Friday, February 24, 2012

Repairing Credit

My credit score is not great, and it's been interfering with my ability to do things like having a joint checking account with my husband. Usually not having an account at a local bank is only mildly inconvenient; all three of my jobs require direct deposit, and on the rare occasion I get a physical check, I can just mail it to my bank, which is based on New York. At least I have a checking account.

Nevertheless, old debts have been popping up, and I've been slowly taking care of them, as well as paying off credit cards - or paying off much more than minimum balances. I have two ongoing automatic payments for old debts that equal $450 a month, and which will be paid off by (I think) November.

A few weeks ago I was contacted about a fairly small debt, which I was able to pay off over the course of two days. (I was expecting a paycheck the next day, so I made an intial payment for half the balance immediately, and authorized payment for the remaining balance for the next day.) Around the same time I got a notice in the mail regarding an overdrawn Bank of America account from several years ago, and which included several payment options, including one that would include a 20% discount. I had about six weeks to take advantage of one of these payment options, and because I got a nice-sized (for me) paycheck from the school district where I had worked as an assistant teacher until last month, I was able to pay off that account completely this morning.

While of course I wish I had this money to squirrel away or pass on to Ed for household expenses, it's a really nice feeling being able to get these things taken care of without any help. I hope I can continue to teach this summer so the amount of help I might need from Ed will be minimized. There's something about being financially independent that boosts the confidence.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday Stories

Today is Ash Wednesday, which I had thought was a Holy Day of Obligation, but which turns out is not. Nevertheless, I have always gone to Mass on Ash Wednesday, as it is really the only time of year I can wear a physically external sign of my faith and talk about it in a way that is not construed (or miscontrued) as prosthelytizing.

Because of a faculty meeting that would have ended too late for me to actually get to Mass this evening, Ed and I went to Mass at 9 a.m. this morning, which meant I was walking around with ashes on my forehead all day.

I encountered the following:
  • 3 folks expressed surprise (or something similar) in not realizing that today was Ash Wednesday. (This is the reaction I normally get; it's a derivative of, "Oh, today's Ash Wednesday/I forgot today was Ash Wednesday!");
  • 2 students around campus asked me "what was up with the ashes/stuff" on my forehead.
  • 2 students in my class told me (in the "in case you don't know" tone of voice) that I had something smeared on my forehead. 
    • One student told me before class started, and I was getting some looks, so I started class with, "Before you feel compelled to tell me, yes I know about the ashes on my forehead, and yes, today is Ash Wednesday," which some folks were a bit unclear about, and which I was happy to answer, at which point I included the I-am-not-trying-to-convert-anyone disclaimer.
    • Another student came in late and told me about "the stuff" on my forehead, which was a bit frustrating, but what're you going to do.
I've never not had people known "what was up with the ashes." Utah is indeed insulated.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Lavender Citrus Cookies

I discovered this recipe at some point last year and tried it out for the first time during Christmas. They were amazing - light and citrusy, not too sweet, and with a wonderful lavender aroma. You can find food grade lavender at My Spice Sage. (Download the PDF.)

• 2 ¾ cups flour
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• ½ teaspoons baking powder
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 2 teaspoons lavender buds
• 1 ½ cups sugar
• 12 tablespoons butter (softened)
• 2 ounces cream cheese (softened)
• 1 egg
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 4 teaspoons lemon extract
• 2 teaspoons orange extract

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or SilPat.
2. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and lavender buds in a medium sized mixing bowl; whisk to combine. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the butter, cream cheese, and sugar. Beat until smooth and creamy.
4. Add egg and beat for two additional minutes.
5. Add vanilla, lemon, and orange extracts, and beat another two minutes.
6. Add the dry ingredients all at once, and mix until just combined.
7. Roll the dough into small balls. To achieve the crackled effect on the tops, do not roll completely, just shape into balls and leave the broken tops.
8. Leave at least two inches between cookies to allow for spreading in the oven.
9. Bake for 11-13 minutes. Allow to cool on pan.
10. When cooled, top with Citrus Glaze (recipe below), if desired. 

Citrus Glaze:
1 ½ cups confectioner sugar
zest of one orange
3-4 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon lemon extract

1. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and stir by hand until smooth and creamy. (If mixture is too thick, add more juice. If too runny, more confectioners sugar.)
2. Drizzle on the tops of the cooled cookies. Allow to dry at least an hour before stacking.

Friday, February 3, 2012

A Greater Risk

Tonight I read this article that reported that stay-at-home mothers are at a greater risk for depression than working mothers. It went on to report that:

  • Part-time working moms and full-time working moms reported better health and fewer symptoms of depression than stay-at-home moms.
  • Part-time working moms were as involved in their child’s school as stay-at-home moms, and more involved than full-time working moms.
  • Part-time working moms provided their toddlers with more learning opportunities than both stay-at-home moms and full-time working moms.

I understand why a parent stays home; I think it's preferable for one of the parents to be able to stay home and care for the child. Milestones are not missed; you know your child better; you can care for your child better and give your child more individual attention.

Sometimes that decision is made for you: Unless they're independently weathly or have an unusual level of financial support, single parents generally need to work; if one parent is unemployed, the other will need to work, regardless of whether the working parent is the mother or the father; if the income of the second parent (again, regardless of whether that be the mother or the father) is significantly low and would not easily cover the cost of daycare and have some income left over, one could question whether it might not be reasonable for that parent to stay home.

I think about these things in terms of what would happen if Ed and I are so lucky to have a child (hopefully two). I dont know that I have it in me to stay home with my child all day while Ed goes off to work. And it would be Ed going off to work, since he has a full-time job, complete with much needed benefits like health insurance, while I've been struggling to find work since I graduated from college in 2007.

One of the reasons I like the idea of teaching, though, is that the schedule would be similiar to that of our child's; looking for daycare or other activities in the summer would be difficult and expensive. Subbing and/or adjuncting would give me a flexible schedule; the kids may have to be in daycare anyway for part of the day, but I could arrange my schedule so that the kids aren't in daycare for most of the day.

I have a different attitude about this because I'm older. Had I gone to college and graduated when I was 22, had I had children 10 years ago, I might feel differently about establishing (or reestablishing) a career at 35, instead of just starting my career at 35. I identify myself with my work. I'm not sure that for me it would be enough just to be someone's mom; I need something else in my life. It doesn't necessarily have to be a full-time thing, but I would need a few hours a day outside the home. (I would not be happy as a housewife.)

Possibly I'll feel differently if we're lucky enough to have children, but eventually, if we do have children, those children will grow up and I'll need to reenter the work force, so keeping my toe in the water can do nothing but help.