Monday, September 29, 2014

On Getting Back on Facebook and FPU Class #5

These are some random thoughts for sure and if I had the time and the brain space I know I could come up with a creative way to discuss both but I have neither so (to use my least favorite phrase in the pantheon of the English language) - it is what it is.

First up! I've gotten back on Facebook. It was a slow reintegration. I feel so-so about this decision. Especially after spending an inordinate amount of effort to create another empty profile from which to run my business from and taking a break from my Target Cartwheel of Champions ( $105 in savings to date! You got to SPEND more to SAVE more, duh! -Maybe that's my tie in?).

All that gave me the heebie jeebies about Facebook is still there. The ridiculous article titles, the stream of opinions that make you dislike people you once liked, the flood of my own opinions that I can't stop myself from posting. I still left Facebook off of my phone and with a little finagling with Anti-Social - I'm more or less contained. I've found if you don't check FB often your feed contains absolutely nothing you are interested in. Instagram is still my social media drug of choice. I'm not sure why I got back on but it definitely has to do with running my FB business page and getting bored without enough websites to click.

So! Now that I'm reattached to the umbilical cord of the world lets move on to FPU Class #5 shall we?

This lesson, Buyer Beware, was a little all over the place. We learned about being aware of being marketed to. We learned about not buying things 90 days same as cash (which I've never done, because, seriously, I have credit cards for that). And we finished off with learning about the power of paying in cash and negotiating. Like I said, all over the place. But I would say this class had as big of an impact on me as the Savings class.

In small group discussion we were asked to talk about our feelings about being marketed to and what turns us into "the red faced kid having a grocery store tantrum." The usual suspects were all there - ALL the men mentioned electronics (thankfully, JTS does not share in the love of the large television). There were only two women in the class (me and a very religious mom I've already isolated by describing myself as agnostic). But the other woman and I discussed our desire for Stitch Fix and our problem with baby items and convenience foods.

Afterwards I realized that I really (as silly as this sounds on paper) define how good I am at being a mom with the "quality" i.e. price of what I purchase. I had a fit to get the $70 bottle warmer because it was THE BEST one when I ended up never needing to warm a bottle once. I felt neglectful because my baby didn't have THE BEST baby swing ($200+ more than the one I bought). And I still get a sad feeling in my heart because I bailed on Honest Company diapers after 6 months and I haven't bought my child a pair of these adorable shoes to date (and HELLO she is almost 1.5 years old). Will I look back and feel a sea of regret that my child wasn't wearing $60 moccasins? Sometimes I seriously believe so. And this is obviously an issue.

The baby shoes of my dreams. 

Another thing I realized from this discussion is that I use money to make myself feel better. Like how (and why) I was drinking too much, buying a new something can give you a quick burst of confidence when you are feeling lackluster in the esteem department. I know that people who enjoy saving money get a thrill from finding a great brand name at a super cheap price. I'm trying to get that thrill. I get the thrill from buying the brand name item at it's highest price ever at Nordstrom. Makes me feel good about myself. And this is obviously an issue. 

These were really important thoughts for me to think. Up until I know I hadn't really connected the dots to purchasing to make myself FEEL like a good mom or a confident woman. Up until know I hadn't even connected the dots to see myself as an emotional shopper. That's the power of marketing and I'm on the line!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

FPU: Night 4 - Dumping Debt

Life! Now without cash!

We've achieved step 1. Have a $1,000 emergency fund in place.

We've done all the homework from lessons 2 and 3. Creating budgets, working together, and seeing the value of savings.

So for Lesson 4 we get ready to tackle the most important of all the FPU lessons: Getting totally out of debt. Dave considers any debt beyond mortgage debt totally terrible. And even mortgages you are supposed to pay down as best you can. Contrary to my previous beliefs, there is no "good" or "bad" debt. There is only debt. He repeats the Bible passage about "The borrower is slave to the lender." True dat Dave. I'm slave to the U.S. Government who loaned me an absurd amount of money to be a poet. And then a less absurd amount to be a graphic designer.

I watched the inspiring* and motivational* video lesson about the importance of getting out of debt. I unfortunately was not feeling so inspired. During the class I started feeling bad, finally succumbing to the illness that Lil'D and JTS have passed back and forth for almost a month. So I was there in body but not in spirit. Andd I had already watched an old version of this video from the library. Besides some much needed streamlining and updated props it's basically the same message.

How We Got to Where We Are.
At the beginning Dave discusses how we as Americans have become to think we HAVE to have credit to live. He shows how FICO scores are really just how much and how well you handle debt scores and how it's becoming more and more difficult to live life without a debt score. It's interesting history, a huge shift of American priorities over a relatively brief period of time thanks to Visa, Mastercard, and Discover Card (originally created by Sears!?)

There are a lot of paradigm shifts he points out in this lesson that are difficult to let go of but made sense to me. The only point I disagree with Dave on, at least right now, is to close all your credit cards as you pay them off. Dave shows that he has no FICO score because he hasn't had a credit card in so long. (JTS, avid anti-Dave researcher, found that people take issue to this, so there is that.) That's all well and good if you are a 100+millionaire and can pay for even the largest purchase in cash, but if you need a FICO score to rent an apartment or get a mortgage I don't think this is feasible for the time being. So I asked the teacher if he has a credit card. And he said yes.  He keeps one card, which, if he uses, he pays off before the month is over.

That makes more sense to me. So now what card to keep?

Card Cutting Party
It's funny how we ascribe personalities to credit cards. Discover gives me the highest limit with the lowest interest but I know that it's the "low-rent" section of credit cards. I have an Amex card which makes me think of rich people jetting off to France on points or taking a quick trip to NYC to see the ballet. Look at me! I have an American Express! The Visa, however, I got no problem letting go of.

You are supposed to have a card cutting party and that's going to be a tough one for me. I know Dave is right, that credit cards aren't for emergencies -your savings account is for emergencies. But cutting up the cards makes me feel like I'm floating in space without a tether. The What If''s come barreling into my brain. And they all need a credit card to solve them. Plus there is always that feeling of, "I am somebody! I have credit! And a great FICO score!" that keeps your ego warm at night. It's going to be hard to let go.

Debt Snowball
And finally we get to the debt snowball. Where as you pay off debts smallest to largest you apply the old payments to the new ones creating a snowball effect, paying off your debts faster. However, student loans are a gigantic flat field, so while we will enjoy a quick snowball effect at the beginning, once it hits the loan field it's going to be slow.

Lucky for me I've got the Audio CD's to listen to when I need a quick boost to remind me how good it's going to feel when my money can go to something fun instead of student loans and car payments.

This is the lesson where you can bring a friend for free so if you want to try out the class, find a friend who has ponied up!

And now back to my Zicam/Vitamin C cave.

*classmates description of the video.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Existential Ants

Morrissey Ants ponders a new song.

I'm sure you do this too.

Every time I kill an ant, be it with my foot, hand, poison, or random object
my mind immediately shifts to the meaning of life. 

Human life.

I know you know what I mean.

Surely (please surely) you do.

We have been battling ants for a couple of weeks now. Neither traps nor poison nor threat of dog deters these brave little battalions from invading our kitchen. I can sweep them up in a paper towel. I can spray them with vinegar until they sputter out. I can crush them with my bare pinky finger.
And yet they return.

And every time I take an ant life my thoughts immediately shift to:

Was this ant a very hard worker? 
Was he a creative? 
Did he have a family?
A favorite food?
Was he really looking forward to tonight's activity?

And I just totally obliterated him in an instant. 

Everything he ever worked for in his whole life rendered meaningless in a matter of milliseconds. And his little ant family back in the tunnel might shed some brief tears but then they just get up and reform the food line and get back to work. Crushed ant #1 billion is immediately replaced by soon-to-be-crushed ant #1 billion and one. Do they care? Do they ever stop to ponder the whys? 

"Why do we constantly keep building these homes and trek endlessly for food when it's just going to be wiped out over and over again," one misanthropic ant may wonder to himself?

I'll ponder that as I trek to the fridge for some coffee and then get back to work.

Friday, September 12, 2014

FPU Night 3, on cash flow planning and envelopes

The author in France with a tiny blue French
backpack that she just HAD to have right now.
When I was 15 I took a week-long school trip to France. My mom gave me an envelope with enough money for food and some shopping for the whole week. Notice I said whole. I spent ALL my money in the first 2 days on clothes and expensive food.


All of it.

For the rest of the week teachers and other kids had to bail me out because I had no other money to buy food. Yes, food. The staff of life. I didn't get in trouble for this. The plane landed and my mom met us, gave me a hug, and paid everyone back.

Where I should have been totally ashamed to be borrowing money left and right for un Coca or le hamburger, I remember very little shame at all. I think I even borrowed more to shop more.

Needless to say, not indulging my every shopping desire is still hard for me. And in this week's FPU class Dave explains how, just like my trip to France, when you don't want to overspend in a category like food or clothes you put your cash in an envelope and don't spend more than that. And just like in France I've already overspent and it hasn't even been a week.

But wait! I have an excuse!

I was participating in les grande consignment sale pour les enfants at a local church. I consigned and signed up for 2 volunteer shifts just so I could get first dibs. I put an allotted amount into the clothes envelope for this moment and then promptly went over it with my check book. I found that once you are in an overheated room with hoards of other ladies grabbing and going a stained dress from an expensive brand starts looking a lot more attractive than it probably would if you saw it in someone else's closet.

Unlike France, though, guilt ensued. Part of me clings to my excuse, "It was an out of the ordinary event! I HAD to spend." But I know there is always an out of the ordinary event. You may not be in France or at a huge sale of smocked dresses but something will come up and if I want to successfully do all the FPU steps I have to learn how to say no.

But this month is just practice. October is when we get serious.

Besides the envelopes this class had a lot of information about cash flow planning. Lots of forms and information on how to fill out those forms. And information about having a budget meeting to discuss all spending with your accountability partner (aka your spouse if you are married).

If anything at all comes from this class it will definitely be learning to communicate more (and better!) with my partner. No secret spending. Everything on the table.

So even after I overspent my clothes envelope I fessed up about it.

For October I'm dreaming of an envelope out of Harry Potter that has the power to bite.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Mah Nurves

Living on the edge.
I'm looking for camaraderie.

I'm looking for validation that I'm not insane because I surely can't be the only mom out their that finds the crying of their child akin to someone pricking the most tender nerve in their psyche with a sewing needle? Over and over and over again.

Here at the Drawler house we are in the deep ravine of a Wonder Week. Never heard of them? Have a baby child acting out of sorts? Get thee to a library and read all about it. Crazily accurate mood forecasts.
Hello thundercloud of my nightmares.

Basically a Wonder Week is a moment of transformation. Your child makes a leap in intellectual and emotional understanding. It makes sense, then, that this is a scary and confusing time for them. Hearing "No, darling angel face, don't touch the wasp" during a Wonder Week is likely to lead your toddler to a whole morning of tears and tantrums. A video not playing fast enough or a cheerio slightly out of place in the bowl does the same. For Lil' D that means alternating between throwing herself on the floor and kicking or putting her head down on the ground like a yoga pose.

And the tears.
So many tears.

The only saving grace of a Wonder Week is that she is oddly sweeter and more cuddly. She wants to be in my lap or be carried everywhere. Until she doesn't.

A scene from our day:

Scene: Playroom - mom on floor, Lil' D in lap.

1) Wrestles and cries out of my lap like she was forced to be there in the first place.
2) Falls dramatically on floor, rolls on her back, kicks her legs.
3) Tears and putting her head on the ground for good measure. Flinging herself on her chair or dramatically pushing a toy away is also acceptable.
4) "Want to sit in my lap?" I say as she reaches out to me, tears in her eyes.
5) Comes back to lap and gets a hug.
6) Repeat for the next hour.

It's 11:30am here and I'm ready to go to bed. Naps are erratic, lunch is on the floor, and usually loved toys are thrown.

The dulcet tones of screaming do not phase JTS one moment. He sings or talks back with a silly story or ignores them altogether. They strike my mom heart with a bleating cry to DO SOMETHING. DO ANYTHING to make the crying stop. Snacks! Water! Naps! Cuddle! Weird dancing! Old MacDonald Moo Moo's! Anything!

The dog feels me. He is always trying to get out the door.

I try my Janet Lansbury calm sportscasting. I try my Love and Logic "So sad! Guess you need some crib time." In my not great parenting moments (i.e. trying to parallel park whilst reading google maps in a not safe area because DAMMIT I'm trying to take you to an art fair in the 95 degree heat so you might smile) I've yelled sternly. I always regret that one.

"You are right mom! Shaved ice is delicious," she meant with
the screaming that took place directly after.
But I know that damn Wonder Week app is right. Nothing to do but deep breaths and taking one day at a time. According to my app only a mere 29 days until my happy babe comes back to me.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

FPU Night 2 - Relationships and Money

Your intrepid reporter, Ms. Drawler, has returned from night #2 of FPU.

I wasn't supposed to be going to this class. I was supposed to be in Virginia enjoying family, friends, and mountain views but alas Lil' D is sick and we had to cancel.

While I'm not happy Lil' D is sick I was glad to attend an important night. This class wasn't so much about the HOWS of saving money or getting out of debt faster or how to best plan for retirement. It was more about getting on the same page with your partner to achieve serious maximum life results.

It seems so simple (duh! of course you talk to your spouse about money!) but I've found that taking the time to have a real conversation about something in a marriage is more difficult than when you were dating. When you are just boyfriend/girlfriend or even engaged everything is such a light and dreamy discussion. Of course we want to TRAVEL! Have a nice HOUSE! 3 KIDS! 2 CARS! 7 DOGS and a PIG (ok, that might just be me)!

Smiley faces all around.

I remember driving around Crozet, Virginia with JTS, the autumnal breeze blowing through the windows, beautiful yellow leaves fluttering to the ground, holding hands and throwing out dreams like thought bubbles. We were smiling in our sweaters. We were practically out of a catalog or a Sofia Coppola movie with some amazing light filters.

Oh Virginny, I miss you.

Five years later I realize that to bring those thought bubbles down to earth our conversation has to be more down to earth too. Around a table. With a thought-out plan and a budget. Not as romantic (and we certainly don't look romantic this week with a sick baby and bags under our eyes) but exciting to me in that we are actually taking concrete steps to make our airy, romantic dreams come true.

I can't wait for next week when we get to the nitty gritty of budget planning. As Dave pointed out this week the number #1 reason for divorce is disagreement around money and a well-discussed budget takes away ALL of the arguments when everyone agrees and sticks to the plan.

We also discussed how men and women think differently about money (generalizations, sure, but whatever). Money represents self-esteem to men and security to women. I would agree with that on my end. And I had never thought about it that way. Looking at money as security really puts your purchases into perspective. Will this stuff make me feel secure? Or will cash in the bank make me feel secure? Good to remember when I want to dress Lil' D up as a baby fashionista.

As for religion:
I kept my mouth shut when the group discussed tithing. Because my giving is currently less than 10% of my income. And it goes to the local NPR station.

Speaking of fashionistas, you should check out KarlaReed on Instagram. Seriously inspirational thrift and vintage store outfits. I've let that side of my personality, how shall we say, slide a bit since those lovely fall days 5 years ago and she makes me want to kick it back up a notch.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Putting Your Baby Out There

Does anyone besides me worry about putting their child's picture online?

Moms I love run the gamut — from those who absolutely believe in NO pictures on Facebook to the moms of my favorite blogs who Instagram and blog a constant stream of photos and stories with their kids' names.

I'm not sure how I feel.

There is the constant struggle between the proud mom in me who wants to share and shout "Look at my cute baby!" And then there is the practical side of me who wants to protect what little privacy she will have available to her as she grows up. I guess it's the constant struggle of moms everywhere. Your child is your child but also their own person. And finding that balance is hard.

I was posting pictures away on Facebook without a second thought and then I read this story. It gave me pause. I never want Lil' D to become a meme. And who are my 800+ "friends" anyway?

And then Instagram. Just like Facebook (actually more than Facebook) I'm "friends" with people I don't really know. What will they do with Lil' D's face? I post pictures of her there almost every day.

While there is an inherent oddness of strangers staring at your baby's face, I mainly worry about advertising and how I portray Lil' D to the very public world. How will all these posts I generate contribute to a company's ability to market directly to her? How will people label her based on my content?

While I don't currently post my blog posts to Instagram or Facebook (and my readership hangs on around 20 people) it is still out there in the wide world of trolling and sharing and commenting.

I think my rules right now are just to keep her name off the blog (oops need to go back and edit some old posts). I'm sure people could figure it out no matter what but that seems like a small protection. And I think I'm not going to be a traitor to her bad days. My favorite mom blogs don't harp on their kids personality qualities especially not the negative ones. I personally abandon blogs or people that tell everyone all about their kids' bad characteristics or bad days. That seems private. In the words of B.B. King, " Nobody loves me but my mother. And she could be jivin' too."

Here on Lets Blog it Out, I'm trying not to jive.

And at some point near the beginning of the middle school years I might have to abandon ship altogether. Although Lil' D ain't gonna be allowed on social media till she goes to college (only sorta kidding) her friends probably will be and no 7th grader needs more fuel for the fire.

So what do you think? What are your social media rules when it comes to your precious baby faces?

ALL that being said.

LOOK HERE! At this brochure (and banner and info board) I created for  The Mothers' Milk Bank of Alabama.  That is one cute baby right there.

In print. (Feels different to me?!)