Monthly Archives: September 2008

Just a sec

Thank you, dear readers, first, for reading and second, for supporting my candidacy in so many nice ways. I particularly appreciate the campaign donations, and will add them to the list of helpful financial strategies outlined in a previous post, Saving Like a Single Mom. Running for Office Like a Single Mom requires that you do save (like a single mom) and most important, Divvy Up Time Like a Single Mom. Of course, this particular chunk of the clock, the 8:15 to 3:30 chunk, is already spoken for, so the divvying-up explanation will have to occur later. Some time this evening between 8 and 10, if all goes well. For now…work work…whistle whistle…


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Where’s My Corsage?

It feels to me like a prom date. John asked Sarah, I can’t believe it. How could he like her? He doesn’t even know her. How could he pick her, when he could have picked me?

Truly. The more that is revealed about the competency of McCain’s running-mate, the more I know that I would have been a fabulous choice for Vice President. Really, had John and I met, even for oh, fifteen minutes, he would have been swept. Swooned. Sold. I know it. And here’s why.

Mind you, it’s not because I am a female person. Making a case for myself purely on the basis of ovaries and X chromosomes would be insulting to gals across the globe, as everybody knows, even the ones who say they don’t. Girls do that sometimes, something about self-esteem or getting paid as much for the same job or being told to get married when they are seventeen when they probably would rather, well, go to the prom. Wipe drool off your shoulder or compare dyed-to-match pumps with your friends? C’mon.

Anyway, back to me and my candidacy. To begin with, I would have read a speech well, too, especially to a welcoming crowd. It’s easy to read. I was in a few plays, it’s the projection that’s hard for me, which is why I mostly danced. But that is what microphones are for. Most likely, I would have written all of the words in The Big Speech That Would Put Me On The Political Map, but that’s because I’m an Ivy League English major. Uh oh, shhh, don’t tell.

Despite my birth in Manhattan and liberal northeastern upbringing, my life story is pretty compelling. When we moved to the suburbs, Mom taught elementary school for 27 years. Her first day of kindergarten was mine, too. When we were home, she was home. Work, balance and all that. Dad was a surgeon, child of the Depression. He played shortstop. Had immigrant parents. Grandma wrote a column in a local Boston newspaper, about feminism. It was 1940. Papa Louie, Mom’s dad, was a pattern maker, and owned a dress company. Better dresses, they were called, not for every day. Creationism to me means fabrics and shirring and seams. Paint and papier mache.

I grew up with certain expectations, the same ones I now impart to my daughters, who, by the way, are not pregnant. They know, at eleven and just about thirteen, that a body can make babies when it is not married, but that making them before you are married is a bad idea. And they’ve been educated about ways to prevent this bad idea from limiting your future. They think Bristol’s mom should have been aware that she needed help. But that is because of the life they know. When my girls were born, I decided to work from our house. I did not want to hear from a helper person that my fifteen month old walked for the first time. Once, I conducted a telephone interview with a public official, half-naked and on my knees, nursing and writing simultaneously, my infant propped on the bed in front of me. I tried to improve my scheduling after that, but sometimes, you cannot plan.

Everything was easier, of course, when I was married and there was a second income. As a single mother, I face difficult logistical and financial challenges, but I have turned down office jobs and child-watchers to be available to my children, especially now, when pre-teen girls need the security that comes from parental presence and open communication, every time of day. I would have said that in my acceptance speech. I think the crowd would have woo-hooed.

I would have wanted the audience to know, too, that I am an excellent budgeter, which is tough to be with Mr. Bush’s gasoline and food prices. If, for instance, someone gave me money for, say, my girls’ college tuition, or a bridge, maybe, I wouldn’t use it for a spa treatment. And, as much as my ex-husband may be difficult sometimes, I would not try to have him fired. That’s too easy. I beat his attorney in court three times instead, without a lawyer. That was spunky. (Click Here to Read Story) Oh, and I was Founder and President of the Dance Club in high school. The folks would think my executive and entrepreneurial experience was impressive. And now, I write articles for slews of magazines and newspapers and recently, rallied against the building of high-wattage power lines in our neighborhood and helped my kids sell homemade bookmarks to raise money for the abandoned Katrina animals. And what about those books? Love books. And librarians. I do not think that one person should be allowed to decide which books another person can read. I bet John will tell Sarah to get contact lenses because her glasses make her look like a librarian. But maybe they want her to look like a librarian. Librarians get a bad rap.           

Of course, John would have been happy to know, I’ve traveled overseas and across the mainland, and lived in nearly ten U.S. cities. The best part is, my ancestors were Russian, which makes me quite the expert. I’ve had the borscht, with sour cream, yes I have. Borscht, Putin, easy peasy. Lemon squeezy. Finally, I believe that while Americans welcome the notion of God into their lives in all sorts of personal ways, they understand that it is sort of separate from politics in this country. It is hard for Bible-thumpers not to thump, I have learned living in Texas, but it really isn’t a unifying sort of thing. I think most people who don’t thump realize that real live human beings created the disaster in Iraq, and now, are charged with ending it. Best of all, I’m a Democrat, which we know he would have loved to have on the ticket in the first place, just to be able to say he had one on the ticket. Woman, democrat, polar bear. No matter.

It is too bad that I didn’t get to say all of this at the convention. It would have been a kick, not to mention an opportunity to wear stockings and have my hairstyle adjusted. Next time, I will try to introduce myself sooner to the people doing the picking. I will make it happen, yes I will. That is, if I’m not helping my girls get dressed for the prom.








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It All Adds Up

Okay, money.

A household budget can be divided into expenses that are consistent and those that vary. There is some silly-sounding saying about changing the things that you can, and leaving everything else alone, which is not so silly, when it comes to managing finances, I do not think. Every month, you have certain payments in predictable amounts…mortgage or rent, car, phones, utilities, insurance of various kinds, hopefully. Presumably, these were researched well originally and selected because they constituted the best deal, leaving no real room for savings now. Where you can make gains, now and each month, is with the items in flux. And, with implementing some standard spending practices. 

Here are some of my favorites:

1. Do not keep more than three dollars and forty-seven cents in your wallet. (Always have a nice wallet, though, something swank, purchased on sale.) If you have only three dollars and forty-seven cents in your wallet, you will not spend it, because it is not enough to buy anything. If you do feel the lurch to buy something, you will have to use your debit card (never the credit card; this is left at home in your sock drawer). Using the debit card is more of a process…take it out, swipe it, punch in the numbers, sign the screen, say “OK”…and people think twice about more of a process. At some point, they might change their mind, because there is time to do that. And, it feels funny to swipe a card for something that costs three dollars and forty-seven cents, so you might just forego the thing. You save money in the long-term when you save small amounts, regularly. We all know that.

2. If you are given gift certificates, put them all in one place and designate them for certain future purchases. We saved Grandma’s holiday presents from December until July, and used them for back-to-school clothes. Thank you, Grandma.

3. Shop different stores for different items. Target beats most mainstream supermarkets on shampoo, but not on dog food. And Princess Twyla loves her Iams. Minichunks. 

4. Buy generics or store brands when the quality is the same. Paper clips, legal pads, sandwich bags. One plate scrubber is not going to be far superior to another. In fact, buy these things at a “99 cent” store. And scissors. They have really great scissors.

5. Every now and then, sell something. With growing kids, this is easy. Use the money to buy them something they might like.

6. Learn to sew straight lines. Buy a machine. My mom bought one, a Singer with its own console, when we kept giving her seams to repair. She wound up becoming a master seamstress, but she was genetically disposed, having a dressmaker for a father. That is not necessary. You can stick to tears and hems, even curtains and tablecloths.

7. Paint. When you want to redecorate, find a color that you like and paint a wall, or two. Move around your furniture. It will feel new. And, now that you sew, you can make pillows.

8. Make presents and cards, when you can get away with it. Last year, we made brownies for the teachers and put them in nifty containers. The teachers loved the effort, and we got to eat the extras. One of the teachers didn’t get as many brownies as the others.

9. When fruit starts to look not like fruit, cut it up, put it in a plastic zipper bag, and freeze it. Use it for smoothies later on. 

10. Do your own nails, fingers and toes. If you have daughters who like to do this, make it an event, with snacks. If you have boys who do not like to do this, just do the snack part.

11. Make sure your kids, whichever gender, know what you do to save money. They will learn about problem-solving and creativity, and will appreciate the value of things and the work it takes to have them. 

12. Be a thoughtful splurger. Spend on the important things, which you can do if you’ve done your own toenails. Celebrate accomplishments, rites of passage. Or buy something fabulous because it’s Thursday. Or because you love your kids to Neptune. Or yourself, for that matter. 




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Keeping the Penny

Or…Saving Like a Single Mom…

The dollar is in my desk drawer. Every time I slide it open, for a pen, or a stamp, I see it. And him. George. He’s right on top, face up. Hi George. Bye, George. I know you are in there. 

Dollars are important. Not just this one, which inspires and reminds, but all of them. It is important, for obvious reasons, to get them and keep them, especially when they don’t do that very well in Washington. For people like me, who have the task of getting and keeping them on their own, the sight of a dollar or a paycheck is at once a celebration and a warning. Good job for getting it, but quick, get another. Do it fast. Put it under the mattress. Forget it’s there. 

I think that if people who have a second household income pretended that they didn’t, they would wind up with far more money in the bank. It’s sort of like, if male people menstruated, they would understand more. Anyway, it is different when there is no one behind you, when you are the goalie. The pressure is heightened, clearly, but so is the power of analysis, solution and spunk. The spunk part is the most fun. Yes, saving can be fun. Here’s how…

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Find a Penny

When I need an idea, I take a walk. It just works that way. Yesterday, I changed my route, extending the outing by three east-west blocks which, in this neighborhood, can be significant. A lot can happen in three east-west blocks. The thought snuck up on me as I made the left onto Pickwick. I don’t know if Pickwick is an avenue or a street or a lane because they don’t use those words here, in Dallas, even on envelopes. Somehow, the letters arrive. Anyway, the idea usually takes about twenty-three minutes to germinate and make itself known. I don’t worry before then. It was Sunday, and the clock is more forgiving. Walking on Sundays is more peaceful than walking on other days. 

I have a method for doing most things. In part, this derives from an organized brain and a compulsion to achieve, but it also comes from a different necessity. As a single mom, I’ve had to figure out lots of ways to stay ahead of the wave, strategies I discovered only by sailing solo. At the second house on Pickwick, the musing turned into a legitimate concept. Other people can do what I do, and what other women like me do, I thought, because it usually works. All people can do what I do, in fact, even if they have mates, don’t have kids, want Yorkies or eat brownies for breakfast. They can do it like a single mom, or some of it, anyway, because when it has to happen, you have to make sure it does. By the third house, I thought it would be fun to share the philosophy, reveal the tricks. I will write about it, in all its incarnations, I thought, smiling and picking up speed. Then, like any powerful idea, this one was acknowledged with a nod from somewhere, a “Yes!” from the crowd or in my case, a dollar bill on the ground. Folded neatly and perched on a garden rock. One dollar, one moment. I snatched it and ran home.




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