, and I can’t even identify what’s making me feel trapped. 

I’m in the middle of a mental meltdown. At this point, maybe the only thought that can get me back on task is to wish life was shittier so that I could at least have a good story to tell when it’s over. 

Alright, if I can take a deep breath and face electrocution at the end of a brutal 13 mile obstacle course just for two beers and an orange headband, I can go face whatever life is going to dish up next. It just might be a lame story is all. 😧

Consistency Week 2

​So, here I am to keep record of my challenge for 2017-Consistency. One year of giving others my attention each week; one contact to build my network and one hour to my girl. 

This last week, I reached out to another close friend and school colleague, Seth. We ran Tough Mudder together a few years ago, worked together on many projects, studied together for tests, and much more. He keeps his calendar full, so I guess we’ll be meeting this coming week. He’s damn smart when it comes to business, so I’m hoping to throw my biz ideas in front of him for some feedback. 

My girl and I went out for a date! It’s been weeks, months even, since we were kid free, so just going downtown for a Killer Burger and beer was a treat. We rode the Max light rail into town. The thing about pub-trans is that some days, the colorful characters are thick. Last night was one of those nights. One guy was wrapping himself up in his hoodie, moaning in pain. Coming down or withdrawing for something, I imagine. There was a group of guys talking about fights in prison and how east coast prisons are harder than west coast. Then, one other normal commuter sat near us with his ear buds in, trying but clearly failing to drown out his environment. 

Anyway, the burgers were bomb, as their logo suggests and my experience confirms! I had the house double red ale, and Kim had an IIPA. Full to the hilt, we walked up to Henry’s for a nightcap. I had the Stone Who You Callin’ a Wuss Pilsner and she had one of my all time favs, Double Mountain Vaporizer. We hopped on the last Max home, and it unexpectedly ended 4 stops short of ours. We were stranded with a homeless guy that decided to park himself on the bench for the eve, a drunkard yelling about getting to a hospital for heart medication, and a teenage couple with irate parents that were not coming to the rescue. We had no choice but to Uber our way to the car. A pleasant ride back, giving the kids a gratuitous lift, wrapped up the evening. 

Boys’ Day Out

Lazily looking at lots of Legos!

For the first time in months, maybe more than a year, Mister and I get to have a boys’ day out! Kim’s girl went to her grandparents for the night, so I might even be lucky enough to have a kid-free date tonight, too!

OMSI is packed, so we parked in the back of the overflow lot that I didn’t even know existed until now. I have to smile when I see the other parents running to the door with their kids hand in hand. It’s not just the rain that inspires the high speed entrance!

Ever typical of me, I false start by forgetting the gift card for the excursion in the car. Thirty minutes of waiting in line, just to wind up embarrassing myself running debit cards that can’t cover the admission. 

Something is awfully different. This place gets popular on the weekend, but I have never had to stand in line to see the exhibit after standing in line to pay for it. I swear the line just to see the thing is longer than the one we stood in twice already. I snap a pic and text my girl. I think the image alone made her hate the line enough for all of us. The immigrants from the city I loathe the most make the local residents stand out. No, you trend consuming idiots, you cannot just wear a plaid shirt and think you blend in! We’ve been on the premises for almost two entire hours now, and are finally approaching the entrance. 

An usher counts people as we finally get into the exhibit. We get a short video introduction of the artist. Plastered all over the news, huh? That explains the crowd. Once in though, we thankfully have elbow room again. 

I have to constantly remind Mister to keep his hands off the art. It must be torture! Don’t play with those toys, yeah right! 

“Why is that guy screaming?” he asks. I sigh and tell him that’s a conversation for when he is older. It’s a powerful piece that is difficult to put into words. 

Ah, yes! The Thinker! 😊

Moments earlier, I was trying to explain how people are emotionally influenced by art. I put on a tough guy shell, but here was Hands and I feel the pressure building in my face as my eyes get weepy.

The resonance of emotion is feeling yourself drawn in to a piece until you feel like you are looking at yourself in an out-of-body sort of way. 

“Excuse me. I’ve just got to step outside of myself for a few minutes. But don’t worry, I’ll be back.”

Ooh, this one is impressive. Always cool to see the really big displays!

There were so many pieces. I took maybe 150 pics.

Okay, just a couple more.

For some reason, I’ve always been drawn to the color vs b&w contrast. My tattoos have been planned out with this effect, and films like Sin City just look stunning to me. I was excited to see this display then playing a new trick in a similar vein. Lego art within a photograph!

There was little left to be desired for this exhibit, as this fully broke new ground. While the human form isn’t my favorite artistic theme, I will say that what this artist did, how he did it, and how he shares his story was simply excellent! My little man even found one that he emotionally connected with, too.

Snowballs and Avalanches pt II

I’m not stuck up, I’m buried deep

I wanted to throw some graphs up here from my budget. I hopped on the laptop, opened spreadsheets, and started a text document for the blog. I got dug in, and there was so much to discuss that my blog veered completely off track. So, I’m back on my phone as usual to get this rant out of the way. Which means that there is a part 3 with even more juicy budgeting details coming down the pipeline. 

So, I have to say that it works out well to be an Uber-Lyft-er. I would even be so bold as to claim that it’s the most socially responsible thing that’s happened to transportation since seat belts became required by law. I think the biggest challenge to that claim is by this blogger under the heading Availability. So Uber has a large fleet? It’s going to cause congestion? First off, if you haven’t experienced the pure joy of a school’s compete lack of organized traffic flow, you need to do that and include them in your traffic regulating plans. I have a long history in transportation, and if you want to know the biggest clog in the interstate to dump the Draino on, I can mathematically derive the proof that it’s the semi trucks that need it. Although I hope the image of a triple-trailer truck trying to merge out of an ending lane during rush hour is putting it simply enough, because that kind of math act would take us through Laplace-land and things get a little weird over there.  

To refute the traffic jam potential, let’s first have a look at the profiles of drivers. How many of those drivers are driving the vehicle to and from work, only logging on for the commute? Those are the 9 to 5 -ers that probably value their desk job but just need to ease the burden of car payments. Whether consciously or not, those drivers are relieving traffic congestion, even if only by one vehicle every other day. This driver contributes to road congestion whether he or she is logged onto Uber or not, except they also reduce traffic congestion when accepting a ride. Next profile in case is the Uber parent. Go moms and dads! This driver has responsibilities, and chances are they choose to drive because they don’t want to miss out on their children’s growing up. The Uber parent is often the driver you’ll get at 4:45 am, burning the other end of their candle. These drivers then come back home to get kids dressed and fed just as the morning rush hour starts to set in. Uber parent might walk their child to school or see them off on the bus, then hit the road. Once school lets out, odds are that Uber parent is doing what the desk job parents can’t: spend time with the children. One more driver profile to investigate is the part time, party time driver. This young driver loves to party, and to Uber his or her party peeps home safely might satisfy a budding sense of responsibility on top of giving them a little more to party with on their non-driving weekends. Ridesharing is also a great way to keep up with events and new venues. This driver is probably also allergic to single digit am hours, and unless there is good reason to do so, also avoids rush hour like the plague. 

Ubiquitous aspects of ride sharers that contradict jamming include simple competency, efficiency algorithms, and the fact that an appreciable portion of rides are being split among friends that would have otherwise driven two or three separate cars. Okay, so Google Maps and Waze are in stiff competition for the shittiest app you could have to use. I love to hate them, really. As for picking the best routes, I have to admit I rarely pull off beating their estimated fastest route without a questionable maneuver. Speaking of competition, we drivers sure know how to work it. I would say that any driver worth his salt instinctively knows the traffic patterns of the city and how to get to key locations the quickest. I know I better not take the interstate to the airport at 3:30, and even if Sandy to 82nd does take a bit longer there is a piece of mind for rider and driver both that we aren’t juking in and out of lanes of stalled and speeding traffic. When I don’t have a rider, I work extra hard to get away from traffic. Clearly, I can’t pick someone up in 5 min if I’m stuck between freeway exits going an average 0.35mph. Ride share drivers are just as opposed to sitting in traffic as anyone else! 

One last point and I will leave it alone, I promise. The Dreaded Surge Pricing! I’m sorry that riders get hit with it out of nowhere and feel duped. However, understand that it’s much like the weather. Too much to pay? Walk or wait 10 min. Drivers: don’t chase the surge! I know, I even catch myself doing it. Dont! Oh, you did anyway? How did that work out for ya? Thought so. Surge pricing schemes are exactly the force needed to reduce traffic density in the first place. Who the hell decided that 5:00 pm is the hour to cut it off and go jump in traffic? That’s what causes traffic jams! Now if more people were inclined to stay an extra 15 or 30 min to actually complete their tasks and not get charged 2.5x the going rate, wouldn’t that just ease the whole situation up? 

So, now that I got that out of the way, I have to explain my first claim of social responsibility. Car dealerships are going the way of the dinosaur. I have been seeing all sorts of changes in this city, especially transportation. Car lots are going under left and right. Public transit is slowly but surely expanding. Zip-Car made a remarkable first step in the right direction, with Car2Go right on its heels, and now Reach Connect. The fact is that owning a vehicle is not the romance of the road that car companies have made it out to be. It is a piece of equipment that has things like upfront cost, operating cost, and maintenance costs. Any large machine costs money to have and more money to use. For decades, the manufacturing world has revolved around maximizing the profits from each piece of equipment. Downtime is expensive. I challenge many of my young, car-less commuters to do the math and consider whether owning a vehicle makes sense or not. There are more and more people realizing that it’s actually cheaper to rideshare than to own a vehicle. 

 I think P-town’s Trimet is about one of the best in the country, but holy crap is it ever still the most unreliable way to get around. Many employers are not accessible via Trimet and many more will not hire people stuck depending on the bus. Smart companies, however, provide their employees free Trimet passes and use ridesharing for backup when a bus or light rail fails to show up. A lot of people already do this out of their own pocket, and the more public transit is used the more vehicles are not jamming the highways. The more ridesharing is considered the public transit backup/in-between, the more people will feel comfortable using them. 
So, if it’s cheaper to rideshare, and a good many drivers are only driving to offset the cost of their vehicle… Obviously what we are doing is creating economic pressure against vehicle ownership. If people have to pay per ride, they will definitely be more reserved in number of trips they take. People will be more apt to take the train and rideshare home from the station. People will definitely think about walking when weather permits. When surge pricing is in effect, there is even more incentive to split the fare with others. I wouldn’t even be surprised if platforms soon enable a single person to accept a ride with another solo rider heading in the same direction, so as to allow the riders to split the fare and maximize the vehicle usage. “Oh, like UberPOOL?” my girl asks. There ya go. 

I guess I chased the rabbit a bit on that one, but the point is that decreasing traffic density does not depend on regulating providers. The same number of people will still be on the road, no matter what you cap. If we want to ease traffic jams and reduce emissions, we have to increase the rider:vehicle ratio. In layman’s terms: we need more people sharing vehicles instead of idling away as single occupants in Hummers and SUVs. It’s the same reason semi trucks are so bad for traffic: one person taking up 2 to 6 vehicle spaces (which could be transporting maybe 6 to 18 cubicle ants via rideshare). It’s the same reason for making a HOV lane. 

Okay, I’ve scratched my anti-oil industry itch. Now, let me tell you why ridesharing is socially responsible for me, the Uber driver. I got a bit overconfident a few years ago and got a car in anticipation of graduating engineering school. Then I got hung up and didn’t finish. Car payments and student loans, no paper. I imagine there are many others in similar shoes. I’ve talked to them across retail and grocery store counters, not wanting to nudge what is probably just as painful a topic for them as it is for me. Yep, graduation rate of 76%, and I landed in the 24% category. How do I handle all that debt? Work myself into a nervous alcoholic wreck hoping for a bonus that I only get half of? Really, what this is driving toward is all the ways that Uber and Lyft are ideal ’employers’ so here it goes. 

I clock on when I want, for as long as I want. Some days, I’m feeling it and after pulling a Benjamin, I keep driving for my second. Some days, my life needs me more than Uber, so I just don’t drive. I’ve worked food service, and it made me hate people. I make a damn fine espresso, thank you, and I don’t need my balls busted over your perception of how hot the mug is. For the vast majority of rideshare trips, the least pleasant folks are quietly absorbed in their phones and more than half are quite jovial. Yeah, we all have that one here and there. However, all said, I rarely ever feel I’m just not in the mood to go drive. That says a lot when you consider how many people dread the workweek. Maybe the very best thing about the platforms is the ‘open door relationship’. Uber doesn’t care if I Lyft, even if I work for both at the same time! They also don’t care if I’m advertising my own business/services apart from or in competition with them. They’re cool with me having any kind of employment I want outside of driving for them. It’s not you, it’s me. I need to have jobs with other people for a while. Really. Uber doesn’t tell me I might get a bonus if I work hard enough. They email an incentive, I drive, and there are clear qualifiers for the incentive so I know if I achieved it or not. Dealing with unsavory people? I know if I dole out a 1 star rating and send an email with details, that person might be using Yellow Cab next time. For all of us stuck in Paperless Purgatory, educated but lacking the income-demanding degree, these platforms enable us to keep fighting for a middle class existence. I realize I could get by with an older Honda or something instead of wasting money on a new car. That would also require I get some kind of regular job since the platforms only accept new vehicles. Newer than 5 years almost guarantees that you are making payments on it, and we Americans need as much debt relief as possible! On the other hand, the rental car program is the best way for many pub-trans bound folks to gain the independence of their own vehicle. Trimet was how I rolled for a while, too. A couple months of not paying the pump, insurance, maintenance, parking fees, etc. made me quickly realize just how much money goes into a car. It’s quite liberating. Of course, when I just had to get out of town, I’d rent a cheap little coupe. To own or not to own is the question; ridesharing is the answer. 

It offsets vehicle costs for owners, is cheaper than owning for others, and provides a transportation-independent job at a decent living wage. I agree with much of what ezdriver boasts for the benefits of Uber. 

Finally, I thought you’d like to hear more about earnings before I close. My girlfriend puts in about 45 hour weeks on average and after the network fees takes home around $700/week driving with Lyft. I do a bit less driving, but the two platforms are pretty comparable. Don’t go rushing to divide and poo-poo the ‘wage’ though. This is what goes into the bank. This isn’t gross $15/hr and get rolled for taxes and social security before your take-home. Also, this is strictly an average, and it is so low because of the hours she chooses to drive. I put up with worse weather, more spilling and vomiting, and drive in more difficult places. My average is closer to $25/hour. I always tell new drivers to map out the times of days and calculate earnings as they go. After a couple weeks, there will be clear patterns to schedule around, after that it’s just a matter of deciding what you are trying to achieve. I set a threshold for myself of $18/hour, if I know a certain time frame averages 12, I won’t drive. Important to note here is how it comes out during tax time. As a vehicle owner, the fuel, maintenance, payments, and other expenses get factored in. All of it, as well as the network fees, get written off. Even if you only take the standard 55 cent/mile deduction, for most cars, that covers almost all of the fuel. One interesting tax hack here is that my milage is deductible starting from and ending at my driveway. That means that if I log off on the other side of town, the drive home is still covered. 

I walked away from a job paying $4k per month salary. That would first get broken down by taxes and child support. I got to take home less than $2300 and that’s without any elected payroll deductions. Then, because I love giving myself to my employer *cough* I also put up with 2 to 3 hours per day commuting. That commute, without ridesharing, cost me every penny in car payments, fuel, and insurance after taxes. This is a real big deal considering the cost hits me after my paycheck has been ravaged, and maybe even delayed. 

Vehicle costs ring up to about 30% of a person’s budget, and no doubt the main reason to have one is for commuting to work, which very likely doesn’t care how much of a burden car ownership might be. Mostly, employers expect you to shoulder the responsibility of a car as if no distance should be too great to travel for such an opportunity. It’s also been proven that long commutes are the #1 reason for people to quit their jobs. A gig like this at least ensures you are able to secure transportation and have a ready source of income. 

One last point on Uber-Lyft-ing, is that I still have my reservations. Uber is constantly under fire in the media. Although the ridesharing idea works well, and Uber sure capitalizes on it well, I wish my car qualified for Lyft. I wouldn’t use the Uber platform nearly as much, if at all. Between their glass ceiling and constant media blasts, I would rather Lyft. 

I fully support the emerging ‘gig economy’ and am glad that these platforms can exist to help make solo business a possibility. It’s not for everyone, of course. I don’t intend on driving for a living; it’s simply the most reliable way to break into independent employment. Even as I write this, I am itching to set my sights on reviving other income efforts. One thing at a time, though! I will have my third budget blog up soon, with some graphs for visual relief. Then, my blog will be back to the good stuff! You deserve an award for making it through this one, too! 

Snowballs and Avalanches

Whatever the method of getting out, we need to get after it. I started in the right direction, pursuing Renewable Energy with my GI Bill. At some point, I really do need to go back and reconcile my payout. One year at community college and fully 3 years worth of credits, lab fees, textbooks, and cost of living allowances. When I was serving, I was offered and paid into the “Kicker” program, which helped me squeeze the most out of it. I estimate I received somewhere in the neighborhood of  $80k worth of benefits across those 4 years. 

I went for a debt tri-fecta; school, a child, and a messy divorce. I’m in deep. I have no family support in terms of emergency cash. To make matters worse on myself, I crapped out just a few credits shy of two engineering majors. 

 I met my girlfriend a couple years ago, and we found a great little home for rent just in our price range. I was out of a job for months, trying the most absurd gigs just to keep rent paid. Then the student loans came a-knocking. I couldn’t believe the payment amount they set me up with. Deferment only bought me a few months. 

Finally, I went to an interview and was relieved to see that the guy interviewing me had been a project partner in school. I had other interviews lined up, but confidently cancelled in looking forward to working with colleagues. I was lied to about the wage offer and my pay didn’t cover my expenses. I fought and got the wage I was promised. Then deferment ended and I still couldn’t pay my student loans. Baby’s momma caught wind that I had a paycheck to come after, and she did. My paycheck got dinged harder than before to make up the difference, and that put me again unable to make ends meet. I told the CEO of the company I was about to lose my car and commuting that far just wouldn’t be feasible anymore. He gave me a thousand dollar bailout and a promotion. I caught up on my car, but was still no closer to having anything to throw at student loans. 

By this point, my girl was getting bogged down with her job. Her pay couldn’t support childcare along with all the other bills, so I tried my best to leverage my new position to try and fill in the gaps. Now, by this time, the engineer that spends almost no time at all in the office comes to me to say I can’t expect to work from home and get anything done. I kept meticulous track of my time put in and what activity I was focused on for a full two weeks. After collecting my data, I presented the case of needing an additional person to take the load off. The company shrunk to less than half its original size in only so many months, and a certain CEO from a staffing agency got stiffed on payment, so that wasn’t bound to happen quick enough. 

My very good friend has enjoyed his time at Genentech and seeing me struggle, tried to help me into a job. A great opportunity came up as an instrument tech, but it would have been night shift for at least 6 months. I’ve worked enough grave jobs to have wrecked my body’s circadian response, I reckon. However, the very real deterrent was knowing how unavailable that really makes a parent to their kids. Ours were 5, and it’s too important an age to miss on account of trying to get a foot in the door. Especially with regard to all the money and energy I’ve spent to get this generous amount of time with my son. 

Another promotion, but now there was increasingly more expectation. I was offered performance bonuses that penciled out to be an extra couple thousand per year, and I looked forward to finally balancing money. I encouraged my partner to look for a job upgrade. However, considering the cost of daycare, and what Oregon offsets of that cost is a joke, she was inclined to look for the most time-flexible jobs she could. Yep, jobs-plural. Finally, with a clever childcare workaround, we could balance the books!

Then came the doctor bills and lost time as Kim underwent a horribly invasive screening and tried to recover. My boss wasn’t terribly understanding. I was frustrated that despite increasing sales, I was still under so much pressure to “keep turning the crank.” I still hadn’t made but one month of student loan payments, and my Marine hypertension was cracking nuts everywhere. I budgeted the hell out of the household and kept careful track. Our only lavish expenses were pets and alcohol. The latter was cut to $20/month, and we sold the former. I pitched several strategies to the boss for simple ways to encourage better productivity, but I couldn’t get real help from him to save my soul. His only solution was to fill seats with his kids, kids’ friends, and family. They were all too well taken care of to work with any intensity, but volume did increase. 

He promised me a little something if I “came within spitting distance” of my goal. June would be the first demand spike, and I front-loaded for it. After spitting for my mark, I got no somethin’ somethin’. Not to be dismayed, I looked forward to the second spike of the year. To add insult to injury, my tax return was held up to get baby momma settled up before I got what was left. 

I was coming up to a year, and had done nothing but increase business and crack down on the budget. Still no student loan payments, and my car was still regularly one paycheck late every month thanks to bi-monthly pay cycles. The weather and physical demand of my girl’s job was bringing her health down rapidly. I invested my tax return into a hail-Mary shot at building a machine. Not like a few hundred was going to do shit for the budget, anyway. 

September was the month. I finally rolled out $5k over my target, earning me a nice 10 Bens! Oh, but not really, cause you know Uncle Sam gotta get his bite. So I took my happy little fucking bonus that I bent over backwards for, and caught up my car. Baby’s momma also decided to be a shit and blatantly goes against the parenting time order that would have given my son’s first day at school to me. Ugh, whatever. Not the battle to fight right now. My machine is fully assembled by this point, and I’m beating myself up on Linux to run it. 

A rare opportunity was extended my way to have a little working vacation. The parenting time I fought so hard for and treasure so much kept me from earning a heck of a lot. However, it was a quiet, relaxing vacation. It poured rain, and everything was slippery and sticky with mud at the same time. But it was the kind of vacation where your day can kick off with a whiskey in your coffee. It was an emotional time, and a time where we didn’t have any idea what to do to bring things into balance. 

We both signed up for Uber and hit the road. Thanks to the aforementioned daycare conundrum, two people and one vehicle worked out okay. Except, we were now left with the grave shift problem, aka “We’re like two ships passing in the night.” Then came snowpocalypse. It claimed my turn signal, and round two got my tire.

 I spent time building things and generated a small amount of income. After December, we promised to be more aggressive with our small business idea. One tool already paid for itself, if we could just get inventory up enough for a vendor booth, we could pull through enough to not rely so much on driving. Then my back gave out, entirely unprovoked, and shot the final hole in the hull of our happy little ship. I lost two weeks of income, and my girlfriend lost more than a week all said and done. 

My tax return wasn’t horribly delayed this year, but it all went to a storage unit and catching my car up. Surprised? I’m still rolling on $30 worth of fix a flat after the tire shop’s plug failed, crossing my fingers I don’t blow out. I wish I could afford new shoes, but the car’s shoes makes the difference between income and no income right now, so..

We applied for a very modest apartment priced at the very bottom of the market. I was sickly embarrassed by the big red thumbs down on the final page of my screening as the manager ran my credit. I told him we were strapping down to get back on track, and he of course sympathized. My girlfriend’s screening was mostly positive, so that will hopefully get us in. However, I have to say that it’s been a miserable first couple months of the year. Even after knocking our expenses back further, it’s going to still be a rat race to try to balance the books. 

I have a rant to follow this entry with, a response to the implication that rideshare drivers are too stuck up to work. I’ll be going a bit deeper into the matter than I have with my previous life ramblings, so stay tuned!