Musings of a Chicago-Born New Yorker

Posts tagged “finances

Going to Grad School Instead of Buying an Armoire

I talked a few posts ago about painting, or rather not painting, my home. I realized I forgot to mention that I had some some painting. Not room painting, but wall painting.

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That’s one of the walls in our bedroom. I took one of my 30th birthday gifts from Chris (the butterfly wall hanging), and combined it with a long bit of sheer curtain. Then I painted this little curlicues design and another butterfly on the wall. It was just a little project for me to do one day to have something on the wall. I did something similar in the living room, but with shelves.

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I thought it was a nice way to accent the portion of our walls that juts out from the rest of the length. I also have put all over our walls a ton of art & street art that we’ve acquired over the years with our travels. Hopefully at some point, I’ll remember to take pictures of it to share.

Occasionally, the mood strikes me to decorate or add to the home in some way. In lieu of purchasing the fancy expensive armoire of my dreams (with all its multitasking home organizing goodness), I add crap to the walls. This time that crap comes in the form of Adinkra symbols.

Around the same time I got the desire to decorate my house, I got the idea to decorate my body.

In case you missed that, I’m considering getting another tattoo. My best friend told me when she went with me to get it that I would want another one. At the time, I thought she was likely speaking from experience, but that experience wouldn’t apply to me.

The tattoo felt exactly to me like dragging a piece of broken glass across the top of my foot. Except on purpose instead of accidentally. And I have just realized I never told this story.

So, the plan was to get the tattoo on a visit to Chicago for my best friend’s 30th birthday. We did a good job of crossing lots of items off the bucket list that weekend. I was so nervous about the pain, but I was determined to go through with it.

It just so happened that right before this trip, I was chatting on the phone with one of my girlfriends, and I stepped on what I thought was a cookie crumb (stupid Chips Ahoy). I dragged the bottom of my right foot across the top of my left foot to brush the crumb away.

It was not a crumb.

It was a tiny piece of broken glass from one of the many times Chris or I have broken something in the house (we’re both so damn clumsy). And it hurt so bad. And this tiny little shallow ass cut wouldn’t stop bleeding.

After explaining to my friend that my blood curdling scream did not, in fact, mean I was dead, I grabbed alcohol and alternated between bitching up and properly cleaning my wound.

I still have that stupid scar. And I sweep the house more frequently now. Kind of. Mostly. I also use my hands to brush away suspicious debris.

After that debacle, I arrived to the tattoo parlor fearing a similar pain. Just like I have to explain to doctors and nurses and phlebotomists, I told the tattoo man that I needed to watch him do the tattoo. Looking away would only make it worse for me. He relented and started, even though I was barely breathing and leaning as far away from him as the length of my arm would allow.

When he started my tattoo, it obviously hurt like hell. I chose my bony finger right on the bone. But it didn’t hurt like I thought it would. I thought it would be some vague level of unbearable.

But instead, it was a more dragging-glass-accidentally-across-your-foot-but-on-purpose level. I was so thrilled in that moment to have a permanent scar to accompany my new tattoo. When my best friend’s boyfriend joked that I should be crying by now based on my punkitude up to this point, I was happy to give him the middle finger, then turn back to watch the World Cup Finals. Yeah, I was handling it at this point. Feeling so used to the glass-dragging feeling that I could enjoy some sports on the huge TV in the tattoo spot.

Even after all of that, and being quite sure that day that I’d never want another tattoo, it turns out she was right.

But I’m sticking with what I know. I’m getting 2 more tattoos, both on fingers, both on fingers I always wear rings on, both of symbols of who I am that I don’t think will ever change.

So now we come full circle back to the Adinkra symbols. I’ve loved them ever since I saw them in an African-American History Museum in college. Back then, I thought that’s what my first tattoo would be of.

Each symbol stands for so much, and ultimately I decided that what if my devotion to one particular symbol changed over time. I know some people use tattoos to tell stories of their life, with each one representing a different stage, but I’m not interested in that (as of now). I just want something I can look at in 30 years and still feel happy about it representing me.

Plus, my hands already look old, so I know what the tattoos will look like all raisin-y. I rolled around the idea of a few symbols, starting with what I was considering 12 years ago.

But size limitations, plus disagreements with the meanings of some of the symbols cut the list way down. I ultimately decided on:

image via adinkra.org

This symbol is called nyansapo. It means wisdom, intelligence, and a bunch of other wonderful things. I’ve had a gift of brainpower and discernment since a young age and pending any brain injuries or disease, it will be a part of who I am. It’s such an integral part of who I am that I was floored when I first met Chris and he thought of me as “the pretty girl” rather than “the smart girl”.

 

This symbol is the olive branch. It is a religious symbol for many Western religions that gained strength in the Mediterranean. It was one of Athena’s symbols in Greek mythology. It is a symbol of peace and victory, brides and bounty, God connecting people of different backgrounds (tree grafting in the book of Romans, one of my favorite books of the Bible), and God’s covenant with his people (Noah after the whole 40 days 40 nights flood). All around it’s pretty awesome.

The picture above is the simplest image I could find. I’m thinking of getting it tattooed around my finger, but there may still be size concerns. I may have to go back to the drawing board.

When I go to Chicago in 11 days (yes, I’m counting), I plan to get these two additional tattoos. I’m very glad the ticket prices were on point. I’m also considering dyeing my hair. My best friend just got a new apartment, and it would feel so throwback to go there and do my hair. We spent many a Thursday night during college doing each other’s hair.

Personal changes aside, let’s get back to the paint I’m going to add to the walls of our home. So many of the symbols have such a wonderful meaning, that I would love to see them on our walls, hand painted as representations of the guiding principles of our marriage and adult life.

Symbols like odo nnyew fie kwan, which translates to love never loses its way home. Seeing as how we both travel so much (and travel separately), I love this one for right above our home’s entrance.

And there’s akoma ntoso, which mans understanding and agreement. That one should be in every room of the house so I can look at it and stay on task when we’re having one of our many heart-to-hearts.

I also like nsaa, which represent excellence, genuineness, and authenticity. I think that’s perfect for the music room. Having that energy when Chris is in there working sounds good to me.

There are so many others, but I’m going to run them by Chris before picking up the paint brush. I want to make sure they represent what we want, not just what I want.

I’m not sure what’s causing all of this “I simply must be me!!” that’s taking over me these days, but I’m gong with it. I’m having fun with this inching closer and closer to the person I’m supposed to be.

I was always just me, without a lot of expression of me. I spent a lot of time doing things, thinking about doing things, and thinking about what I thought about the things I did. I planned, I remembered, and I thought about those plans and memories. But putting real time into just answering “who am I?” is new.

I’m finally becoming a true millennial, I guess. I’m feeling moderately narcissistic, feeling the need to try to make the world pay attention to my self-expression. Maybe that’s not accurate, I don’t know. I just know that instead of thinking too much about it, I’m trying to focus on how good I feel.

Feeling good like this makes me want to plan for the future. I’m putting myself on a plan to get out from under my student loans in 10 years. This answers the question of whether I’m staying at this job. The answer is yes. And it answers the question of whether I’m going to grad school, and so now I’m hitting the ground running to try and get my crap together to make the application deadline.

That may adjust the timeline on us buying a place in the near-ish future. Hopefully it doesn’t, but we shall see.

Weird how I can all of this just from trying avoid spending $500 on an armoire, isn’t it?

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Now We’re Back On The Same Page

New York living is expensive y’all!

Imagine going to Starbucks every day for a week. You’re feeling all hyper and caffeine-alicious, but wonderfully satisfied. Then you realize that bottle of water, plus some fruit, plus a couple of those new yummy chocolate croissants, plus that tempting sale-priced Holiday blend coffee destined for your French press at home have all conspired together. And you are now $150 poorer than you were 7 days ago. And this is just from a coffee shop!

Now imagine that everywhere is Starbucks. Everywhere. Anything you do more than once in a week suddenly suck hundreds of dollars from your budget. Budget,say what? That thing that just frustrates you because no amount of planning can account for what you have no choice but to do when you lose your Metro card you just added $112 dollars to? Yeah, budgets.

Okay, I’m done with the stream of consciousness run on sentences for a bit. I think I’ve made my point that incidental costs alone make New York living expensive.

All of this was just based on my own experiences. But I’m not here alone, the husband is here too. He’s had the same challenges I’ve had coupled with the frustration of not working as much as he’d like.

We knew this would happen. We came to New York so he could spread his musician wings, open up a new market, and ultimately work even more (hopefully) than he was in Chicago.

That type of thing doesn’t happen overnight.

So it’s been a rough six months, financially at least. There were definitely some bumps along the way.

I had to stop drinking Starbucks every day. You won’t like me when I’m decaffeinated.

The husband unilaterally decided to postpone grad school. Again. That’s all I’ll say on that topic for now.

And the cats have taken to terrorizing the entire apartment building because they got used to having free reign of stairways during their months in exile at my parents’ house in Chicago.

Getting used to having no space anymore that counts as an escape for alone time, I’ve claimed some Saturdays as my own where I hang out in Greenwich Village, sometimes with the folks from the soup kitchen. Sometimes, I’m just by myself, hanging at Starbucks, drinking a mocha and watching Hulu on my phone.

But now things are evening out, at least they appear that way.

The husband is getting more calls for gigs, and offers to head out-of-town to play as well. So far, it appears he’s been able to maintain his musical connection to the Midwest while developing roots on the East Coast.

This weekend, he’s headed to Haiti for a music festival, then he’s back playing multiple gigs in NYC and some of the most popular jazz clubs in the city. Then he’s off to Midwest and out West for a month and some change to play there.

All of this has of course boosted his morale. It’s a nice feeling to know that the people like you, they really like you. And they want to pay you to stick around and do more.

On my end, I’m starting to hit a groove at work. I’m finishing up a work project that I’ve put a lot into and I’m hoping to see some real returns on it in the coming months. It’s all about getting more active participation in the donation process on all sides.

New York City provides some interesting challenges to organ and tissue donation that I just wasn’t experienced with coming from the Midwest. But I think I’ve risen to the challenge and if anything, it’s made me more committed to this work and I’ve dug deeper to find new ways to make it happen.

One thing I always tell my staff is that every time we speak to a family regarding donation, it’s an investment in today and tomorrow. Whether or not a family who has lost a loved one decides to have that person become a donor is irrelevant in this way.

I tell them that we want to make sure we are caring for these families at this difficult time and letting them know that our desire to help people get transplants never diminishes our compassion for their loss. Every time a family hangs up with us, they should feel positive about the conversation.

When we do this consistently, we are doing a small part to contribute to positive public opinion regarding donation. And we lay the groundwork for the family to say yes next time. If a family decides to donate, but they have a bad experience, they’re not going to want to repeat it. If a family decides not to donate, but they have a good experience, they may reconsider next time (depending on their reasons for saying no in the first place).

At my old job in Chicago and at this one, I have encountered families that have heard from us multiple times. They have been unfortunate enough to lose multiple family members in the last handful of years. It just so happened that these family members that passed away were all eligible for tissue donation. And when they hear from us, they have to make that decision about donation, and it’s a unique decision every time they decide.

I am finally starting to feel like I’m getting through to people regarding the importance of this. As America gets older (and sicker), more and more people will know someone in need of a transplant.

Just like with gay marriage, knowing and loving someone affected by an issue makes you more likely to support it. To me this means that in coming years, people will be more open to donation. I want to make sure that when that happens, those who have already lost loved ones and talked to us have a positive feeling towards the organization I work for.

It’s our jobs to make something positive come out of a sad situation and give people a chance to live on through others. We can’t do that unless we’re constantly taking care of public opinion regarding what we do.

I definitely didn’t mean to go on such a long pro-donation ramble, but I just feel so passionately about this. And considering the fact that all I do in NYC is work, volunteer, church, and sleep, it’s a big portion of my life here.

I’m looking forward in the near future to do more that just that. Now that the husband is working more, I at least get to go out to his gigs because they usually let me in free.

But even though I’m not out at amazing restaurants and cool clubs all the time (or, couch, ever), I’m really doing okay.

The time I spend away from home is so fulfilling, and really a lot of fun.

At work I’m saving lives with the click of a button, and co-workers are crazy and fun in the best way possible.

At church, I’m growing closer to God. And I’m looking forward to seeing what’s going on with the young adult ministry, it seems like it could be fun.

At one of my volunteer things, I get to tutor (which y’all know I love) and play with a new baby.

At the other volunteer thing, I’m hanging out in the Village, and becoming part of a really amazing family of good people who just like being together and making someone else’s day a bit better.

Since the second I signed the lease on our lovely little brownstone apartment, I’ve loved living in New York. But since things have evened out a bit more, I love it even more.

Now if I could just figure out the best way to navigate the public school system here so we don’t have to move one day when we have kids…


I’m Done Paying People To Torture Me

Yesterday, I mentioned heading down to Greenwich Village in Manhattan. I promised I’d explain why I went down there, and I’m trying to keep my promise to you people. I went because of the horrible hair experience I had a few weeks ago.

In Chicago, this lovely woman did my hair. She kept my locs well-groomed and maintained. My hair smelled nice, looked clean, and stayed strong. She also worked hard to make sure it was dyed a color I loved. That’s no easy feat because my hair doesn’t take color well.

If you read this blog regularly, which I super duper appreciate, then you remember my first attempt to get my hair done here in NYC.

It didn’t go well.

I reached out to my Chicago hair lady for suggestions for shops here, but she didn’t get back to me because she was on her honeymoon. I could understand that, but I was in a bit of a crisis. I had to go to Chicago for the Chicago Jazz Fest, in which the husband was playing with his band. And I had to go to Atlanta for a wedding with friends from college I hadn’t seen since my wedding.

There was no way I was going out-of-state with my hair looking the way it was last week. It was fine for everyday, but not nearly groomed enough for special occasions.

Enter Google. You all may have noticed once or twice that I have a very personal relationship with Google I don’t even remember the world before Google. My brain has blocked it out because it’s like trying to remember a time before I had my best friend.

So Google and I got really comfortable as I sought to discover what to do about my hair. At a family barbeque back in July, one of my cousin’s cousins told me that I was wasting my money paying someone else to do my locs and I should do it myself.

I thought about the hours it would take and decided against it.

But when I’m on a tight budget and I’m gun-shy from my previous bad experience, I tend to see things differently.

Just like when I began doing my own nails, I was apprehensive, but ready to try it and accept the consequences.

Google told me I should get some loc butter. Most products have a ton of ingredients and scents I wasn’t really a fan of. So then Google told me how I could make my own loc butter. That’s how I ended up at the essential oils store. I found two scents that my Chicago hair lady used and I wanted to keep using: juniper and frankincense.

Then I had to go to two different beauty supply store, but I got everything I needed.

When I finally got home, I setup my stuff. I put together the loc butter, which sounds odd if you’re not familiar with the term. Basically, it’s just shea butter, jojoba oil, and mango butter. I added the essential oils and a couple other things to make it my own. It smelled wonderful and worked great.

I haven’t washed my hair since it was much shorter, I’m talking above my ears. I wasn’t at all prepared for how heavy it was. I’m used to having my neck supported in the sink in the shop. Standing up in the shower was painful. I definitely needed a neck rub after I was done.

After I towel-dried my hair, I set about hand-rolling my locs. I was nervous about how long it would take, but I was feeling a bit excited because I was equipped with knowledge from a few different YouTube videos.

I did the hair in small sections, then braided the locs so they would dry in a wavy/crinkle-y style. The whole thing took me about 2.5-3 hours. That’s not bad at all. It took longer than it would at the shop, but less time overall because I wasn’t sitting under a dryer, I just got in bed.

It turned out pretty well if I do say so myself. It’s been a week since I did my hair and it’s holding up well. I’m so excited to know that I can now perform maintenance on my hair. I’m not destroying the parts my Chicago hair lady put in place, and I am saving a ton of money. I can go from spending about $1100 a year to $300-400 a year. That’s a lot of savings!

Now that I’m done patting myself on the back, I’m going into worry mode. I do want my locks to have color other than my natural hair color, and I’m a bit apprehensive about doing the color all on my own.

I’ve been wanting to switch up the color to either a rich brown or a can’t-believe-that’s-your-every-day-hair red. It’s so difficult to decide, which means I won’t be doing anything to it yet. I can only wait about 12 weeks between colorings before I start to get angry at the new growth. So I have another few weeks to make a decision. Any suggestions?


Signing On the Dotted Line

After we saw the fake one bed-room that’s perfect for a single girl’s first NYC apartment, we moved on. The assistant’s assistant broker pulled out his phone and sets up a walking GPS to direct us to the next apartment.

He should’ve given us the rundown of where we were going so we could mentally prepare. But instead, he gave us step by step instructions. When he said, “it’s just around the corner,” that translated to “many many more steps after we turn this corner, the first of which is pure hell.”

After walking from 190th to 188th, we turn the corner and see the tallest hill I’ve ever been forced to climb. The incline was so steep, so damn steep, that I could hold my head level and see the ground ahead of me only a few yards away.

My best friend and I were pissed.

So the three of us are walking up this awful hill, sweating and cursing under our breath. After about 100 steps, we were only halfway there. At this point, the cursing starts being out loud.

I wanted to maintain a professional  demeanor so I would come off like a serious potential renter. But by the time we got to the top of the hill, that demeanor was gone. Everything out my mouth was, “what the hell?!” and “am I being hazed?!”

My two dads were in a nice air conditioned car meeting us there. They didn’t get to see the first apartment, but since it a was a definite no, that was fine. They got the second apartment right after we did.

My father-in-law walked into the apartment building while my dad was looking for parking. He passed my best friend who was posted on a window ledge inside the building foyer. She let him know that the assistant’s assistant broker and I were up on the fourth floor.

As soon as he made it up the steps, he let me know that there was no way his son was going to be okay with staying in a fourth floor walkup. Then he looked out the window and saw the clotheslines strung between the walls. The building was setup with a faux-courtyard in the center, and the residents had set it up for laundry purposes.

My dad arrived just as we were taking a good look at the kitchen. He told me I broke my best friend. Then he took a look around the apartment and didn’t say much else. He took some pictures, but mostly just looked concerned. Then I called him into the kitchen.

I pointed out how there seemed to be a lot of cabinet space. But there was an issue with the cabinets over the kitchen sink. They seemed to slope downward towards the window. The shelves themselves has a slight downward slope.

My dad thought maybe I wasn’t seeing it right. So I closed the cabinet doors and he immediately saw I was correct because the cabinet doors looked like steps. Each door from the left to the right was about an inch lower than the previous one. That meant the left door of each cabinet didn’t cover the bottom and the right door didn’t cover the top. It was terrible.

We moved on.

I’ll skip the next couple of apartments. Just know they were varying versions of bad. They were also several blocks away. There was no way I was walking, so my dad just offered to take us all. So me, my best friend, my two dads, and the assistant’s assistant broker squeezed into the car for another hour and a half.

My best friend sat in the car, in the air conditioning, for the next couple of apartments. It was great for her because she got to feel better after the hell of climbing that hill. It was great for us because we didn’t have to find parking on any of these busy streets.

She joined us for the last apartment. And it was awful.

This apartment was the only one all four of us saw, so of course it had to be the worst by far.

The walls were red. And not like Big’s-bedroom-wall-in-Sex-and-the-City red. It was more like a-virgin-sacrifice-just-happened-here-and-this-was-the-color-of-her-blood red. The floors were jacked.

The windows had layers of dust on it. The closets were nonexistent. The bathroom was no more than 30 square feet.

I walked into the kitchen to check things out. Or rather, I tried to walk into the kitchen. I stepped on something that was blending into the floor and went sliding across the floor on one foot until I could stop myself.

I had stepped on a rack that was supposed to be in the refrigerator. I didn’t even bother looking at the rest of the kitchen. In my memory, I don’t really remember this place being that awful.

That’s probably why the next thing out of my mouth was, “I think we could make this one work!”

Everyone looked at me in disbelief, even the assistant’s assistant broker.

It was probably a combination of heat exhaustion, tiredness, and hunger that made me say that. Or maybe it was the virgin sacrifice apartment beginning to possess my mind and body.

Either way, we cleared out of there pretty quickly and were back in the car, headed toward midtown to drop of the assistant’s assistant broker.

We drove less than a block. Then the cops pulled us over.

None of the five of us in the car on seatbelts. I swear I always wear my seatbelt. I guess now I have to change that to almost always.

My father got a ticket for driving without a seatbelt. When he told them we were there from out of town looking for an apartment for me and we had the broker in the car, they asked who the broker was.

My dad pointed him out and the cop opened the door next to his seat. He said, “we’re going to have to take you in. The rent prices are waay to high!”

The cops laughed. My dads laughed. The broker laughed.

I didn’t fucking laugh.

Maybe I’m just not a fan of cops.

There’s no maybe. I’m not a fan.

I didn’t laugh the last time a cop made a fake arrest joke in front of me either.

Cops seem to only show up when I don’t need them. Where are the cops when people are getting robbed and gunned down in the street? I know where they are. They’re off yelling at people for double parking and giving out seatbelt tickets to a car that hadn’t traveled 500 feet yet.

I got out with the broker for what he called an “exit interview.” It was really just the assistant broker giving me the hard sell.

I sat there, wondering if I should tell him to go suck an egg. I decided to play his game and told him I like the second apartment best. This is the apartment my father-in-law proclaimed the husband wouldn’t be okay living in.

That’s when he told me the apartment was $1450/month. I was furious because I thought I pretty clearly stated there was a $1400 ceiling. I let him know I had to check with my husband and then left. I was so over Manhattan.

When we got back to Staten Island, we had our debriefing. All the things my family thought were bad about the Brooklyn broker applied to the Manhattan people, but I was the only one who witnessed it.

I was just glad to be past it and glad I was certain I was getting the best available apartment for the time I’d spent searching.

Somehow, I managed to get to New York and find a great apartment, sign the lease, and move in with time to get settled before I had to start work.

Literally, I arrived late Sunday night, and I moved into my new apartment on Thursday evening. When the moving was done, I just wanted to chill with a glass of wine and relax.

But I’m not really done yet.

The husband is coming next Thursday with our stuff.

Yup, I’m living with the basics right now. I have clothes, shoes, toiletries, and a very comfortable air mattress.

I can’t wait until next Thursday. I’m over the pitying looks from waiters when they realize I’m dining alone.

And I really miss the husband.