Archive | September, 2009

Where is the hope and the change?

30 Sep

Like millions of other Americans, during the last presidential campaign, I got swept up in the tide of believing that yes we could make change in this country. I believe I have shared before I was not initially gung-ho about Barack Obama, in fact I was way more into John Edwards who I felt really had a better sense of caring about the working men and women in this country. Of course we know ole Johnnie had to drop out and turns out he would have had way too much on his plate to effectively govern this country, seeing as how his life vaguely resembles a character you would find on the Maury Povich Show…

So I started to take a look at candidate Obama and figured hey this could be the guy. I truly liked the fact he had been a community organizer, having started my switch to the non-profit world eons ago as a community organizer, I know its good work that really creates change if you work hard at it. I was also reminded by my son who fell in love with Obama early on of how quick he had risen. Back in 2004, we were in Chicago when Obama was running for the Senate and both recalled how we had read about him when we were in town.

I grew to like Obama so much last year that I financially supported his campaign, granted my few dollars were a drop in the bucket but after the years of the Bush regime, I wanted to believe in him. Which brings me to my point today…now I know many folks especially Black folks will say don’t judge him, he had a mess to clean up, give him time. I agree lets give him time, my problem is in the work world generally by the time you have been on a job over 6 months, your employer expects to have a sense of who you are as an employee.

Well President Obama has been on the job long enough for me to wonder what the hell is going on? Right now as I type this I understand the President and First Lady are off trying to bring the Olympics to our hometown, Chicago. Um…is that really a good idea?

This past week back in my hometown a young man was savagely killed just down the street from his school, he was a decent kid from what I have read, reports are that he was an honor roll student who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Maybe it’s because my son is 17 but this story really touched a nerve in me, even good kids will do dumb shit and being in the midst of a gang fight trying to see what is going on is the type of thing kids do especially in urban areas.

The thing is this is not the first time this year that a kid has gotten killed in Chicago near their school, hell this shit is an epidemic and now thanks to technology we can watch a life being snuffed out and get so desensitized to it that we do nothing.

Now it’s my understanding that President Obama is throwing around the idea that making the school year longer will actually help our kids, maybe it will for a few but considering that kids already spend most of their time in school or working on school work. I see this as a bad idea. I most certainly am not sold on the idea that increasing school days will help our inner city youth. Instead they will leave school at 5pm even more frustrated and I see violence increasing. I admit there is a lot more to the talk of increasing the time spent in school but I see it as a bad idea.

Pretty much the same way I have not cared for Obama’s pep speeches he seems to like to give when talking to predominantly Black audiences, after all, we all feed our kids fried chicken in the morning…talks like these sound good and yes people need to take more responsiblity for themselves but maybe we need to address the societal barriers that create dysfunctional families. If he thinks folks should eat better, maybe we need less junk food places in the hood. Maybe there needs to be more Whole Foods and less bodegas where you can’t even find fresh produce. He spent time on the south-side of Chicago and he knows as I do that in many parts of the south side of Chicago and urban areas across this land that fried chicken is a lot more accessible than a baked chicken. Shit, the ole corner store in my Granny’s area didn’t even sell whole chickens.

My pont of this rant is that we need more than speeches that sound good, we need actual change and sorry but knowing what is happening back home. I think Chicago needs to spend the money that would be spent hosting the Olympics to go towards funding programs that could help actual people. If he cares so much about the hometown then create some change that will better everyone rather than making Mayor Daley feel good.

While we are at, what about real healthcare reform? I just spoke with a professional colleague whose partner had bypass surgery recently and the bill they got, mind you these folks are retired military with damn good insurance was for thirty two thousand dollars after insurance! After insurance! Yet more and more people are facing bills like that, yet what will probably come to pass for health insurance reform in this country is likely to be nothing more than a band aid solution.

Look, I haven’t given up entirely on the President yet but I will say if he was one of my employees, we would be sitting down discussing whether or not he needs help to do his job because so far things are a tad off track.

So how is it going?

29 Sep

I swear I am not turning this into a financial journey blog, but I have been happy to hear from so many folks in support of this journey as attempt to get a handle on our money. Rather than responding to folks individually I thought I would give an update as well as address some background information that helps to get a better sense of who we are and how we got into this jam since our lives are a tad different from most.

For starters, its going ok. Since my last post, I have made a conscious effort to watch my spending but at the same time we want to enjoy life. Yet we don’t want to spend all our money. So I am putting a lot more effort into being mindful of what the day’s events are and planning in advance so that I can avoid the unexpected expenditures that pop up. The biggest area this happens around is eating out, we always carry water and something to eat for girl child but I am learning to carry something to eat for myself.

Today I had an outing with girl child and we pretty much stayed within the budget only going over by $4. Now I know some of you who are hardcore may be groaning but you have to understand that for me, this is a big step. I also wanted to say in the past I have written down everything I spend, I actually did this at the beginning of the year which is why I know that food is my biggest area where the budget goes out the window.

I am not always clear about this but I am not a SAHM nor exactly a WAHM, my day job is director of a small non-profit and while I am fortunate to have a flexible schedule that means I can do a lot of work at home, I still average 15 hours or so weekly in the office or at meetings. I find that meeting days are the hardest because if I end up in a 3 hour meeting, generally by the time its over I am starving and the coffee I brought is gone. So a great deal of my coffee consumption outside is around my work life at this point. It’s funny because 15-16 years ago that is how I discovered Starbucks; I had an hour commute on the train back in Chicago and by the time I got to work my travel mug was finished and the office coffee tasted like swill, so I immediately latched on to Starbucks. Back then I was doing 3-4 Starbucks stops in a day. I drink nowhere near that amount of coffee now especially as the cost of coffee has risen as my income has dropped.

I also want to say that this weekend, I started making my own signature hot chocolate at home so now on weekends when I need a special drink, I can make them at home. Again, its baby steps.

So why don’t we stay home more? Truthfully because the Spousal Unit works from home, he has an office in our house and prior to me taking my position last fall I was consulting and at my home office. Friends, I love the hubby but when you are trapped in your house all the time with your loved one, you reach a point where you want, no need to leave the house. Oddly enough when I took my job last fall we actually started going out less because having time away from each other meant we were less inclined to feel the need to go out.

Some of our financial issues are directly related to the Spousal Unit being self employed. So why doesn’t he get an outside job? Because he is a journalist/editor and well paying gigs are sparse as hell in Maine, he went freelance when we moved here because after holding the positions he held in the past working 40+ hours a week for local paper not even making 25K was not an attractive option when he could make more as a freelancer. He continues to be a freelancer because even with the loss of clients and income he still earns more than the market pays in Maine.

That said, being a freelancer has its ups and downs, primarily that you don’t always know when you are getting paid. An example would be that he just got paid on a job he did in January/February and its the end of September …this makes budgeting difficult and it was worse when I didn’t work. Thankfully I have a regular paying gig that while I am greatly underpaid compared to what I would earn as an Executive Director in any large city with my background, knowing when I am getting paid helps a great deal.

We moved to Maine 7 years ago and when we moved here we thought it would be cheaper to replace our stuff out here rather than paying a moving company thousands of dollars. So we literally moved here with everything we could fit in a 2 door 98 Chevy Cavalier and 5 years ago we bought a house. Turns out replacing an entire house is more than the money we saved by not moving our stuff and even now after 7 years here there is plenty of stuff we have not replaced. I will say that owning a house, we learned early on that you need a certain amount of tools and equipment for home repairs and management. Until we recently we didn’t even have any buddies we could say borrow a drill from thus making it a necessity to sometimes spend.

Our current house looks like a couple of college kids live here since the only new items we bought new were the couch and the old bed, which was replaced by a friends lovely California King pillow top a few months ago(so glad her new partner didn’t wantto sleep on her previous bed from marriage, it was a gain for us), but as I am learning you generally want to have more than 2 sets of sheets and our old Queen sheets didn’t work at all. So even when I avoid spending large sums (price of a new bed) there are still small costs (bedding and we didn’t even buy a new comforter or bedspread opting to use the old one that really doesn’t fit..who cares, no one is seeing).

I am not making any excuses because the bottom line is even in our time in Maine, there has been too much spending but because up until recently we lived a life where we were always waiting to get paid it meant credit cards were sometimes used to pay bills. While I have never been great with money I can say I never used credit cards to fuel a shopping spree instead being irresponsible with cash which sometimes created a need to use credit to pay bills. Currently we only have 1 house card and I have a card from my job otherwise its cash or debit.

As for shopping in Maine, we lack a lot of the cheaper shopping options that I had access to in Chicago. Super cheap shopping is Wal-Mart compared to the numerous ethnic markets we had in Chicago as well as places like Costco and Aldi. We do have one Asian market near me that I use in cold weather months to save on produce cost.

So that’s my entire financial picture in a nutshell as always suggestions are appreciated.

It was a baby step indeed

26 Sep

Since I have pretty much laid my financial soul bare for all to read, I will probably have more drive by posts like this just to keep myself honest. Obviously it would be easier to keep my private shit private, problem is I have been doing that for years, pretending life is fine all the while sinking deeper with my addiction to consumption. I realize on some level this may sound funny or trite but I could tell you stories and maybe I will one day of the shopping binges I have been known to go on. I will just say that I have a house filled with useless shit, a barn filled with bags of shit I bought while in the high of shopping only to realize when I got home, why did I buy this shit?

However that is not the point of this post, its to share what I see as a step in the right direction. It was a gorgeous fall day here in Maine and as usual on Saturday we hit the farmer’s market. Well I brought $45 in cash with the plan of only spending $40, sadly I went over and spent the entire $45 since at the last stop I discovered my bakery ladies were closing for the season so I bought extra snacks for the girl child and I. Considering I generally go over by at least $20 at the market this was a true baby step and I even got a fresh bouquet of flowers for the table.

No, the real challenge was not the farmers market but the fall festival we were attending, I set a budget of $50 for the day. The cost to enter was $15 and I figured $35 was enough to have lunch and take a hay ride. Now I brought $70 ( I know why did I do that? On the other hand I actually left the debit and credit card at home..again a baby step). So at the end of the day I left with $11 which means I went over by approximately $9. I guess the pound of granola and the local honey I bought at the festival were not really needed but we do use honey regularly and I will eat good granola.

So considering these fall events are generally a place where I lose my resolve because I am a sucker for cute crafted items and handmade jams. All in all it was a victorious day since in the end I overspent by only $13 which is way better than what I usually do.

As for tomorrow, I have to pick up a loaf of bread for $3 but I have no plans to spend any more money until Tuesday when I take the girl child to a Mommy and Me film after her ballet class. I will let you know how it goes.

Baring my soul…my financial soul

25 Sep

I spend a lot of time talking about money and debt but I have never disclosed exactly how much debt I have, in part because it feels like a private matter. Yet as I start to get serious about wanting to clean my financial house up, I am struck by the fact that most folks who choose to do financial housekeeping generally at some point are willing to share with others the level of debt they have.

If you are a long time reader, you know that I have grappled with the idea of filing bankruptcy. It’s a lovely idea but after looking at my debt distribution, bankruptcy may not be the best idea since the bulk of my debt is not dischargable in a bankruptcy…and as far as I am concerned the idea of completely trashing my credit without complete relief does not seem like a great idea.

So drum roll…the grand total of debt that the Spousal Unit and I have is $211,310.57! Yes, that is two hundred thousand dollars and no that does not include our mortgage. Actually $113,310.57 of that is my student loans, that is for both my undergraduate and graduate degrees. The other large portion is the $66,000 that is owed in back taxes. The early years of the Spousal Unit being self employed we were not as good with the taxes as we could have been and lets just say the penalty and interest rates the IRS charges actually makes Vinny the loan shark look like a bargain and that is a understatement. You start off owing Uncle Sam $5000 and it can grow to $10,000 real fast so you have a few bad years and what was a small sum becomes really unmanageable.

The remaining $32,000 is $12,000 remaining on the hubby’s student loans and a mere $20,000 in credit card and medical debt.

So that is where I am, suffice it to say I don’t have a spare $200,000 sitting around to pay these bills off and since our income started dropping two years ago, the picture is a tad bleak at times. Right now we are planning to take Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace class, though having read his book, I am not sure we will be able to implement all his ideas exactly to move us along but I do think its a step in the right direction.

However thanks to the fact I am lowly non-profit servant, it looks like the US Dept of Education has some options aside from being in constant deferment where I might actually be able to get my loans paid off sooner rather than later…10 years versus the current 30 year plan I am on when I am not in deferment.

As for the IRS, they too have been willing to work with us since we have worked hard to not run up more debt and since they know all about us financially they realize we have no hidden funds. The IRS actually offers settlement programs and we are exploring those options since interest rates that accrue daily don’t get them any closer to getting the money from me.

As for the remaining debts, well that $20,000 is the only amount that could be legally discharged in bankruptcy but as we get serious with our not spending plans we are hoping this is where Dave Ramsey’s advice might help us as far as starting a debt snowball.

So there it is…I have laid my financial soul bare for all the world to see. I admit knowing there are friends and associates that read my blog I am a little nervous about this but truth is I need help. I need folks to know that  I struggle with money in part because for years I could not face the fact I had a shopping habit. On some level I see my situation as similar to someone dealing with a substance abuse issue though my drug of choice is consumption. In the early years of our marriage we could have easily been saving 20-30K a year and had we been doing that we could have better weathered the financial storms that really started stirring when we moved to Maine 7 years ago and became a hurricane 2 years ago. Instead I assumed we would make more and more money and in the first 5 years of marriage amassed a lovely collection of designer clothes and other useless trinkets. At one point I was like Sarah Jessica Parker’s character from Sex and the City…broke as hell but looked great. I mortgaged our financial future to have weekly hair appointments at upscale hair salons back in Chicago.

I have come a long way, and I am proud of it but I know I have a lot more work to do, to realize I don’t have to spend money. That the temporary fix I get from that $4 coffee is just that temporary, instead saving that money to pay off creditors is a much better idea.

Now with the holidays coming up, clearly the potential to get in a jam is there but we are looking at ways to have a frugal holiday, most likely by using layaway at area stores to buy for the kiddos. The upside of not having much extended family is that we only buy for our kids and send cards to everyone else. We are also planning on visiting family and friends soon. I realize many would consider this a splurge but its important to me that my daughter know our family and since folks are willing to put us up, we can find ways to travel on the cheap.

So now that I bared my financial soul, while I have no plans to become a financial/frugality blog, I will be writing more about my struggle to manage my money. I have written a budget for Oct that looks great, things would get paid, we would be working towards our financial goals and it’s not complete deprivation…I can still have an occasional mocha at the evil empire. The thing is I have to stick with it and that’s where I am going to need some help. Its sorta the baby steps to a no-spend lifestyle.

So if you have any ideas or thoughts or want to share your own struggles with money and how you overcame it, I would love to hear from you.

The hospitality of others

24 Sep

I was just reading on one of the few discussion boards I still read with any regularity and stumbled on a discussion that hit home. The poster was in a quandary because she and her family were visiting friends who were putting them up for several days and the friends in question eat a rather unhealthy diet also known as the standard American diet of junk.  Now the poster eats uber healthy and was concerned because her buddies apparently like to feast on cheap hot dogs, soda and Jiffy Pop popcorn..by the way, no I am not making any of this up.

Well many folks (a good 40 plus) stated the person should tell the hostess they don’t dine on such fare and either offer to buy some food and cook it or offer to take this junk eating family out to meals but in no way should she eat the food the host family eats. Now this whole situation hit home for me because provided I stick to my newly created budget, the girl child and I will be visiting some friends who live in a real city soon who eat far healthier fare than girl child eats. Despite my attempts at cooking healthy meals, my girl seems to have reached back into our working class roots and generally refuses to eat most of what I cook. There are only about 8 meals I cook that she will actually eat without me having to create a meal for her.

I admit it gets tiring as hell but for the longest time she was underweight so allowing her to not eat was not an option and she is a stubborn child, even at 4 if an option she likes is not available she refuses to eat. Thankfully she likes salads and carrots so she doesn’t starve. At the moment I am feeling rather victorious since she actually ate last night’s broccoli soup I made but I digress.

The issue for me is when did it become ok to be rude when folks offer us their hospitality? Unless someone has food allergies which in that case all bets are off, it seems to me, how hard is it to simply accept people’s warmth and hospitality. I also think if someone has spiritual or dietary restrictions such as being vegan or vegetarian, then reasonable accomodations should be made.  After all allowing folks to stay at your house generally is a disruptive proposition even with pleasant guests. When our family visits they stay at our house and while both my Dad and Father in law are generally pleasant chaps, the reality is guests do inconvenience us on some level, yet we presumably like the folks visiting so we accept it.

I know my Father on law is not always big on the food I cook, but he eats it and eats it with a smile. The only item he buys is his beer since I rarely keep alcohol in the house aside from that dusty bottle of Jack Daniels on a shelf that I think I last drank 5 years ago when my Mom died. It’s the emergency crisis bottle of booze.

As far as my own upcoming visit, I have already explained to girl child when we visit that should our friends cook a meal for us we are to be gracious and eat it, personally I am hoping that the eating habits of my friend’s kid rubs off on girl child.

Thinking back to the poster with the question of what to do, I am reminded of what a selfish society we have become. We seem to think  the world revolves around us and maybe it’s me getting old but it irks me. Presumably one goes on a trip and stays with friends because they are looking to save a few bucks and see friends so for me, eating what my host or hostess provided unless it’s a food allergy or true food issue (again spiritual or dietary restrictions) is just a given.

I can’t help think that in these tough financial times, it’s not always the cheapest thing to offer to feed another family for several days and if someone told me that my Oscar Meyer weiners were not good enough for them, I might be a tad shocked and even pissed. Since not everyone has the means to buy the uncured natural hot dogs.

So am I being a hard ass? What do you do when folks visit you as far as accommodating guests? I admit I do like to ask what folks like to eat when I am expecting guests but aside from family I have never had non relatives visit overnight, so maybe the rules really are different.

ETA: I realize there is a reason that this issue seems so big to me and in remembering why, I think its only fair to share with you, my fair reader.  Early in our marriage, the Spousal Unit and I went out west to visit his family, well the hubby’s favorite aunt offered to put us up. I had met this aunt once or twice previously, definitely felt comfortable around her and her husband. So I thought nothing of agreeing to stay at her house despite my own skittishness sometimes at staying with folks.

 We arrived at their house, after they graciously picked us up at the airport, we get to their house and it was late and I had not eaten so my aunt in law offered me a pulled beef sandwich. I am gonna cut to the chase and just say her cooking style did not mesh well with my tummy and the next morning upon waking up and realizing I was going to need the toilet quite a bit, I told the Spousal Unit maybe we should stay at a hotel. After all I didn’t want to kill their toilet also I was not to eager to eat anymore of his favorite Aunt’s cooking, granted I still thought she was sweet and lovable but I just didn’t want to eat her food.

Let me tell you that 11 years later I regret that action, at the time I just wanted to be comfortable, by the way the Spousal Unit just reminded me that another reason we left to stay at a hotel was that I was being visited by that favorite Aunt all ladies have and again I just wanted to be comfortable.

Well at the time this decision to stay at a hotel but still visit with family and friends didn’t seem to be a bit deal other than our vacation budget grew quite a bit with the unexpected hotel and car rental. Unfortunatly those actions have caused a rift in the hubby’s family, I am talking over a decade and the favorite aunt who was eagerly awaiting to be a surrogate Granny when we had kids has barely spoken to her favorite nephew aka the Spousal Unit.

Its taken years to get the full details, but the short version is that my aunt in law was beyond offended, she felt snubbed and apparently my decision breached some family order in the Spousal Unit’s family regarding hospitality. For years I didn’t think about this much, I felt it was their lost but as my daughter grows up with no extended family, no aunts, 1 uncle she has only met once and the nearest relative 1100 miles away I wish I could re-do that decision. The only person my daughter knows on her Dad’s side is his Dad and all because I hated that beef sandwich that gave me the runs!

Yeah, its crazy and shit maybe even the Spousal Unit’s family is a little nutty but at the end of the day we do have to be mindful of our actions and the long term impact they can have…yeah 3 days of lousy food that gives you the shits isn’t a great vacation on the other hand out of over 300 days in a year, 3 days is really just a sliver of time to be uncomfortable.

Kinda over Facebook

23 Sep

I have written often about my addiction to all things net related including spending too much time reading blogs and wasting time on Facebook. Well thanks to the girl child being home more often and my work life going full tilt as I do the money dance all non-profit executives are doing these days. I have had less time to spend online, yet when I do now get online aside from checking into a few of my favorite blogs, I find myself growing bored when I am online. Specifically the great love affair with Facebook is officially over.

Maybe it’s me but I seem to know a lot of folks who like to play Mafia Wars…don’t get me wrong it’s a great time waster but recently every time I log on, my newsfeed is filled with what folks are doing on Mafia Wars. To each how own… No the biggest issue is realizing that most of those folks I was so happy to connect with, well there is a reason they were in my past. Seems I know a high percentage of folks who are just out-and-out nutty. To the point I cringe when I get notification that certain folks have replied to one of my links or status updates. At this point there are about 3 folks I am genuinely happy to have reconnected with but otherwise most are people I would be happy to never know again.

Then again maybe its just a sign that Facebook as a fad is on its way out as more and more folks realize after a while there is only so much catching up you can do with someone you haven’t seen in damn near 20 years.

So what about you? Are you still a die hard Facebook person or are you over it?

Financial failure

21 Sep

Hi there! My name is BGIM and I am addicted to spending money. Yeah, it sounds like I am kidding but lately as I strive to live a simpler life and get a handle on my finances, I am realizing I have a problem. For the life of me I cannot go a day without spending money. Even the days when I plan to spend it’s not uncommon for me to overspend by a good $50 to a $100.

So what am I buying? Um, food…we don’t do a great deal of eating out anymore but I am a sucker for any and all local foods and farmers markets. I average over $100 a week going to the farmers market. Then there is my coffee stops which while I drink cheaper drinks now (no $4 or 5 beverages) the fact is they add up. Despite the fact they are not daily occurences.

Then there is that thrifting habit, now this is a tricky one, having lost a lot of weight my existing wardrobe is a piece meal operation and there are still a lot of things I don’t have and only realize it when I have a meeting or conference to attend. Yet I am starting to feel, it would have been cheaper to devote $400-500 at one time and hit the outlets rather than the constant thrift shop search for clothes since $20 here and $30 here adds up.

The thing is, I am planning a few getaways to visit family and friends who I have not seen in years and now that girl child no longer goes to the insanely overpriced full-time childcare it is realistic that in the next 6 months we can visit family but only if I am not nickeling and diming our cash away.

Just today, I set aside $50 for the week (house filled with food) yet already I have spent half of that and we have a trip to the city planned later this week which will take the remaining $25. Which means either I have to spend no more money all week or go over budget.

So all you frugalistas out there…how do you not spend money? And no not leaving the house is not an option since I do have to go to work this week. I do pack water and today I even brought snacks for girl child in the car yet still spent $7 buying her and I drinks at the evil Starbucks. Somebody? Anybody? Help me! My name is BGIM and I am addicted to spending money and I need an intervention.

Happy Monday!

Follow-up…the first week

18 Sep

Regular readers may recall that I recently mentioned new changes that were underway up here in my corner of the world…primarily that we were taking girl child out of full-time childcare and going the frugal route. Well this week was our first week with the new preschool which you may recall I talked about as well last week.

The verdict….well the preschool is definitely lacking. We haven’t encountered anymore strange racial tensions but compared to where girl child was the place is lacking. In fact my nickname for the head teacher is lump lump as her personality vaguely reminds me of a lump of oatmeal. On the other hand the assistant teacher is a wonderful young man who girl child knows from her previous center, in fact he is being mentored by girl child’s former preschool teacher who was also male and is quite amazing. Mr B her former teacher is an amazing guy who has a passion for kids and throws out all notions that men don’t make good early childhood educators. He even emailed the Spousal Unit the other day to see how girl child was doing in her new program.

Sadly though this morning the Spousal Unit and I overheard another parent talking to  lump lump the head teacher explaining that her child was scared of the assistant teacher because he is a man..talk about small mindedness. So we are still debating whether this program will be a long term fit, though the other bright spot is that the program offers swimming classes which girl child loves.

Enough though about the details of girl child’s schooling. In some ways this week was rough as I had the unexpected health scare plus deadlines and meetings so it was not an easy first week to be making the transition. Thankfully the Spousal Unit had a slow week with work and was able to pick up my slack and I must say I am rather proud of him at the moment and reminded that I married him not for his bank account but for his passion. He declared the other morning that he is going to design a home learning program for girl child since lump lump seems unqualified to come up with engaging work for girl child.

I want you to know that considering Spousal Unit had never shared my curiosity with homeschooling, this is a big step. Right now we are working on dividing up the work load though at the moment I seem to be in charge of outside classes such as girl child’s dance class and possible theatre classes. Speaking of classes, some of the Mamas we encountered at dance class the other day were um…interesting. I have definitely decided I don’t fit into the Mama cliques that seem to exist where ever we go lately. In fact after sitting outside dance class  trying to make small talk with the Mamas, I almost want to pull out attire from my youth…Doc Martens, motorcycle leather jacket and a crazy punk outfit from the club days. I swear if I had enough hair, I’d show up next week with a mohawk just to freak out the establishment. I know…childish but hey sometimes you gotta shake things up.

No, the biggest thing that has come out of the change is that I have spent way less time online or attached to the Crackberry. Due to my job, I will always be connected to some degree but I am learning it’s actually nice to get away from the computer. Also the Spousal Unit and I have been spending more time together in ways that are actually meaningful; money was the prime reason for the changes but already I see additional benefits.

Now ask me in a couple weeks when the Spousal Unit is in a production cycle and I might feel otherwise. Though I will say with the new changes I am being more intentional about how I spend time online and I definitely enjoy blogging and reading other blogs which means I will be definitely spending less time Tweeting and Facebooking.

Anyway time to sign off, gotta go cuddle with a bearded man. Have a great weekend!

The rise of rude

17 Sep

In the past week, we have been bombarded with media images of Serena Williams, Joe Wilson and Kanye West and lets see what do they all have in common? As my dearly departed Granny would say, they are all lacking home training in other words they seemed to have forgotten their manners aka they are rude as hell. Now each one has been noted for their individual shortcomings but at the end of the day, guess what? It doesn’t matter,they are rude.

Yet while the internet world and talking heads on cable news networks are all in a tizzy about each of these folks, fact is how many of us are practicing civility in our day-to-day lives? Personally, I generally have to look no further than my own Facebook newsfeed to see acts of rudeness on a regular basis. In the past month, I have noticed the rise of grown folks getting into heated discussions on Facebook with folks they don’t know (the ole friends of friends thing) and frankly its scary. Heated discussions where folks simply cannot agree to disagree and feel the need to set folks straight…maybe there is a reason we used to avoid conversations about religion and politics with folks unless we really knew them…now we feel the need to shove our views down everyone’s throats and make them see the light. Which while yes, its one thing to want to share information but must we be so rude in doing so?

Once upon a time, we were a nation of folks that at least on the surface could come across as civil. Say what we want about Joe Wilson and if you are a regular reader, you already know how I feel about him. Yet maybe on some level his blatant lack of respect for the President comes from the same space that makes us prone to road rage, driving while texting, being snappy with the clerk at the coffee store and so one because as a whole we don’t seem to give a fuck.

It’s funny because in my area, there a place called the Kindness Center, the fellow who started it whom I have had a chance to meet, pretty much makes it his life’s mission to engage in acts of kindness on a regular basis. He goes out and speaks to groups nationwide on the power of kindness. At first glance this concept seems hokey as hell, after all how does kindness pay the bills? Yet after looking at folks this past week, I am starting to think we all need a refresher course in kindness.

Its one thing to speak our personal truth, what we feel deeply at the core of our souls. However for too many of us and I have been guilty of it in the past, speaking my truth is more important than being civil and frankly I think it has to stop. After all speaking truth has caused the entire world to find out at the same time that Caster Semaya is intersexed…did we really all need to know that? It may be a truth but considering this young woman is so young, I cannot imagine that truth being shared with the entire world was necessary.

Maybe it’s because I am getting older, yet I really am not that old, but I cannot help thinking its no coincidence that this rise in rude seems to come at a time when our world has gotten smaller. Thanks to technology we have the ability to connect in so many different ways yet our relationships our really not much deeper, in some ways they are more shallow.  We constantly speak our truth, our views and we share it with no regard to others. I was struck by  this as I waited in the ER the other day and found myself using Facebook while waiting, true I had nothing else to do since I was alone and waiting but later that night the absurdity of facebooking while in the ER hit me. Did I really need to share? Yes, it was helpful in one respect since a good local friend called and asked if I needed anything but really maybe I could have just called my friends rather than sharing with everyone on my “friends” list.

Now you may be thinking how is that related to the rise in rude behavior? Well maybe not directly, but indirectly, see we focus so much on ourselves, our lives that really it becomes harder to empathize with others when our lives are so self focused. So it becomes a lot easier when those barriers are broke to blurt out things once upon a time we would have only shared with our closest friends, now we share with the whole world.

So, I say lets embrace random acts of kindness and stop this rise of rude behavior. As for Joe, Kanye, and Serena, maybe they need to come to Maine and connect with the Kindness Center.

PSA to all the ladies

15 Sep

Its been a busy past few days as we settle into our new routine with girl child not attending daycare, and today it got even busier which brings me to the point of my post today. Since late last week, I had been having some discomfort in my left shoulder, chest and side. Initially I figured it was one of my infamous panic attacks, as someone who has suffered from panic attacks since the age of 19, I am pretty good at knowing when I am in the panic zone. Over the years I have started using meditation, deep breathing and Bach Flower Remedies to stave off an attack.

Well over the weekend, I was doing everything in my arsenal including breathing into a paper bag and the discomfort I was feeling, was just not going away. Last night, things got worse when my left arm started tingling as well. I shrugged it off and went to bed but when I woke up not feeling much better, it dawned on me that maybe this was not a panic attack. A call to my health care provider ended with a command to get thee to the emergency room.

So I took girl child to her first ballet class (made a promise and didn’t want to let her down) and then had the Spousal Unit take me to the local emergency room. It seems when you walk in and state you are having chest discomfort, you spend little time waiting. So, I was hooked up to the monitors, given an EKG, a chest x-ray and after the physician on-call examined me, he determined that I was having neither a heart attack or a panic attack but some musculoskeletal distress, and felt that I most likely had a pulled muscle. Of course picking up the girl child and carrying her which I do on that side that was causing me pain was most likely the culprit. I most likely will follow up with either a osteopath who does manipulation or a chiropractor, as well as no longer picking up girl child unless it’s an emergency.

So all is well. I admit I was embarrassed but both the doctor and nurse told me I did the right thing. See, heart attack and heart disease in women does not present with the same symptoms we assume to be a heart attack. In fact women generally get mild(often intermittent) pain compared to men, anxiety or even indigestion. Other symptoms include sweating, lightheartedness, fatigue, even an impending sense of doom. For most women it’s not the dramatic crushing pain and breathlessness we associate with having a heart attack. In fact if you look at the symptoms I listed or do your own research you will see its easy to see how women could easily mistake a heart attack for just being tired, having a panic attack or any of the other things that so many of us deal with occasionally.

So just a PSA to say if you do ever find yourselves thinking you might be having an issue with your heart its better to be safe than sorry, get thee to the ER. Hopefully this week, I will get back with another post but I admit this is the worse week to be starting our new schedule since I have a conference to attend and a speaking engagement so I suspect I may be away from the computer for a bit.

Have a good week!