23 March 2010

Mighty Life List

Taking my inspiration from Maggie Mason at Mighty Girl, with no further ado, my Life List*:

  1. Drink Absinthe, the right way
  2. Travel to Morocco
  3. Travel to Africa (other than Morocco&Egypt)
  4. Travel to Egypt
  5. Travel to Argentina
  6. Travel to Cuba
  7. Send Mom to Hawaii
  8. Live abroad for at least three months
  9. have at least one squishy baby
  10. take the hill on the bike path at UCSC again
  11. settle in a place where the seasons are less pronounced
  12. Travel to Israel
  13. Take a road trip across the U.S.
  14. Take a road trip punctuated by East Coast diners (especially oceanside ones)
  15. Start a business 
  16. fund a scholarship
  17. finish my PhD
  18. Write a book
  19. Take a photography class
  20. Have enough
  21. Take a fabulous vacation with my BFFs
  22. Take my mom on a spa holiday to Calistoga
  23. Take my mom wine tasting in Napa
  24. Have a wedding/commitment ceremony in a public park at dusk  10.24.2009
  25. Take Mom, Aunt Billye and Granny to Dinner in 2010, the banner year and raise a fabulous toast to the matriarchs
  26. Travel to India
  27. Travel to Iceland
  28. Run a Marathon 
  29. Obliterate my credit card debt   5/2010
  30. Build a stock portfolio
  31. Learn European knitting  Yay!! 8/2008
  32. visit Brazil
  33. Have a flower garden
  34. Skinny dip in warm tropical waters
  35. Have business cards made with the text 'Cocktail Enthusiast' 3/2010
  36. Pay down student loan debt by half before I graduate
  37. Throw a party to meet my neighbors
  38. Do fun things that make me happy (ongoing)
  39. Spend more time creating things in my creative space and less time wondering what I'd be watching if I had a TV
  40. learn to sew 
  41. learn an aerial dance
  42. learn to make croissants
  43. vacation in the French countryside
  44. knit/crochet a blanket  2/2011
  45. compile a book of family favorite recipes
  46. get my Etsy business spinning
  47. Visit Indonesia
  48. Be a tourist in Boston
  49. Be more photodocumentary
  50. Learn to can/preserve produce well
  51. Go back to camp in Tahiti
  52. Throw impromptu summer and autumn dinner parties
  53. Get back to piano lessons (probably after graduate school)
  54. Continue to throw Ashkenaz Spice Fabulous Birthday Parties
    1. 2008-- BBQ and Bowling Surprise Party with Birthday Pie 
    2. 2009-- Kickball Classic 
    3. 2010--Birthday Beer Dinner for Men
    4. 2011--
  55. Embrace my friends
  56. Grow a larger social circle
  57. 52 Cheeses in 52 weeks! 
    • chevre
    • taleggio
    • cheddar
    • oma
    • blue cheese
    • parmigiano reggiano
    • shy brothers hannahbells--which are FABULOUSLY DELICIOUS!!! and deserving of their own blog post coming soon
      • lavender
      • shallot
    • St. Agur Blue
    • Triple Cream Goat Brie 
    • Ewe's Blue
    • Midnight Moon 
    • fig burrata 
    • mozzarella
    • gouda
    • colby
    • ricotta
    • paneer
    • panquehue
    • boucheron
    • raschera
    • summer snow, soft like camembert--Woodcock Farm
    • Lake's Edge, blue--Blue Ledge Farm
    • Brillo di Treviso 
    • Bayley Hazen Blue--Jasper Hill Farm
    • Minolette...it's conditioned by cheese mites. not sure how to feel about this
  58. Organize a girly retreat in the Vermont or NorCal woods
  59. High Tea at the Russian Tea Room
  60. Visit the Musée Dupuytren whilst on a leisurely trip to Paris
  61. Accupuncture for my trick wrist
  62. Write at least one first author paper
  63. Go whale watching
  64. Eat like a Pilgrim
  65. Make a paper garland
  66. Make a picnic blanket and gift it in a picnic basket!
  67. Start a handwriting journal! (added: 11/2012)

    *This list is in no way exhaustive.

    19 March 2010

    Credit Debt Obliteration...and debtstory

    The thought of nearing financial solvency excites me.  Each time I see the amount I owe on my credit card decrease, I get a little giddy, not too giddy, mind you, I still have a ways to go, but soon, my credit debt will close in on one paycheck.  That's right, if I keep up my current rate of contribution, in a couple months, 1 paycheck will be all I need to absolve myself of all credit card transgressions.  It feels good but it's also scary to think about how I got to where I am in debt.  

    In the words of the ultra-talented Steve Martin, "I was born a poor black child."  Actually, that's not exactly true.  I'm pretty sure I was born into an up and coming 'buppie' family.  Replete with a house by the beach, good schools, a doting mother, a nanny and a philandering father.  Several years later, my mother decided that her dignity was worth more than remaining married to save face and the financial storm began.  

    The house had to be sold, cars had to be distributed.  My brother and I were my mother's divorce get and we all moved back to my mother's childhood home, in East Palo Alto with my three cousins, my mother's boyfriend, his daughter, my aunt and her boyfriend.  Full house to say the least and despite the fact that there were four working adults in our household, we lived hand to mouth.  I can say that from the time my parents divorced until the time I graduated from college (nearly twenty years) we lived a hand to mouth existence.  No one talked about saving because no one had much to save.  In fact, I had been taught that a savings account was a trick.  The bank could keep your money and lend it to others and pay you almost no interest.  You could achieve those kinds of results keeping your money in your pocket.  
    East Palo Alto was becoming less and less like Pleasantville.  My mother didn't like the idea of bullets whizzing by while we were playing double dutch so she bought a home in rural California, far north.  Her boyfriend followed, bringing his daughter along.  He soon became my stepfather.  Home ownership aside, we were still living hand to mouth.  When I was old enough to get a job, I saved a little money.  Nothing to note really.  I bought my first car with  a loan from my grandfather and paid him back in $10 installments.  A minimum wage job enabled me to buy my own school clothes and gas, pay for car insurance and maintenance but not much else.  I'd say I kept a steady $25 in the bank.  That was my buffer.  Then came the credit card offers.  I'd paid off a car loan.  I had a job and Providian wanted me. 

    I was smart enough to get my first credit card from my credit union at a reasonable interest rate.  A $500 limit was more than enough for a country girl like myself.  I realized that this stiff piece of plastic was my ticket out of the age of deprivation.  I could have anything I wanted, right now, on Visa's dime. Of course, I paid my bill regularly, built up my credit, even picked up a number of department store cards along the way. My credit limits increased, as they were wont to do in the swingin' nineties.

    Between gentleman friends, fellowships, student loans, my mother's refi and credit, college was doable.  For about 5-8 years I enjoyed the 'buy now, pay later' lifestyle my credit cards enabled.   I enjoyed it until I realized that life would extend past twenty five, and so would my bills. I realized that I wanted to have a family and that I'd need money for my family, but how I desired to live was completely incongruous with  how I was able to live based on my income.  So I kind of ignored the fact that I had more credit debt than I could repay in a reasonable amount of time.  I wasn't buying extravagant things, still, I wasn't putting as much money toward credit debt as I could have.   I paid my minimum payment times about three still, paying only 6% of what I owed kept me in a pretty deep hole.    

    Somehow, when I met Ashkenaz Spice, he made it clear that he didn't intend to throw this fish back into the sea.  I started to feel guilty about all the debt I was holding.  I thought it wouldn't bode well for our future together or our future family so I began to:
    1. Pay my credit cards down aggressively.
    2. Use my credit cards less aggressively.
    In the past three years my credit card balance has gone up and down.  Then there was THE WEDDING  but fortunately, by then, I had turned a corner.  Somehow, miraculously, my net debt post wedding was less than pre wedding.  And. it. keeps. dropping. (knock on wood)  

    I've gone without fancy dinners and new clothes and new shoes (I've walked holes in two pairs of shoes for the first time in memory).  When I moved into my own apartment a lot of my furniture was 'found'.  When we moved in together, we had this found furniture *and* made some serious bargains on Craigslist.   When the car broke, we didn't get a new one (we didn't want to be hobbled by a car loan before the credit debt was paid).  Instead we take public transit and use Zipcar.  When we moved and sold our 200lb TV we didn't buy a new one.  We've passed on ski trips with friends, that we would have liked to take.  We keep our thermostat set pretty low.  First *I* made a lot of sacrifices, then *we* made a lot of sacrifices and I don't mind, because it's paying off.  

    I'm still staring down student loans, but those, I'll worry about when they come.  For now, I feel a little lighter on my toes, and kind of drunk with the knowledge that this credit card monkey will soon be off my back.