Tuesday, July 29, 2008

'Extreme Makover' home in foreclosure.

I just read the 'Extreme Makeover' house faces foreclosure article where the owners of the home [who had $450K donated to them to build it] SQUANDERED that money in using the equity in the home for a loan for a new business.

It drives me crazy when people act irresponsibly, especially when it is with money that is not theirs. In my opinion, a person whose house was on the 'Extreme Makover' show obviously showed why their lives were so bad and why horrible things happened to them, blah blah blah. So in an act of kindness, money is spent on their behalf to build them the home of their dreams. Then we cry in happiness when the home is revealed, only to see that they STOLE THAT MONEY SPENT ON THE HOUSE (the equity in the home that was there solely as a result of the improvements) for their own benefit?

You might say to me (among other things, such as "have a heart Zoe") that it was admirable that they decided to start a business with the new equity in their home. While I tend to agree, I don't think that it is smart to use the equity in one's home to start a business. In fact, I think it's risky and irresponsible.

Further, that money was DONATED to them. THEY HAD NO RIGHT TO USE IT FOR ANY OTHER PURPOSE THAN FOR THE PURPOSE THE MONEY WAS INTENDED. ABC should sue them to get the money back.

My message to the homeowners / thieves -- "Poo-poo on you for mishandling your finances. You should have known better."

Monday, July 28, 2008

Goals going bust...

First of all, to everybody -- I'm floored that you are even reading my blog. I thought all my readers dropped off the face of the Earth because I stopped posting regularly. It feels good that you are still reading.

As for goals, the truth is that they all are in conflict. A religious person needs to learn Torah, not watch movies or read the newspaper at night. He also has to wake up in the morning for minyan, not oversleep because he was up until 2am-3am reading up on real estate investing or stock trading.

The coursework to get a CS or BSEE degree will take me away from my family -- that is a fact, but a sad sad sad fact. It will be something I will need to figure out to minimize the damage because I'm barely emotionally home to start with, even when I am physically in the house because I have my mind on all the other responsibilities and goals I need to take care of.

Weight loss needs to happen after work because minyan ends at 7:30am and I have a 1.5 hour commute and must be in the office at 9am, but at the cost of sacrificing an hour or so of time with my wife who dearly needs me in the evenings, so I usually come home instead of working out so that she can rest while I play with the baby and put him to sleep so that I can spend quality time with my wife. So the weight loss often is placed on the back-burner.

Debt reduction (e.g. paying back law school loans) is a deathly slow process on my salary, and I don't know how to deal with this one except to keep working extra hours and to badger my wife to minimize her spending, even though she is very reasonable in her spending to start with.

This is my life. This is a mess.

Time passing too quickly at work and I don't know what I was doing!

There we go... another work day has passed and I don't know where it went. I was working, but I was having difficulty focusing. I don't think I was excessively trading stocks though -- at least not enough to stump my work performance.

I was a bit foggy today. In the afternoon, I did work on my financial statement to figure out why we can barely pay our bills by the end of the month, but I can't see that taking more than an hour or so of my afternoon.

The hard part is -- I need to bill for my time! But, what did I do with my day? I don't have the slightest idea! Now it is almost 7pm, and I am still in the office, still having gotten absolutely no work done.

Do you know that I did the same thing on Friday? But, to justify my time, I worked for FIVE hours straight on SUNDAY and I DIDN'T BILL FOR IT -- yes, I took that time away from my wife and my son who deserved my being there and instead I worked -- just to justify billing five hours of work on Friday.

This could turn into a problem. I think it already has. I'm not sure whether I'm bored or unhappy or uninterested in my work, but this needs to stop!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

"I pretend..."

You know, it has been so many months since I have written on this blog, and even so many more since I used to write on it regularly. Since then, the "Zoe Strickman" character has become my username on web sites which I don't want people to know my real identity for privacy reasons (and for reasons of not wanting to get marketed to.)

You should know that while the last post was that my wife and I were fighting over Purim, that was a set of isolated events where the issue was that my wife felt that I wasn't taking care of her, but one event gone wrong can shake a foundation, even of a marriage. My fear at that point was of losing her, especially since there was a moment where she turned "off" and getting through to her was utterly difficult because she formed a preconceived view of me as a person and she thought she knew me. One strong lesson is that you never know someone. You know the person they show you they are.

I have so many shadows looming around me that I pretend they are not there. I pretend to be a good employee, a conscientious husband, an attentive father, a supportive friend, and a loving but relatively distant son and brother. Yes, Zoe is a MAN's name if you didn't figure it out from the profile image.

But then the question becomes -- who is the real me? I'm not talking real identity here, I'm talking about who is me under the skin when you strip away all the layers of junk, habits, and current events. Truthfully, after all this time, I really don't know.

I wake up every morning, I go to minyan with a Rabbi I utterly respect (but who thinks I'm a slacker,) I come home and have breakfast and coffee with my loving wife and growing child, and then I tear myself out of the house away from my son who is so sad to see me go and my wife and I embark on my one hour daily commute to the office (where in the car on the way to work, I listen to audio tapes to further my personal development and to podcasts to listen to the latest pre-recorded news because real radio is time-wasting junk.) I spend the day doing just enough work not to get my brain fried (but it usually happens anyway) or fired, I trade stocks without people knowing it, I log my time of actual work done (often fewer than the many hours I spent sitting at my monitor zoning out or wasting time), and then I decide whether to go to the gym on the way home. When I get home, I greet my exhausted wife and my playful child, I sit down in a quasi-messy house for a quick meal that was thrown together for my satisfaction and I ignore the mess and the things that were not done in my absence that should have been done while I was at work. I then either put our child to bed or my wife does, my wife and I have scant conversations, and then she goes off to bed. I remain at my computer listening to Gary Kaltbaum on a radio podcast, I read books and educate myself on topics such as investing, the stock market, real estate markets, career and financial advancement, and if I have the motivation, I learn a bissel ("a bit of") Torah. If there is time or energy, I'll watch the latest movie that arrived from NetFlix and then between 12am - 1:30am, I'll sneak into bed hoping that my wife doesn't realize how late I was awake. I wake up 5:30am (really 6am with snoozing) to my wife and my son who I have long woken up, and I repeat the process again.

I often ask myself what is really going on? The truth is that I have a wonderful hard-working wife (whose priorities in running a home differ from mine), a beautiful son, a good community, and a good job. The other reality is that I am one step away from being fired from not having the desire or the focus to make the best of my job, and I am utterly bored with life and everything that it has become. Even watching movies has lost the soul it once had. Speaking of soul, I have lost mine too.

My visions in life have been destroyed from the bad experiences when I reached for the stars and fell on my head. I have become cynical, angry, depressed, and unwilling to take risks and yet I express my risk-taking gambling need in the stock market often gaining and losing money. And all the time while I am down, caged, and forced to be responsible rather than to follow my dreams or to move forward on life-changing goals, I take one cautious step after the next, proceeding to the desired goal.

Although, I must admit that my life goals right now are...

1) to keep myself as religious as I should be;
2) to advance in my knowledge, education, and coursework to lead to the goal of working in a law firm or in a company AS A PATENT ATTORNEY acquiring [through coursework] an electrical engineering or computer science degree, all the while moving forward in my current job into a licensing attorney position (which is fine with me) -- yes, I am advancing in TWO concurrent career paths;
3) to lose what now needs to be upwards of 40 lbs (yes, I've gained some weight since my marriage);
4) to get out of debt and to set up myself and my family for financial independence through passive income and elimination of my over $130K of debts (actually $85K consolidated federal, $49K private law school loans); and
5) to be at my best so that my family can feel loved and taken care of,

...I must admit that I am having a VERY difficult time in each and EVERY ONE of these goals, especially because our basic costs, lifestyle (meaning time allocation) and spending patterns leave me little time, energy, and money to be successful at these goals. But, that never stopped me from stopping.

So there's my life as I see it in a nutshell.