Thursday, September 19, 2013

Just a Teeny Bit of Venting

It may come as no surprise to you that I am not a fan of big government. I also oppose changing the Utah caucus system, as the caucus system allows normal people coming from grassroots situations and budgets to run for office.

In addition, I think President Obama has gone off the rails in his latest speech about raising the debt ceiling. He must really believe we have absolutely no grasp of mathematics, economics, or human nature. Indeed, he must really believe we are all complete idiots -- or worse, he actually believes what his teleprompter tells him. Hey, if it's on the teleprompter, it must be true, right? And 2006 never happened, either, when he was on exactly the opposite side of this argument.

If Obamacare doesn't get defunded (or if there doesn't end up being any measure that will dry it up like an unwanted wart), I'm going to cry. For reals.

I just had to get that off my chest. Thank you for being so understanding.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

And Murphy Giggled Delightedly

I was telling someone the other day that being poor isn't all that bad. After all, you get to figure out creative solutions to things all the time, and successfully solving a problem on the cheap brings with it a great deal of satisfaction. Plus, you're forced to look at what is truly important in life and discard things that aren't important that you can't afford.

Because I said it out loud, however, Murphy laughed. His law immediately went into effect, and that evening, I got an email from my place of work informing the contract writers that the content writing department had nearly run out of work items. That's the first time that's happened since I've been working for them (several years now). They offered one of two options for the near future. First option: take two weeks off with no penalties for failing to make the weekly quota. The only stipulation is that you cannot write any work items whatsoever. Second option: continue to write, but be told how many work items you are allotted and stick with that amount.

Either way, it spelled a big decrease in our finances and a chance to really get creative. Every single penny counts. When Husband commutes 30 miles to work, you have to prioritize gas expenses, juggling your pantry and fridge with the hunger of the gas tank. Any money you do have for food has to be carefully spent. Are eggs more important than milk? I can make bread, but do I have enough flour to last until the next payday? And how can I dress up the supply of dried beans I have in my pantry in order to fill tummies without it becoming dull and monotonous? When several episodes of severely depleted finances have already mostly emptied the larder, what do I have left? How is it possible I could have accumulated so much canned spinach?

We don't live on the raggedy financial edge because we enjoy the thrill. Nor are we insensible to the wisdom of paying off debt, saving for a rainy day and retirement, and budgeting so we are not living paycheck to paycheck. Husband regularly beats himself up for choosing a profession that is not very lucrative, even though he works hard at what he does. I tell him that as an elementary school teacher, he is touching lives in a way that simply isn't possible in the corporate world. He still gets angry with himself. Every penny goes into living expenses, with nothing left over.

I don't think there is more purity or wisdom to be had by being poor than being wealthy. People with plenty of money can also learn the lessons of what is important in life. We're not better because we're struggling vs. someone who has never had to worry about whether or not their kids will be able to eat lunch for the rest of the week. We try very hard not to be frivolous. I certainly don't feel incredibly righteous, as I am always wondering if I'm squandering the stewardship I've been given.

But I am grateful. As tiring as it is, there is still a thrill at the challenges we are presented with. How do we overcome them? What is the best course? And will anyone eat another pot of peas porridge hot?

We have our children and our nearby family. We have good friends around us. The kids can be educated, we have never starved, and even if we can't afford a lot, we have everything we need. I would feel blessed even if we had to give up the house and all of our possessions, but just so you know, Murphy, that isn't something I really want to be tested on, thank you very much. On a side note, I wouldn't mind having a heftier bank account, if that's something within your power.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Always Available, All the Time

I fixed the cell phone problem by myself. Yes, you read that right. All by myself. I know I'm too lazy when it comes to finding solutions to simple issues like that because I can always ask Husband for help and he will do a far, far better--and quicker--job than I. Since he was at work, however, I had to figure it out on my own this time. Sad that I'm always so proud of myself for sorting out easy tech problems, like where the SIM card goes in the new phone and how to get it out of the old phone. So very sad.

Anyway,  I asked Gabrielle if she still had my old slide phone and charger from a few years back. "You mean Mr. McChunky!" she exclaimed, and then ran downstairs to her room to fetch it for me. Wow. This thing is nearly an inch thick, but it was top-of-the-line back in 2007. The only thing that was better than this phone when it was brand new on the market was the groundbreaking phenomenon known as the iPhone. But Mr. McChunky, old and thick as he is, still works just fine for making and receiving calls. It even has a full QWERTY keyboard for all those thousands of texts I'm constantly sending. Not.

Now I just have to get used to carrying a cell phone around with me again. I keep accidentally leaving it behind. Definitely by accident. But I was so glad to have it today when I dropped my in-laws off at the airport in The Big City so they could catch a plane to England. Just as I pulled up to the drop-off zone, I got a call from Gabrielle.

The essence of the call was, "Save me! These kids are driving me nuts!" The essence of my answer was, "Suck it up. And be nice."

Then, as I traveled across town to the hospital to see my grandmother in the Intensive Care Unit, I got another couple of calls.

"Can I and all the girls in the neighborhood use up the cake mixes and then leave the kitchen in a total mess while refusing to allow my brothers to eat any of the cake we baked because we're going to charitably give it away to other people but not charitably give any to my icky brothers?" (That was Elannah, and no, that's not exactly what she asked. I just read between the lines.)

Also, "Save me! These kids are driving me nuts! I may literally commit homicide!" (Gabrielle again.)

After I'd visited my grandmother--along with my mother, who was staying with her for the day--I got back in the car and began making the long journey home. When I got tired of listening to talk radio, I played my mixed CD full blast and sang along at the top of my lungs because no one was in the car to tell me to stop it, or that I was embarrassing him/her, or could I please, please, PLEASE turn off the CD and turn on their favorite radio station instead. The phone rang right in the middle of my very swanky rendition of "Black Velvet."

"Can I have a turn on the TV? [My sibling] has had it for [some extremely exaggerated amount of time] and I want a turn. [My sibling] has denied me a turn. Can you tell [my bleeping sibling] to get off the TV because they've had it forever! And when are you getting home?" (Joseph)

And again a phone call, interrupting me and Jamie Cullum during a terrific duet. "Can I cook that frozen dinner I found in the freezer?" (Sophia)

Ten minutes from home, the phone vibrated again. By this time, I had quit trying to do the dangerous gymnastics required to get it back into my pocket while I was driving and had set it into one of the cup holders. It was Husband.

"So....where are you?"

Apparently, every child in the house had forgotten that I had gone to see my grandma in the hospital after dropping off the in-laws at the airport. Husband had arrived home from work and had been met with shrugs and mumbled "I don't knows" when he asked where I was. He probably thought I'd run away for good this time and was inventorying the pantry and fridge to see if he could keep everyone from starving before I came to my senses.

So you see why I'm so glad I have a cell phone again, even if it is named Mr. McChunky. I definitely won't accidentally leave it at home anymore. Absolutely not.

(And, as you're probably curious, my grandma is in the hospital because she's bleeding in her stomach. While she has required a couple of blood transfusions, and the doctors can't figure out where the blood is coming from, she was resting comfortably and was happy that I came to see her. I think she'll be okay. The bleeding isn't constant, and once they scope out the problem area, the scope can also be used to cauterize or pinch off the blood source. I and my family will be praying for her. If you want to send up a prayer on her behalf, as well, it would be greatly appreciated.)

Monday, September 9, 2013

Bargains! The Musical

I was lying in bed one night when I came up with the idea for Bargain! The Musical. In it, a spunky, energetic woman sings about fantastic bargains she's found, accompanied by a joyous and physically coordinated chorus. The costumes are all early 19th century (which is absolutely the best period in which to set any musical because of the hat styles), and there is no swearing or offensive subject matter, making it a visual spectacle fit for the entire family! There will be dancing! Singing! Lights! Costumes! Sets!

Okay, so I might have been half-asleep and not entirely in my right (left?) mind at the time. The strangest things flit through your head when you're in that gray world between being fully awake and fully asleep. What brought on a fit of play-write fever was probably the fact that I am the proud new owner of a very decent used laptop, purchased at an excellent price from a local pawn shop. I am no longer tethered to my home computer! I can now write my work articles and blog posts anywhere that has wi-fi!

The problem is that I'm burned out. I can't complain, because I have a work-at-home job that pays me for as much work as I am willing to do. So I am really not complaining about that. I am complaining that my brain, after four nearly non-stop years, is pretty much done, and getting through even a bare minimum of writing ends up taking most of my day while I allow myself to get distracted or wander away from the computer altogether in search of something less mentally exhausting. I'm getting quite good at some of Mendelssohn's Songs Without Words, particularly Duet. I am also a huge Sharukh Khan fan, by this point (Khan is, I think, the undisputed King of Bollywood Actors). I read Brandon Sanderson's new book, The Rithmatist, in one day. If I had more money, I'd probably shop more. Notice how many blog posts I've written lately? And I was briefly tempted to learn how to write in Gallifreyan. 

Sadly, the house isn't that much tidier, as I am not often motivated to clean like a thing possessed when fueled by anxiety (or any other emotion, really). 

So getting out of the house and into another environment is good because I can focus a little better. Once I solve the problem of a lack of a cell phone, I won't have to worry about missing an important call from one of the three schools my children attend. It's happened. Chaos ensued. Hey, even if I have to buy a cheap $30 Walmart phone, at least I could get and receive phone calls about children vomiting noisily all over their desks or not having enough lunch money to be able to eat that day. That is always helpful in focusing my mind on writing.

Oh, but speaking of bargains, MIL wanted to visit my favorite grocery discount store last week to buy American treats and sweets for the British relatives (whom they are soon to be visiting), and I found 2-pounds punnets of blueberries for 99 cents each! If you know of my love for blueberries, you will not find it hard to believe that I nearly passed out right next to the display. I now have a goodly amount of frozen blueberries all snugged away in my freezer, ready to be dropped into my kale/spinach/coconut milk smoothies or cooked into wheat pancakes or baked up into a pie (I love pie). My main character in Bargains! The Musical will definitely sing about blueberry bounty.