Thursday, August 14, 2014

Step 1 - on being the best teacher's pet.

Ever since signing up for FPU, I start my day by refreshing my online class page to watch the YOU HAVE X NUMBER OF DAYS REMAINING TILL YOUR CLASS STARTS number dwindle down. (fyi : 13)

I think I've gotten a little too excited. Like the minute I walk in the door all my debt will POOF vanish and it will be smooth sailing from there. But yeah, reality check, it's not. Which just makes me anxious to get the ball rolling. So like the brown noser I am I've already read ahead and started on my own.

STEP 1. Create a $1,000 cash emergency fund.

According to Dave the average FPU'er accomplishes this goal in 30 days. Say whah?! $1,000 might not sound like much to put aside to some of you but at my house it is. Especially in 30 days. I've rolled all the change in the house. I called in $50 that I had sitting in overpayment on a credit card I sort of "paid off" (I just moved it to a lower interest card). I took 5% from one of my freelance payments and applied it. And we are now at a whopping $238 in my savings account. But I try to think positively and not get discouraged by small gains. Small gains have to eventually add up to something big.

In Dave land you have to have a budget and until you kill your debt you have to cut cut cut spending and sell sell sell everything you own. A lot of people sell their cars and buy beaters.

Since we have one, 2 year old car that is more than 1/2 paid off I'm not going to do that.

But I've been looking through our spending and looking through our possessions and I've hit a road block in "How serious are we going to get about this?" We don't have a lot of external spending that's easy to cut. We don't have cable for example. We do have internet and Hulu and Netflix. Since I work from home internet is a business expense but Hulu and Netflix can go. As can my credit monitoring service I signed up for (after my card was stolen twice) and a babysitting club (it's a cool idea here in Birmingham through Facebook, $10 a month) But yeah, not a lot of low hanging fruit to cut. All that totaled about $38 a month in savings.

Same with my stuff. Not a lot of low hanging fruit to sell. I've divided my storage area into yard sale, Ebay, and another local service here in Birmingham called Mountain Brook trading (which is like a more personal Craigslist). But yeah, most of my possessions are very useful or family heirlooms.

All this leads to some heavy decisions. I keep hearing Dave in my brain saying, "You can buy new stuff when you aren't broke." But I like my CURRENT stuff Dave!

(I feel there will be longer posts ahead about my agonizing decision to sell 1-4 of the chip n' dips I got for wedding presents).

Here is what is expensive in our lives:

1) Our house. We rent an old house that, frankly, is more space than we need. It's upstairs is uninsulated. The windows probably seep paid for heating and cooling. Lord knows what the water heater looks like. It is a gigantic money pit of bills. Butttt I don't think we are going to leave it behind. We like the neighborhood. And unless you move way far out into the country or back into an apartment renting here isn't that cheap.

2) Groceries. Easily our largest expense because we don't menu plan and I usually insist on a lot of organics. More discussion to come.

Now I'm off to do something I really don't want to. Visit the bank to discuss opening up a business account where I can logically park my business payments and so that I never get a totally unpayable tax bill every year. Oh money! You are only fun if you've got enough.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

So I finally pulled the trigger and signed up for......

Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University class.

{insert your opinion here}

JTS is not terribly thrilled that I've done this - but even though he won't go to the class he said he will help me with the steps at home.

I've mentioned before that I missed out on some money management lessons growing up. I never really had an allowance. Stuff never equaled work. Money came and went, rolled and flowed around depending on the parent's 1) flush times vs. broke times or 2) emotions.

It was confusing.

Over the years I've squandered a lot of fiscal opportunities to save, to invest, and to earn. And last week, as I was pretending that having a lot of freelance work meant that I obviously had a lot of money to spend on clothes, something clicked. I realized I don't actually HAVE that money. That all my money is always already spoken for before it hits the ole bank account. Credit card debt, student loan, car payments, etc. etc. etc. all have my money. I'm tired of being jealous of everyone's vacations or homes or what-have-you and then not having a clue how the bank account is at 0 every month. I'm tired of treading water.

So I got this handy little packet in the mail:

Seriously, so much stuff.

What I like about Dave Ramsey is what other people may find annoying. He has these little sayings that he repeats all the time like, "Live like no one else so later you can live like no one else." Or paying down debt with "gazelle like intensity." But no matter how ridiculous it all looks I do find myself repeating them to talk myself off the spending ledge. I don't want to be paying off my GD poetry MFA when I'm 50. And speaking of GD, yeah, Dave Ramsey has a slight religious bent. But oh well. I don't see any non-religious classes like these out there so I'm fine with it. And Proverbs is named proverbs for a reason (or vice-versa?)

I'm patting myself on the back right now.  I'm already 25% of the way to achieving Step 1. It's going to be a couple of years of hard labor under the best circumstances before I get myself out of my debt hole and on to some solid savings grounds but first stop is DISNEYWORLD. For me and Lil' D.

And in a similar vein, I really enjoyed this post from Momastery. I've been thinking the same thing for a few days after hearing about the horrible conditions the Yazidis in Iraq are facing. We are simply SO lucky to be able to worry about the things we worry about.

Friday, August 1, 2014

So that's my problem!


Question: Where is your center?

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Things I'm Loving Right Now

There is a lot of positive change going on in my life right now (and when all the details get hammered out I'll let you know all about it) But even though it's positive it's still S-T-R-E-S-S. Without Facebook to dive into alongside my continuing commitment to not drink my stress away I've been relying on some old standards: books - movies - music- writing. Here are some of my favorites right now.

BOOKS

Have you heard of The Little Free Library movement? They are simply the cutest and most delightful ideas. My neighbors put one up that looks like a bird house and smells like cedar and introduced me to this little gem: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. If you want a light-hearted but well written read this is your answer. I wish there were more coming but unfortunately the lady authoress who wrote it died before it was published. I would move to Guernsey in a heart beat if it was anything like this book.

Other books that I find similar in tone: The Weird Sisters and At Home in Mitford







MOVIES
On of the most captivating couples from the movie
My favorite blogger of all time, Joanna Goddard, recommended this movie (which is only available on HBO GO right now) 112 Weddings. 112 weddings is about a documentary filmmaker who made wedding videos on the side for 20 years then he goes back and interviews some of them about marriage. With all the interspersed old footage and new interviews he creates a very vivid portrait of how complicated marriages are; How complicated life can get; How we work through circumstances as a couple or not.

It made me cry.

Sometimes for happiness and other times because it seemed so sad. I'm not really sure at the end how I felt about it all. But I did know (well, have known for a long time) that I should have spent about 98% less time on the wedding and 150% more time on learning about strategies for a successful marriage. (Do those figures add up? Of course not! I'm a poetry major). Anyway. A thought provoking movie.



MUSIC

I'm in love with The World Cafe on NPR. Great interviews and shows.


WRITING

I've been trying to go at least once a week (which is all the time I can find these days) to go write somewhere outside my house without a computer. I love going to Church Street Coffee and Books. It is a wonderful place that isn't too pretentious in any direction. Just a solid shop with a great-because-its-limited book selection and good coffee. They have an upstairs space with a bean bag chair and a lamp on a floor that could use errrr something (a carpet? FLOR tiles? a good scrub?) but it adds to the genuine charm.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Can I Quit You Facebook?

Brutha. Aka buddy
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Dear Internet. My name is Daisy and I'm a distraction addict.

-

Last Monday morning I pulled the plug on Facebook.

I didn't delete, well aware of the all powerful, "I'm Leaving FOREVER!" proclamations that usually turn to dust the moment you learn that someone has posted a photo YOU HAVE TO SEE. I just pressed pause.

A couple of weeks ago my whole family convened in North Carolina for four days of hiking, swimming, canoeing, and stand-up paddle board. 

But then it rained. 
And rained.
And rained some more. (And my step-dad informed us that actually Western North Carolina counts as a temperate rain forest because it rains so much.)

So I had four days of no internet, no tv, no ac, and 1x of cell service. I still had my phone which was now basically an electronic crossword machine and the Pony Express of text messaging. 

AND IT WAS HEAVEN.

Instead of having internet to idle my hours I read a book. I played with Lil' D. Family came over from their cabin to sit on our cabin porch to hang out and drink a beer. The older kids rolled balls endlessly with Lil' D. The put her in "jail" (the pack n'play) repeatedly. She loved it. I watched my CNN obsessed mom teach a 6 year old how to play solitaire. I sang karaoke with my 72 year old step-dad (who loved it so much he wants to hire a karaoke guy for our next gathering). And the best part of all the news came in quietly as newspaper headlines that I chose to ignore (remember how peaceful newspapers are!)

I suddenly remembered being young and bored all summer long (we didn't have cable) and how much more stuff I got done out of boredom. Books read. Plays performed. Piano practiced. I've been letting the internet (or TV or whatever my current poison) distract me from livin' for such a long time!




On Day 4 of rainy wilderness I decided I needed more boredom and less mindless distraction.

Hopefully it lasts a while.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

25 Ways to Write a Blog Post. Your Mind Will be BLOWN




I started this post a few weeks ago where I just ranted and ranted and ranted some more about all sorts of things that make me mad. I ranted about the misuse of the phrase, "I am so humbled." I ranted about photos and videos and annoying headlines that promise a lot but deliver so little (see above title). All roads led to Facebook in my rants.

Then I hit pause on the way to the publish button.

Does the world really need another hastily written pile of angry jumble to read? Is this what I want to say?

A friend posted this quotation from Hafiz you have probably seen over and over (in perfect pinnable, slightly annoying, tweetable, designerly jpgs, no less) but for some reason it struck me this time:
"The words you speak become the house you live in."

What words do I want to speak? What house do I want to live in?

Definitely not an angry one. Not one where I slapdash my thoughts together and press publish just because I can. Not a fake one. But not one where I whine about my problems all day either. Not too serious, though. But not too funny.

What is the purpose of this mess of a blog-o-mine? Where did it come from? And where is it going?

A lot of the time I think of blogging as the writing form of a selfie. Who cares what I have to say? And what in heaven's name do I have to say? Do I have anything to say?

I'm not a lifestyle blogger. I don't have any answers on how to decorate or cook or clean or keep budgets or cut children's hair. I'm the definition of a mess in all the ways possible.

----------

When I started this blog I lived in New York. My life was full of other people's stories. Just step out your door and one falls in your lap or pees on your shoe. The man dressed in all white begging for money. The LGBT festival a block over. The comedic act of borrowing an air conditioner for a party when you don't have a car. Chinese grandmothers practicing dancing in the park. Chinese grandfathers practicing sword fighting in the park.

On and on.

After moving to less flashy locales the stories became harder to find. Even in Miami. And then after awhile it became apparent that it's just me. My brain. My thoughts. And my desire to write something.

A desire that existed before blogs and before the internet and even before word processors.

I wanted to write things that people would read. I wanted to share and be published. I guess, though, back in the long long time ago 90's you had to go through the golden gateway of editor approval before someone hit publish.  And now its just you. You are your own approval. You are the floodgate. The desire to write becomes the worth of the writing.

And who is reading this stuff? If anyone? Even this post has reached a length longer than my hummingbird attention span can muster to scan through.

But write I must. And read other blogs that talk about children and home and food and decorating I must. Because I enjoy them almost as much as books.

And I must not worry about the hardest part of writing (or of living really). I must not worry about keeping up with the Joneses. Which is made all the more manifest in the blogging world. The Blogger Joneses. Because they write better than me.  Because they have a more interesting story to tell. Because they most certainly have more beautiful photos to post.

Which leads me to the last important quotation (from poet Mary Oliver) that's been running through my brain:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
 with your one wild and precious life?

I do not want to keep my house immaculately clean with my one, precious life. I do not want to iron napkins. I barely want to take the time to make a PB&J with my precious life. (But eating does go along with having a precious life.)

I want to read and design and make stuff with my hands. I want to hug my family. Be a better wife and mom. Learn calligraphy. Get better at crossword puzzles. And swim as much as possible. And write about it all.

Thanks for reading.

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Here is the full, delightful poem (perfectly titled for a hot July day in Alabama). Maybe I'll design it to be a tweetable gif. (Although it is hard to beat a Katie Daisy illustration)

The Summer Day

Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?





















Thursday, June 5, 2014

Here's to working moms

As I type this it's 7:30 am.

Lil' D is back in bed.

Woke up at 6:30 with poop in her britches (what a terrible way to greet the day!) and she wasn't a very happy camper. We know something is terribly wrong around here if a strawberry gets flung to the floor instead of making it directly into her mouth.

Why is this situation a problem?

Because instead of sleeping/crying in her crib we are supposed to be getting ready for school.

I'm lucky because I work from home so I can allow for this and take her in late. But man, my heart feels for those moms that don't have such luxury. Taking a crying, miserable toddler to day care is what I now know to be the worst feeling in the world.

On the one hand you have forked over big bucks to this institution to take care of your child. On the other you, the momma, know just what she needs to make the day better for her.  This terrible feeling could only be compounded by having a boss that you must answer to.

Heart. Strings. Pulled.

Here's to my G&T at the end of the day. Wish I could treat her teachers to one too. It's gonna be a long one for er'ybody!