Friday, May 31, 2013

A thought on the virtue of temperance in speech

In my Last Post I talked about my new prepaid wireless plan. It's interesting to me how this new cell phone plan is causing me to think closely about my conversations. Since I spend a lot of time driving in my car (over 2 hours a day) I listen to Catholic radio or often will call either my husband, or my sister, or a girlfriend. Sometimes these conversations are deep, sometimes they have important purpose, like checking up on a friend in need, discussing evening plans with my husband, or solving some kind of problem, but sometimes they are just a waste of time... idle talk about nothing of great substance. Now that my minutes are depleting from a set amount that I can track easily, and I'm trying to save money, I realized that I don't want to "waste" my time on meaningless conversation. I'm thinking about saving my words for important things. I'm thinking about Ephesians 4:29:  Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Saving money on cell phones

It's time for a quick post. Nothing earth shattering here... Just another attempt to cut costs in my household and I'm exciting about my new "find". We cancelled our home phone a while back. (We use "dry loop" DSL-only for our Internet connection which costs about $30 / month.) We do not have cable. My husband and I each carry a cell phone with unlimited data coverage and a shared minute pool and we have an extra phone on this plan for my mother in law to use in case of an emergency. We use Verizon because the coverage is so great in our neighborhood, and it's also good in all of the rural areas that we travel to frequently. All of our family is on Verizon and we like the "free" mobile-to-mobile concept.

Anyway, our bills have been gradually getting out of control. Like $185 / month for these 3 phones! And we don't really even come near our cap of 1400 shared minutes with the nights and weekends and mobile to mobile. I have to pay 10 cents for each text message and seems like people are texting with greater frequency just to say "hello" and this has been racking up. The monthly fee for standard service is expensive. The additional data for the two of us is $60 more... So I've been researching a ton and have finally decided to go with a prepaid service. I decided on Page Plus Cellular. It is run on the Verizon network, so our smart phones will still work, email still works, and everything is basically the same as before. We can keep our existing Verizon phones and our same phone number and port in for free, with no activation costs. All I needed to do was to pay for the first PIN card with my credit card, and will have to do this every month (or get set up on the automatic renewal, which I plan to do soon.) The best part about all of this...? I put my husband and myself on a $29.95 / month plan that includes 1200 minutes of talk, 3000 texts, and 250 MB of data. I'm in the process of setting up my mother in law with a $10 card with 100 minutes that will last for 120 days and I'll fill her up every 4 months. This strategy is going to save us over $110 a month, for a total of less than $60 per month plus the ~ $3.00 monthly average for my mother in law.  And now I can accept text messages without worry. I'm loving this new set up and just wanted to put it out there. It had never even occurred to me that prepaid wireless was a viable option until last week.

What about you? How many cell phones are in your family and are you happy with how things are going?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Working Women Mothers - Leaning In?

Have you heard of Sheryl Sandberg? She is the COO of Facebook. She is 43 years old and the mother of 2 young children. She is beautiful and smart and successful. She authored the best seller Lean In, that we read and talked about for my "Women And Technology" group at work today.

I bought this book and read it in one weekend. I enjoyed every page of this book because I find her attitude and mindset so fascinating - and also because as a working-outside-the-home-mom in corporate America, every single page of this book somehow resonated with me. I literally related to every personal story she shared in her book regarding day care, the guilty feelings, the effort to "succeed" in a male dominated work force, her kids getting head lice, the breast pumping, the 'shame' about leaving work at 5:30 and not wanting your peers to know because they are working around the clock. This book is non-judgementally written and talks about giving our daughters choices and confidence to succeed and encourages women to stay in the workforce. So interesting! (I will also mention that the book is not just for working moms it is about working women in general and gender issues and how women and men are perceived differently in the corporate world - we actually are liked less the more we succeed, so we have to compensate by utilizing a different set of skills in order to be perceived as likable - a problem that men don't have to deal with. It talks about how we as women hold ourselves back by our lack of confidence and how both men and women are conditioned to do so.)

Personally, (and obviously this is my private struggle that I'm not going to talk about at work - but I'm writing about it here on my blog...) I'm facing the question on whether I should be Leaning In to my career and embracing it, as I have sacrificed and worked hard to get where I am, and it is good for my daughters to have the choice to do so and the role model as well, if that's what they want or need to do... But the entire time I'm reading this book, for me it had me shaking my head "No" and affirming that I want to Lean Out of my career and Lean More Into Motherhood. I do feel that the best of both worlds would be to have a part time job. I guess I'm just conflicted. But however you feel on the matter, as a working woman and mother, this is an enjoyable and thought provoking book to read - whether you agree with Sheryl's choices or not.

Here is a video of Sheryl speaking out at a TED talk and gives you a glimpse of the style and content of her book. Take a look if you are interested in this topic:

Monday, May 20, 2013

The sad state of my soul today

I hate writing this post. But I'm just being completely honest about the fact that I haven't gone to church in the past 3 weeks. (No, I am not recommending this to anyone). We have been completely consumed with trying to close on our house which is 1 hour away in the country and 1 hour away from work in the city, so it's been one continuous commuting triangle - driving between 3 different far away cities trying to get the kids to school and get to work on time and meeting contractors and loan officers and Realtors and notaries and going to Lowe's to buy locks to secure the house so the painters don't come back to steal the copper  pipes or the microwave - the weekends being the only real time to accomplish anything of substance. A lame excuse, and I feel guilty about this. I know it is a mortal sin to miss Mass on Sunday. That sounds severe if you are a non-Catholic, but this "rule" ensures that we are putting God first in our life. There is a natural flow and order and a "glue" so to speak, that holds our family and our marriage together when we are obedient to the Church. No matter how bad things get - we have that constant, that we go to Church together as a family on Sunday (or in our case, usually Saturday evening.) And that is missing right now, or being replaced by worrying about getting our new house in order. I realize without God we really have nothing. A few days ago I had cleaned out my car and stuck some of my work papers and my new leather bound Bible in an empty diaper box in the front seat of my car. It has been over a week since I cracked open my Bible. (Again, not exactly a recommendation here...) I went to retrieve it last night, and the way it was leaning over, it had fallen over and bent back the leather/paper cover and now has a huge ugly unforgiving crease across the front cover that will never come out. I just thought this was so depressing. I need to get my butt to confession and back to Mass.

The painter who stole my paint

Ten years ago, I used to sell real estate - back when the market was booming mad. I used to work for a well known national production builder and sold those cookie-cutter McMansions. I also had my real estate licence and worked as a buyer agent. Times were very good then. I was putting my husband through college full time when he decided to go back to school in his mid 30's. (Never say it is too late to go and get a degree or change careers! It is not.) I remember one couple who I sold a home to had zero down and over $70,0000 in credit card debt and a credit score of 560. We were able to credit-repair them up to a 600 FICO over a 3 month period and qualify them for a home. (With zero down!) Four years later they foreclosed on the home!  This is an extreme case, but there were many instances where I was showing homes to people who had no business buying homes and they were hell bent on buying the home for zero down. And they did it too! This thinking is what got us all in the mess we are in now.

Anyway, having recently gone through the buying process and having a little knowledge about the subject, it is just amazing to me how much harder it is to buy a home now, then it was then. We have very good credit, good income, etc. a "good buyer" - and this process was very grueling. Lots of paperwork, lots of conditions... One of the issues why we couldn't close was because there was some children's artwork on some of the walls of the home. My kids were actually fighting over who got to have the room with the "ladybugs" in it. It wasn't Picasso, but it didn't bother us at all. The appraiser commented that it was "graffiti" and we had to get drywall holes (one was a rough in for a whole house fan - that we didn't even want covered up...) and the bedrooms painted as a condition for loan approval. This was a major hassle. The bank wanted us to pay half of $1750 to have someone come in and put primer over the existing "artwork" and fix drywall holes. My view was that if I was being forced to pay money for a painter - then at least let's get colors that we like. They weren't having any of that - they were only going to cover up the markings with a neutral paint color of their choice.

After haggling about it and getting nowhere with our Realtor and the bank Asset Manager, we stopped by to meet with the contractors while they were beginning and decided to "work a deal" with them directly. They were already getting $1750 to paint 4 bedrooms and cover 3 drywall holes and put a makeshift cover over the whole house fan rough in. They told us to go buy the paint and pay them $300 and they will paint our colors instead of the plain white in the bedrooms. (We wanted to paint the girls bedroom 3 different "fun" colors - keeping it very bright and unique. The rest of the bedrooms - a warm gray color.) The painters told me to get 8 gallons of gray and 1 each of the "fun" colors, pink, red, and purple. This paint cost over $400. I knew it was too much paint, but I was looking forward to using the rest of the gray elsewhere in the house - the hall way, the bathrooms, the family room, etc. And I had plenty of plans for the "fun" colors too.. to do all kinds of cool stuff for the kids. In the past when we have used painters, they always leave the paint - especially when we have bought and delivered our own paint! Anyway, these painters totally took our paint. We didn't want to make a major deal out of it, my husband asked if there was any left over. The painter who was loitering around to clean up said, "Oh, my partner must have taken the red..." and then my husband saw the huge 5 gallon pail of gray in the back of his truck. He casually said, "Oh.. that is for my next job..." (yeah, right... after my hubby's evil eye, he ended up bringing it back in and putting it in our living room when we were in another room - so at least we got that. It's over $130 worth of paint - that I need to paint the rest of the house that I thought was pretty obvious.) Next, I picked up the purple gallon can that was left in our living room - it was virtually empty. (This was used for 2 10 x 10 walls.. so we are talking only 200 sq. feet.) - No way. I didn't say anything, but I was just kind of wondering what happened to all the paint? I wanted to use that paint to decorate letters of my kids names for their new room and paint some new ladybugs for them on their new walls. As the painter was packing up and turning to leave, I heard my husband say, "You have purple paint leaking out of your duffel bag onto our front porch." Sure enough, in his haste, he had somehow managed to pour at least a half gallon of that leftover purple paint into some unknown container when we weren't looking and put it in his duffel bag... and it started to leak out in a big glob all over our porch! AWKWARD! I kinda consider it stealing. Or to give him the benefit of the doubt - at the very least, really tacky and highly unprofessional. I hate to write a book about it, I mean who cares - take the paint - fine. But I do want to ask my readers a few questions for some perspective:

a) When you buy paint for your painters (especially in a wacky color), do they leave the paint behind, or is it acceptable for them to take it?
b) Do you tip your painters? (Obviously, I did not tip.)

c) Am I overreacting?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

We bought a Homepath Home!

Well, it has been over 7 months of fighting for it, and we actually did it! We bought a Fannie Mae Homepath home - a bank owned property out in the country. It has been an emotional, draining, stressful, long, and frustrating 7 months. We are no where near done either, the process is just beginning because we have numerous issues to fix and our current house to sell... but we got to this point (which I was doubtful that we would). It's all in the quest for a "simpler" life - it is just going to get much more complicated before it can get simple though... but we knew this before taking this plunge. The foreclosures on the market are unbelievable. So many people are losing their homes. You really can take nothing for granted. The benefit of having a job, a source of steady income, and all that comes with it, is a real blessing.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

A working mother's best and worst day

Here is a brief glimpse at the last really good day that I had as a working mom... and it involved utilizing a paid personal business day, so I didn't have to go to work at all! (Working does have some perks!) First of all, we all slept in until the kids naturally woke up on their own and we leisurely got out of bed. Next we had breakfast, and I got my oldest ready for school and dropped her off at elementary school. I took my other 2 in for their doctor's appointments. Afterwards, my toddler was asking me if she could go to "school" because she wanted to play with her friends and told me that she "loves school". When I dropped them off at day care, my little one wanted to hold my hand and have me sit in circle time with her. She was so excited to bring me into her classroom and get to experience her world. She was beaming! The baby was all smiles. After spending a good hour with the kids in their classrooms, I left and went to go get my hair cut... not at the usual super cuts... but at an expensive salon! Woah! I do this once or twice a year. So great! Afterwards I got AN HOUR MASSAGE. AWESOME! Relaxing time for myself! Afterwards, met a girlfriend for a drink! All the time getting paid, and not feeling guilty for doing all this. After a few hours, I picked up my kids and we had a great evening. We went for a walk, we read books. The whole while thinking, I could really never ever have a day like this if I wasn't working...

Now, contrast this to a really bad day... thankfully they are not like this everyday, but they do come around once in a while... First of all, the alarm gets set wrong, or for some reason I hit the snooze button too many times.. I'm off to a late start. I fell asleep before taking out the laundry the night before, so I don't have clothes to wear. You end up wearing, you know, the really bad clothes, that you are embarrassed to wear into the office, but it's all you've got, and you know you look dumpy, but it's the best you can do. The baby starts screaming before you even leave your room. She's not co-operating. You manage to squeeze her into clothes during the screaming-bucking episode, and by this time the other children are already fighting over the toothpaste and toothbrushes, and at this time I realize I am 7 minutes from missing my daughters bus ride to school. I have an 8:30 meeting with my boss, that I am going to have to text her and tell her I am running late. (Does everyone hate that feeling as much as I do?) and after screaming and possibly spanking, losing my temper several times, and cussing a few more, manage to get everyone dressed (barely) and downstairs. The baby poops and I have to change her again. She is doing the bucking thing again and I have to hold her legs down with all my might to get her diaper changed and pants back on. She's screaming at the top of her lungs. Now my toddler is throwing a crying fit because we didn't put the right kind of headband on. I can't get her to stop. I forgot to wash my pump parts the night before, so everything is smelling like rancid milk. I'm trying to wash everything as best I can, throw lunches together, prepare the bottles, get the crib sheets and blankets together for the cots at daycare, and everything else I need for the day. By this time, the two youngest are crying and the oldest is whining that her stomach hurts. Now not only did we miss the bus, but we are actually late for school. Now I just added 20 more minutes of late to my day because I have to escort my daughter to the front desk and sign her in with a reason for her tardiness. Lovely. Getting the other two off to daycare, with at least 2 kids crying on the way. The baby has taken off her socks and her shoes... we had to pick up McGriddles from McDonald's drive thru because I had no time to feed them breakfast at home. At day care I have to park in the far spot because all the close ones are taken. Try doing that with 3 kids and crib sheets and lunches and backpacks and kids with no shoes on - no small feat. Driving to work - grateful for the solitude. During lunch, getting a call from school because my daughter said something disrespectful to a teacher. Great... thinking, look, I know how you feel, she does the same thing to me at home. At work getting an invitation to an important meeting that had to be scheduled from 4 to 5 to accommodate some managers schedule. Having to decline the meeting because, hey, day care closes at 6 and I have to pick up my kids. (Does anyone else hate THAT feeling also??) The little voice in the back of your head that reminds you that you are such a less than stellar employee.. and not only you, but everyone around you knows it... but that doesn't cut as nearly as bad as the thought that you are a less than stellar mother! Your kids getting to see you scream at them walking out the door, and scream at them coming home while trying to get them into bed. Walking in the door at 6:30, to a pig sty of a house and a stressed out husband because he has job stress and a bad back and a bad knee and chronic pain and hasn't gotten laid in over a month and can't stand to hear the baby screaming at the top of her lungs, which she does everyday at all times, because her mom has eco-breastfed her into a tyrannical crying spoiled little thing that needs constant holding and constant attention. The getting-to-bed war is as bad as the going-to-school war. Wash, Rinse, and Repeat. Some days I think, it's just gotta be better than this... like I said, not everyday is this bad, (thank God!) but some days ARE really this bad.  :-)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Babies in Heaven

I found this online and I think it is a beautiful vision and it made me tear up. I pray that this is true.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

How I discovered Catholic Radio

This is a continuation of my (long) reversion back to the Church... The beginning is HERE

I was perhaps confused... yet I continued to feel a strong pull to the Church and to Jesus. I still needed to discover what exactly this meant. (I am still discovering this today.)

I was still seeking out an opportunity to experience "Real" Eucharistic Adoration. I found yet another website while I was surfing the net at my desk at work during down time. I was excited to find a Catholic church a few miles from my office that had Eucharistic Adoration during lunch! Alright! Yes! I got in my car, and decided to take a long lunch that day.

I easily found the Church, feeling great.. walking up to the Church... and... nothing. The doors were locked! I could see children inside (this was a school) but they were near the front. I knocked quietly on the door, hoping to catch somebody's eye... I was too far back and nobody saw me to open the door. I stood there stupidly for about 5 minutes trying to get noticed, but I finally realized that this was futile and I wasn't going to get into this church... so I dejectedly turned around to leave.

God, I'm just trying to figure this out... why is it not happening, you know, like in the book?

Oh well, I thought, this is totally dumb.

I started my car and began to drive back to work. As I was turning out of the parking lot, I saw a simple sign stuck in the ground that said, "Sacred Heart Radio" 740 AM.

On that day I stopped listening to NPR during my 2 hour daily commute, and started listening to Catholic Radio. That was 5 years ago! It has been one of the best things I have ever done.

My next after work excursion was to be much more eventful...