Dog Days of Summer Upon Us

Dog Days of SummerWithout a doubt we’ve reached those dog days of summer.

Much of the United States and the eastern half of Canada have been baking under the sun for several weeks, since well before the official start of summer. Here in Montréal, the water level in the lakes and rivers, including the St. Lawrence River, is at a low that hasn’t been seen in at least a decade, and the situation is worsening by the day. We’re currently under a high heat and humidity advisory in southwestern Québec, and I can vouch that it’s damn hot and sticky here today in la métropole — the kind of day it’s best to stay put and do little safe perhaps seeking an air-conditioned environment.

So, in that spirit, I decided to stay in to keep out of the sun and throw together a “grab bag” blog entry.

Oh, What a Relief It Is!
It may seem silly to you — or maybe not — but writing that long series of blog entries actually did me more good than I thought it would when I started writing it. It allowed me not only to unload but also to make connections with many things I’d already posted in my blog. It wasn’t the first time for me to make connections to stuff I’d previously written, but some of the links I made this time were more striking to me because they came as either blatant contradictions or repetitions.

It also wasn’t my first time to come out as a (recovering chronic) rescuer, but clearly that account now stands as my most explicit and detailed admission of this “condition.” It was (and remains) unsettling for me to see the words of total candour stare back at me; however, I think that was part of the exercise of writing. It has allowed me to do more than place the memories of NowEx’s antics elsewhere than in my head; it has forced me to understand myself better and, moreover, seek ways and means not to repeat my history. Of all the backward links I made, two in particular stand out: to what I wrote on my wedding night just minutes after NowEx wondered out loud if we’d make a mistake, and to my reflections on Amy Winehouse’s passing.

With the hot weather upon us, I’ve been going out more. Last summer, it would have been to mope; this summer, it’s been to beat the heat and just do simple, pleasant things. I know that, for people who know me both in the city or at work, my good mood has been palpable and increasing not only since I got word that the divorce has been finalized but also since I finished writing that series of blog entries. My take on this good mood is that I know and feel that things didn’t just get better; they’re going to get even better.

One Aspect of “Looking Ahead”
Every June at work, each of us has to decide if we want to keep our same medical and dental coverage or change it. Additionally this year, we had to decide on two other matters: whether or not to get optional long-term disability coverage beyond the basic offered by our employer which is no longer providing optional LTD, and whether or not to switch pension plan. I found myself having to make these choices just days after learning that the divorce was finalized, so that made my decisions easier and clearer. NowEx hadn’t been eligible for any of the medical stuff even when I was registered as married to him because he hadn’t achieved PR status, but the line about pension was blurry during our “separated” phase. Not any more.

Long story short, given that I started my job at age 40, my pension at 65 won’t be too hot. However, had I stayed as I’d been, it would have been pathetic. But clearly my employer, like all others, is trying to reduce its costs on pensions, for the new plan that’s being rolled out for newer employees would see the latter contributing much more but receiving much less upon retirement. So, I’m holding onto the old plan but contributing to it, which I hadn’t been until now. And since I could never go back to the old plan if I opted for the new one, you get bet your right nut (or tit) that I’ll be sticking to the old plan unless one day we’re forced to abandon it.

Under New Management
I’ve written a lot since last October about my efforts to bring more order into my finances.

Although, as I’m writing this, I’m a few weeks behind in updating my monstrous spreadsheet, I’ve generally kept to my budget and I’ll probably “balance the books” later this weekend. Part of the reason why I’ve been procrastinating on this task is precisely because of the changes I mentioned above, that came into effect on July 1. I no longer knew what my net income would be with the slight increase in my elective medical coverage, minus the optional LTD that’s now gone, plus my 5% contribution to the pension plan. But now that I know what that amount is going to be, I need to find the easiest way to bring my budgetting spreadsheet up to date without affecting the data from the past.

That said, there are a few more outstanding variables.

  • First, I did finally make the plunge and got myself the MagicJack Plus, thus eliminating the need for my basic landline. There’s one problem, though: I haven’t cancelled it yet because my mother and one of my brothers, who are in the same telephone area code, can’t call me although I can call them. But if I could finally cancel that service, I would be recovering nearly half of my extra payroll deductions.
     
  • Second, I’m the worst self-advocate in the world. I could be making a monthly claim from my employer for my Internet connection since I work exclusively from home, but I haven’t done so yet. That, plus disconnecting the landline, would recover nearly 70% of my extra deductions.

Basically, it’s the difference between rethinking only thirty bucks per pay period and ninety bucks per period. Neither is a huge amount, but every little bit counts as I’m sure my dear Gail would agree. In fact, I can almost hear her telling me, “Get off your duff and look into those things right now!”

Altered Vacation Plans
It’s not finance, however, that brought me to rethink my summer vacation plans; it’s the heat of this summer and, to a much lesser extent, my failure to lose much weight this spring.

I had initially thought of heading down to Provincetown for a few days at the beginning of my vacation before “going home” to the Maritimes. Then, not relishing the thought of exposing my gut on a beach, I got more ambitious and thought of perhaps looking up and visiting Lonestar in Nashville, setting Jamestown, NY, as the midpoint between Montréal and Nashville in the hope of finally meeting and having supper with the delightful Julia.

But then one of this summer’s heat waves hit Montréal just as news came that Nashville was shattering heat records.

Mind you, Junior, Dog bless him, provides wonderful air conditioning. But it would still be terribly hot and exhausting, and I only have two weeks off. I’m already feeling tired and in need of the break from work; after a long, hot trip like that, I would be even more tired the day after my birthday when I’d go back to work. If I had three weeks off, maybe… but I don’t.

So, I decided to stick to Fredericton (maybe), Moncton and Halifax, and I’ll probably pad some “slow time” in Montréal at the beginning and the end of the two weeks. I am very much looking forward to visiting friends and family down there, but I think my overly ambitious plans had been motivated by an equally strong desire to break out of a rut. However, the dog days of summer made me realize I might live to regret overextending myself for the sake of “doing something different.”

Weathering It Out
Tonight is Canada’s turn at the fireworks festival, and the shows will be held twice a week starting this week. The temperature tonight is not expected to go below 23C / 73F (not counting the humidex) and there’s no rain in sight before tomorrow afternoon at the earliest, so this is a “must go out” kind of evening.

I still need to decide if I want to drive Junior downtown or take the métro. If I take Junior, I have to go very early if I want to park him and I can’t have more than one drink after the fireworks. But if I take the métro, it’ll be stiffling and I’ll have to come back home by the last train whether I want to or not. Or I suppose I could stay out all night and come back on the first train, but I don’t want to paint myself into that corner in case I suddenly long to come back home, and DUI is simply not an option.

Ah, decisions, decisions! But at least there are attractive decisions to be made in the dog days of summer in Montréal. And better still, despite the heat, I feel like making such decisions.