Spenders and Savers: Can’t We Be Friends?

I don't understand why everyone doesn't rush out to buy milk when they hear snow is on the way. Joke all you want.

I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t rush out to buy milk when they hear snow is on the way. Joke all you want.

Miles run today: 8

Gallons of milk purchased yesterday in anticipation of 2-4″ of snow (actual accumulation: 1/4″): 2

Dollars spent on said milk: 7.80

My friend and I were sitting in our social media class the other day, analyzing all sorts of information about our favorite subject: ourselves.

Ten year goals, five year goals, things that make us unique… our fingers were skipping over the keys like those bendable jump roping kids in a Christmas parade.

Until my fingers kept skipping, and my friend’s didn’t.

Subject: “I Love to Spend Money On…”

My fingers were happy:

1. Boots

2. Trips

3. Things for the kids

4. Clothes

5. Good food

6. Wine

7. Going out with friends…

Until I noticed that my friend’s fingers were not so happy. My eyebrows raised, I glanced at her empty page and tried to cover up the computer screen with my own exhaustive list.

“I hate to spend money,” she said.

“You hate to spend money on wasteful things, like food?”

“I hate to spend money,” she said. “On anything.”

“What about a vacation?”

“No, not really.”

“Or fun stuff for the kids?”

“Maybe… but no, not that either.”

“Not even Disney?”

[Anne trivia break here: When I heard one of the Disney marketing guys speak several years ago, he said that the state sending the most visitors to Disney was New Jersey and that the average family saves for 10 years to afford the vacation.]

“Not even Disney. I hated spending money on that, too.”

I do not have words for this situation.

I remember my grandmother telling me that one of the best things about not having much money was having the satisfaction of saving up for something and eventually being able to buy it. When she got to the point where she could afford to get and do the things she wanted, some of the fun went away.

Being a (conservative) spender at heart, I can agree with her. Early on in our marriage, a fun evening out was having a cup of coffee with friends or roller-blading in an empty parking lot for hours. If we ever bought a new CD or a bottle of cheap wine, it was Party Central.

At that time–15 years ago, to be exact–my husband and I ended up sitting in the office of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

My husband hadn’t been allowed to work for the five months after our wedding while we waited for INS to process his paperwork. (If his plan was to marry a well-off American woman and spend his days watching “Cops,” he could have chosen a more well-heeled candidate; we ate a lot of salads and beans.)

The woman behind the desk was scrutinizing a printout of our checks; my husband and I sat holding hands and scrutinizing the cinderblock walls.

The vulnerability I experienced was akin to wearing a white paper gown at my annual physical exam, and in less well-appointed offices.

The INS lady held the papers out to us and turned them towards me. “Do you see that you have signed all of these checks except one?”

I giggled nervously and scanned the checks: rent, water bill, electrical bill, gas bill, internet bill, doctor co-pay… they were hardly evidence of out-of-control spending.

I looked at my husband, a much better-looking prospective green card holder than Gerard Depardieu.

“I guess I’m the one who pays the bills,” I said, and I felt the blush creeping up into my hairline.

She shook her head and took the papers back.

Good news: my husband got his green card.

Bad news: I still love to spend money on:

1. Boots

2. Trips

3. Fun trail mix

4. Pajamas with birds on them

5. Fluffy towels

6. Sweet tea

7. Door handles for my car

What about you? Is spending such a drag? Please, be honest.

And if you lie and say you hate spending money, please tell me which one thing makes you happy to spend money on.





When You’re 10

The puppy-to-dog process is way, way too quick.

The puppy-to-dog process is way, way too quick.

Miles run today: 0 (long run tomorrow)

Letters received from my sister as a result of my Unofficial Handwrite-a-Letter Day: 1 (yay!)

Age of my baby today: 10

My baby girl turns 10 years old today. (Yes, if you keep up with the blog, you’re probably wondering, “Didn’t we just do this?” My son and daughter are a mere six days (and two years) apart in age.)

She has a penchant for fluffy boots and chocolate, a wildly imaginative inner world and blue eyes that can slice you in half if you aren’t careful.

Back when I was 10, my teacher was a prim, petite, older (50!) woman who tried very hard not to smile at our fifth-grade antics and mostly succeeded.

She was the architect of my first fateful newspaper project, the one that seemed to go on and on and on… and would set a weird precedent for later, more doomed newspaper projects.

She was the impetus for my first nonfiction presentation to the class in which I used a plastic Smurf sailboat to explain fore and aft, port and starboard to my classmates.

And she became the reluctant sex ed/body development teacher she never wanted to be. When one of my friends got what she thought was her period, it set off a crazed fifth-grade rumor mill and parental letter campaign that forced my teacher to address the misinformation, horror and general unrest by teaching us about our bodies long before she was prepared. I felt for her; comprehensive sex ed was not part of her repertoire.

It was a strange year.

When I was in fifth grade, the teenage daughter of another fifth grade teacher was kidnapped from the parking lot of her job at Fashion Bug.

When I was in fifth grade, I went to sleepovers that my mother cringes about to this day, where we left the house in the middle of the night and roamed the neighborhood just because. The mom was MIA.

And when I was in fifth grade, I took one of the worst class pictures ever invented in the history of class pictures that my “friends” have now posted on Facebook. Totally, gag me with a spoon.

Fifth grade was the beginning of ugly, the beginning of having to wash my hair every single day, and the end of the innocent days where sniffing smelly magic markers was the worst thing you could do. Middle school seemed far away, a distant destination that seemed both grown-up and thrilling.

For my daughter, I hope that being 10 is everything she wants it to be, full of warm hoodies and plenty of cake. And I hope that she gets to play in the snow this winter, since she missed it last winter when she was 9.

I think I know what she would say about all of that:

“I know, right?”

New Shoes and Friendship

An old building near our house with a sheltering tree.

Miles run yesterday: 4.5

Chapters revised in my novel so far: 6

Times I had to listen to Paolo Nutini’s “New Shoes” for this post: 4

“Hey, I put some new shoes on, and suddenly everything’s right.”–Paolo Nutini

You would not believe the amazing boots my best friend brought me today. She bought them for a penny.

Just between you and me, I may have a shoe problem.

But I have always been very, very fortunate in the friendship department.

When I was young, I was a girly girl. My 4-year-old dress habit had introduced a dress trend in the preschool set. All the moms who couldn’t get their girls to wear dresses in the past were thrilled.

And one does not wear dresses with laced shoes; dresses certainly don’t belong with tennis shoes. My shoes had buckles.

So when skill tests made the rounds in kindergarten, I passed all of them with flying colors: telephone number, parents’ names, address, cutting with scissors… all except the Shoe Tying test. When we were sitting in Circle Time, I held paper phones, paper houses, paper scissors… and the other kids held paper shoes. With ties. I ignored them.

My mom couldn’t figure out why I kept asking for buckle shoes. When she discovered the reason, she went right out and bought me shoes with ties.

I was devastated.

But I had a secret weapon: my best friend in kindergarten whose middle name, she had told me, was “Bing Bong.” I found this fascinating.

Every day after naptime, I asked her to tie my shoes for me. She did, for many weeks. And then, one day, she said, “Why don’t you tie them yourself?” And then she tore the ears off of my favorite, miniature, blue rubber rabbit. And we weren’t the best of friends after that.

I am still thankful for her shoe tying skills and for the way she encouraged me to be independent.

In college, my best friend was one of the smartest, most well-read people I’ve ever met. She could remember conversations verbatim, and when I cried on her shoulder for the fiftieth night in a row about the same boy, she never once said, “He’s a horrible, no-good idiot.”

She also put up with an awful lot of talk about shoes. When you walk miles and miles around campus and up to Franklin Street and back to the dorm and then out on the town again, you have to have shoes that go the distance.

One Halloween, I had bought nifty black shoes (with ties!) that had a cool, hip granny vibe about them. We dressed up as black eyed peas (before the music group existed) and joined the throngs of people showing off their costumes at the big Halloween celebration downtown.

Me: My shoes are getting ruined! Look at them.

Her: We can clean them off later.

Me: They won’t clean off. They won’t. Maybe I should just stop walking.

Her: Stop walking, and we’re sleeping in the street. Is that what you want?

There was an element of tough love in our relationship.

And she saw me through very many pairs of shoes; shoes with soles that had been walked right through, and new ones that we exclaimed over together. Sometimes, because of our shared interests and big, curly hair, we looked similar from our heads right down to our toes.

People would say, “Are you two sisters? You look so similar!”

And she would reply, “Yes. I’m the pretty one.”

I will never forget when I was going for my first job with a salary, and I was unsure whether I had a chance at getting it.

She looked me straight in the eye and said, “They would be fools not to hire you. There’s no doubt in my mind that you’ll get it.”

And I did.

Yesterday, I went out for lunch and a quick shop with my BFF. She may have a bigger shoe problem than I do, but don’t tell her I said that.

We are bound together by the excitement about new running shoes, new boots, the joy of wearing rain boots in the puddles.

While we were shopping, I found a pair of lace-up (!) black boots with faux fur that had been $220 and were reduced to $33.

I carried them around the store and then put them back. I didn’t need the guilt.

“I could get them for you for Christmas! I don’t have any ideas!” she said.

“Please don’t, it’s fine. Really.”

Today, she showed up on my doorstep with a hug, a card and The Boots. When she drove back to the store and went to the register, they rang them up and charged her a penny because they were out on the floor in error.

A penny.

I told her she was the luckiest person I knew.

But really, I know I’m the lucky one to have such a good friend, one who never has to buy or give me another thing to make me feel rich. My life has been blessed by all of the friends who have changed me… for good.

The Blame Game

Why did you hurt me when all I do is show you love?

Times I have been injured while wearing running shoes: 2

Times I have been injured while wearing any other kind of shoe: immeasurable

Times my son has run into a stationary object: at least 5

I have a love affair with shoes. And boots. Sandals, too.

But like a few bad choices I’ve made in my life, my affection was misplaced this week.

When I walked outside before heading on our long car trip the other day, the ground was a little wet. I walked back inside on our wood floors, and one foot started to slip out from under me. I did catch myself, then went along on my merry way, driving three hours there, then three hours back. By nightfall, serious pain. Unrelenting pain.

I find the pain unfair. The boots I wore were chosen with care. They are my favorites: flat, not tight, none of the “wow, I can’t believe you’re wearing heels that high! Don’t you worry you’ll fall?” issues some of my shoes might cause. These were my safety choice. And they failed me.

What does a runner do when she can’t run? She blames her horrible boots and swears never to wear footwear again. I was once barefoot, and to bare feet I shall return. Well, not really. Shoes are so pretty.

My kids like to blame each other when something doesn’t go their way.

“I didn’t get my piano practiced because she went first, and I didn’t have time!”

“I fell because after I pushed him, he bit my arm!”

And finally, “They shouldn’t have put the mailbox right there.” (More on that in a minute.)

Because my sister lives 30 minutes away, I don’t get to blame her for things that go wrong. I find this unfair; isn’t this what siblings are for? So I blame my husband. He lives here but is usually at work, so I can mutter under my breath about the ways he has wronged me.

Sometimes, I can’t find the scissors. I use scissors a lot, and I can’t even tell you how. I don’t craft, I don’t use those particular scissors for sewing, and I don’t make paper dolls (much). But there are times when I need my scissors, and they aren’t there. This is when I start muttering under my breath and pacing around the house like a crazy person. Until I find them, and they are in the guest room on the floor where I was wrapping a birthday present. And my husband never, ever wraps birthday presents. Maybe I can blame him for that, too.

I also find it helpful and fun to blame my husband for genetic defects in our children. When they are horrible, I like to think about how his English genes, long trapped on an island, are wreaking havoc inside our otherwise perfectly lovely children.

And although their need for braces can be tracked right down through my fourth and fifth grade photos which are now posted on Facebook by some malicious classmate, I decided recently that their weird right canine teeth must be a direct result of my husband’s genes. I told him this. And then I looked at his mouth, really long and hard. Dangit. His teeth are perfect. And he never had braces. But he did point out that my right canine tooth sticks out just a bit. To his credit, he did not try to punch it back into place.

Our children also have a tendency to run into stationary objects. I have tried not to think about how this will impact their futures, but I can’t help but worry when I yell, “Be careful!” And they yell back, “Oh Mom, I’m not going to get hurt!”

Hmm. Tell that to the mailbox. And that parked car on our street. And the sidewalk.

My son has biked into the mailboxes on our street a total of four times. They are not especially large structures, not the richie-rich stone-with-gargoyle variety, but a simple wooden cross with black metal box on top. Despite the overwhelming expanse of asphalt, he has plowed into these innocent postal boxes at full speed again and again.

While entranced with my husband’s new GPS watch, he managed to plow into a parked car on the street. Luckily, the car was not in pristine condition, and the impact probably served to straighten out an earlier indentation.

Owner’s thoughts: “I won’t ask them to pay for the damages, because this kid’s future is uncertain and obviously costly. Although maybe another incident like that will push that wacky canine tooth back in place.”

My daughter has also hit the mailbox with her bike. (I just realized this may be the reason that the door hangs open in a slight breeze.)

But worse than that, she took a bad fall along a flat stretch of cement a few years ago.

When I asked her what happened, she said through her tears, “I don’t want to tell yououououou… hoooo hoooohoooo.”

“Why not?”

“Because I was… I was…. running with my eyes closed. Bwawhooowhooowoo…”

“But why?”

“It’s just so, so fun. Bwajawhaowoooaooooo…”

They get it from my husband. I’m sure it’s his fault.

Except that I can remember a time, in a very, very tight space in a college town parking garage, when I was backing out. A nice, good ol’ boy type was helping guide me from the safety of a few feet (yards) away. When suddenly, I felt a small, slow impact. (It was very slow.)

“Well, that’s why they have those breakaway mirrors, I guess,” he said, with a slight shake of his head.

I think it’s stupid that they put cement posts in the middle of a parking lot.

And I think that I am very angry at my foot for getting hurt when it was really my hip that was the reason I was taking a couple of days off running. That probably sounds like an old woman. In which case, I am blaming old age.