Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Bonus Day

This is not my pile was not this neat!

I spent this morning cleaning out the clutter.  It's my last opportunity to accomplish something by the end of this month.  I've switched all  my monthly statements to electronic reporting,  purchased a new drive to backup my electronic records, created a new mail sorting station, and produced a reference notebook that holds all our financial, medical, and insurance data.  As hard as I tried it was almost impossible for me to stay on task.  Digging through the accumulated piles I uncovered long lost treasures that demanded to be read. 

You never know what you'll find hidden in the bottom of a mail basket.  I found a note written by my granddaughter last year.  She was just learning how to write, every letter carefully formed to say "I love you Nana"  and signed with her name...first and last, just in case I confused her with some other granddaughter named Megan.  I found numerous greeting cards from various holidays and events.  It's so rare for me to receive personal mail that I can't bring myself to throw away those handwritten cards and notes.  They sit in the mail basket for months, and sometimes years.

After my mother died my brother and I cleaned out her house.  We found every letter we had ever written to her and every greeting card that we had ever sent her.  I probably have more in common with my mother than I like to admit.

Today one of the treasures I refound was a letter that a friend sent me when I retired.  She wrote about the influence I had had on her in our work relationship and how I had made a difference for her and for our students.  I'm keeping that letter and the note from my granddaughter.  They remind me of the power of the written word and that I'm loved. 

Today is an extra day in your year.  It really is a bonus.  Spend some of your windfall time to write a real note, on paper with ink, and send it to an important person in your life.  I bet it will stick around a lot longer than those emails and text messages.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Shortest Month

February is the shortest month, so why should I be surprised that it has gone by so quickly?  We even have a bonus day this year, but March will be here on Thursday. 

At the beginning of the month I was thinking that February would be a good month to start those resolutions that I didn't make at the new year.  I figured that since February is the shortest month, it would be easier to maintain those promises I make to myself.  It's only 29 days...surely I can maintain self control for 29 days.

Apparently not!  I never got around to exercising regularly, drinking more water, avoiding salt, and eating more vegetables. And now February is almost over and I've only got time for a quick resolution.  It's too late to drop 10 pounds or become physically fit.  So, I decided to take the few days left in February and organize my life. 

I started my organizational frenzy with our mail basket.  The original idea of the mail basket was a temporary resting place for the mail when it was brought into the house.  It has become, however, a long-term storage area for any bit of paper that doesn't make it to the trash.  I actually found bank statements from 2010!  Unopened! 

The spouse says, "We really should review those statements to make sure we're not being embezzled."  Note the use of the pronoun "we." 

I decided that if the spouse hadn't reviewed a bank statement in the forty years that we've been married, he probably wasn't going to start now just because I had the urge to get organized.

I actually do review our accounts regularly, but now I do it online.  I almost never write checks, everything is done electronically or with a debit card.  Most of our bills are paid automatically.  Why do I still have all this paper clutter?

I have now gone through all the paper in the basket and have a huge pile of bank statements from the past three years to shred.  This morning I visited our two credit unions to get passwords for online access to those accounts.  I'm in the process of switching all our statements to paperless.  Now I'll just have electronic clutter! 

I'm going to spend the February bonus day preparing for the electronic onslaught.  I'm collecting all the web addresses, passwords, and account numbers in a big notebook just in case I'm hit by a truck and the spouse has to start reviewing statements online.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Robbery Update

Two weeks ago we were robbed, and we are still dealing with the after effects.   The thief took more than expensive toys and equipment.  He also robbed us of peace of mind.  It was the spouse's stuff that was stolen, and he's the one who has had to deal with the police and the insurance company.  He's also the one who feels the most violated.  It was his shop that was ransacked.  He's the one who still reaches for something in his workshop, and then realizes that it is gone.  Everyday he discovers more items that are missing.

The spouse's pick-up was stolen in the robbery.  The police found it a few hours after it was reported missing.  It had been abandoned after it was driven over an embankment and into a tree.  All the windows were broken out and it was throughly crunched and trashed.  It's still at the body shop being repaired.

We've upgraded our security and bars have been installed on the shop windows.  There's not much we can do about the sense of violation.

A week ago the spouse was in a local pawn shop and saw one of his stolen backpacks hanging on a display rack.  The spouse was told that it was new merchandise, not pawned.  The local police helped him to recover it from the pawn shop owner.  She was not overly cooperative.  There was no record of how they had acquired it.  There was no question that the pack was our stolen item because it has several unique features.  Apparently this was not the first time that this shop was found with stolen goods.

This morning the city police called to have the spouse come down to view items they had recovered from a suspect.  The spouse came home with two bags full of some of his missing items.  He's still missing a lot of stuff, but he's feeling better knowing that at least there is progress being made and that someone is in jail.

Me?  I'm just glad that we're moving forward and putting this horrible experience behind us...and that bastard is sitting in the Umatilla County Jail!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

It's the Economy

This past week there has been a lot in the news about the economy.   Just when the media is reporting that our economy is turning around, I'm starting to see the impact of our reckless economic policies. For months I saw the reports on television about the housing crisis, and I heard the monthly unemployment statistics, but in spite of all the reporting, it didn't really hit home for me.  My life wasn't impacted.   It wasn't personal.  It was easy to dismiss the story of the family who didn't pay their mortgage.  I could chalk it up to making bad decisions and over-extending their spending.  They didn't make responsible choices.  As someone who has never been out of work for an extended period of time, it was difficult for me to imagine going months or years without a job offer.  I could rationalize that they're being too choosy or not trying hard enough.  It was easy to stay in my comfort zone, blame the victim, and distance myself from the possibility of economic disaster.

Last week I had an email from a former co-worker.  He is my age, late fifties/early sixties.  We worked together in the Migrant Education/ESL Program in the early days of my educational career.  He's a smart guy with advanced degrees.  I remember that he was a good writer.  He played the guitar and used music in his English as a second language classes.  Although he is a native English speaker, he spoke Spanish fluently.  He has been out of work for several years.  He sent me a note because he was "mourning" his early educational career.  He remembers it as a time where his work was valued and his supervisors were supportive.  He wonders who decided that the work we did, educating migrant children, was not worthwhile or worthy of continued funding.  He has held several teaching positions since that time and then worked in the business sector, but lost his job when a hearing loss impacted his ability to do his job. He has actively searched for work for several years.  Most recently he was searching openings for farm workers, but worries that he does not have the physical stamina to work in the field all day.  Here is someone who has followed all the rules.  He went to college and completed advanced degrees.  He learned a foreign language.  He married and raised a family and contributed to his community.  He can't find a job.

My son-in-law lost his job in October.  He's also followed all the rules.  He has a college degree, not in one of those fluffy liberal arts areas, but in chemistry. He has a solid employment history of challenging positions. Several years ago he accepted his "dream job"and moved his family to Austin, Texas. They bought a house and settled in to raise their family. When his employer was unable to renew government contracts, he was among the staff who were let go.   He is aggressively looking for a job, but has been unsuccessful.

I was in Austin last month to visit my grandchildren. My youngest granddaughter is four and until her father lost his job, she attended a preschool/daycare program. When daddy first lost his job her parents decided to keep her in preschool for half a day to minimize the impact on her schedule. A half day of preschool in Austin is $600.00 a month. After three months out of work they could no longer afford $600.00 a month for preschool.

Monday morning, while her older sister was at school, the two of us went on an adventure.  She wanted to ride the merry-go-round and then go to lunch at McDonald's.   We sat on the plastic furniture by the play structure at McDonald's and my granddaughter said to me, " I really miss my friends at school. I'll never see them again. I really loved my school, Nana." 

The economy has become personal.
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