The Lilies of the Field

The Lillies of My Garden

Originally uploaded by thewriterbee

Just wanted to quickly share a picture I took earlier this week when I got home from work. The light was just right and the flowers were looking particularly stunning.

“See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you?” (Matthew 6:28-30)

Murphy Strikes Again

I don’t know what your opinion is on bees, but for the most part I like them. I guess that’s probably kinda a given – just look at my name, my web address, and blog. Honey bees are probably my favorite because I love honey. Bumble bees I think are just plain cute. However yellowjackets, hornets, and wasps I can’t really say I have much love for…especially when they decide to take up residence in my home.

It started maybe 2 weeks ago when I caught Chena playing with a yellowjacket in the kitchen. I killed it and thought nothing else about it figuring it must have just flown in the door when someone was on their way in or out. The second one I found in the living room and still didn’t cry “NEST!” The third one is when I started to get suspicious. My parents were visiting last week and as we were getting ready to leave the house, I heard a lot of commotion upstairs. I called up and asked if they were ready to go and my mom yelled down, “Hang on! We’re killing a bee!” The fourth I found when I got home late last Saturday night. I came into the house and was walking upstairs when I noticed something rather large on the wall. Yellowjacket…again. Hm.

I talked to my uncle about it last night who said that yes, it did sound like I might have a nest somewhere. In the attic, perhaps? Or maybe by the dryer duct? I had decided to wait until this weekend and have a look around to see if I could spot any massive bee comings and goings around the outside of my house, but then I found the fifth bee who was also the last straw.

This morning I got up, let Chena out, showered, dressed, and headed into the kitchen as per usual to make some coffee and breakfast when I nearly stepped on a yellowjacket on the floor of the kitchen…in bare feet, I might add. Can anyone think of a nicer way to start the day?

That did it for me.

I called Terminix when I got to the office and they came out this afternoon to do a sweep of the house and, low-and-behold, found two yellowjacket nests. One is strategically placed just to the right of my front door, and the other is conveniently in the attic. And for the bottom basement price of just $440, they will rid my home of the nests, the bees, and any other creepy-crawleys (read: spiders, ants, fleas, silverfish) for a whole year. Hm.

It’s not that $440 is necessarily a bad price – in fact I think getting rid of the bees alone, not to mention the ants, is a huge help and certainly worth it, I just don’t understand why this had to happen NOW. I mean, I’ve been in this house almost 3 years and it’s not until the year I start my new financial plan that I get nasty yellowjacket squatters. What’s up with that?

Thankfully, I have my emergency fund and, well, I know that’s what it’s there for, but I do feel like every time I get finished replenishing it, something else happens forcing me to dip into it again. I guess it’s true what Dave says about the emergency fund being “Murphy repellent” insomuch that it takes the crisis out of the financial aspect of minor emergencies, but what it doesn’t do is keep him away completely. Sigh.

Why can’t Terminix exterminate against Murphy? Now THAT would be worth $440.

Beans & Rice

First and foremost, I have a victory to celebrate. I paid off another credit card last week! …and the crowd goes wild… Payment posted on 6/26 which was also 8 months ahead of schedule from what I thought when I started my debt snowball. That’s the power of hitting it with gazelle intensity for ya! Yay! So to Providian/WaMu I can now echo the immortal words of Clark Griswold from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, “Eat my rubber!”

Second, I think that going through this whole deal as a single person has some definite perks (e.g. I don’t have to worry about getting and keeping someone else “on board”) but it also has its pitfalls. For one, if I start to falter in my motivation to keep running this race, there’s no one around to keep me from just sitting down on the bench and calling it a day.

Paying off that additional credit card (the first I’ve paid off since February, I might add) helped renew my energy for sure, but now I’m looking at probably 7 or 8 more months before I’m able to check another off. Upon this realization, I felt the vigor induced by my recent win start to fade. So in an effort to keep it alive, I decided to go back and try to figure out how I got to the place where I now have so much to pay off of this one last major card (I think the balance currently stands around $8,600 and was pushing $10,000 when I started). I mean seriously, what on earth did I buy for that much money? I mean, it’s not like I went hog-wild and upgraded my entire living situation. I didn’t revamp my wardrobe. I don’t have any shoes worth more than $80. I didn’t install some super-fab surround-sound home theater system. Nor did I put in the hardwood floors and tile I want so badly. And my backyard still sits patio-less. So honestly, where did all this credit card money I spent last year go?

Just to get some perspective around this, you have to understand that I started out 2008 with a total of almost $27,000 in credit card debt. Yikes. Makes me sick to even type that. This year to-date, I have paid off roughly $17,000 of that, most of which was done when my bonus/tax refund hit in February.

So for kicks, I went back and grabbed all of my credit cards’ year-end statement summaries where they kindly provide all of my transactions for the year and even categorize them for me. Of course I didn’t agree with some of the categorizations, so I consolidated them all into one Excel spreadsheet and then re-categorized them myself so they would fall more inline with the way I categorize my spending today. The sums of which resulted in a major “holy freaking cow” moment.

And so where did all my money for last year go? Apparently I ate a good chunk of it – like $500/month worth. Another decent portion went to travel (no surprise there). And then there were a lot of bits and pieces along the way which by their lonesome weren’t much, but added up over time. Would you believe over $100/month of the charges on the cards collectively were in fees?? Finance charges, balance transfers, cash advances, etc. Total, utter insanity and further evidence of my growing conviction that credit cards are, indeed, pure evil.

My “budget” (and I use that term VERY loosely) for 2007 was a total joke…and a bad joke at that. Granted, I had a lot of fun – one might argue maybe a little too much fun – but in looking back and weighing the cost, I have to admit that it really wasn’t worth it.

This year, I am THRILLED to say, is looking just a tad different. To give you some apples-to-apples, my average food spending so far this year is in the $200/month range (really closer to $150 except for the last two months were I kinda blew it) – that’s 40% of what it was last year. Travel is also averaging at about 0.03% of 2007’s total spending.

2008 is half over which means I’m now a quarter of my way to becoming debt free. Yes, I know when I first started blogging about this I thought I’d be there by next June, but after doing some more careful evaluating of my current debt, I discovered that I have more than I thought I did and so it will really be taking me through 2010 to kill it all

2011 and forward will be fun for sure (I still have an Antarctica trip to reschedule, after all) so it’s that debt-free side of the fence I’m trying to keep my focus on. But – and here’s the rub – in order to get there, I need to remain motivated to live like no one else (beans-and-rice, rice-and-beans) so that later I can live like no one else (wine-and-cheese, cheese-and-wine).

So pass the beans, please.