Paying myself back — or forward?

I started off the year kind of gangbusters with blogging, but soon fell off the wagon, as you know. But I didn’t want that last depressing post to be up here on top anymore. I keep praying for my family and friends and am counting on God and the medical system to take it from there.

I haven’t been blogging, but I have been thinking. The usual “What do I want to be when I grow up?” thoughts, only now “when I grow up” pretty much means “when I retire” — which who knows if I’ll ever really be able to. I just saw a commercial for an investment company (don’t have a clue which one), that asks people to write on a wall what they would do if they could do anything. The thing I noticed during the 30 seconds I was engaged was that so many people wrote down creative things. They’d make pies or be a florist or be a writer (! — I’m guessing not the kind of writer I am). So many people are just itching to do something that has nothing to do with traditional office/trade/factory work. The commercial basically said “Yes, you can get paid to do that — you pay yourself to do it with your retirement money.”

That’s a great way to think about it. All those years of working and paying bills (and yes, saving, because that’s a must) are so you can be in charge of your own destiny. Pay yourself to have the freedom to do what you really want. Because otherwise, you might still decide to be a florist, but are you going to work for someone else? Start your own shop? That’s still a business, and a competitive one I imagine. It’s hard work, even though your products are beautiful (and highly perishable). Same with pie baking — or any kind of food/catering business — not easy either. And a writer? Please. We all know how hard that is — and even harder to make any money at it.

So the bottom line, you need to be financially free to pursue your dreams, but that seems so unlikely. I read some sobering statistics yesterday about women and retirement in this article…I don’t think anyone envisions him/herself destitute or in a nursing home, but the sobering reality is that many of us will end up there. There’s also a slew of articles that say, don’t even think about retiring…that even after you reach retirement age, you should still plan to work at least part time.

It’s hard to think about that — that at almost no point in your life (unless you can’t physically or mentally do it anymore), you’ll have to be “on call,” responsible for doing something someone else thinks is worthy of paying you for.

It’s also hard to balance the idea of delayed gratification and saving more for tomorrow with wanting some rewards for hard work today — especially because tomorrow isn’t guaranteed for anyone and none of us is getting any younger. (If not now, when?)

I stress about money and saving all the time. I’m convinced we aren’t doing enough. It drives Mike crazy.

I also say just about every day that I want a vacation (the beach comes up a lot). That also drives Mike crazy.

How do you do it? How do you approach the live-today-(while-you-can)-or-save-for-tomorrow conundrum?

Sometimes it’s important to work for that pot of gold.
But other times it’s essential to take time off
and to make sure 
that your most important decision in the day
simply consists 
of choosing which color to slide down on the rainbow.
~ Douglas Pagels

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Faith in the foxhole

It all started a couple weeks ago, when a friend, a cancer patient herself, posted a link to a novena for cancer patients on Facebook. If you don’t know, a novena is a series of prayers to a particular saint (or Mary or God) said over a set number of days — a 3-day novena, or a 7-day novena, or in this case, a 9-day novena — for a particular “intention” or purpose. This particular one was to a saint I’d never heard of, St. Peregrine, the patron saint of cancer patients, who suffered from cancer in his leg and was miraculously cured the night before he was scheduled to have his leg amputated.

I am the praying sort, so I decided I would do this. I prayed, somewhat generically, for my friend and “anyone else I might know who has cancer,” whether I knew they had it or not. It was a simple thing — the daily prayers were emailed to me (such is the way of prayers in the digital age), and it took only a few minutes each day. I counted myself very lucky that I didn’t have a long list of people to pray specifically for, though I thought of my own mom and mother-in-law and other loved ones who had died from cancer.

The nine days passed. I felt good for doing this simple, positive thing.

A week or so passed, and then, unthinkably, I started to hear things. Within a span of only a few days, I learned that my cousin, a friend’s mother, my former brother-in-law, and another cousin’s wife had all just been diagnosed with cancer! I felt horrible — my generic “praying for anyone I might know who had cancer” actually applied to four people!

What the heck? Does this mean my prayers didn’t do any good? Does it mean I got a head start on praying for these people? Does it mean I need to do this again, with these people in mind? Are we just a few steps away from disaster at any given moment (yes, probably)? Yes, my faith is shaken a bit.

I understand the concept of faith. I know that faith means believing that God is listening and answering your prayers, even though they aren’t necessarily answered the way you want them to be. (And that sometimes, God’s answer is “no.”) I know that “having faith” means having it in bad times as well as good. But to hear of all these diagnoses, so soon after praying for cancer patients, is just so unreal. And, I also tend to believe that “there are no coincidences.” So what do I make of this?

And, just yesterday, this article appears on my news feed in Facebook. Another bizarre “coincidence” as I literally just had to have my annual mammogram retaken because of this very thing (which I’ve known I’ve had for years, thanks to my wonderful gynecologist, but had never read anything published about it).

All of this is hitting very close to home all of a sudden. In particular, I’m sick that my cousin’s cancer is quite serious (no real details on the others, except that one, at least, seems like a good scenario with a good prognosis). At this point, the best I can do is to channel my anxiousness and concern into more prayers for my family and friends, more specific this time around. But it’s hard to shake the feeling that the universe is speaking to me. So I will be praying, too, for the wisdom to answer it in the best way, with the right mind-set and the right actions. And most of all, with faith.

Pray, and let God worry.
~ Martin Luther

Six sentences that (might have) saved the world

It’s been one of those weeks — lots of fretting about my job and feeling overwhelmed. Which is rather silly because my job in no way represents life or death (except for me, and only in the livelihood sense of life and no way at all in the sense of death, except if I die I won’t have to do it anymore). But fretful I’ve been, including reaching out to a couple understanding friends to talk me down from the proverbial ledge. Ironically (and weirdly) soon after, I got a couple of unexpected, positive, reinforcing, all’s-right-with-the-world bits of feedback that made me feel that perhaps I really can do this job I’ve been doing for almost 15 years.

Then I went on to have a pretty good day. In true Libra style, the scales were returning to a balanced neutral.

But no, not quite yet. A project I worked on a couple months ago finally hit the presses today (and by presses I mean my client’s website), and I got to see the finished product. It was mostly what I remembered, except for the end.

“But it just…ends,” I thought. I had no idea how I had ended it, so I went back and looked. Of course, possibly the best six sentences ever written about tax risk had been lopped off the end.

Gone. Soul-crushingly gone.

Is that too dramatic? My soul is not easily crushed these days. I have grown more and more numb to editors’ liberties over the years. I understand that I get paid whether I’m happy with the finished product or not, and usually I’m OK with that. But sometimes…sometimes I feel sad for what could have been. What should have been.

I should have been asked — “Hey we’re running a little long, can you trim 6 or 7 lines from this (two-page) write-up.”

“Of course,” I’d have said (rolling my eyes), and then I’d have agonized just the right amount over what to cut. I’d have thoughtfully trimmed a little here and a little there. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have sent it back without the last six sentences — passive-aggressive much?

And so…just to restore a little balance to my Libra soul, and just in case they really did have the potential to save the world, here are those six sentences:

…: As the adage advises, the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.

First, is the organization asking the right question of its customers? While U.S. FATCA compliance may have begun with asking, “Is this customer U.S. or non-U.S.?” that is not the most effective way to deal with the now global myriad of regulations. Better practice would be to ask, “What is the tax residency of this customer?” Second, does the organization have an onboarding process in place and functioning to collect the required documentation from individuals and entities?

These are the basics, and once these questions have been satisfactorily answered, organizations can move on to tackle requirements that take effect at later dates, such as reporting and certain types of withholding.

World without end, amen.

It’s unhealthy for people to never express any kind of
negativity or doubt. 
To have balance, you need to address
that side of your thoughts 
as well as the positive.
Otherwise, you tend toward crazy.

~ Shirley Manson

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