A blog about writing . . . and a lot of other things

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Living the American Dream

We just bought a house.  It's the American dream, right?  A house with a lawn and a backyard and a two-car garage.  Bonus points if it's in a cul-de-sac.  We've got it all, baby, even the cul-de-sac.  Or we will once everything is processed and the loan is funded.

Orange dining room
Honestly, I'm a little nervous about returning to homeownership after several years of renting.  Renting has been awesome.  It's cheaper, for one thing, and we have the world's best landlords.  Renting has managed to hold back a lot of my renovation instincts to the point where I don't even like looking at house mags anymore.  We've saved a lot of money simply because I haven't had anything to paint.

Pink bathroom
That's all going to change.  We already have paint colors picked out even though the ink isn't dry on our closing documents.  Nothing inspires a desire to paint quite like the Pepto Bismol pink of our upstairs bathroom.  Isaac told us that he refuses to use that bathroom until it's a different color, and I can't blame him.  The previous owners were not afraid of color.  Normally I admire this kind of bravery, but they took it too far even for me.  In addition to the bathroom, his bedroom and the dining room are slated for a color change.

Isaac's aqua bedroom
My daughter, who hates change of any kind, has come to terms with the move only because the house has an enormous hedge surrounding the backyard.  Unfortunately, I may have ruined that for all of us.  Last night as we were tucking in the kids I might have mentioned something about dark fairies living in the hedge.  Oops!

Mindy's gold room
So, let's hope that the paint goes on smoothly, the roof doesn't leak, and we all stay employed so we can make those lovely new house payments.  And if there's anyone out there who'd like to help us move, I promise that there aren't actually dark fairies living in the hedge.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Sleeping well at night? Let me fix that...

Last Saturday I demonstrated my love to my mother (Hi, Mom!) by missing my daughter's first basketball game of the season, a Ladies Retreat meeting, and a beautiful, sunny Saturday morning in February to sit in on a 4-hour seminar on the public employees retirement system (PERS) for upcoming retirees.  Did I mention this seminar was in a windowless room and nearly every other person present was retirement age?

I learned several important details about PERS that I hadn't known before, not least of which was that if I had been smart I would have started working as a public employee in Oregon prior to 1996.

The best part of the seminar, however, was the second half, in which an extremely small, energetic financial planner gave lots of financial bad news with unholy glee.  Honestly, none of it was really news to me.  I work in the financial industry, so I'm well aware of the issues our nation and our world are facing on the economic front.  I did really love a graphic she used in her presentation, though, and I wanted to share it here.

If I can direct your attention to the graphic at left, I will point out something that I think every American of all political persuasions needs to understand.  See the tower on the left?  That's our federal spending.  That really big chunk at the bottom?  That's Medicare and Medicaid.  That biggish section in the middle?  That's Social Security.  Everything else . . . EVERYTHING ELSE that the federal government spends money on is in the top two sections, and that includes defense.

Now look at the tower on the right.  The black areas are all the revenues the federal government brings in.  I'd like to point out to you that all those revenues are not enough to even pay for Social Security & Medicare.  See that?  We can cut expenses out the wazoo, but if we don't do something to change revenues or those neat programs that take care of our parents (Hi, Mom!), we are sinking into a deep quagmire of debt at an amazing rate.

In the last issue of Newsweek, Eleanor Clift had an interesting column highlighting the findings of the Simpson-Bowles commission (and subsequent inaction) that gives a little more information on the political side of this, but I hate politics, so I'm not going to go there.  You can, though.

The bottom line is that we're going to have to do something daring and innovative in order to balance the federal budget.  We're going to have to cut spending (a lot) and raise revenues (probably also a lot).

This is why I don't run for political office.  This is probably also why all the characters in my novels end up with superpowers whether I originally intended it or not.  Sometimes we just need some superpowers.