Sunday, November 30, 2008

One major goal for 2009

Our aim is to get the house paid off in 2009. We have no other debt so everything can be focused on paying extra principal on the house. We owe $82,000 as of December 1 and by paying an extra $5200 each month, we can pay it off in 12 months. Both JMM and I have stopped our 403b savings for this one year in order to accomplish the goal. As long as we are both in good health, are fully employed, and live our usual frugal lives, we can do it. We paid off the mortgage on our previous house and there is just nothing like having no rent and no mortgage!! If we are able to do this, we will have paid this house off in 5 1/2 years. I'm excited about it!!

Thought for the day:
"Wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving." - Kahlil Gibran

Saturday, November 29, 2008

One foot in each of two futures

and I have no idea which one is real.

I am a long time fan of Dave Ramsey and his type financial advice. When I listen to Dave, I feel secure--I know what to do: pay off debt, live frugally, save and invest for the future. I can do this; I'm familiar with it.

But then I read The Automatic Earth or Sharon Astyck and I feel like I've stepped off a cliff. In this future, I'm lost. Farming, keeping livestock, milking goats? Uh, I'm lost. Maybe food storage like the Mormons?? What about transportation, lighting, fuel??? The days following Hurricane Ike gave me a taste of the isolation and lack of access to food, electricity, and fuel. And I am here to tell you, it is not a pretty option.

Which one is the real future? I don't know but I sure hope it isn't the second one.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday; in all honesty, it’s the only holiday I even like. It centers on being thankful for life’s blessings with family and friends. The best Thanksgivings are the ones where everyone contributes something to the meal and there is lots of talk and laughter. I don’t like Christmas at all with all the commercialization and the whole gimme mentality. I’m not religious enough to get into Easter and resent the commercial attempt to turn it into a mini-Christmas. I do enjoy watching a good fireworks display on Independence Day; I usually work evening shift and get to watch the fireworks in Hermann Park. Birthdays and anniversaries are fine with family. Am I a grinch? Fine, so be it.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Another Weekend Financial Rape

The administration's financial wizards decided it would be best to plunder the national treasury to the benefit of their friends at Citi Group over the weekend and present it Monday as a accomplished feat. I'd say Unbelievable but unfortunately it is completely believeable.

On a personal note, in order not to be worried, upset, and depressed all the time, I am limiting the amount of time I listen to the news. I am spending more time on domestic issues--cooking, quilting, reading things that are uplifting, loving family, and being thankful for my blessings.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Last week I finished a small lap quilt. It turned out rather well even if the stitches aren't as small and even as they used to be. I get such pleasure from putting fabric together to make something beautiful and uselful. There is one very old quilt which is very special to me. It is too old and too heavy to be used much today but that quilt is where my love of quilting began.

Actually, it began in the garage with the wooden quilting frames hanging on ropes from the ceiling. The metal clamps at the corners of the frames held them together and could be loosened to roll the finished portion of the quilt under and allow the quilters to reach the unquilted portions. The garage was cool in the summer mornings and that was nice in the years before air conditioning moved everyone inside all the time. The quilt top was made of squares of fabric left over from skirts and nightgowns and blouses. The filling for this particular quilt was a World War II woolen Army blanket. The back of the quilt was larger pieces of fabric pieced together. My friends and I played jacks on the cool concrete floor of the garage under the quilt while our mothers quilted and chatted and smoked. That quilt was much too thick for me to learn how to quilt on but that is the first quilt I remember and I still have it.

There were many other quilts for me to learn on. I learned how to piece the fabrics together into interesting patterns with colors that complimented each other. I learned how to make the corners and points come together. I learned to make my own patterns. My early quilting stitches were "long enough to catch your toe in" but gradually I learned how to rock the needle back and forth through the quilt with my thimble. How grown up I felt when I could sit at the quilting frame and quilt.

I've made many quilts since those days in the garage. Today I buy fabric because there are no scraps left over from home made clothes but it is still fun to pick out the colors and patterns to go together. Many pleasant hours of my life have been spent in the company of other quilters, quilting and chatting. And it all started in the garage under a quilting frame.

The Economy and the Bailouts

The talk about the economy is unrelentingly bleak. We have seen our 403b accounts shrink by 1/2 for JMM and 1/3 for me. Mine has been somewhat protected in that 1/2 of mine is in an annuity which guaranteed a 3% return this year. The annuity is invested in ING Stable Value which is good unless it goes under. Other than the 403b losses, we are really doing just fine. We all have jobs. JMM, FM, and TSM. None of us are in immediate peril of losing our jobs. We are all in good health and able to work. This time next year the house will be paid off and we will have no debt. If we remain in good health and employed, we will have time to pay cash for new vehicles and build a CD ladder of $20,000 each month before we retire at 66. Three things are of utmost importance: 1.) Do everything we can do to remain employed. 2.) Stay absolutely focused on the financial plan. 3.) Do everything possible to remain in good health.

Are people turning into mindless robots?

Sometimes I think so. Here are 3 recent examples:

1. Hurricane Ike blew through our area a couple of months ago causing roof damage to many homes in our subdivision. Within a few days numerous roofs had various patches of blue plastic sheeting covering the damaged areas. A few days later the designated moron who inspects our subdivision for deed restriction violations sent letters to the homeowners apprising them that the blue tarps were in violation of the architectural control regulations for the neighborhood. Mindless robot #1.

2. I presented the woman making sandwiches in our cafeteria with a salad bowl to put my sandwich in so that I would not slide off the flimsy foam plate that the sandwiches are normally served on. In utter astonishment, she said "I can't do that!!" I explained that it was very simple, you just lift the sandwich off the cutting board and place it in the bowl (along with the pickle slice) which she did. It was all I could do not to say, "See, I knew you could do it!" but in keeping with my view that the world needs more kindness, I refrained. Mindless robot #2.

3. A blank stare and (almost) "Does not compute" was the response from the WalMart checker when I gave her the cloth shopping bags to place my groceries in instead of the usual plastic bags. Really, she was stumped until JMM told her to scan the groceries and put them into the cloth bags. Mindless robot #3.

Makes me think of the scary movie back in the 50's where the people were put into pods and turned into mindless robots.

Anyone run into a mindless robot lately?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Everyday Courage

When we are young, we think of courage as something brave people do on the battlefield or hardy people do to cross a glacier. These things do take courage but they are not the only kind of courage. Actually, I have begun to think that there is a lot of courage all around us but unrecognized, unspoken everyday courage. Like the good dishes that are pulled out of storage for the holidays, there is the spectacular courage of Iwo Jima or expeditions to Antarctica; then there are the everyday dishes, that are just there everyday so that we hardly think of them at all. Every time I get my hair cut, I come right up to every day courage. (No, I’m not afraid of scissors…) I mean the woman who cuts my hair. Her husband has been sliding into dementia for the past few years. He is just a shadow of the person he used to be and she misses him very much even though he is right there. She now has to do everything—her work is their main income, she has full responsibility for the house, yard, bills, meals, car repair and for him. He is still able to feed and toilet himself but she knows full well that it is just a matter of time until he won’t be able to do those things. Yet, I’ve never seen her despair—she does her work, takes care of him, and talks about her extended family, holidays, my family, what’s going on around. She’s not alone; there are so many other caretakers just keeping on keeping on bravely, with everyday courage. There are parents of terminally ill children, there are the elderly who are alone. I think there is more everyday courage going on than we can imagine.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Wondering about the bailouts

Let me say first off, I don't know if the bailouts are a good thing or not; I am not coming at this with a particular point of view. But I am wondering about bailing out Ford, GM, & Chrysler. JMM and I have had 1 GM and 1 Ford vehicles in the last 35 years; the rest have been Toyotas and my current Honda. I am so happy with my Honda that I will probably continue with Honda. I am all for having an American automobile industry but my buying habits won't support it. If people won't buy the product, maybe we shouldn't bail them out. I don't know but I do wonder.

The second bailout is the re-structuring of all the deliquent mortgages. I can understand that some people were taken in by shady lenders and I know that life sometimes throws you some curves which may leave one struggling to make a mortgage payment. But I am wondering how much good re-structuring these loans will do in the long run. Will people who have been bailed out continue to make poor decisions and take equity out of their house to pay off credit cards for stuff they really can't afford? I don't know but I do wonder.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Two E's

The Economy and the Environment, like two ends of a see-saw. While the world economy was soaring, the environment was plummetting. The question is, now that the world economy is tanking, will the environment get a respite from the pillage and plunder? I wish I knew. While people have stopped buying stuff which is good, they are losing their jobs which is not good. To have a good economy, do we have to plunder and destroy the earth and its creatures? Perhaps we need to change the definition of good economy. A good economy cannot be one that consumes itself. Maybe a good economy is where there is enough--enough creative work, enough nourishing food, enough clean air & water, and enough clean energy--and that if these are not present, the economy is not good.

A good step toward answering the question of what is enough is a step toward the mirror while answering the Quaker queries:

Do I look for and see the face of God in all creation?

Do I spend time in nature listening for what I might learn?

Have I mourned the loss of species and the harm done by pollution, and am I aware of my part in these losses?

Do I endeavor to change my personal as well as societal practices as an epression of hope for the future?

Thought for the day:
"Ye have no time but this present." George Fox

So long, Leon

I've known Leon for about 8 years now. When I first met him, he was about 20 years old and had fled with his parents from Bosnia several years before. Although his English was flawless, he was very quiet and had big blue eyes that seemed to take everything in. He was a newly certified technician and was very conscientious about his work. Not long after he came to work with us, he told us that he was going to school in the mornings before working the evening shift. A couple of years later, he asked if I would write a letter of recommendation for him as he had applied to pharmacy school. He was accepted into pharmacy school and he had to switch to working the night shift so that he could go to school days. It is the gift of strength that the young have that allows them to work nights and go to school days. When he wasn't working or in school, he was studying; too busy to talk much. But then Leon graduated from pharmacy school and passed the state board exam and it was like Leon exploded--it turns out he has a great personality and sense of humor and loved to talk to everybody. It was an amazing transformation and he has a girlfriend. Two weeks ago Leon gave his resignation. He is taking a supervisory position at a neighboring hospital. And he says that he will be starting a weekend MBA program. We had his going away party yesterday. So, so long, Leon, you're what keeps America great and I'm glad that I've known you.

The problem with not having grandchildren

is that there is no one to know what you are doing wrong with your computer and to patiently show you how to fix it. So in the absence of grandchildren, we elders must help each other. Thanks to Ronni at I know what is wrong with my comments and how to fix it. I will be working on this later this weekend and hope to have comments available to more readers.

Monday, November 3, 2008

48 Hours

In less than 48 hours the two year campaign will be over and the new President and the new Congress will be in controll. Or at least in as much controll as a democratically elected government can be. What I expect from them is that they tackle the hard problems: less nation building abroad and more nation building at home. I want to see us out of Iraq and a plan to get out of Afghanistan. I want to see regulations that will prevent a repeat of the financial collapse. I want to see a major effort to end our dependence on oil, foreign or domestic and the development of renewable energy sources. I want serious people doing serious things that have been well thought out.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The only one who remembers

Both my parents died 30+ years ago and my Aunt who was the last of her generation died last May. My oldest brother died 5 years ago. I have a half-brother who is more or less the family ne'r-do-well still living but we have not been in touch for many years. I have the oddest feeling of wanting to see him only because he is the only one who remembers the old days, who remembers the people and the houses and the times. I don't suppose I will but it is so odd to know that no one remembers. Has anyone else experienced this?


I came home from work so exhausted mentally, emotionally, and physically Friday night that even after taking an Ambien to help me sleep, I woke up with a tension headache. I won't go into the details. Saturday morning not much better but by Saturday evening, I had calmed down enough to relax and read. What helped me was the beauty and peace here at OakMeadows. When we bought this property, I was less than enthusiastic but JMM had a vision of what this chest high with weeds, rutted property could be. He has worked hard to turn that vision into a lovely reality. The work week had left me feeling torn apart, fragmented. I didn't begin to recover until I stopped all the urgent weekend must get done list and went to the oak tree to sit and watch and listen. Watching the breeze flow through the grass, watching the butterflies, watching the clouds and above all, listening to the quiet sounds. The wholeness of the beauty and quiet enveloped me and made me part of it.

Thought for the day:

And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8