Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I didn't think that it would be this long . . .

that Mr. Simple was unemployed. On the other hand, Mr. Simple has been quite busy most weeks. He had a friend ask him to do a bunch of painting at his house in late June and from word of mouth, he has had a painting job most weeks since then.

I have done some changes with daycare/preschool around here too. I now have two children that are full time - one little boy is 3 and has been here since he was 6 weeks, and the other is a little girl who is almost 2 and has also been here since she was 6 weeks. Then I have a set of sisters who come on MWF. The older sister is almost 4 and the younger sister is 2. On MWF, I also have a 3 year old who comes just in the mornings. On MWF, we do preschool activities in the mornings as well as go outside for at least a half hour, unless there is thunder and lightning. The schedule is working well for everyone, I think and now the amount of money that I make is consistent from week and that really helps with our budgeting.

Speaking of budgeting, since we no longer have credit card and car debt, we have much less in expenses. The mortgage and utilties is about it. Well, and swimming lessons for Super and swim team for Jelly Bean. Oh, and of course food, but we are trying to be frugal as possible with that and the garden certainly has helped with those expenses. The one expense that has been the most challenging is fuel for the cars. It, of course, doesn't help that gas prices are well above 3 dollars these days, but the fact that we regularly need to use both cars and the girls are both involved in things like drama club and girl scouts as well as the swimming stuff, well, I do quite a bit of running around. I know, I should probably cut down on their activities to save gas, and to save money. But they are things that the kids have done for awhile, and we are trying to keep some things consistent while we have had to say "No" or "Not now" on other things.

So all in all, this period of unemployment has been less stressful than I thought it might be. And I really think that all of this learning to be frugal and trying to be more self-reliant has helped too. Of course, that isn't to say that I wouldn't be thrilled if Mr. Simple got a great job that he loved and paid really well. :)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Dug Out

No, I'm not talking about snow. Or baseball. I'm talking about debt.

I know. Most people don't like to talk about money. Me either. But I'm going to go ahead and confess here that we used to have a lot of debt. (Notice that Used To. I'll get to that a bit later.)

Anyway, Mr. Simple and I got married in 1995. Our joint tax return for 1995 listed $12,000 in gross income. That puts a whole new meaning to living on love, doesn't it? But yea, we were not making much money. Shortly after that, we both got jobs in Chicago. Full time jobs. And we had no kids. And no mortgage. And just one car. So in theory, we should have been fine, right?

Of course, that wasn't what happened. We had full time jobs, but we weren't making that much money. And I was working in downtown Chicago and eating out for lunch at least 3 times a week. Not big lunches, but even 6 dollars a day, 3 days a week, adds up to quite a bit a month. And there was train fare. And work clothes. Same for Mr. Simple, minus the train fare. And rent was expensive, well, much more expensive than we were used to anyway.

So after 2.5 years of living in Chicago, we had already managed to start some credit card debt. But we paid the minimum every month. Sometimes more. It would be fine, right?

Then we moved to Decatur. Mr. Simple was working in radio. Do you know what the pay is like in radio? Well, let's just say, not high paying. I wasn't making much more. And I had to travel 45 minutes to work for much of that time, and of course, more lunches out. And another car. And we were trying to get pregnant, and we had discovered that there were some problems. So lots of dr. visits. But we were still young. There was time. One of these days, we would both get high paying jobs and it would be fine, right?

We moved to Normal. Mr. Simple was still working in radio. I was pregnant by now with Flower, but working full time at the university. We sometimes had trouble making the minimum payments and by now, the overall credit card amount was getting really high. We had a mortgage now. But it would be o.k., right?

Mr. Simple lost his job. But quickly got another job. I had Flower and we had to pay for daycare. The amount got larger.

Then I got pregnant with Jelly Bean. She was in daycare too. The amount got larger.

Then I went to part time at the university.

And then, in 2003, I was laid off.

We tried different things over the years. Paying a bunch from our tax return. Using the money that we got in a refi on our house. Using some of student loan money towards the debt when I was going to school. Because the interest rate on student loans was less than credit cards. It seemed to make sense at the time.

But we also had to do things like get appliances over the years and those went on the card. Sometimes, we had no money and we did cash advances. We never seemed to make any progress.

I had Super in 2004. By 2007, things were at the breaking point. I started doing full time daycare for a couple children to bring in more money, but we were still just barely getting by, and only making the minimum on credit card payments.

And so Mr. Simple made a call one day in June 2007. To a Credit Counseling Agency in town. They said that they could help us. They would manage our debt by negotiating lower interest rates, and by having us pay a set amount to them and they would distribute it to the credit card companies. (It wasn't exactly a smallish amount of money each month either. Like "more than a typical monthly car payment" amount.) But if we paid it every month for 48 months, we would have it paid off. Oh, and we had to cancel all of our credit cards too. Which sounds like a biggish deal, except it really wasn't. We had maxed all of them out and we hadn't used them in at least a year by that point anyway in an effort to try and gain some level of control over our credit card spending.

48 months. 4 years. It seemed like short time in some ways and it gave us a date when we would be DONE with it. For so long, it had seemed like we would be paying on credit card debt until we died.

On the other hand, 4 years. And 4 years of not using credit, but having to come up with that amount Every. Single. Month. That not exactly smallish amount. Every. Single. Month.

And I have increased my daycare over the past four years, worked some additional part time job over the years, but have never had a full time job during the last 4 years. Mr. Simple, over the past four years, increased his salary, then got a new job where he had an even higher salary, and then lost his job.

And we had things happen in the last four years. Floods. Appliances break. Needing New Appliances. Needing a different car. Christmas. Birthdays. Teeth breaking. Needing to fly to funerals.

And since 2007, I've tried to save money wherever I could. I try to be self reliant. We had one car for most of that time AND we managed to pay it off during that time. We make gifts when we can.

And then, it was June 2011. It had been 48 months. And our balance was $0.

$0. We have no credit card debt. We have no car payments on either of our cars. And during this time, we also managed to pay off dental debt of $15,000 (I had to have 7 crowns/root canals on most of my top front teeth. I seriously have the worst teeth EVER.) We do have a mortgage payment. We have some student loan debt.

But I don't have 29% interest on a Christmas present that I bought in 1997 hanging over my head anymore.

Will I get another credit card someday? Maybe. Not now. I don't know that even after all this time of NOT using one, that I trust myself. And I've learned to live without one. We pay save and pay cash if we need something. (What a concept, huh?)

All I know is that seeing the daylight after being buried for so long, well, it is AMAZING.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Gardening: Late Summer Update

I'm sorry. I really meant to be more on top of giving you gardening updates. It would be easier to give you updates because my garden was at the house this year instead of half way across town, but yet, I didn't.


the square foot gardening has been a smashing success. SOOOOO glad I did it. Especially given that our summer was crazy busy and then I was laid up with burns. If I had had to go across town to harvest or weed or whatever, it just never would have happened. Speaking of weeds, I had to pull almost no weeds this year. A huge, huge, huge improvement over last year. When it seemed like that was all I did, or at least all I should be doing and didn't and by that time, the garden would be overrun with weeds.

So I ended up planting 4 boxes. Three boxes are 4 x 4 and one box is 8 x 3. Oh, and then I planted herbs in the beds in the front of the house. I plan on putting in one more 4 x 4 box soon, and maybe another couple next year.

I did a spring planting of spinach, lettuce, peas, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, swiss chard, beets and radishes. Oh and a strawberry patch in one whole box. The cauliflower didn't grow and I discovered that I still don't like radishes, but everything else grew fabulously. I loved, loved, loved being able to go out and pick stuff for a salad every night for about a month for dinner.

Then I planted beans (and beans and beans, I've done successive planting, so we have rarely been without beans since late June), tomatoes, peppers (2 green, 1 sweet banana and 1 cayenne) eggplant, cucumbers, zucchini, and crookneck squash.

The beans we have either eaten fresh or I have put in the freezer. I don't have a ton in the freezer. Even though I planted quite a few, I think I'll devote even more garden space to beans so that I can put more beans in the freezer/pressure can, etc. Maybe even do some pickled green beans!

My roma tomatoes grew well, but the other tomato plants didn't. I got very few tomatoes on the 5 non-roma plants. But I planted 10 roma tomato plants and they have grown like gangbusters. We are still semi-drowning in tomatoes, with no real end in sight. I've been making tomato sauce out of the tomatoes. I don't have a lot of sauce so far (10 pints?) but I'm hoping by the end of the season to have 20 pints or so.

The peppers have done o.k. I just haven't had that many green peppers or banana peppers. The cayenne peppers have grown really well though. I tried those in the dehydrator and then put it in the food grinder and made my own red pepper flakes. The eggplant hasn't been a big hit, and the cucumbers and summer squash got squash bugs and died.

So this weekend, I'm planting some spinach for my fall garden and hoping to put in some more spinach, lettuce, chard, broccoli, and maybe peas in the next week or so.

This post is already long enough, but the next post (hopefully tomorrow or Tuesday) will be a picture of the garden areas and the crops growing in them, etc.

Friday, September 2, 2011

It could have been much worse.

There is another reason why I didn't post much during August besides the fact that we were having a crazy busy summer.

I burned myself.

Not just a little one on my finger, or the side of my hand, from touching the oven rack when I was taking out a pizza or something.

This was second degree burns. On 25% of my body.

It was the night before the Swim Team Awards Banquet. It was our first evening in two months that we hadn't had either evening swim practice or a swim meet. We were going to have dinner, at home, with everybody.

So I decided to cook up some of the green beans that I had picked from the garden, just that day. I put a quart or so of water in my dutch oven, and let the water boil, and then I threw the green beans in for a couple minutes. My kitchen is TINY. (Have I ever mentioned that? LOL) And there really isn't even a full step between the stove and the sink. So I took the handle of the pot and was just going to drain the water off the beans into the sink. This is where everything went wrong.

As I turned to the sink, I splashed some of the boiling water on my right hand. In reaction to that, I dropped the pot. On the top of my right foot. The water then splashed up on my right shin and then the pot tipped over on the linoleum floor. Now I was standing in boiling hot water. I went to move out of the water, and I slipped. And fell into the water. On my right hip.

It was SO hot. I got up immediately and stood up out of the water. I think I started screaming next. By that time, Mr. Simple had heard the pot drop and came to investigate and saw me. He took me and put me in the bathtub in cool water.

It would feel better for a second when the skin was in the water, but if I lifted my foot or leg out of the water, it would feel like it was burning all over again. And it would start to blister. I knew my hip hurt, but I thought it was just bruised from the fall. I asked Mr. Simple to look at it and it was then that he decided that we needed to go to the hospital. (If you ever get burned on your hip, and are wondering what to wear to the hospital, I'm telling you, the best thing is a swim suit cover up. I was able to be modest, and yet, I could hold the material away from my hip.)

The trip to the hospital was not one that I would like to relive ever again. Especially because I couldn't even sit, and I was in SOOO much pain. But we live very close to the hospital thankfully, and so the ride was short at least.

We got there and if you ever want to get quick service at the hospital, say that you have been burned. Wow. They got me back to a room and gave me a shot of pain meds right away. Then a dr. came in and accessed the situation, and then after the pain meds had kicked in, they put the burn medication cream (Silvadene) on everything. And then gave me more pain meds. After 3 hours, they sent me home with more pain meds and instructions on how to change the dressings.

The next few days were a blur. I slept a lot. But then by Friday, Mr. Simple had to go out of town and I had to watch the kids on my own AND change my dressing on my own. As it turned out, I had to have a good friend (very good! She had to look at my burn and my half naked body! ACK!) change my dressing on Friday and then on Saturday, I ended up back at PromptCare because my hip area was starting to get infected and so I had to go there and have them look at it and change the dressing. Plus, they gave me a heavy duty anti-inflammatory, which actually helped more with the pain that the opiate medication I had been taking.

I had a burn check with my regular dr. a week out and two weeks out. After a week, my foot was doing very well. By two weeks, both my shin and foot were almost completely healed. My hip area, on the other hand, was deeper and a much larger burned area, and so even after two weeks, was not that healed. But he said that he thought that it would be by a month out, and sure enough, at the one month mark, I was dressing and pain free everywhere, including my hip.

I will always have scarring on my hip, and probably a little scarring on my shin. (I joked to my dr. that my swimsuit model career is over now! LOL) I have to keep all the burned areas out of the sun until next June.

But it could have been worse. It could have been SO much worse.

I have the best family and friends. That is CERTAIN. I had so much help during this time. I could not have done it without them. And I have a whole new respect for cooking and have and will be more careful. I have a very tiny glimpse of what it would be like to have a major burn and for those people, I am so sorry and you are AWESOME because there is just so much to have to deal with when it comes to burns.

Please be careful. Be extra careful. I have been cooking for years and even done canning and yet I burned myself with just a small amount of boiling water. If I had ever imagined how I would burn myself, I never envisioned that it would be because I was cooking some green beans.