Does anybody read these?

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Student Loan Saga

I don't like to air my dirty laundry on the internet (OK, that's a teeny bit of a fib), but I want to make sure that everyone understands what we are doing to our young people with student loans. Yes, I know that I am not young. Yes, I understand that I probably should've paid my loans off by now. And yes, I know that ultimately it's my problem if they don't get paid, but when my loans were managed by the U.S. government, they seemed less interested in ruining my life than this private outfit that manages them now. So, here is my whole letter today after my bajillionth letter from Granite State Management and Resources (I hope they google themselves) saying that I need to work with them, despite the fact that every time I call them, they are unwilling to work with me. Enjoy, and pay your bills, kids!

[Note: I am copying the office of my Congressman, Jim Cooper, on this letter. I would hope that since you are a contractor for the federal government and under that contract at the will of the U.S. Congress that bringing his attention to the way you do business will help other student loan borrowers in the future, if not myself.]

Thanks for your letter. I am going to reply by email, which was one of the ways that you suggested contacting you. I appreciate that you are checking in on me and warning me of all the horrible shitty things that could happen to me if I don't pay my student loan. However, I will not be calling you from my office where my co-workers can hear my business to listen to you tell me once again that you are unwilling to work with me on my student loan despite my willingness to come to a solution that works for everyone and your monthly emails saying that you want to work with me (which is zero percent true at this point, but I'm sure the federal government makes you send those out).

First of all, while I have missed several payments this year (which as I explained and you do not care, was due to my roommate not paying her rent for several months leaving me in a very precarious situation), I am now paying you above the minimum payment required every month. Although with the amount that I am in arrears, it will take several months -- if not years -- to get myself back into a situation where I am caught up. I am fully aware of this, but the last person I talked to explained that as long as I made my payments it knocked 30 days off the number of days I was in arrears and as long as I stayed under 365 (which I was well under at the time I had this conversation) that I would not default. However, your current email talks about all the bad things that happens when one defaults, so I am beginning to wonder if this was yet another of your fibs and exaggerations. Or maybe it's just a heavy-handed attempt to milk blood out of a turnip. I'm not quite sure. If you could enlighten me on where exactly we are in that process and if, in fact, I am shaving 30 days off my impending doom in my attempt to catch up, that would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for the newsflash that you are about to trash my credit several months after you have decimated my credit. I could not even get a loan to buy lunch at this point. I pray to God everyday that my car won't stop working, and I live in constant fear that the bank will recall my mortgage due to the rapid free fall of my credit score, and I will be homeless. All because I missed a few loan payments and you refuse to work with me.  I am not asking for debt forgiveness. I am not asking for reduced payments. All I want is a reasonable agreement that will allow me to not be punished for the rest of my life because I fell on hard times for a few months. Literally, this situation has me understanding why people feel like there is no way out and kill themselves over their student loans. Because most days I feel completely and utterly hopeless that I will never be able to overcome this because I don't have $2,400 sitting around. Because I keep sending payments, yet the amount that I am in arrears seems to be growing, not decreasing. And despite that fact that I am now making payments and supposedly decreasing the amount of time that I am in arrears, now I am getting a letter saying I am about to default, which should not be happening if the last person I talked to gave me correct information.

I would love very much to work with you on this. But every single month I call, you tell me there is nothing that can be done. And then every single month you send this BS letter saying that I'm the one who's not cooperating. I send $300/monthly, which is more than what is required, but I cannot afford to send that much extra. And obviously the $300/month is not helping.

Feel free to call me on this issue if you have any ideas on how to fix it besides sending me lip-service letters while ruining my life and my future. I am willing to work with you, but there has to be some give and take on both ends because at this point I am completely drowning and terrified about my entire future due to this situation. And I want to make sure that Congressman Cooper's office knows how the student loan process makes people feel, because I feel like our people deserve better. At least I'm 38 and own my home and vehicle. I can't imagine what it must be like for young kids just starting out to be in this situation.

My cell phone number is [redacted] if anyone would like to contact me.

Sincerely,
Laura Richards

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

It's not all about you.

I'm pretty sure that I told you that I cared very much about a person who chose to delete me from her life. No real explanation, no attempt to mend fences: Just proclaiming our friendship "awkward," telling me that there was no point in trying to fix things and deleting me from her life, including social media.

As much as it pained me, at that point I just went along with my life without her. If she doesn't think our friendship is worth saving there isn't much I can do about it.

And life has moved on without her. And that's fine. Each day is a little better than the last one. But, a lot has happened in my life that she's not privy to. Of course, that's her choice. It isn't one I would make, but nothing's accomplished by sitting around and hoping that she'll come to her senses, because I just don't see that happening. There were times that I thought about apologizing and seeing if I could patch things up, but I did nothing wrong and patches usually only last so long.

So, even though it really sucks some days, I don't pick up the phone and call her when I have a shitty day like I used to. I think about what happened at Disney World, and how for a long time, she's the only person who knew besides my family who was with me. But, when everything in the world was going horribly wrong, she's the person I wanted with me. Her smile kept me from losing my shit. Her voice was the one that I wanted to hear.

I would have loved for her to have been there for me when we buried a young man who was like a brother to me. I would have loved to have been able to call her when I watched my parents break down because a boy they thought of like a son had taken his own life.

But she wasn't there, and that was her choice. Not having me in her life has been her choice. I never did anything to her but care for her and love her, for better or for worse.

When Robin Williams killed himself a few weeks ago, my heart was still stinging from my personal loss. Having someone leave my world by suicide rocked me to the core. It is really the absolute worse thing that can happen to a family and/or friends. It is unexpected and devastating, and it leaves you wondering, wishing what you could've done to stop it, even if the answer probably is absolutely nothing.

So, Robin Williams passed away, and I was still reeling in my own grief and pain. And, on a mutual friend's Facebook page, I summed up my feelings about Robin the same way I summed up my feelings about my friend:

"So sad. What a permanent solution to a temporary problem."

Well, apparently someone felt like that was a jab at her. You know, because she did actually utilize a permanent solution for a temporary problem and all. Of course, that also depends how you define permanent. I am surprised that I figured out that's what my perceived grievance because the only reason that me not being in her life would be permanent is if she remains to prideful to do anything about it. So, she blocked me from Facebook, which I wouldn't have even noticed if a mutual friend hadn't tagged her in something. Because I hadn't actually looked at her Facebook since she deleted me as her friend. I can take a hint.

But it wasn't about her. Not at all. And I am kind of pissed that she thought that.

I'm not pissed that she blocked me. I'm pissed that she thought I was taking a jab at her so she blocked me. First of all, I'd have to give her a thought to take a jab at her. And secondly, she doesn't know what's going on in my life because she removed herself from it. She wasn't there for me when my friend killed himself. She wasn't there to comfort me when I was hurting.

It doesn't matter. I'm not sad that she blocked me. I am sure it will upset her way more than it upsets me. In fact, I just hope that some day she finds peace and happiness and love in her life because she deserves all of those things, whether she believes it or not.

Song of the day: "You're So Vain" by Carly Simon (and I still need to know who this song is about)


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Time flies by

Am I the only person who feels like the older we get, the shorter our days seem?

Time is flying by. It's hard to believe we are half way through August. If you see the eight months that have come and gone with warp speed, let me know.

Over the weekend, I went to New Orleans. That place was awesome. More on that later, including a possible rant about the dangers and pitfalls of this always-connected society.

Now I am home. The week started off on Monday with a lecture from my nurse practitioner about not meeting my weight loss goals. This new gal is really take-no-prisoners, so I need to step up my game.

With that in mind, here are some short-term goals related to fitness.

1. Working out at least five times per week.
2. Logging food for at least 20 days in a row.
3. Wog (walk/jog) a 5k on Sept. 27 (which is already paid for).
4. Complete the 30-day tricep dip challenge, with another challenge to follow.
5. Lose 10 pounds by the time I go to Disney World in October.

I also have several personal goals that I need to work on. Yesterday I finally realized that I am in a much better place than I was at the beginning of the year emotionally, even though it took me a helluva long time to figure it out. I deserve to be with a partner who is truly my partner, who is free to love me as much as I love him (yes, probably him). This means no more people with exes or spouses or emotional baggage that is holding them back. I shouldn't have to say that and it shouldn't have taken this long to figure it out. The reality is, when God sends you the person you are supposed to be with, that person will not be encumbered to someone else. They won't. They'll be ready to love you. And if you meet someone who isn't quite there and you love them, well, let them go and pray for them until he or she can figure his or her shit out. It's not your job to figure someone's shit out for them.

Which reminds me, after I get back from Disney I am tightening the belt and getting in a better place financially, even if it means eating dried beans for half my life. I need to not rely on any other human being for anything, including my ability to pay my mortgage and/or my light bill. At some point I really do need to live like a grown-up, which means paying all my bills myself and not living beyond my means. Ideally, I would like to have my mortgage and my student loans be my only debt by the end of next year at the latest. This could be an interesting year.

Lastly, I want to get back on trying new recipes every week. I know I keep saying that, but I am for real this time. I have 70 million cookbooks and get at least 16,000 recipe emails per week. So why am I going back and forth among the same recipes? It's time to get creative.

That's it for my update. In short, shit's about to get real and it should be pretty fun. If nothing else, I promise you'll get a laugh or two at my expense along the way.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Not a bad thing

If I had seen this video before everything fell apart, I might have used it to plead my case.

It's not a bad thing to fall in love with me.

It really isn't. Despite what you may have heard.

There's no pleading now. Ships have sailed. I don't know about everyone's heart, but mine is in 20 million tiny, little pieces.

I lit a candle today at church. I prayed that she'll be OK, whatever that means. Her place in my heart is secure, even if it gets smaller as time passes by.

Lessons learned. Tears shed. It really is getting easier everyday.

But some days I would still love to run after her, apologize for whatever imaginary grievance is in her head...but I know that's not fair to me, accomplishes nothing and will probably only end up hurting me even more in the end.

Every single nook and cranny of this part of town reminds me of her. Every single day when I go to work it's like pouring salt into wounds.

Not sure how to fix it. Not sure how to fix anything.

But anyways, back to the topic. I seriously am pretty damn lovable, and I promise that I'll catch you if you let yourself fall...



Tuesday, May 13, 2014

It's the same...only different

About this time seven years ago, someone who had walked out on me reappeared in my life rather miraculously. Folks who have been around for some time, know what it was like for me to reunite with someone who is truly my soulmate (just not the house, two kids and a golden retriever kind of soulmate) and rekindle our friendship like we had never been apart. There have been lots of tears and laughs over the past seven years, and it's hard to believe that we've known each other since 1997, because I can tell you almost every detail of the day we met like it was yesterday. And I -- this will shock you -- was pretty not sober the day we met. I was wearing a plaid flannel shirt (it was the 90s, I was in college and loved bands from Seattle) that day. We were standing by a fish tank in a house in Dayton, Ohio, talking about how much we hated John Engler. Of course, we had to be lifelong friends.

And we have been for the most part. I adored him, and I thought we'd be married and have kids, because I thought we were that kind of soulmates. And, had he not been gay, I am 99 percent sure we would have been. Of course, that sticky little point led to a lot of problems between us and a lot of heartache for both of us. He, because he couldn't love me and didn't feel like he could tell me why; and I, because I loved him with my entire heart and didn't understand what I was doing wrong and why things weren't going the way I thought they were supposed to.

Ultimately, rather than tell me why things weren't working, he disappeared off the face of the earth. It was before cell phones, but landlines were disconnected and emails bounced back. My belongings that were in his possession were returned to me unceremoniously in a box in the mail with no return address and no explanation.

Sparing you all the gory details, I will say this is not a good way to leave someone who likes to blame herself for all the world's problems. It took me a long time to recover, and as I sit here right now going through a similar situation and feeling all the same feelings of rejection, negative self worth and blame, I am wondering if things are ever really OK.

Before I moved to Nashville, I was riding in the car with my mother and my aunts from Detroit back to Ohio. I was sitting in the back seat, when I looked over and saw his car next to us. When he passed us, I saw that he had Georgia plates, and I remembered that the last time I saw him he told me that he was going to move to Atlanta when his parents retired to their property in East Tennessee. I told him this story when I found him later, and he never saw me that day. Oh, and did I mention that I-75 is one of the largest roadways in the United States? When you think about it that way, seeing him that day had to be a miracle.

When I moved to Nashville, I knew he lived in Atlanta from that encounter on the highway. I knew his parents lived outside Chattanooga because he had shown me their retirement property. At a friend's urging, I looked them up and reached out to them. They gave him the letter I wrote to them, and he contacted me. And I will never forget that day I came home to Carol's house and saw an envelope with his handwriting on it on the kitchen counter, mostly because it was a day that I never thought I would see. I thought he hated me. 

So, let's fast forward to 2014. If you have been following me since February, you know that I found myself in a very unexpected relationship that I believe ended because the other person involved couldn't reconcile her feelings about me with how she thought she was supposed to feel. Throughout our relationship she kept telling me that she was crazy about me but it was complicated and she would explain it, but she never did.

Sound familiar?

Anyhow, we tried to be friends and I thought we were doing pretty well with it, but ultimately she declared our friendship "awkward" and walked away with no more explanation than that.

I should've been getting a sense of deja vu about the whole thing, but I was too busy being sad that someone I cared about so much was walking away from me. I have also spent a lot of time trying to figure out what I did wrong to make someone go from loving me and being crazy about me to completely discounting my existence as a human being, deleting (and/or blocking) me from all aspects of her life and treating me rather cruelly. It's so odd, because I never would've imagined myself in this situation, and at the time I didn't feel like our relationship was so big, but this is a lot more painful than I ever thought it would be.

And then last night, I was telling someone who told me he had no gay friends the story of me and Mike. And then it hit me.

When Mike walked away (also because he couldn't reconcile his relationship with me with his sexuality), I never thought I would see him again. I blamed myself because I didn't know the truth. All I knew was that I didn't know how I could go on without my best friend in my life anymore.

But then, several years later, once he and I were both in better places, God had him drive past me on one of the busiest and largest interstate highways in the world. And, not long after that, we were finishing each others' sentences again. Yeah, it's different now, but all I really wanted was to have my friend in my life, and I do. And it's exactly what God always intended for us.

And nowadays, it's easier. I've had the same phone number for 15 years. You can pretty much google anyone and find them. And as easy as she blocked me on all that social media, she could unblock me.

Well, I take that back. Contacting someone when you're ready is easier. But getting there is still a big, giant pain in the ass that requires tons of work. And prayer. Everyone just pray that I will heal and she will find her way in life. In times like this, it's good to remember the words of Mother Teresa: "I know God will not give me anything I can't handle. I just wish he didn't trust me so much."

Friday, May 02, 2014

Realizations

I think I might need to rename this blog, "I go to therapy so you don't have to!" This has been a week of stress, heartache, sadness, and -- perhaps most importantly -- self-reflection and realization. Expect to hear a little bit more about self care in the future.

I don't have much time to write at this minute. It's the busiest week of my year at work, and I did not need someone to upset my apple cart but being a jerk earlier this week. While I didn't have time for grief and loss, I have spent all my free time realizing a lot about myself and the behavior of others.

I have learned a few things this week. I learned that when you love someone that it's OK to let them walk away. While it hurt for me to be released from their lives, I also learned that they needed me to release them, too. They need to work on themselves and focus on what they want and where they are going before we could figure out where -- if anywhere -- we are going together. As I said earlier today, "Someone will always have a place in my heart, but she will need to seriously man up before she can have a place in my life again." And I meant it.

At the same time, pushing me away doesn't make your problems lessen, it just pushes them away and you don't have your support system. Severing ties with me will not make you love your husband, put food on the table, make you straight or help your children behave. All it does is postpone the inevitable, and now you don't have your biggest cheerleader there to help you and cheer you on.

My heart hurts, but I will be OK. I have plenty of people who do love me and who are there for me. All I can do now is pray that everyone else finds the same thing for themselves.

Take care of yourself. It's the best thing you can do. And maybe running away and hiding from reality is how you do that for a while. Just don't make it a habit, OK?

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Katy Perry kissed a girl...and no one cared

This is probably the most real that you will ever see me be.

And I am scared to death, but I firmly believe that the ability to tell your story makes you a better writer. And sometimes you have to bare your soul to do that.

A few months ago, a friend mentioned that her life was going too well and it was making it difficult to write. I chuckled, but she’s probably on to something. Hemingway was a raging alcoholic (sadly, many writers are), F. Scott Fitzgerald probably gaslighted his beloved Zelda, and Sylvia Plath stuck her head in an oven. Tortured souls are not few in writing. And, while I would never have the balls to compare my writing or life experiences to theirs, I guess maybe angst and writing go hand-in-hand. Or, maybe it’s something in our personalities that make us writers in the first place. I’ve said many times that I have no idea what I would do if I couldn’t write anymore.

But this story isn’t about writing. This story is about a recent stop on my life’s journey. I almost said “detour,” but I think detour implies that it was a path you didn’t want to take. While it wasn’t a path I ever thought I would choose, I am glad that I took it. And even though part of me feels colossally stupid right now, I know that I will look back later on and realize that this was all part of the route my life was supposed to take.

I debated whether or not I should tell you all. After all, my heart was completely and totally ripped out of my chest this past weekend, so it doesn’t even matter anymore.

Except maybe it does. I could say that I am doing it to help just one other person who is struggling with the same situation, and that would be all nice and make us all feel good. But really, I think that no one should have to be ashamed of the person they love, and I am pretty sure that if I ever find out why I got dumped, that will be the reason.

I will never forget the first time I saw her. She had the most beautiful, big brown eyes, and the most perfect smile you will ever see, even with the gap between her two front teeth. She was with her grandson, although I found it very hard to believe that she was old enough to be a grandmother. While I was instantly struck by her beauty, I was also smitten with her intelligence, her kindness, and her sense of humor. She also has the biggest heart of anyone I’ve ever met, and maybe that’s a good thing and a bad thing. She was someone I wanted to be friends with, but I instantly felt like we connected on a deeper level.

I will spare you all the details, but I will tell you this was very new territory and I never felt scared with her. In fact, I’ve never felt safer than when I was with her. Have you ever kissed someone and not known where your body ended and the other person’s began? That’s how it was. We were both wild about each other, and we had to keep pinching ourselves to make sure we weren’t dreaming. We did a lot of romantic stuff, but we did a lot of stuff that friends would do like going shopping for shoes in the middle of the night on Black Friday.

It was complicated. She had a husband, and I understood that he came first. I liked him, and he liked me. We both wanted her to be happy. I had no illusions that we would live happily ever after, although I did ask her one night if something happened to him would she want to get married, and she didn’t even have to think about it.

So, maybe I was foolish to think it could go anywhere. All I know is that being in this situation turned my life upside down. Was I OK with this, and what would I do if people found out? I decided, also perhaps quite naively, that I didn’t care. The only thing that was important to me was having her in my life.

I don’t know what went wrong. She got a new job, and she was working insane hours. She was stressed out, and she told me that she pushes people away when she gets stressed. But at some point, I realized that she was shutting me out for whatever reason. And now, things aren’t good anymore. In fact, they’re about as awful as they could be. We had a horrible fight on a few weeks ago, and I’m pretty sure that she’ll never talk to me again. So, if I wasn’t sure what I’d done to make her stop loving me before, I guess I know now. Maybe it’s better, because now I have a reason for her to hate me.

While it’s over and only about four people in the whole world even knew about it (although there may have been more because my roommate says we were incapable of looking like straight people when we hugged), I feel like I need to share this part of my journey. Am I gay now? No, I still like men. Very much so. I don’t even know that I would call myself bi, because don’t think that I would ever seek out another woman to date. What I realized was that no matter whether you call yourself gay, straight, bi, whatever – you don’t choose the person you love. If you do, you’re doing it wrong, and you’re probably missing out.

I don’t even know at this point if my friendship with this amazing woman can be salvaged. I hope that it can, but I apologized for being an asshole and left that ball firmly in her court. Ironically, now that she’s told me that she just wants to be friends and stopped sending me mixed signals (which has been our dance for the last month or so), I would be OK with just being friends. In fact, I told a friend last week that I think I just do better when I only have platonic relationships anyhow. However, I was not nice, and I won’t be surprised if I never hear from her again.

Would I go back and take a different path if I had the chance? Not anything except when she started to shut me out, I would have had more of a conversation about it (because I didn’t realize she was friendzoning me; I thought she was just pushing me away to deal with stress), and I never, ever would have fought with her last weekend. I wouldn’t have never met her, or never gone out with her, or never fallen in love with her. I treasure every minute that we’ve had, even if we never see each other again.

Maybe someone will read this and have the courage to look for love in unexpected places. Maybe someone will read this and have the courage to come out. Maybe someone will read this and have the courage to deal with their own issues about their sexuality instead of hurting his or her partner. Maybe someone will just have the courage to talk to his or her partner instead of running away. After all, who would better know what you're going through?

And, maybe just maybe, someone will read this and realize that no one really chooses who they fall in love with and that it’s not our place to speculate or judge about what happens behind closed doors.

Whatever your journey, I hope it’s the ride of your life.

Song of the day: “Same Love” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.

(Sidebar: The title of this post comes from the fact that Katy Perry kissed Miley Cyrus this past weekend. On the lips. In front of tens of thousands of people in the Staples Center. And no one seemed to care. The times they are a' changin', folks.)

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