3/30/09

The last three stanzas of one of my favorites

I said, 'It's certain there is no fine thing
Since Adam's fall but needs much labouring.
There have been lovers who thought love should be
So much compounded of high courtesy
That they would sigh and quote with learned looks
Precedents out of beautiful old books;
Yet now it seems an idle trade enough.'

We sat grown quiet at the name of love;
We saw the last embers of daylight die,
And in the trembling blue-green of the sky
A moon, worn as if it had been a shell
Washed by time's waters as they rose and fell
About the stars and broke in days and years.

I had a thought for no one's but your ears:
That you were beautiful, and that I strove
To love you in the old high way of love;
That it had all seemed happy, and yet we'd grown
As weary-hearted as that hollow moon.

--W.B.Yeats

3/27/09

Frugality

One of my goals for this year was to reduce my debt and reform my spending habits. I am pleased to announce that, three months into the year, I've actually done quite well in this regard. (Let's not discuss the progress of my other goals just yet.)

I have not used a credit card all year. Not once! The only "extra" purchases I've made since January, by which I mean things other than food, gas, and bills, have been: Two $5 skirts for Phoebe (I am sunk the day my kids decide that clothes from Target are uncool, or when Phoebe ceases to be excited by the "new to her" clothes from the hand-me-down bins in the attic); Scholastic book club orders (because who can resist those); some small things for the kids' Easter baskets; anti-virus software for my laptop (ugh); a new car battery (double ugh); and some birthday presents. Oh, and Kindle books, although I also cashed in some "reward" points on my credit card, which I hadn't even known I was accumulating, for an Amazon gift card, so most of my Kindle books have been free to me. Woohoo! I have actually gotten to each 2009 payday with a bit in reserve from the previous paycheck, which is a bit unprecedented.

I've also started going to the "cheap" grocery store instead of the "nice" grocery store. Honestly, I haven't noticed that much of a difference, except that the cheap store has a poor selection and the cashiers seem flummoxed by my cloth grocery bags. I may give it another month and switch back. I've even started clipping coupons, although I don't think I'm particularly good at the coupon game. I tend to buy things I wouldn't have anyway (Life cereal! Save $1 on two boxes! But I don't really want two boxes of Life cereal anyway!). Plus, it seems that most coupons are for items that aren't very good for you. You can get a coupon for fruit snacks, for example, but not for real fruit. It seems that to really save money at the grocery store, you have to compare all the area store's specials and figure out whose doubling which coupons and buy in bulk when things are really really cheap and...well, I don't have that much energy to spend on grocery shopping. I'll do what I can.

The month coming up may be a bit more expensive than the previous three; there's Easter, and we're planning a trip to the zoo, and of course Mallory has to go see the new Hannah Montana movie...but I'm actually going to budget for these things, rather than shrug about the cost and hand over the plastic to pay for it. What a novel concept! What an empowering habit I'm developing! If only it had started, oh, about ten years ago.

3/24/09

Zzzzz

I have been meaning to do a big update on this sadly-neglected blog of mine, but I am suffering from hayfever, or the plague, or something, and slept almost not at all last night, and hence cannot think. Which makes me wonder -- how did I function, in years not too far gone, when I had a newborn in the house and got this little sleep all the time? What a bad plan, cosmically speaking, to combine infant care with sleep deprivation. Anyway. I'm tempted to go out to my car and take a nap in the backseat.

I'll leave you with this, to at least make your visit worthwhile:



3/16/09

In case you, too, were wondering

I've watched The Sound of Music many times in my life, and I've watched the puppet show scene, in which the children yodel with marionettes, many more times than that, because it's a scene that my children and several children that I used to babysit for absolutely love. Needless to say, I can sing "The Lonely Goatherd" along with the best of them, although my yodeling isn't all it could be. I was always baffled, though, by one of the lines of the second verse:

A prince on the bridge of a castle moat heard
[yodeling]

Men in the midst of a ... tobbled hoat? heard
[yodeling]

What were the men in the midst of, again? I never knew, until it occurred to me to check google today. And the answer is: the men were in the midst of a table d'hote. Which just means they were eating at a restaurant, essentially.

I'm glad I know, now, what the men were doing. Although in a way, the wondering was a bit more interesting than the answer turned out to be.

3/13/09

1st grade theology

"I know why we can't eat meat on Fridays during Lent," Mallory said.

"Oh? Why is that?" I asked.

"Because Jesus wants us to suffer as much as he did," she said.

It occurred to me later, after laughing quite a bit, that I should have supplied the correct word: sacrifice. But I'm the one who, after helping to serve at her school's PTO (Vegetarian) Soup Supper tonight, will probably go get a cheeseburger. So what do I know of either?

3/9/09

Digital Child

A note from Mallory:

I want to go to the parck today. It is the walking trale parck I want to go to with the swings.

Go to www.parck.com!

Love, Mallory

3/5/09

Sour Grapes

Many years ago, I applied for a job at a certain magazine published out of Chapel Hill. It's a literary magazine -- fiction, poetry and whatnot -- and the job was for Managing Editor. I WANTED THAT JOB SO BADLY, and when I found out that I didn't get it, I cried.

A few months ago, I saw an online ad for this magazine -- Click here for a free issue! So I clicked, and the magazine arrived in my mailbox a few weeks later. I flipped through it; it fell open to the page that lists the editorial staff. My jaw dropped, because listed as Managing Editor was someone named...Krista Brenner. Which is, you know, my very own first name and a surname only one letter off from my maiden name.

I threw the magazine in the recycling bin without reading it. Apparently, I'm still not over that particular rejection.

3/3/09

Money Money Money

I read last week that, best case scenario, the current economic crisis will start to get better in three years.

I don’t know if I can stand three years of feeling this anxious.

Nothing has changed, for my little family. On paper, we are no better or worse off than we were last July. We have a fixed-rate mortgage with a payment well within our means. We have our jobs and both are relatively secure (although one never knows). Nothing has changed, really, except that, like everyone else in America, we’re afraid that suddenly everything will change, and we’ll be screwed.

We get by. We have enough for bills and groceries and a meal out now and then. But if one of our cars breaks down – we’re screwed. If the heat pump goes kerflooey – we’re screwed. If gas goes back up to $4 a gallon – we’re a little screwed there, too. If, heaven forbid, one of us loses our jobs, we’re really, really screwed.

And I get so, so angry with myself now, every month when I send off my minimum monthly payment for my credit card bills. I wish I wish I wish I could keep that money, instead of pouring down a big old funnel of debt. And debt for what – for things I bought years ago that I’ve already forgotten about or thrown out or outgrown. I have made poor financial choices and unfortunately, realizing that I made those choices and swearing to reform doesn’t do much good – I still have to pay it all back. In a few years, if nothing else changes and I keep plugging away at the payments, it will all go away – but that’s a lot of wasted money in the meantime. Money that could go to ballet lessons for my daughters, or (a novel concept!) into my savings account.

I don’t pretend to know anything about how the Recession started, or about the right way to go about fixing everything. I don’t know if Obama is doing the right thing or not. I do know that I am seeing, for the first time, how interconnected everything is, how a slight adjustment here makes everything fall apart over there. What if I want to cancel our extermination service, to save $30 a month? What if my lousy account was the one account the (local, environmentally-friendly) exterminators needed to stay in business? It’s great that I’m spending less money at Target, but not if that means that one or two cashiers lose their jobs do to decreased sales. How will anything ever get back on track if people are too afraid to spend, to invest, to do anything, for fear of going under?

One thing I’m grateful for – that my kids are young enough to not have to worry about this stuff. I’m glad they’re not about to graduate from college and face the dismal job market. I hear things about the great recession of the late 1970s and think, “Huh? What? There was a recession back then?” I was seven, eight years old – it didn’t matter to me. We didn’t have a lot of extras growing up; we didn’t go on vacation often, we didn’t have shiny cars or designer clothes. We were still happy; we had enough; we got by.

That’s all I want, for now. That’s enough for me – to continue to be able to get by.