Thursday, October 31, 2013

My Dear Sylvia on her Sweet Sixteen

In no particular order, here are 16 things I love about you, my 16-year-old daughter:
  1. Your smile. When you are happy, you can light up the whole world. 
  2. Your love of musical theatre. I love being able to talk to you about musicals and share them with you. 
  3. Your thoughtfulness. You have a strong desire to be there for others. 
  4. You are charming with adults. I love that all my friends love you! 
  5. Your sense of humor. You get me, and you make me laugh, too.
  6. Watching you on stage. You shine up there! 
  7. Your passion. You put your whole heart and soul in the things that you love, and you strive to learn everything you can. 
  8. You still tell me you love me every single day. 
  9. Your artistry; in dance, in theatre, in painting, drawing, etc. You are a natural born artist. 
  10. Your strong sense of family. Not just blood family, but friends that are like family to us. You hold those bonds close to your heart. 
  11. You're a born teacher. I love watching you teach, kids and adults. You know when to push, and when to be supportive. 
  12. Your fashion sense! Not only does it look great, you are great at finding good prices!
  13. Your ability to work with what you have. I think I say this in every birthday post, but that's how impressed I am by your creativity! You accept if we either don't have the time or money to purchase something, and you've been having Tim Gunn-worthy "make it work" moments from your kindergarten projects to now!
  14. You are willing to work hard for the things you really want to achieve. 
  15. Your ability to adjust. I know you've had a lot of experience with this, and you haven't always been happy about that, but it's a really great quality that will serve you well. 
  16. Your willingness to try new things. This year alone, in addition to your academics, you're taking classes in film, fashion, dance and art. I think that's awesome!
I love you with all my heart, Sylvia. Happy sweet sixteen! 

Friday, October 25, 2013

My Dear Riley

On today, your 13th birthday, I am as grateful as ever to be your mom. In no particular order, here are 13 reasons why I think you're awesome:

1. You're just generally a good person that wants to do the right thing, and is willing to take responsibility for your actions.

2. You're funny.

3. You put your arm around me when we're in public (and when we're not).

4. You understand when I need some alone time.

5. You graduated your speech IEP!! I'm so proud of you!

6. You are a good student and teachers always tell me you're a pleasure to have in class.

7. You speak your mind, and you're willing to listen.

8. You know your strengths and weaknesses.

9. You are great with kids!

10. You're great with adults!

11. You celebrate your individuality.

12. You smile every day and generally enjoy your life.

13. While you see the faults with the world and those in it, you still enjoy the wonders of the little things and dare to dream big.

I love you fiercely and completely. Happy happy birthday, my smiling Riley!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Obsessed with Budgeting

*I had not yet completed this draft, when something unexpected happened. But rather than start completely over (and before anything else happens) I'm going to update this post with comments in italics. 

One of these days, I might have something to talk about other than my budgeting strategies. But not today.

Every so often, I go to my now-paid off high-interest credit card account just to see the 0 balance. It helps.

I also re-read some of the book that started this whole thing. I realized I was missing an important element: clarity.

While I have been inputting every dollar into the Magic Little Notebook, I'd tear out those pages when they filled up and kept my eye on the bottom line(s). Now I have a ledger-type notebook where I track every expense in its true budget category and then total the monthly expenditure. It will take a few months of doing this, but then I will have clarity. Am I not budgeting a category adequately? Am I overspending? Even though I never go over-budget, I still borrow from one category to pay for another at times.

I also made a few more changes. Every so often, I would use the Miscellaneous account to buy myself something, but I'd go back and forth from feeling guilty about it to feeling entitled...and then back to guilt. In the end, I decided to give myself a weekly allowance, just like the girls get. (The same amount, even.) And I added yet another budget item for Major Purchases. We still have tube TVs and the color is already out of whack on one of them. Eventually, while we won't need it, we will want a new TV when it completely goes. And what if the refrigerator dies? If it happened tomorrow, it would have to come out of savings, but wouldn't it be nice to have it covered from its own account? It will take quite a few months for it to be funded enough to actually cover a cost like a new TV, but we have to start somewhere. I'm starting with $5 a week. *The TV did completely die. $5 wasn't enough to cover it, and I had to take it from savings, but it validated the need for this new line item.

I canceled the DVD aspect of our Netflix account and decreased the Miscellaneous category to cover these new items. The DVD queue was all made up of movies of my choosing and I've generally used the Misc category for household expenses; now the numbers have just been re-organized.

Oh, and for those that think we shouldn't have any Netflix account whatsoever (or immediately buy a new tv), I get it, I do. But I also get that complete deprivation does not, in the end, work for me or my family. We all enjoy Netflix at the end of a long day, and it's a relatively cheap form of entertainment. It's $9 a month. I may not be rich, but I can afford that. While I may have had to dip into savings to buy the new TV, it helps tremendously when the 3 of us can't agree, or just need some alone time. For our peace and sanity, it was totally worth it. And I bought the absolute cheapest (and smallest) new TV I could find.

I've changed my mind about 27 times on what to do each time my credit card monthly minimum decreases by $20. I'm committed to putting that first $20 monthly into the Car category so that I can slowly continue to build that back up again. After that, I think about adding new categories like short-term savings or vacations, or adding to other currently existing categories, but I keep re-thinking it. It will probably take a few months before that will happen anyway, and hopefully by then, I will have the clarity from the long term tracking notebook to make thoughtful decisions.

The really good news is that I have put together a Presents budget for both upcoming birthdays and Xmas, and I'm fairly certain I will be able to fully fund the budget without dipping into my savings! (See? I don't even mention the credit card anymore!)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Ten Years

It's my 10-year anniversary with my current employer.

I remember at my job interview with the HR rep, she expressed a concern that I wouldn't stick around. Judging from my history at that point, I could understand that. The longest I'd stayed at one job until then was just over a year. But I knew then and I know now that I want to stay here for as long as they'll have me.

When I first got here, I was going through a divorce and living with my parents. I had left a job in a field that I love but with a nightmare boss and barely earning enough to get through the week, let alone save for the future.

This job and my colleagues kept me going through the roughest times of starting life over. They were there for me every step of the way - professionally and personally.

While it's not always easy to get up in the morning, I am (almost) always happy to get to work. I am so fortunate to work with people that are smart, funny, kind, generous, and respectful, and to work for someone who values those qualities, and was willing to take a chance in both hiring and promoting me.

I have learned a whole new field in the last ten years. I have learned the value of Sondheim's words "It's not so much do you what you like as it is that you like what you do." ("Children and Art," Sunday in the Park with George) Even though I'd heard that phrase since I was in junior high, I didn't quite understand what it meant. I thought the emphasis was on what "you do," and didn't consider the people factor.

Don't get me wrong, I like what I do, too. I find it a lot more interesting than I ever thought I would, and every day offers both familiarity and unpredictability to keep it interesting.

But there's no way I would like it as much as I do if it weren't for the people. They are amazing mentors when I need them, and they also trust me enough to let me work independently.

I get so frustrated when I hear stories of bad bosses or hostile work environments. I know it doesn't have to be that way because where I work, it simply isn't that way. We are a team, committed to providing the best possible service we can - and also enjoying ourselves whenever we can. We all help each other, we value each other, and perhaps most importantly, we respect each other.

I am so grateful for the honor of working here for the last 10 years. I hope for many more decade anniversaries! (Or, okay, maybe just a few.)