Last night we bought new, matching dishes. We have never had 8 (8!!) place settings of matching dishes. Our dishes have always been thrift-shopped and garage-saled, and charmingly mismatched before, but, somehow, in the last few months, the mismatched-ness of the dishes has gotten less charming and more lame, so we had to make a change. I also organized the silverware and utensil drawers last night, which are now more less crowded and much more sensible.
I purchased Quicken Delux 2004 at Costco, and I am planning on setting up the New Budget Tracking Tool™ on the computer this weekend. I am alarmingly pleased about this. Tracking our spending habits! Seeing if we really do spend $400 a month on groceries! Oh, the excitement!
We're also considering buying a new, larger TV. The unending whirlwind of drama is certainly dead as a doornail at my house! And yet, I am pretty happy with my boring little life. Odd.
I am also going through the intensely boring and paperwork-heavy process of changing to Our Last Name. I have some feminist guilt about this, like I’ll be called into the boardroom and have my buttons snipped off, and my umbrella turned inside-out by angry women, growling “How can you give into this repressive patriarchal tradition?!”, but I’m afraid I don’t feel repressed by this at all, just tired of filling out paperwork. I really like the idea of a family name, and TH is my chosen family, so, eh, I’m changing.
Annoying Neighbor, who lives next door, is moving out, probably at the end of June. TH & I (and our roommate) would like to move into her apartment.
Annoying Neighbor has a larger apartment, on the corner of the building that’s away from the street. The bedrooms in her apartment are along the outside wall, so bedrooms don’t share walls with another apartment’s living space. (In our current apartment, our bedroom shares a wall with our other neighbor’s living room. He’s not too loud, but it would still be nice to have our bedroom not share a wall with someone else’s apartment.) Neighbor also has a much larger basement storage space— large enough that TH would probably want to fix it up & move his office downstairs, which would be nice for him (to have a completely dedicated working space, rather than a dedicated desk in our living room). And if TH had a separate space, he might let me get a dog— something I have wanted for years, but TH wants to have a designated dog-free space for himself before he agrees.
Neighbor’s apartment is still carpeted, although the other apartments have had the carpets removed (hardwood underneath!). I know the landlord intends to remove the carpet from Neighbor’s apartment too, and I’m hoping that he’ll allow us to paint the whole place while he’s doing that. We started painting our current apartment, but we got bogged down by the wedding. Since it’s so much easier to paint an empty space, I think we could get Neighbor’s apartment completely painted in a couple of weeks, and then move in to a fresh, colorful, new space!
It seems a little superficial, but it’s looking like TH & I are starting to get things going in a good direction— we’ve got a new budget that will help us meet some of our financial goals (paying down debt, saving some money, etc), TH has some new freelance projects in the offing that may make actual money (gasp!), and it just generally feels like we’re right on the cusp of some good stuff. Moving into a new space would be great, and, more importantly, moving into a new, inexpensive apartment that we’re 100% happy with (we’re about 90% in our current one) will help remind us that we’re making our choices for good reasons.
TH was freaking out a little bit at the end of last week, and seriously considered applying for a middle-management position just to make money. TH is a web designer, and he's been chipping away professionally for the last 3-plus years. We've made a lot of deliberate sacrifices and adjusted our post-college expectations a great deal in order to keep TH on a satisfying (if not financially prosperous) career path, and I don't want to throw that away lightly. I think it would really help us keep to our chosen direction if we were really, truly, okay with staying in our current living situation. You know, so we can say “It would be okay to stay here forever!”, and really mean it.
It’s important to me that we make major compromises in a considerate way—for example, I am strongly opposed to having TH take the afore-mentioned middle-management job, because he would end up working 45-55 hours a week at the lame job, and would want to keep at least one freelance project, which would mean he’d be crazy-busy for about 99% of his waking hours. I estimate that this state of affairs would make me seriously miserable in 1-3 months, on the outside. Plus, TH would lose the forward momentum that he’s been slowly building professionally, which would be bad for him—and it would make me feel that my personal efforts in this direction (namely, working full-time and being the primary breadwinner for 3 years) was a wasted effort. All in all, it’s just not worth if for the money he’d make. If we need more money (which would, admittedly, be really nice), TH can almost certainly find a more congenial part-time job, and work 20 hours a week or so somewhere while keeping all of his freelance stuff going, and still have free time to spend with me. This sounds like a much better solution, to my mind.
The danger is, of course, if we made a major compromise for short-term reasons—for example, to become financially able to buy a house in the immediate future, as opposed to “sometime in the next decade”—I’d be concerned we’d get tied up in house payments and car payments and life in general, and it would become hard to go back. Right now we maintain a fairly modest standard of living—one car, an inexpensive apartment, etc—and I’m almost entirely comfortable saying “We can stay at this level if it means we’ll be really happy”. Shifting to the larger corner apartment would solidify that, especially if we could get it all painted! Because, honestly, while having a nice place is important to me, having a nice life is even more important. And, certainly, if it was a choice between a genuinely miserable existence vs. going back to banking, I’d go back to banking, but if it’s a choice between having a fulfilling-but-low-paying-job and a nice apartment vs. a high-paying-but-awful-job and a nice house, I’d rather have the fulfilling job and the apartment.
It’s actually going fine, and we’re getting stuff done, and people are arriving. TH’s friend O arrived from Germany last night, and he is a great, low-impact, houseguest who is also a semi-gourmet cook, so, score! It’s a shame his wife & daughter couldn’t come, but he brought pictures.
My parents arrive tomorrow, and my sister & brother-in-law on Friday. I think the in-laws are all coming Friday as well, but I’m not sure.
In the meantime, I’m trying hard to experience and enjoy these days-before, instead of just getting through them. It’s a bad habit of mine to just sort of wait through days preceding major events, like Christmas, or big parties, and it ultimately just causes me to lose a week or so of time I could have enjoyed, but didn’t. I’m going to try hard not to do that this week.
I shouldn’t be surprised that the Disintegrating Disaster Family In-Law has had yet another major breakdown, should I? No, no, I shouldn’t, because, it’s been nearly 2 weeks since:
-16 year-old BIL, driving on his learner’s permit with MIL, totaled the car (no one was hurt, thank god)
-50-plus MIL went in for surgery to deal with some problems stemming from her hysterectomy
What now, do you ask?
Well, MIL cleverly left over $1,000 in cash in her purse when she went in to surgery. She left her purse in her house, where her 16-year-old son was going to be staying, unsupervised, until she was released from the hospital. BIL had some friends over Sunday. Sunday the house was “robbed”, and $400 was taken from MIL’s purse. BIL insists that the house must have been broken into, because his friends “just wouldn’t do that”. Mmmmmmkkkay. The $400 was part of the money earmarked to pay for their tickets and accommodations in Portland for the April Wedding Bash.
After the “burglary”, BIL went to stay with a family friend. While staying with the family friend, BIL asks for, and receives, permission to surf the net on the home computer. (Family friend has previously been using said computer for email only, using MS Outlook.) After BIL uses the computer, family friend notices that it is “buggy”, and a file name has been changed in a weird manner. Diagnosis: Trojan virus messing about with the system. Note that the OS still seems to be working, but is “buggy”. It is revealed that family friend has no virus protection on the computer, and has never had any. (WTF?! This is the computer equivalent of standing outside with no pants on, your wrists handcuffed to your ankles, and $100 bills flapping between your cheeks, yelling, “HEY WORLD, I’M TOTALLY DEFENSELESS HERE!”)
Family friend decides that OS must be reinstalled to fix the problem, but her OS is not a legitimate copy, and the (burned) disk is scratched, so she cannot reinstall using her (pirated) CD. Another friend, who “knows about computers”, tells family friend to get another copy of Windows 2000, because “that new stuff is unreliable” (WTF?!). Family friend then
-takes BIL to the hospital, where MIL is resting under Dr’s orders, after surgery, so BIL can tell MIL that he “broke (family friend’s) computer, and needs to buy her a new OS”. Family friend is a hospital nurse, and should know better. But family friend is wigging out because, although she has access to other computers with email capabilities, she must have her computer fixed RIGHT NOW. Excuse offered is that her grown son in Japan must be able to email her daily, or he “gets weird”. We know grown son, and this is patently ridiculous. Family friend probably gets weird, but grown son is just not that sort of person.
-drives BIL around and buys a $300 copy of Win2000 (WTF?! $300?!), which she insists that he must pay back, in spite of the fact that SHE HAD NO VIRUS PROTECTION, and she could very easily have purchased an OEM copy of WinXP Home for $100.
(TH & I were recently forced, through a combination of stupidity on our part and bad luck, to replace our hard drive and OS, and buy new virus protection. We bought a hard drive, WinXP Pro, McAfee Virus Shield, and Personal Firewall Plus, for under $300 TOTAL. We did not force anyone else to pay for a cent of these costs, because the primary triggers were some dumb oversights on our part—no virus protection, and lack of regular backing up. It sucked most tremendously, but these things happen.)
Total potential losses up to this point: $700, for a family that lives on probably $500 or less a month
MIL was also told by a nurse in the hospital that the surgical repairs will hold up fine, provided that MIL never lifts anything over 10 lbs, EVER AGAIN. MIL is currently in the process of selling her house on Lummi Island, so she can move to CA and “start a day care” that will somehow make enough money for MIL & BIL to live in the very very expensive Santa Cruz area. There are all kinds of major practical problems to this plan, which TH & I have pointed out repeatedly. MIL is unhealthy, 100 lbs overweight, asthmatic, has severe allergies, has chronic depression and fatigue, sleep apnea, and Type 2 Diabetes. MIL is also not certified to run a day care in CA. MIL was also planning to run this day care from a rented house. It’s clearly completely insane, but MIL continued to insist that this was a workable plan.
However, strict medical orders prohibiting lifting more than 10 lbs pretty well kills the (non-viable) “plan” in a way MIL can comprehend. MIL is sure that the nurse “must have made a mistake”, but is going to check with her Dr. If her Dr. confirms the “no lifting” rule, MIL will probably end up with $100,000 (less taxes), no house, no marketable skills, and no plan.
She will, most likely, move to CA anyway (losing the low-income health insurance she & BIL now have in WA state), and throw in with her brother, J, who is on the lam from $30,000 in credit card debt (no, he won’t declare bankruptcy, we tried to convince him already). BIL will go through his senior year of HS in a new school, and then be plan-less too. BIL also has no job experience, no marketable skills. He doesn’t even have a driver’s license! J has some marketable skills, but no recent verifiable job experience, and doesn’t want to get an over-the-table job because of the credit card debt. I imagine they will eat through the $100,000 in a 3-10 years, and then there will be nothing.
I have no idea what to do, if we can or should do anything at all. If it wasn’t for the BIL, I’d probably just say “whatever, they’re adults & it’s their right to screw their lives”, but BIL is going to be seriously, possibly permanently impacted by this. And TH is not going to have an easy time watching his mother ruin her health & life in poverty and misery. The compassionate thing to do would be to take them in, but we’re living paycheck-to-paycheck on my income as it is. It’s possible that by the time the $100,000 from the house runs out, we might be in a position to deal with them, but that is a HUGE burden to have hanging over our future.
It’s the Disintegrating Disaster Family In-Law! Don’t you wish you had one?! You can totally have mine!
(For extreme contrast, yesterday my parents went to my sister & BIL’s civil ceremony yesterday, and then they all went to dinner. Sister & BIL just bought a condo, are planning their big wedding for July, are stable, self-sufficient adults. Second sister is a professional social worker with her own small house—also stable & self-sufficient. Dad is retired on a state pension as of 2 years ago, and is happy and healthy at 55. Mom is due to retire on another state pension this year, and is also happy & healthy at 55. Mom & Dad own their home, a 98 Toyota Camry, and a new Toyota Highlander. They come into town, stay with my mom’s sister or in a hotel, and buy us dinner. They shop at Eddie Bauer. They are boring, but at least they aren’t jumping from crisis to crisis and slowly imploding and causing unending stress!)