Thursday, March 27, 2008

the ant and the grasshopper

This morning, I read my favorite column on Yahoo Finance. The column is one of my favorites because they are well-written, usually thoroughly researched, and so easy to read. More often than not, I tend to agree with them. This particular column provided a view of today's economic mess through the lens of an old Aesop fable - the Ant and the Grasshopper. The Ant is the meticulous saver and the Grasshopper is the irresponsible squanderer. The column went on to say that times are tough right now and the Ants seem to be taking the brunt of it all, while Grasshoppers get the bailouts, continue to live irresponsibly and fail to learn the lesson. However, in the long run, the Ants still eat food and end up happy because they have been in control of their personal finances all along. This made me consider a few things:

I am an Ant and always will be. So is my husband, and so will our our future children. We live within our means. We have clearly defined financial goals, because of which we will be able to do all the things that we want to do. We were not born this way. We choose to live this way. For these things I am thankful.
However, we are going to be affected by the Grasshoppers in our lives (i.e., loved ones who live irresponsibly), whether we like it or not, because Ants are left cleaning up the mess. For this, I am furious. And not sure of a solution. Yet.
I do not have the ability to vote for better policy-makers, or change my family, but I do have the ability to to encourage people to vote for the candidate who will do the most responsible thing, not the one who will give the most handouts. I will continue to take opportunities to educate more people, like we did last year by leading a Financial Peace group.

In the meantime, we will continue to be Ants: in control of our finances, and responsible for our choices. We know that there is tremendous value in that.

"The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender" - Proverbs 22:7

Monday, March 24, 2008

older and wiser

Today is my birthday. I am now 24 years old. Do I feel any wiser? Perhaps. I do feel more accomplished, and maybe there's an ounce or two of wisdom that I have gained through said accomplishments. With that being said, the getting older part doesn't bother me as long as it is accompanied by getting wiser.

To take stock of a few of last year's wisdom-bringing events:

March '07: Ryan and I started leading our very own small group
March '07: baptised in water at Hidden Valley
April '07: a fairly significant promotion at work
May '07: Ryan walked across the stage and received his degree (OK, so this is not "my" accomplishment but, since we are one unit, it counts), his graduation party in Platteville
June '07: started singing with the worship band at Hidden Valley
July '07: Ryan and I closed on our house
August '07: brought home our first practice-baby at 11 weeks...our beautiful black lab puppy, Lola, the joy of our lives
August '07: Ryan's backyard head-injury and taking him to the emergency room
September '07: the weekend-to-remember conference, again, in Madison

And, there were so many incredibly fun and memorable events and getaways:

April '07: Minneapolis/St. Paul to spend Easter weekend celebrating our first wedding anniversary
May '07: the weekend in Ripon for Melissa's wedding
May '07: Mother's day weekend in Springfield, and also Josh's Seminary graduation
May '07: our fantastic 3-day Mississippi River adventure to celebrate Ryan's graduation
June '07: Crystal's wedding in Boscobel
July '07: drove to Salina, KS and visited Gina and Eric (and then unborn Raeann), the 4th of July, Gina's birthday, and the baby shower with the incredible double-action breast pump!
September '07: Devil's lake to cheer on Jill in the triathlon
November '07: weekend at Josh and Allyn's in Princeton, IL to organize their youth group paintball game, staying in their beautiful new home and playing with their puppy Cocoa Rocket
November '07: weekend in Milwaukee to celebrate 2 years since the day Ryan and I met :-)
December '07: Springfield again for Christmas

Jan / Feb '08: The most amazing trip of all, the three weeks we spent in India and getting to see my family and beloved Grandfather

This tiny list does not even include the hundreds of walks around town, and the many trips to Governor Dodge to hike on the trails or frolic in the beach.
How I have enjoyed these past twelve months. If last year was this fantastic, surely, I can look forward to another year of adventure, memories, accomplishments, surprises, and of course.......getting wiser.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

left brain right brain

I love art. I do. And I appreciate the effort that goes into others' artistic works. But I don't necessarily have the talent, patience, or organizational skills to pursue it seriously. In the meantime, I can pick up a pencil and draw something perfectly reasonable at a moment's notice. Whatever I draw may not turn out to be great, or even good, but it gives me the pleasure of saying that I drew it. With my own hands, and with my own imagination, and with my own talent.
So, last August, newly inspired after we bought our beautiful home, I had the burning desire to create something for the bare walls. So, I made two sketches...and they turned out just OK. And they lay in a corner of the study gathering dust, until yesterday. We found two frames that fit, also just OK. And then we hung them up in the guest bathroom downstairs. And this is how they look.

It's amazing how a couple of mediocre sketches can look so good. At least I have enough talent to do things like this once in a while. They do look really good hung up. And I feel prety good about that.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

black and white

I love seeing Lola go out into the snow. Her shiny black coat stands out against the white blanket. How beautiful she is...

robin in my tree

I woke up this morning to find several robins perched on a tree in my backyard. Sitting peacefully in a tree. In the middle of the freezing cold, 30 mph wind, and heavy snowfall. How strange. Despite my efforts to tiptoe out into the backyard, so I could take a picture, they were frightened away. Only one remained on that tree.
I wonder, is spring is finally here?

Friday, March 21, 2008

fussy people and their over-priced vacations

I need to work on being more compassionate. I have that annoying, but extremely skilled, habit of pretending to listen intently when someone is talking. The thing is, I could care less about what they are actually saying. The other day, someone at work was going on and on about some Asian-American fusion restaurant in Hawaii. I would love to go to Hawaii someday, but until that day comes I refuse to listen to this person prattle on about how great their five-star dining experience was and how I "simply must go eat there". Yuck. How dare you give me your recommendations of expensive things to do, and outrageously over-priced resorts at which I should stay. Like I have $25,000 to blow on a Hawaii time-share!

That's another thing. Time-shares. What a ridiculous concept. You pay someone way too much money (usually somewhere between $5,000 and $25,000), to more often than not, go to the same vacation spot every year for the rest of your life. Yes, there are ways to "exchange" your chosen destination for another, but still. It is absurd.

baked goods, and fasting

I have been baking a lot in the last few months. Ever since we bought our house, with the beautiful kitchen that I would never have been able to afford had it not come with the house!
Yesterday morning, I got up early and made chocolate-chip cookies w/ pecans for a potluck at work. Everyone loved them! So congratulations to myself for learning how to bake. A little.

Today is Good Friday and there is a day long fast that our church organized, encouraging people to fore go food all day and use the desire for food to pray instead...and then end the day with a celebratory dinner at church (the food at these types of dinners is usually abundant and very tasty!) So, I signed up. I woke up this morning and thanked God for everything we have. Our beautiful little house, the kitchen I am so in love with, our affectionate and playful 60-lb beast of a dog. I prayed for people far away and suffering. I prayed for my family. I prayed for my co-workers. I prayed for myself.

The fast lasts another 11 hours.

And I am so hungry.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

books, travel, and places far away

One of my favorite things to do is browse books on Any books. It doesn't even matter if there isn't a particular book I am looking for. I catch myself thinking, sometimes in the middle of a meeting at work, "I wonder if that Michael Pollan book price has dropped.." (Amazon posts these cool alerts at the top of your Shopping Cart page that lets you know when something has increased or decreased in price). Or I'll have another thought - "I wonder if Jhumpa Lahiri's new book is available in paperback yet..." Needless to say, these kinds of wonderings can be highly distracting, and not at all supportive of getting any work done.

One of my other favorite things to do is look for travel deals, and build make-believe vacations on Yesterday, I built a trip for two to the Cayman Islands in mid-May, for approximately $1600, total (that's right, not per person, TOTAL). That includes the round-trip airfare, 5 nights at a 4-star hotel with its own beach, and transportation to and from the airport. We can pack swimsuits and paperback books, eat cheaply while there, and spend our pocket money (if we wish to) on sight-seeing and activities like swimming alongside exotic fish, or exploring underwater caves. How fun would that be? I want to go on this trip. But I can't. Well, at least not this year.

my wish for a garden

I want to have a garden this spring. With the horrible winter that we have experienced this year, it looks like "spring" is still weeks and weeks away. But, that hasn't stopped me from planning my little garden! I want the pleasure of growing and eating my own veggies! I want to experience running outside and grabbing a handful of some delicious leafy green spinach for dinner! It is going to be a small 6 by 6 foot garden, and in it I will grow spinach, okra, bell pepper, chili pepper, cucumber, tomatoes, parsley and basil. Maybe raspberries also. So what if I know nothing about gardening and have managed to kill every plant that I have ever owned? At least I am marching on, into the unknown. So what if I don't have the hours to spend tending to the garden, nurturing it and loving it? If I plant the seeds and water the earth, they will grow! People tend to complicate things that are simple and uncomplicated to begin with, so what is there to know? You dig up the earth, throw in the seeds, cover, water regularly, and wait patiently. Simple.

Ask me about my thriving garden in four to six months.

himself, herself, and themselves

There are some aspects of the English language that I find completely absurd. To elaborate, I recently discovered that "themselves" is not a real word. It's just a pretend word. Yet, everyone I know - myself included - uses this word. The rule, apparently, is that sine the plural does not exist, you have to say "himself" or "herself". So, in this sentence: "my neighbors went to the market, and they bought themselves some fresh mangoes", the word has been used incorrectly and it would instead have to say "bought himself and herself". Or something like that.

why I can't blog

So, last year I vowed to start writing down my thoughts and it only took me four months to get to it. This year, again, I took that same vow and it has only been three months to my first post. Nice improvement, no? My reluctance in joining the blogging revolution is not because I don't like or enjoy talking about myself but, probably because I despise that some other people can do it so well. They come across as pleasant, and likable. Unlike some other people, who can talk about themselves all day long regardless of who else cares, and they usually come across as self-important or arrogant.