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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Financial Squeeze

Been a while since I didn't have to get up early and shovel my driveway. At least, it feels like it's been a while.

Part of me wants to share minor life details, like Skamper is back on The Heights. Part of me wants to rant a bit about life. Part of me is hungry and wonders why the turkey sausage and eggs aren't cooking.

How are the rest of you surviving? I got a raise in September, have no debt except my mortgage and I'm just scraping by. At least, it feels like I'm just scraping by.

I use Quicken to keep track of my money, and by the time I schedule the necessities from gas, pet food, utilities, mortgage and tithing, I have nothing left over for groceries. I still need to file my taxes and this is the first year I wonder if I'll owe the government. That raise probably moved me to a new tax bracket.

I'm not complaining. I'm one of the very few Americans who's in a good financial situation. All the years of listening to Larry Burkett and Dave Ramsey, putting money aside, living (mostly) within my means, and a few providential circumstances mean I'm not frantic every second of every day wondering how I'm going to feed the cats. However, I know most people aren't like me, and I can't imagine how they're making ends meet. I guess they're not.

One thing I have learned listening to Dave is it's never too late to start managing money, and managing money always means managing yourself first.

I've fallen off the wagon plenty of times. I can be extremely frugal for a long time and then -wham!- I can't control myself any longer and buy supplies for a catwalk (I always have the money when I do it, but it means I might be tight somewhere else for a bit). I've learned to let off steam in little ways, like a Melted Snowball once a week, to avoid those big wonk-outs.

The emergency fund is also a lifesaver. A thousand dollars kept in reserve for when the unexpected creeps up, like a cavity where there was no cavity 6 months before. I can't plan for everything, and the emergency fund stops an emergency from becoming a crisis that will bury me. The trick with the emergency fund, though, is to replenish it whenever you use it, so you might be tight for a bit afterwards. Hey, at least you don't owe 17% interest on a credit card.

I'm praying for all of us, dear readers, but the solution is complicated. It involves changing yourself, changing the culture and changing the political climate that says the government should own everything, including you and your money. Prayer is the only way to change any of that.

Happy Thursday. God is generous, and He's waiting to bless You if you'll cast your burdens on Him.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Change of Mood

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly a mood can change.

Skamper was happy with The Heights until, this morning, he got a windchime caught on his big fluffy tail and scared himself silly. I have no idea how big a setback this is, but his mood toward catwalks has definitely soured.

I woke happy and ready to dig out my vehicle, only to find a thin layer of snow needing my attention. I checked the state worker website for office closures, found none and moved my schedule up 30 minutes to allow time to get to work and beat the rush.

Apparently, while I was showering and cooking breakfast with the TV off, the state announced the office would delay opening until 10. I didn't know that. I happily cleared off and warmed up the van and got on the road by 7:15 as planned. I arrived at work at 7:25 and found out I didn't have to be here for another 2 hours and 45 minutes. Guess where my mood went?

In George MacDonald's The Lost Princess (or the retitled reprint The Wise Woman), Princess Rosamund's biggest fault is her slavery to her moods. She is a brat because the moment she becomes unhappy, everyone else must be unhappy, too, until she is made happy again. This is the flaw the Wise Woman must repair.

The fact is, nothing has changed. My careful plans went exactly as I wanted. I got to work, I beat the rush, and all is well. I left my house in order and the decision to go home for lunch is no different now than it would have been.

However, perceived circumstances changed. With different information, I believe I would have acted differently. The fact that I didn't and can't now causes anger and frustration. Those emotions are only heightened by the importance I personally place on my time, and this feels as though my time has been stolen by my job.

I wish I'd checked the website again later in the morning. I wish I'd read the ticker tape at the bottom of the TV (not that it would have helped since it was off by the time that notification started running). I wish I'd listened to a local radio station. Lots of opportunity for regret.

Have I learned? Yes. Before I pull the van out of the driveway from now on, I'll check the website. I'll look at the ticker tape. I'll call a blasted local radio station. I won't be caught again.

My life is my responsibility. The only person I should be mad at is me. Believe me, I am. (Although, I harbor a bit of snark toward the idea that an hour is adequate time to adjust travel plans in inclement weather. If you have far to travel, you'd be a fool not to be on the road early. I don't have far to travel, but anger is rarely rational)

I'm hoping this post cools me off and changes my mood, because, like Rosamund, I ain't happy and I'm inclined to show it. However, also like Rosamund, I'm learning to control myself regardless of mood. It's part of growing up.

Be well, dear readers.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Monday Morning Update

Simon and I are fighting over my chair. Our compromise over the last week has been he sits in my lap, which works until I have to get up. Maybe he's telling me the linens need to be changed in the other cat spots.

Skamper has joined Miss Kitty in The Heights. This morning, he used the scratching post to climb instead of jumping on shelves, and he and Miss Kitty played tag in 3D. No one fell off, but I'm going to attach a few more carpet bits up high for better traction, just in case.

Improvements may happen tomorrow if I'm off work again. Another big snow storm rolls over my state today with another 8 to 12 inches expected in my area by 6 AM tomorrow, plus 30 mph winds and possible ice. God gave us three warm days after Thursday's storm to melt (a bit) and clear off driveways and sidewalks, so I'm mostly ready. I also won't complain about the snow because 1) we didn't have any last winter, and 2) we need the moisture desperately.

That's all the updating I have time for this morning. Happy Monday, dear readers. Keep water and blankets in your cars and a full tank of gas (yes, I know it's expensive, but would you rather freeze to death for running out of gas?).

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Moving Up

The catwalks were installed Saturday, as my FB Friends are fully aware. While Miss Kitty and Caleb (oddly enough) have taken full advantage from hour one, the others have reacted with skepticism, fear and disdain. They're playing hard to get, is all.

The top beam is 7 feet up (and needs to be painted - little miscommunication between me and Big Brother - ehem). One end touches the wall beside the front door, the other hangs over my computer desk. The overhang seems to be the biggest draw and possibly the favorite spot, which poses a problem since there's only the one. Cats. Sigh.

Simon hopped up there this morning on walkabout. I'm rather impressed with his thorough exploration. He doesn't jump well, but he did love the top of the fridge in his younger days.

You can see I've wrapped the bare pole in pic one in carpet and sisal rope for scratching and climbing ease. I'm doing the same with the second support post at the opposite end of the high beam.

I've hung wind chimes from the shelves because I'm crazy and the cats don't have enough ways to irritate me without being able to lean over and ring my chimes.

Speaking of irritating, Simon has come down from The Heights (oooh, think I just named them) and is squeezing himself into my lap and into my way while I type. Cats. 

Oops. Time is ticking away and getting pics into this post has taken too much of it. Check out my FB album Building Projects for more pics of the latest crazy from the Turtle. 

Big snow storm supposedly coming in the next 24 hours here in the Midwest, up to a foot of snow across most of the state. Prayers are appreciated for those southern areas looking at ice storms and severe rainy weather. Wouldn't mind a prayer for me, too, cause I could use a snow day. Didn't get much sleep this weekend and my mouthpiece needs an adjustment.

Happy Wednesday, everybody. Stay safe.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Teacher Wanted

Had an interesting discussion last week. The kind where your worldview accidentally gets challenged and leaves you pondering for a bit afterwards.

I met someone suspicious of "spoon-fed private school graduates" because "they don't know what the real world is like." Contrarywise, this person approves of "big university graduates whose teachers couldn't speak English" because "they know how to dig out solutions for themselves."


This person had no idea I'm one of those spoon-fed private school folks, so the conversation was refreshingly frank. Was I spoon-fed? Is my incessant desire to find a mentor in every job and skill I undertake because I'm accustomed to "being taught"?

There is a benefit to being able to problem-solve in less-than-ideal situations. A good grade in a class of 400 may mean more than in a class of 3. I would argue it depends on the quality of the 400 and the 3, especially in this age where we regularly celebrate mediocrity.

However, the conversation started with the ridiculous cost of higher education and how a "bursting bubble" is on the horizon. We Americans can't afford the high price of college anymore, nor the debt incurred in pursuing it.

My minor is in education. I would argue that a teacher who can't speak the language of his students, and doesn't teach them the subject matter that is the whole purpose of his job, isn't worthy of the high wage he gets paid. Getting good grades in such an environment isn't a testimony to the brilliance of the student; it's a condemnation of the inadequacy of the professor. I would also have to wonder at the wisdom of a student who continues paying such a price for such a pitifully inadequate service.

Wow. Am I a snob, or what? 

In the end, my worldview remains much the same but I'm glad I had the conversation. I can be taught. I prefer it, in fact.

Happy Wednesday, dear readers. Enjoy the sun.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Winter Cleaning

I was surprised to awaken just before my alarm clock this morning, meaning I'd slept through the night. Been a while since that's happened, pretty much since I started that "health challenge" at work that asked whether I'd slept 7 hours. The challenge is over, so I guess the pressure to sleep is off. That, or taking my old teddy bear to bed with me worked. Dear Puff. I'm so grateful God brought you back to me.

The catwalk project was delayed thanks to a double-whammy of flu and studying. Good thing I hadn't bought steak. We've rescheduled for some evening this week.

Last week was spent cleaning and rearranging in preparation for the catwalk. The cats seem to like the new configuration even without the catwalks. That's a good thing. Unhappy cats fight more.

Little Brother Simon has been the main motivator for this stint of cat-related activity. He's my street tough, and his attacks on the other boys are coming more frequently. It's possible he has some sore teeth, and we're checking that out, too, but more likely it's just the eventual result of too many cats in too small a space.

TT: He's in my lap being all cuddly at the moment, the gooberhead. I really hope the catwalks improve his humor.

I'm reading A Memory of Light, too, the last book for Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. This has been a 20 year journey for me. Odd to finally see it end.

I've put my own writing on hold until that book is done. I can't write while I'm reading in my genre.

The good and bad part of Brandon Sanderson finishing the series is I don't like his writing style as much as Jordan's, so I don't despair while reading like I used to. However, the story isn't hurting me like it should. I can't tell if that's because I continue taking Saint John's Wort or because the author doesn't have the ability to engage my emotions. Doesn't matter, I guess.  The result is the same.

Happy Monday, dear readers. I hope to check in more often this week.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Catwalks and Leverage

Borrowing Big Brother's truck turned into a sibling shopping spree.

Have I mentioned Big Brother was a contractor with a degree in interior design? He's built just about everything you can imagine except a working lightsaber. Some non-working ones, but no laser beams yet. He looked at my drawings and got that "genius" face. The one where all the squiggly parts of his brain turn what I imagine into something that will look cool and work.

See, if you attach a 7' post to a 5' shelf and attach that to the wall, when a 20 lb cat jumps onto the post, you have not a shelf but a lever with applied velocity that rips out part of your wall and falls onto your computer table.

In short, disaster.

However, Big Brother has the knowledge to negate that leverage and moreover offered to build the entire structure for me. He has not made such an offer to Little Sister (because they don't have cats) and was not pleased with me for putting this idea in her mind.

TT: They have a vaulted ceiling in their front room. Can you imagine the catwalk configurations with that kind of space? Mwaahahahahaha! ehem.

Now, while this is more awesome than my wildest dreams, it also means I must move up my readiness schedule by two weeks. Therefore, the house is torn apart and I have 10' boards drying all over the place.

Do you know how hard it is to keep a cat off a board because it's wet yet not traumatize them so much they won't walk on it when it's turned into their "private jungle gym?" Big Brother had a few looks for me about that, too. We have a crazy aunt who hoarded cats. 'Nuff said.

I must also decide what furniture leaves, and that's the hardest part so far. My stuff may look like crap, but it has sentimental value. Plus, it's all cat-friendly, the importance of which should be obvious by this time.

Happy Monday, dear readers. Make it a great one.

Friday, February 1, 2013


This morning I turned over my calendars and got new insights into God's Word, zombie extermination and the world of the Fey. Snapshot of my life, right there.

A new month heralds a new obsession for the Turtle. Furbies didn't pan out as hoped, but this one has hovered in the back of my brain ever since I bought my house. I'd just never seen it done well before.

March's Cat Fancy magazine featured a story on homes that excel at cat-friendliness. One of them is The Cat's House in San Diego, owned by Bob Walker and Frances Mooney. I'd never heard of it, and it's remarkably hard to track down anything picture-wise online. I found YouTube videos from Animal Planet, and some books on Amazon, but I guess they're cashing in on the fortune and keeping pics to a minimum. Can't blame them. They care for up to 10 cats at a time.

What fanned the spark of desire into a flame of determination was a picture of their first "project": a scratching post room divider. The post is a floor-to-ceiling rope-wrapped support beam with a narrow catwalk anchored between it and the wall. The cats climb the post to get to the catwalk where they can lounge seven feet above their humans.

In this instance, the couple hung a picture from the bottom of the catwalk and painted everything bright red, which I wouldn't do (even though I kinda wanna), but the idea is fantastic. I'll be ordering their first book which appears to contain plans for what they did early on, but the scratching post looks fairly no-brainer, so I intend to build one this weekend. If all goes well, I'll incorporate a series of high catwalks and window ledges in every room as my budget allows.

So glad I didn't spend that $50 on a Furby.