Sunday, March 29, 2009


Today is blustery and cloudy - almost like a fall day. Since Friday, I have been putting off my weekly trip to Wal-mart. Wal-mart has the best prices around for kitty litter, pet foods and supplies and paper necessities like toilet paper, paper towels and tissues. Despite the chilly temperatures that would normally keep me inside, Dave and I made the trip together.

While there, we bumped into a girl I worked with years ago. We worked in the custom drapery and window blinds industry - I sold the products and Terri sewed many of the fabric draperies or bedspreads. This was before I had Brian, and Nikki was very young.

Terri asked about the kids. I filled her in. Then she asked about my parents. Again, I filled her in. I really hate filling folks in about my parents. The response is always one of shock and I can tell they are genuinely embarrassed they asked.

When I asked Terri about her family (her dad has been gone for years, and thankfully I remembered this), she said her mom has dementia. She began to talk about all the stress she felt and how she is burning the candle at both ends. She is still working from home as a seamstress and had to take on a part time job to bridge the financial gap.

From what I could gather, she has no idea where to turn. She had the familiar expression we all wore while in the throws of care giving. Her mom refuses her medications, won't bathe, barely eats and refuses to leave her home. She still lives alone. My heart went out to her.

As she talked about all the things her dementia mom was doing, she began to cry. I hugged her and I tried remembering some of the wisdom I had gained from all of you - let the small stuff slide, remember the dementia patient isn't themselves anymore, when they say horrible things, it's the disease talking. It all came back so easily. I also shared the Alzheimer's website with her and told her it was the best place to start for information.

Anything you all think I left out? If so, please share it here. I intend to keep in touch with Terri, at least offering her an ear. I've been there, done that with dementia. We all have.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


I've noted in my blogs before that my family didn't have a lot of money while I was growing up. We weren't poor - we had enough - but there wasn't a lot left over once the bills were paid.

My parents had a favorite drive-up ice cream place. It was several miles from our home and it was a special occasion for us to go. The whole family would pile in our '68 Ford Galaxy every few weeks or so and head out for ice cream. The real name of the place escapes me, but my dad called it Dipsy Do. I have no idea why, but we all knew that Dipsy Do meant a delicious treat.

Mom was big on vanilla cones with sprinkles, my brother preferred chocolate and dad and I salivated as the girl behind the glass window piled the hot fudge on our sundaes. Some of my best memories are of dad and I eating hot fudge sundaes together. The sundaes at the Dipsy Do tasted better than anything to me in those days. I practically licked the bottom of that paper cup.

I remember Dad would eat his sundae at the red lights. There were four lights on the way home and he'd take huge bites then hand it back to Mom to hold when the light turned green. I don't know why he didn't enjoy it in the parking lot. There was always some reason we had to get home, I guess.

One warm August evening, we made our family jaunt to the Dipsy Do. We all got our usuals and off we went. When we stopped at the final red light, dad reached into his pocket for a paper napkin. The car was hot and Mom's ice cream was dripping down the side of the cone and all over the front seat. When dad brought his hand out, he found a $5 bill rolled up with the napkins the girl had handed through the window when he paid.

"Where'd this come from?" he asked.

"That's your change," Mom replied as she wiped up the sticky mess from the red vinyl seat.

Dad looked puzzled, stole another bite of his sundae and drove the rest of the way home in silence. When we pulled into the driveway, he turned to my mom and told her he had been given too much change. He said he remembered paying with a five and the girl must have made a mistake.

I'd like to say I would do what he did next, but I don't know if I would have.

Dad reversed out of the driveway and drove all the way back to the Dipsy Do. He went to the window and explained the mistake to the same girl who had made our sundaes. From my place in the back seat, I could see her expression and how much she lit up in appreciation.

My dad was a very honest man - that's fairly evident. He took great pride in being truthful. I think this was one of his finest qualities.

Considering I can recall this story with such clarity, he was obviously a wonderful example to me.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Forced Volunteerism

This is the 13th Amendment. It states:

‘Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for a crime… shall exist within the United States of America.’

Volunteerism is supposed to be done on a voluntary basis, not forced upon us. I've had enough of this Marxist agenda. Have you?

Sunday, March 15, 2009


There is a grassroots movement taking shape in America and I am proud to say I am a part of it. It's called The 912 Project and it has been put together by Glenn Beck. Basically, it is the acknowledgment of nine core principles and 12 values:

The Nine Principles:

1. America is good.
2. I believe in God and He is the Center of my Life.
3. I must always try to be a more honest person than I was yesterday.
4. The family is sacred. My spouse and I are the ultimate authority, not the government.
5. If you break the law you pay the penalty. Justice is blind and no one is above it.
6. I have a right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, but there is no guarantee of equal results.
7. I work hard for what I have and I will share it with who I want to. Government cannot force me to be charitable.
8. It is not un-American for me to disagree with authority or to share my personal opinion.
9. The government works for me. I do not answer to them, they answer to me.

12 Values:

* Honesty
* Reverence
* Hope
* Thrift
* Humility
* Charity
* Sincerity
* Moderation
* Hard Work
* Courage
* Personal Responsibility
* Gratitude

Beck asks that you accept 7 of the 9 principles. Personally, I believe in all of them and have been trying to live my life by these simple rules for a very long time now. It's how I was raised.

There is a website but it has been down since the Beck TV program Friday evening. I haven't had a chance to fully explore it, but I look forward to doing so. Apparently there were so many visitors logging on at the same time that the site crashed.

This movement is not political. There is no partisan crap. There are politicians from both sides of the aisle who have broken these principles and values. The point is to remind them who they were elected by and what their responsibilities are. If they can't play by the rules, they are to be voted out.

Part of the 912 Project is to remember how we felt the day after September 11, 2001. There was a resolve in this country, a sense of brotherhood and comradeship. We vowed to stick together as Americans and help each other out. There were stories of people getting in their cars and driving across the country to help the victims in New York and at the pentagon. Flight 93 crashed about 50 miles east of where I live. I was ready to head over there to offer my services (whatever that would be) only to learn there was nothing left of the plane and there were no survivors. But the feelings after September 11th resonated deep within.

Where has that gone? What has happened to us?

Personally, I refuse to allow the basis of this country to go by the wayside. I refuse to allow it to become no different than socialist Europe. I have friends scattered throughout Europe - Great Britain, Sweden, Germany and Slovakia. They have all, at one time or another, told us of how fantastic this country is. They marvel at the opportunities here. Sink or swim, America is the land of opportunity. All you have to do is roll up your sleeves and get to work.

Guaranteed success? Certainly not. But you are guaranteed the opportunity to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again. That's what I intend to do.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Free Music

Over the last few days, I have become increasingly agitated with our new way of life in this country. People seem short tempered, curt and just overall nasty.

In Pittsburgh, we have been known for our friendliness. We hold doors open for strangers, greet and smile at neighbors we don't know and wave another driver on in traffic. All that seems muffled and lost these days. It's downright irritating.

I find myself longing for the simpler times. For me, that was a time when the responsibilities of daily life were as simple as what music we would listen to for the evening.

I have found a pretty cool music website that is free. It's called Enjoy.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Credit Card Warnings
Dave and I have one credit card. We have kept it because apparently your credit report looks bad if you don't have any credit cards. We put a few things on it from the weddings and were paying more than the minimum payment. Our balance was low. We paid it at least a week before its due date without fail, every month.

Last week, the credit card company dropped our credit limit and raised our interest rate. Dave was furious. He called the company and was told it was an across the board decision - every one of their cardholders experienced the same thing. He asked to speak to a supervisor and was told the same thing.

Dave was so angry he pulled the balance out of savings and paid the card off. He said he wants to cancel the account, but I worry that will only look bad on our report. It doesn't seem fair that we would receive a bad mark, but according to various financial experts, that would be the result. We're still not sure what we will do.

We were acting responsible - paying more than the minimum on time every month. Yet we were penalized.

Fair warning folks. Watch your accounts carefully.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Personal Responsibility

Dave and I will be married 25 years this April. We married young - very young. In fact, I was a few months shy of legal age to toast my own wedding. I have no idea why we were in such a rush, but we were and there was no stopping us. It has been quite an adventure and I know in my heart of hearts, I made the right choice for a lifelong partner. He has always been there for me. A great guy....truly.

During the early years of our marriage, we were a typical young couple. We never seemed to have enough money. Instead of tightening our belt between paychecks, we whipped out the plastic and went shopping. Or we went to dinner. Or...whatever. But we very quickly ran up balances on our credit cards. That was our first mistake.

In August of 1985, Nikki was born. What a wonderful and joyful time for us! But talk about responsibility! Yikes! In 1986, Dave lost his job. Poof. No more income. I worked, but it barely covered the rent and utility bills. We were forced to buy diapers, formula and groceries on credit cards. Mistake number two.

Dave soon found work and luckily, we never found ourselves without an income again. There were lean times as the kids grew, but we still had our incomes. When Brian came along in 1989, I was fortunate enough to stay home full time with him. We realized the money I was paying a sitter was just a little less than I earned. I took part time work in the evenings or weekends to help bridge the gap but it was during the hours when Dave was home to stay with the kids.

We made some smart decisions and some not so smart decisions financially. We bought our first house when Brian was a baby and sold it six years later for a profit. We used the profit as a down payment on the house we are in now. The mortgage on this house is higher than the first so there have been some times when we really reached to meet it. But we did. The only problem - the credit card balances were still growing because we could only afford the minimum payments. We weren't charging anymore, but we weren't making a dent in the balance either.

As our kids got older, their expenses grew right along with them. Nikki became involved with horses and Brian with hockey. I often joked that my kids couldn't settle for a simple passion such as knitting or baseball. We had to go for the big stuff! But as my mom reminded me, pay now or pay later. Kids should be encouraged to find their passions and follow them. She was right - their activities kept them out of trouble.

In 1999, my friend Susie became ill with cancer. I was working with Dave at the time and I took advantage of being able to miss work and spend time with Sue. Not that this was her fault, but as a result of my involvement with her care, I let some of the bills slip and they didn't get paid every month. This was the worst thing we could have done. As a result, the collection companies came calling and we were in big trouble.

In the early 2000's, Dave and I refinanced the house. We used the equity in the house to pay off all those nasty credit cards. We canceled them all and vowed to each other we would never run balances up again. It felt great! Free at last of almost 20 years of debt! The problem? We refinanced with one of those predatory lenders who have dominated the news lately. They were the ones who wrote our loan with very few questions asked. At the time, we didn't realize it. But by the fall of 2005, Dave did.

Dave sat down and crunched the numbers. The mortgage was to reset at a higher interest rate in January 2006. He came to me and said he didn't think we would be able to meet the mortgage each month once it reset because it was free to go higher and higher every few months. We were terrified.

So we set to work finding a reputable lender who would refinance us again. We were desperate to get out from under the predatory bank. We knew we were headed for disaster. In early December, we refinanced at a set rate - a rate we could afford, and we were relieved. In fact, the day after my dad died, the appraiser came to appraise the house. Most of that process is a blur to me now, but the lender wrote us because we never ran debt up again. In fact, the banker praised our responsible attitude when we went for the closing. I'm sure our responsible actions with debt was the deciding factor for us getting the loan.

We are in a much better financial way now than before, but it took us years to get here. We work hard - really hard - to acquire the things we have. Since the early days, we have never run up high credit card balances again. Our mantra - if there isn't the cash to buy, we don't buy. Period.

When I look at the news today, I am horrified at how many people are upside down in their mortgages. I feel sorry for them - to an extent. We were upside down. We were in a mess. But instead of waiting for someone to fix it for us, we took control and fixed it ourselves. Even during the worst possible emotional time for us (the death of my dad), we still stayed focused. This is personal financial responsibility. Nobody made the mess but us. Yes, we were taken in by a predatory lender, but instead of waiting for a hand out or bail out, we bailed ourselves out. And as the banker said, we did it ourselves. We learned from our mistakes and never ran that kind of debt up again.

I am sickened by the amount of Americans who are waiting for our government to fix their financial lives. It is the most un-American thing I can think of. What has happened to this country that folks expect their messes to be fixed for them? Where is the personal responsibility?