3.21.2013

Spring Break

I had grand intentions for Spring Break but we all know where that road leads. It started with a tickle in
the back of my throat and I woke up Monday with a wicked headache and the distinct need for Sudafed. So my good intentions were shelved for the day and I slept. I slept long and hard in an attempt to head this cold off and then laid low for the rest of the day. It didn't help and now I'm on day 4 of this annoying cold.



** edited for Pinch Paisley who wanted to see pictures from my Spring Break **



This week, I cooked up a batch of Greek Lentil Soup and a homemade loaf of beer bread. We have snow on the way later this week and it's still pretty chilly outside so this hit the spot and there was enough for leftovers. Delish but next time I'll add more carrots and maybe a ham bone for depth of flavor.




Hopefully, this cold will back off and I can get cracking on the things I wanted to do around here - namely tackle the basement/school area and get that all tidied up for our last quarter of school. Things have piled up and it is all kind of a mess down there right now. I'm in the middle of reassessing our curriculum choices for next year and I have some things I need to get rid of as well as getting completed schoolwork organized so that I can create end of the year portfolios for The Boy and The Girl. 


I did do one remarkable thing this week - I paid off every dime of credit card debt that we have. This is momentous - never once, in the history of our marriage (and, I'm pretty sure, not since I procured my first credit card) have we been without credit card debt. And our outstanding balances have been BIG - due in part to legal fees we incurred and in part to our decision to bulk up our cash savings in preparation for MacGyver's exit from the Army rather than pay down our debt. This was a double-edged sword - to do this, we used some of the money MacGyver received as part of his separation. Basically, we used part of his retirement savings to do this. But this was only after careful consideration and consultation with our financial advisor. It makes more sense to knock out unsecured debt that was dragging in 10+% in interest charges rather than let that cash sit in a savings account, earning a measly 1.0% (if we're lucky). 


And now, it is done. No more credit card debt. Now, the trick will be to KEEP it that way. We have several recurring charges that run through our credit card - primarily for convenience: cell phone bill, swim team payment, and our sponsorship through Compassion International. I refuse to allow our debit card to be used online in any way so we will still use our credit card for online purchases. However, I'm going to 'borrow' Teresa's idea and keep a running monthly tally of our credit card charges on the fridge so that MacGyver and I both know what we've spent and the statement won't be a surprise when it comes in the mail. 


For the past few months, we've been running our grocery purchases through our Amex card (which has a cash back bonus) but I'm finding that I'm breaking my food budget too easily that way so this month we are back to operating on a cash basis. This makes it easier for me to make sure we stay on budget. We buy raw milk, eggs, and beef (which we buy very rarely) from local suppliers so I know what my monthly expenditures there will be: about $50 per month. We also have started participating in Bountiful Baskets, which provides low-cost fresh fruits and veggies for a really great price (and they offer an organic option as well!) so that's about $50 per month. Our monthly food budget is $400 so that leaves me with $300 for everything else, which is usually plenty, especially if I am good about making snacky-type items from scratch (cookies, muffins, etc.).


Another thing that helps is Harvester's. Our church participates in this and offers distribution through Harvester's each month and we are involved in helping. It's a great way for us to give back to our community and a wonderful way for our children to do so as well. At the end of the day, the people that help are welcome to take home any of the remaining food before it is taken to a local food bank. Last time, there was a HUGE dearth of Bosc pears, cabbage, Kraft Take Fresh kits, and boxed salad so we were blessed to take some of that home as well. That definitely helped offset our food budget.


Lastly, I stumbled across Danielle over at Blissful and Domestic and found that she and I are about in the same boat - living on a very frugal budget and doing our best to make ends meet. We don't own our own home like they do but it looks like, pretty soon, we'll be living on the GIBill and, if she can do it, so can we. Or so I hope! Looks like we may very well be finding out.


I am starting to look for ways to bring in some extra income. I'm selling off some things that we no longer need, writing some freelance articles (like this one --> Getting Out), selling some advertising space on the old blog, and looking into offering tutoring services to people who need them. Every extra dollar helps. Now that the weather is *supposed* to start warming up, MacGyver is going to reinsure the motorcycle and start riding that rather than driving the truck, which should help cut our petrol bill back even further. We're still line-drying most of our clothes and keeping the thermostat nice and low so that has helped keep our electricity bill low as well.


Next up will be cutting back on the cell phone plan (we don't use enough data or enough anytime minutes to warrant unlimited plans for those items. Ditto on the texting.) and probably ditching cable. Between Netflix, Amazon Prime's streaming, and the Roku box that MacGyver scored off Craigslist for dirt cheap, we really don't need, nor do we use, cable. So that should save us about $50 per month on cable and I'm hoping we'll be able to knock $50 per month off of our cell phone bill as well.


And, if it looks like we're going to be here longer than I expected, I am going to see whether or not the swim team has room on deck for another coach. Even if they can only waive my kids' fees, that's worth it. We'll see! For now, I am off to take more Sudafed and Mucinex and see about tackling the basement. 




Pau.




- hfs

3.06.2013

365 days





An Irish Airman Forsees His Death



I Know that I shall meet my fate 

Somewhere among the clouds above; 

Those that I fight I do not hate 
Those that I guard I do not love, 
My country is Kiltartan Cross,
My countrymen Kiltartan’s poor, 
No likely end could bring them loss 
Or leave them happier than before. 
Nor law, nor duty bade me fight, 
Nor public man, nor cheering crowds, 
A lonely impulse of delight 
Drove to this tumult in the clouds; 
I balanced all, brought all to mind, 
The years to come seemed waste of breath,
A waste of breath the years behind 
In balance with this life, this death.


Quote Yeates to me and you've won my heart.

It's been 365 days since this world grew darker.  My grief was overwhelming then and remains so to this day. I've just become better at hiding it. I don't talk about it much but the tears and heartache are always just below the surface. People will give lip service to the fact that there is no timetable for grief but the reality is that most people expect you to move on from the loss of a friend pretty quickly. So I do my best to compartmentalize it, put it in a pretty box on a shelf in my mind and only take it down when no one is around.


My grief stays private - no one needs to see my 'ugly cry'. 



There are a lot of Lexicans getting together to commemorate this day and I think it's wonderful. But I can't. I just can't. Being around people in general on this day is hard enough. My sadness pulls me inward, onto myself. It's not something I can comfortably share with others. This is as close as I get to sharing.

There are days like today where I wish I enjoyed alcohol. I'd hoist a Guinness (for strength!) in honor of my friend. Instead, I'll take a drive, blast some Mumford on the stereo, mail a letter to Lex's wife, and maybe sift through some old emails and wrap myself in my friend's words of wisdom, because I miss those desperately.



Untitled from Nep Lex on Vimeo.





Pau.




- hfs

3.03.2013

A check! For ME!

$105.87! Go little blog!



First, thank you to my readers - all 5 of you - for occasionally clicking the Google ad links (like the one right below this post or over to the right in the sidebar). Because of you, I got this wonderful check in the mail on Friday - MacGyver's last day in the Army. I don't believe in coincidences so this blessing was a welcome sight in an otherwise unsettling day.


And I have plans for this check - plans that I had been praying about for a week or two before this showed up, which makes it even more special. The Girl is getting to the age where we need to sit down and really discuss the physical relationship between men and women and the nitty-gritty (don't want to say 'nuts and bolts' because that would make me giggle and this is a SERIOUS topic...sort of.) as to how babies are made. Our family is choosing to use a curriculum called Passport to Purity.




It's a really nice, all-inclusive curriculum kit about relationships, dating, sex, and marriage. It has a journal for her, a guidebook for me, and it's designed for a get-away weekend for the two of us. I've taught health (and sex ed) in high school and could have gone that route with my children and that would have been ok (we actually started in on health at the beginning of this school year and have been studying puberty and the associated changes through both that and our science lessons) but I wanted something a little more special for my daughter. She loves the one-on-one time and a get-away is right up her alley. But I didn't know where I would scrounge up the money for a hotel room, meals, and gas. So I prayed about it and let it be.


Last week, I received an Ebates.com check in the mail for the shopping I did over Christmas ($31 and change). On Thursday, I sold 3 math books I had advertised on a homeschool for sale site (another $45) and Friday, this check came in the mail. That combined with a few dollars tucked away from my spending money each month should cover everything! How perfect is that? I haven't yet told her - I need to square away a few details, make reservations, etc. but I'm really excited just to have some time away with her. And it won't negatively impact our budget one bit! 




Pau.




- hfs

Welcome



I've been taking part in a wonderful, intelligent discussion about religion and atheism on a friend's Facebook page. Normally such discussion devolve into hate-filled name calling and accusations about affiliation with the Nazi party but this one - though challenging - is devoid of that. It's refreshing. Normally, I would shy away from such a discussion because I worry that my Biblical knowledge isn't enough to support my beliefs and opinions in such a discussion but that isn't the case in this. One of the nice things about Facebook is the ability to let a conversation hang for a moment while you gather your thoughts and articulate your beliefs. It helps that the person (whom I do not know personally...he's a friend of the person on whose FB page the conversation is taking place) is open to the discussion, willing to articulate his beliefs and how he reached them without necessarily insulting or tearing down my opinions (which run counter to his). He's challenging my beliefs but not attacking them and that is incredibly uncommon today. It's been a great conversation. 


Then today, I came across the sign (above) on Facebook. It sums up everything I think a church should embody. If you can't read it, it says:

"We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, gay, filthy rich, dirt poor, 'Dydw i ddim yn siarad Seasneg'. We extend a special welcome to those who are crying newborns, skinny as a rake, or could stand to lose a few pounds.

We welcome you if you can sing like Pavarotti or are like our Vicar (who can't carry a note in a bucket). You're welcome here if you're 'just browsing', just woke up, or just got out of prison. We don't care if you're more Christian than the Archbishop of Canterbury, or haven't been to church since little Jack's christening.

We extend a special welcome to those who are over 60 but not grown up yet, and to teenagers who are growing up too fast. We welcome keep-fit mums, football dads, starving artists, latte-sippers, vegetarians, junk food eaters. We welcome those who are in recovery or still addicted. We welcome you if you're having problems or you're down in the dumps or if you don't like 'organized religion'. We've been there too!

If you blew all your money on the horses, you're welcome here. We offer a welcome to those who think the earth is flat, work too hard, don't work, can't spell, or because Grandma is in town and wanted to go to church.

We welcome those who are inked, pierce, or both. We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down their throat as a kid, or got lost in Builth's one way system and wound up here by mistake. We welcome tourists, seekers and doubters, bleeding hearts...and you!"


I think this should be read at the beginning of every church service. Goodness knows, I need the reminder! Today, in church, I sat up in the balcony (because that's my safe zone where my introverted self is comfortable) and about half way through worship, this family came in. They had 3 children, the youngest about 6. It took them a few minutes to figure out where each of them was going to sit and it kind of disrupted my enjoyment of the worship. Then the middle child started arguing with the youngest boy and the parents struggled to get them to settle down. Then the daughter couldn't see and they rearranged themselves again. Worship ended and the youngest went off to class but the middle boy continued to fidget and be kind of a pain. It was obvious he craved attention - even the negative kind. And he garnered plenty of that. Rather than ignore the boy's behavior (which really didn't seem to be that big of a deal) or take him out of the sanctuary, the dad fussed at him and it escalated from there. Needless to say, it was hard to pay attention to the sermon. And I started to get grumpy and frustrated - how dare these people come and invade my bubble and get in the way of my enjoyment of the sermon.


And then I realized what an ass I was being (in my own head, thankfully). They weren't doing any of this intentionally (well, the boy was intentionally being a pain but it wasn't directed at me) and really, all it took was a little extra focus on my part to pay attention to the sermon. So I prayed. I prayed for this family and this boy who craved attention. I prayed that God would help me fix my lousy attitude and help me 'love my neighbor' rather than stew in my grumpiness.


Someone once said to me that church is not a country club - it's not a place for people who have it all together. It's a hospital for those that are hurting or in need of something. And aren't we all?


Yes. Yes we are. 




Pau.




- hfs

3.01.2013

Dear Army,

It's been real.
It's been fun.
I can't say it's been real fun.

Peace out.




Pau.




- hfs

This Lousy World

I'm currently reading Brené Brown's new book, "Braving the Wilderness" and have come to the conclusion that she is my...