Sunday, July 24, 2011

LOFT LIFE: Who is Juanita?

All my friends keep saying Jay had better die before me because he will never be able to figure out where all of our money is. That is to say, I do the budget, pay the bills, and decide on the credit cards, and, trust me, I have a very complicated system.
It all started because, I am dyslexic, which my friend April says I am not--she says I have a visual processing disorder (actually, it’s easier just to say I’m dyslexic. I mean, can’t I simplify even this?) Anyway, I decided, after we signed up for four extra credit cards on our 25th anniversary airplane trip to our cruise to the Caribbean, (they gave us free airline tickets) that since we were up to eight credit cards, and since I have this visual processing disorder, I would just use the eight cards as an accounting system. So I used each of the cards for a different category of purchase: Jay’s budget, My budget, travel, dining, business, household products, memberships, and business travel.
My CPA told me that was a fine system, however complex, if it worked for me.
So I created my Payment Grid, which on a monthly basis, I would fill out like a table to see the date, the balance, the payment made, the date due  and which bank it would be paid from--Umm--forgot to mention that I also have five banks with several accounts in each, also in categories. *Sigh* The table also lists the last four digits of the credit cards (which amazingly I had memorized).
That worked fine until the banks started sending us REPLACEMENT cards with different ending digits, and then also sending Jay and me different numbers if we were signers on the same cards--which we always are. That meant there were now SIXTEEN credit card numbers.
Now I look at my payment grid, and NONE of the original numbers are the same as when I started this five years ago. I also tried showing Jay the grid once, hoping he would see it, say how clever it was, and want to study it. But, no. That did not appeal to him at all. Really, the reason bill paying fell to me early on in the marriage, was that this is not Jay’s bailiwick. He hates sitting still for the time it takes. We originally tried "the sitting at the table together paying bills routine," and we would get about fifteen minutes into it and Jay would need to go to the kitchen for something, or check something in the backyard, or the garage--which meant, I would not be seeing him again for quite awhile, certainly not in that evening. I ended up finishing the bills myself. I got the message. “How about I just do this, honey?” which was fine with him.
So recently, I started thinking of all the pressure this system of mine puts on poor Jay to die first. I mean, I don’t want him to even have to think about doing that. So, because this system is degenerating, and because I have decided to simplify our finances so Jay doesn’t have to die at all, and because all the numbers are now on their third round of being REPLACED by the banks, and because we now use an American Express card which breaks down all purchases into categories for me, I am reducing the cards to a mere THREE: American Express, business and travel.
I still plan to do my payment grid for the three cards, and to break out all of the categories monthly to track spending. But, this is a whole lot simpler. Except I accidentally paid a couple of the EIGHT cards twice and have credit balances on them, so I can’t retire them quite yet. And I received yet ANOTHER replacement card for a card I haven’t used in months, so I don’t remember my ID and password to activate it online, so I will be able to put this card away again and NOT use it.
I tried the online chat thing with Bank of America. That was a huge mistake. After the agent apologized for fifteen minutes and told me how much she understood my frustration, she still hadn’t even asked me the first security question.
I almost worked myself into apoplexy with this person after another ten minutes, when she started the process by asking me for my daughter’s social security number (she is NOT on any of our cards). Then she asked for information about someone named Juanita! I have nothing against Juanita, and at the risk of being politically incorrect, have NO IDEA who Juanita is. I assure you this is certainly no one in our family. So, why would a B of A employee ask me this? Wait. I know. It is for my protection. Security. Right. The system to protect me is so complicated and dysfunctional that if some criminal wants to get into my account, I am sure they can. BUT I CAN’T! I am locked out by all the so-called security measures, like not knowing who Juanita is, let alone what her relationship to my account is supposed to be. 
I ended the chat and called B of A. A cordial, English-speaking young man answered, and we activated the dormant card in five minutes.
Do any of you see something wrong with this picture?
I think I need to simply my life some more and get B of A out of my life completely, before I keel over from sheer exhaustion at dealing with this new world of “protecting me” from myself.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

LOFT LIFE: Uncle Sandy and Aunt Gail

I have told you how much we love the Mystic, CT area. We escape there whenever possible. It is a great adventure to discover all the town and its surroundings have to offer.
This time, we shopped in Olde Mystick Village, where we purchased some wonderful new kitchen items, and I perused books about local color, and learned, for instance that Pepperidge Farm is a Connecticut icon. I always thought it had a great taste, but didn’t know the history of the farm. From now on, whenever my commercial choices are limited, I will patronize this farm’s products. Reading the ingredients, amazingly, it isn’t really a bad choice. (I am considering, however, just bypassing chemicals, additives, and highly processed “whole grain” bread available commercially, and making my own bread. I’m now doing that with yogurt and will never look back. No sugar, no preservatives: live food. So delicious.)
But, enough about me. 
We ate at Ten Clams again, where no dish is more than $10, hence the name. Jay had a sirloin steak with potatoes and mixed vegetables, which for that price was quite a good value and was delicious (of course I did my usual, I don’t want that, I’ll just have a bite of yours).
We spent a day at Foxwoods, exploring the small city there and playing a little and enjoying $1 coffees and juice. July 4th, we did Mystic Seaport, where restoration work on the Charles W. Morgan whaleship, the last wooden whale ship in the world, is coming along nicely. This time we also attended the planetarium show, Saturn being up close this time of year, and it was very informative and fun.
The highlight of the trip for me was meeting the Beechers: Sandy and Gail, who own the Roseledge Herb Farm. (
I always research the B&B market, and this time, decided Roseledge looked good. They sounded friendly, the reviews were good, and the description of the fresh farm breakfast sounded irresistible, with ingredients fresh from their own gardens.
The first afternoon, I was looking for a book in their library and have always wanted to read Uncle Tom’s Cabin, so seeing a copy on their bookshelf off of the lovely dining area overlooking the lush herb garden, I picked it up. I began reading by the sunlit window at the front of this cozy historic property.

When I mentioned how much I was enjoying the book, Gail pointed out a tidbit I had completely missed--Beecher, as in Harriet Beecher Stowe, was a relative of her husband’s. Talk about a Connecticut icon!

It’s amazing how once you make this sort of connection, how much more meaningful everything around you becomes. I was reading a historic book, by an author who truly changed the world, right in the presence of one of her descendants.   
I drank in the story Harriet Beecher tells, so much more appreciative of the parts about New England, which might have just been a blip without my new knowledge of her Connecticut roots. She had been steeped in the New England culture, so her contrast of that upbringing with that of those in the Deep South, where her story is situated, were all the more impacting.
Those of you who have read this masterpiece, please forgive me for my newness to this. But, as I read, I can’t help but find myself worshipping God for the Christian spirit with which this author calls out to us all, a call to action and a change of heart.
As I read St. Clare’s soliloquies, especially, my soul can hardly be contained with the mixture of sorrow and wisdom she imparts through him. It changes me deeply. If you have read it, many years ago, I implore you to re-read it and to gain from it a new perspective, you may not have had many years ago.
I also think of Karthryn Stockett’s recent bestseller, The Help, which moved me in much the same way for its telling of the ‘60s of our own time and, sadly seeing how little progress we actually had made in cultural attitudes, since Harriet Beecher’s storytelling.

Roseledge Herb Farm, the property itself, did not belong to Harriet’s family’s, yet, nevertheless, is steeped in a history, both from its original owner, John Meech, and from the heritage Sandy and Gail bring to it. I'm sure, they are in a long line of appreciative Connecticut patriots, which I also am becoming.
In any case, the book absorbed me every afternoon, as I sat by my sunny window, with Indoor Cat at my neck, and a tall glass of fresh lemonade or a wonderful glass of Merlot at my side. There were also fresh cookies, and leftover blueberry breakfast muffins in the afternoon, which, unfortunately, I could not resist.
Gail had greeted us from her work in the garden on the first hot, humid afternoon, and I thought she looked a bit embarrassed to have been “caught” before she could get herself in the hostess mode. She seemed apologetic, and maybe tired. What she didn’t know was how endearing this was. This place was obviously a lot of work for two people: the home, the restoration, the gardening, the harvesting, the meal planning, the cooking, the serving, and the cleaning, not to mention running the business itself with all that requires. But, what we saw was the loving and caring they both showed, and we appreciated that it was all for us--and their other guests.
This lodging truly felt like a home, and I will consider it one of our homes away from home in future trips to Mystic.