Frugal Lemon Leads to Frugal Lemonade

Frugal flops.  We’ve all had them, haven’t we?

I’ve probably had more than my fair share.   Mostly because I love a deal, and I’ve been known to overbuy a time or twelve.  Now that I am packing and reaching into every nook and cranny the sheer numbers of deals purchased and quickly forgotten are embarrassing.  I’ve filled an entire closet at the new house.  And I’m not done yet.

But this latest frugal lemon wasn’t about a deal, or overbuying.  In this case my eagerness and excitement spurred me to make a bad choice…

See, we’ve been planning to move since before Son was born.  As a result I never really decorated Son’s room the way I wanted to- though I wanted to desperately.  But why would I when we were about to move?  His furniture is my pre-marriage master bedroom furniture – whitewashed wicker.  Using the dresser as a changing table was a frugal choice that worked  perfectly well, and placing the full-sized bed in his room so guests would have a place to  sleep wasn’t a pretty choice, but who cared?  We were  moving! I did manage to put some picitures on the wall and an alphabet rug, but it wasn’t the room I’d dreamed to give him.  Not even close.

Well,  we didn’t move.  And then we didn’t  move.  And then we did not move.  For 4 and 3/4 years.

Now we finally are.  And now Son will have a room that’s just his, decorated for just him.  And I’m so frickin’ happy and excited about that.    A little too happy and excited…

I chose a really bright green paint for the room, but only put it on 1 wall.  I went to Ikea and chose curtains and accessories and built more new ideas.  With the paint I’ve spent about $100 so far.  Woo hoo!

The furniture in his room now will go in the guest room at the new house, so I decided he needed a new dresser and a desk.  New to us, at least.  So I looked on Craigslist for a wood dresser and desk that I could paint either white or bright green or blue – I hadn’t decided yet.  And I saw something that could be perfect – it had a really nice whimsical shape – and it was only $40 for the dresser AND the desk.  And it came with a headboard with cubbies (which I didn’t need so I was either going to re-sell it or saw off the bottom and hang it on the wall as a shelf).

I went to go see it and was disappointed to see that it wasn’t in great shape.  The headboard was in fine, but the dresser was scratched quite a bit.  The desk had water damage at the bottom (water and fiberboard don’t mix) and the fiberboard top was worn away in one corner.

I hesitated, thinking about all of the work that would need to be done.  Then I said to myself, “Well, the scratches don’t matter because I’m going to sand it before I paint it.  And I can put molding at the bottom of the  desk and just attach some 1/4 inch plywood to the top of the desk and viola!  And it’s only $40 for all three peices!!!”

So, I bought it.  And when Husband saw it he was unhappy.  He said it was crap furniture  and that he’d do the work but not be happy about it.   I saw my vision for it in my head and was undeterred.

But he was right.  It was crap.  And it was going to take soooo much work to have it match my vision.

I began to have buyer’s remorse.  My overexcitement led me to a bad decision.  The furniture was CRAP!  What was I thinking???  It was a frugal lemon so big that it took up half my garage.

Oy.

I began to think about getting him a good piece of furniture.  Maybe even new.  I looked on Craiglist, I went to Ikea.

And I decided to get rid of the crap.

So I listed it on Craigslist.  And I sold it to someone else.  For $50.  Yes, that’s more than what I paid for it.

I still haven’t bought a dresser for Son.  But I’ve calmed down and decided to take my time. There’s no place for emotions in frugality and wise spending.

It was a good lesson.  And I paid myself $10 to learn it.  Not  bad.

Not bad at all…

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An Eye for an Eye

The cruelty that people show towards one another makes me feel sad, outraged and impotent to make it better. It’s why I avoid the news much of the time, and when I don’t you get posts like this, this and this (I think that was my best ever post title!).

It’s gotten much worse since I became a mother. Before motherhood I could read and watch stories about human cruelties, but could never read or watch anything about animals being hurt, even unintentionally. I’ve never seen Sounder, and the scene in Benji where the dog gets kicked triggered a crying jag that forced my Mom to take me out of the theater at the ripe old age of eight. I’d feel very sad and sorry about kids being hurt, but I could watch and read the stories.

Sometime during my pregnancy with Son things changed. I began to have the same reaction to stories about children that I’d always had to stories about animals. It causes such pain in my soul that I avoid them at most costs. When an online friend who was pregnant at the same time tragically lost her son shortly after birth I could not even hear what happened, and to this day don’t know the entire story. I can’t. I just can’t.

Today I read a story that I would not normally read. I don’t know what had me read it, but read it I did. It’s about a mother who lets her disabled daughter starve to death, and the friends and government workers whose lack of morals and the most basic common decency allowed it to happen.

This particular case was so heinous because this poor child was failed at every turn. Caseworkers who never went to see her and then conspired with agency supervisors to create and backdate reports detailing visits that never happened. Another that went once and had the mother pre-sign for future visits because he was too lazy to go back. Friends who lied about the girl’s state in the days before she died.

There’s more, and it’s all so very appalling.

I feel an overwhelming sadness for what that poor girl was made to suffer. The fact that it was at the hands of her parents – the people who were supposed to love and care for her – makes me weep. I think of my friend who lost her precious son, and I wonder how these parents – and all the other parents who inconceivably harm their children – can take such a precious gift from G-d so for granted, especially when there are other parents-in-waiting who would do anything to be so gifted.

I am not violent nor a vengeful person. But all I can think about is how much I feel these people should suffer. How I would love to see an eye for an eye. Warning! If you are like me and can’t read specifics about this tragedy please skip the rest of this paragraph! How much I’d like to see them lying in their own urine and feces, unable to move, as their raspy voices beg, beg for water. I want to see maggots in their bedsores, formed because they were forced to stay in the same bed for so long that the outline of their body is imprinted in the mattress.

I want them to suffer. A lot.  Why should they get mercy when that poor girl was denied?

So please join me tonight in a little prayer for the soul of Danieal. May she find in death that which she never experienced in life: peace.

A Miracle For One Family, Heartache For Others

Back in December Zack Dunlop’s devastated parents were faced with the horrible decision of either keeping their son hooked up to life-support equipment or pulling the plug and letting his body follow his brain into death. He’d been declared brain dead, all of the tests showing no blood flow to his brain after an ATV accident, and his parents eventually decided to let him go. But they wanted to honor his wishes and have his organs donated.

So a helicopter was dispatched to pick up his heart. Then, as his family said their final goodbyes, his cousin (a nurse) ran a knife blade along his foot. And he moved it. They pressed into his fingernail bed. He pulled away his arm.

His family was shocked, and hopeful, and guarded. The doctors were dumbfounded. But how much brain damage was there?

Some, but not much. Since that day 21-year-old Zack Dunlop has made extraordinary strides in his recovery. He’s walking, talking, ready to drive. He still has some issues and is still in therapy, but he’s alive. And vibrant. And alive.

I’m so very happy for Zack, and his family. They truly got a miracle. The doctors cannot explain what happened. As Husband and I watched his appearance on the Today Show and heard his story I got tears in my eyes. Husband noticed my reaction and said, “That’s great, isn’t it?”, assuming my tears were for Zack and his miracle.

But my tears weren’t for Zack, or for his family. My crazy brain was thinking about the many families who had walked in Zack’s family’s shoes. Families who decided to end life support for their child and had no such miracle, and experienced the mixture of grief and guilt that I can only imagine anyone would feel in the aftermath of that decision.

What were they thinking when hearing Zack’s miraculous story? How many were second-guessing their decision? What if…? The unthinkable.

Chances are that there was no hope, no missed miracle for their child (or husband or mother, etc., but I was thinking at that moment only in terms of parent and child). But now, in addition to their grief, they’ll have a whole new level of guilt.

That is possibly the only pain worse than losing your child, I imagine.

And who the heck needs that?

… and His Charm Is From Me

Son’s got a few quirks. He’s very cautious physically. He’s reluctant to try new things on the playground, and plays very tentatively on anything that isn’t rock-solid.

He’s very afraid of vacuum cleaners and hand dryers in bathrooms. Screaming, crying inconsolably, truly terrified if anyone even stands near one.

He also has aversions to certain foods and textures. He won’t go near a vegetable or most fruits, rice, soups…

And he’s stubborn. His first reaction to many requests and directives is a resounding, “No!”, even though most times he’s saying it even as he’s obeying.

So we decided to have him tested by the schools. Are these just idiosyncratic quirks, or a symptom of some type of sensory-related issue? We knew that even if there were any issues they were on the mild side, but identifying the issue(s) would allow us to get him therapy so that it (they) wouldn’t interfere with learning. The free screening tests hearing, speech, vision, language and developmental performance.

So we went through the testing. And he’s completely, disgustingly “normal”. He tested well within normal limits in every single area.

This is great news, of course. Except that now we know that his issues are, in actuality, personality quirks. Which means that I’ll just have to continue my course of first recognizing the negative quirks he inherited from Husband and then beating them out of him, one stubborn “No!” at a time.

The Two Hundred Penny Salute

Husband and I are not permissive parents. We think loving, firm discipline is important, and we want Son to have a healthy – but not blind – respect for authority.  We want him to understand that sometimes you lead by following.

I already know we’ll be the parents that let the child sit in jail overnight if he takes a car on a joyride, and we’ll not complain to the School Board if Son gets suspended one day for destroying school property, or cussing out a teacher (although I certainly hope none of these things happen). In fact, Son would get additional punishment at home. The schools have a tough road to hoe, and I plan to be supportive. To a point.

But we do need to allow children to be children. There has been much ado in the press about suspensions for hugging and kissing, even among elementary kids. There’s a difference between sexual harassment, though, and two best girlfriends sharing a hug.

Now there’s the case of the children in New Jersey suspended for paying for their lunch with pennies. Their lunch period had been shortened, and they decided to let their dissatisfaction be known by paying their $2.00 lunch in pennies.

They were promptly given two-day detentions for holding up the line, and for being disrespectful.

Okay. If these children were disrespectful they deserve those detentions. I agree completely. Wholeheartedly. I have no doubt that a few were disrespectful, but all twenty-nine? I find that doubtful. In fact, I venture to guess that it was the cafeteria workers, faced with the prospect of counting all of those pennies, who got disrespectful first. That doesn’t excuse the students’ disrespect, but it does put in in context.

All of that aside, what was the big deal about them paying with pennies? Last time I checked pennies were still US currency.

I think it was clever. Wonderfully juvenile. And who best to exhibit such juvenile behavior than…juveniles? Civil disobedience at it’s most basic.

Some are saying it wasn’t protest; it was a prank. So what? It doesn’t matter if it was protest or prank, it was harmless. And if we start taking away children’s right to some harmless fun, where exactly are we headed? I understand the need to keep order in the schools, and how hard that can be. But they weren’t in class, they were at lunch, when they should be able to loosen up a little.  Letting off some steam helps them to be calm and focused in class, wouldn’t you think?

And what would have happened if the cafeteria cashiers had simply smiled and taken the money? Because, really, we all know how hard it is to count out two hundred pennies…and that it takes all of thirty seconds.  Nothing would have happened, except perhaps a zen moment between the students and staff.

The school’s response? To pardon the detentions, unless the parents want them served.

If it were my kid and he was disrespectful he’d serve those detentions. For being disrespectful. But not for being a kid pulling a harmless prank, or protest, or however the school chooses to (mis)characterize it.. Definitely not.

Can we please lighten up a little? Please?

One Life Lost, Another Ruined, and I’m Out of Hands

A twelve-year-old kills an 17-month-old toddler, allegedly because she was crying while he was trying to watch cartoons.

Normally I completely avoid stories like this. Ever since becoming a mother I cannot stand to watch or read news stories involving harm to children. It hurts me to my core.

This story, though, is all anyone is talking about here. It’s all over the news, the radio, the supermarket. Moms were talking about it when I dropped my son off at school, the people at the table next to us were discussing it, loudly, as my family and I shared a meal at a local restaurant.

So, I’ve been thinking about it.

On the one hand

On the one hand, should a twelve-year-old boy be charged as an adult for a crime like this? Can his brain have formulated the intent to kill? Did he understand that by beating Shaloh Joseph with a baseball bat she would likely die? Did he think that, like in many of the cartoons he is so fond of, death isn’t permanent? Was he just so indifferent to life that he didn’t care?

Should his life be over at twelve?

My mother’s heart says to try him as a juvenile, and give him a chance to have a life. I think of my own son, but just can’t imagine that he would ever do something like this.

I’ll bet his mother didn’t think so, either.

On the other hand

On the other hand, some crimes are so grave they go beyond what the juvenile courts can really address. We had a case a few years ago when another twelve-year-old, Lionel Tate, killed six-year-old Tiffany Eunick.  That boy was convicted as an adult. After an appeal he was released and given a second chance, which he blew within months. Lionel has been in trouble ever since, and is now back in jail.

On the other hand, Shaloh Joseph’s life is over after seventeen short months. Her little personality didn’t have a chance to fully develop. She’ll never go to school, ride a bicycle, get married. It’s over for her.

Over.

Can any punishment really bring justice?

A tragedy waiting to happen

The boy was alone with the girl and another child when this happened. The mother insists he wasn’t babysitting, but either way is a twelve-year-old child responsible enough to care for two younger children?

My sister and I stayed alone when we were eight and ten. We were latchkey kids – a common occurrence when we were growing up. Today parents get arrested for doing what our Mom did.

Still, I wonder how this could happen. I wonder if he’s saveable. And I wonder if he deserves that chance. I think of another case I commented on, involving a seven-year-old who was charged with a felony after a fight, and I wonder where he’s headed.

I wonder, and I worry.

And I’m glad I’m not the one whose hands his fate is in.

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