DAYS 7 & 8: Financial Fast gets harder when required to plan

You haven’t heard from me since DAY 6 of Michelle Singletary’s 21-Day Financial Fast for two good reasons:  I got lost in my closet and DAY 7 required me to do a budget.

I have never done a budget. Not in my entire adult life. DAY 7 was Sunday. Today is Tuesday, and I’m still trying to do a budget.

budget calculator budget for rotator_0Oh, I had every excuse in the world:

Microsoft Excel sucks.

There’s no way to calculate what I might spend on some things.

I don’t want to.

None of the excuses were good ones, and I’ve put it off long enough. So between the NBC Nightly News and the 19 other tasks I have on my plate tonight, I’m going back to the numbers.

I will create a living document. I will place it on the wall where I can see it every day.

I have learned so much about myself: how quickly I spend money, how much I waste money; how little I pay attention to ways I could save money. I’ve kicked myself with questions: Why didn’t I refinance my house three years ago? Why didn’t I save more?

Michelle writes in the book that guides the fast about Joseph (from Genesis 41: 47-4) who stored grain from the fields even when they were overflowing. He stored so much that “he stopped keeping records because it was beyond measure.  He stored for when the famine came.

We think a famine isn’t coming – even as one is just ending. Joseph’s instructions came to him in a dream. Ours come from parables that we can use to guide our judgment or ignore at our own peril.

In the book, Michelle asks: “How many blessings are you missing because you spend every dime you make? Who are you failing to connect with and bless because you don’t have enough to share – because you’ve failed to save?”

I thought of the trip to Africa I’m taking in the spring and how I canceled going to this year’s Sundance Film Festival. I was patting myself on the back until I realized that had I budgeted better, saved better, I could have done both. Continue Reading

The veterinarian asked me to cook what?

I knew something was wrong when I walked in from a debate watch Monday night, and there was no pitter-patter of little feet at the door.  It has been years since my lovey, Desi, had not run to the door from whatever comfortable perch he had found to demand that I transition quickly from newsroom slave to his slave.

But I opened the door, and nothing happened. I called out. Nothing. My heart began to pound.

By the time I got to the stairs, he was coming down, quickly and quietly – not slow and tentatively. He was almost himself, except he didn’t bark. And he didn’t jump.

I kept an eye on him. I checked his food dish. I manipulated his four limbs and checked his stomach. Nothing bothered him. Well, except half-ass walks.

During a full week of fighting a virus that had me bed-ridden, his walks were more less walk and more stand. I could barely make it to the end of the block, so his beloved jaunts through the neighborhood had become bathroom breaks. It didn’t matter that we were doing them four times a day.  They were too short.

By Wednesday, he had decided he was sick of food. Even with a regular walks resumed, he still looked like he felt puny. He didn’t even wake me up in the mornings. He always would wake up before I did, eager to get out the door.

On Wednesday evening, he threw up while we were walking. He didn’t eat his dinner. Thursday, he ate only half his food. Early Friday morning, he threw up in the middle of the night.

So Friday morning, we walked down to the vet, where everyone, for just a minute, stopped working. They all love him art his vets. They know he’s the world’s best dog.

The vet checked his teeth, lymph nodes, chest, stomach. His temperature was normal. His reaction to being poked was normal. He was even bouncing around, tail wagging.

The doctor said it was probably something he ate. The doctor said that it might if, for two days, I cooked for him, something bland like boiled chicken and rice.

I just looked at her. Continue Reading

A Perfect Fourth of July Celebration: Scrabble, Hot Links and Love

LAKEWOOD, Colo. _ If you ever need instructions on how to celebrate the 4th of July, there’s a couple just west of Denver  who could offer a few lessons.

I went with my sisterfriend April to the ultimate barbecue. Burgers, hot dogs, fruit salad and nachos were the appetizers! And tables were set up across the yard for Bid Whist, Dominoes, chess and, yes, I was in heaven, Scrabble.

But this wasn’t your usual Scrabble. These wonderful women of age played using Independence Day rules. You could look up your word in the dictionary BEFORE you placed it on the board. There was no time limit. If you wanted to stop and talk about each word before the next person’s turn, that was perfectly acceptable.

And when it was time to eat, the game wasn’t paused. It was over.

Oh, the eating. Our hosts, Clinton and Barbara, took to a microphone to announce the rules: Guests aged 55 and older had to go first.  I’ve never seen so many people announce their retirement dates, AARP card numbers and how many grandchildren they had to get to the front of the line.

But why not? The menu was: ribs, collards, potato salad, bean salad, tossed salad, corn on the cob, macaroni and cheese, baked beans, hot links, corn bread and pasta.  (Oh, there also was catfish, but it was a third course!)

Other rules? Children were not allowed at the food table; parents had to make their plates. (I LOVE that rule) and anyone making a plate for a senior could enter the house first. One woman announced she was making a plate for her mother. Her mother said: “I can make my own plate!”

There was an entire separate table with 19 cakes, cupcakes and pies. And there were six coolers of every possible drink you could crave. Sangria flowed from a dispenser on the patio.

No gathering that large on a holiday could end without talk of politics, and there was plenty. But I’ll save that for my column.

This big moment was about meeting new people, watching children with painted faces play and enjoying hot sausages that make your eyes water and potato salad made the way it should be (with pickles, boiled eggs and a dozen spices). Continue Reading