Among the Carnivores

Sometimes in your life, you have these grand epiphanies, and you start down a whole new path.  That happened to me back in April.

Long story short(er), I became a vegan back in April.  There were several factors that influenced me.  Firstly, I’d been flirting with the notion of vegetarianism for years, ever since college.  Mostly, I was just too lazy, and I bought in to all of the myths–you know, how you couldn’t eat anything and how expensive everything was.  (I didn’t even know the difference between vegetarian and vegan until back in April (blush).) In other words, I didn’t educate myself.  Secondly, raw meat is icky–I hate icky.  I hate the thought of touching meat and then trying not to touch anything else, then the grease as it’s cooking, just…..ick.  Thirdly, I’ve always sort of felt bad about eating animals.  I mean, it’s got to be bad karma, right?  Lastly, I met a woman a while back who now has a blog and who is, in fact, a vegan.  She is also a yoga instructor, blonde, thin, and disgustingly pretty–but I like her, anyway.  Her name is Colleen–check her out at www.wakingupvegan.com.

I finally said, hey, I can do this!  So I did.  Just like that.  No fanfare, just a simple decision, and the thing was done.  I didn’t gradually go off of meat or dairy, I just went cold turkey (so to speak.)  I won’t say it has been easy–there are certainly challenges.  All in all, though, it’s not nearly as big a deal as some would make it out to be, especially when you weigh the benefits–mental, physical, emotional, and environmental, just to name a few.

By far the biggest challenge is the fact that six other people live in this house besides me.  Two of them are elderly people who grew up eating (so it would seem) lumps of coal because that’s all they could afford.  On the plus side, my husband converted to veganism about three weeks after I did.  He kept trying the food I was making, and he was impressed.  Also, I convinced him that it might resolve some health issues he was having, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and some weight problems.  (FWIW, all of those problems are now resolved.)  My daughter is a captive audience, and I would say she is vegetarian.  My sister is held too firmly under the influence of The Grandparents. My son is another matter altogether.  He is a pre-teen, so anything I do is met with great skepticism.  I will say, though, that he has done pretty well trying different things, and he has even admitted to liking some of them.  I’m not sure what he thinks will happen if he becomes vegan–maybe he’ll turn into a zombie or something.

 

I also live in an area that is not conducive to a vegan lifestyle.  The grocery stores are sadly lacking, and I won’t even talk about the restaurants.  It would be a lot easier to be a vegetarian, but being vegan takes it to a whole new level.

 

One of the best things is that no matter what I’m cooking–even if it is a pot of beans–The Grandfather makes a special trip into the kitchen for the sole purpose of standing there for a moment and looking over my shoulder, then saying in all seriousness, “What is that?”  The deepest, darkest secret of my heart is to one day turn and empty the contents of the pot over his head.

Also, my friends and more distant family members all ask the exact same question, namely, “What do you eat?”  It just literally boggles their minds.  For the most part, because we are all consumer sheep, they don’t even see a reason for being vegan in the first place.  I love lists (a fact you may have surmised at this point) so I’m going to make another one about why I think everyone should be vegan.

 

  • Being vegan is the healthy thing to do.  Do you know who commissioned the “got milk?” campaign?  The California Milk Processor Board.  Duh.  All of the major meat and dairy industries have multi-million dollar ad campaigns, and why? Because they are businesses, and they are out to make money.  Businesses use advertising to convince us that we need a product, and meat, dairy and eggs are no different.  All of the nutrients in these items can be found in a plant-based diet.  I’m not going to go into the science of it now, but do the research.  I did mine, and trust me, I wouldn’t lie.
  • Contrary to popular belief, I eat all kinds of yummy, nutritious food.  My husband will tell anyone who asks that he eats more now than he did before.  I make a black bean burger that anyone would have a hard time turning away, and don’t even get me started on my vegan fajitas.  Furthermore, I make some traditional recipes with vegan substitutions that have even gone through The Grandparents beady-eyed scrutiny, including a peach cobbler that I dare anyone to match.
  • The truth hurts, and the truth of our society is that animals destined for the dinner table lead horrific, terrifying, unimaginable lives.  It is so easy to turn a blind eye and just not think about it, but part of living on this earth is taking responsibility for our decisions.  By eating these animals, we are contributing to the lives they lead.  Some people want to spout the Bible at me on that one, saying how man has dominion over all the animals or whatever, but having dominion over something does NOT give us the right to treat another living creature with absolute disregard. Period.  I saw a banner that said, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian.”  The truth is, most of us are too watered down to make a stand against things we know aren’t right.  We could never actually kill a cow, but we just love the smell of a barbeque. (I stole that one from King, of course.)
  • Another myth: that begin vegan is more expensive than a regular diet.  I don’t see it.  It’s true that some products cost more, especially organic stuff, but think it through.  What are the biggest ticket items on your shopping list?  Meat and dairy.  Also, soy based substitutions, like vegan cream cheese, sour cream, and even non-dairy milks, last twice, sometimes three times as long as their traditional counterparts.  That means instead of lasting a few weeks, they can last for a couple of months.  That means you aren’t throwing out spoiled milk or a tub of sour cream that got pushed back in the fridge.  Not only that, what’s cheaper than beans or rice?  Those are two staple foods for me, and they are very cost-effective.  I bought two big bags of textured vegetable proteins (TVP) back at the end of April, and I still have some left.  I think I paid $13 for both bags, combined.  I use them in my fajitas, in stew, and in casserole.  Think how much the chicken would have cost if those meals had been made the “old” way.
  • I feel better, and I think I look better.  Don’t get me wrong–I’m not any more attractive or anything, but my skin is better, my hair is better, and my general sense of well-being is better.  In short, I feel good about the decisions I make every day.
  • Consider the following facts: humans are the only species that voluntarily and habitually drink the milk from another species, and the only ones to persist with the habit into and beyond adulthood.  Also, we are not carnivores, no matter how many jokes I make.  Humans are omnivores.  We don’t have the teeth or digestive systems for a meat-based diet.  Do the research, people!
  • Raising meat for human consumption is a huge strain on our environment.  Again, I’m already blowing the word-count out of the water here, so I’m going to leave the research up to you, but as they say, facts is facts.
  • This is going to sound strange, but it makes me so happy to not have to cook (or touch!) raw meat anymore!  My cooking is so clean and non-toxic now.  It just makes me happy.  It makes my hands happy.  All in all, I think that sums it up best–being a vegan makes it easy to be happy.  It just seems to fit, and what can be bad about that?

 

 

 

The Husband’s Rebuttal (by proxy)

Well, my husband dislikes typing very much, so I am forced to type for him a rebuttal to my previous post about what the bride’s wedding vows should really be.  Apparently, my better half feels as though he should defend himself and his gender against some of the implications of my vows, and he even offers a few of his own.

This is his view of the matter:

  • I vow to forever take the blame for “tracking mud” in the house, even if it is six in the morning and the only things I’ve had on my feet are my house shoes.
  • I am afraid of the hamper, because God forbid I put an article in there that doesn’t belong, like a towel with two water molecules on it.
  • I vow to be very quiet when you are sick, because you are, frankly, the meanest sick person I have ever seen. Ever.
  • I vow to try to walk a fine line between helping you too much and not enough, because you don’t like lazy people, but you don’t want anybody to do anything for you, either.
  • I vow to never dare complain about being sick for longer than twenty-four hours, because that’s about how long your sympathy lasts before you run out of patience.
  • I will never, ever, ever be clean enough for you.  No one is clean enough for you.  Look at this way–you are a woman, and when your house is neat and tidy, people say, oh, look how clean your house is! I am a guy–if I keep a clean and tidy house, people say, oh, he’s gay.
  • I vow to watch a scary movie with you, even though I know you will be up all night, and you’ll make me get up with you if you have to pee.
  • On a related note, I vow to go with you to the bathroom when we go camping, because I know you are afraid of the dark.
  • I vow to at least keep my hunting stuff out of the house–I do it for you, baby.
  • I vow to try my best to avoid all possible contact with you before 9:00am or three cups of coffee, whichever comes first.
  • I vow not to touch you when you are having a hot flash.
  • I vow to lay patiently beside you while you toss and turn, and toss, and turn, and toss, and turn, and toss…….
  • I vow to not be annoyed with you when you wake up pissed at me for something I did to you–in a dream you had.
  • I vow to watch an untold number of paranormal shows about aliens, ghosts, and Bigfoot, even though I think every bit of that is bullshit. (Although I draw the line at Ghost Adventures.)

So you see, there is a lot more to the wedding vows than just that “richer and poorer” bit.   There’s a lot of give and take when you are in any kind of relationship, although personally I think the women do a tad more giving.  Matt agrees–giving guys crap, giving guys a hard time, giving guys chores to do…….

And hopefully giving them enough love to last a lifetime.

 

 

 

The Fine Print

I’m not an overly romantic person.  For some reason that I can no longer comprehend, I had a formal wedding.  In retrospect, I’d like to have the money I sunk into the wedding, and we could have just went to the courthouse.  The end result would have been the same.

But, alas, we did the formal church-wedding thing, and we stood in front of God and a few dozen witnesses and said the wedding vows–you know, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, etc., etc.  Upon reflection, though, I think there should be some more (realistic) vows added.  I guess they wouldn’t sound so great in the actual church service, but maybe they could be added to the bottom of the marriage license or something.  Here’s what I’ve come up with for the bride:

  • I vow to pick up your clothes until the end of time, because, for whatever reason, you simply cannot make the trek from the bedroom to the hamper, and, if by some miracle you do make it to the hamper with the clothing, you then lay them on the closed lid, because lifting the lid is just too damn hard.
  • I vow to recognize that you are always sicker than me, even if I am, in fact, laying in bed incapable of even moving my eyeballs because it hurts, and fluids and semi-solids are escaping from every orifice in my body, and my fever has burned an actual hole in my pillow.  I also recognize that you can be perfectly healthy until I mistakenly mention that I have, say, a headache, and then you will immediately be struck with a sympathy headache.
  • I further vow that when you are genuinely sick, you cannot do anything, even if you just have the sniffles.  I should leave you alone to lay in misery (with the TV of course) and hope not to die. I, on the other hand, sick or well, will still plod on with my daily chores, and I vow not to choke you when I, sick and shaking, stagger through the room, and you ask, “What’s for dinner?”
  • I vow to accept the fact that no matter what I suggest, you will have to alter the plan in some way, no matter the circumstances. 
  • I vow that no fact I state will ever be accepted as truth until both you and your male offspring thoroughly research the topic, discuss all possible options, and ask everyone else on the planet for alternatives. 
  • I vow to carefully REfold the clothing in your drawers each time you open them and examine each article as though you are searching for DNA evidence, instead of what you are actually doing, which is getting the same articles of clothing that have been in the drawers for the last ten years.
  • I vow to find storage for the 78695746487 hats that you bring home on a regular basis, even though you don’t wear hats! This also applies to boots.
  • I vow to never question the fact that you are in constant need of hunting supplies, such as arrows, broadheads, silencers, scopes, calls, blinds, stands, and, I swear I am not making this up, bottles of a substance made to simulate female deer pee.  I will accept this need, even though we now have enough of these items to open our own sporting goods store.
  • Furthermore, I will accept the fact that any money spent on any of these items is perfectly acceptable, while money spent on something I might be interested in is money wasted.
  • I vow to never ask you do anything, because that is nagging, and I wouldn’t want to do that.
  • I vow to allow you whatever amount of time it takes you to do something I finally break down and ask you to do, even if that means it takes you upwards of three weeks. 
  • I vow to keep a schedule of all appointments and meetings, and then tell you the times of these appointments and meetings without getting annoyed, even though you ask me these times at least three times every single day.
  • I vow to offer you extravagant praise for any task that you perform, even if it is something like, say, carrying a dish to the kitchen counter and leaving it.  I will also thank you repeatedly for “watching” the kids, as though they were children from my first marriage and not, in fact, your children.
  • Lastly, I solemnly vow that you are a better driver, smarter, and much more tired than I could ever dream of being.

I figure I’d better quit for now before I really offend someone.

Don’t worry, in a day or two I’m going to give the husband a chance for rebuttal.  I can’t wait to hear what he has to say!

 

 

 

 

 

Old School

One of the hazards of living with extended family is that you are often given opinions which you didn’t necessarily ask for.  When the extended family includes elderly grandparents who raised you, opinions hit you almost continuously, and the patience of even the most virtuous individual can be tried to the extremes.

I myself am a very opinionated person, and I have no trouble sharing those opinions with anyone.  But in spite of what everyone “assumes” about me, I am quite capable of keeping my mouth shut, and here’s something else–if I have something to say, I say it, I don’t slip in passive-aggressive snippets and clip you off at the knees when you turn your head.  Usually I get in trouble because people ask me for my opinion, and so I give it to them, and of course they didn’t really want my opinion, they wanted me to patronize them, and so they get mad.  But I digress.

As I was saying, I get lots of unsolicited advice.  I also get lots of little comments, some of which float back to me secondhand.  Today, for example, I left my son here with The Grandparents to finish up his lessons while I went to pick up my daughter at the bus stop.  When I got home I could tell my son was in high dudgeon.  I let it rest until he finally cornered me upstairs and decided to vent:  he had finished his lessons while I was gone, and when The Grandmother came through and saw him sitting in the floor doing nothing, she made one of her Patented The Grandmother High-and-Mighty comments.  It was somewhere along the lines that Ian never did any work and that this homeschool thing was just a free ride for him. 

I just told Ian not to worry about it, that he should be used to the constant mouth around here, and it didn’t matter what anyone else thought.  Great advice.

The truth is, a lot of people sort of secretly (and not so secretly) look down their noses at homeschooling.  Some days, my attitude is poor.  I’d like to tell them that I don’t owe anyone any explanations, that my children are my responsibility, I’ve raised them by myself, with very little help from any parents, grandparents or otherwise, and considering what most of the people I know have going on in their lives, they’d be well advised to put their efforts into managing their own lives and keeping the hell out of mine.  In short, mind your own shit and keep your nose out of mine.

You can see how that might be considered hostile.

Mostly I avoid getting too deep into the discussion, because really I don’t feel like I owe anyone any explanations, but sometimes you just need to get stuff off of your chest.  Since this is my medium for doing just that, here it goes.

The decision to homeschool my son was one of the most difficult I’ve ever made in my life, ever.  It has also been the best decision I’ve ever made.  I don’t mean any offense to anyone, but my son has learned more since last January than most kids do all through school.  He is reading more, he’s reading faster, and he’s retaining what he reads.  He does hands-on science experiments every single week.  He can diagram sentences (maybe that doesn’t shock you, but in our school system I bet some kids graduating high school can’t do that.)  He can pick a subject of his liking each semester to study–this time it’s Civics, to go along with the presidential election coming up.  Next semester–The Civil War.  He’s reviewing Pre-Algebra and getting ready to go into Algebra 1.  He’s studying his second year of Spanish.  He devours History–he reads, studies maps and globes, records dates on timelines, and researches different topics online and in an encyclopedia.  For what it’s worth, he just started sixth grade.  If it sounds like I’m bragging, I am.  Not only does he do this stuff, he is proficient in it. 

I think the whole thing boils down the fact that people just assume  I am not smart enough to teach a child anything, except the lyrics to Pink Floyd songs, or maybe how to drive.  But here’s what I think–you don’t have to be a teacher to teach.  Teachers go to school to learn their facts, sure, but they also go to learn classroom management.  Teachers and students alike are gobbled up by our system, which is hopelessly flawed.

When the camel’s back finally broke last year, my son had reached a point where he was coming home and declaring that he hated school in general and science in particular.  That, folks, is a tragedy.  This is a kid who LOVES science, who studies it in his free time, for God’s sweet sake, and the teacher there managed to make him hate it in a few short weeks.  When I went to the parent/teacher conference, she was a pleasant woman who informed me that “Ian can always be counted upon to provide the correct answers when we are going over the work together in class.  He’s a great benefit to the slower children in the class.”

Hey, guess what?  I sent my kid to school to be challenged and to learn, not to teach the other kids.  Here’s a fact: the pace of the classroom must always match the pace of the slowest kid in that classroom.  Now, I mean no harm to the kids who have to struggle, but is it fair that my kid sits and stares into space, or “provides the answers” when necessary?  Oh, and don’t forget the test scores–we’ve got to have good standardized test scores, because that’s all that matters.  They were practicing writing prompts (a la West Test II) in science. 

I blame teachers and parents equally for allowing our system to become what it has, but ultimately I put all of that behind me.  I had to decide if I was going to keep fighting a losing battle while my son just kept getting older and more disdainful of education, or if I was going to take things into my own hands.  You know what I did.  For us, it was the right thing.  He’s learning, and yes, before anyone says it, he is here where I can keep my eyes on him.  No, I don’t think I can keep him sheltered forever, but I can put off some of that crap until he’s mature enough to stand up for himself and what he knows is right.  Peer influence is poison, but I’m not going to get into that now, because I could do a whole other post on that topic.

So maybe some people think homeschooled kids have it easy.  I’d love to hear my son’s response to that.  He has made the comment, “I wish I was back in school so I didn’t have to do anything!”  To me, that tells me everything I need to know.

And if you don’t like it?  Well, what can I say?  Oh, I know–piss off.

A Place for Everything…..

……and everything in its place. This is the doctrine of mildly compulsive people like yours truly.  And if I lived by myself and never allowed anyone else to enter my weird little world, then I wouldn’t have any problem upholding this belief.  However, I don’t live by myself.  What’s more, I happen to live in a house with certain others who not only don’t practice this belief, but actively oppose it.

We are forever looking for stuff.  I hate to point the finger of blame at specific people, but usually it’s The Grandmother’s fault. Everyone who knows her knows she is a very clean, very active person who is always piddling in something or straightening something.  Therein lies the problem.  She can walk by, say, a letter some innocent person  has clipped to a calendar page, and for some reason, the desire to move this letter to another location overcomes her.  She can’t even help herself.  Then along comes the innocent person looking for the letter, and it’s gone.  Here’s the kicker–The Grandmother can’t remember what she did with it. 

To be fair, the stuff usually turns up, albeit after an hour-long and extremely frustrating search, involving a lot of huffy silences periodically punctuated by increasingly snippy comments.  But we return to the question: Why did it have to be moved in the first place?

It’s not just The Grandmother.  This morning, for example, I went on Red Alert because my daughter’s shoes were missing.  I cannot even explain to you the extreme irritation I was experiencing.  First of all, it was approximately six in the morning, and let’s just say I’m not at my best early in the morning.  Second, I have a very rigid routine each school day, and I do not respond well to unexpected changes in this routine.  Clothes are laid out, lunch is packed, the back-pack is by the back door–all the night before.  We never over-sleep and we are never late. 

Well, all of that went right down the crapper this morning.  I went into the laundry room at the appropriate time to get Evelyn’s shoes, except guess what? No shoes.  I stood there for a minute like a complete dunce.  I didn’t even know what to do next.  I was literally paralyzed.  I mean, there really wasn’t anywhere else they could be.

Let me digress here for just a moment to say that people who know me talk about how organized I am and how they wish they were as organized as me.  What they don’t understand is that I have to keep things where they belong–if I don’t, I’m lost.  Yes, I always hang my keys on a hook inside the back door, because if I didn’t, I would never have my keys, ever!

Further digression: I have a friend, and she is a good person that I care deeply about, but she is the most scatterbrained, disorganized person I have ever seen in my life.  She has literally lost whole pairs of her son’s shoes, not to mention the time she lost his book bag.  I swear I am not making this up.  She loses her keys at least once a day.  I would kill myself.  My organization is little more than self-preservation.  It’s survival instinct in its most basic form.

Back to this morning:  no shoes.  The spot where they should be was ominously empty.  I looked in all of the other “shoes places,” though her shoes only ever sit in one place.  Still nothing.  Time was ticking–I could actually hear the seconds falling dead around me.  We went to a soccer game yesterday, and her father brought her in the house, and conceivably removed her shoes.  I had to call him on his cell phone at work and ask where the shoes were.  He hesitated for a moment, then said, “In the diaper bag.”

Great.

So I went upstairs and looked in the bag and hallelujah! There they were.  We made it to the bus stop with time to spare.

Still, my whole morning  routine was knocked askew by this blatant disregard of proper shoe placement.  Really, is it that hard to put shoes, or anything for that matter, back where they came from?  This is a battle I fear I will never win.  There are just too many people against me.  Sometimes I accuse them of purposely hiding things to make me think I’m crazy.  Maybe they are just keeping me balanced, so I’m not completely swallowed by my compulsion.  So, in other words, their refusal to stop touching my things and their inability to put things back where they belong are really just acts of love.

Or at least that’s what I keep telling myself. 

 

Teenage Nightmare

Contrary to popular belief, it hasn’t been all that long since I was a teenager.  I do actually still remember some of the details, though admittedly they are becoming fuzzier as time goes by.  There is also the possibility that I am just repressing the memories of that (not so) glorious time, and now that my own son is rapidly approaching that age, I begin to see why.

For one thing, the actual age bracket that constitutes a “teenager” seems to have stretched a little in the last twenty years or so.  I personally remember being a pre-teen around 13 or 14, and then a teenager.  Now there are tweens, which I think must be 10 and 11-year-olds, then apparently they jump from tweendom right into full adolescent idiocy. 

I speak as one who is attempting to parent one of these so-called tweens.  He is only 11.  Now, I have a sneaking feeling that I’m luckier than some, because my son is homeschooled, and therefore isn’t under quite as much pressure as his peers.  He still plays and laughs, and he’s not too embarrassed by me (unless we’re in public, or his friends are here, or the blinds are open, or it’s day time.) 

But there are some alarming warning signs.  For instance, he suddenly cares about his clothes.  Again, I am very thankful I don’t have to deal with a girl, because there would be tears.  Naked people in public disturb me, and when they are children, especially so.  I mean, do moms actually see that their daughter’s ass cheeks are out? Or their boobs?  Do they know that Tammy Faye is shocked by the amount of makeup these little girls are wearing?  As the mother of a (tween? pre-teen?) boy, my son is completely covered.  The bad news is that he completely covered by the ugliest clothes in the history of the universe. 

In the past, I’ve talked about how my ideas as a younger person were, in a word, stupid.  This is a good example.  I’ve always said when I had kids, I wasn’t going to get all wrapped up in clothes and hair, and that I would let them express themselves, as long as they weren’t naked.  

Crow tastes like shit, did anyone ever tell you?

Now my oldest is testing this to the limit.  I think his goal in life is to find clothing that bothers me on every level.  He has an uncanny ability to find the most hideous shoes known to man!  He goes in the shoe store and zooms right past reasonably attractive footwear, or at least ones that don’t trigger my gag reflex, and pops up with something that looks like it was dug up in a toxic waste dump.  And I, the hater of hypocrites, just smile and nod and pull out the ol’ checkbook.  His tee-shirts are okay, and mostly he prefers jeans, but the older he gets, the bigger he wants his jeans.  Why is that?  Eventually, I’ll be able to save money on the whole family–we’ll just all hop in my son’s jeans and set out together.  We will be able to use them as tent when we camp. 

Oh, and hats.  Don’t get me started on hats.  Even my younger, liberal, idiotic self always hated to see a guy with his hat on backward.  I didn’t get it.  I still don’t.  I happen to think my son is a handsome young man with lovely eyes and a great smile–then he puts that damn backwards hat on, and he might as well put a bag over his head.  I try not to say anything, because I absolutely believe that teenagers do what they do for the shock value, but sometimes, with the hat, I can’t help myself.  I’ll lean over to him and sort of whisper, like it’s a secret, “Hey! Psst! Your hat’s on backwards!”  He isn’t amused.

Just lately I’ve finally seen the surfacing of some of that teenage attitude.  There’s a lot of heavy sighs–once I was forced to ask him if he was having an asthma attack.  He hasn’t quite worked up the nerve to roll his eyes in front of me, but I know he’s tempted, and I figure when my back is turned, he rolls those big ol’ brown eyes just about right out of his head.  He’s getting this thing where he has to have the last word, and sometimes he goes off mumbling.  In other words, he’s pushing a little farther every day.

Some of you out there raising actual teenagers are probably rolling your eyes, too.  I know I “ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”  Some of my friends have girls the same age as my son, and they are already wearing makeup, shaving their legs, and dear God, they have boobs already!  What is that about? 

And some of them are so mean.  They are already getting into that catty, nasty, girl crap that I always hated, but I don’t remember dealing with it quite this early.  It alarms me.  These aren’t just girls who don’t have good role models or whatever–these are girls who I know have solid homes and stable family lives, but it’s almost like they have split personalities.  It makes me wonder about my own son, and how he acts when he isn’t with me. 

I guess my biggest fear is my own ability to deal with this whole teenager mess.  I’m a hormonal basket case myself–can the house really hold two of us?  I’ve never been world-renowned for my patience, even when I had hormones, so now I’m doubly dangerous.  I don’t think I can take door slamming and “I hate you’s” and all of the rest of the teenage drama.  What about when he starts dating, and, God help me, driving?  There aren’t enough pills in the world. 

I think I’ve freaked myself out a little.  Maybe I’d better quit while I’m ahead.  I know what will calm me down–Ian’s at soccer practice, so I’ll sneak outside and bury some hats.

Don’t Stand So Close to Me

I have personal space issues.

Before I get into that, though, let me give a nod to a fellow blogger I’ve recently discovered.  Check out Poop On A Hot Tin Slide–it’s a humorous look at a (not so) humorous condition, namely, a mom with OCD and serious germ-o-phobia.  Jo, the author, has some lists on there of some of the stuff she does, and as I’ve been reading it the past few days, I’ve had a lot of insight into my own personality disorders.  Have you ever heard the expression, “The inmates took over the asylum?”  The gist of it is that instead of the mentally well people making the mentally unwell people better, everyone ends up mentally unwell.  The shorthand version? Crazy is catching.

So anyway, I’ve been reading this great blog and laughing a lot, because the only other alternative is to cry.  I’ve started analzying some of my own little idosyncracies, and I came across another one today.

I went out by myself for a little while today, and one of my treats for myself once a month or so is a bean and rice wrap from Sheetz and some of that Green Machine juice.  So I was standing there waiting for my order, along with several other people, when suddenly the group was joined by a Space Invader.  Oh, you know what I’m talking about.

I wasn’t moving, just standing there, and here comes this guy, and he stood right beside me.  Now, it was fairly crowded, but not so much so that there wasn’t some other place for him to stand.  He was literally within a foot of my right arm. 

Don’t get me wrong–there wasn’t anything wrong with the guy or anything.  He wasn’t dirty or smelly or creepy or anything.  He was just a regular dude in tan shorts and a button-up shirt.  Obviously, though, he was a regular dude with no sense of anyone else’s personal space.  I could actually feel the waves of there-ness radiating off of him and hitting my right side.

Now I was in an uncomfortable situation.  My impulse, which was to flinch away and scuttle, crab-like, to the other side of the store, would have been quite rude.  I never want to hurt people’s feelings.  Like I said, it’s not like he was wiping his nose on my shirt or anything.  Still, I had to move.  He was a big, tall guy too, so that made his there-ness even worse.  His presence was literally buffeting me.  My body was acting on it’s own–I was fighting not to move away immediately.  I counted to ten in my head, and was that the slowest ten seconds ever, or what?!  Then I serupticiously wandered down the aisle behind me and pretended to be looking at the various snack foods.  I continued to wander aimlessly until my number was called, then I beat a hasty retreat to the sanctity of my van. 

I know, right? I know this is my problem, but I still wonder if some people are really that oblivious.  I think we should teach people from a very young age to respect a reasonable distance around others at all time, say six feet in all directions (give or take.)  This would, of course, make sporting events and concerts much more enjoyable, for me at least. 

I also can’t stand people who feel as though the only way their voice will penetrate your ears is if they have some sort of physical contact with you.  They have to put their hand on your arm or something in order to talk to you.  Trust me, my hearing is actually quite good, and I can hear you even if you are standing waaaayyyyy on the other side of the room.  Try it and I’ll show you!

Oddly enough, it really doesn’t bother me when my kids are close to me (as long as they don’t touch my face or hair.)  My daughter likes to sit right on top of me, and that’s fine.  She’s quite cuddly.  Of course my son is a pre-teen, so he’ s embarrassed if I’m in the same area code as him, and therefore the point is moot.  Hubby is fine, too, as long as I’m not over-heating, which unfortunately is pretty often.  We had a couple of really hot and humid nights right before the rain from Lee got here, and one night he rolled over and put his arm over me, and I said in this sort of devil-like voice, “I’m hot get your arm off of me!”  Sorry, babe.

Back to the Space Invader thing–they frequent check-out lines, too.  If you’re not careful, you can just be standing there, waiting in line and reading the covers of various tawdry magazines, and WHAM! one of them slips up and stands practically on your shoulders.  Shudder.  Luckily, I have found a pretty workable solution to this problem.  I stand in front of my own buggy in the check-out, thereby using it as a buffer between myself and the person behind me.  I also have good control over the space between me and the person in front of me, so there is an acceptable distance on all sides.  (I just have to remember to wipe the front rail of the cart as well as the handle when I first go in–but that’s another issue all together.)

So again, a big “thanks!” to Jo over at Poop on a Hot Tin Slide for reminding me that there are others out there who are as crazy……er…….unique as I am.  Oh, and also for freaking me out about the germs in my bath puff.

Money Saving Advice from a Compulsive Spender, Part 2

This is a continuation of my three-part series, “Money Saving Advice from a Compulsive Spender.”  Check out Part 1 if you missed it!

Part Two:  Shopping Skills for the Financial Idiot

In the first part of this little educational series, I talked about credit (or the lack thereof.)  Now I’m going to share some shopping skills I’ve picked up and that I’ve been refining the past couple of months.  My own personal goal has been to try to save money, which was only going to happen if I cut out some frivolous spending and shopped a little more wisely.  So that’s what I’ve been trying to do.

Ask Yourself: Do I REALLY need this?

  • If you ask yourself this question and answer honestly, I think you’ll be surprised how often the answer is “no.” A couple of months ago, I started to buy myself and iPod Touch.  I had a little extra money, and I thought, “Why not?”  Well, the better question was, “Why?”  I have an iPod Classic which I have had for several years, but here’s the thing: it works fine, it holds more data than the Touch, and in all honesty, I don’t use it all that much.  So why did I need it?  I didn’t.  Believe it or not, I didn’t buy it.  Yay me!
  • On a purchase like that, don’t buy it impulsively.  Wait a day or two.  I mean, it’s not like they’re going to quit making iPods or anything.  Think about why you want it.  Will you use it?  Try to be honest with yourself.  Lots of times you’ll talk yourself out of the purchase, and into a big savings.
  • Everyone likes nice things, but what are you willing to sacrifice to have them?  New shoes and fancy cars and all the latest techno gadgets are great, but are they worth damaging your credit, or taking away from a college savings?  Every time I look at something I’d like to have, I just tell myself, “I can have this neat little thing at The Grandparent’s house, or I can not have it in my own home in a couple of years.”  Let’s just say I don’t have to put a whole lot of thought into that choice.
  • In other words, give yourself a very specific goal.  Maybe you don’t want your kids to have to borrow money to go to college–that’s a great one.  Maybe you want to be able to retire sometime before your 147th birthday.  Maybe you want to buy (or build!) your forever home.  Whatever it is, decide on it and keep it in your mind.  For example, I have a stack of brochures from Lowe’s that have things like kitchen cabinets and bathtubs in them.  I keep them on the book-case beside my bed, along with the sketches of the house we’d like to build.  When I start getting bummed because we didn’t go to on a lake vacation this year, I just get those out and look through them and imagine my house.  It may sound silly, but it helps.

Shop Smart: Yes, I use coupons!

Even if you do cut out compulsive spending, there are still a LOT of things that you have to buy.  You may not be able to avoid buying them, but at least you can try to save as much as you can.

  • SHOP ALONE! This may sound funny, but I’m dead serious.  You might have heard people say not to take your kids along to the grocery store, but I’ll take it one step further: leave the spouse at home, too.  My husband is terrible about picking up random things in the grocery store and dropping them in the buggy.  He can turn even the most carefully planned shopping trip into so much smoking rubble.  Try to shop alone at all costs.  Make a list and stick to it.  Go through your cabinets and pantry thoroughly to avoid missing something that you’ll have to make another stop for later in the week.  Even worse–you’ll have to let your spouse run in after work to grab the forgotten item…..along with fifty bucks worth of “other stuff.”  I’m not great at planning meals, but try to keep staples on hand so you can come up with something on the fly.  You know what everyone likes.  Look at your calendar to see if there’s a day you know you’ll be gone all day and won’t feel like cooking, and plan accordingly.  It takes some getting used to, but if I can do it, so can you.
  • Well, here it goes—-coupons, coupons, coupons!  I don’t do the extreme couponing thing, because it doesn’t seem practical to me, but I do use coupons every single week.  If in doubt, clip it out!  To step it up a notch, look through the sale papers every Sunday, and match coupons to sales.  Hold on to the coupons for a while before you use them (unless there’s a great deal!) because sometimes an item will go on sale a couple of weeks after the coupon came out.  You can check out The Coupon Mom, a great site that lists sales by store and state, and tells you if there are coupons to go along with it.  Still, check out the sale papers yourself, and keep your coupons organized, because I have found some that she missed.
  • Like I said, I don’t do extreme couponing.  I’ve never bought 100 of anything.  Still, if I get a really good coupon, sometimes I will stock up.  You can actually buy pre-clipped coupons from sites like The Coupon Clippers, which is the one I use, for a few cents.  This may sound strange, but some people buy four or five Sunday papers, which is much more costly than just ordering the coupons.  I never spend more than three or four dollars a week, or around 15 dollars a month.  I got five Wisk coupons that were $2.00 off.  I love Wisk, and we use a ton of laundry detergent around here.  Wisk went on sale at Dollar General for $4.00.  (It’s $4.97 at Wal-Mart.)  So I bought five.  I saved a lot more than I spend on the coupons, and that’s just on the Wisk. 
  • Having said that, be wise with your coupon shopping.  Sometimes, even on-sale items are still cheaper at Wal-Mart.  Some people don’t like Wal-Mart, but my purse dictates my shopping.  Know the prices of the things you buy most often.  You may be able to use your coupons at Wal-Mart and get it cheaper, even if it is on sale somewhere else.  The only exception is Kroger, which doubles coupons that are 50 cents or less. 
  • That’s another point–know your store’s coupon policy.  For example, Kroger does that doubling thing, but only paper coupons.  They do NOT double the electronic coupons you can load to your Kroger shopping card at kroger.com.  The electronic coupon comes off first, so then you can’t use your paper coupon, and therefore can’t double it. 
  • Don’t buy a bunch of stuff you aren’t going to use.  Health and beauty stuff usually has the best deals, but still, if you don’t use it, you wasted the money, even if it was a big sale.  That’s where I don’t really get the extreme couponing thing.  One woman bought all of these cat treats because she got them for like fifty cents or something, but guess what?  She didn’t have a cat.  Enough said.
  • Put off back-to-school shopping until after school starts.  Your kids should have some warm-weather clothes from the end of school the previous year, and it will still be warm when school starts.  Let them start in those.  Then in a few weeks, there will be more selection and sometimes much better prices on jeans and tennis shoes and the like.  You don’t have to buy your kids a whole new wardrobe every year at school time!
  • Though this doesn’t have anything to do with coupons or shopping, it is a pet peeve of mine.  Have clothes and shoes that are designated for school or going out, and clothes and shoes that are play clothes. Why oh why would you pay thirty or forty dollars (or more!) for a pair of tennis shoes, and then let your kids go outside and wade in the creek and tramp through the mud in them?  DUH! At least they can maybe get a little more wear out of them.

If you’ve managed to stick with me this far, then stay tuned for the final installment, Save it, then keep your filthy paws out of it!

(I promise once I’ve finished this, I’ll go back to my usual standard of pointless ranting and smart-assery.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Money Saving Advice from a Compulsive Spender, Part 1

I couldn’t really call myself a compulsive shopper–that phrase just doesn’t quite seem to fit me.  I don’t have a hundred pairs of shoes or thirty pairs of jeans (in fact, I have three.)  Clothes in general don’t interest me, and I don’t really spend all of my money on one particular item.

And yet…..

I (and certain other members of my household) have spent far too long carelessly throwing money around on stupid crap.  I have always had a sort of “I don’t care” attitude.  If one of us wanted something, and we had the money, we bought it.  We used credit cards recklessly, and jumped into vehicle payments that could have been avoided. 

Now, however, times are a-changin’.  I never really had financial goals, and to me financial planning consisted of deciding which type of laptop computer I wanted to buy when we got our income tax refund.  Now I have a goal, and it’s a serious one.  I want to build a house. 

For those who don’t know, we live in the house that belongs to The Grandparents.  We came here because I had to start taking care of my sister full-time, and the house we owned was a teeny little thing which was completely inappropriate for a wheelchair.  So we came here nine years ago.  In that nine years, I have changed the way I think about a lot of things.  It’s no fun living in someone else’s house, no matter how self-sufficient you are.  You can pay the utilities, care for the home, and care for the people in it, but ultimately, it will never, ever be your house. Anyway, owing to a set of various circumstances, we are about to close on a piece of property in a neighboring county closer to hubby’s job.  That piece of land has become an obsession, and friends and neighbors, believe me when I say it:  I am a woman on a mission.

Here’s the bad news–my previously loosey-goosey attitude toward finances has left us with virtually no savings and only fair credit.  In short, we can get most loans, but we don’t get very favorable rates, and over the course of a thirty year mortgage, that can mean literally tens of thousands of dollars.  So it’s time to turn over a new leaf, and for the past couple of months, I’ve been doing just that.  It’s been hard, but it’s happening slowly.  I’ve given myself a two-and-a-half to three-year time line.  In the mean time, I’ve decided to share some basic pointers that I’ve put into practice.  Now, normally this type of post would be for someone else’s blog, but I’m taking this seriously, and I’ve had a fair amount of success.  Also, I figure if a financial nitwit like me can save money, anyone can.  So follow along–there will be a test (not really.)

Point One: Know Your Credit

  • Don’t think about your credit much? Start now.  That magic number, aka your credit score, makes or breaks you.  It’s as simple as that.  Everyone is entitled to one free credit report from all three credit bureaus once a year.  Check out www.annualcreditreport.com and look at yours from Transunion, Experian, and Equifax.  There is an option for disputing errors on each report, and you should check all of the information carefully and correct any mistakes, even small ones.  You’d be surprised how many errors there can be on your report.
  • Although this sort of qualifies as a “duh” statement, try to pay your bills on time, every time.  Medical bills that get turned over to collection agencies pop on your credit report and hurt your score.  Note: If you accept a lower “settlement” agreement on a medical bill, that is listed on your report as derogatory account, because you settled for a lesser amount than you actually owed. It’s better to make payment arrangements with the hospital or doctor’s office than to just let it go.
  • Do not let people check your credit over and over.  Every time someone makes an inquiry, it damages your score.  If you are shopping for a mortgage or car loan, you can make as many checks as you need in a thirty-day period and it will only count as one; however, if you apply for that Kohl’s card to receive a discount at the register, that is an inquiry and it hits your score. Don’t do it.
  • Pay your student loans!  This is voice of experience speaking here!  It’s tempting to defer them or get a forbearance, but once again, that hurts your score.  Now that everyone is getting a little wiser, most people are advising against even getting government loans for college at all.  Good advice for our kids, but too bad for us, I guess.  Furthermore, student loans are exempt from bankruptcy.  In other words, you will have it until you pay it off.  Period.
  • Do NOT fall for any scams or offers that tell you your credit score can be raised by some massive amount in a short period of time.  The only way to raise your score is to correct errors and keep your accounts current, and both of things are free.

Point Two: If your credit already sucks

  • Again, try to start keeping your bills current.  However, if you are in completely over your head, consider filing bankruptcy.  Now, before you automatically say “No!” let me just say you should at least check into it.  If you are so far over your head with debt, especially credit card debt, there may be no other way to get out.  If you think you can pay it off, then by all means do, but let’s keep it honest here.  If you could manage money well enough to repay all of that debt, you probably wouldn’t have it in the first place!  You may think bankruptcy ruins your credit, but here’s a news flash for you–it’s already ruined if you don’t pay your bills, and every month you are behind, it just keeps getting worse.  It’s not for everyone, but like I said, don’t assume it isn’t for you until you at least do a little research and review your own situation.
  • If you’re trying to rebuild your credit, the bad news is that the only way to build credit is to have credit, and that’s how most of us messed up the first time around.  Still, it’s a necessary evil.  Shop around for a credit card with no annual fee, preferably unsecured if you can mange it.  I got one for me and one for hubby.  We each use it once a month, for a tank of gas, say, or one trip to the store, then pay the balance when the statement comes out.  That’s it.  I don’t carry it with me except for the day I plan to use it, then I put back in my jewelry box and leave it there.  Only get a card, though, if you are serious about improving your credit and can keep from using it all the time.  Don’t kid yourself into thinking you can use it for an emergency or when your checkbook is a little low, because you’ll just end up using it all the time, and you’ll end up right where you started.  Also, try not to carry a balance, but it also doesn’t do you any good if you don’t ever use it.  You need to show that you can use it responsibly and pay your payments on time.
  • I’ll say it again–pay your student loans!  They can’t be discharged in a bankruptcy, and the only solution is to pay them. 
  • Pay your utilities on time.  Although they don’t show up on your credit report that I know of, if you get some kind of a judgement against you from the phone company or something, that can show up on there, and also, you can use your utilities as credit references when you apply for a mortgage loan.
  • Don’t get in over your head with your car payment.  Let me tell you, I could write a book about this one.  I’m still battling this, as I have two years left on my van, which of course is worth WAAAAAYYYYYY less than what I owe on it.  Repeat after me:  negative equity is not your friend.  I have a double whammy on this one, because I ALSO have hubby’s truck payment.  With that not so great credit, we didn’t get a very good rate, so the payments are too high.  Here’s the kicker–neither of us really needed a new vehicle.  We could both still be easily driving the vehicles we traded in (for a loss, no less) on these, and we wouldn’t have this mind-numbing dollar amount to pay out in car payments each month.  By far, this is the largest financial thorn I have in my side right now.  I will NEVER be in this shape again.  I advise you not to get into it in the first place.  You’ll be sorry.

Okay, this post is getting painfully long, so I’ll conclude part one.  My biggest hope is that someone else can learn from my (many) mistakes.  Remember, credit is a lot easier to maintain than to fix once it’s destroyed!

Stay tuned for Part 2:  Shopping Skills for the Financial Idiot.

 

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