Friday, October 31, 2008

getting down to the wire

The election is getting down to the wire. We have less than a week to go. I am nervous about the outcome. I think it's because I'm a Democrat, and so I am used to imploding at the last second. The October Surprise, the fatal mistake, the horrid photo op. Whatever. I care too much about the outcome this time to be complacent.

Please make lots of time in your schedule to vote on Tuesday. I have taken a 1/2 day of precious vacation time, just to make sure I can vote. Don't think your guy is so far ahead that your one vote won't matter. The size of the victory also matters a great deal in the ability of the next president to push his agenda.

There is also the spectre of miscounting, dirty tricks, etc. By showing up, creating a crowd as witness, we might avoid some of the worst violations of election laws. And the dirty tricks are already showing up: A flyer has been distributed in Hampton Roads, VA telling people that because of the overwhelming turnout expected, they are asking people to split voting days -- so Republicans should vote on Nov 4 and Democrats should vote on November 5th (!!!) This kind of crap worries me. The flyer looked official, and really could fool some potential voters.

VOTE!!! and maybe hang around with your cell phone outside the polling place for a while, make sure nothing sleazy is happening in the process....

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

changing the way I shop

I am a recent convert to coupons. Never used them before, as my time is too important to waste for a few cents, etc. But while I was home on sick leave, I watched a woman on Oprah, a lady called the Coupon Mom, get over $200 worth of groceries for $37. She wasn't smarter than me, she didn't spend hundreds of hours to get the deals, but she had a system that works. I went to her website Coupon Mom, read her e-book about her system, and signed up. I have reduced my grocery bill by over 25% and it takes me 15 minutes a week. I know I sound like one of those cheesy infomercials, but seriously... It doesn't cost anything, and it is mostly common-sense. It just never occurred to me to put any serious thinking into grocery shopping. It's just something you do, right? Another damn chore on the list.

It isn't just coupons... it is timing. Planning menus and buying based on what is on sale, and then using coupons to further reduce the cost. The coupon mom website is tied into local sales circulars (in our area its giant food), so you can generate your grocery list from the database, and then she tells you what coupons have come out that match your list. Really quick and easy.

I normally spent $180- $200 a week at the grocery store. Since I started this system, I spend about $120-$130. We have had no decease in the quality of our meals, or in the healthiness of what I make. It takes me an extra 15 minutes a week to use the coupon mom system, and then the normal meal planning time I take deciding what I'm gonna cook for the coming week. Then I do my grocery list. Saving $50-$60 a week is not enormous, but it does help offset the increase in our heating oil bill, and in our tax escrow bills.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

red carpet moment

Today we went to the Senator Theater for a very special premiere. The Steve Yeager's Young Filmmakers Workshop was showing a number of short films, 5 documentaries, and the feature presentation "Obscured by the Night". Our son did graphic design work, and green screen editing for the feature film. So today, he got a limo ride, a short walk on an even shorter red carpet, and a chance to see his work on the big screen. And at the Senator, that's a really really big screen. It was kind of a charge to see his name in the credits. And it was a bigger rush to see people buying the film poster he made. He doesn't want to pursue film work -- he's totally dedicated to video game design -- but it was a nice experience anyway.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I could have been Sarah Palin

I realized yesterday that I could have been Sarah Palin. If it weren't for a certain intellectual curiosity, a voracious reading habit and some education, I could have been just like Sarah.

It's a blue collar story, I think. Until I was ten, we lived in a solidly lower middle class (veering to lower class) neighborhood. Girls wanted to be majorettes and mommies. Boys wanted to play baseball and then maybe do construction or join the army. Scouting was pretty big. All the men, except my dad, hunted during deer season. Getting a BB gun was a rite of passage. Everyone went to church on Sunday.

And certain values were instilled early. Take anything that's free. Don't get caught. If you get knocked up, get married. Don't be too uppity, don't be too smart.

It's the recent news stories about the $150,000 campaign wardrobe, and billing Alaska for taking the kids on official state business that got me thinking about the values, the lifetstyle I grew up with. Because to my adult eyes, what Sarah did was WRONG. On so many levels. But in the culture I grew up on, it would be, of course you would do that. What idiot wouldn't run the bill to the max when someone else was paying? If they said go get some decent clothes, and they told you to get what you wanted, what girl wouldn't spend $150,000? If you could wiggle the rules and get five nights in a hotel instead of 1, why wouldn't you? If you could say drawing a raffle ticket was state business, and get to bring your kids along at taxpayer expense, well, why not? It's the same culture that views slipping on a store floor as akin to winning the lottery. Cheating is fine, if you don't get caught. And it's not stealing if it's taking from the gubbamint -- hell, it's all your money, innit?

So you see, I could have been this woman. Really I could. Luckily for me, fate intervened, and I learned to read.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

class warfare?

Apparently, people who make more than $250,000 per year do not consider themselves to be wealthy, despite being in the top 2% of all income brackets. A writer for the Baltimore Sun received many irate emails after a column discussing Barack Obama's tax plan, which would increase taxes only for this top 2% of earners. Mostly, the complaints were of the "by the time I pay the mortgage, 3 kids private school tuitions, etc, $250,000 is not wealthy" school of thought. I think the complainers missed the point. Private school tuitions are a luxury. A large house with an equally large mortgage, ditto. The fact that you spend everything you make does not mean you aren't wealthy. 98% of american families make less; some much much less. If you make $250,000 a year, you are indeed fortunate. That you might be taxed on your good fortune seems to anger many in that bracket. I don't get it. The phrase "you can't get blood from a stone" seems to come to mind. Who is going to pay taxes? People who have no money for food or shelter? People in bankruptcy? People making minimum wage? The money has to come from somewhere. Consider your taxes "civic karma". In this case, the tax burden is not equal. But it is fair.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Bravo, Christopher Buckley!

Christopher Buckley, son of William F Buckley, endorsed Obama the other day. He was promptly allowed to resign from the highly conservative National Review (which his father founded). He has also received thousands of hate letters from conservatives for his "betrayal" of the conservative movement, and his betrayal of John McCain. At the beginning of the campaign, Buckley had endorsed McCain, a friend since 1982.

But he found over the last few months a changed McCain. One who had let his defeat in 2000 change him profoundly. He found an angry man, willing to betray all principles to get elected. He questioned the judgement of a man who would select Sarah Palin as his running mate.

His endorsement came via The Daily Beast, not The National Review. He didn't feel it was appropriate to use a conservative forum to make his endorsement. In the end, it didn't matter. His principled stand still cost him his job as the back page writer for the magazine. BTW, he says it's not that he left the conservatives -- its that they left him. The last 8 years reflect no true conservativism; just poor judgement, a lack of ethics, and a willingness to suspend the constitution.

So, from the bottom of my heart, BRAVO!!!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

On Poverty

There is enough for all. There really is. But only when you look at "all there is" from a global perspective. Where there is a shortage of something in one place, there is an abundance in another. Only when we truly see ourselves as one world will we ever really tackle the problem of poverty. When our consciences will no longer allow a child to starve to death while we have 3 cars in the driveway, when we can't abide people sleeping under a piece of cardboard while we decide where to vacation this year, when the idea of anyone making ten million a year disgusts us, while others slave away to make a dollar a day, then we will see poverty disappear.

If we are willing to get by on a little less, so that others can have a little more, then we can make poverty disappear. It's not a huge thing. At the end of the month, I have no money left. But when I really look at it, another ten dollars here or there, diverted to charity, would make no difference to me, and the world to someone who needs it. I am not wealthy. I can't change the world. But I can do my part, and so can you. Skip a pizza once in a while, and give the money to the foodbank. Take coffee from home instead of buying it at Starbuck's and give the difference to Modest Needs. Rent one less movie a month. It's all small stuff. But if everyone who could do it, would do it, we can make poverty disappear.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

always look on the bright side

I had my gallbladder surgery. I feel tons better. I lost 14 pounds while I was sick, which puts me within 4 pounds of my goal weight for weightwatchers. I didn't do it the way I had planned, slowly over a year and a half, but it does put me on the right path. I had to use up my sick leave, but my elbow feels better as a side benefit. I spent way too much time watching daytime TV, but I also learned how to use coupons effectively to trim my grocery bill.

I missed two classes, but so did a lot of other folks. I had time, so I finally replaced my bifocals, and can now see clearly for the first time in months. I feel less stressed out, more rested and my mood is improving by leaps and bounds.

so, always look on the bright side of life... (with a nod to Monty Python of course)

Friday, October 10, 2008

an eye opening week

This week has been an eye opener for me, on a lot of different fronts. I discovered that I can get more work done in much less time when I work at home. While I missed the social aspects of being at the office (I really do enjoy my co-workers), I could get all my work done in half the time at home.

I discovered I loved the pace. I had time to take our son to school, come home, have breakfast, work a few hours, eat lunch, play out back with the dog, work a few more hours, go pick up my son in car-line (meaning no after-care for him), come home, work another hour or two, cook an early dinner. I felt relaxed, less clock-bound, even though I really was as "on the clock" as I am at the office.

Our son loved the week. He had a much shorter day, since he came home at 3:15pm instead of 5:30pm. I wasn't as tired so I was in a better mood when I picked him up.

A lot of my stress comes from the perception of control. When I perceive my time is not my own, I feel stressed. When my financial issues seem insurmountable, I feel stressed. I am happy, calm, relaxed, when I have the illusion of running my own ship, steering my own course.

So, clearly, for me the best of all possible lifes is one where I can make my own time decisions. I have to get my finances in order, not so that I can become wealthy, but so I can have the freedom to control my time.

Monday, October 06, 2008


OK, now I'm pissed. Apparently Palin has been sent out with instructions to launch personal attacks on Barack Obama. She says he "pals around with terrorists", that he doesn't feel about America like we do. The terrorist, William Ayers, was one of the founders of the Weather Underground, in the 60s. When Obama was a small child. His association now? They were on some neighborhood committees together. They are neighbors. Their kids go to the same school. WOW. Maybe Ayers will sue for libel.

This is getting ugly. McCain has a long history of bad behavior, which to date, Obama has classily ignored. If they keep attacking him, he is going to have to attack back, and we all lose by it. McCain is desperate, and therefore dangerous. And Palin seems to enjoy her role as the "barracuda". It's only a matter of time until the womanizing, the Keating 5, the loss of 5 planes, etc gets splashed on every newspaper. And then we will be back to the racial slurs, the "hussein" cracks, and the un-american rumors swirl again. The country really doesn't need to be more divided as we lead up to this election; it really doesn't.

Everybody take a few deep breaths. Remember who we are, and what we really want. Hell, read the golden rule a few times if it helps. And please, let's not go down this path.

Friday, October 03, 2008

post op update

I had my surgery on Monday, and was home on Tuesday morning. The surgery went well, and I should be feeling much better in a few weeks. My diet is already much much better. As of today, all restrictions were lifted. I had cereal with skim milk this morning, and I had a sandwich (with mayo on it) for lunch. Oh boy!! Honestly, a simple sandwich was like heaven. And I had instant mac and cheese for dinner last night. Sublime.

The only troubling thing is my reaction to the CO2... for those who don't know, when you have a laparascopy, they pump up your abdominal cavity like a balloon, filling it with CO2. This makes it easier for the surgeons to move around. Unfortunately, it causes hideous pain post-op for some people, in the form of shoulder pain. My shoulders hurt 10 times more than my tummy (which has several holes in it). I also look like I'm 4 months pregnant. Once this lovely side affect is gone, I should feel tremendously better.

I took all of this week off from work (!) and am going to work from home next week, as much as I am able... The week after that is our big migration to Outlook 2007 and Office 2007, and I absolutely have to be back at work to handle this.

The BEST thing about this whole process has been the warm wishes, the cards, the calls, the flowers, just the general concern from friends, family and co-workers. I'm very lucky to have so many warm and wonderful folks in my life, and this week has been a terrific reminder of that.