Thursday, March 19, 2009

Garden plans get scaled down, too

I had planned a larger garden this year. The plan included pole beans, chard, four kinds of lettuce, peas, bell peppers, tatsoi and tulsi for tea. Instead, I re-upped for the vegetable CSA and scaled the garden down to two kinds of lettuce. Lettuce is something we eat daily that isn't available through our CSA.

Our farmer has loads and loads of kale, especially in the early months of deliveries. We love kale, and most of it gets used. At the end of the season last fall, I had two batches of kale cooked and frozen. Both were used within a couple months. He also has tomatoes in great supply. There were a few strawberries last year, but not nearly enough.

I got the lettuce planted today. I have two kinds: salad bowl and black seeded Simpson. Both should do well in our warmer weather, and both should be good for cut-and-come again, which is how we use our lettuce more often than not.

I plan to start some bell peppers in the Aerogarden, and perhaps some strawberries to take outside later in the season. Once the bells and berries get a good start and I move them to the garden, I'll put some lettuce in the Aerogarden to feed to the guinea pigs. They love leafy greens, but go through a pound a week. My little garden can't keep up with that demand on top of ours.

While I was at the home center yesterday, I picked up some easy-to-grow annual flower seeds for the kids. Our yard is starting to look pretty ratty and I'm not convinced the decorative (?) grass will be back this year. I'd like to dig it up and plant ornamental edibles. But for now, we've planned some simple seedings for summer.

Unless I invest in soil, I have one more pot available for planting. I'd like to grow something for tea. Mint is always good, especially in a pot where it can be controlled. I like the health benefits of tulsi. I had considered stevia, but I hear it can be difficult to grow outdoors. Maybe that's a better Aerogarden plant.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Melted Snowball

Well, I had to do it. We've been doing a debt snowball for the last couple years, and at our present rate, would have been debt-free (except mortgage) on September 1, 2010.

I just melted the snowball so we could have some more to live on each month.

Lord, please, I don't want to start using plastic again!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Stimulus package fails to stimulate this citizen

No, we don't qualify for help with our mortgage. Because we've been working hard at freelance jobs, selling what we can, cutting back to make do, and paying our debts each month, we don't qualify for the benefits provided for those in arrears. We don't qualify for the mortgage rate reduction because we have no W-2 for the last two months to prove income, a requirement of the program. The reduction would have reduced our monthly payment by a full fourth while reducing the length of our loan by ten years. We "might" qualify for what our lender called a "governmental loan restructuring modification," words that sound very much like "bankruptcy" to me. We will, of course, check into this option.

But you know what? President Obama ain't our rescuer. We don't need his stimulus package, because we have already qualified for (and are receiving benefits from) a much better stimulus package signed into effect by Jehovah Jireh Himself. So shake your head, roll your eyes, and sigh, but don't worry about us. Instead, rejoice with us that, unlike so many other Americans in grave financial straits, we have a bottomless supply of provision from One who loves us and knows our needs even before we do.

And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Now to our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Rejoicing in Philippians 4:19-20 today.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

At the rope's end once again

Frustration is boiling up in me again and I need to spout a little. So please, forgive me, close your computer window and don't read on.

The more that happens to me here, the more convinced I am that moving here was a HUGE error. Let's do a quick recap:

1) December 2005: Hired for a job to start up a homeschooling division of a large, stable company, we moved clear across the country, away from a place that felt like home. Interesting note: a year after we moved away, oldest son moved to within a couple hundred miles of where we moved from. Hubby stressed he would need my help, and the help of the whole family to do this new job. That was a selling point: it would bring us together and ease the pain of leaving somewhere we loved.

2) November 2006: The company decided to scrap the idea of a homeschooling line. I was very disappointed as I watched the opportunity for us to work together fly out the window. But, at least hubby was given a job developing a fiction line for the same company. We weren't unemployed, and hubby had a job doing what he has wanted to do for years.

3) July 2008: Less than two years into that job, the company started panicking about the economy and made a series of cutbacks. On the fourth round, we were laid off. We got a fair severance package, which helped take some of the sting out of the sudden, totally unexpected loss. How could it have been unexpected with three rounds of layoffs behind us? What publishing company scraps its entire fiction line?!? That's what they did. Unbelievable (at the time. Of course, since then, many publishing companies have stopped acquisitions altogether, ostensibly putting themselves out of business for the near future.)

4) Hubby immediately had four job possibilities. He went on two interviews in the first three months and both were writing up contracts for him when suddenly the jobs...disappeared. One company had cutbacks itself and decided it can do without that particular job. The other had cutbacks and moved someone in from another place in the company.

5) Aware we couldn't go long without income, Hubby wisely started contacting people for freelance assignments. He secured three, enough to get us through the end of the year; plus one long-term assignment in a field he's never worked before. He was working the phones, the email, the freelance jobs, and all the while, those other two job possibilities were starting to fade.

6) December, 2008 The third job possibility dropped out just before the holidays. That was okay though, we still had one more, and it was someplace closer to "home." Hubby started working on the long-term project.

7) The homes in our neighborhood stopped selling. "Bank Owned" started appearing on the for-sale signs. On our cul-de-sac of 8 homes, 5 now have at least one unemployed adult. The cutbacks in Hubby's industry are so deep and wide, that now there are no jobs in his field, but a glut of unemployed professionals. This glut means more competition in the freelance market, which has now also dried up.

8) Our biggest expenses are: mortgage, food, insurance, in that order. When we left the job, we decided to continue our insurance only for Hubby because of his medical problems, and the kids' teeth. I'm totally uninsured, and the kids have no medical. I fussed and fumed about the "stimulus package" passed by Congress, but then I heard that there is a subsidy for COBRA which might help us afford some minimal medical coverage for the kids. I just heard from HR. The company "allows us to continue health insurance, but as a religious organization, does not subscribe to the COBRA plan." In other words, that'll be $700 a month, thank you very much, no stimulus for you.

9) March 2008: The last job possibility dropped out this week. "That's okay," I rationalized, "because if we had to move again, we would be stuck with two mortgages and no way to unload this house."

10) Hubby is working long hours sitting in an uncomfortable chair that hurts his back, working on a laptop, cooped up in a bedroom all day with bad lighting and a screen that is stressing his eyes, doing a job he was untrained to do. He's doing a wonderful, amazing job, even the people he's working for are very impressed. It's taking him longer to do the job that he ever dreamed, and the money is barely stretching. According to the estimates on paper, we should fall about one month's income short in the next four months.

11) It's not all bad news. Somehow, miraculously, we are surviving. For the next 45 days at least, the mortgage and bills are paid, there's money for groceries, gas in the car and electricity in the house.

But my frustration and anger are building up. I want to whine like a child. I want to go home. I want to cry. I want to hit and kick and scream. I want it to be over. I hate where I'm living. I hate the company that laid us off. I hate this economy and the job market and insurance. I hate money. I hate not having money. I hate that my birthday present to Kate had to be underwear. I hate that my birthday presents to Rose, John, Blair and Christy will also be underwear.

I'm scared. I know God will take care of us because He promised to. And I've been living, breathing and eating that for the last seven months. But the numbers don't work on paper and it's a scary thing to see.

I'm hanging on, Lord, how about a little ray of sunshine?