Beauty, economy, Food

Hungry in the Summer and in Sahel

If you have eaten a meal in the last few days, please take a moment to consider your good fortune.  If you have been able to feed your children, please take a moment to consider yourself very blessed.  Remember that there are people around you who are starving, and who watch their children starve, and please remember that summertime is one of the worst times for hungry families. 

During the school year, kiddos at least have access to school breakfast and lunch.  In the summer…those are just two more meals for families to try to figure out.  The North Texas Food Bank offers children meals during the summer at their Kids Cafe.  This is a great place to share what you have, even if you are donating just a dollar or two every month.  Every cent helps.

The North Texas Food Bank has a program to help children at risk of food insecurity and chronic hunger over the weekends, as well.  Doesn’t “chronic hunger” just break your heart?  I can’t stand it when I think Thor has been hungry for more than an hour.  I can’t imagine him being hungry for days on end.

Lainey, of Lainey Gossip, posted this today and I want to share it with you.  First and foremost, I recommend helping the hungry where you are, but we must also always remember the people who live in other nations, who have less than nothing. 

Last year we saw the worst hunger crisis this century in the Horn of Africa. Now a similar crisis is spreading across the continent’s Sahel zone.The hunger has reached crisis levels in countries including Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Chad. Across the region, erratic rainfall, endemic poverty, low crop yields, and rising prices for staple foods have combined to create this crisis.

The Humanitarian Coalition member agencies are already hard at work across the Sahel. Their ongoing projects in the areas of water and sanitation, food security, education, and women’s empowerment are helping vulnerable communities counter the effects of food shortages.

The Humanitarian Coalition is currently appealing for support to address the drought and food crisis in the Sahel. 80% of donors give on-line. Here’s how your gift would help:

$50 – buy milk to treat a severely malnourished child for 3 weeks
$100 – feed a family for 5 months
$250 – feed 5 families for a month
$500 – pay a nurse for a month, to care for malnourished children

Please click here to support the Humanitarian Coalition.

Again, I encourage you to share as you can.  Even the smallest donation helps.  And if you can encourage your friends to donate, so much the better.  Ten friends with a dollar each can make an impact.  Ten friends with five dollars each can feed hungry, little children.  Ten friends with ten dollars each can feed one of those hungry families for 5 months.

Economics, economy, School

Bulls, Bears, and Toilet Paper Bits

I know it isn’t going to win me any fans to admit that I am really clueless about the stock market, but I am.  It’s one of those things that I know just enough about to be able to smile and nod with some confidence, but not enough about which to carry on any conversation beyond, “Wow…I can’t believe what a hit [insert the name of whichever company NPR reported taking a dive in the market] took today.”

I determined that I would learn about it.  And then, I found myself fixating on the shape of the font Wikipedia uses, and how much I like their logo, and not at all on what I was reading.  Try again tomorrow.  Or, if any of you care to enlighten me further than the following, please do!  I’m all eyes.

As I understand it (and I understand it only because David Bowie sold stock in David Bowie and I really wanted some–rock stars, driving my self-propelled educational interests since 1982), companies that are publicly traded allow investors to buy shares in their company.  It’s a bit like if a landowner had 4,000 acres and decided to sell parcels of land to ghost owners.  The Ghost Owners would profit based on the production of all 4,000 acres, regardless of which parcel of land they owned.  Worth would be determined by how many parcels of land you had purchased, based on the percentage of land made available by the Land Owner. 

Worth would also be determined by perceived value.  If no one wanted your land parcels, they wouldn’t be worth much, and you would have to offer them at a much reduced selling price to entice buyers.  If everyone wanted a piece of your action, you could charge out the wazzoo.

Perception would be determined by past and projected performance, and on speculation as to whether or not the land had staying power.  If the Land Owner hasn’t rotated crops in 4 years, one might speculate soil depletion and devalue the price of the land parcel, thus devaluing the shares.  If the Land Owner has taken exceptional care of his land, and has just invested in improvements that will increase his ability for output next year (even though the improvements cost some money) one might speculate a boom and value for the shares would remain stable or increase.

If too many people wanted out of their shares at once, the Land Owner could face financial doom–that’s his backing to run the company.  Shares are sort of a loan from the public, and the health of the stock has a lot to do with the health of full finances.

I have no idea the difference between Bull and Bear markets.  I don’t like getting animals involved.  I feel sorry for them.  Like what Republicans have done to Elephants–poor things!  But, I think Bull markets are good, and Bears are bad.  Yes, confirms this.  I will remember this as:  When the market is good, take the bull by the horns.  When the market is bad…well, some days the bear gets you.  Or I will remember the toilet paper commercials with the baby bear, who frequently has bits of toilet paper stuck to his bum…bears are nasty.  Who came up with that?  That’s gross.  Ooh!  Or, I will think of the Snuggle Fabric Softener bear.  When the market goes south, you need snuggles.

Yeah.  So this is what it looks like when Lib Arts majors show an interest in the stock market.  Please feel free to fill in gaps, correct misunderstandings, or just agree with me that it is nasty to suggest that people who use Angel Soft go around with bits of toilet paper stuck to their backsides.

economy, parenting, Politics, Thor

Civics and the Six-Year-Old

Thor loves NPR and the Classical music station, and has since he was old enough to express a preference by screaming his lungs out when I tried to change to the pop channel.  Because he listens to NPR (and I swear to you, he ASKS to listen to NPR–believe me there are days I’d rather be letting the Top 40 fill my work-vacant brain) he hears a lot of talk of politics, and he asks some pretty good questions for a 1st Grader.

Last week, on our 5 minute drive, after a recap of his understanding of the 2-Party System, he asked me, “So what’s the difference between Democrats and Republicans?”

Uh…in a nutshell?  And impartially?  Geez.

I tried to explain that the Ds were usually more liberal socially, preferred for the Government to be very involved in daily life, and were more likely to spend money on people, and that Rs were more conservative socially, preferred small government, and were more likely to spend money on industry and business.  He then asked what was liberal, and what was conservative, and I said liberal socially meant fewer rules about how people should live their private lives (which was ironic, since many liberals like the Government to make more rules) and conservative meant more rules about how people should live their private lives (with the reciprocal irony.)

And then Thor asked, “So what about the money?”

I said, “It’s kind of like this.  Say you have no money.  The Democrats would ask the Government to give you $2 a week forever.”

He interrupted, “I don’t have any money!  They would give me money?!”

“But…  The Republicans would give $5 a week to a business, hoping that business would give you a job.  The job would pay you $3 a week, but the idea is that you can work hard and get a promotion, then make $5 a week, then get another promotion and make $15 a week.  So you would have a shot at improving your life and be more upwardly mobile.”

“Three is more than two,” he calculated.  “But then I have to get a job.”

“Dude, you are going to have to get a job anyway.  No deadbeats.  So, do you understand?”

“Yep.  Which one is better?”

“Neither.  Both sides want the same thing–a strong country where people are happy.  They just have different ideas about how to get there.”

“What are you?”


“And what are they?”

“Ask Daddy.”

“Cool.  Can I have a treat after dinner tonight?”


I’m sure I over-simplified or screwed that up majorly somehow, but B is the political mind in the family.  I keep hoping one day Thor will ask me a question that is easy to answer.  Like, “Mama, what kind of corsage should I get my prom date?”

B, economy, housing, School, slum lords, Thor, Uncategorized

For Sale or Lease

This time last year (and at this point I stopped writing the entry to go and renew my energy plan, having reminded myself it was about to expire!) we were planning our move from The Country House (that place in a pocket neighborhood, out by the cows) into The Town House (a literal townhouse apartment.)  It was a lot of effort, actual blood, sweat, and tears, but in the end, it’s been a fantastic decision for us.  We lost 700 sq. ft. in the move, but we gained exponential multiplications of satisfaction–especially as our daily commutes were concerned.  (And here I had to stop to make sure we had signed our lease for the next 12 months.)

We put The Country House on the market in April, and by August were starting to panic.  In those four months, we had about six views on the house.  Our realtor called with some bad news.  There were over a dozen homes in the neighborhood in foreclosure, some nearly twice the size of ours, listed at 5k less.  And the homes the size of ours…well.  Let’s just say we did the math, figured out our lowest asking price, swallowed back that lump in our throats, and dropped our listing by about 6k.  That got us two more views.

In mid-August, we contacted a property management company, to help us lease the home.  Our PM was excited about the house and the neighborhood, and was sure we’d be able to get renters in by Labor Day.  By early October, we had dropped our already majorly-inexpensive lease fee by another hundred dollars.  Thank Vesta (goddess of home and hearth for those of you who aren’t Classics nerds) we finally found renters, who moved in last week.

After PM fees, fence repair, carpet cleaning, pro-h0usekeeping scrubdown, and the dredges of half a months worth of utility and yard maintenance bills, we’ll break just about even on the deal in December.  But we did have to cut our lease so low that with PM fees, we are taking a small hit.  Much better, much, much better than a hit for the full mortgage and HOA fees, but still a hit.

And we were smart, y’all.

When we bought our house in 2005, we were approved for more than twice what we chose.  B was smart and paid us out of debt before we started our house-quest, so we went into our mortgage in an excellent position.  We bought WELL within our means, so that if something happened to one of our jobs, we would still have a place to live.  And then we both worked hard to improve our means.  I hope B won’t mind me bragging on the massive amounts of time, energy, and self-sacrifice involved in his certification classes that netted him better jobs.  I am extremely proud of him.

So what happened?

Well, we both got better paying jobs–and after I had been laid off, we needed those jobs.  A major factor in our move came down to Thor’s school.  It worked like this:

  • If we took the better paying jobs, we doubled our commute times.
  • If our jobs were 8–5 with no early mornings, or late nights, traffic would mean leaving the neighborhood by 6:30AM, and getting home around 7PM.
  • Thor’s school doors opened at 7:30AM, and the on-site afterschool care closed at 6:30PM
  • We were so far out of range, there were no other before or afterschool care options that fit our needs.  It’s not like you can just give a 5-year-old a house key and teach him to make a grilled cheese.
  • If we didn’t take the better paying jobs…well, that wasn’t an option.

See the problem?  And we sure couldn’t afford private school!

So we moved.  Best decision we made all year.

And really, thank goodness for the new renters.  We have at least 12 months of breathing room now, and hopefully they will love the home and either renew the lease, or want to buy it outright.  (I’m not even going to think about the what-ifs involved in repairs we might face next November.  No.  Not going to do it.)