Monday, September 28, 2009

"Save the TaTas!"

It is almost that time of the year again (October is breast cancer awareness month), and that was just one of a couple slogans that our lady golfers were wearing today as they hit the links to raise money for breast cancer. It was a beauuuuutiful day, 70 degrees and sunny, in late September-- couldn't ask for better weather! This is the 13th year for the tournament, and my eighth year as a committee member.

The fund raises money for women here in our community who need financial help with diagnostic mammography expenses. A few years ago our breast care clinic identified this as a problem; they were seeing a growing number of women who had found a lump or abnormality on their own, or had had a screening mammogram that showed something questionable. But these women didn't have insurance or the savings to continue on with the testing to find out if their problem was cancerous or not.

Many of these women would tell the breast care clinic staff that they couldn't schedule ongoing tests because they just simply couldn't afford them, or that they would have to wait to have further testing until they had the money saved up to pay for it. Imagine being in that situation - you know you have what could potentially be cancer, but that it will be three, four or five thousand dollars for further tests to determine if it is something that may be life threatening. I had to have diagnostic testing a couple of years ago, and it was scary enough just waiting the brief amount of time that I did, because I was lucky to have insurance and finances to pay for my testing.

So this fund serves as a stopgap for women needing this financial assistance; they can get the tests that they need and know that they don't have to worry about paying all of the balance of their bill on their own. The number of uninsured just keeps growing, and so does the need for funds. Each year we profile a woman to help our golfers and sponsors see that they are helping real women, right here in the Ozarks. This year's story was a 33-year-old woman, Amy, who had left a company to start her own graphic design business and didn't have health insurance yet. She found a lump, and was scared to death. She learned about the fund from a friend, and was thrilled to let us share her story about how helpful it was to know that she didn't have to worry about the financial end of things while she was worrying about her health. Luckily her tumor was benign, and had a happy ending.

Many of our golfers in today's tournament have played with us for several years, and love to take part in an all-ladies tournament, and support breast cancer here in our area. And I love to see all of the great golf attire, especially all of the PINK! Being a woman and a clothes horse, all the outfits make me want to take up golf just so I can wear the clothes - after eight years of planning, I still don't know to play! Oh well, I enjoy being on the periphery, and helping to be a part of raising funds for a great cause- actually learning to play golf may have to wait until I have more time!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Glad we have a quiet weekend; it has been a looooooong week, and I remember thinking that way back on Tuesday. Sometimes that's just how it is. Nothing exciting to report; busy week at work and at home, and nary a social activity in sight for the weekend. Just baseball for Neil, and then we're taking it easy.

Fifth grade has seen a racheting up of activities for Jace, now that he is a pre-teen. Neil and Paige are busy kids and have always had lots of extracurricular activities, but it seems now we're starting with Jace, too!

His open house at school was earlier this week; I was so proud of his progress so far this year, with his school work and organization. He's enjoying 5th grade and a new school (with his own locker!), and he's figured out and is following a much better routine on organizing himself and his homework. The teacher had a handout on things for parents to look at while we were there, and one suggestion was to check his locker and help him clean it out, if need be. I was expecting the worst, but pleasantly surprised to find it neat and organized!

Yesterday was the first day of orchestra, and I was happy to see Jace so excited about it. I was surprised when he came home a couple of weeks ago and wanted to join orchestra; he is going to play the viola. I planned on renting a viola for him, just to make sure that he really does like orchestra before we would consider plunking down money to buy an instrument. I had called a couple of stores and both were equal on monthly rental fees and both had a basic monthly contract. So, I just chose the store where I had taken guitar lessons. The guy asked about the monthly insurance on the instrument as we filled out the contract, and I asked how much it was -- the insurance is $6/month, and the instrument is a (gulp!) $700 viola!

We went ahead and rented it, but I told the hubby about it the next night, and I had to pick him up off the floor when he found out what we were trusting this $700 instrument to an 11-year-old who would quite possibly lose his head if it weren't attached! Needless to say, Mr. Research got online and started looking at other options. (I know I give him grief about it, but he is always "in the know" about whatever it is he is going to do or buy, and I love him for it!!) But after much looking and discussion, we decided that even buying a much less expensive one would probably still be more of an hassle because he will probably outgrow this one in a year and then need a bigger size. So, we're sticking with renting this one and paying for insurance for the next 8 months of school. Then we'll go from there.

In addition to viola payments, I just had to write a check for Jace's school field trips for this semester, AND we paid for fall baseball league, AND he had the fall mixer to attend last week! Last night he was in his room, TRYING ON CLOTHES for the next day. Haven't seen that before! Now, granted, it was just a t-shirt, shorts and a hoodie, but usually he couldn't care less about clothes. Welcome to pre-adolescence, I guess!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

College Girl, Chucks, Curry and Clinton Kelly

I felt some better yesterday, so was able to join Dave in an impromptu trip to KC to see Paige and bring her a few more things for her dorm room. We hadn't planned to visit her until Parents Weekend in early October, but it was great to see her for a bit on Saturday. She's settling in to school, and has already made several good friends in her Oxbridge program and otherwise.

As for the post title -- of course the college girl was the main reason for our trip, and the Chucks and curry were a part of our KC visit, but no, Clinton Kelly wasn't -- however, my little brother delivered room service to him at the Raphael on the Plaza in KC, and texted me about it. Sweet! Mr. "What Not To Wear" was apparently dining in a Raphael robe, and I'm sure he managed to even look stylish in it!

In what some would say is direct opposition to style and Clinton Kelly, I bought another pair of Converse Chuck Taylors yesterday. I've been talking about getting a pair of green Chucks since we were in Boston and I bought a green Red Sox ball cap; so we found some money in the Dave Ramsey budget to splurge on these babies!

I was in good company with my purchase, as Garry and Heather's daughter, Rileigh, splurged on her own pair of Chuck Taylors, in red. She was stylin' for her evening plans, a boy/girl party next door for one of her friend's birthdays. And I was stylin' for our evening with Garry, Heather and Brent and Laura, who had a sitter for their kiddos and joined us for a couple of hours.

Garry cooked us a delicious curry, and made a believer out of me. I was worried, as I've had curry a couple of times and didn't enjoy the spice (think Ben Stiller in Along Came Polly) but it was an awesome meal. I put pineapple, bananas, onions and bacon on my curry/rice, and it was absolutely delish!

Dave and Garry finished the evening with a little electrical work, wiring in a dimmer switch for the dining room light. This morning Garry fixed us his family's version of Eggs Benedict - staying with the Dykes is like our own little B&B getaway. We're excited to head back up there in a few weekends with Jace and Neil, and spend Parents Weekend with Paige, see their family again, and help Heather celebrate her "almost milestone" birthday!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Under the Covers

That's where I've been for the past two and a half days, and just now feeling halfway human again. I was exhausted on Wednesday, after going to bed at almost midnight Tuesday night; had a 7am presentation to some physicians on Wed AM, and let both dogs sleep on the bed since Dave was out of town. Between the presentation jitters and the dogs, I don't think I slept more than a half-hour stretch that night. So Wednesday had me just draggin', and as the day wore on I continued to feel worse and worse, like I'd been hit by a truck.

I've been in bed for two days now, with aches, fever, and chills, and a splitting headache. Nyquil has been my constant companion, and I'm finally feeling somewhat better this afternoon. I hesitated to even tell my work that I had a fever, given our concern with the H1N1 strain, but I know that this was more sinus-related than anything, NOT the full-blown flu. I missed a couple of meetings, the Heart Association's annual Go Red for Women Luncheon, AND my speaking engagement today. Luckily my breakout session was one of six at that time-frame, so I think they were fine with being one session short. Trust me, they wouldn't have wanted me there presenting, all hopped up on Nyquil.

So, a quiet Friday night - hubby gone to the gym, son down the street playing at friend's house, and me, washing all the linens in the house. Now that I'm feeling a bit better, time to catch up on housework.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I've Had the Time of My Life...

I know I wasn't alone in my sadness at hearing of Patrick Swayze's death yesterday. He had been battling pancreatic cancer for months now, so I wasn't surprised, but saddened all the same. I will always remember him best for his breakout movie, "Dirty Dancing". I remember when the movie came out in 1987; I was 16, and I loved, loved, LOVED everything about it. I practically wore the soundtrack cassette tape out, adored every single schmaltzy song on there. Seems to me there was a second soundtrack, "Dirty Dancing II", and I believe I owned that one as well.

We were talking about the movie today in our leadership book club (thankfully the one guy in our director's group had already left, so he was spared the estrogen-driven conversation) and I asked the others, who are at least 10-15 years older than me, if they liked the movie as much as I did. It was a resounding "Yes!", so I guess it wasn't just the teenage crowd that identified with the movie back in 1987. Then we were talking about if the movie was one that "crossed generations" now; so I texted Paige, because I thought I remembered her saying she liked/owned the movie a few months ago, and being surprised to learn that. Sure enough, she said she loved it, and had taken her copy of it to college with her.

Some of you may groan at the movie and at this whole topic; I'm sure there were many people who DIDN'T like it. But I remember loving the whole premise of the movie--- Jennifer Grey, the ugly duckling, meeting gorgeous and talented resort dancer (and quasi "bad boy") Patrick Swayze and becoming part of the resort staff's late night (gasp!) dancing gatherings. Then her final dance at the talent show, running down the aisle and leaping up into Patrick Swayze's arms and being lifted up over his head? I mean, who didn't want to be "Baby", after seeing the movie!? Nobody puts Baby in a corner! I loved Jerry Orbach in the role of Baby's father, and he was always one of my fav actors on Law and Order for years after that, in part probably because of this first role I ever saw him in.

The hubby yelled to me last night, from his perch in the living room (Monday night football, two games) and asked if I knew Patrick Swayze had died. I said yes, I had seen a headline on the internet earlier in the day, and he said "Oh, why didn't you tell me?" You see, one of his favorite movies is "Roadhouse" (although I don't know if I'm supposed to tell the internet that)... we have watched that Patrick Swayze movie no less than 5 times on cable tv in the last few years - it is one of those they show pretty often.

I started to title this post "Nobody Puts Baby in a Corner", since that is one of the great lines that we all remember. But I thought the final song of the movie, sung by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes, was a more fitting goodbye to an actor who had several great movies and a 30+ year marriage to his wife.

He had no drama, no drugs, no tabloids (until the end, with his cancer), he was just a good guy and a great dancer, with some memorable movies and a life cut short by a devastating illness. I'm going to have to buy the movie and watch it again, for old times sake.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Monday Musings

Just a few random updates and thoughts to begin my week.

  • Nice, quiet weekend at home, with lots of baseball (both boys had games on Saturday) and not much money spent.
  • Bullet #1 is directly related to bullet #2: we attended our first of 13 meetings of a Dave Ramsey class (DVD of Dave Ramsey, then group discussion afterward), with a group of 25-30 people. We are attending the program at another Methodist church in town, and then we are going to help facilitate the DVD series at our own church in January or February. We're ahead of most of those in the group, since we are already several steps into the program, but I am excited about meeting with all of these other people for the next 13 weeks. It is kind of the financial version of Weight Watchers and their weekly meetings -- sure, you can do it on your own, but having a support system can be very helpful.
  • I'm becoming an expert at grocery shopping on a budget. I have a handy-dandy Excel spreadsheet and can pretty much guess (rounding up to the nearest dollar) how much each item will cost. Then as I check each off my list, I have the "actual cost" column and figure up my total on that. I'm more thrifty than I used to be on buying name-brand; I've never had to have all name brand, but now I'm even less picky. Found a great detergent that is $3 less than the Tide that I usually buy, and works just as well. I manage to get everything we need for the week (including enough food for lunches, etc) on my weekly cash of $100. I'm sure some of you are great coupon clippers, but that's one realm I haven't yet entered. I don't know that I have the patience; plus, it seems like I never find coupons for what I use, only for those things I wasn't planning on buying anyway, so how does that save me money?
  • As a treat, we bought ice cream on Saturday night - a couple of $3 gallons from the store rather than dropping $20+ at Andy's (frozen custard) like we used to do. The downside to that is we still had ice cream (and oreos, which I love to crush up for topping) on Sunday, so we had ice cream AGAIN on Sunday night. This morning I put the rest of the ice cream down the drain. Wasteful, I know, but it is just the two of us until Wednesday, and we will continue to eat that ice cream (and oreos, really, that is what I love, not just the plain ice cream) if it is in the house. But I did keep the oreos, because without the ice cream I won't be tempted to eat them. That way Jace can still enjoy them later this week.
  • On the work front, I'm one of the breakout session speakers at a symposium on Friday, and I'm not yet ready. It won't be difficult, and I have all the data compiled, but just haven't put it all in order. I don't mind talking in front of people, and part of my job is planning educational events and other fun stuff for women. But to actually be the one that is giving the meat of the presentation, I don't like doing that nearly as well. I know what I'll be doing the next few evenings.
  • I should be hitting the gym over the next few evenings too, since I only made it there twice last week. And then with the ice cream indulgence, I probably reversed any gains I made. So that's on my list too.
  • One highlight this week is lunch on Wednesday with friend Shana; we usually try to do happy hour once every couple of months. However she suggested lunch since she's ripe with baby #3, so I've given her carte blanche on restaurant choice, in case she has a craving.
  • My last thought is that I know I'm not gonna like the looks of today's post when I hit "Publish", because I can NOT figure out how to get a space between each of the bulleted paragraphs. I am not HTML saavy, and I'm sure it is not a huge thing to fix if I WERE saavy. But I'm not, so you will just have to muddle through this and pretend it is appropriately spaced to give each paragraph its own importance. Enjoy!

Happy Monday to all; lunch is over and I'm back to the grindstone!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

'Cause We All Just Wanna Be Big Rock Stars

Before I start tonight, you're not going to hear my opinion about Obama and his speech(es) on here. Although I have been watching some of tonight's, and yes, I have my thoughts. But no, I'm not sharing them on here. I've got more important things to blog about, like tonight's efforts in helping my 5th grader with ideas for his science project.

The good thing is that the project is not due until next Thursday and he (da da dah!!) was organized enough to have it all in his accordion file and bring it out to talk about it tonight, a week early - yay! We have been working on organization this year (both Jace AND me, but that is a story for another time) and he seems to be doing pretty well with keeping up on with his schoolwork.

Now, on to the bad thing -- the project. The science teacher had a whole grid of attributes that the kids were supposed to study and identify their strengths, and then they were to choose one of four types of a project that would be best suited to their strengths. Jace is awesome in math, and also loves music and art. (Reading and writing, nah, not so much, he's not my child in that respect, I guess. AND he's good in math. Must be his dad's genes.)

So his matrix showed strengths in three key areas, and the one he picked was music. The music project is to write and record a jingle/song/rap about the subject and have an accompanying chart with the items labeled. Now, tell me, how easy do YOU think it would be to write a song about plant cells, animal cells, each of their parts and the differences between the two!?!? I mean, what rhymes with mitochondria?

But he loves music, and I was happy that he was excited about the project, and already had the song picked out - "Rockstar" by Nickelback. I mean, if he's gonna write a song, it is going to be a cool one. No lame jingles or anything (and thank god he isn't into rap. Yes, I'm showing my age). So we pull out his ipod and listen to the song, got on and found the words and then discussed HOW to actually start writing the song for his project. I have to say, at this point I was a little worried, because I could see that his expectations of the project and the ACTUAL project were not going to be the same thing. He wanted something cool, and this was going to be awkward at best. Call me a pessimist if you will, but "Rockstar" and basic anatomy (well, I think the song mentions some anatomical parts, but not these) just don't go together.

But I forged ahead (all the while inwardly cringing), explaining that the first place he should probably start is with the chorus, which is played 2-3 times throughout a song, and then he can figure out the verses. We sat down and started looking at the cell parts, what each part does... chlorophyll... nucleus... vacuole -And he's got his nerdy mom, sitting there singing Nickelback and trying to give him the gist of what he will be working on. Within five minutes he decided he wants to talk to the teacher tomorrow and change his project to the visual/art one, since art was one of his other strengths on the matrix. And yes, maybe I'm a bad mom for allowing him to change, but in this case, I think it will be for the better. Nope, we're not all rock stars, even if we wanna be, and there's just no making cell parts into a cool song.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Celebrating Labor Day

Is it bad that we barely moved from the sofa all day yesterday? Jace was with his dad for Labor Day, and Neil was at the lake with his friend's family for the weekend, so it was just the two of us. We thoroughly enjoyed all ten episodes of the Band of Brothers marathon on Spike TV. We watched more TV in one day than we will watch in the next three weeks.

That's not to say that we didn't do anything all day; at least a few chores did get checked off the list, so the day wasn't a total waste. Lawn mowing (Dave), laundry (me), bill paying (Dave), grocery shopping (me)-- but that is about the extent of it, and that was only because the wonders of techonology (DVR) allow us to hit pause and get some work done in between the stretches of relaxation. Dave actually owns this miniseries on DVD, but we still watched it. My viewing was fairly intermittent, between snoozing (and then waking up and asking Dave what happened... can you believe that he refused to tell me after the fourth time I woke up and asked???), reading and halfway paying attention. It was a very enjoyable day, after a busy weekend spent at my parents' house, and then a friend's wedding reception Sunday night.

It was great to see all my siblings this weekend, (except for youngest brother Thomas, who was working) we only get together a few times a year. Saturday night the grandkids found a couple of hats, and had some fun:

I was so happy to kiss and hug and snuggle with the two newest additions to our family - my niece Eva, who is the only girl with all of these boys -- she is BEAUTIFUL!

And my newest nephew, Isaac, who I kept calling Winston Churchill, with his serious look. He is absolutely adorable, with the most animated expresssions I've ever seen on a baby as young as he is. You can see more pics of him here on my sis Tara and her hubby Luke's photo blog.

Had a great weekend, then back to Springpatch for a day of relaxation before this short work week, which already started out at a crazy pace with a Tuesday that was definitely a Monday!

Friday, September 4, 2009

"Act Your Wage"

If you are familiar with this phrase and the man who uses it, then you already know what I'm going to write about today. Although I've mentioned it briefly a couple of times in previous posts, I haven't gone into much detail about it. But it has been a part of our daily lives for the past couple of months now- we have been transforming the way we handle our finances, our spending habits, and our everyday life, and it has been amazing to see the difference.

I've never been accused of being frugal - anyone who knows me is aware that I'm a spender. My dad is good about saving, as are my siblings - I fell far from the tree in this respect, I guess. Don't get me wrong -- I'm not broke, I've never been through bankruptcy, or really suffered through any dire financial straights. I just like to have a good time and enjoy life, certainly more than I like to save money. The majority of my expenditures aren't on BIG things, but those little everyday things. Trips to Target can easily result in a receipt totaling $200+, and for what? I go to Target with a short list of necessities and come out with a gazillion awesome things, most of which I didn't really need. And clothes? Shoes? We don't even need to go there. I have always told my husband I'm "saving him money" since I love to buy secondhand from the higher end resale boutiques here in town, but believe me, I still can spend the dough.

And likewise, I married someone who also likes to enjoy life. We both have a history of being spenders; he is more of a big ticket type of guy, and has had a Harley, a Jeep, an ATV, and a bass boat (he sold all those boy toys after we were married, though) in just the few years I have known him. So, between the two of us, we certainly have our work cut out for us. We both have known for sometime that we really need to crack down on our debt, pay off the credit card balances that we have, and get in better financial shape. But in spite of our resolve to do better, things really didn't change. As they say, how can you do the same thing over and over again, yet expect to get different results?

But then along came Dave-- Dave Ramsey, that is. And for two non-budgeters, this has been a life changing experience. Bye bye, debit card and hello, cash! Bye bye, impulse spending, and helloooooo, planning!

All I've used for the past two months is cold, hard cash, with the exception of the debit card for planned purchases, such as my every-6-week hair appointment. But for the weekly things, we now have cash. I have $100 to spend every week on groceries, and I've done a great job with that - we have all that we need, and I don't get all the extras that we really don't need anyway. I make a list, and I stick to it- we still get lots of the yummy things we like to eat, but also we're eating healthier because we're eating at home more instead of eating out once or twice a week.

We use cash for gas money (no more convenience of "pay at the pump", darn!) and we each have $25 lunch money each week -- this is to cover our lunches out, or if we want to get dinner out in the evenings. The lunch thing hasn't been as big of a deal for me, because I bring my lunch most days anyway, but I think Dave has had to adjust. Luckily, he still has client lunches out sometimes.

This has been a huge change for us - just in how we are looking at our money. You think a lot harder about buying something if you know that you only have x dollars for the week or month in that category, and after it is gone then it's gone. So there have been some things we've decided not to do or buy, and BD (Before Dave) we wouldn't have thought twice about it. Just slap it on the debit card (or worse, credit card) and there ya go. Figure it out at the end of the month, when you're paying all the bills, and wonder why you don't have enough money to cover everything.

But for the first time in my life, I am looking at budgeting and finances in a different way. I don't feel anymore like I'm almost punishing myself by not buying things that I want, but rather I'm helping myself by saving and planning. We ARE acting our wage, and we do have a plan. And it is not an easy plan, but it is worth it. Every bit of our income is allocated to something each month, so no dropping $200 at Target. We now put a monthly amount aside for all of those yearly big expenses (vet bill, vacation, home repairs, Christmas, etc) so when the time comes then we will have money for them, and not have to dip into savings or worse, pull out the credit card. And Dave (my Dave) is the spreadsheet king, so he is awesome at tracking all of this.

You may be thinking "This is such a drastic change - how will they ever be able to stick with this!?" and it is a valid question. All I can say is that it really has been a mindset change, and when you start seeing the results then it is easier to keep plugging away. And there is wiggle room in this plan, with a "blow fund" each month, where you have extra money (extra cash, in an envelope) allocated so you don't "blow" your budget when unplanned expenses come up. So that does help.

Plus, we are working at this as a team, and a lot of the time we "blame" Dave Ramsey for not "letting" us buy/do those things that one or both of those would like, when before it would have been one person wanting something and the other saying no. Just like that whole Martha's Vineyard day in August, where Dave was wanting to rent a motorcycle or Jeep to drive around on the island all day. When he was considering it, I said something like, "Well... that would be so cool, but I wonder what Dave Ramsey would say..." (not that I didn't already KNOW what Dave Ramsey would say -- "What!?!? $200 for a motorcycle for one day!?!")

And Dave thought about it for a minute, and then agreed that even though he REALLY would've liked to rent the motorcycle, we didn't really need to spend money on that. And he decided it without me saying "Honey, that's not in the budget, blah blah blah"... so that was it, we didn't rent the motorcycle, The End. (Well, except for the miserable day of riding the hot, smelly crowded bus all around the island, but I already told that story in a previous post!) And there have been other things that I have wanted, and I get to hear that reminder from Dave, that "Dave Ramsey won't let us"... Dave Ramsey, the guy you love to hate!! But seriously, it is just a good way to keep in our mind what we are working towards, when before it was easy just to think that we had money in our account, so why not buy what we wanted?

I have to give (my) Dave the majority of the credit for our success so far, in that he is keeping us on track, and that is a HUGE part of the process. It takes both of us to not spend, but it also takes time and work to make our money and budget work for us, and he is really the one that is doing all of that. We can see our debt shrinking, and that is an awesome feeling; we have a spreadsheet that he downloaded from the Dave Ramsey website that shows when we will be debt free - cars paid off, credit cards paid off, second mortgage paid off, ALL of it. And it is not in the too distant future, at all!

We are well into the first steps of the debt-free program, and once we do pay off our debt, then we will be able to grow our savings account,
ramp up our retirement accounts, start paying down our mortgage, and all of those other things that we really hadn't thought about being able to do with our current financial status. We have agreed that when Dave's current car goes to Neil when he turns 16 in May 2010, then we will be getting a car that we can pay cash for, not another car payment. Down the road we may trade it in for a better car, but again, not one with an accompanying loan payment.

Living within our means, and acting our wage. It is a pretty cool thing for us, and just wanted to share. Hope everyone has an enjoyable and safe Labor Day weekend!