Help me turn Expulsion Lemons into Life Lemonade?

Some of you already know I got expelled from my course at the R0lf Institute – but if I jump through a lot of hoops and humbly grovel, I will be allowed to complete my course. I refuse to get into it here because I have no expectation of privacy and things have a way of coming back to bite you in the assets.

My African Dilemma

Of course I didn’t get the boot until AFTER I bought my ticket to Nairobi for 7 weeks in East Africa for Jan-Feb 2012 (another post on that will follow – but I’ll be helping out here for 4 weeks). In order to fulfill the requirements I need to mentor for 12 consecutive weeks. I can’t even manage 12 split weeks before the March course. So now I’m looking at June and this means being stuck in Boulder until August. First – to put it kindly, Boulder doesn’t resonate with me. I have little in common with the people here. Second – summer and early fall are the most competitive months to find an apartment and being self-employed, I don’t need that handicap. It will translate to more hits on my credit report (never good) and up to $10K in additional security.

Possible Silver Lining

I’m really trying to swallow this bitter pill and it’s just not going down without a fight. I’m trying to find something positive about this situation but I keep coming up empty-handed. So I need to create a silver lining and came up with this: I could go away for 10 weeks after the next course ends on August 3 (assuming they truly do intend to allow me back). That’s long enough to live somewhere for awhile. I could end up back in Africa but…

Should it be Italy?

I have a BA in Italian and I haven’t been to Italy in 12 years. My language skills are appallingly basic for a degree-holder. Maybe…maybe I could find a small furnished apartment for a couple of months and bring my awesome Vonage unit so I can work as normal. I could have some fun developing “habits” – coffee, riding a bike everywhere, gelato (hence the need for a bike!), weekend excursions, maybe entice friends and co-workers to visit, take a class of some sort.

Any Exotic Ideas?

But…I’ve been there before. Five times for a total of 13 weeks (I’m no Chris Guillebeau, but hey- I’m no slouch in the World Traveller stakes!). So maybe I need a corner of the earth to explore, one that offers a lot to keep me interested for 10 weeks and also has reliable high-speed internet. I have both American and British passports. So – got any ideas? I’m dead serious about this.

Back in NYC – but not for long

“We all have big changes in our lives that are more or less a second chance” ~ Harrison Ford

During my 6 weeks of “beginner rolfing” training, it came up more than once that things inside me are very sticky – my colon sticks to my psoas muscle, my pericardial sac to the lining of my chest cavity, a neck nerve to a brain membrane, all of my lumbar vertebrae to each other…the list goes on. It would appear that my body is freakishly in sync with my spirit – I’m STUCK. Have I tried to “unstick”? Of course I have – more than once and in more than one way. But things haven’t improved. [Warning: Possible overshare coming – skip to next paragraph if you’re not comfortable with that.] I am still alone and afraid of personal connections, I am still overweight, I am still taking Rx happy pills, and I’m still a semi-hermit. I am also still a massage therapist and still in New York City. Well how about changing three of those things completely and seeing if the others fall into place?

So I’m giving up the apartment that has been my home for 7+ years (they were raising me $75/month anyway). I’m walking away from my gasping massage practice. I am moving to Boulder in about 5 weeks and will remain there until I complete my certification – I’m guessing December. And I’m starting a rather bizarre diet plan in 10 days.

Now for the financial nitty-gritty behind all of this…

My Home Trade-down: I have a place in mind that’s available to move in next month on the 23rd. I’m trading my $2200/month (new rent that I refuse to pay) including utilities studio apartment for an $830/month + utils one-bedroom. I’m getting my current place inspected next week so that they can tell me what they think I’m responsible for and give me a chance to defend or fix without having it hit my deposit. Oh that’s right – new deposit is $300 and I’m hoping to get back my full $2125 security on this place.

The Move:  I’ll by flying either Frontier Classic or Southwest in order to get 2 x 50-lb bags checked free. I have gift cards for both from my non-massage job. One of my classmates has offered to come in with her pick-up truck and drive around getting furniture for free or cheap off Craigslist – ideal – because I am not bringing my things. My friend-sublettor is moving back into his place and doesn’t have a stick of furniture, so he’s more than happy to use or store whatever I want to keep for my return (bed, couch, trunk, massage table). The apartment complex I’ve got my eye on has offered me $200 off my first month’s rent if I sign on the dotted line by March 25. The plan is to furnish the place on that budget…yeah it might suck but it’s only 8 months. And I’m moving in at the same time the colleges break for summer…could work for a few of the things I need. Probably not a bed though…eww.

Income:  I won’t be hanging out my shingle for massage work. I will stick to my other job which should be just fine. I anticipate grossing $3K a month while needing $1700 for “bare bones” costs. I’m budgeting $300/month for self-care, which leaves me with $1000 to put towards tuition and that burdensome whole life policy. And if my half-plan comes off I’ll be working in Manhattan again in a year, earning the market rate (nearly double what I charge for massage now) and inching towards a healthy 6-figure income.

Tuition:  my last post mentioned having $9K out of $18K saved. Well I’ve paid up the $4K for the first part and it turns out I had $2K more set aside in my savings account than I thought, and I’ve added to it. So I’ve got 2/3 of the remaining $14K  tuition saved – and I’m getting that security deposit back to add to the pot. As much as I’d like to keep it set aside for my return, it’s a timing thing. I need it when I need it and I’ll earn & replace.

Couponing & Shopping:  I will be living around the corner from a Rite Aid – yay! And there’s a Safeway supermarket across the street from Rite Aid, which I believe is a good one for couponing.

Transportation:  I’m within walking distance of everything I need except the school, but I’m located right on the bus line. I hope my sister meant it when she said she’d lend me a bike – could use the exercise and Boulder is very cycle-friendly.

Possible Glitch:  This would actually be desirable. If I get bumped from the waiting list and onto the course that starts in a few weeks, I’ll be paying for my Manhattan apartment for 2 weeks without using it. Ouch. And flight prices could be as high as $450 for a one-way ticket – but Greyhound is feasible ($120), and after being subjected to sanctioned sexual battery by the TSA last week (thanks for the cameltoe-inducing enthusiasm, bitch – and no I’m NOT exaggerating), 44 hours on a bus with very strange people doesn’t sound awful.

And so it begins…the second half of my life. I have no idea if what I’m doing is right or wrong for me, but if it’s a mistake I’m the only one who will suffer – and pretty minimally at that. What’s the worst that can happen – I don’t like Boulder and quit the course? So I’m out a few bucks and a few months of my life. I’ve made much bigger mistakes (divorced from a crossdresser, remember?). This would be so much easier if it was a more dramatic change – I’m oddly wired to do that well (Japan, Scotland).

Dear NJ Transit: You get an F in Math

I’m a little bit pissed – no, a lot pissed – at NJ Transit for their recent fare hikes. As if it wasn’t bad enough that they increased their standard peak adult fares by 25%, they eliminated the off-peak fares entirely. My $20 ticket RT ticket to visit my mother on the weekend has now leapt to $30. That’s fifty-freaking-percent! And I’m talking about commuter routes, not intercity Amtrak-type stuff, which prices itself to balance between bus fares and airfares.

Let me tell you how this has affected me personally… My mother’s 60th birthday is next week, and I suggested a slumber party for 6 at my place as a Plan B if the Hershey Park idea (hers, not ours!) doesn’t pan out for whatever reason. She said, “that’s $150 in train fares for us to come in, that seems kind of stupid.” She’s totally right.

If NJ Transit was looking for a justification for cutting off-peak services, then this was a really smart move – the natural atrophy of their customer base. However, if they were thinking “if they pay $20, they’ll pay $30”, well, I doubt my little family unit is the only one changing their mass transit habits.

Tell me if I’m wrong … I always thought of public transportation as being economical, efficient, ecological, and really damn practical. In fact, I enjoy learning my way around the systems in other countries, even ones with alphabets I don’t know. It’s supposed to cost less and take less time than driving. Now, to drive round-trip from where my mom is in NJ ($14 gas), pay for the tunnel ($8 toll), and cough up for 8-12 hours in a parking garage ($22)… that’s $34. To take the train and the subway is… $34. That math also applies to commuters. A zero sum game like that is going to completely defeat the purpose of having a mass transit system.

So, NJ Transit, you fail some pretty basic math. And you also fail in serving the purpose for your existence.

Rant over.

Experiment: Travelling without my MasterCard

Earlier this week, I took a short trip to visit a friend near Orlando and decided that, since it was only 3 days and I’d be staying at her place, it would be a good opportunity to see how it felt leaving my credit card behind. I’ve done many trips without using my credit card – heck, if I’m out of the country, I go out of my way not to use it. But it was always in my pocket feeling a bit like a financial security blanket.

However, I decided that with all of this so-called credit card reform, this could soon turn into a rather expensive security blanket. So I packed 50% more cash than I thought I’d need and headed for the airport. I had a short connection through Charlotte, and didn’t mind that my ongoing flight was delayed an hour. I needed to recover from the worst turbulence I’ve ever experienced – it lasted 30-40 mins and my seat neighbor and I struck up a conversation (wow, a pro-choice Texan!) to distract ourselves: her from fear of dying, me from fear of hurling. I had my clammy head against the seat in front of me, barf bag open, convinced I was about to do something that would humble my image of myself as a savvy world traveller. Heck, I even told her about the sideline I won’t tell you all about. I was the last, very green-around-the-gills person off the plane.

Long story short, my onward flight was cancelled due to weather after a string of 30-minute postponements. Not really surprising, but airlines don’t comp hotel rooms when it’s weather-related (fair enough, really – I have no problem with this policy). Oh dear. Suddenly that extra 50% was required to pay for a $69 room that magically, through the power of tourist taxes and “booking fees”, cost $90.  Next morning, the breakfast room was abuzz with the news that we had been grounded because of a tornado – which hit the area less than 10 minutes after we touched down. I refused at that point to feel ticked off that my 2.5-day visit with my friend was cut to 1.5 days.

Now, when I boarded the first flight, I was one of the last 15 people on the plane and my carry-on wheelie had been taken from me on the ramp and checked. Guess what? No access to luggage. Great, no cell/laptop chargers, fresh undies, toothbrush. The phone was a huge concern, too. When I emailed my friend about what my new arrangements are, she made a BRILLIANT suggestion – ask at hotel reception to poke around the lost-and-found box and see if there was one for my phone to borrow. Well, the housekeeper tracked one down that was about to hit the give-away bin and now I have an extra phone charger. Yay!

When I arrived in Orlando, which wasn’t the original destination airport, despite assurances that my bag would be routed there, it instead ended up at the other airport. I didn’t trust them to deliver the bag that night, so I toddled off to Walmart for the ugliest pair of undies I could find, socks, t-shirt and toothbrush. I got a call from the luggage delivery folks while in Walmart, and decided not to buy the toothbrush but to go ahead with the other things just in case. SMART MOVE. When the bag was delivered, the back part of it had clearly been sitting in a puddle and I had no wearable socks, undies, t-shirts or pyjamas. I ended up borrowing the biggest t-shirt I have ever seen in my life (4XL) to sleep in and figured that $11 for a t-shirt, ugly canary yellow hipsters with blue plaid ribbon bits, and 5pr athletic ankle socks was very tolerable. Still, it made me nervous because I had to drop so much of my cash almost immediately.

It turned out that the gathering at my friend’s house was going to be at the house for all meals while I was there, so I didn’t spend anything else the whole trip. I had plenty of cash in my pocket when I got home. However, I was really nervous the whole time that we’d be doing expensive things and I’d have to bow out because I didn’t have the cash.

What I learned:

  • There are other ways to obtain a free phone charger than shoplifting
  • Fast food bbq pulled pork in Charlotte airport is AWESOME and fairly priced
  • 4XL t-shirts make me feel petite
  • Don’t think for one minute that Walmart is a good choice for sexy lingerie
  • Oh, and bring your damn credit card!

So thanks, US Airways, for getting me there safely. Thanks, Wingate Hotel, for feeding me and supplying me with spare cords. Thanks, friend of friend, for handling my airport transfers and lending me the huge t-shirt. And thanks, friend, for inviting me down and introducing me to a whole lot of cool, smart people.

Back from Florida – Worth Every Penny

Monday afternoon I got back from my trip to the Florida panhandle for a 3-day seminar in Myoskeletal Alignment. Even if I never use the material or just can’t develop a talent for it, it was worth it because ohmygod, I am pain-free. All that Rolfing I had early this year fixed the new acute pain, but not the chronic old pain – I didn’t even think it was possible. However, the last few months I’ve had increasingly persistent daily headaches, and the neck discomfort I was waking up with was getting worse.

To make a short story long, I twittered about registering for this course, and one of the teaching assistants found me and we started “following” each other. I felt a little silly because my Twitter identity is related to this, my hobby, and not my profession. In other words, he gets to read fascinating things like “Delivered 15 boxes of cereal and 15 deodorants to the teen shelter” and “Got $84 worth of stuff at CVS for $1.78”. Anyway, about 2 weeks ago, he sent out a tweet looking for someone local to do some typing in exchange for a 30-minute session with him. I did it, and collected on Sunday morning before class. He got about 15 minutes into it and called over a fellow teaching assistant to take over, because the other guy had moves he didn’t. Well, this bodywork tag team worked what so far appears to be lasting magic.

I honestly did not realize how much discomfort I was in every waking moment. Taking a sip of coffee, opening the microwave door, turning my head, putting on my sneakers…I was constantly expecting pain, bracing against it, moving to avoid it. I could get relief from a chiropractic adjustment, but that only lasts for about 6 hours. I used to get awesome, enduring treatment from my osteopath in Scotland, but not here, and it’s been 9+ years since I’ve had access to him.

My Myoskeletal Alignment treatment was 84 hours ago and is still holding. 84 pain-free hours. Now I’ve got to either find someone local who does this or become a groupie and follow these two pairs of golden hands around the country getting treatment wherever they teach. Because if I’ve learned nothing else from this line of work, I know that 16-year-old problems don’t get solved in 40 minutes. But no matter what, it was worth every penny I spent on course fees, airfare, hotel, etc. just to find this out. Heck, I may even take the course again in November to solidify my knowledge and tweak my technique.

On the business side of all this, I’m trying to line up people with specific problems/joints that I’ve learned to treat so I can practice and get things to the point where I feel comfortable stating that yes, I can fix plantar fasciitis/IT band syndrome/frozen shoulder/neck cricks/etc. I’ve successfully talked my cousin into letting me whale on his hip this Sunday – he’s 38 and in the past 5 years or so has been suffering terribly from pain related to being hit by a car when he was 7. However, I had tentatively lined up a few financially-strapped clients for 30-minute freebies on their major pain centers and no one has replied to my emails in 2 days despite their initial enthusiasm. Just further proof that no one values “free”.

Non-vacation to Florida booked

I’m not a fan of the heat. I’m not a fan of Florida. But since I got myself banned from that massage school in New Jersey, I had to look elsewhere for training in myofascial release and structural integration. It’s not the career solution I’m really looking for, but I watched the instructor’s 4-minute YouTube video where he’s working on one of the more problematic areas to fix (piriformis) , and that will do nicely!

I googled a coupon code for the course tuition ($395), but all I found was a 10% off Tweet from 2 months ago which had sadly expired. The seminar hotel is $105 per night for 4 nights…yuck, so I booked La Quinta for $45 per night and it includes a few things the Holiday Inn doesn’t:  in-room fridge & microwave, free breakfast, and high-speed internet. I checked eBates – La Quinta doesn’t participate. Then I hit up RetailMeNot for a coupon code and got 20% off the $56 price tag. I tried the Orbitz Twitter promo code, but it would have cost me $25-$30 more that way, and if I cancelled, there’d be a $25 penalty. Oh, and La Quinta is about a third of a mile from the HI, so I should be able to scuttle over at 8:30am without getting too sweaty-gross.

Not sure if I can shave any off the $300-310 airfare, but I’m pretty content with my $250 savings on the hotel room. Heck, that’s nearly the full price of the plane ticket! And I’ll get to claw back 1% on my credit card reward program and another 1-3% by booking through eBates. O, the joys of eeking $10 out of everything I can…

It’s a sweet week to book flights

I’ve been stalking a few destinations for upcoming trips – Vegas for late July and Aspen in late September. The prices for both destinations have dropped dramatically in the last 24 hours. I’m no long planning to go to Vegas because I want to take a different massage course than the one being held there, but I saw direct flights for my desired dates & times tank 28% from $404 to $289 between 4pm and 10pm yesterday. And half an hour ago, I nabbed the exact flight times I wanted with decent connections for my sister’s wedding for $280 inc taxes — down $100 from yesterday.

I also gave into one of the little money-saving things that a lot of PF and coupon bloggers rave about: eBates. So I got my $5 sign-up bonus plus 1% of my flight purchase, and I’m kicking myself for missing out on 6% back on last week’s order from Vitalicious.