Catching Up Again, Or Still? (#1594)
I’ll tell you what: If things could be any nuttier over here, I don’t know how.
Since May, when the hail storm from hades wrecked the outside of our house, Doug and I have practically hosted Construction Guys around the clock. I am happy to report that the repairs are almost done—-only tiny details remain. But MAN did this remind me of how I did not love the process of building our home, which we moved into fifteen years ago. I actually don’t mind the myriad of minuscule decisions (or the big ones, either). I think what gets to me is the noise level and the mistakes.
If a company tries to tell you that they’ll act as the general contractor for the job so that you can go about the business of your regular daily lives, DON’T believe them. I can’t tell you how many days the supervisor showed up for his minutes-long visit only to have to inform the crew that they’d need to tear out half a day’s work. We ended up being on-site gen contractors for this job, and probably saved the company thousands of dollars in labor and materials by catching the mistakes as they BEGAN to occur, instead of many hours into the job.
The insurance company agreed to pay the contractors a set amount, so I don’t know why I had to be so darned co-dependent about it. Maybe if the contractors realized how much time and money they were losing by having to tear stuff out and start over, they’d change their methods. But, NO….I have to point out problems, inform them they are installing materials we did not order, point out that the gorgeous Amish-made front door is WARPED (my vision is 20/400, and I had no difficulty spotting this from across the room, but they argued with me until the super arrived and measured and eyeballed and measured again and said I was right….), question them about what constitutes a mitered edge and what does NOT, etc.
Anyway, we didn’t save ourselves a cent by acting as gens, but you know? Somebody has to do it!
These past couple of weeks, we’ve had a hundred family events, too, culminating on Friday, when my wonderful son Scott and his beautiful wife Brooke moved from Kansas City to Austin, Texas. Can I get a major Boo-Hoo here? Seriously, O fallible ones! Two out of my three kids have moved away in the past six weeks. I’m sorry, but no matter how old the kids and how old the parents, it’s still hard. That’s not to say I don’t believe these moves will be good for my children—-I fully realize they will. It just stings, that’s all. But we deal, right? And we trust.
Now I’m getting ready to go to the annual conference of American Christian Fiction Writers in Denver. I’ll get to see my agent Rachelle Gardner there, plus SO MANY of my wonderful writer friends. Donald Maass, an acclaimed New York agent and author of “Writing the Break-out Novel” will be teaching an all day class in which the attendees get a chance to apply his methods to our works-in-progress. I can’t wait!
I had a private meeting with Mr. Maass at the Calvin Festival of Faith and Writing some years back. He read a sample of my work (I’d written exactly one novel scene in my entire life, and that’s what I showed him!) and gave me enough encouragement that he became my BFF. Honestly, I am thrilled for the opportunity to learn from him!
While we’re on the subject, no, my first novel (My Lawful Wedded Life) hasn’t yet found a publishing home. My agent sent out the book out to a number of publishers in February. Not everyone has responded (these things can take forever), but of those who did, we realized that the state of the economy did not help acquiring editors want to take a chance on a new novelist.
At any rate, I’ve had to move on psychologically. Work is well underway on the next novel, and I’m really excited about it. This time, instead of seat-of-the-pants (SOTP) writing, in which I do NOT plot or plan or outline or have a synopsis or have developed character profiles, I am doing pretty much the opposite.
What if it turns out that I am not a SOTP girl at all? What if I am a Plotter and just didn’t know it? So far, even though doing it this way obviously takes a LOT more work upfront, I am feeling so much more confidence that I’ve got a story in front of me, with compelling motivated characters, all ready to tell. What a relief to have something of an Authorial GPS System! I am fairly certain there will still be plenty of room for me to exercise my freewheeling, spontaneous side when I sit down to write. Outlines are made to be changed, right?
Once the conference is behind me, I’ll be full steam ahead on this new novel. Maybe it will be the first to sell, who knows? This whole publishing game takes a lot of guts, if you ask me. I know many authors whose first book got published, but if I’m not one of those people, I refuse to be embarrassed about it. I’m still on a steep learning curve here, and the days of me believing that writing novels should come naturally to me are long past. Now I just hope I have a sufficient number of good years left to become worthy of publication!
All prayers appreciated, as always. I ain’t gettin’ any younger over here!!
Drop me a comment and let me know what you’re doing! I promise to be a more frequent blogger after the conference…..
Posted by Katy on 09/14/09
Just poppin’ in to say things are crazy here. I’m getting ready (yes, again!) to go to the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) conference four weeks from today. And guess what? This year, Doug’s going with me!
I’m really excited about that. Doug helps me so much with brainstorming, editing, and general encouragement to keep plugging away at this writing thing that it’s a shame for him to miss out on all the fun.
And, no, my first novel hasn’t been picked up by a publisher yet. The only cure for that is to write the next novel, which is now well underway. My wonderful agent Rachelle Gardner continues to inspire me and urge me onward and upward.
I’ll probably be sneaking over here when I get a chance, but for the next few weeks I’ve got to focus on getting some strong material ready to take with me to Denver. We’ll be privileged to sit in on the teaching of Donald Maass, a great agent who wrote Writing the Breakout Novel and The Career Novelist. I’ve only ever heard five-star reviews of his workshops, so we’re really looking forward to that.
Will check in again as time and novel-writing permit. I love each and every one of you loyal fallible ones, and don’t you forget it!
Posted by Katy on 08/19/09
If Doug Had Seen This Movie Of Me As A Baby, He Might Not Have Ended Up With Chatty Katy (#1582)
I’m kidding, of course. The baby in this video is not me. But honestly, it might as well be. This is THE funniest thing EVER.
Posted by Doug Raymond on 07/20/09
I Can’t Believe We’re Finally Here (#1579)
“Are we there yet?”
How many mile markers pass in our children’s lives, and how many times do we tap the brake to hold back the clock for even a few more moments? Invariably, one of them utters those words.
How is it that a child can smell hesitation? When a mother seems to falter—even if she only means to slow down enough to round the next bend—a little girl in the back seat startles herself awake and imagines she’s all grown up and ready to be there.
“It’s not about the destination,” I tell her. “Remember, life’s all about the journey.”
“I know, I know,” she says, with the impatience of a toddler. “But are we there yet?”
“Go back to sleep,” I say. “You’ll be there soon enough. Sweet dreams.”
And I drive on into the night, seeing only as far ahead as the scantily lit road allows, and no farther. How will I ever be able to take her where she wants to go? Can I see into her heart and know the plans God has planted there? Do I love the things she loves enough to guide her on the path He’s laying out before her?
She takes another nap, curled into cherubic roundness, hugging her bunny blanket more for its comfort than its warmth. She trusts me to stay awake on her behalf, to protect her from danger, and to move her closer to the place she’s dreaming of. A place she’s never seen, except when her languishing lashes flutter across her cheeks, but a place she believes in just the same.
Will I be counted worthy of her trust?
I stay the course. I don’t even blink for what feels in one way like years on end, but can’t possibly be. Somehow, though, I realize that when I peek over my shoulder to gaze at her in only a few moments, she’ll be older, not such a little girl anymore. I am scared to look.
“Are we there yet?”
I glance in the mirror at the sound of a young woman’s voice and see her stretch from her slumber, taller and strong. “Almost,” I say. “I hope I don’t miss the turn.”
“I can’t wait,” she says.
And she sits up straight and watches the road with me, as if she knows that I’m faltering here at the end. As if she knows that I’m weakening, and need her reassurance to continue following the map as it’s been written since before the foundation of time.
Everything looks so unfamiliar, though I swear I’ve been here once before, once long ago, when I was, in fact, a young woman her very age.
I’ve grown so sleepy that I swerve from my lane, lose my place in the grand scheme of our travels. She taps me on the shoulder.
“It’s my turn now, Mom. Why don’t you let me drive for a while?”
She takes the wheel and I fall asleep, but only for a moment. I dream of her childhood, and then of her grown-up beauty, of her wedding to a wonderful man. I dream of them choosing a path and following where He leads.
And then suddenly I’m awake once more, tears making riverbeds of my cheeks. And I hear her voice again, from far away, where I can’t look over my shoulder as I used to and smile down at her darling face.
“Mom, it’s me. We made it, we’re safe…”
“Oh, honey,” I say. “I’m so glad.” And then I laugh. “See, that didn’t take so long, did it?”
“I love you,” she says, and then I hear pure wonder in her words. “And I can’t believe we’re finally here.”
(Update: Here’s Carrie’s new blog from her new city.)
Posted by Katy on 07/17/09
Why I’m Always Glad To Have Written (#1573)
Recently, I’ve received two completely unexpected notes from fallible readers. They didn’t arrive via the comments section (Um….it’s mostly spam, I’m afraid. Feel free to change that!), but rather in personal correspondence.
One letter started out with these words: “Two years ago, you sent me a letter of comfort over the loss of my parent….” Do you know how it feels when you don’t QUITE remember doing something, but suddenly feel awfully glad to know you did? That’s the emotion that came over me when I read this lovely note.
The writer went on to say she was sorry it had taken her so long to respond, but that my words had touched her and helped in in a time of need. I cried when I read this, because for me to be counted among those who even occasionally bless someone else with encouragement, comfort, joy, or empathy makes all my feeble attempts worthwhile.
The second letter came through a private facebook message. The writer described herself as a “long-time fallible reader,” but upon seeing her signature and her own blog address, I knew exactly who she was. How could I forget her? We have commiserated together over more than one of our shared life experiences—-but admittedly, it had been a while.
She wrote to ask my advice on how to proceed with issues related to the care of an elderly parent. Of course, I am no expert, having only The Moms in my personal arsenal when it comes to acting as an advocate for the aged. But then she went on to say that even if I didn’t know the answer to her question, she wanted me to know how much my stories about our ladies had meant to her.
She appreciated the humor, the pathos, and the honesty with which I described the unfolding events of our lives. She said I had helped her as she referred back in her memory to some of my situations and applied them to the current difficulty she’s facing.
Again, I was completely astounded to receive such a letter. And blessed beyond what I can express here.
But this is what I want you to know: If you never write anything more than a sympathy card or a thank you note or a facebook comment, your writing means something. Your words touch others, affect their hearts and minds, bring them clarity, offer them wisdom, and—-always most importantly—-demonstrate your love.
Never underestimate the power of your words. Others are reading, and listening, and taking those words to heart. You’ll never hear from most of your readers. But every once in a while, one will reach out to you.
And then through your tears, you’ll remember all over again why you continue to write.
Posted by Katy on 07/07/09
Happiness Is Locking In A Low Rate With The Man Of Your Dreams (#1553)
It’s true. I am a sucker for a guy who talks refi with me.
Actually, I usually bring up the subject. It’s part of our division of labor, I guess. Doug’s activities are weighted a bit more heavily on the income side, and mine tend to concentrate around how to divvy up the income and, always, how to continue finding and implementing the most effective cost-cutting measures. Between the two of us, we get the job done, and isn’t that what marriage is all about?
We built this house nearly 15 years ago, and at the time we took out a 30-year loan. These days, with Doug being nearly 57 years old and with me being the age that I am (Ha!), I would not be comfortable taking out a 30-year loan, or even a 15-year loan.
In fact, I remember my father, gone lo these 25 years, talking about a friend of the family who, at age 65, took out a 30-year mortgage.
“He’s retiring next year!” Dad said. “You’re supposed to have burned your mortgage years before you retire.”
My dad wasn’t just blowing smoke. He and Mom purchased their third and final home when I was six years old. By the time I, their oldest child, graduated from high school, they had paid off the house. They’d taken out a 20-year loan, and in 11 years, that puppy was history.
I’ll admit I’ve never gotten in the habit of making extra payments to my principal. But we have refinanced several times since our first mortgage on this house, which was at 8.25%. And each time, we’ve decreased the term of the loan as well as the rate.
When we closed on this refi last week, we signed paperwork for a 10-year loan at 4.625%. We had 11 years left on our previous 15-year loan, which was at 5.875%. That doesn’t sound like it would change our financial picture too much, but it really does.
If we were to take 10 full years to pay off this house (which we won’t, because the remaining mortgage is so small…), not only would we have one full year at the end without payments, but we would have saved nearly $50,000 besides! Yes, our house payment just went down a cool $400 per month.
I’m a believer in cutting small expenses where it makes sense, but sometimes those big ones can be trimmed without too terribly much effort and the return on your investment of a few hours time can be tremendous.
One day in the not-too-distant future, I plan to host an Old-Fashioned Mortgage Burning Party with the man of my dreams.
Call me my father’s daughter, but I can’t imagine anything better.
Posted by Katy on 06/25/09
Hail, Hail, The Dang’s All Here! (#1540)
Dang! And, technically, ding, too!
Hail dings, that is. And lots of them. It all went down (in a rather sideways kind of way…) eight days ago and life has been a bit of a whirlwind ever since.
But our homeowners insurance company has cut us the first (but not the last) check, and the outfit who will be replacing the roof and siding on our entire house is working up their bid as we speak. I’ve seen more measuring tapes whipped out and more blueprints mulled over this past week than at any time since we built this house fifteen years ago. Whew!
Our two neighbors to the south (the only ones we’ve spoken to so far) also will be making claims, so I’m glad to find out it wasn’t just us. I’d talked to everyone in my family to see if their properties were OK, and they all replied with some variation of “What hail?”
Sometimes in life, you kind of feel like a target for crazy stuff to happen to you, and well, the stigma is more than I need right now. :) So yeah, I’m grateful we’re not completely alone!
We didn’t plan on hosting a boatload of contractors this summer and fall, but hey, we will deal. I’m going to take some before and after pics of the old homestead, too, so you can see the transformation as it takes place.
In the meantime, here are a few storm pics for your viewing pleasure. The insurance company appreciated that we’d taken these, since only our particular area in KC actually reported hail like this on that day.
Posted by Katy on 06/17/09
Saturday Night Fever (#1464)
Doug and I went to a really fun party Saturday night, at the home of our church friends, Ken and Cheryl.
The weather was just perfect, so the large crowd of Sunday School buddies roamed in and out of the house, onto the deck, out to the strawberry patch for some random nibbling, and then back inside. We ate turducken, which was delish, along with a yummy assortment of potluck offerings to die for.
But it wasn’t the food that killed me.
My dumb chronic headache, which started off at only a low roar but built toward the end of the evening, finally prompted me to begin signaling Doug that it was time to go home.
You know the kind of non-verbal sign language I’m talking about, right? I mean, I didn’t want to walk up to him while he was deep in conversation with another fellow and blurt out, “Doug, I’m sick. Let’s blow this pop stand.” THAT’S not how you make friends and influence people!
The first time I walked past him (on my way to the trash can with a pile of paper plates), I coughed in a rather exaggerated manner as if I just might require the Heimlich, caught his gaze, and raised the eyebrow directly over the eye that always has the stabbing pain. OK, not overly subtle, I know. But Doug can’t interpret subtleties very well and I figured the other guy probably couldn’t, either.
I figured right. Neither of them jumped up to deliver me of a phantom lodged turducken bone and Doug kept right on talking about…whatever.
I got involved in chatting with a lovely gal from Ireland and thoroughly enjoyed myself for who-knows-how-long before I realized that the ringing in my deaf ear had ramped up to fever pitch, as it always does in loud environments. If you’ve never experienced an escalating stabbing pain in your right eye at the same time as you’re experiencing a ramped-up tinnitus that won’t die down for at least 24 hours after the party’s over, you haven’t lived. Trust me on this.
So I slithered my way through the jam-packed house and back out onto the deck. I saw Doug out near the grill with a couple of guys and when I waved, I know he saw me, too. I raised my index finger to my eye and used it to simulate a knife, air-jabbing myself repeatedly for maximum effect. He couldn’t possibly miss THAT message, could he? Any second now, he’d abandon his conversation and come to my rescue.
In the meantime, I found a group of girls I hadn’t had a chance to talk to yet, sitting at a round table with one empty chair, and passed a wonderful half-hour laughing my fool head off over their antics.
As darkness fell, I headed back to the kitchen and saw Doug standing near the island, picking at desserts and oblivious to my withered condition. I grabbed my purse from a corner of the floor and aimed his way. Nothing would stop me this time! I hesitated momentarily to gather up my salad container and darned if another friend didn’t start yakking.
I smiled and nodded and tried to be friendly, but it was too late. I was done for.
I partially turned away from my friend to give my Final Marital Signal of the night. If Doug didn’t get the message this time, I didn’t know what I’d do. Without missing the end of Fred’s joke, I started rubbing Doug’s back. Very nicely, very persuasively, very…affectionately. If I couldn’t get him to take me home any other way, maybe I could make him think I might make leaving, ahem, worth his while.
Without even quite intending to, I actually patted his behind.
And then, as if on cue, the crowded room fell silent, though somewhere in the recesses of my pitiful consciousness, I recall hearing the smallest of gasps. With my hand still THERE, he slowly turned around and said one word, with a solemnity I will never forget.
“AAaaacccckkkk!” I screamed, at the sight of…Steve. “I thought you were my HUSBAND!”
We fled within seconds, to reverberating peals of hilarious laughter. Heck, I only opened the door to one kitchen closet before finding the door to the garage. Most Embarrassing Moment EVER? Oh, yeah.
And, I’ve gotta say, a tremendously effective use of body language, too.
Posted by Katy on 05/26/09
Fool Me Twice? I Don’t Think So! (#1421)
Seven weeks or so ago, the catalytic converter went out on our 2002 Saturn wagon. You might remember the story of how the mechanic insulted me and all “little women” everywhere when I asked if I could take a diagnostic message for my soon-to-be-home husband and he said, “Well, if you DO, will I just have to say it all over again when he calls me back?”
Insults are not a deal breaker for me, though. I am WAY too mature not to be ultimately swayed by competent work at a fair price. So I attempted to buck up and take it like a….girl.
But when he told us that catalytic converters for our car could only be purchased through the dealer and we found him to be lying, well. For me, when that happens, all bets are off. Anyway, we ordered the HUGELY-less-expensive-than-he-quoted part online, had it delivered to his shop, where he marked it up as much as he dared and installed it. As far as I was concerned, we’d never be dealing with him again.
Last Saturday, the same car died right after we’d gotten off I-70 and onto a road with significantly slower moving traffic. I mean, we were driving along just fine, with the car making no strange noises and behaving exactly as it should, and then—-nothing. The car just stopped running and we were fortunate to slide into a parking lot before every last ounce of forward momentum came to an end.
We’ve got AAA, so we called a tow truck after realizing that the car would simply not restart. But, silly us, we had no idea where to have it towed, except for to the place I swore I’d never go again.
Plus, we were fully 30 minutes from our home AND my back was COMPLETELY out to the point that I could barely get in and out of any car much less the tow truck that I was going to have to climb into AND we’d just driven 2 hours surrounded by 18-wheelers which is not my idea of fun AND the Xanax was running awfully low. Suffice it to say, I was in a weakened condition, and poor Doug had limited choices.
Monday morning, Doug checked in with the mechanic, who said he’d check the car out and let us know. Took him till Tuesday to call back with the news. It’s the timing belt (or is it the timing chain?), a problem that TONS of Saturns have been recalled for. The happy owners of Saturns ranging in birth years from 1998 to 2001 had their repairs done for FREE, since the part is defective. But not so with the 2002 owners! That’s what we get for driving a new car! Ha.
Said mechanic quoted us a price of $2060. DOLLARS! Doug actually felt desperate enough over that amount of moolah to ask the guy if he might want to purchase the car as-is. “Sure. I’ll give you $600 for it.”
The car only has 100,000 miles on it! I planned to drive it several more years, or longer. It’s one thing to be insulted because I’m a girl, but quite another to insult the value of my perfectly-fine-till-last-Saturday car! Once again, I’d had it.
“Get the name of another mechanic,” I told Doug. “Maybe Fred knows somebody….”
Fred is a good friend from church, and why didn’t we think of him sooner? Fred doesn’t just know somebody. Fred knows everybody!
Turns out there is a mechanic approximately 40 feet down the road from The Mechanic Formerly Known As Ours. The new guy hauled our car to his joint yesterday. He feels certain, if the first guy’s diagnosis turns out to be accurate, that he can do the job for $1200.
I don’t know about you, but to me, the difference between $2060 and $1200 is WAY more than $860. All of a sudden, I feel like we’re hooked up with someone we might be able to trust. And someone who maybe, just maybe, won’t diss me or my personal property.
In certain scenarios, I might pay extra for that kind of treatment. But it looks like, at least this time, I won’t have to.
Posted by Katy on 05/22/09
Who Knew That When You Plant Seeds, Stuff Grows? (#1417)
Honestly, people! I think I was pretty darned good at raising kids, but that’s where my “growth potential” came to a grinding halt.
I used to cry openly from intimidation when given a common houseplant as a gift, knowing I would kill the thing in three days flat. But now I simply whimper to myself and make the giver promise not to think less of me if he never sees the thing alive again.
My darling son Kevin gave me a beautiful white orchid plant for Mother’s Day last year and scared the bejeebers out of me. The bloom did finally die, but new leaves continue to emerge on an occasional basis, so I am not parting with it! Who knows but what I’ll be enchanted one of these years with another exotic bloom?
This Mother’s Day, Kev gave me a different variety of orchid (just in case I’d mastered the care of the first one and needed another challenge, I’m thinking….), this time a pink one with multiple small blooms. As always, I begged his forgiveness in advance for what will most likely become another Fallible Houseplant Demise. He’s so sweet. He said, “But in between now and then, you’ll enjoy looking at it, right?”
Yes, I will! And even more so this year, since I am now an official gardener! While a number of my experiments with food growing have proven failures, like the three out of four broccoli plants that bolted, most everything is thriving. In fact, tonight we popped a couple of ribeyes on the grill and had salad made WITH LETTUCE THAT WE GREW!
For even more fun, while we cut lettuce leaves for dinner, we popped a few bright red and SWEET strawberries into our mouths. Yay for us!
Small heads of cauliflower have formed and are growing, green peppers and brussel sprouts are coming along nicely, we’ll have a least a number of purple onions, and the tomatoes and zucchini are taking off. Plus, we’ve got tiny peaches on one of two peach trees, which are surrounded by three apples, two pears, and a cherry.
You know that whole can’t-teach-an-old-chick line of thinking? SO NOT TRUE. I have been making a habit of learning new things, and in 2009 I’ve developed several skills that I’ll enjoy for years to come.
And, yes, I know that hanging clothes on a line in the sunshine is not exactly a skill. But I’ve been doing it since February and I love it. It makes me feel like a kid again, since hanging laundry in our dryer-less household was often assigned to me, and what’s not to like about recapturing one’s youth?
It’s fascinating when you start caring less about what the stock market’s doing and more about the weather forecast.
“Do you think this load will dry before the rain comes in?”
“Should we water this morning or count on storms to do the job later on?”
“How much water do you suppose is in the rain barrels? Enough to do the whole garden?”
“Hey, the temperature is perfect. Let’s walk around the property and see what’s growing….”
It’s refreshing to realize that even when the whole world seems like it’s going to heck in a handbasket, there’s always something to look forward to, something to savor. And what a wonderful surprise to find that in a very down-to-earth sense, we really do reap what we sow.
Posted by Katy on 05/17/09
Now that we’re this far into the recession/depression, I’m curious. Are there ways your life has changed that you never could have imagined?
I know, I know. There IS the giving up and/or cutting back precipitously on Starbucks. THAT hurt, huh? I’ve confessed on earlier occasions how often Doug and I frequented that venerable establishment back when stocks were flying high and our future as old folks seemed as if it just might pan out. But now, well. Now things have changed.
One of the first things we did was cut back to once per week in the imbibing department. But you know what? It’s not exactly sacrificial living to only have lattes on Sunday, is it? I mean, sure we’re saving some money, but honestly. We needed to break that habit, and we can see that now.
But Starbucks withdrawal was just the beginning for us. Whether we had to trim our lifestyle and cut back on our monthly expenses or not, it became a game and a challenge that we embraced like we actually had good sense.
Since September, in fact, when the economy really hit the skids and the truth could no longer be hidden behind unopened brokerage statements, we’ve made tons of adjustments to our budget and, for the most part, stuck to our new plan with dedicated resolve. When we really started fine-toothing our line-by-line itemization of expenses, we found a shared veto power we did not know we possessed.
I think a cheaper bundling of cell phone, landline, and Internet was the first project we tackled. We’d already nixed cable, saving us $50 per month, but I am not able to do without a landline. Being completely deaf in one ear, it’s nearly impossible for me to hear on a cell phone and I simply can’t rely on it for adequate communication. We used to each have one, but why? We cut back to one shared cell, with not too many minutes since we truly hardly use it.
We also eliminated one of our two landlines, which we’d gotten because we both work at home and Doug did not want to miss calls. But isn’t that what CallNotes and the cell phone are for? Besides, with only one line, the landline makes a funny sound on our end when someone else is trying to call in, and we can see who it is on Caller ID. We saved maybe $30 per month adjusting this bundle, in addition to the $50 per month for canceling cable.
Then, around the first of the year, I got busy on insurance issues. We raised deductibles on our homeowners policy, knowing it would take a catastrophe at this point for us to make a claim and risk having our rates raised. Why have a $1000 deductible when you have no intention of ever making a small claim? It’s now $2500, a deductible we can self-insure for by having a beefed-up emergency fund. We have two older cars, and neither one carry full coverage anymore since we have the money saved to replace them when our hand is forced. And again, why pay extra for low deductibles when you would never make a small claim?
I’ll tell you what, when all those teen-aged and young adult drivers move out, you can bring your car insurance bill down to almost nothing! (Thank the Lord for small mercies, eh?)
Next up? Life insurance. Being self-employed, we are on our own with all types of insurance. But we realized that Doug’s policies needed to be structured differently. We may need some insurance for quite a few years into the future, especially with the state of our retirement accounts being what they are. In fact, the prospect of retiring completely from work is not on the radar screen right now. But Doug only had one large policy, and believe me, the premium is expensive. We decided to replace it with two smaller policies, staggered so that one will expire five years sooner than the other.
Not only will we pay less for these two policies than the current premium, but we’ll have insurance about five years further out into the future than we have now. AND when the shorter policy’s term runs out, we’ll have that monthly premium amount to add back into the household budget. A win-win!
You will think we are nuts, but I guess we were the Last Two People In America who still had fees associated with our personal and business checking accounts. Ridiculous, I know! With a well-worded plea, Bank of America dropped both the monthly charges. We’ve never used ATM machines, so those fees are a non-issue, and we don’t bounce checks, so no overdraft fees. But we were paying $45 per year for a bank box! Again, dumb on our parts.
In general, we got fed up with Bank of America and the bailouts. We decided to make the switch to a regional bank with excellent ratings and non-participation in government schemes. No fees whatsoever, free bank box, and an annual savings of beaucoup bucks. What the heck took us so long?
Finally, we’re refinancing our house. By using the same mortgage company we’re currently with (and because we have a very favorable loan-to-value ratio) we were able to avoid needing an appraisal and the paperwork has been radically streamlined. We currently have 11 years left on a 15 year mortgage at 5.875%. We opted for a 10-year at 4.625%, with almost no costs rolled into the loan. We don’t owe much money on our house at all, but this move alone will cut a year off the loan and save us more than $25,000 in interest, which I think is going to work out to about $250 per month.
We’ve made other adjustments, too, some big and some small. Everything from stringing a clothesline and using it, to planting a veggie garden and some fruit trees. It remains to be seen whether these changes save us money or cost us big-time! But I know for a fact that with the simple measures outlined above, we’ve cut expenses by well over $1000 per month since September. And these are sustainable cuts, ones that have not caused us pain or anguish—-only a bit of time (and sometimes frustration) to put them in place.
OK, to be completely honest about the pain, I guess the Starbucks thing still smarts a little. But I’m a big girl. I have a feeling I’ll live through it!
How about you? Care to share your experiences as you strive to thrive during this recession? Even though our income hasn’t been affected at all, I am thrilled with the incremental changes we’ve made to reign in our lifestyle. Enough, it’s been said, is as good as a feast.
Posted by Katy on 05/14/09
Because I’m So Fallible, You Might Win A Free Book! (#1411)
I cannot believe how long it’s been since I posted here at fallible!
Suffice it to say that a LOT’S been going on, and sometimes a girl just gets overwhelmed.
But just to show you how much I love you and to let you know that there are good things still to come from Old Reliable Fallible, I am giving away not one but three hardback books to three fortunate commenters.
Leave a comment—-maybe telling me that you’ve missed me!—-and you’ll be entered in a random drawing to win either Kathy Ireland’s “Real Solutions for Busy Moms,” or Dave Ramsey’s “Financial Peace Revisited,” or Leanna Ellis’s fun novel “Lookin’ Back, Texas.”
The first name drawn will get first choice, the second name second choice, and the third name will get the final book. Sound like a good time? I’ll give it a day or two, and then my impartial drawer of names, aka Doug, will do the deed.
I promise if you get to commenting, I’ll get back to my regularly scheduled blogging! I really, really will.
Posted by Katy on 05/13/09
Twenty-Five Years And Ten Thousand Harmonies Later (#1353)
When you grow up surrounded by brogues, you lose so much when your loved ones die.
Because for those of us who are first-generation Americans, there’s always the sense that the Old Country is at least as much home as the New. The brogues our parents and aunts and uncles never lose remind us daily, while they live, that our roots here are tenuous, that we are not quite like our friends whose families came over during the potato famine and helped to weave the very fabric of this nation.
At one time, here in Kansas City, I had my dad and his siblings—-Aunt Cathy, Aunt Mary, Uncle Bernard, Uncle Eddy, and Uncle Francis—-all thick with Scottish brogues that infused me with an identity I’ve never shaken off. Nor have I ever wanted to.
The first song I ever learned besides, I guess, “Happy Birthday to You,” was a song Bing Crosby recorded called “Dear Old Donegal.” My father taught it to me like this:
Some years ago this very day
I could sing this song in its entirety by the time I was four. In fact, my little sister Liz and I performed it on a Kansas City children’s television program, much to my father’s delight. We never did get the brogues right, though.
When Dad and his siblings had a gathering of the clan for a wedding or a funeral (my father insisted wryly that these were essentially the same event), you can bet the booze flowed freely. And when they’d each had a few drinks, their brogues thickened to the point that singing was the only thing left to do.
My dad and his siblings, on these occasions, would pull Scottish and Irish songs out of their repertoires and we kids couldn’t understand a single word they sang. It was fantastic and mysterious, the way the six of them could become one unit as they crooned “My Heart Belongs To Glasgow.” I didn’t drink, but they could make me cry like a baby with the heartfelt way they belted out, “There’s something the matter with Glasgow, ‘cause it’s spinning roond and roond….” I’m such an easy mark.
And then there was this McKenna family favorite:
Just a wee doch an doris
My father sang his way into and through my life, and today I hear him singing yet again. Besides drinking songs and nostalgic songs fondly recalling the Auld Sod, Dad loved American show tunes, and the way he infused even these with a beautiful brogue improved them in a way most kids never experienced. Dad had come from such a disadvantaged background that I found it inspiring the way he took to lyrics like “To Dream the Impossible Dream” and managed to convince the listener, at least for a moment, that any circumstances could be overcome.
He’d get in a Sound of Music mood and stroll through the house exhorting us to “Climb Every Mountain” until we believed we actually could. If he thought one of us might be feeling a bit left out of the action, he’d launch into a stirring version of “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” I always got a huge kick out of him singing “What Kind of Fool Am I?” The next lines are “who never fell in love, It seems that I’m the only one that I have been thinking of….” This cracked me up because he and my mother were married for 33 years, and as far as I could tell, never had eyes for anyone else.
This one made me tear up a bit, because it seems he sang it more toward the end of his life, perhaps as he realized his own personal party was winding down. “The party’s over. It’s time to call it a day. They’ve burst your pretty balloon, and taken the moon away….”
The hymns my father loved to sing in church, when I would stand next to him and sing melody to his harmony, mean the most to me these days. I cannot sing “Crown Him With Many Crowns” without hearing a brogue supplying the harmony, even when I sing alone. I am left here with only memories of his music and of his life. I am glad I stood near him for all those years, though, our voices blending and our faith building as we worshipped our God side by side.
My father died twenty-five years ago today. I miss him so much, and his beautiful singing, and all the brogues that are now forever gone from my life.
Posted by Katy on 04/19/09
Yesterday, my 87-year-old mother-in-law had surgery bright and early. Which meant that Doug and I pulled out of the garage for our long ride into the city just a few seconds past O’Dark-Thirty.
We were both so terribly groggy from getting essentially no sleep that we were startled by the magnificent display, behind our house, of gorgeous Caribbean colors lighting up the horizon. Oranges and aquas and purples—-fantastic!
But something wasn’t right, and it only took me an instant to figure it out.
As Doug drove, I pointed way past him to the other side of the road and said, “Wait. Don’t all those pretty colors usually happen over THERE?”
To think that otherwise mature adults have actually asked us to be their Durable Powers of Attorney.
Posted by Katy on 04/17/09
Bowing To The King (#1350)
Evidently, American protocol dictates that no president should bow before a king or queen, although a slight bow might be considered a sign of courtesy and respect, especially when offered to a close friend of our country. In order for a bow to be considered deferential, though—-a position our leader is not supposed to assume—-the top of the president’s head must be lower than the monarch’s chin.
Whether President Obama bowed to the Saudi king in a manner that truly broke with protocol, I have no idea. But the incident got me thinking about how low I’m willing to go when bowing to the King of Kings.
On Good Friday, the day he spilled His blood for my very life, do I consider Him worthy of only the bare-basics bow? Do I calculate precisely within a fraction of an inch how slightly I might acknowledge His Kingship without actually making myself subservient to His rule?
Or do I enter His presence trembling and cast myself face first at His beautifully scarred feet?
I hope when all is said and done, when the measurements of my puny earthly kingdom are taken and recorded once and for all in His book, that He’ll reach down, lift my chin from the throne room’s floor, and allow me the unspeakable privilege of dining with Him at His banquet table.
A King and His daughter, the Redeemer and His redeemed, the Monarch of Heaven and the child for whom He died.
Posted by Katy on 04/10/09