Thursday, May 31, 2007
I wrote her a letter almost a year later.
The day you were brought into the world little sister, was cold and gray, typical January fare. When I woke up that morning--it was the twenty-first, the day I knew you'd be born--I knew, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that that was to be the day. Maybe it was the hushed voices I heard from behind the confines of our parents' bedroom that clued me in to your impending arrival. But I personally think it was more than that. Call it sisterly intuition, call it a psychic premonition. Call it what you will, but let it suffice to say that I knew from the moment I opened my eyes that morning that day was going to be special. All those months of waiting, of enduring mother's exasperating mood swings had come down to this. In just a matter of hours I would be the proud recipient of a little sister. A little sister who was bound to change my life--for better or for worse--from that day forward. Exactly how you were going to change my life, I couldn't and still cannot even venture to guess. But let me assure you that all my doubts disappeared the first time I laid eyes on you.
You were such a beautiful baby! 8 pounds, 4 ounces of cherubic perfection. You were big for a newborn, said Mommy, but you looked awfully small to me. When I first held you, I had to wonder if those little eyes of yours would ever open. But they finally did, and you got your first look at me--your big sister. Scrunching up your face until you resembled an old, wizened tomato, you gave me one last petrified glance before letting out the loudest cry you could muster. It was love at first sight. I decided right then and there that only the best was going to be good enough for my sister.
I can remember the times when you were only a few weeks old that I would try to instill in you early on an appreciation for the finer things in life. Creeping into your room as you began to drift off to sleep, I would pop my favorite Bon Jovi tape into the cassette player and hope that by the process of osmosis, you would begin to develop a taste for it. But you have a mind of your own, I can see that more and more everyday. You, little sis, know what you want and you know how to get it. In the blink of an eye, you can turn on the waterworks, or, just as quickly, flash a smile that is capable of melting just about anyone's heart.
Just yesterday I witnessed you walking for the first time. What a sight it was to see you make that precarious trek towards Mommy, with your chubby little arms outstretched. It was a real landmark, right up there in importance with the loss of your first tooth, your first day at school, your first kiss, your first job...You've got a long line of "firsts" looming ahead of you, little sister, and I can't help but wonder how that life is going to turn out.
A lawyer, a doctor, an actress--I can picture you in any of those positions. You've got a smart head on your shoulders. I can see that now, even though you are not yet a year old. You are a real problem solver, a trait that was revealed once again yesterday when you figured out in a matter of seconds how to make the dangerous descent down the stair in our house that leads from the living room to the kitchen. It may have been only one small step, but as I watched you clutch the railing for dear life and gradually lower yourself from that stair all the way to the floor, it seemed like a momentous maneuver. With that kind of strategy and determination, I think that you will be capable of doing almost anything. Some may say it's too soon to tell, but I know that's not the case. Maybe it is that sisterly intuition coming into play again, or maybe it is just an educated guess. Whatever it is, I'm willing to bet any amount of money that you are going to be someone to be proud of. Someone I will be--and already am--happy to call my sister.
To justify my writing, I will remind you that I was thirteen.
To justify what seems to be the failure of my closing prediction, I will remind you that she is fifteen.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Kudos to The Partner for even thinking to look at the zoning map, despite the late date. If it was up to me, we'd be moved in, cavorting in the swimming pool, only to notice the crevass of a waste facility or the spires of a power plant manifesting itself next door.
So, we wait to get through the voice mail jungle of the town office in order to find out who owns this wooded property and what the plans are for it.
As if I needed more of an excuse to procrastinate packing.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
I put her words into mine and let it unfold like this:
"The ship ride back to America was fun, but I still wish we hadn’t taken it. There were parties every night, filled with rich, drunk ladies and handsome men. Life for those few weeks was all rollicking card games and booze.
The ship was Evelyn’s playground. I wouldn't know she was near till she’d sneak up behind me, low and wiggling, and peek out from between my knees. Sometimes, when I retell that trip, it is as if Evelyn wasn’t even there. I should have held her more. I should have caught that head between the swell of my calves and never let go."
Back in New Jersey, Evelyn drowned in a pond. She was six. My grandmother--again, she was not really mine, but my husband's, though I don't look at it that way--grieved for her daughter and for Germany. What had she escaped? What suffering had she exchanged for this?
Our grandmother was 97 years old when The Partner and I watched her die in her comfortable Connecticut bedroom. The Partner's parents let me join in the most private of goodbyes even though I was not yet officially part of the family. It was the first time I saw him cry.
Two years later he cried again, the only other time. We gave our newborn daughter the middle name of Evelyn.
This is our American dream. This is our Memorial Day. This is the life I'm thankful for, in all its stained fabric and unrippable weave.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
But the dice rolled in our favor. The Partner still has his pride and now we have our house. Nevermind that there were times during the stress of it all that I would've preferred my own apartment far away from him. I'm sure he felt the same way about me. At least with the new home, we have more square footage and a couple more acres in which to hide from each other next time life, and our inability to communicate about it, rears its wicked head.
So the packing begins.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Today's post is brought to you courtesy of the "I am" meme as sent my way by Slouching Mom.
Monday, May 21, 2007
The first order of business was for The Partner to correct The Boss when she referred to the shiny, forest-green vehicle as a truck.
"That is a car," he said.
"Car," she repeated.
Lacking in 4wd, significant ground clearance or anything with half a chance of eliciting a rush of testosterone, the Saturn Vue Green Line disappointed The Partner from the get-go. As an equally jarring affront to his masculinity, there is no manual transmission option. Matters were further complicated when he first stepped into the driver's seat only to have his knees and elbows bang up against the dashboard, the side door, and the center console. Though tinkering with the seat settings made the arrangement slightly more comfortable, quarters were always cramped where his 6'1", 200 pound frame was concerned.
I'm smaller than my husband, but I have to agree that the Vue Green Line does not feel spacious. And though my fingers are downright small, even I had trouble working a cruise control set-up that seemed designed for Barbie's Dream Hybrid.
The thing I adored most about the Saturn Vue Green Line, however, was the opposite of cramped. It was the rear cargo area. I drive a four door sedan with a regular sized trunk, and the space afforded me there pales in comparison to that of this crossover's rear end. I was able to load my jogging stroller into the back without going through the tedious process of removing all three wheels--and there was still room for groceries.
[What I have to say next merits a disclaimer: the love of my life, the car I drive daily, is a Caddy that Zigs. It's a sporty luxury vehicle with smooth handling beneath a lush interior. It's comes from a line of notorious lemons and it's in our garage/makeshift auto shop on almost a weekly basis, but it is far more dear to me than any inanimate object has a right to be. ]
Relative to what I know and love, the Saturn Vue Green Line--with its 170 HP, 4 cylinder engine--has no pep. Having become accustomed to surviving bad merging choices thanks only to my daily driver's quick acceleration, the Vue's lack of giddy-up almost killed me on more than one occasion. Eventually I got used to it, and I'd go so far as to say the world is probably better off with me driving a car that lacks pep. But the lack of power still makes me sad. The Partner also commented that the handling of the Saturn Vue Green Line was inferior to that of his much larger GMC Yukon. The responsiveness and stability was not what you'd expect when comparing a smaller and more compact SUV to its gargantuan, gas-guzzling cousin.
When it comes to The Boss, however, she usually doesn't complain about things in the automotive realm--and the Saturn Vue Green Line presented no exception to the rule. In a car seat that was strapped tighter than usual into the back seat thanks to the LATCH system my current car lacks, she watched the world go by with attentive eyes. I'm sure she enjoyed the new perspective from a perch higher than that of the mid-sized sedan she's used to.
One of the last things I will mention is satellite radio--uncensored music, talk, entertainment and news coming at you with only a few commercials. The Saturn Vue Green Line offers XM Satellite Radio as an option. If you upgrade to the "Comfortably Safe" package that includes XM, you also get a Head Curtain Side Air Bag, power driver's seat, and heated front seats. For a couple extra hundy, bringing the total to $2k in add-ons, you can get a power sunroof.
The bottom line is...well, the bottom line. With the Saturn Vue Green Line, it's all about clean, green savings. Though the fuel economy is not as good as the similar Toyota Highlander, Mercury Mariner, or Ford Escape hybrid models, the price is unbeatable. Even with the upgrades mentioned above, my personalized Saturn Vue Green Line Line--with a base price of approximately $23k--would max out at $25k.
With decent fuel economy and a highly economical price, the Saturn Vue Green Line is a good choice for those who are just beginning to consider the necessity of taking a less gasoline-dependent lifestyle to the bank.
Monday, May 14, 2007
Photos courtesy of the best damn photographer ever
Friday, May 11, 2007
That's right. We have a contract. We have co-signers. They have a 3 o'clock appointment with the inspector.
The Boss, the dog, and I are getting ready to make like trees and leave. When we return to the finished inspection, it won't be long till we find out if we have a reason to start packing.
My pessimism is starting to fade to the point that I need to fight to get it back into clearer focus. I do not embrace positivity. I abhor disappointment. So when I look around my house now and see it as something that is on the verge of becoming someone else's, I must banish the picture. I have to remind myself that it is still very much ours. And that's okay, because that's just fine. For the past three years and for now, it's home. It is a wonderful place to be.
If only until June 15.
Edited to add:
I just discovered that someone landed at my blog after typing the following phrase into Google: "women who brought a bra and worms were in it and it ate through her breast."
Thought you might like to know.
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Women are bad with money
My first thought when approached to write this column was, “Great, how do I address the investments I believe most pertinent to women without appearing sexist?” The answer is I cannot, so I'll do my best and hope I do not get flamed too heavily. In truth, I'll be discussing the most important investment you can make as a man or a woman: your own financial willpower. Sound too tree-hugger pot-smoking hippy liberal chakra-aligning for you? A little too "motivational speaker" for you? It's not, read on.
If you take away nothing else from this article, take away this: your attitude towards spending and the execution thereupon will determine your financial success and stability throughout your life. Saving is actually pretty easy, you just need to stop spending. If you stop spending then you're automatically saving. Simple. In many cases, however, this can require some serious financial willpower.
I disagree with CNBC personal finance reporter Suze Orman, who wrote in her book Women & Money that women have a “totally dysfunctional” relationship with money. Despite a penchant for clothing, single women spend much less than single men (Bureau of Labor Statistics 2004-2005 Consumer Expenditure Survey). But don’t pat yourselves on the back, yet. Just because
you spend less money does not mean you are not still overspending, you are just overspending less than the men. Orman’s approach strokes the woman’s ego; she states “Lasting net worth comes from a healthy and strong sense of self-worth.” I believe high self-worth leads to selfish spending (new Manolos), and low self-worth leads to guilty spending (midnight Cherry Garcia binging). Striking a balance is the real key.
I’m not here to make you feel good about yourself. I’m here to help you pay for retirement, health care, diapers, clothes, insurance, kids and your eventual cryogenic suspension.
Holding back is harder for some than others
There was a study done years ago that focused on children and their willpower (I have been unable to find the original study, if you know where I can find it please contact me). A group of children ages 3-4 were studied. Each child was place alone in a room with a cookie. They were told that the cookie belonged to them and that they could eat it at anytime. However, if they waited until the adult returned and did not eat the cookie, they were promised more cookies. Some kids ate the cookie immediately, some waited as long as they could before giving in to their desire for cookie, and others sat patiently and got their multi-cookie reward. They tracked the kids, and those that resisted cookie temptation performed better in nearly every measurable aspect of their lives (grades, earning power, subjective happiness).
“So what? It’s a cookie.”
The cookie ain’t a cookie, it’s a dollar. It’s a new ring. It’s going out to eat. It’s a new car. It’s a pair of shoes. It’s the Baby Gap. It’s Pottery Barn. It’s Pier 1 Imports. Every time you spend money on material items that you don’t need you are giving up the ability to use that money towards something more productive. This is called an “opportunity cost”. That candle you bought at Pier 1 Imports might have been better spent on a coat of paint for the dining room. The meal you just ate out could have bought a week’s worth of gas (or a month depending on where you eat). That new car might have instead paid for a year of college for your kid, once invested wisely.
Financial willpower is the ability to look at a consumable – an item, a trip, a meal, a dress – and walk away. If you have strong financial willpower, you buy only what you need or have specifically saved for. When you can go to the mall and buy what you went in for and nothing else, you’ve got it. If you can buy only what you came in for in Home Depot, you’ve impressed this author.
You don’t save money by spending money
Buying an item that is on sale because it is a good deal does not save you money if you weren’t going to buy it in the first place. Buying an extra pair of shoes because you get a third one free does not save you money; you have just paid more money to buy another pair of shoes you were not going to get in the first place. The same goes for buying in bulk. I tell the
following story (from Duck Tales, of all places) a lot:
Scrooge McDuck is taking Huey, Duey, and Louis out for a soda. He buys one small soda and three straws for them all. One of them asks him,
"You're the richest duck in the world, why don't you buy us each a small soda?"
"Or at least a large soda to share?"
His reply? "How do you think I got that way?"
In other words, you don't become wealthy by spending your money on frivolities. If you want to “spend money to make money,” you need to do so intelligently by prioritizing your spending.
Not only are you not the center of the universe, neither is anyone else
Stop treating yourself to little things like candy bars and movie tickets because you think you deserve it every now and then. You don’t. Your kid deserves an education. If you can pay for that, then you deserve a treat. While we are on the subject, your kid does not deserve treats either, not for being cute, not for being young, not for being your daughter/son/niece/nephew, and especially not to stop whining/crying/complaining/etc. When your kid does something worth rewarding, like peeing in the toilet instead of on it or taking out the garbage, then they deserve to be compensated. A lack of negative behavior does not warrant reward, and encourages them to behave badly to get rewards. Stop it.
How our financial willpower is broken down
”It’s only a dollar”: Wal-Mart’s fiercest competitor is not Target, it isn’t specialty stores, and it isn’t grocery stores or big-box chains. Wal-Mart fears the dollar stores. That’s because people who shop there are in the frame of mind, “This is only a buck, I’ll pick it up.” Now think about the dollar store demographic: poor and lower-income shoppers. There is nothing wrong with being poor, the problem is that you don't want to stay poor. If you have a, “This only costs a (small amount of money),” you will join or remain in that demographic.
Gambling: If you play the lottery of buy scratch-off tickets, stop it. The state gets enough money from your taxes. Gambling is designed to break-down your financial willpower. The allure of making fast money offsets the rational side of the brain that says, “Little Lisa needs braces.” It has been proven that the emotional high created by winning a contest/poker
match/lottery/scratch-off ticket is inferior to the low created by losing. You will always feel worse losing than you will feel good winning. Quantitatively, if you feel 50% better by winning you’ll feel 75% worse when you lose. So stop gambling. Now.
Credit cards: Credit cards are designed to reduce your barriers to consumption. No money? No problem! Unfortunately, that is never, ever true. If you have no money, you have big problems, and spending more than you have is the fastest way to get nowhere. If you have a credit card, you may only use it if you pay off the full balance at the end of every month. Carrying any balance will have an adverse affect on your credit score. Carrying a balance will cost you more money in interest than is possible to earn with any mainstream investment. Before you do anything else financially, pay off your credit card. That being said, if you have high financial willpower and savings in the bank, credit cards do have their benefits, like insuring your purchases and deferring payment.
Some off-topic quicktips: Women are subject to some things men are not. You are more risk-averse and you feel bad for people in need. But there are times when you need to take some risk, and others when "people in need" are actually just needy people.
You’re burning money by putting it in the bank
If the only savings you have is through the bank, you are losing money. Inflation typically outpaces the interest you earn in a savings account, CD, and most savings bonds. Checking accounts are for paying bills, not saving money. Open a brokerage account with Fidelity, Charles Schwab, or another discount brokerage that will not charge you an annual fee and use their
money market accounts for cash savings, and low-risk short-term securities for near-term liquid assets. You’ll make a lot more money in interest using a brokerage account, and brokerages often offer a tax-free money market in your state (just ask).
Charity: Donate when you’re dead
As a part of the fairer sex, you are more giving than men due to greater empathy for others. You shouldn’t be. If you, your spouse, and your offspring are all financially secure, having saved enough for college, retirement, paid off the mortgage, and you have a surplus of income beyond your utilities and insurance, then I might consider recommending you donate to charity. Otherwise, concentrate on paying off debt, saving your money, and donating your estate in your Will to maximize the amount you can donate to a worthy cause. You will have reached your maximum net worth by the time you die if you’ve saved properly, and the funds will do more good.
Saving for college
One slightly off-topic parting note for you parents: Your child is unlikely to qualify for financial aid. There are too many people applying for college, stretching thin the pool of financial aid, grants, and scholarships. Your child is special to you, but to everyone else they’re just another applicant. They are not special. As a result, any money left over from paying off your debt, bills, and saving for retirement (in that order) should be plowed into saving for college, preferably in a low-cost 529 savings account. You can invest in any state’s plan, so pick carefully.
Links to additional information on topics discussed above:
Stop buying crap you don’t need
Prioritize your spending
Paying for college (yours or your kid’s)
Why you should stop donating (and when you should)
About the author
Boz lives in Boston with his wife in a small house on a hill. He is a financial professional of 5 years, and a graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Boz is Series 7 and 63 licensed. He has been quoted discussing 529 college savings plans in such publications as the Wall Street Journal, Barron's, SmartMoney, and Reuters, among others.
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
"You've got some enthusiastic supporters out there, huh?" Boz mentioned over lunch this past weekend.
"Um, yeah, I guess you could say that. That's how we mommybloggers are. Supportive. Enthusiastic. Yup."
And so I got to thinking, not just about my own blog, but about this momosphere in general; and how sunshine, in the form of bright rays of light being continuously blown up people's asses, can get to be cloying.
You must know what I mean. Those long rows of comments all praising the hilarity, or the eloquence, or the heart-wrenchinging-ness, or the yes-yes-that's-exactly-the-way-I-feelingness of a given post in a given blog.
I've written my fair share of those comments, don't get me wrong. In those cases, that's the only way I can convey how powerfully someone else's words affected me. With some bloggers, that sentiment is by far my most common reaction. But after awhile it makes me feel funny, mostly because I imagine it makes them feel funny, to be balancing on a pedestal. And that's when I need to get past the fact that this person is hilarious, eloquent, heart-wrenching and/or relatable. I focus on the facts, interacting like I do with my Real Life friends, where grammar, syntax and delivery is secondary to just talking.
I don't read many non-mom blogs, but I can't help but think that the spheres populated mainly by men would have a much different tone. Same with blogs that present a more equal mix of women and men in their readership. I know that The Partner and my aforementioned friend would certainly bring a much different dynamic to the blogs they frequent. More dissent. More straight talk. Less regard for feelings. The latter may sound like a bad thing, but I don't believe it is, necessarily. Sometimes insensitivity is real, and sometimes a real reaction is what's lacking.
All this being said, I do so love this momosphere. I eat up positive reinforcement on one end; I bask in the warmth of sunshine on the other. I would become more than a little neurotic if the positivity ceased completely. I dole it out, too. I truly feel like this community of talented women sharing their thoughts and taking in those of others is largely responsible for my happiness and success as a work-at-home mother and writer.
But, sometimes, it's a bit unreal. That's all I'm saying. Am I alone, here?
Monday, May 07, 2007
I think it's a little early for her opposition to be a conscious reaction to me. And I hope that we're too far along for it to be a phase. I relish the idea of having a neat little person in the house to help compensate for my shortcomings. I am not training her to be my maid, but far be it from me to deny her the opportunity to run a Swiffer duster over all furniture under 36 inches tall.
When my brother was The Boss's age, the day could not commence without him ripping every piece of clothing out of his drawers and throwing it across the room. I am reminded of this whenever we visit his dorm room at college. Now, the piles of clothes are secondary to the odors emanating from them. The Boss does not like the stark, foot-smelling masculinity of her uncle's room. She clings to my leg and whimpers until we take her down the hall to my brother's girlfriend's suite. There, The Boss is comfortable. She runs from pretty blond college girl to pretty brunette, then to me, shouting "hug!" all the way. She plays with shoes and text books. The air is flowery and fruity. Everything has its place.
In that room, I am careful not to blink. If I do, I fear sixteen years will pass me by and it will be The Boss's own sweet smelling room we are standing in. The Boss will be the pretty blond. Shoes will be lined up, textbooks piled high. In the bathroom, a toothbrush and floss will stand in complicity. The toilet lid will be down.
Could we be any more different? I will be unkempt and sweaty. I will wipe my hands on the leg of my jeans. Then she will carefully shut the door behind me, and The Boss's thrilled and thrilling hugs will be hard to come by.