Quick(ish) Update

So, if you follow my Twitter stream, you probably already know that my retroactive UI checks DID finally show up last week in the P.O. box (wooooooot!)

Some of it went towards practical things such as paying bills, but I have reopened one of my old checking accounts (the credit union one, with the great interest rate) and shoveled the rest in there, to hopefully accrue and amass enough to buy a house.

Ah, there’s the other thing.  The house that I had been working towards was pulled off the market (not sold); I’m assuming due to the California 90-day foreclosure moratorium that recently took effect.

Oh, well  :(

Matt and I have found another house that we absolutely adore.  It is still a fixer, but it is in much better condition and it costs much less (Asking price is in the $190K range).  If we can just get a mortgage for this, we’ll be set.  I have a few thousand already; we’re on our way!  I’m not going to post pictures of/info on this house because I’ve started getting paranoid that someone else will see it, think “ooh, that’s a great deal!” and it’ll get snatched from under our nose like the last one did.  So, sorry… if we get it then I’m sure I’ll be posting pics galore!

Other than that, Matt returns to Cali on Friday evening and I can’t wait to see him.  He’ll be here for 3 months this time, which is awesome.  We’re going to be spending a lot of time with Fezzik, and taking on extra work to bring in extra income, because right now we are super-focused on this house thing.  It’ll be a major bummer if we lose it, so we’re really gonna be cracking down.  It’ll be interesting to see how it all unfolds.

~Bri

P.S.  I am wearing a pretty, sparkly, antique Edwardian/art nouveau diamond and platinum piece of jewelry on the ring finger of my left hand…  Hmmmmm…  What could that be?  Pictures soon, I hope.  Actually, I may soon go looking for an affordable Wal-Mart camcorder/camera in order to document my life with Matt, since the one on my phone sucks.

P.P.S.  “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader” is holding open auditions.  I have decided that I should totally do this, because:

a) I need money for our house.

b) I have watched this show and have a hunch that I am at least as smart as a 5th grader.  Hell, I was one not too long ago…  Maybe 13 years ago?  And I was a smartass, too.  I was the kind of kid who looked down my nose at all the other kids reading fluffy young adult novels, because I was busy toting around “Gone With the Wind” and “Shogun”.  Hell, “A Wrinkle in Time” was my first novel.  I was 6.

Bittersweet

Matt is on a plane to Scotland as I type.  He needed to return home for about two weeks to sort some things out, and will be returning after that for a three-month visit (90 days is the longest he is allowed to stay in the U.S. at a stretch, per the visa waiver program currently in place between our respective countries).

I had a nice little breakdown at the airport.  Tried very hard not to cry, and failed miserably – burst out into huge, jagged, red-faced sobs (and Matt was quite a bit moist as well, which I found oddly reassuring).  I think we may have annoyed some innocent bystanders.  Our goodbyes were quite prolonged and punctuated by lots of kisses, hugs, sniffles, caresses, longing gazes, and other similar things that make strangers barf and wish that you would move the hell out of their way so they can get through the security checkpoint to the metal detectors, already.  I finally watched him head up the escalator towards the boarding area, until I lost sight of him.  He turned around many times to catch my eye and wave.  I know he misses and loves me just as much as I do him.  That is something completely new.  I am grateful for it.

Now I’m back at the motel where I will be spending the next few nights (I check out Friday morning and need to return to the trailer at Wal-Mart), and I’m trying to keep myself occupied with random things like surfing the Internet, catching up on “So You Think You Can Dance”, making dinner (ramen noodles), reading books – anything to keep my mind off the gaping hole in my life.  But nothing is working.  You see, it was hard enough being without Matt before he ever actually came out here.  I wanted to be around him in the worst way.  But now that he has been here, it’s about a million times worse.  I’m not only longing for something I’ve never had, I’m now missing something that has been here, filled my life, and is now absent.  It’s a very slight, intangible difference, but it’s there.

The passenger seat of my car feels empty.  My hand feels empty without his to hold.  The bed in the motel feels empty without him to cuddle with.  Everything feels kind of sepia-coloured and there’s a weight on my chest.  Occasionally I think I’m all cried out, but something like a half-finished carton of grape juice or a bag of Doritos he left behind will start me off again.  My pillow smells like him.  There’s still sand on the floor that we tracked in from our day at Newport Beach this weekend (he wanted to see the Pacific Ocean).  Perhaps I’ll feel a little better once I know his flight has landed and he’s arrived safely.  But even then, I know I can’t be completely top-notch again until he’s here with me, and we’re wrapping up all the loose ends to ensure that we won’t have to be parted again.

* * * * *

The “sweet” part of my bittersweet day came after leaving the airport.  I stopped by the post office to check my P.O. box.  Inside – oh, happy day! – sat 6 EDD claim forms.  That’s right, after months of waiting, phone calls, e-mails, and stressing…  I have received the paperwork to file for 12 weeks’ worth of retroactive UI benefits.  I mail them out tomorrow; the resulting checks are *supposed* to be returned to me within 10 business days, which means that soon I could be brandishing $5,700 (normally would be $5,400 but a stimulus program in place provides me an extra $25 per week, which sounds small, but obviously adds up over time).

So… woohoooooooooo!!!!!!  I have to be very careful with the money – hoard it up and get a mortgage all straightened out.  This is a huge step towards Matt and I buying our own home (which is good, since a place I was in love with was just sold to another interested party… I’m awfully torn up about it; I hope I don’t have to experience that kind of disappointment again).  I just have to scrimp and save and not blow it.  I am staying in the trailer for the weeks that Matt is in Scotland; once he returns, we are probably going to stay in a rented motorhome for $450/month.  It will be on the same property Fezzik is being boarded at, so we will be able to be with him full-time, and Matt can take him out for long walks every day and bond with his new dog.  The motorhome will also be hooked up with electricity and water, and we may even have cable TV and internet access included, which is obviously a vast improvement over Wal-Mart, and no facilities/utilities.  The downside is that the ranch is in Norco/Riverside area, so it will be a long drive to work and back for me.  With gas prices on the rise, that obviously isn’t super great.  Still, $450 is so little per month, we should save enough to more than make up for the fuel costs.

Once we are esconced on the ranch, I would like to look into selling the trailer, and into settling with Wachovia and selling my car as well.  That way, I can use the truck that I inherited from Bill, which is currently towing the trailer (and which is completely paid off).  Gas mileage is worse on the truck than on my car, but again, there’s the issue of not having to make any more car payments to Wachovia the crooks.

I think things are finally looking up for us.  I was a bit down this weekend because one of the tires on my car had a blowout, and I had to invest a lot of money in a new one that I hadn’t planned on spending – goodbye, paycheck!  But then my claim forms finally arrived, and it’s a huge weight off my mind.  Now, as long as my baby makes it home in one piece (and also returns to me safely in two weeks) I think things will be well on their way to perfect, or as perfect as imperfect, unpredictable life could ever possibly be for two crazy kids madly in love with one another.

EDD Hatred Level Escalates; Awesome Book; Religious Past

Today was a day that was mainly frustrating and exhausting, for personal reasons.

In addition, yesterday I gasped with joy as I opened my P.O. box.  A beaming, glowing ray of light fell upon the envelope from California EDD.  The angelic chorus sounded.  For a brief moment, the world was so very lovely.  Finally, finally after hours of fruitless phone calls trying to get through, several e-mails begging for a response, with only maddeningly robotic (and clearly deceptive) “we will get back to you within 48 hours” automatons to appease me…  FINALLY!!!!!!!  My claim forms for my extended benefits had arrived (in case you haven’t yet read my previous post on this subject, I am now owed several months’ worth of retroactive extended unemployment benefits, prior to my getting a job.  Sat down recently and tallied up the amount owed from the day that I filed.  Turns out I’m owed in the vicinity of a little over $5K at this point, which would take me 1/4 of the way towards accummulating the $20K I recently found out I need to pull out of my bum to get this house so that I can then start the whole fun part of seeing what’s involved to use it for transitional housing purposes to take in other homeless women/children (that’s a story for another post, but soon, I promise).

Ripped open the envelope to find… a (second) “approval” notice letting me know that yes, I am eligible for extended unemployment benefits (well, duh, same exact notice I already received waaaaaaaay back when this crap saga started)…

There were no claims forms included.

None.

Zilch.

Aaaaaaaaaand………… yeah.

Seriously.  I know they’re backed up because CA is now like the poster child mascot of insanely skyrocketing unemployment rate states (OK, besides Michigan), but what the eff?!?!?!?!?!

WHERE are my UI benefits?  With those I could at least start the process, combine those with the money I have on me now and I’d be $6K down, only $14K to go.

* * * * *

In other news, stumbled upon this book called I’m Perfect, You’re Doomed, by Kyria Abrahams.  She was raised in the same religion/cult/whateveryouwannacallit as I was (won’t reference it here, you’re welcome to look it up if you like, but if you’re a reader and a devoted member of this religion, I’d really appreciate you skipping the part where you leave me comments telling me how wrong I am about the organization, wrong for leaving, assuming you know everything about me, assuming you know everything about your own religion/cult/whatever, assuming you know everything period, etc.)

I read the first couple of pages and identified so strongly with it (plus it’s hysterically funny – the chick has mad sarcasm skills, which is kind of my M.O. too, so I liked her right off the bat) that I had to stay up all night reading it.

It really brought back waves of memories for me – I left the organization at 18 when I moved out of my parents’ house, although while staying with them they insisted on dragging me back, which I put up with to the best of my ability… zoning out, which I’ve perfected the art of.

Kyria really got the language and syntax and feel of what it’s like growing up as a member spot on.  Many of our experiences were alike – particularly the one where she swallowed a bottle full of pills in a failed suicide attempt and her parents ignored it, didn’t drive her to the hospital, nothing.  Left her to either get over it or else face the consequences of her actions and die.  That struck me so because I had such an eerily similar experience – at 14, in a fit of hopelessness, I impulsively swallowed a jumbo bottle of Tylenol (yeah, go ahead and laugh – but ODing on Tylenol causes liver failure, it turns out!)  My family’s tenant found me in the bathroom and called my mother, who blithely told him “have her stick her finger down her throat”, hung up and drove to Palm Springs with my sister for the week, leaving me to be sick and/or die while said tenant, also a member of this religion, shrugged his shoulders and went back to bed (turned out I was just in agony all night and the next morning.  Nothing major.  I was lucky.)

Now, clearly I got over the whole idea of death after that… agony like that made me decide it really wasn’t in the cards for me.  Nope, never trying that again *shudder*.  But still, it was scary.  And finding out that there was someone with a childhood so similar to mine – let alone her writing a book that is breaking into mainstream literature! – was kind of an eye-opener for me.

The last part of the book is the darkest.  This is where our life experiences varied more (and Kyria admits she has some medical/mental issues such as OCD, etc. that didn’t help with some of the more naive/destructive choices she made in her desperation).  She married super-young to someone she had nothing in common with, as children with our upbringing are wont to do (no premarital sex, and no secular “dating”.  “Dating” = “Marriage”).  She was, unsurprisingly, miserable, and started cutting, using drugs, and sleeping around to escape her marriage (adultery is the only valid and accepted reason to divorce, in this religion).

OK, slightly different from me – I never dated boys from my congregation.  I didn’t want to.  Was never interested.  There were, as she points out in the book, very few prospects, and I never felt like settling for a pale shadow of the real thing, just so that I could have sex or play house.  I knew even then that I wasn’t wholly and completely invested in my religion.  I think to some degree, I was always looking for the time when I could bolt.  I was attracted to men and dating and life outside of my super-narrow, controlled little world.  I saw hypocrisy and abuse everywhere I turned; not only in my own family, but in others in the congregation.  To have admitted so would certainly have meant trouble for me – even complete shunning from all I knew, including my own family.  So, when I turned 18, I simply disappeared.  I didn’t take any of the complicated channels that the heads of the congregation, or “elders” pretend are mandatory.  I refused to be labeled, refused to be shunned, I simply up and left and nobody ever questioned it.  Nobody ever really wondered where I’d gone or why, or what I was doing.  Nobody cared to investigate, they just made their assumptions and moved on with their lives, zealously preaching to anybody who would listen.  One more fallen angel.  Oh, well.

On the few occasions my family dragged me back this year, I was generally regarded with unease and suspicion, which amused me more than anything else.  You could tell it was in everybody’s mind that I must have turned into some little Satanic whore (paranoia and fear are big there).  Nobody knew anything for sure, and I didn’t volunteer any information on that score, neither confirmation nor denial, even when prodded, but some form of “sexual misconduct” was widely assumed, it was quite obvious.  After spending several years away, I had come more to grips with the knowledge that these people didn’t truly have any claim to me or sway over my life (in stark contrast to the certainty I had held in my childhood, that they could ruin me – or rather, that they could have God ruin me).  Now, to a degree, I enjoyed being the boogeyman, responding cheerfully yet bluntly when I spoke at all and seeing the awkward shifting and furtive glances at my outspokenness, my complete and utter lack of “spiritual” thoughts and goals, at least as far as they define such.  I had always been something of an oddball, even when a child.  I was disarmingly perceptive and never quite took things at face value as much as I “should” have.  I had opinions and ideas of my own, questions even about things in the Bible that made me uncomfortable or curious.  I was mildly bothered by the idea of “proving” a scripture by reading another scripture.  To some degree, I wanted to look at and hear all points of view before coming to my own conclusions.  This was highly frowned upon in the organization – looking at outside points of view was considered falling prey to Satan.  We were only to accept what we were told at face value by the heads of the organization, all mere men who were supposedly being “inspired” by God.  Chastised often for this moral failing, I did what I could to sublimate it, bury it, bend my will and conform.  It was embarrassing to be scrutinized and looked down upon.  It was embarrassing to be different within the organization, and also to be different outside of it – in school, and at work.  But, when it comes down to it, I was never the conforming type.  Now, I can find humor in my role as fallen, sinful, devious skank-ho; even relish it a little.

It wasn’t always like this.  It took a lot of struggling and therapy.  And reading Kyria’s book brought a lot of it back in a flood; despite the barbed humor which had me laughing my arse off, the feelings and pain beneath it were refreshed.  I don’t think anybody who breaks free from that kind of past ever fully gets over it.

Anyway, it was just kind of crazy and surreal seeing that there was someone else like me; someone who fought back (although sometimes in different ways) and got up the courage to leave.  We both had to learn to live in the real world – you’re not prepared for it at all when you come from that background.  You’re taught to fear the world, flee from it, dangers lurk everywhere ready to pounce on you.  In an interview, Kyria made a point that struck me as all too true – you are told by your family, your friends, your fellow congregation members that life isn’t worth living outside the organization.  That if you leave, everything will go horribly for you because you’re defying God, slapping him in the face, and being punished for it.  The irony, of course, is that initially that does often happen, your life does go sort of wonky – but not for those reasons.  It’s not difficult so much because the real world makes it difficult and you are being punished.  It is difficult because, never having lived in the real world, you have no idea to go about it, and have to start from scratch, teaching yourself and painstakingly learning through trial and error.

Six years later, and I’m still nowhere near done learning to adjust.  I don’t think I completely ever will be.  But… it’s a start.

Reaching California EDD Massively Sucks

This is the exact problem that I have been having all morning trying to get through to the California Employment Development Department:

Californians Battle Swamped State Phone Lines to Get Jobless Benefits

Yes, all morning. We’re talking over five hours of back-to-back phone calls. The EDD doesn’t even put you in a “hold” queue until a representative is available, you just get a recorded message essentially saying “there’s a lot of calls, sucks to be you, try back later!” and then… disconnection.

Bastards.

I haven’t received my extended benefits forms yet. The EDD website says to call if you haven’t received them within 10 days. It’s been over 2 weeks and I could really use the funds. I have tried various number combos posted online to get through, none of them are working… On one forum, they suggested calling the foreign language line – I just may try it, because nothing else is getting me to a representative.

Anyway, if anyone else out there is feeling like bashing your head against a wall over this, you are not alone.

Short post, maybe I’ll update later tonight… my therapist just called to inform me that I forgot my session this morning, so I frantically rescheduled and now I’m running over there. Yes, I know. Homeless with a shrink. Only in California ;) Maybe this evening, when things settle down, I’ll go into why although I’ve pared down a lot of stuff in my life due to this circumstance, I feel good mental health is more important than ever, and is worth continuing to pay for.