Christmas Trees and Savings Bonds

Christmas tree and cat
Puffies the cat survives a bout with curiosity.

We got our Christmas tree a little earlier than usual this year. As we often do, we bought it from the lot run by the local Optimist International chapter.

As we were decorating it, my son and I reminisced about the time when he won first place in a safety poster competition sponsored by this same group. He was in second grade at the time.  He’d chipped his top front teeth in a playground mishap not long before, and a photo of his damage teeth played a prominent role as he advised kids to slow down and use caution when climbing.

As we laughed about it, a thought occurred to me. “You won a savings bond for that,” I told him.

He said, “Oh, yeah. I had forgotten about it.”

“I had, too,” I said. “I haven’t thought about it in a long time.”

There was a pregnant pause as significant looks were exchanged. My son is now 21 and could use a few extra dollars. I told him I was confident it had to be in the house somewhere. I would see if I could find it.

Guess what! That’s right –chicken butt. Also, I found the $50 savings bond in a folder of his old school papers. It was issued in 2006, a few days after his eighth birthday.

As far as I can remember, it’s the only government savings bond I have ever touched. I had never really researched them. I had a vague idea you had to keep them for a long while before they were worth the full amount. Ten years maybe? Ten years seemed like it had to be right. We looked it up.

It’s twenty. Twenty years! You can cash them in after one year, but the longer you wait, the more they’re worth, until they mature to the full amount, where they sit static, no longer drawing interest. The U.S. Treasury Department has an online calculator that will give you the value of your bond. My son’s is currently worth $41.12.

I asked him if it was worth it to wait six and a half years to earn another $8.88. He immediately started calculating for inflation and told me it would be a wash if he held onto it until he was 28 in order to earn the $1.37 per year interest. He is like me in that he tends to save more than spend. But I’m pretty sure he’s going to cash it in before the end of the year.

If you, Dear Reader, would like extra holiday cash to come your way, sharing this post as if it were an old-fashioned chain letter will do nothing for you. But I hope you enjoyed the anecdote and that good things come your way. Enjoy the season!

 

 

Thanking Those Who Came Before

group of people making toast
Photo by fauxels on Pexels.com

Where would I be without, well, everyone else? My goal for this Thanksgiving day is to notice and appreciate on a continual basis, to realize how much of what I have, what allows me to survive and thrive and experience joy and convenience is due to all of the people who came before me.

Take my home. The land where my home is built once was part of the Osage region. I am grateful to the centuries of people who maintained the land and area, keeping it healthy and in balance for generations to come. I am thankful to the builders of my house, both the family that paid for it to be built more than 100 years ago and the workers who provided the labor. I’m thankful to the other owners and residents of the home, who did maintenance and made improvements through the years before we came to live here.

When I took a hot shower this morning, I thought of the folks who planned and built our city’s infrastructure, allowing us to have water come right into our house with the turn of a tap. I also thought of my husband, who recently replaced a valve after we weren’t getting hot water in the shower.

I put on my jeans, mindful of the fact that someone invented jeans, other someones sewed this very pair, and somewhere along in the course of human history, somebody designed the first zipper, which caught on and made for a very convenient item of clothing.

The brussels sprouts I’m roasting in the oven as I type were grown and harvested by others, and I thank them. They were transported and put on the store shelf by other people. The baking sheet I’m using was manufactured by someone somewhere.

Almost every last thing I have and do was made possible by the efforts of other people who came before me somewhere in the process. And the air I breathe is supplied to a large extent by trees. So I thank the trees, too.

If anyone reads this, thank you for reading, connecting and contributing to the world in whatever ways you do.

Things That Scare Me

I like Halloween. It’s fun to be scared just a little, and I have a dark sense of humor. Plus, what’s more enjoyable than dressing up in costumes and sharing treats?

Speaking of scary, here’s a short list of real world things that frighten me on a regular basis, not just once a year.

Sidewalk grates.

Sidewalk Grates, photo, Steven Pisano
Credit: Steven Pisano

I won’t walk on them if I can avoid it. Laugh at me all you want. I’m always convinced I’ll fall through if I step on one. It happens, folks.

 

Driving behind cement mixers.

Cement Truck
Credit: Anfecaro

The slow spin feels ominous to me, as if it’s building up to something. Maybe something like suddenly spewing wet cement, entrapping my car, or at least causing me to wreck. My brain contains a full library of images of what exactly could happen to my vehicle in the event of an unscheduled cement truck discharge, which is also a thing that happens.

 

Driving behind car carriers.

Car carrier trailer
Credit: Bob Adams

You know those trucks with the automotive shelving units trailing behind? The ones where multiple cars are chained to ramps that point right down at whoever happens to be following them. I hate getting stuck behind those, watching the half dozen or more cars bounce around, wondering how strong those chains are, and trying to formulate  startegies to avoid a pile up if some driverless sedans break their bonds and come zooming head-on in my direction. Guess what? It’s happened.

 

Exploding Biscuit Cans

I don’t know if one has ever injured or killed a person, but every time I open one, my heart rate soars, my breathing becomes rapid and shallow, and I jump almost out of my skin at the noise. This is what I imagine, every time:

 

Happy Halloween tomorrow. Sleep well tonight!

Little Daily Sunflower Seed Party

My husband was faster than the squirrels this year when it came to harvesting sunflower seeds. This pic is from nearly four weeks ago. The seeds are nearly gone now.

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Notice the fancy containers! We’re high class around here.

When I think about the effort that went into getting these, and the time it takes to shell them for snacks, I realize why overeating might not have been an option for most people in most places throughout the history of the world. I certainly appreciate my food more.

I feel like I’m having a fun little party every day when I eat a few. For a couple of minutes, I get to slow down and enjoy opening tiny presents with miniature treasures inside. It’s as much about the process as anything, a good exercise in mindfulness and joy.

Make your small daily celebrations where you can, friends.

A Different Version of Sandwich Generation Living?

Black cat
Top Seniority Cat, the grande dame of our household.

 

Can I consider myself back in the sandwich generation if my kid who lives at home is now 21 and the elder in my care is a cat?

The 21-year-old, M, is an adult who is working on starting a business. Yet I have to issue chore reminders, plus figuring him into groceries and meal planning. Also, he’s experiencing nagging health issues and likes for me to go to some appointments with him to take notes.  So there’s some parenting going on.

Meanwhile, top seniority cat, Luna, still has some spunk at age 17. But she is sometimes confused, about half deaf as far as I can tell, and increasingly needy. Her thyroid levels are up, so I have to administer a drop of cream to the inside flap of her ear once a day. She does not care for this and hides under a bed if she knows it’s coming. Luckily for me, her hearing loss means I can sneak up on her.

Unluckily for all of us, she’s taken to yowling at top volume at various times of the day and night, until someone shows up to pet and comfort her. She sounds like she’s being murdered. This happens if she finds herself alone in a room and/or we’re all asleep when she needs our love. It’s a lot like having a baby, really. “Who got up with her last time?”

Often, I’ll find her in what is now our spare bedroom, sometimes with her nose nearly to the wall, as if she can’t remember how to get out of the place. Maybe she wants to come to us, but can’t find the door?

We love her, but being awakened multiple times per night frays the nerves of everyone in the house. So I’ve started following her thyroid medicine with a “reward” of wet food containing tuna…and DRUGS. I drug her at night. After that, we’re good to go until around 5:00 in the morning, when the yowls commence. Getting up once at 5:00 — that I can do. So much better than the previous 3 or 4 times per night.

Not that I baby her. Oh no. Well, maybe. I really want to tear out the old, disgusting carpet in the spare bedroom and convert that space to my office/writing area. But I keep putting it off, because the cat spends so much time in there, and it might upset her. Poor thing is already confused.

Basically, she has her own bedroom. Where we cater to her needs and her whims, all day and all night, whenever we’re at home. She’s an old lady, after all. She deserves some comfort and ease.

 

 

Temp to Fire – Predatory Employers

silver macbook pro
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

I don’t want to hear one more word about Millennials being entitled or having no work ethic or being snowflakes. Not a word.

My firstborn, who at 24 is at the tail end of the Millennial generation, has been working a full-time office job and a part-time retail job for a year with no benefits from either — no paid vacation days, no insurance, no retirement plan. No benefits because the full-time office job was on a “temp-to-hire” basis through an agency.

Several people started with the company at the same time, and their one-year anniversary came up this week, the point at which the contract stipulated the Corporation Who Must Not Be Named had to hire the workers themselves, providing benefits, etc. if it wanted to keep them on. The corporate overlords elected not to keep them on and cut them all loose to start over with a new batch to whom they could avoid providing benefits. It’s not temp-to-hire. It’s temp-to-fire.

This is the culture of employment we’ve built in our society. It’s predatory. 20-somethings who have done everything right get used for a while and then spit out. There have been many angsty messages back and forth the past couple of days between the son and me.

My silver lining is seeing how much he’s matured, and how much more resilient he is than he has been in the past in the face of unexpected set-backs. He applied for five jobs within 24 hours of being let go. And this morning he messaged to let me know he’d had a phone interview already and was on his way to fill out hiring paperwork for a call center job. He says he plans to take it not because he expects to enjoy it, but because it will pay the bills. He’ll keep looking for other jobs in the meantime. That really is a leap in maturity. (Hold that thought — I’ve already had to come back within a couple of hours to update that the call center job had complications and is not an immediate start. So he’s looking into other short-term options.)

As angry as I am at corporate American in general, and my son’s ersatz employer in general, it’s heartening to see my kid has grown into someone who handles adversity with a good attitude and a plan of action.

 

My Child Has Lapped Me in Dinnertime Adulting

My husband, younger son and I drove up to visit my firstborn this past weekend, and to see his new apartment. Here’s what’s in his kitchen.

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Those are binders full of recipes. This is a person who has always loved to organize information, and now has discovered the joy of cooking. He and his roommate couldn’t even recommend any local restaurants because they hardly eat out. “I can make better food at home cheaper.”

Wow! That feeling when your child passes you in the adulting thing.