A Little Ray of Sunshine

Monday, April 25, 2005

Something new

Back before our move, I volunteered with the local Habitat for Humanity, nothing fancy, writing receipts and thank-you notes for donors. A couple hours, twice a week. The secretary had a little daughter, not yet one year-old. Beau thought she was great fun. I thought it was great preparation to be a big brother.
Nearly two months ago I decided we were as settled in as we were going to get, and called the local Habitat here. They are in transition-phase, moving offices, and dealing with the fact that all their board of directors works full-time at something else. Very busy folks. It took them two phone messages and nearly a month to get back to me. When they did, and I asked if I could volunteer in their office, they asked me if I'd like to be their Volunteer Coordinator. Well, obviously, if it takes a month to get back to a potential volunteer, the need is there. The more I get to know these folks the more impressed I am with what they've been able to accomplish with all their time limitations.
My husband and I talked it over, and decided that this would be okay for me to do. I can do it mostly from home, run the volunteer database from my computer, probably on a jump drive so it's transportable. (Laptop is bigger than budget. Maybe in a few years. A laptop would be better, though, could take it to work sites to streamline new volunteer . . . am getting ahead of myself.)
I like Habitat as a ministry because I can see the need it fills and the results are very visible in people's lives. We have lived a long time paying more in rent than we are supposed to be paying according to the ratios that mortgage issuers have. It is impossible to be low-income and not pay more. Well, maybe if you fit all your family into a studio apartment you can do it. Yet, though a mortgage, traditional, would cost less per month than rent, you can't qualify for enough to actually buy a house. Oh, and because they only allow 1/3 of your income TOTAL to go towards your debts, if you happen to have student loans or medical bills, or are a one-income family, you are in real trouble.
We calculated it out, once, where we lived before. It would have cost more for me to work, with two children under two, than I could have possibly made. But we would have been allowed to borrow nearly twice as much, with less available income. I asked the mortgage officer about that, and he shrugged and said basically "That's the way it is, I don't make the decisions, I have a formula to follow from my headquarters." It's enough to make one buy into conspiracy theories!
Back to Habitat: There are good landlords, there are terrible landlords. Most of those we have had have been decent sorts, a little slower than you'd expect someone with an investment in a property to fix some maintenance issues. But to be able to have a place big enough for a family without having more rent than income, never mind other expenses, one has to compromise. Drafts, leaks, cracks, peeling paint, broken windows fixed by putty or nailing a board, and so on, in exchange for enough space to live at a price one can barely pay.
So I understand what Habitat's all about on a more personal level. I've never had it as bad as a lot of the families Habitat helps has, of course, but I understand it well enough to be passionate about what we're doing. So I'm the new local Volunteer Coordinator. Now, no one's had this job before, exactly, it's kind of been done in a mishmash. So the next step is to figure out what's being done by others, what of that I ought to do (no stepping on toes), and what else I ought to do. I'm looking forward to it.
If you don't know what Habitat for Humanity is, you can go check out www.habitat.org

Thursday, April 21, 2005


We tend to think everyone defines a word in the same way. Except that they don't. Maybe, being in a multinational family, I'm more aware of this. Every couple months we have an incident that ends abruptly with: "Honey, I don't think that I think that word means what you think it means." Definitions get exchanged, problem is solved. We're both native speakers of English, that's not the issue. Culturally, though, words that look and sound the same mean different things. ("Best", for example, to my husband, means favorite. He says: This is my best song. He doesn't mean he wrote or sang the song. He means it's his favorite song.)
My husband came home from work the other day and commented about a fight two of his coworkers had that culminated in one hitting the other. (Both male.) We'll call them A and B. A and B had been goofing off and annoying each other all evening. A unplugged B's monitor from his computer and took the cable. B said: Put it back. A said: Say please. B hit A. (Not joke-hit, knocked the guy sideways hit.) I suspect that when A said: Say please, B heard something very different. Maybe an abusive parent or spouse has said that to him, I don't know. But what he heard wasn't what A thought he said.
Here's a great example, if you've read Nate's blog, http://bloggerblaster.blogspot.com at all, you're probably aware that he defines "Yankee" as someone who fought on the side of the North during the Civil War (War between the States or whatever else you care to call it), and their assorted descendants, and that saying he hates them is probably too mild. I get very defensive about "Yankee"s. So I could go have a big fight with Nate, but it would make no sense to do so. You see, I define the term differently. To me, "Yankee" is someone who fought against the British in the Revolutionary War. Far as I can tell, Nate's got nothing against my definition of "Yankee". Same word, different meanings. Both are technically correct. Does it matter? Not in this instance. I just allow for that difference when I read his blog.
But if it's someone in your family, and there's some word that sets them off, or that seems to inevitably lead to misunderstandings, it might be worth asking: How do you define that word, anyway?

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

April 19, 1775

Nothing else to say.

Monday, April 18, 2005

A Revelation

Sundays we go over to my folks for dinner, either before or after church, depending on my husband's fluctuating work schedule. This was a before-church dinner, with the intention of attending the evening service.
After dinner, Beau is expected to ask to be excused from the table. This is not, normally, a big deal. He has been doing this ever since he could barely manage "Cuse pees." Now he's to the "Poppa (or Daddy), Scuse me please." stage of speaking. Yesterday he refused. We sat there. He was spanked. He screamed. He wouldn't say it.
My mom started trying to distract him.
"Won't you like to come for a walk with me, Beau?" etc.
And I realized, this is why we had so many, many fights. She wimped out. She doesn't like to hear a child cry. So I ignored her. Beau was spanked. He screamed. He wouldn't say it. Nana kept trying to distract him. My dad actually snapped at her. That was weird.
Finally, after forty-five minutes of this, Nana left for church. Daddy took over the discipline end. I took Henry out of the room. Beau screamed. Poppa waited. Beau finally said "Poppa, scuse me please." It took an hour and a half. We were fifteen minutes away from church, and the service was half over. We didn't go.
We came home, and I've been thinking about what happened. I have a lot of trouble with willfulness. Honestly, I hate to have to obey. This is my biggest struggle as a Christian.
I was raised by my non-Christian father and my Christian mother. I've discovered, as an adult, that they made some serious errors in raising me. Some can be attributed to the belief differences. Unfortunately for me, my dad decided to let my mom deal with my tantrums from an early age, apparently. No wonder Mom and I have fought so much. She was never in control, and I can think of nothing worse than being at the mercy of a strong-willed toddler.
This is not the first time Beau has pulled this sort of behavior. He did it earlier in the week, too. He's discovering that while he is very strong-willed, his parents are even more stubborn. He can last for nearly two hours. I don't know how long I can hold out for, but judging from teenage memories, at least a couple days. Mommy's going to win. I have to. Because by the time he's ten, he'll be bigger and stronger than I am. I can't fight these battles later. I already did, from the other side. I know what happens when the child wins. I'm just lucky my rebelliousness didn't get me into more serious trouble than it did.

Monday, April 11, 2005


I was reading over at Insert-Blog-Here: http://haloscan.com/tb/inh765/110667655630877799 Did I do that right? I'm not sure. Anyway, it is in his January archives, if you go there. On economics, part six, on the value of money. I don't really understand economics, at least, I don't think I do. I read Thomas Sowell's Basic Economics, and that made sense, but whatever happens in the American economy is just plain confusing. Maybe it's too complex.
What I do understand is that something in economics is changing, at least where I live. Economics, in my little part of the world, is the exchange of something you have for something I have, in which both of us feel we got the better part of the deal. It always used to involve money, but lately it doesn't.
I teach 'cello lessons, and have half-a-dozen students. In the last couple of months, two of them have come to me, independently, and offered a barter rather than cash. In both cases, the offer is of something of more value to me than to then. The first, new gut strings (very pricey, you can look them up if you like, they are a matched set, silver wrapped) and new rosin, in exchange for five 1 hour lessons. I charge $20 an hour, which is the going rate. That one was a no-brainer. The student is a beginning luthier (instrument maker) and gets such things at wholesale cost. I have to order from a catalog or through a retail outlet. Both of us thought we got the best of the deal. The other student (actually, his mom) is offering a trade of a grand piano for lessons. Recently inherited from a relative, they now have two, which is more than they need or have room for. The offer is under consideration. Should the piano prove to be in generally good condition, I'll take the offer. I couldn't buy one for the value of lessons they're offering to exchange for.
Now, our landlord owns just this one property and lives two hours away. So, we live in an old house, of the sort that constantly needs something done, and usually multiple somethings at once. He was just down last week to work on the plumbing, and when he called two days later to make sure it was working right, I had to report the front steps railing was coming off. There is also a room which needs new paint/wallpaper/something, but half of one wall of paint has come off. A moment of silence on the phone. "If you'll fix that railing and the room, I'll let you take $8 per hour plus supplies off your rent. Just document it for me." "OK." He benefits, we benefit.
Before this year, I never had anyone offer such barters. I looked it up on the IRS website, there's no information about documenting such for taxes, so it must not be something they consider. Doubly valuable to all of us, in that case. Is it just our area that this is happening in? It is a rather poor area of the country, and rural, too. Well, these barter offers really make my day. I just wish we could do more of them, and for more of our basic needs. Look, if any of you are down in southeast Idaho, and you want 'cello lessons and you've got eggs or beef or venison or whatever, or something else I might be able to use, let me know. A barter economy makes great sense to me, and it seems to cost less, too. I'm not sure why that is, but I guess we must be cutting someone else out of the picture, or maybe just cutting the transfer costs of goods/services. Can someone explain this?

Edit: That attempt to link didn't work at all. Okay. Click on this: http://ibh765.blogspot.com/2005_01_01_ibh765_archive.html then scroll down to the post. I am only moderately tech-savvy. That is to say, I know when I should step away from the computer and get help. "Honey! The computer is doing something!" Evidently this is one of those things I do not understand how to make work. I'll figure it out someday.