Category Archives: Financial Insecurity

My New Year’s Resolution this Year: No More Resolutions!

No New Year's ResolutionsThere is one topic of conversation today that dominates all others: New Year’s resolutions.

Correction. For this year only, everyone’s talking about surviving the Fiscal Cliff. However, a close second is the aforementioned New Year’s resolutions.

This year I’m boycotting.

Every year on January 1st I vow to eat healthier and to exercise more. It’s one of those blood oath vows that I am 100% certain will stick. My goal is to lose 20 lbs., which is stupidly unrealistic because in order to maintain 110 lbs., I would have to live on a diet of diluted vegetable broth and run a half marathon on a daily basis. Frankly, I could care less how much I weigh as long as I lose this jiggly abdomen I’ve acquired this year and have arms strong enough to paint a ceiling without taking a break every five minutes.

I’m not going to call it a resolution. But I’m definitely doing more planks and eating less popcorn.

I also think I’m going to get more organized. It actually is a necessity because the clutter is clogging up the good stuff I can’t find. I keep meaning to make the transition from paper Day Planner to Google Calendar so the rest of the family can see what I’ve planned for them without having to decipher my chicken scratch.

Every year I hope that the coming year will be the one that gets us out of debt. This year I’m more realistic. Short of winning lotto, that’s not going to happen anytime soon. I just plan to keep what I’m doing – paying my bills on time, juggling balance transfer deals, and only buying what I absolutely need. There are a lot of folks who are too poor to even accomplish that goal, so I absolutely feel like one of the fortunate ones. Of course I still wouldn’t turn down that lotto win.

Maybe I’ll eat healthier, exercise more, get organized, and pay off some debt in 2013, but I’m not going to make a deal with the devil to do it. If I fail, I’m not going to kick myself, single-handedly devour an entire Boston cream pie, toss out my Thighmaster, haphazardly throw the contents of my entire garage into a rent-a-dumpster or run through the mall like a banshee throwing my Visa card at everything in sight.

It’s the resolution relapse that bites you in the butt every time.

When exploring a list of the most popular New Year’s resolutions, I realize that there’s a bunch that I already do. I’ve never smoked, I already quit drinking, I tell my kids and husband everyday that I love them, I volunteer, I recycle, and I already went back to school. I’d like to learn more Spanish than “¿dónde está el baño?and “con queso por favor,” but if I don’t master the language this year, I can at least practice rolling my “R’s.”

Many people put travel among their list of New Year’s resolutions. I don’t, because it would cancel out the previous paying-off-debt goal.

Some aim for a better job. I actually like my job, and my boss pays me well, but I could use some extra hours in the off-season. I can aim for that, but I’m not going to call it a resolution. It’s more like making some phone calls to see if there’s any freelance work to be had.

Wait. I already do that.

Another typical resolution is to learn something new.  If I had the time, I’d do that more often, but I figure that I’ll have plenty of time for that in the old folks’ home.

A resolution that’s popping up more these days is vowing to manage stress. I could use a little more of that one, but since my bad bout of shingles last year, I’ve really been trying to get enough sleep and not get freaked out by the things I can’t control. So I guess I’ve been sticking to that last year’s resolution. Done.

Here’s what I really want to do in 2013:

I want to write more Facebook comments.

I want to accept that other parents won’t become more courteous drivers just because I roll my eyes at them when they double park at school pick up.

I want to watch more Jon Stewart.

I want to quit obsessing over gas prices.

I want to take a bath one day.

I want to find a better hiding place to store my son’s coloring pages than the recycling bin.

I want to dye my hair before my roots are an inch long.

I want to beat my kids in a game of Apples to Apples.

I don’t want any of my blogs to be stinkers.

Sometimes I just want to do nothing.

I’m hoping to do all these things in 2013. I’m just not going to call them resolutions.

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Filed under Anxiety, Career, Debt, Family, Financial Insecurity, Holidays, Humor, Husband, Illness, Kids, Parenting

For “Giving Tuesday,” Can I Give Back All My Free Address Labels?

Black Friday – the biggest shopping day of the year for the brick & mortar establishments – is followed three days later by Cyber Monday – the most popular online shopping day. And since you already have your credit cards out and are floating on that high that only comes from the combination of spending a lot of money and getting a really great deal, some brilliant philanthropists (and of course some savvy marketers) came up with today’s Giving Tuesday. They figure that we have one day for giving thanks and two for getting deals, so why not balance it out and create another day for giving back? And by “giving back,” they don’t mean the return line at Wal-Mart after you’ve developed buyer’s remorse.

I think Giving Tuesday is a great idea and I hope it catches on like wildfire. Especially for those people who don’t really think about charities until the end of the year tax write-off, I think it’s a wonderful way to initiate the recognition of worthy charities and hopefully start instilling a desire to help those in need, without expecting a fancy meal and a door prize in return.

Even though I completely encourage Giving Tuesday, today won’t necessarily be a special day for me. I try to be a giver year-round, not just on some new cyber-Hallmark holiday akin to Secretary’s Day. My kids will probably joke that I like to give them crap (although they wouldn’t actually the word “crap” or I’d really give them crap), but I wouldn’t hesitate a second to donate a kidney, a lung, or even half a brain if I could spare it. I enjoy volunteering my time in the community, and I even get a kick out of donating blood. And I don’t do it for the free carbs and a sticker.

I’ve never had a garage sale. I prefer to donate my gently-used items to charities, although one organization that I’ll just call Charity-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named came to pick up my bags of goods one day and instead left a note that said “Landfills are expensive.” Apparently the jacket good enough for me to wear the day before was unfit for a homeless person living in a box on a freeway offramp.

Ever since I started making enough money to eat something more extravagant than air-popped popcorn and off-brand macaroni and cheese, I’ve been giving to charities. Whether it was a Girl Scout selling over-priced cookies outside the market, a friend participating in a walk, jog, run or jump-a-thon, or some tear-jerker infomercial, my checkbook was always out. In the early 1990’s I was doing quite well financially and probably donated to 40 different charities annually. I’d send $25 to anything that came in the mail and more if the request was solicited by a friend.

But for the past few years we have been in financial dire straits, and I now have to be more choosey about charities.

The problem is, like pesky gum on your shoe that you just can’t scrape off, I seem to be in these charity databases for life. To them I’m still a potential donor left over from previous flush years, and I still might have sympathy and disposable income left to burn.

They don’t just send a form letter. What really irks me are the gilt-ridden gifts I don’t need or ask for that are smuggled along with the letter. I receive glossy photos of a malnourished child in Africa, a sad-eyed pup that’s about to be euthanized, or baby seals stuck in muck. They send calendars filled with 12 months of those plighted children, puppies, and baby seals. I get incredibly cheap-looking Christmas or greeting cards that I just pass on to some other charity. And if I had a dime for every time I got a dime from the March of Dimes… wait! I do have a lot of dimes!

Even though they may be attempting to stretch that donated dollar as tightly as possible by paying bargain basement prices on these presents, I’m concerned that they might be manufacturing these gifts in 3rd World Countries with the same horrible conditions they’re hoping to wipe out from the lives of plighted children, puppies, and baby seals.

But the most prevalent gifts are the ubiquitous address labels. I have probably received a billion of them in a variety of “Miss,” “Ms.” and “Mrs.,” “Cathy” or “Catherine,” and even some with the married names I never took.

Even though I didn’t ask for them, I’ll keep the labels and these days I probably won’t end up donating to their charity. I used to feel guilty about it, but it’s not like anyone else has any use for them. I can’t fill up a donation box of “Cathy Flynn – Valley Village, CA” labels for Charity-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and hope that Mr. Homeless Man in a Box can find them constructive, with the exception of using them to tape up leaky holes in his habitat.

I like to use the labels for as my contact information on charity raffle tickets rather than handwrite the same lines 100 times. The money may not be going to the optimistic organization that printed and mailed those address labels, but at least it’s still going to a good cause.

Two weeks ago I donated about 20 bags of clothing to the Superstorm Sandy victims, and then gave literally a truckload of household items to our local public middle school during their Goodwill drive. We have a monthly credit card payment to our public elementary school as well as my local public radio station since I’d be a complete thief to listen to NPR as often as I do without paying something for it. And since I don’t really know today how I’m going to pay for those credit card charges next month, I’m praying that even if I’m a contributor this year, it won’t tip me over the financial cliff so far that I’ll be one of those charity recipients next year.

I guess the bright side is – if we lose the house I won’t need to worry about what to do with all those return address labels. I doubt those charities will be able to find me at my new home next door to the Homeless Guy in a Box.

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Filed under Anxiety, Debt, Financial Insecurity, Fundraising, Humor, Public Schools, Volunteering

I’m a Half Century Old Today!

I got my AARP card in the mail this week. For those of you who have been living in a Forever 21 store or in front of the Jersey Shore all your short lives, AARP is the advocacy group promoting issues like Social Security, retirement benefits, and other concerns of Americans who are considered to be past their prime. Typical AARP members might include Betty White and Clint Eastwood, although if he were a spokesperson, Clint probably would have been dropped after his recent RNC rambling stint. However, 90-year old Betty White should be promoted to Queen AARP due to her witty Facebook response: “Is Clint talking to a chair?” A full 20 years after the cancellation of The Golden Girls, Betty’s still got it.

AARP used to be known as the American Association of Retired Persons, but is now an acronym without a title of origin, even though it is officially pronounced “ay ay ar pee” instead of “aaaarp,” which would sound like the bark of a small yapper dog, which coincidentally the majority of AARP members probably keep as their companions.

My kids are 5, 11, and 16 years old, and to them, 50 must seem absolutely ancient. By the time my mom was 50, she already had seven grandchildren – two who were older than my son is today. I was born before the Kennedy assassination, 7 years before the first moon walk, before most Americans had color tvs, before the Beatles released their first single, and 8 years before Republican Vice President Paul Ryan candidate was born. I share the 1962 birth year with Tom Cruise, Jon Stewart, Jim Carrey, Demi Moore, Steve Carell, Jodie Foster, Axl Rose, Garth Brooks, Eddie Izzard, Sheryl Crow, Jon Bon Jovi, Matthew Broderick, Rosie O’Donnell, MC Hammer, Emilio Estevez, Craig Ferguson, Bobcat Goldwait, John Slattery, Craig Kilborn, Joan Cusack, Kelly Preston, Flea, Felicity Huffman, and Ralph Fiennes.

1962 was a very fruitful year.

I have “1962” in my email address. I once had someone ask if that was the year I was born. I nonchalantly answered that it was.

“That’s awfully brave of you,” she answered.

No, I didn’t hit her. And I only thought about crying for a second.

When I told people that I had a milestone birthday coming up, many of them would try to flatter me.

“You’re turning 29!”

God, I never want to see 29 again. Back then I was in a horrible relationship, had zero self-esteem, and no life beyond work. It’s a good thing I didn’t end it all in desperation. I never would have known that my best years were still to come.

At 50, I have a full life – a little too full most of the time – but one that I wouldn’t trade for the world. I have a husband who always makes me laugh, three terrific kids who make my life worth living, a close-knit family I adore, a wide group of loving friends, a home that I appreciate, good health, a job that pays be a decent living and allows me to work from home where I have the freedom to choose my schedule, rewarding volunteer opportunities, a brain that still works most of the time, and I have this blog where I can try to be the funny that I have trouble being in person.

I don’t like my jiggly arms, varicose veins, grey roots, and recent vertical lines that are wrapping around my mouth. But I do like my smile lines, my red root rescue dyes, my thicker skin (metaphorically) and the wisdom that I’ve gained and still acquire more of every day.

I say 50 is the new 30.

Thankfully I’m not alone in having kids later in life, and most of us older moms can keep up with those younger mothers any day of the week. I’m not as frazzled and emotionally unstable as I would have been 20 years ago. And although I definitely was in a better boat financially, I don’t mind sharing my paycheck with my family. Balance transfers and a decent credit score keep the roof over our heads, our bills up to date, and our bellies more than full.

Realistically, I will probably never retire. Between my recent student loans, the debt equal to the GDP of a small nation that my husband has amassed by pursuing his Ph.D., and the inevitable college tuition bills of my three children, I will be paying off student loans until I’m dead. I don’t mind. I like being productive, and if there’s a choice between cutting lip smacks from the main characters of Once Upon a Time (or whatever show I land on after its hopefully 20-year run) or playing golf and bingo all day, I would choose the job.

Here is the Happy Birthday post I put on all my friends’ birthdays on Facebook. I don’t know who I stole it from, but if it’s you, I thank you for it. And now I share it with the rest of my readers for you to cut and paste on your own friends’ pages:

♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥ ¸¸•♫♪ hApPy bIrthDaY to you ♪♫•*•.¸¸♥ ¸¸.•*♫♪hApPy bIrthDaY to you ♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥ ¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪♥ ♥ ♥hApPy bIrthDaY dEar cAtHy •*¨*•♫♪hApPy bIrthDaY to you ♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥ ¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪ xo

… and many more!

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Filed under Debt, Family, Financial Insecurity, Friends, Humor, Husband, Kids, Parenting

Playing Whack-a-Mole with 0% Balance Transfer Promotions

There was a time when I was floating near the top of the other 99%. My student loans were paid off. Other than my mortgage, I had no debts. My credit score was just short of 800, and I could stroll into nearly any shop or restaurant and charge it, then pay the full price 25 days later without ever giving it a thought.

Then I had kids. A divorce. Studios started paying tv sound editors five days of pay per show instead of six. The television season shrunk and fewer union films were being made. Overtime dried up. I remarried, and we bought a fixer upper near the top of the market and took out a second mortgage at the peak to start repairs. I went back to school for a second master’s degree while my new husband earned his MBA and started on his PhD. We had a baby. A year later, the writers’ strike brought the entertainment industry to its knees. And then the final nail in the coffin: the housing bubble burst.

It all sounds like some bad made-for-tv movie from the 1970’s, but instead of being a woman in peril running from my wife-beating husband or recreational drugs gone bad, I was trying to escape from something much more sinister: the flailing American economy.

Although our home hasn’t drowned completely underwater, it’s basically bobbing in the sea like a buoy. If I was Noah, those animals would already be picking bunkmates.

Our savings ran out. So did the second mortgage. But with our great credit score, we started seriously considering the offers that we used to throw away along with craft catalogs and obscure charity labels.

Receive 0% Introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for one year.

It was like free money – almost. We just paid a 3% fee and we could postpone the bills. Certainly we could pay it off within a year. We signed our John Hancocks and slept like babies.

And then the roof caved in… literally. We replaced the 80-year old pipes and windows, but the funds ran out before we got to the Spanish tile roof. Each winter the tarp over our house grew bigger until we had a 1700 square foot sail strapped over our entire roof billowing against the wind, ready to make our home airborne as if we were Dorothy flying over Kansas. Tiles were flying like exploding landmines and this back burner fix suddenly became a front burner emergency.

We took advantage of three different credit card offers to come up with $11,700. And within months we were robbing Peter to pay Paul – taking out one balance transfer deal to pay off the balance of the one the year before.

Accumulated stress caused me to have a serious case of shingles to my head and eye and landed me in the hospital for nine days last November. The hospital and doctor bills came to over 100 grand. Insurance paid for most of it, but we were still responsible for about $3,000. I also missed weeks of work in an industry that doesn’t offer sick pay.

Needless to say, we have been taking huge austerity measures these past few years. We rarely eat out. The only movies I go to are at the TV Academy where I’m a member. We shop at thrift stores, and only when we absolutely need something. The Eurozone would be proud.

In the past few years I have become quite adept at the balance transfer jugging act. I have billpayer and autopay paying more than the minimum amount each month and I’ve created fluorescent notes reminding myself to have the balance paid before the interest goes into mafia amounts.

We had two cards doing just that in mid and late July. So on June 24th I applied for yet another balance transfer, and this one had an even better deal – no balance transfer fee.

As the day got closer, I started calling the automated operator of the credit card cards being paid off to make sure the transfer was made.

It wasn’t.

Because it was under Tom’s name, they wouldn’t talk to me – the lowly wife – so I had him call. He was told that they were still considering the request.

Considering a request? This card loves us! We did the dance with them two years ago, paid off the balance, and didn’t touch the card for a year. We had available credit of over ten grand.

I was starting to sweat. I juggled some bills, got some temporary advance cash and had funds covered the day the big interested was to start. We had another 3 grand due for this card the next month so there wouldn’t be any need to stop the payment.

Phew!

In the meantime, I kept calling the second big interest card, but that one still hadn’t gone through. I bugged Tom to call them again.

It turns out that we were denied.

What? Why?

Because we already had an account.

Duh!

Apparently the credit card company thought they were sending the offer out to some random Joe who had no credit history with them at all. Since we already had an account, we weren’t eligible.

That’s like offering a homeless guy on the freeway off ramp your leftover McDonald’s fries, but when you discover that it’s your next door neighbor you nab the greasy bag back.

I’m not by nature pushy, but I suddenly became the cartoon wife with the rolling pin in her hand, demanding that her husband fix this or else.

Tom convinced the credit card to give us the deal… almost. They wouldn’t give us the free fee. But it’s only 1%, which is $100 cheaper than the standard 3%.

So now we continue with our game of financial whack-a-mole. I start back to work in September, and we’ll continue paying down our huge accumulated chunk of debt.

Now I know what it’s like to be Greece.

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Filed under Anxiety, Debt, Financial Insecurity, Humor, Husband

It’s My Fundraiser and I’ll Cry if I Want To

I love our school. We’ve been going to Colfax Charter Elementary School since Emily enrolled in kindergarten in 2001, and since then I have accumulated literally hundreds of friends who are in my iPhone contact list – most whom I am happy to say are probably not dodging my call.

I’m on the Restaurant Committee, which is the team that lines up monthly fundraisers at local restaurants that give our school 20 – 30% back. We publicize the event on our marquee, on Facebook and Twitter, in an email blast, and by putting flyers in the kids’ backpacks.

These events take place during the school year, but recently I suggested that we try our hand at summer fundraisers as well. With the exception of flyers in the backpacks, we could publicize the events every other way, and instead of a monthly event, we could make them bi-weekly since the kids and parents will certainly miss each other and want to have a mass gathering.

The first fundraiser of the summer was yesterday at California Pizza Kitchen. Our last CPK event at the beginning of the 2011-12 school year brought in over $800 in profits for our school, so I was anticipating more of the same.

All three of the other current members of the Restaurant Committee were out of town, so I did all the typical social media posts and then shared them on my Facebook page:

 I’m going at 5:00 today. Who wants to join me?

I sent emails to everyone who was in Jake’s kindergarten class, and any other kindergartners who were in my address book, and even though it’s been a year since Mary moved on to middle school, I invited all her friends as well.

As I picked up Mary from drama camp in the Colfax auditorium I shouted out for everyone to join as for dinner at CPK at 5:00. I did the same when I picked up Jake from Colfax’s Farm Week Summer Camp.

Right before we left for dinner, I looked at my Facebook post to see how many Likes, Comments or Shares I had for the gathering.

Not a one. Nada. Zip. Bupkis.

Colfax’s Facebook page had one Share: Mine.

Usually at least someone would have given me a half-hearted Like, which might be something in between a 🙂 and a 😦 – maybe like a :/, but then that would have required a Comment, and as I just said, there was nothing. This post was in Facebook Wasteland.

The lack of comments to my post truly reeked of disinterest, as if I had suggested something duller than my kitchen steak knives:

Who wants to join me for my annual dusting of the ceiling fans?

Who wants to join me in the heart of a Sig Alert?

Who wants to join me at the DMV?

At least these posts might have sparked a laughing  :-)) or ;) winkingwinking 😉 response.

Undaunted, I forged ahead with my dinner plans. Mary, Jake and I arrived at 5:15, just to add a little time for possible latecomers. Unlike last fall’s CPK fundraiser, there was no long line of cars waiting to be parked from CPK’s complimentary valet. There was no crowd of four dozen people outside waiting to get a table. And as we walked in, there were customers at only three tables, and I didn’t recognize a one.

I thought of walking away without buying anything. We actually don’t have the luxury of eating out in our budget. The bill just gets tacked on to the credit card we won’t have the money to pay off until I start back to work on Season 2 of Once Upon a Time next September, and September is still a long way off.

But CPK only offers free valet parking if you get validated, and you can’t really get a validation if you don’t buy anything. Also, since I’m on the Restaurant Committee and the only member in town who could participate, I’d be a hypocrite to walk away without buying something.

I decided to get the food to go since I was going to get something for Tom anyway. Fortunately Emily’s a vegetarian who doesn’t eat wheat or dairy. I’d just tell her the whole menu would give her the trots.

I ordered a kid’s mac & cheese for Jake, kung pao pasta for Tom and jambalaya pasta for myself, and the portions had better be enough to split it for lunch tomorrow, dammit!

Mary wanted pizza AND salad, and I nearly choked. That girl always has champagne tastes with our beer budget, or since Tom and I don’t drink, it’s kind of like Dollar Tree apple juice vs. Martinelli’s sparking cider. I told her we have frozen pizza at home, so she settled on the Caesar salad. No chicken.

The bill came to $46.93, and I tried to look on the bright side: over 9 bucks back for our school and I didn’t have to pay a tip for a waiter.

We sat at the counter waiting for our order while Jake colored in the kid’s menu and Mary practiced her Belle lines from Beauty and the Beast.

No Colfax families. No big 20% back check. No fun reunion.

I wanted to cry.

But this was a public place and I would look like a wacky woman.

On the other had, no one here knew me.

There weren’t any Colfax families here to witness it.

I wanted to cry even more.

I held it together. Barely.

About ten minutes later, a miracle occurred! A Colfax mom arrived with her 4th grader. Heather and I did the Box Tops fundraiser a year ago, and I was so happy to see her, I wanted to cry – in a good way. But it turns out she was having a special mother/daughter dinner while her husband and son were gone fishing, so I didn’t want to intrude.

A couple of minutes later, Lina arrived.

This is when I really want to cry, and not in a good way.

Lina is my mother-in-law, and I invited her to join us for dinner. She drove herself to CPK after a hard day at work, and here I was, about to grab my to go bag. I had completely forgotten that I had invited her. I offered to stay and get a table or buy something for her so we could go home or to her house and eat it, but she was obviously despondent. I could tell she felt rejected, and I didn’t blame her.

I felt terrible.

I mostly felt terrible because I assumed she was feeling terrible that I didn’t have the thought to let her know that the evening was cancelled. She walked away without validating her ticket, and by the time I caught up to her she had already paid the valet.

That’s when I started to cry.  It began as a silent whimper. I felt sorry for my mother-in-law and our little school and the fundraiser that didn’t bring any money. That whimper snowballed into a bottomless shame pit.

You’re the dork who thought we could have a successful summer fundraiser!

No wonder no one came. Nobody likes you anyway!

How the hell are we going to pay for this meal anyway?

Your mother-in-law hates you!

Now your kids are hearing you cry out loud and they’re going to either be scared or think you’re emotionally unstable!

You really are emotionally unstable. Doesn’t a straightjacket in a rubber room sound like a good solution?

I used to go down this rabbit hole a lot in middle and high school, but I thought I had gotten better as an adult. Obviously not. By the time I got home I was blubbering like an idiot.

My husband Tom has absolutely no personal comprehension of the mood swings created from PMS or menopause or insecure women feeling downright bonkers. But he gave me a hug anyway and wondered out loud how such an intelligent lady can spin out of control so quickly.

He invited me to go to Family Swim at the Y, where no one would question why my mascara was running. And after watching Jake dog paddle while wearing his goofy goggles, I felt better.

Today, nearly 24 hours later, my original Facebook post still sat empty. So under the Like – Comment – Share buttons I wrote a comment to myself:

Nobody likes me.

Maybe someone will click the Like button on that one.

But then it begs to question:

Does that mean they Like me?

Or do they Like that no one likes me?

I shouldn’t be on the Restaurant Committee for my elementary school. I should be enrolled in the elementary school. Because clearly, my self esteem in this instance is still in the 1st grade.

On the bright side, our little CPK fundraiser ended up with 14 Colfax receipts, taking in $605.80 and a donation of $121.16.

To the other 13 families who came to Colfax Day at CPK last night:

Thank you so much! I’m so grateful I could cry.

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Filed under Anxiety, Debt, Family, Financial Insecurity, Friends, Humor, Husband, Kids, Parenting

I Used to Bake a Lot of Cookies… And Then I Had Kids

Back in 1993 when I was a 31-year old newlywed, I used to cook all the time. I received many extravagant wedding gifts and I loved to use all the kitchen appliances: bread maker; pasta maker; juicer; waffler; Cuisinart with all the gadgets. I prepared an amazing bruschetta with fresh roma tomatoes, basil and garlic, and the more often I made it, the more immune I became to garlic. I made my last big batch when Emily was just a few months old and it reeked of so much garlic it would have scared away the cast of Twilight, and I was forced to pump & dump because Emily refused to breastfeed my stinky milk for a day.

These days, I’m not much of a cook. I try to spice up a box of Hamburger Helper by replacing pork chunks for ground beef or adding a pack of frozen peas, but that’s the extent of my culinary creativity.

We don’t have the budget to eat out or buy take out. If we did, my family would be regular customers at every eatery within a 3-mile radius. Because I’m usually overbooked, I tend to stock up on Costco or Trader-Joe’s ready-made meals. Unfortunately, the rest of the family is sick of them and are now boycotting anything that comes in a 2-quart plastic container.

But before I had kids, I was one heck of a baker, which seems backwards since you’d think I’d be baking more with my kids. Back then I owned a home with a spacious gourmet kitchen and a double oven, and I had the luxury of actually getting the baking dishes washed while my treats were cooking instead of spending that time pouring apple juice, pulling out the bin of Barbies and grabbing Neosporin and a Bandaid. Now I have a trampoline that is bigger than my whole kitchen, my oven temperature has a mind of its own, and my collection of baking utensils has dwindled down to one cracked mixing bowl and a four-quart measuring cup.

Back in the 1980’s and early ‘90’s I used to be a quiet co-dependant and created lavish cheesecakes and birthday cakes and spent the holidays frantically baking up a storm for all my co-workers as an effort to make them like me. It turns out they liked me without me having to kiss their stomachs, and they showed me their gratitude by taking up a collection and buying me a Kitchen Aide mixer. I paid them back by getting pregnant shortly thereafter and rarely baking again.

One Christmas I baked four different kinds of bar cookies, rice krispie squares, peanut butter fudge, 10 dozen cupcakes, 6 batches of brownies, and 100 dozen cookies. It took me from Friday through Sunday night with very little sleep in between, and I packed up the variety in large baskets for each department at work. I have a picture somewhere and I wish I could find it. My arms are outstretched in front of row after row of cardboard boxes piled high with baked goods. It’s the only proof I have that I’m not exaggerating, because personally, I wouldn’t believe me either.

I’m not quiet or co-dependent any more, but the main reason I don’t bake like Mrs. Fields is because I’m just too busy. I always donate something to the school bake sales, but in most cases they’re the slice & bake cookies, or brownies or cupcakes that just need eggs, oil and water added. My kids love the latter because they get to lick the cracked bowl and wooden spoon. Unfortunately I tend to find time to bake hours after they’ve gone to bed, so the licking of utensils is a rare treat.

Tom is definitely the chef of the family. He’ll make a big pot of jambalaya or chili, and I will continue to eat the leftovers for lunch day after day and never get sick of them. I make a complete fool of myself at potlucks because I am not too proud to take home all the leftovers. I figure it’s saving me over $100 in food and about 5 hours of cooking/cleaning time for the week. I have no idea what kind of reputation I have when I’m out of earshot. Are people making oinking sounds? Do they think I’m the porker at the all-you-can-eat buffet? It really doesn’t matter because as I said, I’m not too proud.

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been creating vlogs (video blogs) for YouTube’s MomPulse Network for their Question of the Week. Since this week asks What is your favorite recipe? I decided that it was a great excuse to make the time to bake something with my kids, and also buy a much-needed measuring cup. Together we prepared the dessert that used to tempt even the most hardcore Weight Watchers member: Monster Cookies.

If you have three minutes, please follow this link to watch me and my kids make this delectable treat. I dare you not to drool.

And if you’re reading this, I invite you to come over for an extravagant dinner party in which I serve freshly made pasta, homemade baked bread, and a few side dishes that take me hours to prepare. Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait until all the kids have left for college.

 

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Filed under Family, Financial Insecurity, Humor, Husband, Kids, Parenting

10 Reasons I’m Glad I Didn’t Win the $656 Million Mega Millions Jackpot

Like half of all the other desperate souls in America, I was dreaming of what I would do if I won $656 million in the Mega Millions Jackpot. I bought not one, but two lotto tickets, which is a very big deal since it meant that due to the astronomical gas prices I’d have to drive four fewer miles this week. Good timing since it’s spring break and I get a break from middle school car pool.

In my fantasy, I would pay off the house just enough to have 20% equity, then do a na-na-na-na-na-na dance to the half dozen loan officers who have turned us down for a refi this past year.

I would pay off the student loans my husband and I have accumulated to the tune of $185,000, and then have plenty left over to put our three kids through the college of their choice. What the heck… we could probably buy our own college.

We could fly first class to Florida and spend a week at Disneyworld while Emily is still young enough to enjoy it and Jake is old enough to avoid the dreaded naptime.

I could dream forever and keep going on about my fantasies, but the fact is, I didn’t win. Obviously, or my blog hit numbers would be through the roof. So since I try to be a glass half full kind of gal, I have come up with the…

10 Reasons I’m Glad I Didn’t Win the $656 Million Mega Millions Jackpot

1. Taxes. Right now I earn and pay a pittance – just enough to contribute a little something to our under-funded public schools. If I was paying millions in taxes it would all go to big ticket items like politicians’ pet projects such as funding studies on whether cockroaches prefer Cocoa Krispies or Cocoa Pebbles.

2. All the kindergartners would be knocking out their own teeth during sleepovers at our home since it would be rumored that we have a very generous Tooth Fairy.

3. My credit union building is just not big enough to deposit all those dollars

4. I really don’t want to be featured in supermarket tabloids under the headings “She’s just like us! She buys her own deodorant!” and “Lotto Winner Caught Picking Her Butt!”

5. I’d have to scrape off my “Other 99%” bumper sticker.

6. I’m afraid someone will kidnap my dogs and hold them for ransom. Then I’d have the dilemma of whether or not to pay the criminals or let the mutts just annoy them as much as they annoy me.

7. I’d probably have to start paying my kids an allowance.

8. Every third cousin in my family tree would be hightailing it to LA for a piece of the pie, and then race back again every month when their stash ran out.

9. I would have to spend all my free time rejecting new Facebook friend requests.

10. I would be invited to fancy shmancy parties that Mitt Romney is also invited to and then I’d have to keep repeating the awkward conversation that I am a Democrat and would plan to outspend his Super PAC.

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Filed under Anxiety, Debt, Financial Insecurity, Humor, Kids, Parenting, Public Schools, Top 10 List