Thursday, March 29, 2012

I Thought We Wouldn't Be Alone Anymore

Yesterday I was thinking back to the summer of 2008 when we were getting approved for our first adoption. We had to go to these adoption classes in Boise. I really enjoyed those classes and many of the things I learned have stayed with me.

We were so excited to go and begin the eternal learning process about adopting. I was also really excited to meet other families like ours using the same program.

When we arrived for the two-day training, we were among about ten other couples. Everyone introduced themselves and explained where they were in the process.

Every other couple had biological children. Every other couple was adopting through either foster care or internationally.

We were the only couple who was unable to conceive a baby and were pursuing domestic infant adoption.

We loved our weekend. We made friends and learned so much. When I think back on that weekend, I am still surprised that we were alone in our situation - especially in the one place we thought we would be among "our people."

There's not really a point to this anecdote. Just a memory I wanted to write down. This experience has made me so grateful for the online adoption community and the kindred spirits I have met through blogging. Love you ladies!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Are Your High Heels Too High?

I love the look of high heels and I wear some kind of heel on a daily basis (hey - I'm only 5'1"!). Sky-high, towering heels still intimidate me though and I feel like Bambi walking in them all the time. I always thought it was because I wasn't coordinated enough or used to them. Not true. It's because they are out of proportion to my feet.

I have recently discovered a critical bit of fashion wisdom that I think is worth sharing. The length of your feet determines how high your heel should be for comfort and safety.

When wearing a heel, you need to be able to raise up on the balls of your feet and be able to lift the heel one inch off the ground. If you can't do this, then your heel is too high. No amount of dexterity will allow you to walk gracefully in the shoes.

So since my feet are a petite size 6.5, a three inch (maybe a four inch) heel is about as high as I can go.

These black satin Fioni heels have a three-inch heel. I could go up to a four-inch, but that's about my limit. 

If you really, really long for the extra height, there are a couple of ways to do a higher heel: 1) a platform heel will add height and stability and 2) a boot adds stability since it encases the top of your foot and ankle.



Monday, March 26, 2012

A Hijacked Post: The Price We Pay

I adore Ashley. Simply adore her. Her blog hits home for me every time. And today it hits home so much that I am simply going to plagiarize it. Well, I'll link to it and disclaim that she wrote it, not me, so I think I am covered legally. Here is a snippet.

Most people get pregnant for free.  You know the story, a man and a woman love each other very very much, get really drunk, feel fat or are wanting to get back at an ex and share a special kind of 'hug' and two weeks later freak out because she's late and they're SCREWED.  No, if I want to get pregnant, I have to have a magic wand shoved into my patooter so that someone can see what's going on in my ovaries then give me crazy pills until said ovaries look like swiss cheese, stick a needle in my butt then have Efficient German Sex, void of nearly all romance and emotion because we're both freaked out that it won't work.  THEN I get to wait two weeks, panic each time I feel crampy, get my hopes up each time I yawn and then go in for bloodwork and another wand in my patooter to see if it worked.  Then I get to hand over $2000 regardless of the results. 

Read the whole post here.

Ten points for using the word patooter. Twice.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Pinterest, This Would Never Work for Me

There are a lot of great ideas on Pinterest. There are some really lousy ones too.

Some things look great in pictures, but would never work in practice in my life. (All examples were found on Pinterest.com)

Like this...
Too much work in my opinion. My solution - grab a shirt from one drawer, grab pants from another drawer and voila! You have an outfit. And you didn't even have to specially fold, place, and label said outfit.

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You can't go anywhere on Pinterest without seeing something slathered in chalkboard paint. (Sometimes homemade chalkboard paint!) Looks cute...but that pure black with crisp white writing won't last. Every chalkboard ends up looking milky and dirty. And I would NOT want my kitchen table to look like that.




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Freezer organization...
Tupperware. With snap on lids. Think about it. Looks pretty...but how long will it last? And really, isn't it just easier to grab that boxed up Totino's pizza than have to sort through which Tupperware contains it, pull it out, take off the lid, remove the pizza, snap the lid into place, and replace the Tupperware? I've learned the function and organization don't always coincide. 

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The idea of bare kitchen cupboard seems simplistically beautiful, doesn't it?


But then again, didn't someone invent cupboard doors for a reason? Say, to keep dust and dirt off the dishes and reduce the need for constant cleaning? If I ever did this, I am sure my array of multicolored sippy cups and mismatched dishes would look simply stunning. And the blue storage totes on top of the cupboard?  Just like the Tupperware in the freezer, the system doesn't seem functional at all. 


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Cute food...

Just eat your boring, normal white rice and hot dogs, kid. 


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A clear canister to hold toilet paper. It allows you to see at a glance when you need to buy more.


Just put your toilet paper under the sink like the rest of us. Every time you change a roll you'll get an update of how much inventory you have. Then you can write "toilet paper" on your shopping list like the rest of us. How long until that beautiful clear canister gets scratched, fogged up, covered in toothpaste/bubble bath splatters, and full of dust and grime?


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Shower curtains cut and sewed into lunch sacks.

You can buy a big package of brown paper bags for the same amount it would cost you to buy a shower curtain and thread and the time to sew these reusable vinyl sacks. Oh, and those brown paper sacks? They're reusable too. All you have to do is NOT throw them away and reuse them. Trees are a renewable resource anyway. Shower curtains are not. People have too much time on their hands.



P.S. I've been sick and sleep deprived for five days. I suspect this post may be snarky and negative. I blame it on my sinuses.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

How Much Money Would You Need to Feel Rich?

Exactly what would you need to feel rich?

When Justin and I were first married, we were discussing how much we thought one of our professors made. He was a department head and lived comfortably. We decided he made about $16 a hour.

Oh, how naive we were.

Even though I now know professors make more than $16 an hour, I still look at their average salaries and think I would feel rich making that much money.

The FiscalTimes.com posted an interesting article with result from a poll saying how much money people would need to feel rich. Here is an excerpt from that article.

Some 18 percent of people would need less than $60,000 per year of income; 12 percent said between $60,000 and $99,999; 23 percent said between $100,000 and $150,000; 18 percent said between $150,001 and $299,999; 11 percent said $1 million; and 4 percent said more than $1 million. 

I think this article is missing a big chunk of information. Feeling wealthy and financially free isn't tied to a specific income or dollar amount. After all, plenty of millionaire celebrities are in financial hot water (see a slideshow from Starpulse.com here).

If you compared what I make now to what I made back in my college days, I definitely could be called rich. But our expenses have grown with our income. Thanks to things like this:

buying our house in 2006


And this:

Becoming a family of three, 2009


It doesn't matter if you make twenty grand or five million. If you spend more than you earn, you will feel tight. You'll never feel "rich." So you can't label "rich" with a dollar figure.

That said, here are some things I think I will need to consider myself wealthy.


  • A year's salary in the bank
  • No debt whatsoever
  • No need to ever finance anything again
  • A desire to finance purchases because it makes more financial sense to get hit with lender's interest rates than to lose out on interest income on my investments
  • Nothing broken in my home! You know how you always neglect replacing the leaky faucet because it is just so low on your list of money priorities? None of that. Everything in perfect, working order!
  • Nice vacations at least twice a year
  • Some kind of cabin, vacation property, time share, second home to enjoy--completely paid off of course. 


What are some things on your "when I'm wealthy" list?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Forgive Me for I Took Out Student Loans

"Oh my gosh! It's the fourteenth!" I cry.

"So?" Justin asks casually.

"I haven't paid your student loans. I haven't even seen a bill. They are usually due on the fourteenth!"

Cue panic attack.

No one wants to be late on a bill.

No one wants to be late on a $$HUGE$$ bill. (The monthly payment is equivalent to the rent in our first apartment. Yikes.)

No one wants to be late on a $$HUGE$$ bill that will affect the interest discount for the next ten years you get for paying on time.

"Let's see if we can pay it online," Justin calmly suggests.

He goes online and our jaws drop. We cannot pay the bill online.

Because...

The loan has a balance of $0.

Cue happy dance!!!

Last year, Justin applied for a student loan forgiveness program - two years of work in an underserved area in exchange for loan forgiveness. Apparently, his loans were paid off this month and we didn't even know it.

Justin is a mental health and substance abuse counselor. Anyone familiar with social service fields know they don’t pay extremely well. They also know that social service fields require graduate degrees. And anyone familiar with the costs of college know that graduate degrees are spendy.

I often thought of underserved areas as a teeny town in Alaska or a backwoods holler in the South and the thought of living like a pioneer for a couple of years scared me. We were happily surprised to discover that the small city/large town we currently live and work in qualifies as an “underserved area.”  If you have a degree in medicine, social services, teaching, or anything on those lines, check out loan repayment programs in exchange for working in underserved areas. This is such a big benefit to our family!  

So, two years of committed work rather than ten years of monthly payment bondage (or even twenty years if you reduce your payments).

Pretty good swap!

Thanks, honey, for figuring this out. Such a blessing!




Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Budgeting for Beginners



Since we’re counting down to St. Patty’s Day, I thought I would do a few financial posts to help us all get our pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Stay tuned for a variety of money-minded posts—but please keep in mind that I am not a financial advisor.




Even though I don’t consider myself a math person, I find myself constantly budgeting. Friends and coworkers have observed this time and again and a few have even asked how I budget. I thought I would share.

This is a simple budgeting activity and there are definitely more sophisticated methods out there, but I believe this is a very logical place to begin.

First: write down your income for the month

Income:          Paycheck on the 1st = $1,000
                      + Paycheck on the 15th = $1,000
                        Total income $2,000


Second: write down every bill you have.

Bills:
                        House: $675
                        Utilities: $75
                        Credit Card: $30
                        Car: $100
                        Insurance: $90
                        Phone: $50
                        Television: $50
                        Total bills: $1070

Other monthly expenses:
                       
                        Charity: $200
                        Groceries/household: $400
                        Gas: $50
                        Rotating expense: $30
                        other monthly expenses: $680

Total money out:  1070
                               + 680
                              $1750


Third: subtract the bills from the income


              $2000  (income)
                          -  1750  (bills)
                            $250  (discretionary)      

Fourth: what is left over is your discretionary income. Subtract the amount you expect/want to spend on groceries and incidentals.

Fifth: What’s left over is your discretionary income. Determine what you want to do with it. Save it? Put extra toward bills? Have more spending money? A combination of all three?

Sixth: Consider adding in expenses unique to this month only. Will your car need an oil change? Will you get a haircut? I find that if I put in a rotating expense of about $30, that covers expenses that crop up every few months, but aren’t on my “monthly bill radar.” One month it’s an oil change, then it’s my dog’s grooming fee, then it’s my grooming fee, then the rotation starts over.

Seventh: Divide up your expenses and discretionary income by paycheck. Most people get two paychecks a month. I like to add up all my bills and divide by two, then assign half of my expenses to the first paycheck and half to the second. That why I don’t feel completely strapped during the first half of the month and feel totally rich in the second half. What do you do if all your bills are due in the first part of the month? How can you balance it? First, you can ask to have a due date switched. Most loans and credit cards allow you pick your due date. Or, I also like to do a “set aside.” I will transfer money into my savings at the time I have designated in my budget, then when the actual bill comes in the mail a couple weeks later, I switch the money back and pay the bill. (Or when I used to use a checkbook, I would subtract is from my balance).

In this scenario, $250 a month is discretionary income. Every need is provided for—and probably a few wants are included in the grocery/household budget. It’s now up to you what you do with that discretionary money. I always put some in savings—all is great, but sometimes that isn’t realistic. Sometimes you just need a new pair of jeans or—it always seems to sneak up on me—it’s a gift-giving month and you have to buy something for a birthday or holiday.

I love doing my budget this way and staring at that final number, that discretionary income. I love tinkering around with it.

If I saved it all, I will have $1,000 in FOUR months!!
I could knock out my credit card bill in three months!
Time for a trip to visit my sister!

I love that discretionary number. It’s so full of possibilities, isn’t it?

So this is how I create a basic budget. This method isn’t about aligning the percentage of income you spend on bills vs. retirement vs. housing, etc. It’s honestly about making sure all the bills get paid, planning ahead a little bit, and locating your discretionary income before it vanishes. 


Monday, March 12, 2012

Another Victim of Infertility

Relaxing my bladder in a bathroom stall at work last week, I overheard two women enter the restroom and have the following conversation in a humorous, flippant tone.

Girl #1: Maybe you're pregnant. 


Girl #2: I am not pregnant. If I were pregnant, I would be suicidal. 

It's a good thing I was anchored to the toilet seat by a healthy stream of urine or I may just have given Girl #2 what for.

I get that pregnancy isn't the ultimate prize for most women like it was once for me. Heck, for the millions of women out there who devour a daily birth control pill, pregnancy is to be avoided like the plague.

I try to be sensitive to others' worlds while I am completely engrossed in my own.

Still, it doesn't change the fact that I peed on my favorite high heels because I dashed out of the bathroom as fast as I could so I wouldn't have the opportunity to learn the identity of Girl #2 and be forced to defend my honor and the honor of all infertile women by challenging her to a dual behind the maple trees after work on Friday.

Poor high heels.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

What Would It Be Like to Have a Mormon in the White House? Round 3

Read round 1 here.
Read round 2 here.

A third round of rhetorical questions all in good fun.



Will President Romney slip up and call his cabinet a quorum?
Will members of the staff be asked to clean the White House every week?
How long will it take before everyone on staff knows what MoTab, FHE, and the "Mish" mean?
Will President Romney turn the budget around by asking every American citizen to forgo eating once a month and donate that money to our poor and struggling citizens?
Will we start referring to the State of the Union address as General Conference?
Will fashion trends for men include the "eternal smile" and for women include sleeves and knee length skirts?
Will youth speakers start to become standard at every Presidential speech?
Will there be a national sign up sheet to take meals to a family in need?



Thursday, March 8, 2012

My Ghost Cat's in the Mail

One order of ectoplasm coming right up!

I "adopted" a ghost cat from Etsy the other day. I COULD NOT pass it up. Here is the description.

A most unique gift for someone or yourself if you have a love for cats. In this most unusual adoption agency I offer "spirit" cats. They roam on the astral plane and would love to have someone adopt them so they can have a home again. Adoption document with official seal, meditation, directions and welcoming prayer are included as well as the details of the cat spirit. All you have to do is believe. Results can astound you.

The materials listed are pen, ink, and ectoplasm.



This is so awesome. This will not be my first run-in with a cat from The Beyond because I totally slept with one in Salem, Massachusetts, at the Stephen Daniels House. Plus, I already have a ghost who lives with me. His name is Dennis. I don't think I've talked about him much on my blog, but he lives with me. He's generally helpful and kind. He tries to manifest at night sometimes and I scream when I see him (you would too if you woke up out of a dead sleep and saw a ghostly man by your bed), but he's stopped doing that because he knows it freaks me out. Anyway, he might be lonely and he might need a pet. I hope he likes this cat. Maybe he'll get so occupied with removing ghostly pee clumps from phantom litter that he'll stop trying to appear by my bedside and talk to me.

I hope my corporeal cat Gabby likes my new spectral cat. If not, can you imagine the cat fights? I wonder if my ghost cat will make sounds. And purr. I wonder if my ghost cat will come with a name? I imagine so, because it probably had a name in life and will want to continue to use it. But maybe I get to name it. Like with other adoptions, I get the right to name or re-name it. What will I name it? So many cat names are based on physical characteristics. Socks is my friend's cat with white feet. Smokey was a gray cat I owned once. Fluffy. Midnight. Bitty. Whiskers. What would I name my cat? Translucent? Wraithy? Ether?

I'm open to suggestions: what should I name my new ghost cat?

Ten Guilty Pleasures

1. Cream cheese. 
It's the perfect food. It's great in sandwiches, desserts, casseroles, chicken, steak, veggies, crackers, cheesecakes, brownies, frosting, bagels, fruit dip, chip dip, sushi - pretty much everything. Savory or sweet. Perfection.


2. Sarah Michelle Gellar
I love her. Sigh. I've watched almost everything she's done. She's good, she's attractive, she's grounded, she's relate-able, she's successful, she's not caught up in the Hollywood crazy train. Oh, and her daughter is the same age as mine. Someday when Sarah and I are BFFs, our kids will be too.




3. Brushing My Teeth
My gums are on the endangered species list because I brush too much. And I always though brushing was a good thing.

4. Twilight
Enough said.



5. Brownies
My favorite dessert. So simple. It's not some fancy, French sauce-covered chef-perfected confection. Just give me a box of Duncan Heinz brownie mix and I am in heaven.

6. Paris
I wish I were talking about the city in France. Alas, no. What would make me feel guilty about liking that? This one is a hard one for me to confess. I own and listen to the Paris Hilton CD Paris. Feel free to judge me. I judge myself.



7. Diablo III
I can't even express how excited I am for this computer game to come out. I have been waiting for YEARS.

8. British Royals
I read absolutely every gossipy article out there about Kate Middleton and the other royals. I can't get enough. At least she's a role model worth emulating (I'm talking about her manners and class - no trashy tabloid behavior here - not necessarily her knack for marrying well, although that should be applauded). Honestly, I miss the royal wedding. I'm sad it's all over. Time for a royal baby!!!




9. Caffeinated Pop
Diet Coke or Pepsi must be on my menu once per day or I get a massive, crippling headache. I am addicted. None of my family members are like this. When I go to visit anyone, I have to smuggle in my own soda or sneak out to a vending machine for my daily fix. I feel like a junkie.

10. White/Clear Gummi Bears
Yes, I am that picky. Yes, they taste different. Yes, they are the best.


What are your guilty pleasures? Leave a note in the comments or do a blog post and send me your link.

Monday, March 5, 2012

I'm Adopting Again and I'm Scared

It's always scary to add a child to your family and permanently change your family dynamic. I'm worried about the "normal" things: Will I have enough time for two children? Will Joci adjust to being a big sister? How will our budget handle this? Will the baby be healthy? Will we be ready when she comes?

They say every pregnancy is different. Every adoption is different. It's naive to think otherwise. Still, it's not easy. We had a picture perfect adoption first time around. In state. Both birth parents involved and signing. Wonderful open adoption with healthy relationships with the entire biological family. Fabulous caseworkers all around. Awesome hospital staff that were very supportive of us and the adoption.

This time, everything is different. Things worry me. I'm not worried to the point of craziness or anything, but there are things that make me nervous.
  • This is an independent adoption. I don't have an experienced, professionally trained social worker holding my hand, making sure everything goes smoothly and acting as a buffer in all situations. 
  • We have to go out of state. Buying plane tickets around the birth of a baby is hard to do!
  • We have to stay in Arkansas for at least ten days. Ten days in a hotel room with a baby. Fun! 
  • This adoption is a lot more money. We will make it work, right? 
  • Our family is going to be multiracial
And the greatest worry of all:
  • Will the adoption go through as planned?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Why You Should Name Your Baby "Poop"

Names are pretty important. Every name has a connotation. A stereotype. Picture a "Tiffany." Picture an "Edith." Picture a "Frank." Picture a "Trayson."

Plenty of psychological studies show that people are treated differently because of their names. Teachers grade the same work differently when it's attached to different names. Hiring managers look at the exact same resume differently based on names it's attached to. I know there are studies out there that show this stuff. But I'm too lazy to look right now, so I'll leave that up to you to Google for your homework assignment. :)

Names affect how other people treat you. Your hireability. Your marriage potential. Your earning potential. (I have sworn from day one that Newt Gingrich will not be the GOP nominee solely because his name is "Newt." True story.)

I have named one human being and I think I did a pretty good job, if I do say so myself.

Adorable Jocelyn

Now I am tasked with naming another one. It's a big deal, but it's a fun thing too. Justin and I have been mulling over names for the past month. A few have stuck out. I read an article once about naming consultants--people who professionally advise you on what impact a name will have on your child. Because people will treat your child according to their perceptions of their name, and your child will respond and develop among that treatment, a name can truly shape the personalities and behaviors of your kid.

So yeah, naming a person is a big deal. It can truly, honestly affect the trajectory of their lives. There was always that weird kid in school that had a weird name. Jocks tend to have predictable names. Same with the popular girls. The artsy kids.

Now, I would never hire a name consultant. But I did play around on a website of one, just to see some of the limited information they have out there. When you hire for a consultation, you get hours of their time and insight. And of course they consider first, middle, and last names independently, combined, etc.

This website I went to had a "Free Report Card" where you enter in a name and it grades the name on certain factors.*

I told myself I shouldn't do it. What if the name I loved came back as a stinker? It would probably affect my decision, no matter what. I couldn't resist. I typed in the name and got the report. Let's just say that if my kid has a report card with that many D's and C's, they'd be going to summer school and grounded for life.

I was bummed. This stupid website had affected my decision. Time to throw out my favorite name and find something new.

I tinkered around with the website more. I entered my name. It was a stinker, too. I entered in the names of friends, coworkers, and TV characters. I started to notice something after awhile. This website wasn't very smart. Now, I am not an expert name consultant, so who am I to judge? But something fishy was going on. I tested out other names. I tested out words.

And then I realized that this website is dumb and my favorite name is back in the running.

Here's why:



The name Poop scored higher than the name I am considering for my daughter. Poop scored higher than my name. And that is just ridiculous. First, because Lara is the most awesomest name ever. Second...seriously. Poop. If Poop were listed as a name on a resume, the resume would get trashed. Poop would never get hired. Poop would have a really tough time scoring a date. Poop would have a lot of social challenges in life based on his/her name alone. 

Obviously names are important. That's why Poop is going to have such a rough go of it. Obviously, this website is stupid. Because it is telling me to name my child Poop. 



On the flip side, the website scores the name Poo significantly lower than Poop. That last "p" must really be important in social perception. :) 




*I am not knocking the professional consultant behind this website. This shows me that the human brain is essential to naming a child, not just a computer algorithm.

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