The Project Debrief – Attack of the Killer Couch

Maybe it’s not symbolic of the whole year in general, but it sure is special when Eva decides to crawl under the fold-out couch and then climb up inside the mechanism and shoot her paw out between the couch cushions to slash at your feet and wake you up just 4 hours into your recovery from a 14-hour shift. All your brain can think is “Why is the couch trying to kill me?!?!” screamed at full mental volume. And then you see the little white-tipped paw retreat back beneath the cushions and realize that it’s just someone cute being a dick to you because they find it amusing.

It’s probably because I took her frog off her. It was a real frog, hiding among my potted plants, and it was squealing with that horrid noise that distressed frogs use. It appeared unharmed, if only because she was so put off by the sound that she was just standing back, sniffing and occasionally tentatively batting at it. So I put a pot over it, and distracted all of the cats with treats while I let the frog get away. This apparently meant that Eva was going to spend the next few hours primed with the caffeine high of hunting energy… and that she was going to get more creative with her stalking technique.

Or perhaps this is symbolic of the year in general. We started the year fairly settled and looking for a pretty section to buy. We’d put in a lot of work trying to find a place over the previous year, and we juggled a few squirming cats and distressed frogs, but we were generally optimistic about our future here. And then we found a place and (despite some issues trying to sort out the finances) we bought it. Sorted.

But perhaps the financial issues at the start were just a sign of things to come. Everything seemed fairly settled and the tasks were moving ahead well when the proverbial couch decided to try and kill us. Surprise! You don’t have a mortgage anymore!… Surprise! It turns out that you never did!

That was tough. And the fact that this sweeping change piled on top of the recent revelation that my job no longer had the potential for future growth… well it was like falling down a deep well. Trapped. No way out. Wondering how the heck you ended up here.

And I have ended the year still trying to climb out of that well. Less optimistic than when we started, but persisting forward because there are no other options. There are still a lot of things that need to be sorted out for the house. I’ve had a couple of encouraging sniffs at new jobs, but no concrete offers at this stage. Still, we are trying to climb.

In between those 14-hour shifts…




When your shifts are so long that it feels like you live at work, you come home to some strange surprises sometimes.

Like the whole ham on the bone that is currently in our refrigerator. I’m guessing that this is some kind of Christmas gift from my husband’s workplace, which is nice and extraordinarily generous. He was sound asleep when I got home, and will be back at work before I get up in the morning, so I can’t ask him. I like ham, but we are also just two adults and a small selection of cats, so being confronted with 20 lbs of salted meat is somewhat more than we can handle. I’m thinking that we might donate it to a charity that could actually make use of it.

The other fun surprise was a letter from the Inland Revenue Department saying that (since I haven’t filed my tax return) they’ve decided that I owe them $3329.89. I haven’t filed a tax return because when you work for a salary in New Zealand you don’t need to file a tax return. I didn’t file a return last year either, but I did file one the year before because I was self-employed. Exactly how the IRD have determined that I owe them $3329.89 is unclear… Well, actually no, it’s perfectly clear because it’s happened before. They decide that since I used to be self-employed, I must still be self-employed, and then they invent some imaginary income for me and tax me on it. And then I have a bunch of 1-hour phone calls ahead of me where I have to explain to bored clerical staff that I didn’t actually earn any of this imaginary income and I don’t owe them anything. And then they fine me for not filing a tax return anyway. Just because.

Perhaps the most galling part of this is that when I log into their website it almost always says that my income tax is in credit, since they owe me a refund from 2004 but refuse to pay it to me because it’s more than 10 years old and they reckon they sent me a letter in 2004. They apparently sent the letter to a house I hadn’t lived in since 2002, but that’s by the by. I still don’t understand the logic of how you can’t get money that the tax department owe you because it’s “too old” and yet the tax department can arbitrarily decide that you owe them money based on no evidence at all.

But all of this will have to wait until Monday or Tuesday before I can deal with it, because I have events on and work always takes priority. Hopefully tomorrow brings no more surprises.


Back to this long crawl of major events. Back to back-to-back-to-back 13-hour days and high-strung clients. Back to a fatigue so deep you can feel your bones ache.

A vacation would be nice. Sipping cocktails in the summer sun. Going for a swim. Sleeping… oh sleep,how I miss you.

I suppose this is the way of most struggling, working, middle-class people everywhere. You work very hard and dream about the day (that far off day) when you’ll have enough money saved up that you can take a break and have a short trip to somewhere warm. That can take several years to achieve. And then after a week of that, it’s back to interminable work and daydreaming.

One day there will be a holiday… One day.



Ties that Bind

So the interview wasn’t all that awesome. Sometimes, you can just tell.

I’m trying to stay upbeat, but I also have three big events over the next three days and I’m frankly a bit bummed. I wish there was a way out, or at least a way to get some time off. I have 200 hours of leave owing to me, and a full summer calendar ahead.

One of the things that is playing most on my mind is that I only have a limited window in which to find a new position. If our house building proceeds on schedule, we will need to draw down our new mortgage in late April. In order to be approved for that (it’s part of their conditions) both my husband and I will need to be outside of any 90-day trial period in our jobs. So if I’m starting a new job, I must start it by late January. I also have a 4-week notice period at my current job.

In other words, if I can’t find a new job in the next two weeks, I may as well give up and hang on until after April.

I don’t want to hang on until April. I’m sick and tired of going to work sick and tired. But sometimes there is no choice.




As anticipated, we needed Thursday to recover from all the running around on Wednesday. It was a day of nothing but naps and grocery shopping and DVDs of Seinfeld. Getting old sucks.

However, I will make a little note of the fact that my passionfruit vine is flowering like crazy and promising a good harvest of fruit this summer. That will be a nice change from last year, when we got nothing.

I adore passionfruit, and not just because the flowers (above) look like something from an alien world. If you live in a warm enough location, the fruit are about as perfect as can be: sweet, juicy, fun to pop open right off the vine. Like dessert on a plant. I will definitely plant one (or five) at the new section as soon as I have some kind of support for them to climb. The downside is that they hate frost, so if you get an unseasonable cold snap during spring, you can pretty much kiss the fruit goodbye.

However, this year the vine is helpfully climbing up our covered deck – possibly supplanting the annoying roses as well as providing itself with cover from the cold.

We got the new build date for the house today as well: delivery will be in April. So we will still be here through the summer. And we’ll get to eat these passionfruit.


And somehow we’ll also have to figure out how to pay both rent and a mortgage throughout this whole period without crippling ourselves financially. Somehow.



Mortgage. No “Yay” this time.

Perhaps the flowers were lucky flowers. Perhaps it was also the knowledge that Friday was going to be my only day off this week. Or perhaps it was the mortgage.

But I slept. From dozing off at 9pm to awaking now, peacefully, at 10am. With only one little break for an hour in the middle when the storm woke me up.

It is very stormy, and one of the things on my list today is definitely to go and check on our shed to make sure the roof hasn’t blown off. While I’m there, I might plant some trees, and do some general tidying up.

Other chores on my list are cleaning the fish tanks, making scones, picking up a prescription, and printing out our mortgage documents.

… I had thought I would be jumping up and down with joy.

Continue reading Mortgage. No “Yay” this time.

I Even Have the T Shirt

It’s officially reached the point of my Mortgage Depression where I must put on loud, happy, very familiar music as I drive home. Like Open Up & Say Ahh…, which was the first Poison album I ever bought and which (thanks to an obsessive adolescence) I’ve listened to approximately 43 million times. Yet it still provides the welcome escape it always did…

Ahh, the 1980s. When their concert turnout was massive and we were all skinnier with a lot more energy. It must be a sign of reaching middle age but it still astounds me that I can talk to a fully grown adult (like a bill-paying, car-driving, married adult) who wasn’t even alive when this video was made. “What do you mean you don’t remember the fall of the Berlin Wall? What are you, five?… Oh wait, you’re twenty-six?!?” That’s about the age these boys were when they made this video.

It also proves that there used to be a time when Bret Michaels would appear in public without a bandanna around his head (did I just say that?).


No Rain

It’s been one of those days where you’ve barely exercised but still just feel knocked around by life.

We’ve been trying to sort out some way to get our mortgage moving forward again. After an entire afternoon on the phone – banks, builders, parents, brokers, more banks – we have out fingers crossed that we have a solution. Maybe. Hopefully. It’s been 95% bad news with only this 5% of “maybe”. It’s starting to feel like we’ve been lied to right from the beginning, and the mortgage we were promised back in February never existed. By the time I’d finished all these calls, neither Rob nor I were hungry for dinner. Both our stomachs are in knots now.

However. Optimism. Everything will inevitably proceed forward because backward just isn’t an option. And so far both Rob and I have a 100% success rate in surviving shitty days.

When I am full up with soulful longing I tend to crawl back to people like Janis Joplin. She was wonderful at capturing the pain of desire.

But perhaps there is too much history there now. She has seen me at my worst times. And I have spent my life avoiding those who can remind me of times I want to forget.

Yet there are many others who understand desire and depression – who lived painfully and died early. I sit quietly and listen to the words. I don’t know why that gives me hope, but it does…