Sunday, August 31, 2008
They were happy to log on to Webkinz but the baby kept trying to run off and nobody wants to watch me type. I can't imagine why. At least Hubby got his work done. I want to say my stuff is just as important but, until I'm pulling in the bucks blogging, it's just not true.
We spent Shabbat quietly, if you can say that while 3 kids and one neighbour child run in circles from the living room through the kitchen, down the hall, through the master bedroom and back through the living room screaming at the top of their lungs. We were quiet; they weren't.
Today we did a ton of yard work. I can tell how unseasonably rainy it has been here because both front and back yards were green, actually greener than our front yard in Vancouver! But that also meant everything had grown really high.
We're going to drive back to the city some time tomorrow, but right now we're heading home to have my birthday dinner of lamb chops with mushrooms, potatoes and peas, with a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Friday, August 29, 2008
Things change. My Eldest Daughter is working the whole long weekend at the PNE and our son-in-law always works weekends so, if we want to go away, we have to take the girls. Son-in-Law's father isn't coming to town this weekend, so there's no bathroom renovation in sight. And the holiday weekend isn't convenient for my big kids to come and have a party with me.
So, I think we're going to come back sometime in the middle of the day on Monday. I'm really hoping for good weather, so we can take the girls to the lake and fill the little pool in the back yard. We have a bunch of work to do at the house but I'm not sure how much will get done seeing as we're going to have the baby. How much flooring do you suppose I'll be able to lay with her "help"?
Anyway I'm looking forward to a couple of days at the house. It's always relaxing, even when we end up doing lots of house and yard work. And this is the last weekend we'll probably have there for quite a while. We might go for Sukkot again, like we did last year, but it becomes impossible to get there before Shabbat starts when the days start to get significantly shorter (and especially once we change the clocks back). Then we can go after Shabbos is over, but we still have to leave to come back around dinner time on Sunday. Nine hours driving and over a tank of gas just to have the one day at home is tough. Add snow in the mountain passes and we really only go once every couple of months or so.
I can't believe I just started talking about snow. What I want for this weekend is blue sky, warm weather (not boiling hot, just nice), time to relax and some good food and wine.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Now I'm not 100% finished, but he was getting tired of it and I didn't want to push it. There's just a little left to trim around his face, near his ears and his tail. He hates having his tail even touched, let alone trimmed. The whole time I was cutting he had his tail curled so tightly downward that you couldn't tell he had a tail!
What did this accomplish? It was bonding time for us. I kept cuddling him and telling him what a good boy he was and he loved that. Dog doesn't look all shaggy anymore. I improved my dog grooming skills. He's not going to get covered in sticky burrs when we go to the house this weekend. And I saved $54! Gotta like that.
The other stuff I did was all work related. I finally finished some complicated financial reporting and got some other backed up work done. I mailed a number of tribute cards and organized some more work for tomorrow. Only a day and a half of work before we go to the house for the long weekend. When I get back to work my co-worker will be back from her 3 week vacation and I'm pretty happy about that!
So I didn't get to the gym and I haven't miraculously lost 10 pounds. I've got about another 9 months of paid membership at the gym. Sooner or later I'll get there. It's just not likely to be before my birthday.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
I worked all day, picked up Eldest Daughter from work and then we went home to switch cars and take 2/3 of the girls shopping for school clothes. The baby isn't going to school so she didn't get to come. We went to a big mall (Metrotown) and spent about 3 hours hitting Old Navy, Baby Gap, The Disney Store and The Children's Place. My ED got plenty of clothes for her daughter and I got more than enough for DC.
The biggest problem is that DC is very petite and it's hard to get skirts or dresses that fit her and still cover her knees. One denim skirt she tried on that fit lengthwise was about 3 or 4 inches too big in the waist! It basically just fell off her.
We hit the stores in the order I listed them in and there was really very little that fit her at Old Navy so I bought some things that I wasn't overly crazy about, just because they fit. I got a couple of nicer dresses at Baby Gap. Then we got to The Disney Store, where they were having a 50% off sale on a lot of items. I bought a couple of tops, an overall dress and a beautiful jumper type dress (okay, that one was full price). But the Children's Place was the prize!
They had 6x/7 skirts that were long enough and yet had easily adjustable waists. We got 3 in corduroy and one denim. Four long sleeved tops in mix and match colours. Four pairs of co-ordinating tights. Next time we go to The Children's Place first!
Now, my biggest problem is that I want to take some of the other stuff back and DC is freaking out. But really, some of it just doesn't measure up or it doesn't match colourwise with her other stuff. I think 2 dresses and one skirt will go back at an absolute minimum.
All in all, I'm really pleased with the things I found and DC is set for the fall and most of the winter too (though she'll need boots and a couple of warmer tops or sweaters later).
Monday, August 25, 2008
I did that for years when my big kids were small and the only problem was that it was a rented place. When we moved out, we lost all those cool reminders of how small everybody had been at one time.
We got DC a new backpack, shaped and coloured like a bee. It's cute and waterproof and it doesn't have to be huge or incredibly sturdy yet because it'll be another year before she starts shlepping books and other supplies back and forth. This backpack needs to basically serve as a place to hold her lunch and it will do that with room to spare. I also picked up a couple of juice boxes with pink lids at the dollar store for her and my 3 yo granddaughter who is going to go to preschool 2 days a week.
Before I get too excited about having 2 of them in school, let me say that this means I'll only have the 17 month old on her own for about an hour once a week before it's time for us to walk up the hill in all kinds of Vancouver weather (rain, heavy rain, pouring rain) all winter to pick the older one up because it's only a half day. The other day that she's in school is one of the days her dad is home with the kids. This means he's really not going to be looking after DC anymore, other than picking her up from school on Thursdays and Fridays.
My Dear Child, on the other hand, is going to be in school from 8:30 am to 4 pm 5 days per week (early dismissal on Fridays excepted). That also means she's only going to be hanging out with her nieces for a couple of hours on each of those 2 days instead of being with them all day every day. It's going to be a big change for everybody.
She's still not going to bed early enough or getting up early enough, although she has been waking a little earlier, around 7:30 to 8 am, as opposed to 8:30 to 9:30 am previously. I really think she's going to have to be up by 7 am in order to have a hope of making it to school by 8:30 am. That includes waking up (not easy for a night owl), eating, dressing, brushing teeth and having her hair done in about an hour and then getting out to the car and into her car seat. I think lunches are going to have to be made the night before. I've been asking her, but she still can't tell me what she wants to eat in her lunches.
They aren't allowed to bring peanut butter or any other nut products into the school. She won't eat a cheese sandwich. She sometimes eats cream cheese and she went through a phase where she wanted a ketchup sandwich (yes, that's just bread and ketchup) although I think she may be over that, thank goodness. Aside from the cost ($19.99/lb) I'm not planning on giving her meat sandwiches. She rarely eats them and she'd hate not being able to have any dairy products for 6 hours in the middle of the day. I don't think there's a rule prohibiting meat, like some day schools have, but it just doesn't make sense for her.
What does that leave? Well she ate a jam sandwich the other day. Not my idea of the healthiest thing she could have. And she might eat tuna, although it has to be kept cold because of the mayo. Not sure if she'll eat an egg salad sandwich (same issue about keeping it cold). I guess I could try alternating all those for the first couple of weeks and then see what she's willing to keep eating. The thing is, she's just not keen on sandwiches, soft tacos, hamburgers, etc. She prefers toast, but I don't see how she can eat that in a school lunch.
But the weather has been weird lately. It started off nice one day so I went to work in a thin skirt and a tshirt with 3/4 length sleeves. When I finished work it was pouring rain and I had to run for it. At least I had the car that day. Then another day it was raining in the morning, so I dressed more warmly and wore my waterproof jacket. By the time I left it was sunny and hot (and this was a day I was walking and taking the bus). I actually left the jacket at work so I wouldn't boil.
Today, of course, it was pouring rain. My in-laws came over for a visit. Boo Boo had a nap, I fed the girls and then got them ready to go out and run errands. Hey, if it wasn't nice enough to go to the PNE then we had to go shoe shopping for our Dear Child for school.
So we went to Payless and got her 2 pairs of school shoes on a BOGO sale. She got Tinkerbell runners with velcro closures for her gym and outside shoes, and a pair of flat black shoes with a little strap for inside shoes. We tried on pretty well every pair of girls' size 9 shoes (and a few of the 8 1/2's) before settling on those. Many of the shoes I thought would be good DC turned down flat. She said a lot of them hurt the bottom of her feet, a couple were tight and 2 pair were loose enough that her heel slid up and down when she walked (those were the ones where we also tried 8 1/2's). The 2 pair she chose were the only ones that left a smile on her face when she walked up and down the aisle in the store.
We bought a few other little things: juice boxes and a bottle brush at a dollar store and a Webkinz on sale 30% off. Then we drove to IKEA. I finally found the receipt for the mirror I returned and I wanted to get the store credit they'd given me transferred back to my credit card to pay it off in full. Except that they will only do that within 45 days of purchase and I was several months too late. So I'm stuck with my store credit and have to pay the credit card off myself. Actually, stuck with store credit is not a good way to put it. This is IKEA. I could spend $166 and some odd cents in a heartbeat. Maybe I'll buy the 2 Hemnes mirrors I want for the other house now that they've gone down to $79 each. I'd just have to pay a few bucks towards the taxes for them. And I always need more Billy bookshelves.
Then we went to Linens 'n Things. I had a duvet cover and shams that I'd bought (again, months ago) but never used and I wanted to return it and get drapes for the living room here in the city. Second verse, same as the first. I didn't have my receipt so I got my refund on a store credit but it gets worse. They give you the lowest price the item has been offered for at any time in the previous 6 months, regardless of what you actually paid for it. I paid $59.99 and got back $29.99 as a result (actually $33 or so with taxes).
I ended up with 2 Dupioni silk panels (on sale), a picture frame to replace one of my husband's that broke, a car air freshener and a small candle (DC buys one pretty much every trip). I used 2 of the 20% off coupons that come with the Sunday paper and the store refund. I forgot to buy a curtain rod so we can actually put the panels up.
When we finished up at Linen 'n Things it had stopped raining so we conferred a bit back and forth with Eldest Daughter and eventually decided to go home to pick up son-in-law and we spent the entire evening at the fair. ED was finished work by the time we got there so she also came around with us.
We had a great time. I bought a skirt for $9.99 in the Marketplace (in addition to going on most of the kiddie rides that allow parents) and the girls won a couple of small stuffed toys. But I'm exhausted now and have to leave early tomorrow for work because I agreed to drop ED off at the store where she usually works before I go to work for 8:30 am. She has to go there to restock their booth at the PNE. Anyway, gotta go before I fall asleep at the computer again.
Friday, August 22, 2008
We had the girls all evening until after 11 pm. My DC and Boo Boo were asleep but my other granddaughter was still wide awake. She didn't even want to go upstairs when her folks got home. It's nice to be popular but I'm getting pretty tired, between working all day and then looking after little ones.
I didn't have the energy to do much for dinner, so it was 2 packages of Wacky Mac with cherries for dessert. I knew it would be popular with the girls but we practically had to restrain Dog. He was sneaking closer and closer to the girls, hoping for an unguarded instant when he could get at somebody's dish. We told him to take a hike, so he went to the kitchen and got a stick of butter off the counter! Dog is a miniature poodle for goodness sake. I have yet to figure out how he's getting things off the counter.
He's talented, Dog is. He's started to play football with my Hubby and DC. They throw it and he jumps up and grabs it with both front paws! He isn't always able to hold on, but he does manage it some of the time. And now he's started to "throw" it back by shoving it with his face when it's in his paws. Then it sort of shoots out from his paws back towards the person who just threw it to him.
Tomorrow I have to go pick up grape juice and challah, although I did the rest of the shopping earlier in the week. I'd rather have wine, but there's about an $8 difference between wine and grape juice and that will more than cover the cost of my lunch. If they had more choices I might have gone for wine and packed a lunch.
Or, if I had a brain, I could have bought some wine in the States last Sunday before I came back home. Even in the grocery store in Seattle they had kosher chardonnay and shiraz from Australia! In BC there's Manischewitz, a French wine and a few Israeli ones. Just wait until I start making wine in quantities big enough to sell it via BCLCB. It's going to be kosher, from BC and made with organic grapes! They'd better stock it!
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Today really rocked. I went to the bank with the $786.82 cheque I received yesterday, deposited it and updated my passbook. My paycheque was Direct Deposited this morning and it was a couple of hundred dollars more than usual, due to the extra hours I put in last week.
My goal for today was to pay a bunch of bills that have been hanging around. I made a list and really gave it a good try but I didn't manage to complete every item on my list. Let's look at what I did accomplish however.
I paid Fido the last $25.11 I owed them and they are now officially history. Good riddance!
I wrote a cheque to my Eldest Daughter for two months worth of our share of the utilities and cable and Dear Child's swimming lessons from last month.
I logged on to my credit card account and totalled up all the money I charged last month (a couple of small grocery purchases) and on my trip to Seattle last weekend. I also added the amount of interest that appeared on the statement and paid that total.
I opened a new sub-account on ING named Home Depot and put in the $384.74 that will be due in January. I thought about just paying it off early but decided that I wanted the interest I'd earn between now and 5 months from now.
I paid IKEA the difference between the amount owing on my statement and the amount of the store credit I have. I had hoped to drive out to IKEA and get them to transfer the store credit back to my credit card today (because I finally found the missing receipt that showed I'd charged the mirror I returned on my IKEA card). But the traffic southbound on Knight Street was nasty after I got off work so I just went home and I couldn't get motivated to go out again in the rain later on.
I called Bell about the problems I've been having trying to link to my account and access my bill. The girl I talked to gave me the last piece of data I needed to input in order to complete the link. So I went online and tried yet again but got a message that they were having "technical difficulties" when I was about halfway through the process. Then I spent a while filling out a contact form asking for help or for them to fax hard copies of the 2 bills to my office. Is it so terrible that I just want to look at the charges before I pay them? But I still love my BlackBerry! They're supposed to contact me within the next 48 hours, so I'm hoping I'll be able to check this off my list very soon.
Anyway, that was my list of successes and I'm really proud of everything I accomplished today.
After I deposit my cheque and update my passbook (it's also payday on Wednesday) I should pay some bills! This will be a big cheque and the next one will be too. I have this big retroactive payment, plus I'll be getting 2 more government cheques within the next few days. So, I'm going from broke to having a nice chunk of change pretty abruptly.
What's the plan for spending it? I have 2 months of utilities at the city house to pay, I need to make a payment on my credit card, I want to either pay off the next amount owing on the Home Depot card or put the cash for that into ING so it's available when it comes due some time in January. Even more than that is the payment that will be due in February. It's about $1,400 and I have nothing saved for it yet. That means I should be trying to put away at least $200/month. Good luck. I've been in the red mostly by the end of each month.
And then again, there's a little more money owed to the school for supplies and books and I still need to get DC some new skirts and 2 pairs of shoes. I ran into her teacher today when I went down to the cafe for lunch and she said they should be really easy to put on and take off because they change shoes so often (when school starts and for each of the 3 recesses thereafter and again to go home). Basically, that spells velcro.
There are so many possibilities for spending the money. I just have to make sure I pay off and pay down as much as possible and that I don't leave myself short for anything I've already committed myself to (like the tuition payment).
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
We would sit for several minutes at a time and then move ahead a few car lengths. Sit and move. Sit and move. I turned off the engine every time we stopped and just started up when the guy 2 or 3 cars ahead actually moved. It was a warm day so we had the 2 front windows down and the back side vents open but it's hard to get good air flow through a van when you're stopped.
Luckily the 2 younger ones slept for at least an hour and a half of the border wait and there wasn't much in the way of fussing or whining. Getting through the border was quick once we got to the front of the line even though I was driving my kids' car and had my child and 2 grandkids with me.
We headed right in to Blaine and filled up on gas (just under $100 to fill the tank) and got some crackers and drinks. The rest of the trip was a breeze, except for the part where Boo Boo (the 17 month old) barfed just outside of Bellingham. Luckily it was one of the few areas with a really wide shoulder area, so I pulled off, cleaned her up with baby wipes and got back on the road. She fell asleep again shortly afterwards and was fine for the rest of the trip.
It was fun staying at my friend's house. All but one of her kids was home from school, etc. so it was a really good visit. I got to see her eldest daughter and son-in-law and their baby, who is at the point of wanting to stand and bouncing because he wants to walk (a large part of the motivation for the trip). And my friend's youngest is a girl just over a year older than my Dear Child, so all 4 little girls had a riot together. The 3 bigger ones spent an inordinate amount of time on the trampoline (a fully enclosed one with about 6 foot high screening). They jumped and did drop sits and also just laid around on it talking and playing. The baby kept wanting to try it for the first day but every time she got on she remembered that she couldn't keep her balance with the others on it and wanted right back off. Then she'd go cruise around the house.
Shabbat was great. Good food, good company. We all went to shul in the morning and Boo Boo walked all the way (6 blocks, a couple of them long and hilly)! I was a little worried she'd stage a sit down and strand me somewhere in the middle but we made it there with absolutely no problem. (We don't carry on the Sabbath in an area that doesn't have a special type of enclosure called an eruv, including not carrying babies or pushing strollers. It can mean a long trip if a child gets partway and doesn't want to continue. Some parts of Seattle have an eruv but not where we were, although it's in the works.) She and her sister, along with my DC went to a special children's program and had a good time. Then they came upstairs to the women's section just in time to hear the 10 Commandments during the Torah reading.
There was a great lunch downstairs and they all ate plenty. Boo Boo did really well on the way home too, although the last block uphill was tough and she was putting her arms up to be picked up. She made it though, and we were clapping and cheering for her as she climbed the steps to the house! What a big girl! It was a hot afternoon and she and I (and another friend of mine) all sacked out on the huge sectional at one point for a couple of hours.
Sunday was a big fun outing to Pacific Science Center with my friend, her 2 youngest, the 3 little girls and my Eldest Daughter (who was in Seattle at a trade show but got the morning off). We spent a long time enjoying all the hands on activities. The oddest and freakiest thing we did was pet a giant cockroach as long as the Science Center employee's hand! It was totally tame, just sitting there for people to see and touch. I can tell you, if I saw him in my kitchen I sure wouldn't be petting him, but I'd probably need a hammer or something like that to take him out! If I tried to step on him, he'd probably carry me off!
We had the best time in the butterfly house. It's absolutely beautiful and my friend took some great pictures of the various butterflies. (If she can email me some of the photos I'll edit this to add them.) It has double entry and exit doors, manned by staff, and you have to twirl around and check yourself in a mirror just to make sure none of the butterflies escape. The gift shop was also popular with DC and my older granddaughter getting stuffed butterfly keychains to remember the butterfly house. The baby got a placemat and a screaming monkey toy that had us in hysterics. My girlfriend also bought a screaming monkey for her house!
Afterwards we went for lunch at one of Seattle's two kosher Chinese food places. You order stuff like sweet and sour chicken, but it's really all tofu based. There's no meat, but it tastes totally real. Then we had to drop Eldest Daughter back at the Convention Center and headed back to the house. I had read Nickel and Dimed over Shabbos and wanted to do a review while I could still refer back to the book. Then it was time to pack up and head home. We didn't leave until after rush hour because the drive from Seattle to Everett can be brutal then. This time the trip back took 3 hours, including about 20 minutes at the Truck Crossing. Again, no problem crossing, especially since we'd been down 2 days and only came back with $20 worth of stuff from the Science Center and a few (very cool) dresses my friend's daughter had outgrown.
I spent about $100 on gas, $25 on miscellaneous food (including a 1/2 gallon of milk for the baby), $10 for parking at the Science Center and $54 for lunch out for 3 adults and kids ages 12, 6, 5, 3 and 17 mos. Eldest Daughter paid the admission to the Science Center and for the stuff from the gift shop. So, the trip cost roughly $200, most of which went on the credit card because I'll both get paid and get all the government money I'm expecting on Wednesday. But we had tons of fun, got to see lots of friends and had a chance to do something with Eldest Daughter while she was away! Oh yes, and there's still 1/2 a tank of gas in the van, about a 1/4 tank more than I started with. Was it worth it? Absolutely!
Sunday, August 17, 2008
I read Trent's review (written back in 2006) of this book some time ago but only just had the chance to read the book for myself this weekend at my friend's house. So, what did I think of it?
First of all, the book is a journalist's investigation of what it's like to be a woman in America who is stuck working for minimum wage. I liked the premise of the book, that the author actually moved to three different locations in the United States and worked in them at different low-paying jobs. In a way, it reminded me of Black Like Me, where the author darkened his skin and actually lived as a person of colour in the Southern US to experience racism firsthand.
Actually becoming the person you are writing about, finding accomodations, getting work and socializing as a member of the group you are investigating is very powerful. You learn things that you would never learn by interviewing a group of women who work below the poverty line. For one thing, you start to feel the emotions that a person in that situation would feel. You feel their exhaustion and their pain. If you're a good enough writer you can then turn your experience into a compelling read.
Barbara Ehrenreich is the author of a dozen books and writes very well for the most part. There are, however, certain issues and biases she brings into her experiences that disrupt the flow of the narrative, especially towards the end of the book.
The book opens with an introduction that explains how she came to write the book and the rules that she created for herself regarding the types of jobs she would look for, which job out of multiple opportunities she would accept and the accomodations she would seek out. She allowed herself to have a vehicle (either her own or a Rent-a-Wreck) and didn't take the cost of the rental out of her wages. She said she did this because it wouldn't have been very interesting to read a book about constantly taking the bus, as though that would have somehow hidden the story she was trying to write about. I think it would have made it far more genuine, since a person in her situation would very likely be stuck with either the bus or a beater purchased for a few hundred dollars. Lastly, Ehrenreich ruled out being homeless during the experiment (which was to last for at least a month in each of three locations).
Serving in Florida. Ehrenreich started off in Florida, very close to her own home. She looked at trailer homes but they were out of her price range, so she ended up in a $500/month efficiency that was essentially a cabin in someone's yard.
She applied for about 20 jobs out of the want ads, mostly for housekeeping or supermarket positions but got no call backs except for the one at Winn-Dixie, where she decided that $6.20/hr isn't "enough" money for her to put up with the indignity of submitting to a urine test. Interestingly, her stance on this and other things will change over time.
Eventually, she applies for a housekeeping job but is offered a waitressing spot at the hotel's restaurant that pays $2.43/hr plus tips for a 10 hour day. Amazingly, under the Fair Labor Standards Act employers don't have to pay "tipped employees" more than $2.13/hr (although they are supposed to "top up" their pay to minimum wage if tips are insufficient to bring them to or above that point).
Most of the people she works with here are living in small apartments with multiple roommates, small trailers, motels (where they pay an exhorbitant rate) or in cars, vans or on boats. When another worker says she might move into the nearby Days Inn ($40 to $60 day) Ehrenreich discovers that this is considered far more reasonable (on $2.43/hour remember!) than the idea of taking an apartment. How is one to come up with the month's rent and deposit on an apartment all at once? And, once you're in a motel room or living out of your vehicle, how do you cook or store food? That means fast food for the most part, far more expensive than buying food and cooking it.
After 2 weeks of work she realizes that she's not going to have enough for the following month's rent unless she gets a 2nd job, yet another waitressing spot. She lasts 2 days working 2 consecutive shifts, then quits the first job. Since she can't afford her rent she moves to a small trailer in trailer park, using up her $200 emergency fund to do so. She gets another 2nd job, this time in housekeeping and plans to try to combine these 2 jobs for a while but a truly horrible day at the restaurant ends with her just walking out of the place before the end of her shift. The nicest thing she does after moving out of the trailer is to arrange to transfer her deposit to a co-worker from the first restaurant (who has been living in her truck).
Scrubbing in Maine. This time she moves to Maine and gets a job working with a maid company along the lines of Molly Maids as well as a job at a nursing home on the weekends and takes a room at a Motel 6 for $59/night until she can get into a motel that charges only $120/week. The nursing home job pays $7/hr and gives her most of her weekend meals. The maid service pays $6.65/hour although they charge their clients $25/hour!
She discusses in great detail how hard the cleaning job is, with a high risk of injury (for example, knee problems from scrubbing floors on hands and knees) but the thing that really gets to me in this section of the book is the realization that most of the cleaning they do has very little to do with actually getting things clean and everything to do with how they look and smell afterwards. I'm less interested in ever hiring cleaners, assuming I could afford to do so. The other unpleasant notes in this section have to do with the distrust of employers who bait video camera traps with money or other valuables and the apparent caste system that allows convenience store workers to look down on or even ignore a uniformed maid.
Selling in Minnesota. This is the segment of the book I disliked the most. First Ehrenreich took a job at Wal-Mart, working in the ladies department and initially takes a room for $245/week in what she describes as the worst motel in America. This segment is ultimately derailed by Ehrenreich's distaste for Wal-Mart and her efforts to promote unionization although it provides an interesting look at the nitty gritty of how clothing is constantly being sorted, hung, folded or otherwise arranged for the consumer. She never finds affordable accomodation and a potential 2nd job at a supermarket falls through, so she throws in the towel.
Is this a book worth reading? I finished reading the book in a state of shock over the kind of substandard housing most minimum wage earners seem to live in, at least in the United States but the long Wal-Mart rant really ruined the book for me. It did make me very aware of how close to disaster many people are. A lost job, a crashed car, an illness with expensive medication and lots of time off work could propel a lot of people into the kind of housing disasters detailed in the book. I came away with a profound respect for a healthy emergency fund. But I wouldn't recommend buying the book. If you want to read it, take it out of the library.
Friday, August 15, 2008
In the end, I'm just going to go and take all the girls with me! I've got a note from Eldest Daughter and Son-in-Law, giving me permission to take their girls, a note from Hubby saying it's okay for our daughter to go and I'm taking the van. I still have to go to work in the morning of course, but I should have enough time to get to Seattle before sunset (it's only a 3 hour drive if the border is quiet, but who knows what the lineup will be like?).
Anyway, it should be a lot of fun. We haven't gotten together for months and months and I haven't seen her daughter since the wedding.
Getting ready to go was not without drama, however. I opened my wallet and there were both our Care Cards (for Medical Services Plan) and my birth certificate, but Dear Child's wasn't there. Of course. I had to provide her birth certificate along with all our financial papers when I registered her for kindergarten.
It took me an hour and a half of going through hot spots (areas where papers pile up) to find it! The upside is that the top of my dresser looks much better than it did, I set a lot of papers aside for the recycling and I found a) the birth certificate, b) the bill from IKEA where I charged the mirror I later returned, c) my other flash drive and d) the statement for our RESP so I can see just how much DC will have when it's time to go on to college. The IKEA bill is important because they wouldn't reverse the charge on my credit card without it. Instead they gave me a gift card but they said they would apply the amount to my credit card if I could just find the bill. Once I get this straightened out I won't owe any money on this card!
It's late and I'm headed to bed. Tomorrow will be insane but I hope to post again sometime on Sunday. Shabbat Shalom!
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
First of all, this morning I was running a little late but I stopped and forced myself to make a lunch to take to work. I bagged up sugar cookies I baked Tuesday evening with DC and Dear Granddaughter, took my protein drink and half an avocado, and made 2 sandwiches out of challah, cream cheese and grape jelly.
At work I was starved and couldn't wait until lunch time to start eating even though I had my protein drink (for breakfast) as soon as I got there. By 10 am I was chomping on a couple of handfuls of pistachio nuts I had previously taken to the office. Then I had a couple of sugar cookies. The sandwiches were gone about 5 minutes into the lunch hour and the avocado followed within a half hour.
I've been doing really well so far this week with lunches. Monday I had pistachios and baby carrots from home, with a slice of veggie pizza ($2.95). Tuesday I brought linguine and sauce that was leftover from Monday's dinner. Today I made my lunch, even if it did make me feel I was back in elementary school. Tomorrow and Friday I normally buy lunch.
After work came my second "task". I bussed to VGH and went to visit a friend in Palliative Care. Now, I want to make clear that this wasn't a chore or an obligation. I really wanted to get there and Palliative Care is open literally 24/7 but I hadn't been since a day or so before we went to the Okanagan. I originally intended to go yesterday but I didn't make it before a TV show Hubby wanted me to watch with him started and I'm ashamed to say I was just too lazy to go afterwards. Putting something off for a day or so is usually no big deal, but this is a case where I literally may not have an extra day or so. My friend was just taken off dialysis because his cancer has spread everywhere and it's just not possible to survive for more than a week at the outside with no kidneys and no dialysis.
So I went with a couple of the sugar cookies because he likes all kinds of goodies that he isn't really allowed to have and I knew that all the rules have been set aside at this point. He was sleeping and not very responsive (I've been told just to wake him up, because he sleeps more than he needs to). But he was semi awake and I sat for a while talking about work and our trip to the Okanagan and baking cookies with the girls. I also told the nurse about the cookies because I wasn't sure he was taking it all in, although she said he probably was. She also told me I could bring Dog to visit if I wanted to because my friend loves dogs! I knew the kidney specialist had brought her dog but thought it was just because she was a doctor. No, this ward is really, really special.
Then one of his dialysis nurses showed up to visit when she got off shift, so I only stayed a couple more minutes and then said goodbye (knowing full well it might really be goodbye).
I had also intended to get the clippers out when I got home and cut Dog's hair but Eldest Daughter and Son-in-Law went to the movies and the girls were with us for dinner and until about 10 pm. I wasn't comfortable using clippers with them running around so I'm putting it off yet again. I got them changed for bed at bedtime (9 pm) but couldn't get them to settle down and get to sleep even though they did lie down.
But, you know, Two Out of Three Ain't Bad!
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
This is a really good way to achieve your goals because as long as you’re taking regular steps (no matter how small) towards your goal you’re in good shape. The key is that you’re always moving and moving in the right direction. It’s really very much like the debt snowball and snowflaking.
With the debt snowball you list your debts, order them either by interest rate or size of debt and plug away at them. You pay the minimum on all but your target debt. That one gets hit with everything you can throw at it. When the target debt is eliminated you move on to the next one in line. This debt gets battered down even faster because now you’re paying the minimum on it plus all the money you were putting towards the original debt. Rinse and repeat until all the debt is gone.
When you snowflake you do all of that but you also take any windfall money (bottle refunds, eBay sales, tax refund, money for taking a survey, etc.) and also apply it towards your target debt. Snowflaking gets you where you’re going even faster. Why? Because you’re focused on your goal and you’re always moving towards it, even with teeny tiny steps.
So the goal and microgoal system is just snowflaking applied to goals other than debt reduction!
I mentioned yesterday that I like this idea a lot and now I’m ready to share my list of goals.
1. Take Religious Studies courses, potentially leading to an undergraduate degree.
2. Become fluent in Hebrew.
3. Study oenology and viticulture, potentially leading to a degree.
4. Grow lavender for sale.
5. Buy a minimum of 5 acres of land in our chosen retirement area.
6. Build a home on the land.
7. Plant grapes and open a kosher winery.
8. Get totally out of debt and stay there!
9. Lose 10 pounds.
10. Accumulate enough retirement funds to supplement our pensions and other income streams.
These goals are ones to be achieved between now and 15 years from now, when we’re due to retire.
Here are my current microgoals (not so much for today, as for this week).
1. Talk with my husband about taking a Biblical Hebrew course starting in September. It’s a weekly class from September to May. Done!
2. This course actually fits into both my first 2 goals. Done!
3. Bookmark information regarding the introductory course at Okanagan College, which can be taken online. Done!
4. Replant 5 lavender plants in larger pots.
5. Check mls.ca for interesting properties. Done!
6. Look online for information on rubber roof tiles that look like slate. Done!
7. Buy yeast and potassium metabisulphite. Done!
8. Pay our share of utility bills for city house. Done!
9. Go to the gym. Do 20 minutes on the treadmill, 10 minutes stretching.
10. Look for the form regarding the reinvestment of my maturing GIC. Well, I found one but I think there was another one too.
How about you? Are you interested in snowflaking towards non-financial goals?
Okay, then. I guess I won't be aging gracefully because I realized today, more than ever, that I. Don't. Have. Enough. Money. Put. Away.
Coincidentally, today The Simple Dollar featured a reader's mailbag post that inspired the following comment from me:
Hmm. What about if you figure out what you really want from life in the next 15 years (i.e. retirement time), add up how much you need, subtract what you already have put away, divide it to end up with a monthly amount to set aside and discover that this amount is larger than your entire family take home pay for the month?
Admittedly we aren't saving enough right now (about 3% of our gross when we're allowed by the Canadian government to save 18% for retirement plus $2,500 for educational purposes plus $5,000 annually in a tax free savings account, let's say a total of 30% of gross) but even if we saved half our money we still wouldn't be in the ball park (and we'd still have to pay taxes on that other 20%).
That's a little depressing, even leaving aside how unrealistic it would be to go from saving 3% to 30% or 50% overnight. What would you do?
So, let's be clear. I cannot turn around and start saving a lot more money than we're saving right now. For one thing, if I were to do so (or, conversely to somehow increase our income significantly) the money we pay for tuition would go up until we reached the point where we were paying at scale.
So, does that mean I just throw up my hands and give up? Accept that we'll be at the mercy of Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Pension, plus my $100/month annuity and abandon all hope of buying land, etc.? Should we just quit now and move to the country, taking our DC out of school and homeschooling her? Do we just abandon the rest of our family (the adult kids and the grandkids)?
No. I just can't accept that. There has to be another answer. I have to find a way to save at least some more money on a regular basis. I have to make some money getting rid of the things that are stacked beside the front door, waiting for a new home. I have to find a way to pay off our debt and get back into balance so we're not spending more than we make. And I have to find a way to take baby steps continually towards my goals without having great piles of cash.
I don't think there's a quick and easy answer for this, but I'd welcome suggestions that don't violate my religious beliefs.
In the meantime, I'm going to concentrate on the advice in one of Trent's posts from yesterday and make a list of 10 goals to achieve over the next several years and start setting microgoals towards them. I figure if I just keep actively moving in the direction of my goals I have to achieve more than I'm doing currently, even if I'm taking teeny tiny baby steps!
Sunday, August 10, 2008
She's decided that she no longer likes the Giant Slide because the bumps now scare her and she and her 3 year old niece rode the new kids roller coaster and were terrified. We even have the official Playland picture to prove it.
In the picture DC is holding on for dear life and looks very worried. Dear Granddaughter has what almost looks like a temper tantrum face and is clearly an unhappy camper. Hey, they were warned. They both insisted on going anyway. DC says maybe she'll try it again with Eldest Daughter. I think she should just leave it for a year or two.
However, I think the prize for Most Daring clearly goes to Son-in-Law for going to Playland by himself with 3 kids aged 5, 3 and 17 months!
But they came home and promptly spiked high temperatures. I'm still coughing and living in fear of getting the fever, especially when I have to work full time and have no real backup. Well, the first couple of days this week I have a volunteer, but then she's going away for several days. And my Executive Director is also going to be away. Unfortunately, shutting down the office for a couple of days isn't really an option, so I'm really hoping that I'm already as sick as I'm going to get.
It occurred to me the other day that I might be working a lot more hours for the rest of the month but my expenses are going to be higher too. I normally only bus 2 days per week. Now I have to take the bus every day. By my expert calculations that means I'll have 18 extra bus rides (at $1.90 per trip, using FareSavers). That's an inexcapable added expense of $34.20.
Then, there's food. I have to eat at work and we generally don't have leftovers I can take with me (maybe once a week). I already have to leave about a half hour earlier than usual because of taking the bus, so making lunch isn't awfully likely either. That means I'm going to be spending more money buying food at the cafe. I have to try to keep the costs down but I really don't want to be stuck with a slice of pizza every day ($2.99). I just have to be a little more frugal than I was on Friday. After not spending a penny on food on Thursday I had a special sandwich and a coffee on Friday and blew $9.00. I clearly can't do that every day.
Maybe I can aim for 1 day of leftovers, 1 day of making my lunch and 3 days of eating at the cafe (only once more than I usually do anyway). And if I make 1 of the cafe meals either pizza or soup and a corn muffin ($4.00) then I won't be spending a ton more than usual.
Okay, enough about food when I'm fasting! I need to get some sleep so that I can get up at 7 am and take care of the girls if Son-in-Law happens to be well enough to go to work in the morning.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
My co-worker left on vacation early (a vacation planned around the appearance of a new grandchild) and yesterday was, ahem, pretty interesting as I couldn't arrange to stay for the day on short notice. Luckily, we had a volunteer who was able to come in and handle the phones.
I have a cough that's moved into my chest, not a great thing when you consider that I have asthma (generally well controlled) and have a history of pneumonia, even though I had the pneumococcal shot several years ago. I don't think I'm as sick as Trent has been over at The Simple Dollar and I'm not at the point where I really need to go to the doctor. However, if I get worse I won't have time to go because I'm going to be stuck in the office (not a good thought).
I obviously need more sleep than usual though. I've been falling asleep early and sleeping until my alarm goes off, when I normally stay up late and wake up anywhere up to an hour before my alarm. This evening I was reading posts and fell asleep for at least an hour while Hubby and DC were at the park!
Probably the hardest thing is that Eldest Daughter is going away on business again from tomorrow until Sunday sometime. That means there will be no free time this weekend when I can try to rest and recuperate. Actually, I believe that she'll be away every weekend this month. On the other hand, she's staying home 3 days next week with the girls when I'm in the office. And then I think the trade shows are over for the next several months.
So, what about yesterday? Did I take care of any outstanding business? Well, the only thing I tried to do was update my passbook. I have a tendency to avoid doing that when I know I'm not doing too well, but that's come back to bite me in the past. So, I was a good girl and tried to update it after work yesterday but I ended up having to take the info on a printout. It seems that at night the passbook feature can't be accessed, but it will give you the same information on a strip of paper. Weird. It was just as well I did, because I ended up putting the couple of items I needed at the grocery store on my credit card so I wouldn't end up risking NSF charges.
Today, on my way home, I finally managed to get the passbook itself updated. I paid Fido their $79.99 this evening. And I transferred $300 from my ING emergency fund into my bank account. I don't like doing it. I didn't want to do it. But it was the right thing to do. It's counterproductive to have money sitting there while my bills are going unpaid or I'm sitting in overdraft. Things will be more normal after my next paycheque (which will have one week of the extra hours I'm working on it). They'll be much better after the following cheque in the first week of September, which will have 2 full time weeks on it. And I'll also be getting my retroactive CCTB payment of just over $700.
I'm proud of myself today for having brought leftovers for lunch instead of buying food at the cafe downstairs. I won't be able to do that tomorrow though because there was nothing left after dinner tonight. And we'll have to eat well tomorrow night and Shabbos lunch because the fast of Tisha B'Av starts when Shabbos ends.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
In fact, what I've been doing when I'm at the house is to read my email and blogs on the BlackBerry and figure out what posts I want to comment on. I type up my blog posts in Word on my laptop and save them. Then, when I go to town I can just log on and do what I want to do in a minimum of time. I make the comments I meant to make and post the things I've already written and don't have to spend forever sitting at Safeway. But the key thing is that I'm not tied to being able to get to town. I could be snowed in at the house and still post. The typing would just take me longer.
So I got my final Fido bill. It must have arrived on Friday because there was no mail delivery on Monday but I just saw it today. I had spent about 6 weeks paying off Fido previously but somehow I still owed them around $75 for the previous month, plus about $25 for the portion of the month where I cancelled my service. Okay, I'm getting paid tomorrow. I'll pay the overdue portion and deal with the current month later.
Then Fido started phoning me. First, my BlackBerry rang and, when I picked it up, a recorded message told me to stay on the line for an important call from Fido. Hi, you called me and I'm the one on hold? Still, I held the line because I wanted to finish with them. Two or 3 minutes later the call vanished. My service was still fine so I figure it dropped off on their end. Yeah, that's a good ad for you. You can't even maintain a simple call to someone who can talk in an elevator with her new service.
An hour or so later the phone rang again. This time there was a live person on the phone. True, he had an accent that was so strong I had to ask him to repeat about every second sentence, but it was a human being. I must be coming up in the world. Of course, he wanted to know when I was going to pay them. No, that's not correct. He wanted me to charge the entire amount owing on my credit card right that very second.
I told him that I don't pay by credit card, but by telephone banking and I'd pay the roughly $75 later this week after I get paid. And when would they get the rest? By the end of the month, I said. No, I needed to give a date. I pointed out that I didn't have a calendar in my hand. The bill is due by the 17th. Would I be able to pay by the 24th, a week after the due date. Fine.
He asked me if I was absolutely sure I'd be able to pay it by then. I held my temper and said yes. Then he ordered me to go write it down, both the date and the amount I was going to pay. That was the last straw. I said, "You know, there's a reason why I've cancelled my service with Fido. Thanks for calling. Goodbye now." And I hung up on him. I don't even hang up on telemarketers.
I'm sure they wanted the money as fast as possible because, once you cancel your service, they have nothing to hang over your head if you don't pay. They can't threaten to cut off your phone when you've already gone over to someone else. But the bad attitude was outrageous. That type of insulting manner from their so-called customer service is a big part of why I switched.
Good riddance, Fido. I love my BlackBerry!
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
My cold or whatever is worse. I was having serial sneezes on the drive home and I'm sniffling like a maniac. But my throat doesn't seem to hurt any more and I don't feel too bad otherwise.
I had another go at the floor this morning and figured out what was going wrong. I had the boards oriented the wrong way around. I turned them around and they click together much better (though still not perfectly without careful pushing at both ends at once) but it creates more difficulties because now, instead of starting on the right side of the room and adding pieces to the left, I have to do the reverse.
And why is that a problem, you might ask? Because there's an electric baseboard heater on the right hand wall that will prevent me from positioning 3 or 4 of the boards without removing the doggone heater. I also couldn't finish because I need my floorboard puller (which was here in the city) to get the last pieces in each row into place. But it is working now, and the boards I got in place look good. I'm frustrated that I didn't finish so we could put our beds and night table back in place, but I feel pretty sure I can do it next time.
Anyway, that's enough for tonight. I just drove for 4 hours and I have to work in the morning, then come home and have the girls for the day. I need some sleep!
Sunday, August 3, 2008
Hubby dug out a huge stump that was right up against the house. Last year it was a tree that leaned up against the kitchen window and was taller than the roof. He cut it down but it all grew up again (about 3 feet in just the past month), so this time he decided the root had to go.
Originally, my plan for today was to lay the floor in the master bedroom and I actually got the first row together, but I can’t get the 2nd row to click into the previous one! I’ve laid both laminate and engineered hardwood floors before and never had a problem, but they were glued floors. Click flooring is supposed to be easy as pie, much easier than gluing. All I can say is “Ha! Easy, my foot!”
I’ve actually tried with more expensive Torlys click flooring at the Home Show and it was great. This, however, is not expensive flooring. It’s Tundra flooring from IKEA and costs $1.29 sq foot. I don’t know if it won’t go together because it’s cheap or what, but it’s driving me crazy.
I decided I had to leave it for a while and try it again when we get back from town. If I still can’t make it work I don’t know if I’m going to take back the 3 unopened boxes and get a credit or what. I still have to have flooring and I don’t really want to pay $7.99 per sq foot for the Torlys. Who knows? Maybe I’ll come back from town and it will miraculously work! Hey, I can hope.
Anyway, we have a few errands to do in town. We’re already totally out of water (I caught Dog trying to drink out of the toilet, yuck!) and we want some more of a new soft drink we bought the other day. It’s Canada Dry Ginger Ale, but with Green Tea and it’s really good, very refreshing in the heat and soothing on my scratchy throat. Yes, I’m sick. I shouldn’t be surprised. All the little girls have had runny noses and scratchy little voices for days (including my son-in-law’s sister’s kids, also roughly 3 years and not quite one, who were visiting for a couple of days last week). With all that exposure, not to mention all those kisses, I should expect to be immune? But being sick in the heat of summer is doubly unpleasant I think.
We’re heading back to the city sometime tomorrow, but I’m not sure yet whether we’re aiming to leave before lunch or in the late afternoon. Either way I probably won’t post again until tomorrow night.
Friday, August 1, 2008
Let’s see if I can do better with my goals for the month of August.
1. Remain at or under 129 pounds. Okay. I’m conceding to the inevitable here. I’m not going to make it to 120 lbs in time for my birthday but I’m not going to gain any more weight. And that’s final.
2. It Won’t Wait Wednesday Challenge. Every Wednesday I’m going to tackle one or two of those items that seem to sit permanently on my To Do list. Maybe it’s something I don’t particularly want to do. Maybe I think it will take forever or that I don’t have all the skills to complete the task. Maybe I need to look up a phone number or find something first before I can do it. It went well last Wednesday and the 2 calls I made took much less time than I expected. Want to join me? Either comment on my It Won’t Wait Wednesday post each week or post about it yourself and link to it.
3. Post a minimum of 26 times in August (daily, except for Shabbos). I don’t expect to have a problem with this unless working full time for three weeks means that I’m too busy or too tired to post. We’ll see.
4. Go through at least 8 more boxes. I keep plugging away but there are still lots of boxes. This might actually bit a bit tough when I’m working full time but I really want to be successful with this. Just to be clear, I’ll count boxes that I actually go through and empty as well as boxes that physically leave the house in the city (either being given away or moving ones that belong here to the country). If I move 4 boxes to our rural home I don’t have to empty them and put the contents all away in order to count them. That will come later, after another trip to IKEA for more bookshelves.
I’m not trying to give myself too many goals this month, I hope. I know I’ll be busy with the extra hours I’ll be working but I think I can manage this. I have some links (okay, 1 link) to insert in here, but can't as long as I can't access my blog. There's also a problem with additional carriage returns (blank lines) being inserted between paragraphs that it won't let me correct at the moment. I hope to fix this all on Sunday. Fixed.
I don't have a ton of time to play with this because I have to get home, finish the laundry, cook dinner and be all ready for Shabbat in time. So I'll post this for now and will come back to edit this post, probably on Sunday. For now let's just say it was a less than stellar month in regards to achieving my goals.
So, let's try this again.
1. Spend no more than $400 for transportation costs this month. No. I think once again I’m close (but close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades). Our total for gas, including all the gas I put in and all of Hubby’s gas from July 18th on is $326.89. Hubby thinks he probably spent another $72 before that but doesn’t have his previous bankbook with him so we can’t confirm it until Tuesday. If so, that would bring us to $398.89, so what’s the problem? This challenge was also supposed to include bus fares and I bought a book of FareSavers for $19.
2. Lose 5 pounds. No. It’s official. I didn’t lose 5 pounds this month. All month I’ve varied between 128, 129 and 130. The extra 3 hours of walking for 2 weeks, pushing the baby in the stroller, didn’t do it. Cutting out almost all the 2 bite brownies didn’t do it. I’m still stuck at 129. I realize that an extra 9 pounds isn’t going to make or break me, but I really wanted to get back to 120 pounds in time for my birthday.
3. Go to the gym at least once. No. Maybe I didn’t lose the weight because I didn’t get to the gym. The only times I ever remembered that I was supposed to go there were times when it was impossible to do so (like after they’d closed for the night). I’m going to have to think about this a bit. Either I need to go and see what it feels like to go without Eldest Daughter or I should look into how I can sell my membership (since I’ve already paid for 18 months in full and have now wasted 8 months!).
4. Post at least 27 times in July and post at least one book review. Yes, sort of. I did post 28 times but I somehow never got around to posting about the book I intended to review. I did review a personal finance book, but I clearly said that it wasn’t supposed to be my review of the month, due to the fact that it was a really old book. But it was a book. On personal finance. And I did review it. I’m going to cut myself a little slack and call this one successful. Hey, I need at least one success!
5. Learn how to upload pictures to my blog. No. Well, I found the box my phone came in, with the cord that connects to the computer and the instruction book. I started to look at it but had to put everything out of reach of the baby and haven’t touched it again.
Not the most successful month in the world (massive understatement). I’m not pleased by my performance. Next month had better be better!