what would I do with cash to spare?

Yesterday was payday under the Big Top and that is always a good day. In spite of what the “experts” might say about dual-income families, we are not rolling in the dough. We do not have tons of material goods: no big screen tv, no tv or computer in every room of the house, no Game Boy, X-box or any other toys like that. I only wish for fancy pedicures and spa days. Our last vacation as a family where we actually went somewhere was in 1992 and it was just Holly and Zoë back then.
No, we are not blessed with a huge disposable income. Sorry to disappoint the experts out there. We live pretty much paycheck to paycheck just like most Americans. We do know that one reason is because of poor choices we made when we were younger. But we have learned the hard way about living the American way on credit. It took a long time to pay for the mistakes we made but because of them, we live differently. We carry a one mortgage and one car payment. And although we do have one credit card with a low balance everything else is in cash including
those three sets of braces we currently have. So payday for us is bill paying day (my electric bill for those two weeks of triple digit temperatures is $500 and our ac was never set below 82°!) and re-stocking the pantry day.

So last night, after paying the current bills, I went grocery shopping to stock up the empty pantry. It didn’t take long to fill up that cart. While I unloaded my groceries onto the conveyer at the checkout, I couldn’t help but overhear the transaction ahead of me. The lady with her two small kids in the cart was having problems paying for her cart load. Her total was just over $90 but her bank card was declined. She kept trying and trying over and over again. She then began to remove items. Still her card was declined each time she tried. The clerk was getting rather exasperated with her. My heart really went out to this young woman and her kids. If I could I would have stepped up and covered the purchase. But after paying the bills I knew that I didn’t have the cash to spare. I wish I did. Someone once did that to me years ago. I was so embarrassed and yet so grateful. The person did it with no expectations in return except my thanks. I never saw that woman again but I will never forget her kind act. She will never know how much it meant to me. Someday I will pay it forward.
In the meantime, all I could do was say a quick silent prayer for that woman ahead of me as she picked up her children and walked out of the store without her groceries. God bless her.

the beautiful smiles cruise

It was just nine months ago that we had a GREAT idea for our family. We ran into some friends at our kids’ spring band concert and noticed their tans, relaxed postures and the braids the ladies had. They all looked fabulous so we had to ask how did they all come about this new look. The answer was simple. They had just returned from a 7 day cruise vacation…the whole family: mom, dad and three kids.
Steve and Dara shared how much fun they all had and how the vacation had something fun everyday for all of them: adults to teens to kindergartener. Of course we were jealous. There was no big, fun vacation planned for us because I had just started a new job; not to mention the cost prohibitive factor of a cruise vacation for our circus act. But Dara disagreed, at least on the cost point. She then gave me the price tag of their package.
That’s all?!
Now I was even more jealous.
But then I got to thinking about it all. Steve is a high school science teacher and works part time as one of the high school track coaches. Dara is a SAHM. They carry a mortgage and other bills just like us and yet they could afford this vacation. Of course they did plan and budgeted for several months prior. But still, they could afford this.
Why couldn’t we I asked myself and then Bill. We talked it over and decided with a year to save and plan we too could afford a family cruise vacation. The prices for our planned cruise for the seven of us for 7 days was indeed surprisingly affordable. How exciting. We actually were planning a big, fun, family vacation! I bid for the time this coming summer and we began to plan and budget.
Whoo-hoo! A cruise was in our near future.

Then came the last dental check-ups for Zoë, Abby and Jodie. I received not one, not two but three, yes three orthodonture referrals.
At the orthodontist we received good news/bad news.:

  • yes our insurance did cover some of the costs, but not all of it
  • Jodie should wait at least for six more months before we begin orthodonture work on her
  • We would receive sibling discounts as well as a professional courtesy discount
  • Zoë care plan would be pretty basic and simple with braces and maybe bands
  • Abby would need braces, a palate expander and a referral for dental surgery to coax a lazy molar down
  • Jodie would need some dental surgery as well but later
  • the estimated cost for all of this….you guessed it, about the same as the cruise vacation

Every time Zoë and Abby smile now, I see our cruise vacation on the Mexican Riviera. I finally have a picture of the two of them so you too can enjoy what was our cruise vaction.

It’s beautiful!
The end result, their dazzling smiles (Jodie’s too), will be even more beautiful…and I figure, God willing, the Mexican Riviera will be there for another time.
In the meantime, we are punting and tentatively planning a week in Capitola in a beach house rental not unlike a family vacation of Bill’s childhood.

tax whine and wine

Early Wednesday morning around o’dark thirty, while holding my feverish, wheezy little man upright in my arms so he could breathe and sleep at the same time, I FINALLY caught the oft lauded movie Sideways.

No, really, it was quite good. The actors were sublime, the cinematography and writing ere superb. I LOVE,LOVE,LOVE the Central Coast of Cali so I was wishing I was there once again making more memories. And yet, in spite of all its excellence, the movie just didn’t grab a hold of me like it did all those who loudly sang its praises last year before and after the Oscars 2005. It was a good movie…just not a great movie in my small corner of the world.
One scene did stand out for me though. Miles is answering Maya’s question about why he prefers Pinots above all others. He explains how they are thin skinned, rare only able to thrive in certain environments, and so on. He then compares them to the cab grape which he characterizes as hardier thriving in spite of neglect, abuse and the harshest of climes. I liked that. Maybe that is why although I do enjoy a seductive pinot from time to time, I am a hearty cab kind of girl. I identify a lot with that survivor grape.
Speaking of wine…
I could use a glass right about now.
I just finished our taxes.
I hope Uncle Sam and Ahnold will be very happy with the chunk of flesh we have to pay out this year.
It’s our own fault. Bill neglected to pay taxes on the profit he made in real estate sales. I’ll forgive him… this year! Also when I left Good Sam, I did take a payout of what was left of my retirement. It wasn’t much after we (me reluctantly) raided it for Bill’s midlife crisis. It’s an investment I told myself and tell myself now. It is. Hey, wanna buy or sell? Still I’m contributing double to my current employer’s matching fund to make up for lost time. I know, I should have rolled over. I know that. I couldn’t help myself…I wanted what other people have…a backyard… taxes be damned, I want a patio and tres and plants and grass. The water feature Bill is planning in the planter can come later.

I’ll remind myself of that thought when I get the opportunity to relax out there come summertime while I watch the sunset as I sip a buttery chardonnay.

keeper of the flame

Today my main role is the keeper of the flame, much like Hestia. How ironic! In 4th grade when we studied mythology, my project was on hestia. I was required to write a report on her and also do a class presentation dressed as this Greek goddess of home and hearth, the keeper of the flame on Mount Olympus.

Up until the last hour, it has been a chilly day here! The sunshine that melted away a very thick layer of frost off my front and back yards, is deceiving. Normally, after the girls head off to school, I can pretty much turn off the heat and add an extra sweater or sweatshirt to Daniel and myself and we are just fine. But there has been a chill in our house cold enough to keep the furnace going just to keep the temperature at 65° which is what the thermostat is set at.
Why so cold?
Normally it isn’t cold. Normally, 65° during the day, 68° when the family is home and 62° overnight is just perfect in our home. It is one of those energy star built homes. But this morning it was cold here. I wonder how the rest of the folks around here are doing?
In the meantime, little man hates to be cold and the chill is enough to bother the little aches and pains like my right arm and my knees that I am almost 44 so we are dressed up in cozy warm sweats and fuzzy socks and mommy is keeping the fire going. That’s me, the goddess of the hearth and home!
Our utility company is offering incentives to use less natural gas this season. We can get cash money if we lower our gas bill by 10%. WOW! Money is money and I will take it almost anyway I can get it. But, as I glance through the letter’s suggestions to cut my natural gas bill, I see I am doing all of this already.

  1. Lower thermostat to 65° when at home/work and 55° when away four or more hours with a savings of 10-15%—65° with the exception of maybe 3 hours a day and the furnace is turned off when we are not at home
  2. Seal leaks in heating ducts and where air is leaking around doors and windows with a 5-10% savings—Bill insisted this was unnecessary in our home but he humored me because of the old adage about making mama happy
  3. Set water heater thermostat at 120° for a savings of 5%—with kids this was already done plus Bill again humored me and added an insulating blanket around the hot water heater.
  4. Install energy-efficient showerheads and faucet aerators, and wash clothes in cold water for a 3-5% savings—energy efficient house so done! Plus I wash all of our laundry except for the whites (maybe 2-3 loads/week) in cold water

So the rebate come April is not very likely. Still I do my best to conserve. It’s a habit from my trailer trash days when dad hated to buy more heating oil. I could tell you I am environmentally conscious (and yes, I should be) but who am I kidding,? It’s a habit. So I have the furnace turned down and Daniel and I have spent the day snuggled by the fire reading, coloring, folding laundry and watching some old Disney flicks.
It’s been a busy week for the little man with school and a new daycare while I have been working so my first day off this week we are just chillin’.
I’m not completely being a slug as I am doing the laundry. I know, what else is new. But I am investigating the puddle of water I keep finding on the laundry room floor. Bill insists the washing machine is leaking because the loads are too full.
I’m thinking he just doesn’t want to deal with yet another thing on my “honey-do list” How else can you explain the diagnosis sight unseen?
So I moved the washer out, mopped up the huge puddle and noted the bubbling linoleum. Great! I also not that the hot water hose connection is dripping. I try to tighten it and finally just turn off the hot water…rarely use it anyway. An hour later I notice no more dripping. Go me! But just in case he is right I wash a load of two, yes TWO towels. When it is done I discover a puddle.
Like it or not, guess what Bill will be doing this weekend?
Me, I will be tending to my hearth like a good little goddess!

a leap of faith

I do know the old saying, “Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.” but I tend to be an impulsive person despite my planning. I refer to my impulses as leaps of faith in many ways to reassure myself that I am in this circus juggling with a net. I have stumbled on occasion, but I haven’t fallen yet.

Well today I took a leap of faith. I resigned at GSH before hearing for sure from Mudville…the manager I interviewed with is on vacation this week so next week I will find out. In the meantime, it was the right time to give notice. The climate is bad there. Actually, while I was there today, it felt like an oppressively hot, muggy day before a thunderstorm hits, just like my childhood days in Western PA. It is oppressive. I will praise my colleagues though that despite the sunken morale and added stress to an already high stress unit, they are, as always, amazing in their dedication and level of care that they are giving to the patients there…..

To those of you not in nursing you can not imagine the amount of s#%t nurses take and still are dedicated to their vocation….and I am not talking about patients either!

So with a gulp I took this leap today. I feel right about this leap because the drive to and from there was horrendous today. It’s as if someone is trying to tell me something. I still am “available” to GSH until the middle of April which means I am still their beck and call girl and I still have time to follow up on other jobs should Mudville not be the right one.

In the meantime, the good Lord has not failed all these years and I know He won’t fail me now so we will muddle through. That’s what makes my life a circus!