Thursday, August 25, 2011

Size 7

Last year around this time a bunch of my friends had suggestive Facebook statuses: "I like it on the kitchen table," "I like it on the floor," etc.

It was one of those breast cancer awareness "campaigns," where you were supposed to write where you keep your purse as your status.  Those out of the loop were supposed to be scratching their heads at how saucy these people were while the rest of us giggled.

I was pretty upset.

My mom had just been diagnosed with breast cancer and here were a bunch of (probably) well-intentioned people making light of it, trivializing it, turning it into something that they could use to become attention-whores or part of an "in" crowd.

I don't know about you, but I haven't run across anyone who looks at me, startled and amazed and says, "Oh wow, cancer in the BREAST?  I had no idea you could get cancer there!" when I mention that my mom passed away.  I think most people are pretty aware.

So this year there's a new "campaign."  Write your shoe size.  Yeah yeah yeah, it's supposed to be "secret," and "fun."  But again this year I'm pretty annoyed and what I think of is the phrase, "Act your age, not your shoe size."  How many people will giggle and write "size 8!" and then...that's it?  I guess I just don't see how it actually does anything to help cancer patients.  This is the third year in a row that I've seen these statuses around: write the color of your bra, write where you like to put your purse, write your shoe size.

"Black - but that's only because I still have both my breasts."
"I like it on the kitchen counter, but I'd really rather be able to hear my mom complain about me leaving my stuff out all the time just once  more."
"7.5, but I wish I could go shoe shopping with my mom again."

Done and done and I feel good, and cool, and part of the in-crowd and I never have to actually do anything to help anyone.

So please, instead of throwing up a status that you'll forget you wrote next week, be creative.  There are lots of things you can do.

1.  Donate to a cause.  You all know of one (:ahem:), and even if you can only contribute $20, or $10, or $5, or $1 it will make a difference and be appreciated.

2.  Participate in a walk or fundraiser yourself.

3.  Volunteer at a hospital or other treatment center.  AND A WORD ABOUT THIS.  When my mom was in the hospital two volunteers came by and asked if they could do anything for her.  She said, "Yes.  I haven't had my Starbucks for a week.  Do you think you could find me some coffee?"  They went out and got her the first coffee she'd had in what, for her, was practically an eternity.  It took them about 3 minutes to find the coffee at the nurse's station, bring it to her, and make her day.  When the nurse came back and asked her if she needed more pain meds, my mom smiled, held up her little styrofoam cup, and said, "No, I've got my coffee!"  It didn't cost the volunteers anything but TIME, and they gave her about 30 minutes of delight in the middle of a mind-blowingly painful (physically and emotionally) time.

4.  If you knit or crochet, you can make chemo-caps and donate them.

5.  Make meals for the families of hospice patients.

6.  Donate crossword, sudoku, puzzle books, or other kinds of quiet entertainment to a cancer ward.

I know I'll see about a million status updates that say, "Size 9!"  But my sister's Bocce Ball fundraiser has only 9 people signed up to attend (out of more than 400 invited).  The cost is less than taking 2 people to the movies, and it'll be a lot of fun.  

If money is your hang-up, first remember that even if you can't afford to donate much (believe me, I KNOW this feeling), even the cost of a frappucino helps...and then if you still don't want to donate money, then you can volunteer your time.  It's free to you and makes a world of difference to the people you help.

And now I'm going to climb down off of my soapbox and go to work in my size 7 shoes.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Oh Hai

OK, I did it again.  I ignored The Blog while life intervened.

In the meanwhile, though, some Stuff happened.

1.  We got moved.
2.  We had visitors - my husband's oldest 2 kids, their mom, and their younger sister visited.
3.  We went to go see my husband's family for their annual family vacation.
4.  We got rid of internet at home.
5.  We had a few weeks of breathlessly hoping that we could afford to make it through August.
6.  We found out that yes, we can make it through August.
7.  We found out that we can totally survive pretty comfortably on my salary alone.

Remember my old post about wanting to research and find out about 1950s cost of living and today's cost of living?  Yeah, we're living that research.

Check out item #4.  "We got rid of internet at home."

$75 per month gone.  At least for now.  Netflix?  Cable?  Gone, too...although the cable was gone long before the Netflix.

One of the bigger shocks to me during the little bit of internet research I did (pardon me for not citing my sources - limited connection time, you know), was that in 1950, 26% of the household budget went toward food, while today Americans spend about half that (US Census Bureau - you can check it yourself.  Google is your friend).  Most of the other budgetary percentages were at least officially the same, which means that in theory the savings we get in food costs go toward our more modern expenses.

This makes no sense to me at all, whatsoever.

With cell service, we spend almost twice what we would on simply a landline.  Quadruple the landline cost if we had smartphones with data plans.  If we had an iPad, cable television, Netflix, a second car, used air conditioning in the summer and propane heat in the winter, bought flatscreen TVs, BluRay discs, made credit card payments, took vacations besides fairly local camping trips, ate out in restaurants, drank Starbucks, went to the movies, etc. etc., we could easily add $1,000 to our monthly budget.  That's a lot more than the modern day savings in food.

Here's our current budget:
1.  Rent + water (combined)
2.  Car payment (which will end in December.  YESSSSSSSSSSS)
3.  Car insurance
4.  Cell phone service
5.  Electricity
6.  Savings (necessities + emergency)
7.  Student loan
8.  Food
9.  Gasoline for the car

Once things get evened out from moving, we can cover our basic expenses on my salary alone, with enough left over to save for $1500 yearly car expenses, $600 for Christmas gifts, modest vacation funds, clothing funds, and emergency savings.  Payable in cash, not credit.

No, we don't have cable, we don't eat out, we don't take spectacular vacations, we don't have the latest gadgets or the most fashionable clothes and accessories, we don't go to the movies or go shopping for fun, we don't buy stuff just because we want it.

We do shop at the discount grocery store, we get most of our clothes at the local thrift shops, we get most of our kid's toys from garage sales or as hand-me-downs, we visit the library (or download public domain e-books for free), we have our kid run around outside in order to PLAY, we give away the things we don't want or need to friends and neighbors and they return the favor whenever applicable to us (BARTERING - it's an ancient concept that works).

In short, we buy or trade for what we need, and forgo what we don't.  And in the end, we have a little left over for a few things we want.

Would it be super awesome to take a trip to the Bahamas or Europe?  Heck yes.  Would I like a new gadget like an iPad, or a service like cable?  Would it be nice to go out for a nice restaurant dinner sometimes?  Of course it would.  But as it turns out, when we can't afford those things and don't buy or use them I don't miss them as much as one might think.  Amazingly, one can survive and even thrive without gourmet coffee and 3G.

We win.

Suck it, Capitalism.