The best-laid plans of mice and men...
Yep. They went out the window. The holidays snuck up on me and totally derailed my plans to be a more prolific blogger. Between the scramble to get it all done before departing on our holiday travels and the scramble to get all of the schoolwork done before the holidays hit, the computer was cast aside like a Christmas sweater from Aunt Marge. Which is not always a bad thing.
But I'm still here. Still on vacation with no plans to change that any time soon. And it's glorious! We traveled to the west coast to visit family and friends who are like family and had a great Christmas. Even better because there won't be the normal post-Christmas panic attacks when opening the credit card bill. Thanks to a website called Swag Bucks and cashing in all of our change, I was able to pay for the children's Christmas gifts (including the "Santa"/family gift) with Amazon.com gift cards. Everything else was purchased with spending money. I will admit that the plane tickets were purchased with the credit card but no one's perfect, right?
I can't say I'm sad to see 2011 leave. So many of my friends have faced challenges and heartache this year - just seems like a lot of people were nailed with a 1-2 punch or kicked when they were down. I can't count on two hands the number of friends whose main bread-winner either lost their job or faced a serious cut-back in their hours and/or salary. I'm hoping that 2012 brings with it some improved circumstances for everyone. Our situation remains tenuous, moreso by the fact that MacGyver's slot for a class was pulled. We were hoping he could get into the class as a way to help boost his chances when he goes before the promotion board in 2012 but it seems that is not to be. Instead, he will be flying his 'okole off (figuratively, not literally) and racking up as many hours as possible. In the meantime, we are researching Guard and Reserve options as well as civilian employment possibilities. Ideally, we want to get back to Hawaii but that might not be possible. We'll see.
And yes, before anyone says anything (*ahem, my Godmother...ahem*), I am well aware of the fact that, until about 2 years ago, I was counting days until I could get back to the mainland. Stop reminding me. I'll say this in my defense: I moved out when I was 18 to go to college. My parents sold my childhood home and left the state toward the end of my freshman year. I've not found a place since that I could truly call home. We loved Colorado but we were college students. We loved Alaska but didn't put down roots there, really. I don't have any desire to live in California ever again (I will if it comes down to putting food on the table but, really, it's a sinking ship that the rats are leaping off of).
But Hawaii...Hawaii became home to us. Six and a half years is a long time to live in one place, especially if you are a military family. In addition, some of our best times and some of our worst times happened in Hawaii and we were supported through it all by incredible friends. Our children know nothing but Hawaii and we all miss it desperately. It's home. I'm not sure exactly when it became 'home' but it is. I was talking with a friend of mine who IS Hawaiian and I was telling him that I wanted to come home. He asked where 'home' was and I told him, Hawaii. He was so happy to hear that - he and his family work really hard to make everyone feel at home in Hawaii.
So it's home. Didn't mean for it to happen that way but it did and that's how it is. And I'm homesick. Miserably so. But I'll live. In the meantime, I'm hoping and praying a full-time Guard slot opens up on O'ahu for a Chinook Maintenance Test Pilot. A girl can dream.
The new year will bring with it a few more opportunities for travel - up to the DC area for the milblogging conference and to visit family, hopefully out to Colorado to visit old friends and eat good food, possibly up into Nebraska to visit the zoo up there, and throughout Kansas to explore the state. The weather this week and into the weekend is supposed to be unseasonably glorious so I'm hoping we might be able to swap out the water pump on my car. MacGyver doesn't seem to think my clutch is a problem - most likely the noise I'm hearing is coming from the engine mounts. We'll see. He'll be able to look at it as he's tearing out the old water pump. I'm hoping it's not the clutch - that's just money I don't want to spend and the clutch on my car is a bear to swap out (MacGyver has done it on his car - same model - in the past). The beginning of 2012 will usher in a slightly tighter budget with the hopes of paying down more of our debt. My goal is to make us as light as possible, in terms of debt, by the time the promotion board results come out in the summer in addition to beefing up our small savings as much as possible.
That's a tough balance to strike. In the face of a possible loss of job, how do you know how much to put toward paying down your unsecured debt and how much to put toward stashing in savings? Do I stop paying more than the minimum on our credit cards and squirrel away every last penny into savings so that we have more to live on should the paycheck stop arriving? Or do I pay down the credit cards as much as possible in order to not only lessen the monthly burden of minimum payments each month but also to free up as much available credit should we need it to make ends meet? Tough call. Thoughts?
We're about as lean as we can get in terms of expenses. We are ditching Netflix in favor of RedBox. I'm still lobbying to ditch cable completely but I have no one else in my corner. Our utilities are as low as they are going to go. We rarely eat out. The kids are in 1 extracurricular activity. I don't even go to Starbucks much anymore and, when I do, it comes out of my spending cash. Once the holidays are past and the lines thin out at the post office, eBay and I are going to strike up a relationship as I start to sell off a lot of our extra "stuff". I've already started stashing a lot of what I deem to be unnecessary in the guest room downstairs. That way, if we find that we need it, it's still there. If, by the time I get around to putting it up on eBay (or Craigslist if it's too big to ship), no one has noticed that it's missing, then we obviously did not need it. Right now, it's mostly books, baby/toddler clothes, old toys, etc. but there isn't anything that's truly safe in our house unless it was handmade by a family member. Everything else will be scrutinized for possible sale. Not only will this bring in some extra cash but it will also lighten our load should we need to store stuff.
I need to start digging into the regs surrounding Involuntary Separation Pay and what the restrictions with regard to federal employment are as they pertain to it. Ideally, we'd transition directly from the active duty Army to either full-time Guard or Reserves. But I'm not sure if that's possible after accepting the Involuntary Sep Pay. And then there is a the GI Bill to look into. If all else fails, MacGyver can put the new GI Bill to use and pick up a part time Guard slot on the side. So there are options.
For now, it's time to have dinner with friends. And start thinking of the next blog post.