Wednesday, October 29, 2014

FPU Class #6 - Think about the things you don't want to think about.

I've been thinking a lot about growing old gracefully recently. Well, really as gracefully as possible because, just like childbirth, you can make a plan but life probably won't follow it.

I could chalk this elder obsession up to being in my almost mid-30's and pondering life's course, etc. but, truth be told, I've been a worrier and a hypochondriac for as long as I remember. I mull this stuff over pretty much all the time. Should I live to a ripe old age I will surely regret the amount of time I spent worrying about dying. Unless, of course, I have cognitive impairment then it might not have been a waste of time but I won't know the difference anyway.

I've been taking notes about growing older over the years and I've made myself a few pointers to remember. Or maybe a few pointers to write down on a card that can be tucked into my dog hair covered sweater to be read every time I forget its in the pocket.

First, and most importantly: I know what I'm going to wear.

Think crisp button down, popped collar, white/grey hair in a ponytail, big round glasses, maybe some bangs. (In reality I'll probably be too lazy to iron a shirt and will wear oversize sweaters and jeggings but I've got 35-40 years to nail this). Think Diane Keaton.
Minus the tie and jacket.
Or this lady.
I will, most likely, never bother with hairdos.

Or my favorite lady on a cruise who wore her monogrammed slippers to dinner because, "Dammit I'm 84 and my feet hurt."

1. So fashionable clothes that are cool, age-appropriate, and comfortable: check.

The ladies in my family tend to live a long time (one side does at least) so I've gotten to see first hand what it's like to grow older. I've come to the conclusion that it's silly to beat about the bush about getting older. As is wishing the human condition will change. Old people remind everyone of the inevitable. Therefore, the olds make the youngs uncomfortable. But I believe there are ways to keep your invitations to the under 85 parties coming. For example, I've noticed that no matter how old you are the under 85's don't want to be interrupted in the middle of a sentence. I've noticed they also don't like to be told they are being interrupted because, "I don't care. I'm 94. I'll talk when I want" (I totally just made this story up. Pure fiction. Totally.)  I used to want to be a bawdy, who-gives-a shit-80 year old but now I think I'd rather people invite me to the under 85 parties. So.

#2. Speak when spoken to or when there is a genuine lull in conversation. If you can't hear said lull, maybe buy a hearing aid. Kind words trump all. Remember manners still matter no matter how much seniority you pull.

I've also noticed that a certain 94-year-old in my life is more fun to be around when she isn't discussing a) wanting to die or when she will die or how she will die or b) various maladies.

So #3) No one wants to hear about your never-ending illnesses. (I should probably take that hint now).

In the midst of all this elder thought I watched Elaine Stritch's documentary Just Shoot Me. It's a can't-stop-watching film. Elaine follows Rule #1 with an incredible outfit of just black tights and a white shirt. She is ready to break into song and dance at any moment. She pretty much never follows #2 but because she is famous people put up with this. She can be downright nasty. But I don't think this is new to her dotage. I think this was her personality. I will most likely not be famous so Rule #2 still applies to me.

Elaine's main problem at 87 is diabetes. Heartbreaking scenes of delusion, fear, and panic are all due to diabetes. She is courageous and soldiers on for so long but it's as vivid a portrait as I've seen outside of the nursing home: getting old ain't for sissies. So there is #4 in my series: Stay as freaking healthy as possible.

And #5: Guard against loneliness. No one wants to be the one calling and nagging their family about visiting. In the land of the young and healthy it's a total bore. The problem with getting older is that everyone is always dying so you have to constantly reinvent your social circle while staving off the depressing fact that all your friends are always dying. My grandmother, in general, is a great example of this. She reads her Kindle at the largest print, she has many social groups with younger people, and she socializes at her nursing home. Unless she is already in a pity spiral (see #3) she only calls to check-in. And pity spirals seem to only happen after she has hit the Dubonnet at a nursing home party. I noticed this with Elaine too - drinking made aging way worse. So Rule #4b: Even though being buzzed through the winter of your life sounds super fun (and was my original aging plan), it might not help you stay alive or happy.

This is a long and winding road to say that FPU Class 6 is about INSURANCE. Mainly about all the insurance you need if you or your spouse were to get sick and or die. It stinks to think about but it did put a fire in my belly to get life insurance so Lil' D is taken care of should I not get to try out my rules of aging in real life. Also, Long Term Care insurance once you hit 60 is vital according to Dave. JTS says this is controversial but I've seen first hand how expensive nursing homes are and also how essential they are to maintaining the ever important social network.

Bottom line: Growing older requires some proper planning. You can't know whether you are going to still be sound in mind or body and for how long but you can do the best you can to get ready for what may come.

If the year is 2070 and you need a friend, I'll be the one with small dogs, large glasses, reading mystery novels to my heart's content or hopefully I'll get my first choice in aging: sleuthing in rural Maine.

Hello Hello

Hi again from my long absence!

I was traveling to Virginia:

Doing lots of work:
Pediatrician office floors are known
for their cleanliness

And cancelleing a trip to Miami whilst in the boarding line (thanks United Healthcare for not approving my MRI!)

So...there has been some stress and lots going on. But now that things have calmed down I'm back to continue my report on Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University.

Without further ado:


And got this handy certificate which I'm actually crazy proud of in a "I'm totally not going to be embarrassed about this" way.

Did I mention I make a living as a graphic designer?

I only missed one class about investing and paying for college which I still need to go back and review.

All in all - I think this class was well worth the $92 I paid. If, like me, you received no training about personal finance this class was easy, fun, and taught a lot. Even though I'm not religious it was easy for me to let the Bible verses go and just take the lessons for what they are. Tonight's my first night without class and man, I miss it. (I also miss the delicious pineapple upside down cake that I enjoyed last week when I went to Weds. church super).

I'll write more about lessons #8-9 soon but the post immediately following this one is about Lesson #6 -  Planning for Retirement. I wrote this post right after class but never got a chance to go back and edit it.


And if you are interested in FPU just sign up! I feel with utmost sincerity it changed my life for the better. Once you take a class you can take any number of future classes for free so I'll probably do a refresher course next fall as well.

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.