Saturday, September 4, 2010

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril V

"It is time to celebrate things that go bump in the night; that favorite detective that always gets his man, or woman, in the end; that delicious chill of a creak on the stairs, of the rogue waiting in the dark, of the full moon and the flit of bats wings."   Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings

Oh my!!
I've been waiting for this challenge since the first time I stumbled on a book blog.
Blog after blog mentioned the RIP challenges...I finally connected the dots and found my way to Carl's blog, where this annual event takes place.

I feel like Yukon Cornelius!
Is is wrong to be excited about a creepy, dark and twisty book challenge?
Oh well.

I have been a lover of dark and twisty since I can remember.
When I was a youngster I couldn't get my hands on enough material about the Salem Witch Trials and vampire lore.
Let me clarify here that I am not a lover of crazy psychopath cut people up in as many ways as you can think of stuff.
That's just a copout.
It takes a lot more talent to spook someone with the words you choose or even the images that leave more to the imagination than shoving blood, guts and sharp objects down someone's throat (and I mean that literally as well as figuratively).
A gothic novel to me leaves a chill up my spine and is complicated.
The obvious enemy is not always the enemy.
I can see the fog lifting over the water or through the cemetery.
But, there's a beauty to the scene that matches the anticipation of what's behind the next tombstone.
OOOHHHH, I can't wait!!

I like paranormal as well as other contemporary creepy stories as well as my beloved classics.  
I've read all of Anita Blake so far, the original Anne Rice vampire and witches series and am a True Blood addict!
Ahem, I realize I just spent a paragraph defending my honor about not watching violent stuff and I just admitted to reading violent stuff...
cough, cough.

I've decided to go for the gold and participate in Peril the First (4 books over the next two months).  The books must fall into one of the following categories:

Dark Fantasy

Carl's goals for this 5th annual RIP (R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril) challenge are simply:

1.  Have fun reading.
2.  Share that fun with others.

Other bloggers have been talking about several selections that I can now justify pushing to the top of my TBR pile:

Yes, I realize this is more than 4 books...but every time I read someone else's list, I find something else I want to add ;)

Carl has also added Peril on the Screen...I bet I can get my kids to hold my hands and watch these with per weekend perhaps?

Go on over to Carl's and sign up!!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

If it makes you happy...

I've been a little low lately...
But, I expect it at the change of seasons...
Or with the beginning of school.
I get so wrapped up with trying to make sure everybody and everything is organized that sometimes I forget to slow down some and take care of myself.

Over the years I've learned that there are several very easy things that help me "take care of myself"

1.  I have found that my own anxiety is much more in check if I get a reasonable amount of sleep at night...luckily for me, I have a 6 year old who needs much more sleep than most, and I can lay down with her at bedtime (that's my story anyway).
I am a sleeper...a napper...if I sit still for long, I'm asleep.
My mom told me that when I went to first grade, she worried about 2 things...
how I was going to carry my lunch tray all by myself...
and how I would make it all day without a nap.
I'm doing just fine with my lunch tray these days...
but I still need my nap.

2.  I also get a "rush" from having a meal plan and feeding my family on weeknights.
There's nothing like a friend of my firstborn who comes to my house at lunch during the week because our leftovers are "amazing!"
There's also nothing like sharing leftovers with my the crazy world of work, we take care of one another, and nobody has to run to McDonald's bc he/she is starving to death at lunchtime.
My firstborn's boyfriend payed me the best compliment a week or so ago when he was visiting from college. 
When I asked whether or not they would like to go out to eat or for me to cook something, he said, "Please cook something."
Now, don't get me wrong here; I am no fabulous, famous cook...I just think a homecooked meal makes everyone feel warm and fuzzy inside.

3.  Coupon clipping makes me feel as if I'm conquering capitalism and saving my family money at the same time.
It's a adrenaline rush when I make my strategy, draw up the plan and then head for the front lines.
I have never been a numbers person so this one is a little weird to me...but hey, everybody can learn.
Paying off my credit cards and becoming more responsible with our livlihood has made me feel much more confident and self assured.
I am a competent person when it comes to money.
The Head of My Household asked me today if I knew how much I spent on the kids back to school shopping (we were not able to shop with my mom this year, and my youngest had her surgery, so most of our shopping was online...all purchases I made were on his credit card)
I stunned him when I quoted the exact amount ($2500) and told him that I had taken the money out of my extra summer check and placed it in savings.
He about fell out of his chair when I asked him whether he would like for me to write him a check or just electronically transfer the money to his account :):)

4.  Blogging.
I would have never imagined when I began my blog that I would have so many strangers out there in bloggy world that I consider my friends.
Some blogs I read along with the masses; some I read for recipes or saving scenarios at CVS and Walgreens; and some I read because those bloggers live are in places where I have visited and loved...their photography and stories bring back memories everytime I visit. 
Then, there are those bloggers who I know would be my friends if we knew each other in real life.
Other moms with personalities similar to my own as well as trials and triumphs that we've all experienced at some time or another.
Sometimes it's just nice to know I'm not completely crazy :)
And other blogs I just read for information or even just for a laugh.
And, then there are the book bloggers.
Oh my.
The first day I discovered book bloggers I felt like the little girl in the library who had found a home.
For, I remember book smells, the sights and sounds of even my middle school library, the quiet peacefulness of the stacks when I was in grad school and oh my goodness the card catalogs. 
Finally, a group of people to talk to who honored the printed page as much as I always have.

5.  My family.
When we are all under the same roof, I feel complete.  I even happily take in strays when necessary.
We have our challenges, no doubt, but we are trying to work on those hopefully make us even stronger in the process.
Sometimes the world around us feels as if it is falling apart.
Our therapist talks about home as a harbor.
The harbor is the place where a sailboat can safely roam about and learn to sail...coming back in closer to the safety of the dock when necessary...and in the case of teenager sailboats, having to stay at the dock for an extended period of time if they venture too far too soon.
The harbor is also the place that a sailboat returns to after sailing about in the wild waves of the ocean.
The harbor is a place to mend, to float gently on the protected ocean and relax knowing that the rougher waves cannot reach you there...
The harbor is a place to rest and to trust that all who reside there have your best interest at heart.

See, isn't that a cool extended metaphor?
Our therapist is such a smart lady!!

6.  And, speaking of therapy...
Our therapist is not really "my" therapist.
But, committing to therapy to help our daughters has helped us all in the process...and helped our family.
I think therapy has made us closer, more open and honest with one another, and much more able to say what we think and feel.
I know there are folks out there with much bigger problems.
But, I've often wondered if those problems would have gotten so big if people would turn to therapy sooner, and not wait until everything is just catastrophic.
Sometimes an outside, objective perspective looking in might be all it would take for some families or individuals to see the danger signs ahead.
I certainly do not know the answers for everyone.
I just know how much therapy has helped us.

And that makes me happy.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

I hate credit cards.

I hate credit cards.

Oh, you just don't know how much I hate credit cards.
I got my first one when I was in college...probably when I was about 18 years old.  The application was in the bottom of a shopping bag from the bookstore.

From that day forward I enjoyed so much the endless possibilities!!
Even though I only had a part time job, I could purchase things I wanted needed and figure out a way to pay for it later. 
What a concept!!!!
Whoever thunk that idea up was a GENIUS!
What a sweet wonderful considerate person who was thinking about poor destitute college students and helping them get through the lean educational years and still be able to live comfortably!!!

I'm embarrassed to say I've gotten myself "in trouble" with credit cards more than once. 
The last time was a doozy. 
Please don't judge me for I have truly redeemed my ways.

The last time my mom (yes, I am a mommy's baby, blah, blah, blah) helped me pay the debts but required me to deal with the credit card companies and go through all the hassle of actually getting the accounts closed and making sure my credit was in tact.

Here's a little secret I learned:
Credit card companies don't really want you to pay off your credit cards.
No matter how snippy they can be when they want you to make a payment (and they can be snippy), they really would just rather you get yourself into so much debt that you can barely breathe.

Here's how I know this:
In January 2010 my mom paid the balance of my credit card so I could breathe again.
We set up a schedule for repayment, and we also sat down and took a look at my budget (which was non-existent at that time).
My mom is tough businesswoman; it must be very difficult for her to have an English major as a daughter ;)
I am forever grateful for her though because once again she was there to bail me out and still loves me despite all my shortcomings.

The credit card company wouldn't let my mom make that big of a payment over the phone; they wanted her to mail it in.
(I told you they don't really want the money you owe them...not all of it anyway).
My saavy mom knew that bc of how interest works, the payoff today would not be the payoff once a check reached the credit card company through the mail.
She forced the credit card company to give her a payoff for the next day....24 hours later.
She FedExed the payment, and we got to work on my budget.

By March I began to get phone calls from said credit card company. 
I kept telling them that the account was paid off in January and there must be some mistake.
They assured me they would make a note of it.
Have a nice day.

By May I was receiving no less than 4-5 phone calls a day, 7 days per week, even on the weekends. (Can you say harrassment?) 
I wasn't there half the time, thank goodness, so all I would see on my caller ID was the 1-800 numbers. 
One day I finally was home and answered the phone.
The caller notified me that I owed 900 some odd dollars, my account was 4 months no payment, and if I didn't make a payment soon, they would turn my account over to collections.


I tried to explain to this person that this account was paid off in January.
I told this person about talking with someone in March who had assured me all would be fine.

Here's something else I bet you didn't know: the people that call you on the phone to ask you about your account (if that's ever happened to you) can't do jack about your account.  All they know is that they are supposed to call and aggravate you.  They have no power at all and cannot help you fix anything.  If they say they are going to "note" something, be sure sure you get their name and ID number. 

I ain't kiddin'

One day I actually was able to talk with someone in management. 

Imagine that.

After going through the entire scenario again with her for the umpteenth time, she asked me if I had been receiving my statements.  I said no...because I hadn't.
She asked me if I had to checked to see if the lump payment my mom made in January had actually gone through.
I told her the payment cleared my mom's bank account immediately.
She then proceeded to remark, "You'd think when someone makes a payment of $_______, she would double check and make sure the balance was 0.

Oh, NO, she didn't!!!

At this point I was glad we were on the phone because all of my genteel Southern manners would've flown out the door.
How dare this woman speak to me as if I am 10 years old and with a snide tone in her voice!
And, no, I'm not ultra sensitive; I have teenagers; I know snide when I hear it.

After finally putting me on hold forever (my mom said they go and listen to all the previous conversations with you on the telephone), sassy lady finally came back on and said that we'd been quoted the wrong payoff.
My mom's payment (the exact amount quoted to us) - the actual payoff amount = a small balance.
This small balance accrued interest, late payment fees and no payment fees over the months I thought this account was clear.

The good news was that because they had the tapes with the agent quoting us the wrong amount and our request that the account be closed, we would not be held accountable for this amount; the fees would be credited back to my account.

The bad news was that over the next couple of months it would actually take at least 3 more of these same conversations with other agents in other parts of the country to finally get all of this straightened out.
Each agent treated me as if I was some kind of deadbeat who was trying to get out of paying my bills.

I'm not exaggerating.

My mom paid the balance of this credit card on Jan. 7, 2010.
I finally received a statement with a 0 balance and all of the $900 in fees credited back to me on July 7, 2010.

As God is my witness, Scarlett and I will NEVER have another credit card.
Credit card companies are no better than loan sharks.
I have no doubt in my mind that they have taken advantage of millions and billions of people over the years just the same way they tried to take advantage of me.

Guess what I got in the mail not a month after I finally received a statement with a 0 balance?

You've got to be kidding me??

 And then another one...

 Oh my, I feel so very special...

Look at this pretty one...ooohhh ahhhh

awwwww, just like a Hallmark card...


supposedly I'm supposed to look at these lemons and think of this credit card as lemon "aid"
Why, isn't that just the cutest thing...


I ought to sue the credit card companies for giving me carpel tunnel syndrome...


And, then, even more...

Just say NO!!
Have I mentioned I hate credit cards???