Posts Tagged ‘cost of living’

The Poppins

July 11, 2015

Has placed her order.

And I am just about done with my Burning Man prep.

See lady, it wasn’t so bad.

Of course, its vastly helpful that the folks I’m camping with are pretty much providing my shelter, that’s a load off my mind and so much wrangling that does not have to be done.

Over the moon grateful.

Although I did have a friend offer me full access to his camping gear, I was loath to take him up on the offer.

Unless a person has been to Burning Man and seen what the wreckage of the playa can do to their things, I would not want to take someone’s nice camping gear and get it all dusty.

That being said, I would love to do some more camping outside of just Burning Man.


The Grand Canyon.

Bryce Canyon.

Some Avenue of the Giants.

Joshua Tree.

There are lots of places.

Crater Lake.

I can go on.

For the now.

For the present.

For the just for today.

I am wrapping up some Burning Man supplies and making sure they get here before I leave for that great dust bowl in the Black Rock Desert.

It wasn’t much, but I got what I needed.

Zip ties.

They are magical and everyone should have a plethora.

A new purple flag pennant to replace my old one, it’s pretty beat up, on my bicycle.

And also for my bicycle some more lights.

I have wheel lights on the front wheel, but I also got some solar-powered lights I’m going to string up along the frame for night-time illumination and riding.  I don’t particularly care about seeing with my lights, so much as being seen.

And yes, one pair of tights.

Just because I like the tights.

My Burning Man uniform routinely consists of tights, boots, tank tops, and boy shorts with a holster, a bunch of fabric flowers in my hair, bright makeup, and a parasol.

And last, but certainly not least, that’s right, I made sure to order a new parasol.

Since I left the one I bought in Atlanta on the plane and well, haha, the one I ordered online will match my bicycle and well, that’s how I like to roll.

Glittery, purple, flowered, bedazzled up.


The Poppins is ready to ride.

And in other news.


It’s Friday.

I thought I had some plans this evening with a friend and I haven’t heard back from him, so I might be staying in for the evening, but what a lovely evening it is.

We had talked about doing a bonfire in my back yard again and it is most definitely the night for it, the air was lovely riding home through the park and though not warm, it’s not chilly out there like it normally is this time of year–you know, July.

In fact, when the sun came out today and lit up the Mission like diamonds I was happily surprised by the warmth and the blue skies.

July being notorious in San Francisco for cool, foggy, grey weather.

Speaking of bicycle.

Man, she is riding like a dream.

I don’t think I realized how desperate she was for some love and attention.

I have a tendency to do that with my things, beat on them, ride them hard, not take care of them as well as I should.


I gradually get better and I recognize that proper care of my property ends up being better for me and I get to keep having nice things.

I ran into my friend who helped me through the scooter fiasco and the getting it recycled at Scooter Centre et al, and he asked when I was going back to buy the Buddy Italia in Avocado with racing stripes.

I shrugged.

I don’t know.

I am on the fence to tell you the truth.

The ride home through the park is so glorious, it’s luscious when the air is like it is tonight and I felt that I would miss the riding if I had the scooter.

Plus, I don’t want to outlay any money right now.

I am going to be going down to part-time in September with work and yes, I did get a lot of money awarded me to go to graduate school–but that’s just going to be paying for tuition, not so much living expenses.

I am currently weighing whether or not I should pre-pay a bunch of rent so I don’t have to be concerned with it or if I should sock it all away in my savings account and collect some interest on it before paying a lot of rent upfront.

Neither here nor there, I suppose.

I’m currently not sitting on that money.

The awards letter still has not arrived.


The reader I e-mailed about to start getting my materials together is not in stock at the store I e-mailed.

I have vowed that over the weekend I will sit down, look at all my files and information regarding the syllabus and make a list of what I need to get and where to get it.

I want to have that taken care of by the end of the weekend.

Not so I can start the reading by Sunday, but just to have the ball rolling along.

It’s much easier to pick up momentum if I’m already into action.

And that’s it.

That’s all that’s on my plate.


There’s other stuff there.

But I won’t be writing about it right now.

I’m waiting to see what develops and to continue to keep the focus on what’s right in front of me.


Taking a shower.

That’s the next indicated action tonight.

Despite my desire to know more.

That’s all I need to know.

That and I have a band new lavender, pagoda style parasol.

(And some zip ties)

Coming to my mail box soon.

Mary Fucking Poppins needs her parasol.

I mean.


It wouldn’t be Burning Man.

For me.

Without one.


June 10, 2015

Ad infinitum.

At least I’m not crying anymore.

There were a few moments today when my brain sort of went bat shit crazy hay wired, “does not compute, does not compute, does not compute.”

I put my phone down on the kitchen table at work, face down, I couldn’t look at the message again.

Did I just read what I read?

What did it say?

I had tears streaming down my face.

I tried to stop.

Pause, take a bite of my lunch, I’ve only got so many minutes before quiet time is up and the oldest comes back from his doctor appointment and the mound of Lego’s still needs to be cleaned up.



Did I read that right?



Take it from the top.

I flipped over my phone and read it again.

Dear Carmen,

Congratulations! The Scholarship Team is pleased to inform you that you have been selected as a recipient of the CIIS Opportunity Scholarship beginning in the Fall 2015 Semester and ending in the Spring 2017

The CIIS Opportunity Scholarship is a tuition-only award. At the beginning of each semester, your tuition account will be credited. Any additional fees (including registration fees) are not covered by the scholarship. Please read the contract below for rules and regulations.

Opportunity scholarships are made possible by the generous gifts from various foundations and/or donors.  As a future follow-up, you may be contacted by our Development Office regarding which of these foundations and/or donors funded your scholarship. 

Again, congratulations on your scholarship and we wish you success in your academic endeavors.

Warmest regards,

I Chen

Director of Financial Aid

Financial Aid Office

I got the scholarship!

I got the scholarship!

I got the scholarship!


What the hell?

I re-read the e-mail, yes, it’s addressed to me, yes, that’s my name, but that’s not the scholarship I was directed to send in another essay to.

In fact.

Fuck me.

It’s better.

The scholarship I applied to was for the Diversity in Leadership Award.

Nothing to sneeze at, to be sure, one full year of tuition–i.e. two semesters–of school paid for.

This is different.

This is a scholarship of Opportunity.

Holy shit.

And it’s for two years, not one.

That’s four semesters of school that just got paid for.

Holy mother of God.

I just got two years paid for.

Two years.

“How are you going to pay for the third year, eh?” My deviant brain asked in a moment of blank when I was sitting in the chair in the kitchen, trying to divide my attention between the baby monitor, the clock on the wall, and my lunch which was rapidly cooling off.


Shaddup brain.

Bask for one fucking moment, can you please?

Crying is basking right?

I don’t know that it has really sunk in yet.

I mean, there’s a part of me that is still in awe that I am going to graduate school at all, that I got in, that they want me, that not only do they want me, they are willing to pay for me to go to school.

There will still be costs, I still have to pay registration fees, but you know, I can handle the $300 deposit fee I had to pay when I accepted placement into the program.

Seems a fair deal considering that a semester for the Master’s in Psychology program at CIIS is $1,018 per credit.  At twelve credits a semester, that’s a bit over $24,000.

Um yeah.

Oh my God.

I actually don’t know the exact bill for tuition.

It’s a little confusing, there’s a lot of numbers in teeny tiny print on the website page for tuition and fees.

I do get that the scholarship is only for tuition, it doesn’t cover additional fees, which it looks like I can see right from the website is going to be about another $1500 or so.


I’ll take it.

What it appears to me is that I just was gifted approximately $50,000 in tuition.

That means $50,000 I won’t have to pay back to student loans.

I still expect that I will have to take out a few loans here and there.

I am still living in San Francisco, I don’t suspect that the cost of living is about to go down any time soon, despite warnings of pending tech bubble bursting (I don’t really believe it, although I am not sure the city can withstand any more increasing rent hikes, I’m seeing too many people I care about and love get priced right out of living in San Francisco), I doubt that it’s going to cost any less than it does now to live in San Francisco.

I live a good life.

It’s not ostentatious.

I don’t own much.

What I have is enough and I am happy and grateful for it.

In spades.

But working full-time now, making what I make now, I am living at just the threshold of getting by.

I’m not paycheck to paycheck.

But I am every other paycheck to paycheck.

And if I want something, travel, a scooter, a new laptop, I have to save the money, I have to crunch my numbers and I must have a spending plan.

I get by, I do ok, but I don’t see not taking out some additional loan money.

I won’t be working full-time for the family, I already have thought about what I could do to pick up extra hours here and there to make sure that I get things covered, but I wasn’t expecting the discussion that happened when I brought the boys back from the park.

The mom wanted to know if they should be concerned, if I was going to want to cut back my hours since I got the scholarship.



Not at all, didn’t once cross my mind.

My biggest wish is to get through all three years of graduate school without having to take out any student loans.

Fuck man.

I’m still paying on my undergraduate degree thirteen years later.

Less debt is better.

And my student loan debt is the only debt I have.


I’m not going to be stupid, I will accept money for school, I don’t want to work full-time, I’m going to be busy with full-time graduate school work, doing the deal, and hopefully writing a blog or two once in a while.

I will not kill myself.

And enough with all that.

I am not here to be anxious.

I am not here to worry about the rug being pulled out from underneath me or not having enough.

I have enough.

I am enough.

I got two years of graduate school tuition paid for.

I think I done alright.


I’m going to grad school.

Jesus God.

I’m blown away.

I really am.

Thank you and you and you and definitely you over there for all your support and love and congratulations and sweet words, I did not do this alone.

I had a lot of help and I am so grateful for it.

So grateful.

I don’t have words.

Despite this rambling blog.

Now, excuse me, I need to go read that e-mail again.

You laugh until you cry/you cry until you laugh

                                          Then you take that love you make/and stick it into someone else’s heart

Eat It

May 31, 2014


Well, I sort of knew that it was a long stretch, a sort of Hail Mary of a throw, but I was hoping I would be able to sublet my studio for the couple of weeks I would be at Burning Man and for the week I am in Wisconsin.


I knew before I asked, but I felt I had to ask.

Which leads me to the uncomfortable asking.

The house stuff is what it is, the entrance is common and I may have my own “private” space, but it’s not really separate.

I didn’t think that it would fly.

However, I am loath to pay for the time I am away, especially when I am fairly certain I could rent out my studio to cover costs of being away at Burning Man.

The real discomfort is going to be when I ask my employers for a raise.

I haven’t raised my Burning Man rates since I started nannying at the event, it’s been the same flat fee every year, five years running, same rate.

I can’t do it this year.

I have rent, student loans, scooter insurance, scooter payment, Healthy San Francisco, phone, and utilities to cover.

Being gone for two weeks without my typical take will cripple me.

Which is why the first prong of the attack, it’s an attack in my mind, can’t I just surrender to the winning side, know that I am allowed to ask for myself and let go the results?


My brain wants to manipulate it.

How can I phrase it just so.

There is no phrasing.

Simplicity is the key.

Surrendering the results is also important.

They can say no.

They may say no.

I worked longer hours than I thought I would last year and despite making more money than I have prior, it was only because I worked every single day, had no days off and was out for 22 days.

That’s not particularly healthy.

I have also entertained doing a nanny share out there.

I was asked this weekend at Lighting in a Bottle by a family that was doing a dry run at the festival and will be at Burning Man with their daughter for the first time who will be 19 months.

I said no.

But there is my other Burning Man family and I debated that all day in my head, do they have someone, they are going, I already know that, kind of have to when you work for the organization.

But last year my charges grandpa came out and helped.

I don’t know if that’s the case this year.

Last year I would have hesitated to take on an extra one, but this year, both boys are walking, so possibility.


I just have to sack up and ask for more money.

It’s not the family’s business to know about my cost of living or my rent or student loans or any of it.

I just have to say I need to make more, state what that more is, and let them say yes or no.

I am a great nanny and I am worth my pay.

I have a lot of experience being on playa as a nanny and enough said brain.

Let it go.

Nothing to do about it this week.

Besides I wanted to find out if I could sublet the studio, if I could, the pressure would have been a little less, it would have alleviated the worry.

I am a classic under earner and I have done a lot of work around it and here, I can just get grateful for it, is an opportunity to grow.

For today, though, the rent is paid, just dropped the check to my housemate when I asked after the possibility of subletting.

My student loans are paid too.

I have money for the hair appointment tomorrow–some fancy new color coming my way–and money for groceries and what not until I get paid next week.

And repeat.

I did not have the luxury of coloring my hair when I was in France or worrying about a new Iphone or making a scooter payment.

I was eating corn out of a can and peanuts and apples for lunch.

I get to travel to Wisconsin next month for a week.

I get to go to Burning Man.

I will bust my ass like I always do and I will have an experience.

That’s what it’s about.

I get to have experiences.

I also will be grateful to live where I live and be happy that I can afford to live in San Francisco and pay said rent.

It could be more.

Besides, who’s to say, amazing things are happening all the time and prosperity is all about me.  I am living better than I have in years just by quietly putting one foot in front of the other and working hard.

I don’t have much debt outside my student loan–just the scooter–and I am able to meet my monthly costs in cash.

That’s pretty fucking cool.

I eat well.

I eat organic.

I drink small batch roasted fancy pants coffee.

I have a new Iphone.

I have a vintage 1965 Vespa.

Come on.

Life is good.

No worries here.

I am not going to try to make money at Burning Man, I am just asking to cover my costs.

That’s fair.

I could also put the ball in their court and say I want a raise and see what they offer.

What I will do, tonight, is write it down, say a prayer and send it out to the Universe.

My God box is a pink bunny piggy bank from the Marais district in Paris, I write little notes about things I am struggling with, and give it up to God.

Or the Universe if you will.

Or the gigantic bunny in the sky.

(Someone read Watership Down really early in life)

Just writing it down and letting it go often brings a kind of clarity that thinking about the solution, ie, trying to figure it out, does not.

There is nothing to figure out.

There is no problem.

And last but not least.

The solution and the problem are not the same thing.

Thank God I have some solution today.

Faith in the experience of being taken care of doesn’t hurt either.

The only thing left to do is have a fun weekend.

I can manage that.

Hell, who knows, maybe I’ll even get asked out on a date.

Happened last time I got my hair done.

Fuck worrying about Burning Man.

I should just be focusing on getting my hair done.




Saying Yes to Something New

July 10, 2013

That would be passing on the tip-off that I got about an apartment in the Inner Richmond for $700 a month with a $500 deposit.

I don’t want to have a room-mate.

I want to have my own space.

I pondered the message I had gotten from my best friend back in Wisconsin, I looked over the photographs of the place, and I read the description.

Nothing said, “hey, that’s the place for me.”

In fact, I thought, no, I really do want to live out by the ocean.

I want to be able to walk to the beach.

I want to get sand between my toes and smell the thick fogged breath of sea salt and wood smoke and fish and rot and brine and I want to hear the waves bounding on the shore, pounding the heart beat of the moon into my dreams when I open the back door to my studio.

I want to live out in the Sunset.

I made the decision without much thought to pass on the information about the apartment to a dear friend that I know has been struggling to find a place in the city for the rent he can afford.

Part of me wants to compromise what I want, wants to take the cheaper space, and you know if it does come up that something better is out there for me, I will know, but it won’t be because of a price tag, or a belief that I cannot afford better.

It will be because it is a better fit.

I still find myself thrashing around with the idea of paying $1200 plus utilities for a studio, but really, in the San Francisco market, that’s actually a good price.

Despite the location.

It used to be that I would joke about having to charter a plane to get out to the Sunset when I lived in the Mission.

But having lived now for a few months, real months, months where I have been actively commuting in and around Oakland and not just from Graceland to the BART straight to SF, I see the Sunset as a relaxing, easy, mellow commute.

I want to continue to make these kinds of decisions, saying yes to things that scare me a little, or a lot, walking through the fear of not having enough and embracing the abundance the Universe really wants for me.

I have this desire tonight to write something pretty and poetic, full of whimsy and poesy and beauty.  I wanted to sit down and write something aching and yearning and tender.

Ain’t got it.

There is sometimes a feeling I get when I am at a turning point in my life where I either sink back into the romantic notions and fears, really it turns out that most of my fantasy life is built on fear, and I will get all woo woo and play old music and dance around and be full of angst.

But I am not feeling that.

I am feeling rather empowered, who knows why and I won’t question it, and it may change by the time I finish this post, but I do know that tricking myself into some sort of romantic delusion thinking is not the answer.

Which is where I was going with my let me live be the beach and be a mermaid.

No, I want to live by the beach and get dirty and smell like the sea and run through the fog and breathe it all in.

Six weeks from this Friday I leave for Burning Man.

Then when I get back, the first week of September, I will move into my studio.

A place barren of objects, clean, new, and ready for a new chapter of my life.

A vessel.

A crucible.

A place to hang my photographs and paintings.

A place to put a plant or two.

Yup, I am ready for it.

It’s just a room, but it will be my room, and I shall be autonomous and though my land lord will be living in the house upstairs, I don’t mind, she’s one of my good friends.

I am surprised I still have words left to say, my brain is a bit blown by the three babies I took care of today.

But it was an easier day than I had first thought it would be.

This morning when I was writing my three pages I called it “Baby Armageddon” but it turned out to be a day that surprised me with its easiness.

Not that is was easy per se, but it was not as untenable as I have had it be in the past.

Getting into a routine and really getting to know the babies has helped.

Now I have to gird the loins for when I ask for the raise.

Which is what is going to happen.

I realize, partially through being honest with myself, and partially through knowing the market, and also because I have not raised my rates in 5 years, that I am being underpaid.

I should be making more.

And when I move to San Francisco my cost of living is going to go way up.

I am not sure when to broach the subject, but I feel that I do need to.

Especially since I am attached to the little girl now and rapidly becoming enamoured with the two boys.

It weighs on my mind and I know I need to do it.

None of the families is going to give me a raise without me asking, although I did get a really cute Hello Kitty notebook from one of the moms today, tickled me pink it did.

Ah, well, I won’t be asking for a raise tomorrow, but it is on my mind.

It will need to be broached and August is probably the time to do it, that will put me at 90 days into the job and it will give the families time to think it over before Burning Man.

And should they say no, well, I have a great skill set, I don’t think I’ll have a problem finding better paying work.

I know that I will be taken care of no matter what.

I always have been.

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