Dancing on the Budgetary Edge

Dancing on the Budgetary Edge

I’m buying a new car.

Not the actual car, but pretty darn close!

Okay, not a NEW car.  I’ll never buy a NEW car.  But this is pretty darn close.  It’s a 2013 Kia Soul, it only has 60K miles on it, and it even has some bells and whistles.  And it’s a manual transmission, which actually makes me happy.

I’d gotten pre-approved for the car loan from my credit union, but after some finagling and confusion, the dealership was able to finance me at a much better rate, so I’m going with that.  The only downside is that I have to pay the tax and title out of pocket.

Cue the financial panic.

I get paid on Friday, and wouldn’t be able to pick the car up before that anyway (punishment for losing the photo card on my license renewal).  But of course this week is mortgage week.  So between the two payments, that takes my ENTIRE paycheck, plus the last of my (admittedly small) emergency savings.

I went ahead with the commitment on the car.  Between the quality of the car and the improved financing, I can’t lose the opportunity.  And I’ve been in tighter financial situations before with less signs of light at the end.  I just have to make it to April 15 when I get paid again.  But I still am panicking and feeling out of control.

I have a couple of different coping strategies in these situations.  My favorite:  I bake.  And then I eat everything I baked.  I’d like to avoid that.  I already can’t fit into my size 12 jeans (thanks, Trump) and I’m committed to doing better on the diet front.  So now I’m cleaning.  Starting with the kitchen.  I’ve spent the morning scrubbing and sweeping, and it’s looking pretty good.

I also made planning and distraction lists in my bullet journal.  First I made an austerity menu.  This coming week is already covered (the joys of 2 week at a time menu planning), so it’s just the next two I have to sweat.  I did pretty well and ended up with only an 8 item shopping list, not counting milk and cereal.  We even only resort to pancakes once!  And that’s more because the kids like it than because I had to do it.  My well stocked freezer is paying off.

Then I made a list of jobs that need to get done.  What I had PLANNED to do for the next few weeks was work on the new garden beds, but the money for lumber and dirt all just went into the car, so that’s a no go.  Instead I’ve just made a list of all the other yard chores we need to get done in advance: Cleaning up the yard, finishing off the bike shed, turning the existing beds, that sort of thing.  Some indoor stuff, too.  All things that need to get done but don’t cost any money.  There’s probably enough there to keep me busy until next pay day.

I had hoped for that weekend to be an orgy of gardening, but RL continues to hold me back.  We’re going to Hershey Park with Rachel, Matt and Uly on the 15th, which will be fun since we’ve never been.  Then the 16th is Easter Sunday, and I’m worship associate at church that day, so there’s half that day, and I’m not sure what will be open anyway.  So I’m going to take Monday and Tuesday off as well.  By that point, I will have earned a couple of personal days, and the kids are still off on Monday for their spring break, so I can impress them into labor.

I can do this.  It will be worth it in the end.  The new car will make up half its monthly payment just in the gas I’m going to save.  And I’m hanging onto the van until I get all the dirt and lumber home that I need (I’m going to miss being able to haul anything I need or find curbside whenever I want!), but hopeful after that I can sell it and restock my emergency funds.

Life on the edge, baby.  Gotta know how to do that dance.

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The Week(end)  That Was 

The Week(end)  That Was 

I don’t wanna go home… 


Alas, today’s the day. We’re all delaying packing up, and to be fair we do have a couple of hours before we have to get serious about leaving. But the drive to accomplish has faded, and we’re all staying to think about the responsibilities waiting for us back out in the Real World. 
We all made good progress on our various projects. Nikki finished the formatting and uploading for her first self-published book. (Go buy it.)  Deb did her research  and her taxes and got the logo for her new podcast (which is awesome!) How did I do? Hrm, let me look at that list. 

1. Scripts accomplished! I got the intro and exit scripts written, picked a session topic for the demo, and even came up with a name. No Small Questions. Just need to round up some people to do a recording session with. 

2. Draft ritual is done. I still need to write quarter calls and gaming text for the working, but I’ve ordered the supplies and have the major details all nailed down. 

3. Finished a clue and a half on the test knit. One small hiccup, but I’m not the only one having it, so I’m taking that as a good sign. 

4. Nada. Sorry, Mom. 

5. Does two blog posts count? Nothing in the bank, though. Maybe I’ll brainstorm ideas on the drive home. 

6. Garden plan is complete! Well, as complete as any garden plan can be. And I have my seed list generated, although I haven’t priced it out yet. It’s gonna hurt though. Worth it. 

So all in all I’m counting it as time will spent. I don’t feel as rested as I would like, but who knows if I ever will. It was good just to step off the treadmill for a few days, though. Hopefully when I get back, things won’t feel quite so overwhelming. 

Of course, none of us have looked at Twitter for four days, so… 

Writers Weekend 2017

Writers Weekend 2017

We’re back in the woods for another Writers Weekend (check out the tag for our previous WW adventures. Including turkeys).  We missed last year due to other commitments on everyone’s part, and all three of us really felt the loss of it.  So this year we all knew we had to do this, come hell or high water.  We did get a slightly later start than we like because Deb had a commitment Thursday night (darn that real life, anyway), so Friday morning we got all our kids out to school and then hit the road to the Poconos.  See below for how much stuff 3 writers need for 4 days away.  And that doesn’t include groceries.

Not as much as when we go camping, but it’s only for 3!

Day 1 is usually a wash.  We need to decompress from our day to day lives and get settled into the house.  Yesterday was no exception.  We got up here around 11, unloaded the car, made the beds, started warming up the house, and then went out for lunch and grocery shopping.  Lunch was at this run down looking diner that I’ve been past a million times going camping (our campground is about an hour past Deb’s mountain house).  The food was surprisingly good, although I think their meatloaf was actually their gyro meat.  And we bought a pie.  Because diner pie.  Then we went grocery shopping.  The nice thing about three grown women in a house together is we all take turns cooking, and we are mostly reasonable when we go shopping.  Yes, we always end up with too much snack food, but hey, at least it’s 75% healthy snack food! 7 bags and 4 dozen bottles of water later, we were off to Lowe’s and Walmart (shudder) to get new lamps for the house.  Deb always walks a fine line on these trips between being on vacation and being a rental owner.  We try to keep her on the more relaxing side of that line, but sometimes needs must.  This was at least easier than the year the gas fire wouldn’t turn on.  That wasn’t fun!

We got back home around 3:30, got unloaded and Nikki got the traditional WW Tikka Masala in the crockpot, then we all lounged around until dinner.  I got some software installed on my computer and played too much Minecraft while Deb did hockey research and Nikki actually did writing work (making the rest of us look bad.) But again, first day is a wash, so no stress.  I did spend some time that evening going through one of my seed catalogs, so that’s something off my list.

All my favorite places have fireplaces

I do have a goal list for the week

  1. Scripts for the podcast I’m planning – I need to write introduction and closing scripts, as well as actually coming up with a name.  I want to record the demo by the end of the month, so I need to get cracking
  2. Oestara ritual – I’m leading the Oestara ritual for Gaia’s Rainbow this month and need to actually get it written
  3. Sherlock shawl test knit – this is due back to the designer by the end of the month.  I’m on clue 3 of 9…
  4. Finish my mom’s shawl.  Before she hunts me down with knives.
  5. Write and bank a few blog posts – Theoretically March is a blog every day month.  Yeah, no.  Maybe April
  6. Garden plan – Spring’s coming almost faster than I’d like.  I need to get seeds started, so I need to get, you know, seeds.

I think I’m off to a good start.  Last night I got the recording software installed on my laptop so I can use it as my onsite podcasting studio. I also got my volunteer application in to the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly in New Orleans in June.  If I can get that, it pays my attendance fee ($350.  Oof.) and I just have to figure out travel and accommodations. (Also oof.)  And I got through one of my seed catalogs, the one I’ll primarily be ordering from this year.  (Johnny’s Selected Seeds, for anyone who’s curious.)

Slept kind of rocky last night, either really hard or wide awake.  But I woke up with the basic ideas for the ritual, so this morning I worked on developing that.  The theme is eggs and seeds.  For our working, we’re going to make seed eggs (basically seed bombs shaped like eggs).  So I researched seed bomb how-to’s, ordered the matrix for it and the seeds, and got the rough outline written.  I still have to write the cast and calls and a quick charging meditation, but that’s pretty easy once the how to’s and why for’s are figured out.  I think there will then be a nap.  Then I want to finish Clue 3 on the shawl, and then I can go through another seed catalog.  And poke at my garden plot maps to make sure I have room for everything, or that I’ve filled everything.  I’m never sure which I’m going to end up at!

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So… 

So… 

My excuse is I’ve been busy.


Since the Women’s March, I’ve been to at least one political/social action meeting a week. This past week I went to three. It’s exhausting, but other people don’t have the privilege I do of being able to step away from it, so I don’t feel right complaining.

The progressive group that meets at my church is turning into an Indivisible group, which I’m glad of. I’m looking forward to seeing what it develops into.

I’ve also started attending the local Democratic party meetings. I consider myself pretty well informed civically, but I’m learning a lot at these meetings. And yes, I am changing my party affiliation. I’ve been a registered Independent my whole adult life, but to remain so at this point in my life and in our history feels like the worst sort of entitlement. I don’t forsee being ethically able to vote anything besides Democratic for many years, and I live in a closed primary state, effectively shutting me out of that process as an independent. I hope to one day be able to change back, but for now this is the right thing to do.

One thing I am noticing is the party groups seem to be unaware of uninformed about the Indivisible groups, which is definitely not in their best interests. Not all the Indivisible groups are politically focused, but they’re too important a grassroots movement not to connect with as a resource.

Spring is coming, and with it thoughts of seeds and dirt and growth. I’ll start writing about those things again. I need to. It’s just hard when it feels like other people’s lives are at stake.

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A Banked Fire

A Banked Fire

christmas-hearth

As you might have been able to tell by the radio silence around here, the end of the year was not an easy time for me.

Don’t get me wrong.  We had a lovely Thanksgiving, and Christmas at the cabin was the best ever, with no drama or disasters. I attended church and small group ministry as usual. I got involved with the local progressive group. I bought a mandolin for my birthday.

And yet things didn’t feel quite right.  Like I was holding my breath.  Waiting.

Apparently I was waiting on hope.  Hope can be debilitating when there’s nothing for it but to wait.  Hope when you can act is a different thing, empowering, energizing, but hope you can’t act on?  That’s hard.

After December 19, things started to break free.  There was no hope to wait on anymore.  It would be four years of struggle, of fighting and defending and supporting.  Four years of action.  I could do action.  And just as suddenly, things started to break free in my own life.  I started setting up my bullet journal for 2017, looking ahead at what was to come.  I recommitted to my weight loss (albeit AFTER all the goodies at work had done their damage.)  I used the money Mom gave me for my birthday to sign up for mandolin lessons.  I’m going to the Women’s March in Philly. (I can’t do the DC one because I have to serve at church the next day.)

Probably the most metaphoric thing of the whole period was that I learned how to bank a fire overnight.  This is probably one of those generational things that we’ve lost out on.  My mom never could explain to me how to do it, although she seemed to know how instinctively.  But as a society we don’t need to tend fires anymore, so we’ve put aside that knowledge.  I was reading a book on cabin building from the 1940’s, though, and there was the nugget of knowledge I’d been looking for since I was a kid.  Bury a log in the ashes and coals of a dying fire and close all the dampers.  In the morning, you will still have coals to start the new day’s fire with.  I only used 1 match our whole 5 days in the cabin.  My fire died, but the coals lingered to flare again the next day.

I’m ready to relight my fire for 2017.  And I have coals to share.

Putting Hitler in the Cupboard

Putting Hitler in the Cupboard

rory

Needless to say, the election did not go the way that I had hoped.

Tuesday night I tried to calm my hysterical trans-identified child and worried again that people might come to do violence on my Bangladeshi neighbors.

Wednesday I worked from home, numb and unable to cope with the presence of other people.

Now I’m taking small steps towards action.

I am doubling my pledge to my church.  I am fortunate to belong to a denomination with a long history and experience in social justice issues.  While I might not be able to squeeze out more time to work towards these issue, I can at least offer financial support to back up those who can invest the time.

I am matching that pledge with monthly donations to the ACLU, ADL, Planned Parenthood and several other organiztions.  I can’t do much, but a little bit every month still helps.

I am pledging to my local NPR station.  While they fell far short of perfect, they were still one of the more reliable sources of news through this whole thing.  I wish I could justify a newspaper subscription as well.  If you can, please subscribe, especially to the Washington Post.  They did amazing work and deserve our support.

I think I’m going to join the League of Women Voters.  I was appalled at the low turnout this election when it was so critically important.  We have to do better.

I’m looking into the idea of developing a digital passive resistance program at church.  More on this if it develops.

This election was our chance to stop Hitler.  Hitler has stopped being a person and has become instead an idea, the demagogue who lures people into working against their own best interest and better angels to serve his own ends.  We failed that challenge.  Now we must do everything we can to contain the damage, to prevent the full flowering of everything Hitler represents.

Be like Rory.  Help put Hitler in the cupboard.

hitler

Election 2016

Election 2016

20161108_073502I went to work dressed all in white in honor of the suffragists who made this day possible.  I was surprised by how powerful it made me feel.

Took Morgan to vote after work.  In 20 years of voting at the same polling place, this was the first time I’ve ever stood in a line of more than 2 people (there were about 10 people ahead of us.)  Nothing like people are seeing in some places, but enough to make it feel important.  It was Morgan’s first time voting, so we got the sample ballot so I could talk him through what to expect.  He wasn’t the only new voter.  There were at least two other people in line who were getting coached, both of them in their late 30s or early 40s.  We only waited 20 minutes or so to vote.  I got a little uncomfortable that the poll workers were recording everyone’s party affiliation out loud, but otherwise there weren’t any problems.  And for the first time ever, there were stickers when we finished!

20161108_163154

The line had gotten longer by the time we came out, almost down the block.

I made tacos for dinner (I want a taco truck on every corner, darn it!) and a bunch of snack food, and now we’re waiting while the results dribble in.

I’m going to have such an election hangover in the morning…

Blogtober Past

Blogtober Past

Those monthly blog challenges are always so hard!  I did pretty well, but not as well as I would have liked.  I missed a total of 7 days, most of them unsurprisingly towards the end.  I’m not sure how I managed to miss two days in a row last week.  I just lose all sense of time.  It’s why I have to automate all my bill paying.  Otherwise I think I just paid my bill when it was really three months ago…  Yeah, I’m a mess.

But the itch to blog more regularly is at least there.  As always after one of these things, it won’t be every day, but it will be more often.

And now it’s November.  No matter how tempting Nikki makes it, I am NOT doing Nanowrimo this year (what moron put it in the second busiest month of the year, anyway?)  Although I am going to start collecting ideas and possibly do my own Nano in March.

Instead, my goal this month is to track my eating every day for the month.  I know how important that one simple tool is for weight loss and maintenance, and I have gotten woefully out of the habit.  My weight has been creeping up, so even though this is a major eating holiday month, it’s time for me to get things back under control.  Yesterday’s tracking only proved my point.  I should be eating between 12-1500 calories a day.  Yesterday I had 2200.  Yeah, that’s a little heart stopping.  Time to be a responsible grown-up again.

How Thin the Veil

How Thin the Veil

I’m spending a quiet Samhain this year.  For our family, death is too close.

This past weekend, the kids went with their dad down to Delaware to visit their great aunt, who went into hospice care last week with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.  It was a mixed occasion, acknowledging the passing of a truly kind and loving person but also getting to celebrate the family that she leaves behind.  I didn’t go, just because they didn’t need to be dealing with weird vibes of a former family member while dealing with their own grief.  Instead I stayed home and knit, waiting for the kids to get home in case they needed their mom.  They were fine, of course, but still I worried.  I didn’t have to deal with my first family death in any kind of personal way until I was in grad school.  My grandmother passed when I was in high school, but she was a thousand miles away and I didn’t get to go to the funeral, so it wasn’t until my grandfather died that I had to truly face it.

I know there are more funerals coming, though.  For a family the size of my extended family, we have had relatively few passages.  But health and age are creeping up on all of us.  I try to be calm in the face of our mortality, but some days it’s harder than others.

Sal passed into the Summerland yesterday morning, surrounded by her family and knowing she was loved.  That’s about the kindest death can be.

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Guilt

Guilt

In the spring of 2010, we adopted two kittens from the SPCA.

kittens kittens2

Normally I prefer to adopt older cats, as it’s harder for them to find homes, but it had been almost 3 years since we’d had any cats, and the kids had never had a kitten, so this one time we made an exception.

We were lucky to find two littermates, who we promptly named Lewis and Clark.  They were so tiny and sweet, but incredibly independent.  As they grew, they developed their own personalities.  Clark was the hunter.  Our mouse problem disappeared as he got big enough to keep them intimidated, and we would occasionally find “gifts” on our back porch.  Lewis was the explorer, always wandering further and further afield.  They were indoor cats for the first year, but once they were old enough and knew where home was, we started to let them have outdoor time.  Lewis became more of an indoor/outdoor cat.  He would insist on going out every morning when we did, then would come home for a few hours before going back out to patrol the neighborhood again, only to come home for dinner and the night.

But time went on, and when they were about 3, the worst happened.  Clark was hit by a car.  I wasn’t home, so Morgan was the one who got the news.  He did a good job of collecting the body, but he was devastated. The kids all took it pretty hard.  We had our traditional pet burial, with everyone sharing a good memory of the pet and asking him to send us our next one.

Lewis took it hard, too.  He seemed….lost.  Like he couldn’t figure out where Clark had gone.  He moved in with Morgan and became pretty much exclusively his cat.  He spent more time outside, even during the winter, really only being in the house at night.

I could understand that, and I’m entirely about letting a cat be a cat.  I’m kind of a laissez faire pet owner.  For me, pets aren’t children.  They’re animals we share space with.  Cats are hunters and explorers, and I respect that.  We tried a couple of times to keep Lewis in, but he managed to escape every time, and it just became too frustrating for both sides, so we let him do what he wanted.

But I wanted a house cat.  Hence our trip this winter back to the SPCA and the adoption of Hudson.  Who has been a great addition to the house, except for one thing.

He and Lewis hate each other.

I’m used to cats not getting along when they first move in together.  In all my past experiences, after a couple of weeks they adjust and, maybe not become good friends, but at least learn to cohabitate.  Not these two.  Lewis would hiss and yowl every time he saw Hudson, and Hudson would sit and stare at him daring him to try anything, or else stalk him, never initiating contact, just always being in Lewis’ space in a “Mom, he’s touching me!” kind of way.

By the time spring came, Lewis had had enough.  He moved out.  Permanently.

For a while he would still come home, but would never come in the house, just camp out on the front porch.  Morgan and Eric set him up a shelter with food and water there, and would go out and give him attention whenever he’d come around.  By mid summer, though, even that had stopped.

We still see him around the neighborhood.  This is a relief in some ways, to know he hasn’t been hit by a car or anything.  He’s neutered, so he’s not adding to the neighborhood population.  But he won’t come near us.  This hurts Morgan the most, to have this cat who was HIS cat run away from him whenever he sees him, especially when Morgan has seen strangers able to approach him.  I also feel bad because we’re responsible for him, even if he won’t let us take care of him.  If we could, I’d like to catch him and try to re-integrate him into the house, but he won’t let us close enough to try.

It’s hard, mourning a cat who’s not dead.  He’s not yours any more, but you can’t mourn him and move on, either.  You just wait.  And think about how you let him down.

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