Friday, October 24, 2008

Can't Buy Me Love--Or Anything Else In This Economy

It seems the current financial crisis is hitting all of us. We dread the arrival of out monthly statements from our Roth IRAs and annuity funds, from which we have lost thousands of dollars. For a working family, that money will be hard to replace.

But Cliff and I are not panicking. We are simply going to adjust our retirement goals. As of now, we figure we will be able to retire somewhere around, say, age 87.

Of course, we will still have to take on part-time jobs to pay off the loans we took out to get the kids through college since their mutual funds containing our education savings have also tanked. Given the state of the job market, we are not too concerned about having to learn new skills at that age. We figure the most we will have to remember is to ask "Do you want fries with that?" with every order.

I was listening to the radio last week when a women called to complain about her annuity fund holder, AIG. It seems she wanted to take out a loan on her money and AIG turned her down. All this was happening when the government was bailing out AIG's backside from financial ruin and the company sent employees on an expensive spa weekend at a resort to "brainstorm." Personally, I always brainstorm while getting manicures, pedicures and massages.

I can understand perfectly why AIG denied her loan. If they were to grant her access to her money, someone at AIG would have to go without a pedicure. Seriously, how selfish of this woman to want to use her own money to benefit her family when there are AIG employees running around with stiff necks and unpainted toenails. What is this world coming to?

With stocks plunging and financial institutions failing, I can understand now why so many people who lived through the Great Depression have such a deep mistrust of banks. The state of our economy makes a perfectly sane person want to take their hard-earned money and simply stuff it in a mattress. Of course, when your house is on fire and you are trying to force a king-size mattress through a window, you may want to rethink that strategy.

I for one will not be stuffing my mattress. Personally, I think a much safer option is to dig a hole in the backyard, put all of my savings into a mason jar, plop it into the ground and cover it up.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have a hole to dig.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I Am Woman Hear Me Snore (Frankly, I'm Exhausted)

They told us we could have it all.

In college during the mid 1980's, my Women's Studies professors talked about how women were entering the job markets in droves. They were moving into fields tradtionally dominated by men. They were breaking glass ceilings. They were oveseeing corporate mergers by day and rocking the cradle by night. They were successfully merging their professional and personal lives and looking fabulous in the process.

And we were to follow in their footsteps.

Following graduation, I moved to Washington, DC determined to take take the world by storm. I found employment in the field I wanted, got married, changed jobs, changed cities several times, started my family and adjusted my career goals to give me more flexbility.

I now have a cosmetic consulting business and work in sales and distribution for a small newspaper (both part-time), do freelance writing when I can find it, and am the parent of two terrific kids involved in about 20,000 activities (okay, so I embelish a little). I do volunteer work, take care of a dog and three cats, take an occasional writing class, do pilates, compete in 5K walking races, and do my best to keep our house from appearing on one of those home makeover shows where people are living in piles of trash.

Yes, I do have it all. Now will someone please explain to me what I am supposed to do with it?

My Women's Studies professors never explained that I would wake up each morning with a to-do list longer than Santa's "nice" list at Christmas. They never told me I would have approximtely 15 minutes each morning to shower and put on makeup so that my teenage daughter could dominate my bathroom for the next 40 minutes. And they certainly could not fathom that my husband would come home from work and doze off in front of ESPN while I chauffer children to ballet, scouts, football, etc., make dinner, oversee homework and clean up the hairball the cat just threw up.

How do women do it? I have read books on the subject, talked to other women and thrown tantrums in the middle of my kitchen out of sheer frustration (didn't solve anything but it sure made me feel better for the moment).

I have only come up with one solution. Embrace your chaos.

Yelling at your chaos or the cause of it (i.e. husbands and children) does not impove it. Ignoring it makes it worse. Resolving to get rid of it and working like mad to do so will put you in a state hospital for the mentally unstable. The only thing to do is accept it, work with it and treat it like one of those annoying relatives that come for a one week stay and move into your guest room indefinitely.

So the next time my son tells me at 6:30 a.m. that he needs three dozen cookies that afternoon, I will just smile. When my husband calls at 5:30 p.m. to say that he has not left work yet and cannot get Sean to his 6:00 football practice while I am trying to get ready for a 6:30 girl scout leader meeting, I will just tell him to drive safely on his way home. And when my daughter once again has a cheerleading competition and a dance recital all on the same weekend, I will cope. I resolve to face daily stressful situations with dignity and a cool head--and keep the phone number of a local bakery on speed dial.

I will learn to let some things go. I will learn to live with my stress without letting it get to me. And who knows. Maybe someday I will even learn to love my chaos. Because it is mine.