Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Christian my ass...

This, folks, is one of the reasons why I want nothing to do with organized religion. Oh, to be so convinced that one is right and everyone else is wrong.

"the man that knows something knows that he knows nothing at all"

The Power of Intention

Well, just when I was feeling good about sticking to my resolve not to use my emergency account unless necessary, the credit card company rears their ugly head. I mailed my payment on 1/21/6. I get a bill on 2/16 that says they have received no payment. To make matters worse, my bank has confirmed that the check has not cleared my account. I am trying to take this in stride...after all, these things happen. I am sure that although I have explained to the credit card company that the payment was sent on time, they are going to use this an excuse to jack up my interest rate. I hate those people! Oh, well, it's off to the post office to figure out what the hell they did with my payment.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Mission: Master Bath Renovation

While I am on the topic of my house renovation, my husband and I have decided that our schedules can no longer support a do it yourself renovation. Our current project is our master bath which we have been working on since October 2004. Here is the project plan for the bathroom.

1. Replace sink faucets
2. Demo the oil mildewy and smelly tiled shower stall.
3. Replace with new tile and shower pan.
4. Pull up the carpet (Yes, our entire bathroom has carpet).
5. Put down backer board and apply ceramic tile to floor.
6. Remove old tile from around tub.
7. Apply wainscot and chair molding around entire bathroom.
8. Paint wainscot and chair molding.
9. Sand and Paint sink cabinets.
10. Replace cabinet pulls
11. Replace light fixtures.
12. Paint closets (It looks like the closet walls just have primer on them and there are large nail holes that need patching)
13. Purchase and install closet organizers.

To put this in perspective, we are only on task #5. It's been over a year, this bathroom should be finished by now. Hence our decision that the bathroom will be our last do it yourself project. We will try to save some money by buying all the materials and doing the prep work, but the installation will be left to the ones who do it for a living. I'll be sure to update if we ever finish the floor.

What Bright Side?

I am at a point in my life where I just feel like I have too much going on. I have a house that we are in the middle of renovating. I have 1.5 acres that need landscaping. I have an aromatherapy business that I would love to pursue full time but lack the resources to grow the business enough to where I can quit my job. Trying to do all of this without getting into massive debt is seeming virtually impossible.

I absolutely hate debt. Some people think its good but I detest it. I can honestly say that the only bill that I do not pay grudgingly is the mortgage. Every time I write a check for my student loans, I kick myself for not trying to get more grants while I was in school. I even hate paying my utility bills especially the unnecessary ones like cable, telephone, and internet. I have been vowing to improve my financial picture since we bought our first house. Anyone thinking about buying a house, be forewarned. You will be perpetually broke. The house is always going to need something. Our first house was brand new but, within the first month, we had sunk $1,000 on a new fridge and having an alarm system installed. It never ends.

I've heard people console themselves by saying that they are grateful that they have the money to pay their bills. Somehow, telling myself that does nothing to make me feel better. I call it trying to look on the bright side when there really is no bright side. It's like when people die and their family members and friends say stuff like "at least he died doing what he loved" or "at least he didn't suffer" HUH? I have told my husband not to worry. If he goes before I do, those hollow words of "consolation" will not escape my lips. And if anyone says that to me, they will be sorry they opened their mouths. Our society's obsession with putting a smiley face on everything is simply ridiculous. If someone has died, it is OK to be sad. If you don't have enough money, it is OK to be mad.

I have started to read a book called the "Energy of Money" by Maria Nemeth. She states that some of us get into a financial rut where we repeat the same behaviors over and over again with money. That statement struck a chord with me because for the last few years I have been trying to maintain a certain balance in one of my accounts. I have a bill paying account, a savings account, and a third account that I have been trying to turn into an emergency fund. Over the years, I have built a cushion (money that is in the account, but is not reflected in my transaction log) into this account of well over $1000. I allow myself to use this account for miscellaneous needs as long as the balance does not fall below the cushion amount. Needless to say, I have not been able to use this account without significantly dipping into the cushion for the last 5 years or so. It is one of the many banes of my existence. I don't open the statements when they come because I know how disappointed I will be that I have allowed myself to raid the account when I should not.

So, I have resolved this year to fix that. My plan for this year is to only use that account for gas, groceries, and emergencies. This account has pretty much been my whenever I feel like shopping account (which has been a lot lately). I certainly don't need many of the things that I buy. My hope is that by the end of the year, I will have enough money to buy help fund the house renovation or pay off the credit card (Thank goodness we only have one). I watch those home renovation shows (perhaps too much) and always wonder how those people got the money for all those expensive renovations.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

So there!

This article appeared in today's AJC and truer words have rarely been spoken. Reading the newspapers and watching newscasts usually annoy me but, this was a rare breath of fresh air. The level of intelligent debate and discourse in this country has reached the gutter and, as I already suspected, we are not even listening to each other.

Political debate no place for facts
Bob Kemper - Staff
Wednesday, February 8, 2006
Washington --- Frustrated that your neighbor refuses to see the fact that President Bush and the Republican Party have got it right? Aggravated that a co-worker won't respond to reason and acknowledge that Democrats are America's only hope?

Well, get used to it.

Neither you, your neighbor nor your co-worker thinks rationally when you debate and defend your political preferences, research by Emory University's Drew Westen shows.
"Whatever facts you present people don't make terribly much difference," Westen, a professor of psychology, said. "The more politically passionate they are, the less capable they are of learning anything from any new data that's presented to them."

And while many people have always assumed that people in the other party care nothing for the facts, Westen's research shows that both sides are equally guilty of ignoring facts that contradict their political choices. "Each party would like to believe that . . . they're the ones with the cognitive integrity, who look at things in a fair and balanced way and that it's the other side that's distorting," he said. "But actually we found just about [an] equality of distortion on both sides."
At the height of the 2004 presidential campaign, Westen took 30 highly partisan, right-handed men --- 15 Republicans and 15 Democrats --- and flashed positive and negative statements about their preferred candidate in front of them while observing their brain activity under a magnetic resonance imaging scanner.

When the men saw positive statements from or about their candidate --- President Bush for Republicans and Sen. John Kerry for Democrats --- the emotional parts of their brain lit up, Westen said. They were pleased. But when statements showing their candidates contradicting themselves were shown, the men became emotional.

The parts of their brains used to sort facts and make rational decisions --- which would have lit up if they were trying to sort out the contradiction intellectually --- showed no activity.
Instead, the men felt distressed or threatened. Their brain patterns showed they dealt with the conflict by rationalizing it away. And when they successfully dispatched the contradiction as meaningless, the part of their brain associated with rewards lit up, giving them "some kind of rush from it," Westen said.

"They are looking at their own candidate to explain away contradictions that they have no trouble seeing in the other candidate or in somebody who's neutral," he said.
Westen recently presented his findings at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology in Palm Springs, Calif.

Shawn Parry-Giles, director of the University of Maryland's center for political communication and civic leadership, who was not part of Westen's study, said all politicians have been appealing more to emotion than intellect since television became the nation's dominant source of news. Speeches are shorter, sound bites are the rule and the images can convey as much information or more than the politician's words, he said.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Accidental Tourist

I have always been excited about seeing new places and traveling in general. My last three vacations have literally landed in my lap without any advance planning on my part. First, my hair dresser gave me her timeshare week in Oceanside, California because she was unable to go. Then, my mother-in-law split her timeshare week at the Polo Towers in Vegas with my husband and I. Most recently, my husband's employer sent him to Germany for two weeks of training. Who could pass that up?

I have heard people say that European culture is similar to American culture. WRONG! Yes, there are some minor similarities. They have a lot of white people and so do we. I swear I saw about 5 black people while I was there. If the neo-nazis are worried about preserving the white race, they should take notes from Germany. They are doing a great job. Of course, it could just be that black people aren't generally inclined to live in Germany.

Stay tuned for more on my German adventure.