Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Holiday Wrap Up

My holiday season was busy, mainly with work and some socializing. In past years I’ve been lucky enough to get invited to a number of holiday functions and have felt obligated to bring a bottle of wine, a six pack, a hostess gift. This year I decided that I would not do that. I also decided that last year and it is easier said than done. So, when the first couple invitations came I made a point to call the host/hostess and said, I’d love to come but I won’t since I can’t contribute to the party. Mind you, I was not looking for tea and sympathy, and these folks know I usually bring something. With one exception I was told no gift needed, just show up, we are inviting YOU, not the bottle or food you bring. Now, I know when you get a party invite, you are being invited, not your gift giving abilities, but my DNA has me programmed to bring something. When I reviewed my holiday spending for 2008, I think I spent close to $200 on “hostess gifts” which really wasn’t budgeted so to speak.

The one exception was my friend Judith who re-married a few years back. She is Catholic and married a man who is Jewish. Judith can’t make Latkes (potato pancakes) to save her own life. I can make acceptable Latkes. This year, Judith and her husband hosted a rocking Hanukkah party. So, my Hanukkah gift to her family was to come over earlier and help organize and make the Latkes. Tiny bite sized Latkes that little tidbits of goodness (caviar, sour cream, applesauce, and more) were spooned on and served to the guests. I made regular straight potato ones and root vegetable ones (carrot, parsnip, yams, sweet potato, regular potatoes.) Thank you Smitten Kitchen for your recipe.

Christmas again was spent with friends, a lovely low keyed meal, but full of great food and great company. The weekend was spent at work with a minimal staff and full barn. The weather co-operated, meaning no snow unlike the previous weekend when we got a foot of snow. It was good to go home on Sunday and relax on my couch with a glass of wine.

I drastically dropped down my present list. I only gave to two old friends and my lovely neighbors. I did mail out a ton of cards, no irritating Christmas letter for me! I still have a gift certificate I need to order for some friends in the UK. I did get some nice gifts, a small bonus from work, two scarves, a couple bottles of wine and a tin of cookies I’ll actually eat. My 85 year old uncle sent me my annual $50 check and I got two gift cards, one for $50 and one store card for $30.

I usually give myself birthday and Christmas presents. This way I am assured that I will get at least one item that I WANT. For my birthday this year, it was a much needed new set of bed linens, but I was able to get a nice soft high thread count set from Marshalls. A couple years ago I used my small bonus, and a bunch of gift cards to buy myself my flat screen TV, which I still love and am grateful that I got. Winter is my TV season and even with my limited channel selection, it is still nice to have the larger screen to watch DVD’s and my few favorite programs. My present to myself this year will be a trip to IKEA to get a new bookcase. They are having a sale on New Years day, the item to be purchased is all wood, which is a good thing. I’ll be up early to make the trek, snag a bookcase and do a little shopping. I have given myself a limit of $160 including the shelf. Probably my only true New Years Resolution will be to make that last gasp re-organization and de-cluttering of my space. The new bookshelf will help. And just to point out, I’m only getting the bookcase new because my searches for the past two months have yielded nothing on Craig’s list, the local furniture consignment shops and freecycle. In fact, the two bookshelves I looked at on Craig’s list were pieces of junk that people were asking far too much money for. Come on folks, that POS you are selling for $75 is worth maybe $30! AND they were not all wood. The bookcases I really wanted are made out of reclaimed barn board and cost over $400 each. A local cabinet maker sells them. He makes each one himself, they are lovely, but I just can’t justify $800 on bookcases right now. My next furniture purchase has to be a new or new to me apartment sized sofa.

New Years Eve will be spent as it has been the past few years, over at the neighbors, eating good food, drinking a bit, playing board games, dancing to music and then off to bed just after midnight.  Have a good safe holiday!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Still Here

Just the usual craziness, but I do have some posts in the hopper.  Have a great holiday if I don't post this weekend!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Two Steps Forward, Three Steps Back

Before I start this post, I have to remind myself and everyone, that since I filed for my bankruptcy, I have been able to bounce back in certain areas. I got a new to me car, I got a credit card, I live a mainly cash only existence, I'm feeling a bit more in control of my finances...


The big YET

One of my problems that led me to the bankruptcy was this string of bad luck, things so out of my control that kept knocking me down personally, professionally and most importantly, fiscally. Things are not quite that bad this time around, but I do feel like it's two steps forward and three steps back and that I'm stuck in a mud pile, bog, or what ever. It's an incredibly frustrating feeling.

I try to be positive, I try to ask the universe for help, I pray to my gods, I make action plans, I set measurable goals, I say my daily affirmations, I network, I do vision boards, I think I'm doing everything I need to do, yet I have a huge issue getting plans to come to fruition in a timely basis~ something happens that sets me back, time and time again.

One of my readers awhile ago said I should just ask the universe. I've tried, I am probably not asking the correct way. Call me paranoid or crazy, but at one point before the BK I really felt like someone had put a hex on me. I can almost to the day tell you when things went belly up for me and the daily grind became a daily struggle, it was the 2nd week in February 2004. You may think I'm crazy, but it was from that point forward that I got stuck in the 2 steps forward, 3 steps back mode.

I have never shied away from hard work. I am not asking for things to be dropped into my lap, but it would be nice to have a string of good luck or easy successes to bolster my confidence or to balance out the struggles. It is discouraging to repeatedly feel that I am stuck in a place and can not move forward.

I wish I had an answer for the above. I wish I could give you all the magic plan to get out of this cycle. It's draining on the mind as well as the body and finances to feel this way. So what am I going to do, not 100% sure. I keep reworking my goal list so that I do get a sense of accomplishment, but I still have this major goals and projects that need to be done or worked on and getting some sense of satisfaction with those is the on going issue.

In the quest to get my new to me car, I did a vision board of the type of car I wanted (a small SUV) with the extras I wanted,even down to the GPS and cargo rack. I also did my homework, checking out dealerships, price checking, getting my finances in order for a very post BK venture into the world of a consumer loan. It took a couple months, but I did get the vehicle I wanted with the extras I wanted and now almost two years later, I still love it!

Yet I am having a problem transferring that success to other parts of my life. I'm not talking expensive jewels or designer clothes or first class trips around the world. I'm talking about getting a reputable contractor to tackle that never ending home repair list of things I can't do, I'm talking about job goals, personal goals. Things that I should be able to achieve, yet getting these goals and accomplishments seems to move ever so slowly forward. So very slowly......

I'm open to any and all suggestions and yes, I'm even looking for a way to break that hex. :)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Second Job Update

I'm going back to working every weekend at my second job. I am grateful that I have this second job, I am grateful that it works for me and works for them, but I really wish I did not need the second job.

The biggest problem with the second job is that I now work 6.5 days a week, 3 days not at "home" and it gets tough to schedule those things I need to do, doctors appointments, car maintenance, relaxing grocery shops, you get the picture. My Me Time gets put aside. Oh well, you do what you have to do.

I was not very happy to have the conversation with my co-worker about her leaving for her surgery. I know she was not happy to come back last spring and have to share her hours with me. I was hired to replace her on a temporary basis, but since I brought to the job more skills than a horse groom, I got to stay on and help out. That decision was that of my boss. Heck, with my full time job still at 3/4 time, I needed the work and the hours. I did my best to not get drawn into the work BS, I know my friend Gill does not like my weekend co-worker. Gill also works at the barn, but her work is sporadic and she usually swaps work for a reduction in her board bill. My co-worker stayed on a few extra weeks so she could build up her bank account. Good for her, not good for me. I had to push back my plans to accommodate her ever changing schedule. My weekend boss does not do really well with confrontation and as far as he was concerned, as long as his barn had proper coverage, he was happy. I guess my conversations about the weekend schedule fell on deaf ears, or he just did not want to deal with the situation. I felt like I had to negotiate her medical leave of absence. I know my boss feels sorry for her and her personal situation. I just wish he would have been the one to be a little more forceful about her setting a departure date.

I will admit too, that what I used to was to not only be a barn groom,but a show groom as well, I used to go to a bunch of the shows. It was hard work, but it was fun. Part of me feels like I've been demoted to the babe at the barn. I don't get asked to go to the shows anymore, actually, I've only been to two shows as a show groom in the past year. I used to go at least 2x or more a month.

The good part to all of this is I am hoping that I will have the discipline to take the 'extra' money from the second job and put it safely in my emergency fund. I'll let you know what happens with all of this.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Scan A Thon Is Almost Complete

One of my goals for 2008 was to scan all my files and various bits and bobs of paper. It took me until this summer to get a new scanner/printer/fax AIO. I waited until my old printer bit the dust, I shopped around and I got a nice AIO.

I have over the past few months, scanned almost all my old paper files. Utility bills, old bank statements, new bank statements, insurance policies, EOB's, etc. I think I scanned and shredded about 40 pounds of paper. I still have a pile of things to scan and shred (old income tax statements and all the back up documentation), but I've managed to really reduce down my paper. It also doesn't hurt that I only have one credit card and most of my bank statements and utility statements are all e-statements now. My mailbox is getting kind of empty. I get the odd catalog and the occassional bill. More importantly, I have less paper clutter at home. I tend to keep a lot of paper, but now I scan and drop in the appropriate file.

I have Fabulously Broke in the City to thank for this. Her posts on going paperless really motivated me to get cracking. My "home office" is looking better and better!

Feels kinda good!

Neighbor Update

I did promise you all an update on the various facets of my exciting life. My neighbor is having all sorts of problems, family, financial, etc.

The biggie is that she has had an ongoing discussion with both of her kids. The two girls are both out of high school and both living at home. Oldest child has a job that ends in January, she had been living on her parents couch for the past few months. She had thrown a mini temper tantrum over the summer when her parents said they would not fully subsidize her old apartment. She has been living at home and to her mothers credit, her mother has not been taking care of pet cat and pet lizard. Yup, oldest child not only moved back home, spent days and weeks sulking, but also brought her pet cat and pet lizard and expected her parents to take care of both pets and supply the food. Thankfully, my neighbor said that oldest child had to chip in and pay for the cat food, lizard food and be responsible for the care and welfare of said animals. When eldest child realized her mother was serious, she was quite taken aback. She was even more taken aback when she told her parents she was planning on moving into her own apartment and leaving her animals at home and the my neighbor said-nope not gonna happen. You are moving, you take them with you or give them up to the animal shelter. My neighbor has a dog and two cats and does not need to be dumping ground for her kids unwanted pets.

The youngest child has just finished her community service sentance, still had done nothing about school, and barely working part time. My neighbor went away for the Thanksgiving Holiday, so I took care of the pets and in exchange, did my laundry. I can tell you that the youngest kid decided that she did not want to go away with her family, spent part of the time at the house (supposedly she was going camping with her friends and unable to take care of the house and pets for her parents). I went into the house to walk, water and feed the dog and found a huge mess in the kitchen. A people mess, dirty dishes left in the sink, unwashed pots on the stove. Youngest child pretty much came home, hung out watched cable, ate lunch and dinner and left her debris at home for mom to clean up.

If youngest child was my kid, I'd either smack her upside her head for her utter rudeness or toss her boney bottom out of the house. It would have taken all of 10 minutes if not less to do the dishes.

My neighbor is also is a twist about $$. She was complaining that she had almost maxed out her credit cards and her interest rates had gone sky high. She was also upset because she got turned down for a re-finance because of her credit rating. I have some sympathy for her in this respect, but this would have been the second time she did a re-fi on the house and used the proceeds to pay off credit card debt. I know she is shelling out a ton of cash to both daughters who are quite content to take money from their parents. It's almost as if my neighbor has to end up in a screaming fit before the kids take any fiscal responsibility for themselves.

I do feel badly, heck, we all feel the fiscal pinch, but my neighbor knows she has a hard time cutting that maternal fiscal string. I just wish for her own peace of mind she can really do it and stick to it.