Sunday, October 30, 2011

10 Tips for Surviving a High School Reunion

A couple of years ago, I attended my husband’s 25th high school reunion.  

For the list of things that got me through the night as well as a few things I wish I had thought of earlier, please go read the full post on my NEW website at http://www.charleneignites.com.

Thanks & enjoy!



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Thursday, October 20, 2011

This Too Shall Pass...

It was 38°F yesterday morning.  I think I pulled a muscle from the fifteen minutes of convulsive shivering while my car heater percolated to a respectable temperature. 

Mom Nat wins by a nose. After work, I broke down (just me, not my car) and extracted my wool coat from the hall closet.

Not the thickly lined black dress coat. That one is much heavier than is currently required.  Mainly I use it for holiday parties; when I'm wearing an outfit which might be wholly unsuitable for New England weather but perfect for an evening of ballroom dancing, house wine and mystery chicken.

I've had my dress coat for about seven years but it's classic enough that I can still get away with wearing it. I especially love the great big velvety hood which makes me look like a storybook character when I drape it over my comparatively small head.

Instead, I compromised last night by pulling out my long Jones New York coat from three seasons ago.  That's style seasons, which still basically means about three years plus or minus a runway show.  Tailored, just past the knee with small black, brown and cream houndstooth-ish checks.  Neat lapel with black edging.  Three buttons. 

It used to have four buttons.  Last fall, I had my coat hanging behind my office door when my boss accidentally swung the door closed at the exact angle and velocity for the coat to pendulate into the closing hinged crevice, crushing poor button #4 into tiny bits.

Now that I must admit defeat to the morning chill, this coat is my best bet.  Actually, aside from the dress coat and my ├╝ber warm, waterproof, faux-Spyder ski jacket, I'm not even sure what else I have in the ol' coat closet.  But that's okay.  I love my Jones.

Mind you, I have a dear friend who has a major coat addiction.  This is someone who has more coats than pants, by a long shot.  I'm sure she's reading this now and physically cringing at the idea that I have so few cold winter options.  Then again, we are the same size. This could expand my options considerably.  Hmmm.... I wonder if she locks her coat closet.  *evil grin*

Anyway, so I pulled out the Jones NY coat and gave it the once over to see how dire the need for dry-cleaning might be.  Some years ago I was almost certain to have, at minimum, someone's dietary contents dribbled down the left shoulder.  Luckily I and both my kids have outgrown that stage.  Looks pretty clean actually.  Smells okay.  Nothing a quick spin in the dryer on low heat with a Bounce softener sheet won't fix.  I checked the pockets.

My hand touched something smooth and roundish.  About the size of an acorn.  Even before I pulled it out, I could see the sapphire blue in my mind.

It's my "this too shall pass" rock.

Twenty years ago at Emerson College, I heard a story in my Eastern Religions class.  It was about an old man who received a stone which had great magical powers.  A stone which made a happy person feel sad and a sad person, happy. Etched on the stone were the words, "This too shall pass."
The instructor related the story to the concept of karma.  Whereas people think of "good karma" and "bad karma," we discussed the ideal to be neutral.  To be in such a balanced place that you know both good and bad are fleeting.  This too shall pass.

So, I'd taken to the habit of always carrying this one smooth stone in my pocket or purse.  In my happiest moments, I rubbed it and reminded myself that I needed to appreciate my joy to the fullest extent possible.  When I was feeling depressed or anxious, I rubbed the stone to remind myself not to get too bogged down in the negative.  That, this too shall pass.

Just recently I discovered that the old man was actually King Solomon and it was a ring, not a rock. In any case, I had lost mine with great regret.  Finding it or getting a new one has been on my "things I've been meaning to do" list for a while now.

Yet, here it found me.



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Sunday, October 9, 2011

Money Matters at Any Age

In the same way that Tim Gunn of Project Runway is best represented by his catchphrase, “Make it work!" I fantasize about my own made-for-reality-TV vignette where I am seen repeating my signature parenting phrases in multiple scenes.   (Hey, we all need dreams.  Don't judge me.)

One such broken record track I’ve mentioned already is, “Good luck with that.”

The other one is, “How much money did you bring?”

If you read no further, just remember that last phrase. The next time a child in your care asks to buy something in a store, you can reply with enthusiastic love, “Sure!  How much money did you bring?”

The way it works around here is that my kids get weekly allowance equaling one dollar per each grade. (A lot of experts say to give a dollar per year of age but personally I think that's too much.)

The entire purpose of allowance in my house is to teach kids fiscal responsibility. They don’t get paid to do chores. Helping out around the house just goes with the whole “family” gig. Non-negotiable. Otherwise, most kids are smart and potentially lazy enough that they will eventually attempt to forgo the cash in favor of shirking their responsibilities.

Someday I may let them negotiate not doing chores in favor of paying me (i.e. rent).  For now, we’re just a loving family all living under the same roof, each doin’ what’s gotta be done. Shared responsibility, respect and gratitude.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not above bribery.  A well placed extra buck here and there can do wonders; even more so when they know that pretty much any “extras” they want will come out of their own pocket.

Examples of past “extras” include:
       - Many “as seen-on-TV “ toys and games
       - Yet one more stuffed animal (shoot me)
       - iPod apps
       - Candy at the grocery check-out
       - Pokemon cards at the grocery check-out
       - Disgusting green goo in a nose-shaped package at the
         grocery check-out

If nothing else, we have had some very interesting discussions about the tricks of marketing and merchandising.

They’ve also learned a lot about saving, delayed gratification and taking better care of one’s investments. (I know a sad tale of a girl who didn’t put the caps back on her "Blendy Pens," thus throwing three full week’s allowance in the trash.)

What’s also great is the positive pressure on Big D and me to set a good example. Goodness knows we have made some financial doozies over the years.  By teaching our kids, we are more focused now as well.

Here’s a quick budgeting game you can do with the kids or without:

Write out on a big piece of paper (or use a spreadsheet if playing the grown up version):

 * Ways money comes in:

 * Ways money goes out:

Have fun listing (or drawing pictures of) all the things that bring and cost money on a regular basis. Jobs, lights, phone, food, school, clothes, fun, gifts, cars/gas, etc.

See clearly that the money only comes in from one or two places and usually doesn’t change each month.

Meanwhile, certain things on the going out list are also what we call “fixed.” (You can put a cute symbol on those to illustrate.)

When we want to buy or do more, other expenses can vary by making choices.  If something new comes up to do or buy, then something on that "variable" list has to budge in order for that new thing to get on the list.

Make sense? 

Our next foray into household financial responsibility is couponing. Miss M. is conjuring up a shared-savings scheme where she controls the coupon clipping for the family.  Yikes - I may be teaching her too well.  Stay tuned!

Happy budgeting!





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