Financial things they are a'changin'.

>> Monday, June 6, 2011

This post is mostly about money, because we've spent the last few weeks focusing on streamlining our finances.  In February I began working as a substitute at a nearby preschool.  I was meant to sub only until a permanent position opened up; it opened up the same week that the director was no longer allowed to hire, because her family had to move to the Northeast somewhere.  The new director gave the position to someone else last week, so I'm trying to decide where I'm heading next. I'm still subbing there, since it's very close to home and I know the children, but hope to find something else as well.

In the meantime, we added my income since February to our tax refund and paid off the remainder of our car loan as a celebration of our 12th anniversary.  For one month, according to the Dave Ramsey plan, we are debt free!!  Next month, unfortunately, The Government begins collecting on my school loans.  Ah, well... at least a small taste of freedom will be motivational.

We also discovered Virgin Mobile, which is (so far) doing well for us.  We switched from Sprint's $80 bill for two phones with only talk, and joined Virgin Mobile's cheap plans with everything (mine is $25 for 300 talk minutes and unlimited everything else, Lanse chose the $40 for 400(?) minutes).  I figured out how to run Skype on it, saving me a load of minutes, since most of the people I talk to regularly have Skype as well.  We used my most recent paycheck on buying the smart phones. 

The last couple of days have been spent installing spiffy apps and texting like mad.  (Still waiting to see if my text to Scotland made it.)  We also drove to church using the GPS app, just for fun.  So far my favorite apps are "Loot" budgeting software with additional add-on, and "Out of Milk", a shopping list/pantry organizer app with bar code scanner.  If you ever doubted that I was a nerd, there's proof.  I also have a Bible app with three translations on the phone and a plethora of more available through the web.  And yes, I have Angry Birds.  Sigh.

Next I'm hoping to find a media - DVD and books - cataloger that uses a bar code scanner.  Should be fun! 

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The garden today

>> Thursday, April 28, 2011

And we have foliage! So far I'm very happy with the garden, except that it ended up being too small.  The previous post showed where I planted everything, and it turned out that the nasturtium were not a trailing variety and I missed some thinning of the marigolds, so the carrots weren't getting any sun.  So I moved some of each today in hopes that the carrots will fare better.  We have blossoms on the tomatoes, and I've seen a bumblebee this year so hopefully they'll be fertilized. Last year we got blossoms and no tomatoes, so we'll see what happens.  I may end up having to go out there with a paintbrush, but I'm hoping not.


Our wonderful neighbor Maggie brought me cherry tomatoes, and I have six cherry trees that need to go in the ground around the back yard, but for the moment I moved the one that has the most cherries on it into the garden house so maybe we'll be able to eat them.  Kristianna and Charlie helped me taste test the first strawberries last week, so now I just have to fight the slugs.  Nasty critters.  So after adding the small 'matos and the raspberry (bottom left inside), the garden house is very full.  Some blueberries have dropped the flowers and started becoming berries, so that should be tasty soon!



The mint has totally taken off and filled the pot; I'm not a fan of mint tea, so I need to figure out what else I can do with it.  If only I had a lime tree, I'd be set for doctoring up my mojitos. The thyme and basil have started coming up but aren't tall enough yet to taste them. Soon, I hope. And the only other change to the drawing in the last post was that the corner edemame pot became miniature sunflowers instead, and they're coming up nicely. The edemame is also coming up well, though it's being eaten by a voracious insect of some kind.  I need to find my pepper spray.  The green bean and green onion seeds from last year appear to be completely dead, but at least I have onions from last year becoming enormous, and beans are cheap if I decide I need them.  I'm also contemplating a leaf or romaine lettuce, but I'll only plant that if I get my watering system working, since they need to be well watered. 

Last week I got the watering system all set up and got all the spray nozzles on the tubing at the right places, and then realized I forgot to flush the line.  Clogged line = clogged nozzles, and I only have exactly as many as I need, so I went back to pull them off again... and the warm rubber tubing had snuggled in nicely.  When it's not so wet out (we've had a lot of rain) I'll have to go back out with a pliers and get it all finished.

Well, I was going to leave you with two more pix, but Blogger's having a fit. I guess you'll have to wait!

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Dipping into the bucket list

>> Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I am so proud of my husband, who is steadily knocking things off his bucket list. Last week Triple Ace Games released the new game, Wonderland No More, for which my husband is a co-author.  I am so amazingly proud of him!  The game is a role playing game based on Alice in Wonderland, but set in the future after Alice has come and gone.  Thanks to Kevin and Jordan, the other co-authors, for including my dearest in this great creation.

Here he is at an impromptu book signing at Dragonsnack Games:

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Garden Extravaganza

>> Wednesday, March 16, 2011

One fabulous thing about living in the south is that we can start gardening so much earlier than everywhere else.  There's an online garden thing called ezgarden that had a free 15 days (after that we pay) but it looks interesting. You tell it your planting zone (I'm in 8A), what kind of plants you want and how many servings per week on it, do layout on your garden space, and then it calculates a schedule and tells you what to do when on a calendar.  For my needs, it had me starting seedlings the first week of January, so that tells you something.

Last year's (and years before that) problem was that we'd grow things and the local critters would gnaw on them before we got a chance to harvest. Last year we only got a total of three tomatoes that we could eat... and that was with three whole plants! So this year - faced with boredom, great weather, a pile of scrap lumber, and angst - I built a structure and covered it in bird netting to keep out the critters.  It is 4 feet deep by 7 1/2 feet wide by 4 feet tall, just great for me. I can reach the top, and Lanse can fit okay enough crouching to still be able to run out and grab something for me later on.  Today I put the final nail in the door, attached the hinges with my me-sized power screwdriver, and voila!  It is finished!


Here's a layout of what I've got in seedlings and somewhere in the mail. I need to make one more trip to the dirt store for some organic soil, and when that's in place I can finish setting up the watering system I bought last fall and never finished.  It's a vacation timer system, but I intend to use it when I'm home to help combat the extreme summer heat. As soon as the plumbing is set, I can get the seedlings in the ground, as most of them are about to outgrow their toilet paper tubes.
I'm so excited!  This year hopefully we'll get to eat a lot more of our own homegrown produce.*

* Yes, I realize that lilacs aren't food, but the fauna thinks it is because it's still small, so I'm keeping it in here as long as it'll fit.

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Science Fiction God

>> Friday, February 11, 2011

I'm pretty sure that I've written about this idea before, but it continues to amaze me how much fiction informs how we think about faith. Science fiction and fantasy are all about making things happen that couldn't possibly happen, making the impossible merely improbable, either by magic or the wonderous advances of humanity. It's all about defining or explaining miracles, more or less, putting words and shapes and pictures and stories to the thing. In many of Terry Pratchett's novels, the Story is alive; it can itself be the motivating force to actions, and characters can understand how to act and what (loosely) to expect if they can figure out which Story they're living in. The stories we read give us a framework for understanding, and a new set of language in which to try to comprehend the world.

We've been watching a lot of Doctor Who lately. While I can't remember the exact quote, I asked Lanse a question about the plot and he said something along the lines of, "It shouldn't be this hard to explain a temporal paradox before breakfast." That's when it hit me. In this series, we see exactly how a person can be in two places at once. We see how time can be rewritten, given the ability to move back and forth in it, and the devastation that can occur when it's done badly. We can watch and try to comprehend the idea of things happening that absolutely can not happen, or two opposite things happening simultaneously because time is being rewired somehow. We are given the chance to understand, to wrap our brain around words like "temporal paradox" and start to believe them.

We're given the ability to start to understand how God can be in heaven, while watching his Son come into the world, and sending His Spirit to scholars in the East, while still being the same single being at the same moment. We can begin to comprehend being everywhere at once, when time doesn't hold you, and how sometimes the bad things happen to us because there's no other way to get through to us. Perhaps we can start to really look and listen to the little voice He gives us that tells us to remember what He said, because remembering is the important part that will bring hope and peace to the world. And we can see how a being with all this power, who has gone through excruciating love and pain and loss, losing - by choice - the people he loved the most, can still come back time and again to the broken people on Earth, because of who we are and who we can be.

I don't really watch much science fiction now beyond Doctor Who, so I can't speak on the whole genre. But I'm grateful for the opportunity to have this new language and these stories to help me better grasp a small fraction of what my God has done for me. I wonder what I'll learn this coming season.

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Stewardship of the Earth

>> Saturday, January 22, 2011

I just finished reading Green Like God, an exploration of how God feels about creation and our responsibilities as found in the Bible. While it does cover environmental topics and provides facts and figures for how many of our choices destroy the Earth, it really is focused on the idea that we should care for ecology because God found it good, graced it with His presence in Christ, and put us here to take care of it. It was extremely convincing, and very insightful regarding the nature of God, pointing out different angles of verses and original languages that I hadn't noticed before.

Anyway, I enjoyed it, and recommend it, and don't know what impact it will eventually have on my bank account, as I spent the last two hours browsing farm co-ops, free range chicken eggs, and prices on the shares of local cattle. I'm also contemplating line-drying and unplugging stuff to save on power use, and composting and focusing more on the garden this year (I always say that!). Some day I want to be able to afford a proper rain barrel and some solar panels, but I think that's a long way off. Lanse is going to be so annoyed with me wanting to go off and make lifestyle changes again. We'll see how it works out.

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Keeping Busy

>> Friday, January 21, 2011

Despite the claim I just made that I'm relaxing, I keep getting up to accomplish things. Do you think that foster/adopting mothers nest? It kind of feels like that's what I'm doing. A few days ago I cleaned and organized the kid's room far beyond what was necessary for the DSS meeting, sorting out the closet and the toys and getting an idea of what all we have in there. A couple of weeks ago I had also sorted and binned all the baby clothes we have. A few days ago I organized our movie collection and made a list of all of them (189, I believe, not including the ones copied from TV onto VHS) in a sortable spreadsheet. Not related to the kids, but it was a rather obsessive organizing moment.

Yesterday I emptied and cleaned and reorganized the upstairs closet, which had become a dumping ground for things we would put in storage, but didn't want to put in the attic because of the southern heat. Now it looks tidy and some things did end up in the attic for now; but except for the large boxes of CDs and bringing things downstairs (Thanks, Lanse, for helping!), I did all the work myself, hauling things around. Totally not like me, but I had a good time. Then I spent the evening at the Eastvolds where I carried Juliana around (LOVE the baby!!). I'm not complaining in the least - I'd totally do it again - but I'd forgotten about the stuff-hauling, and now my lower back is a bit unhappy.  Ah, well.

We have a project in mind to cover the one tall wall in the attic so that we can put shelving in and not have fiberglass insulation getting into our things. It'll be about $60 for the wall part of the project, which isn't bad, so say about $100 if you add in the shelving. But it'll mean emptying the stuff out of the attic, which is NOT a fun idea right now. We might do it anyway though, we really need the ability to organize.

Today I need to finish writing the 10 page autobiography for the foster clearance, which must be hand-written and made the arthritis in my fingers flare up really badly. I got 7 pages done on Wednesday before my finger locked up. I think I need to get back into playing piano purely for therapeutic purposes. Then I need to organize paperwork and set up a system of record keeping for the kids, a separate binder for finance records, observation sheets, that sort of thing. For that, we need to replace our printer ink. I guess shopping is in the plans now too.

I've also been reading a bit obsessively, which is fun. Hmmm... Lanse rightly pointed out that computer games eat my brain, another way of pointing out my obsessiveness.  Maybe I'm just feeling out of control of life, going to obsessive detail when I do things?  In any case, I appear to have controlled my day to be: complete one project, read one book, play one game until I get sick of it, and interact with people. I've also been getting an evening movie in most nights this week, which is nice because it's snuggle time with the cats. Since the busy crazy time last month, they both curl up on me if I sit still in the evening, and we just love on each other. I say that accounts for a relatively healthy and balanced day; not too much to do, and not too little, though I do feel I'm still sitting around the house a lot.

I'm also a few days late on the budget, which is what happens when you can't print anything. I can put it together, but the routine we had is thrown off, and that doesn't help the stress levels any. Time to figure out what we can afford to do and what we can't this month.

Let's see... what else?  I have a couple things to finish up for school yet, some letters to write to folks who helped me out - which need printer ink to send - and I have to take my financial aid exit interview thing. I was notified that the federal government is moving all my loans to one location and (probably) consolidating them, which annoys me, but will make it much easier to track. They used to be held by three different places with different websites and logins. Now I just have to figure out where they are and we can see what the status is.

I don't remember if I said or not, but the handbook on graduation  said that degree conferral was applied at the end of the 12 week term, and it takes up to 12 weeks for the diploma to arrive in the mail. Well, apparently someone's really on top of things, because I got email that my degree was conferred on Wednesday (three days after my last course, not the end of the 12 week term) and that it will take 2-4 weeks for my diploma to arrive. So much quicker than expected! I'm psyched!

Oh, it was also my birthday last weekend. I'm 34 now. Every year I look at myself in the mirror and go, "Oh crap. I'm an adult." And then I choose something I'm going to be very adult about (who needs New Year's Resolutions when your birthday's in January?). Last year it was washing my face every day, and I failed pretty quickly, because I'm lazy and don't like getting wet. This year it's flossing, and I've gone a whole week so far. I didn't floss last night because we're using those disposable Y-flosser things, and Lanse has the package in his bathroom, and I was tired enough I didn't want to go get a new one since my supply ran out. But at least I still feel bad about it! A package of flossers for me is also on our shopping list. They say three weeks makes a habit, so hopefully I'll be able to mindlessly floss every day once the kids arrive and I'm fully distracted.

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Forgotten update

For anyone who may only be keeping up with us through this blog (though I don't think there really is anyone, but just in case) I realized I forgot to update from three posts ago.

The week before Christmas our cat Colin went off to chase mice in our heavenly mansion. I trust he'll keep it clean and cozy for us until we need it.

Also, there have been updates on the adoption blog, which you can find on the link at the top of the page.

Christmas was a mixed bag; it was good to see relatives, but it was a really stressful point in my life so it got a bit difficult at times. Mostly I'm grateful to have gotten settled back into a post-holiday, and even post-sick-cat, routine. We think our other two cats have settled into their new routine and hierarchy, and it's much more relaxed around the house now. Since school's done, and the social worker was extremely optimistic, I'm allowing myself to use a couple weeks to recharge and rest before children arrive. I do need to set myself a 'time to get back at it' date, though, just in case it takes longer than expected.

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Finished!

>> Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Well, I've done it. I've graduated!  This morning I received the email stating that my degree has been conferred, and my diploma will be received through the mail in 2-4 weeks. I am now officially in possession of a Bachelors of Science in Child Development with a specialization in Preschool.  Anyone have any kids for me to teach?

Many, many thanks to my wonderful husband for your encouragement and support and excitement when applicable, to my enrollment advisor Scott for enrolling me, to the accommodating directors of local preschools who let me observe in their classrooms, to my wonderful friends who have kids who let me observe in their homes, and to all my other friends as well for being supportive and caring about my future.  And finally, though first of all really, thanks God for arranging my life to make this work. THANK YOU.


And now on to bigger and... well... different things! 

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The habit of feeling

>> Thursday, January 6, 2011

I'm now in my final countdown for school. My final day of class, which they count as my official graduation date, is a week from Sunday. For this week's homework, I did three different self-analysis worksheets to determine my level of skill in a wide range of teacher-related areas so that I can develop my career plan.

While working through the questions, (most of which didn't apply because I need to be currently working in a classroom in order to answer them,) I came across this statement: "Becoming a Professional: I identify with and conduct myself as a member of the early childhood education profession." My immediate response was, "I'm sorry, I'm a what?"

Twelve years ago I failed to complete my college education. Two years later I fell into a part-time position in an elementary school, and my first teaching semester was a disaster by many accounts. A few years of administrative assisting and I found myself once again back in the classroom, but this time it was challenging and exciting and working with the children filled me with joy.

But I always knew that I didn't have any training. I had three years of college English, so I knew I could teach beginning reading and writing. I have an instinct for children's needs and fun ways to teach things like math and science - if we toss out the curriculum - but I knew that I was leaving out important things and truly feel that I was one major player in the way the school ended. Had I focused and prioritized, had the uncomfortable conversations, and told the whole truth regardless of the discomfort it would cause others, we may have pulled through. I described myself as a teacher, but I knew I was lying as surely as we know the sun has risen even when it's storming. I was just saying it to make myself feel better, to rationalize the heart and soul and sweat and tears that went into that job. Because if I couldn't say I was a teacher, the other terms that applied weren't at all complimentary.

That job ended when Lanse's did, and we moved here, where I tried to explain to potential employers that I was a teacher, but not really, but sort of. Tried to cover my internalized incompetence with the words "apprentice" and "teamwork". In the end, it was unanimous: I have applicable skills, and lots of potential, but I don't have my degree. I'm not really a teacher. Sorry. Best of luck.

So I went back to school. And now, after 12 years of feeling incompetent, I will be allowed - encouraged - to be a professional teacher, seen from every angle. Yet, I can't see it. Feeling incompetent has become a habit that I can't seem to drop. Me? Capable? From a science-fiction perspective, I imagine it's like standing on another planet vastly different from ours and being hit anew with the shock every three minutes or so, thrilled and excited with the scenery but desperately confident (and terrified) that you'll wake up any second now. It would require the kind of internal change that, right now, I can't even fathom. To live in the habit of feeling confident and capable is as foreign to me as the scenery on that far off planet.

Rumor tells that habits can be broken. Someone, somewhere, stated that it takes only three weeks of focused attention to the habit-replacement before it sticks. So I guess that by the end of January I need to somehow adopt the habit of feeling capable. Somehow I need to change my mind, so that I can change my answers from "Needs Improvement" to "Highly Accomplished". 

Aside from turning my thoughts inward and smacking those negative thoughts down a hundred times a minute for three weeks - or having a real job doing these things - I really don't know how to do it.

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About This Blog

Life is about changes; transitions from one place to another, from one purpose to another, from one being to another. They say that the person you are today is a completely different person from who you were ten years ago and who you'll be ten years from now. So far, at the age of 33, I've had four major transitions in my life which redefined who I am. Two years into the results of the most recent transition I am again - still - exploring how God is shaping me. Over the next few months I hope to review my past and set goals for the future, and embrace the next adventure of rediscovering me.
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