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Archive for October, 2009

What qualifies as accounting experience?

October 29th, 2009 at 11:09 am

As I've said many times on this blog, I'm in pursuit of my CPA license. I plan to take the exam next year but I have one MAJOR hurdle - my job. I need 1-2 years of accounting experience to get my actual license even after I pass the exam.

I started working for the company 5 years ago as a Customer Service Rep, now I'm in their Marketing & Acquisition department managing all of the reporting functions & coordinating with our accounting department proper payment of our advertising partners.

So effectively, this is what I do:

1) Pull reports to determine the profitability of our marketing ventures (I don't deal directly with the advertising partners... I'm not a marketing person nor do I want to be)

2) Prepare our budget for the department

3) Inform the department of how we did in regards to budget (On Monday, I have to prepare a presentation to show how we performed against our October budget & evaluate ways to improve our budgeting process to increase accuracy)

4) Maintain records & match them against the invoices we receive to make sure our advertising partners are billing us accordingly & then let accounting know if the amounts are approved

I'm pretty sure the way I do things in my job is not traditional, but nothing about my job is traditional.

This company is 100% virtual. Anything they don't have expertise in, they outsource. Our HR is outsourced but we still have a main HR person who reviews applications, interviews, and maintains the corporate structure. However, the HR company we employ handles everything on the legal side because we have employees around the world so they take care of the issues surrounding that.

Hence, in my case, there is no official "accounting" department but it is outsourced to another company that I let them know what expenses, contracts, we are supposed to be paying & the deal terms surrounding those.

So there isn't any real growth for accounting in my current job. A person from Sr. Mgmt told me that my biggest struggle will simply be the fact that I'm not in the accounting department & I need an accounting supervisor in order to qualify for the experience requirement.

*shrug*

But I also don't want to leave my job. If I did, I'd have to take my salary PLUS another $30K to cover the childcare expenses for four kids. However, my CPA license is still a big goal of mine.

I looked up on my state's experience requirements and it says:

"The experience may include providing any type of service or advice involving the use of accounting, management, financial, tax, or consulting advisory skills or services. Acceptable experience shall include employment in government, industry, academia or public accounting or related services. The applicant's experience may be supervised by a non-CPA certificate holder, although, when completing the application for the CPA certificate, the experience must be verified by a CPA certificate holder."

So I don't know if it is possible to find a way to get my current job to count as experience towards my license. I'd hate to think that in order to follow my dream that I'd need to leave somewhere I love.

Nevertheless, I told my new boss that I'm graduating in December & he told me that he wanted to talk with me this week about where I wanted to go in the company. He wants to make sure that what I am doing falls in line with what I want to be doing.

So we'll see. I'd think the whole budgeting, matching invoices against contracts, etc could maybe qualify - but I don't know. I only handle stuff related to our marketing department & I think just being in the marketing department will disqualify me from counting it as "accounting" experience.

Self-Sufficiency

October 29th, 2009 at 05:57 am

I found a blog yesterday (not on this site) that bothered me.

It was called "Poor and Pregnant" and chronicled how this mother is pregnant with her 3rd child and this is also the 3rd pregnancy she that she is going through under government assistance.

Yet, this woman has expensive taste for cloth diapers (there are cheap forms & expensive forms). Her & her husband also have non-traditional forms of income.

I'm sorry but having kids, I'd find a traditional source of income so that I could predict from one day to the next that I have the money to feed my kids.

Maybe it rubs me the wrong way because I had my first at 19, then another at 20. It wasn't until I was experiencing marital problems & realized that I'd need some way to stand on my own two feet that I ended up going back to school.

DH said we couldn't afford for me to go back to school, but I fought him on that & 75% of my college tuition for my undergraduate degree was free because we made less than $30K/yr for a family of 4.

I got pregnant during my senior year of my undergraduate degree but still did an internship with a top 25 public accounting firm at the time.

Then my son was born & he ended up in the NICU. My professors were very understanding and I finished that semester. I went to school all year round & finished my bachelors degree 2 1/2 years after I started at a traditional college (not an online university).

We moved the month before my last semester & I finished up via videostreaming.

We haven't been on government assistance since and i attribute that to deciding to use whatever assistance I got to provide me with a livelihood to support myself vs something to tide me over for now.

I read the blog & kept thinking... I've been there, but the difference is - she isn't planning ahead. She isn't planning to get off assistance. How can you do that?

I'm sure a lot of it is complacency. After all, it wasn't till my marriage was threatened that I got off my 2 year hiatus from school to go back. I had seen my mom & grandma left destitute from the men in their lives and I promised myself I was NOT going to have to resort to working 2-3 jobs to support myself or my children.

Now, my marriage did work out (I think my DH found my desire to be independent attractive).

But I think if anyone truly wants better for themselves, they have to be willing to put something of themselves into it. Anything worth getting is worth investing part of yourself into & as I read this lady's blog I kept struggling with the fact that I had no sympathy for her.

I had surely been there, but our perspectives were different. Most we had ever been on was WIC & getting grants off my FAFSA. Now we make good money (although we have a lot of debt due to previous foolish decisions), but it was because of our hard work.

Having kids actually motivated me to finish my degree because I wanted to set the standard. At the end of it all, I wanted to show my kids that you can do anything if you put your mind to it.

Soooo many people told me I'd never get my degree when I got pregnant at 18. And not only did I have my bachelors degree by the time I was 23, I'm getting my masters degree at 28.

Nowadays the biggest thing I hear is "You'll never be debt free". And thats the one thing about me, tell me I can't do something & if I really want it - that just makes me work THAT much harder at it.

I didn't use to be this way. I was always one of the pretty girls that if I really wanted something, I'd just have a guy do it for me or I'd ask my Dad. I was horribly spoiled.

But in the end, something always has to inspire us to change. Being a mother of 2 with a threatened marriage was my moment & I'm glad it happened. I just hope this lady finds her moment so that she has the courage to find a way to get off & stay off government assistance.

School and classmates

October 28th, 2009 at 07:00 pm

I debated participating in graduation this December. $107.50 for my cap/gown/tassel/hood + shipping.

But in the end I decided to participate. Mainly for 2 reasons:

1) I missed my bachelor's degree graduation because my husband transferred duty stations during my last semester so I had to finish that semester in San Diego via videostreaming courses.

2) I want my kids to see me graduate. They've sacrificed a lot in supporting me in this journey and I just hope that this will be special to them being my LAST graduation.

A classmate of mine sits behind me & is also set to graduate. I met her in the Spring semester and found out she is a retired partner of a Big Four accounting firm. However, she had to go back for her master's degree because she wanted to teach in her retirement & they said regardless of her 30 years at one of the largest international accounting firms and making partner there - she still needed her master's degree.

She said she wasn't sure about participating in the ceremony herself... and what she said shocked me & also made me smile:

"I'm too cheap to fork over the $80 for the cap/gown"

And what made me smile is realizing, this woman has made six figures, drives modest cars, and is very conservative. She is the epitome of "The Millionaire Next Door" as far as her behavior.

I can't speak for the financial side... I can only guess & the professors rumor that the big accounting firm partners make $500K/yr within 5 years of making partner.

Anyhow, so that made me smile. I think in a way I just like seeing people being conservative about money because it helps give me a push too. That if someone who is well-off and established is STILL frugal, then I should be too.

On the other hand, I have another classmate who is 21, wears all of the trendiest clothes. She just graduated w/her bachelor's degree last year & as I saw her leave the parking lot - I noticed she was driving a brand new BMW SUV complete with vanity plates that said her name.

I don't know why seeing that bothered me. But I told my husband about it later that it is helping me to realize that I only want something when I feel like I've earned it.

And maybe thats the problem I have with the latter example. I keep thinking, "What on earth can she have done at 21 to earn a $50K+ vehicle?" Where before I would have looked at the car with jealousy & fantasize about how nice it would be to have that type of life.

Who knows... maybe she did earn it and its paid in cash. Or her parents gave it to her as a gift. I admit, this behavior is judgmental, but I never confessed to being perfect.

I guess the way I'm starting to look at things is... I don't want something unless I've earned it. And I'll feel like I've earned it if I can pay for it in cash.

Not to mention, I'm realizing I'm still young. I've accomplished a lot before turning 30, I don't want to accomplish everything (and get into more debt for it) cause then what do I have to look forward to?

But reading "The Millionaire Next Door" helps a TON too. I've been led to believe that the "norm" is spending lavish amounts of money on things & learning that REAL rich people don't do that and seeing it reinforced in my well-off established classmate today was nice.

Planning Christmas

October 25th, 2009 at 06:08 am

I'm still not 100% what we are going to do for Christmas.

The younger kids are easy to please. Last year the baby only got one gift & you wouldn't be able to tell. She was so enthralled with that one gift.

This year I am really trying to plan this out carefully. But the problem I'm running into is... the kids want everything under the sun. Well, the older kids.

The younger two, I could probably get away with spending between $100-$200 total. The older two, its crazy. They gave me a list to give to Santa that was 10 pages long.

Lots of things were stuff that - if they hadn't have seen it in a catalog, they wouldn't have thought to ask for.

So I don't know. In planning the budget I've thrown out any hope for even a mixer. Just a modest budget for DH & I to get clothes. I do want to get him another video game though for his birthday.

So we'll see.

Speaking of holidays, my oldest did not like any of the costumes at the store for Halloween. So we never bought any.

Then last night we were talking about it & she said she wanted to make her own costume. So we took the extra fabric we bought for DH's chargebook cover when he made Chief & made her a costume.

Its very basic, but she loves it and I didn't have to spend $15-$20 on a costume. Since she wants to be a fashion designer I thought about buying her a sewing machine for Christmas. Amazon had one for $76, a basic starter machine that I could see also coming in handy when we need to mend clothes.

It could also help fulfill her passion to make her own clothes since designing & sewing is something she's been wanting to do for years.

Last year, she got a Build A Bear that you make... not the one from the store, a bear you actually sew yourself. Its a craft kit in Target. So I sat down with her one afternoon and we made the bear together.

When her brother and sister broke one of her toys, we had them pay for a sewing kit for her so she could fix the toy. Many people said they should pay to have the toy fixed... but my daughter still uses the sewing kit today. So although my daughter had to repair the toy herself, what she got in return she has used countless times - including helping to make her Halloween costume.

So we'll see. I really want to stick to my rules of no credit cards. My mantras that I keep repeating to myself are that I'm whole without "stuff" so I want to make the most of my resources & only buy something that would help make life easier (aka is practical) without compromising my future financial security.

As a result of the mantra, its become easier to part with the idea of my getting a mixer, a kindle, or my anniversary band. Now I'm just trying to prioritize what the kids want w/what they will likely use and will help benefit them in the future. Which is a main reason why I'm seriously considering the sewing machine but I don't want anything too fancy either for her. If she doesn't use it a lot, then I don't want to look at some $200 piece of equipment that just collects dust.

Why I'm changing my habits

October 23rd, 2009 at 11:48 am

Even more so now than in the past, I find that I'm changing my habits

I went online to pay one of my credit cards and saw on the main screen "Late Payment Warning"

So I clicked on it and received a nice little "warning" that if my payment was just a little late, they'd revoke my 1.99% APR (balance transfer) and increase my rate to 29.99%

Wow! That just made me even more passionate to get rid of that credit card.

I'm confident that once DH & I get out of credit card debt, we will STAY out of it simply because bank practices are becoming way too scary.

In good news, I checked DH's earnings statement to find out what we'll be receiving at the end of the month for his pay and was pleasantly surprised to find that the amount was $800 over what I was expecting!

After bills are paid that left me with a budget surplus of $1179.

I'm also trying to plan Christmas, however. I've slowly started working on shopping for my family already. So far, I've only bought the baby one thing which was a LeapFrog Violet. But I'm trying to get my list in shape, including my own wish list of items.

When I started the list, I had a lot of things on there. Kindle and some other stuff. And as I go back I think... I don't really NEED a Kindle or a CatGenie. We have a Litter Robot that works fine & I've lived without a Kindle for this long, I can continue to do so.

What I do need is clothes & I would like a mixer to help me with baking/cooking. The biggest thing I've wanted has been the matching wedding band to my ring. Last I checked, the price was $1750 (my ring was $3800) and I've wanted it for the past 2 1/2 years as a 10th anniversary gift.

I'm doubtful we'll get it though. That $1750 would be much better spent towards getting us out of credit card debt so I don't have to worry about a bank turning evil & charging 29.99%. So for now, I'll settle for clothes.

We also found out we won't be moving till July & we won't be going to Mississippi after all. I am THRILLED! I didn't really want to go to Mississippi & moving the kids in the middle of the school year with their therapy appointments was something I did not want to do.

At least this way it gives us another 8 months here, the kids can finish their therapy, and we can re-negotiate for orders. Hopefully orders we like!

DH is up for shore duty & if we can get shore duty on the west coast or Hawaii - I'll be over the moon.

So, that is what has been going on here. Mostly Christmas has been giving me reason to pause & try really hard to be financially responsible this holiday season. I'm sticking to my rule... no credit card usage, but knowing how much to plan to spend on each family member (We're only buying for the kids & each other) is something I'm not sure about.

The younger kids I know can get by with budgeting less. The baby's clothes & toys are much cheaper than the older kids'. But last year I spent $1337 on Christmas for this family of 6. That's $222/person.

So yeah, I need to really try to plan this out better. There is no way I'm spending that much again this year. I'm sure I can find a way to make it work regardless of the kids' expensive taste in toys.

Remembering

October 19th, 2009 at 10:49 pm

Its amazing how you can feel fine one minute and then you see something and your heart just drops.

I have my days where I'm feeling fine & am optimistic about the future. In a way, I almost feel like this was the worst thing I could have imagined - things can only go up from here. Nothing else can hurt me like this has.

And in that same breath, recognizing that I'm still alive. It wasn't as devastating as I had dreaded these past few years. I didn't fall apart at the funeral even though I thought I'd be more emotional. I guess a part of me, seeing him in the casket seemed so surreal. Like it wasn't real.

I'm not in denial. I know that was my Dad, but in a way it wasn't. If I spoke to his body, I would cry - for no other reason than the simple recognition that the person who made up my father, was no longer inhabiting that body. He had gone somewhere else. Like calling out someone's name in an empty house.

I have my moments. I'm trying to stay so focused and dedicated with everything going on in my life. And as October is coming to a close & I look ahead in the calendar to plan next month... there it is, staring at me in the face with bright blue highlighting.

I never took it off the calendar.

Vegas.

We were supposed to have spent Thanksgiving there. A halfway point between Virginia and Hawaii so that it was more affordable for us & not too long of a flight for Dad. We had so many plans and he was so excited about the trip and getting to see his grandkids again.

I wonder when this gets easier. If there ever will be a time that I can come across something like that and not stop in my tracks & remember the fact that I just lost one of the most important people in my life.

He helped shape me into who I am today. His laughter, his kindness, his stability. No matter what I did as a kid, no matter how bad - he was always even tempered. I could predict what he would say & how he would react. And he taught me so much when it comes to the way we look at things in life.

Even in face of the economy or the North Korea missile threat. I'd call him up & he would just tell me these things happen and people get worked up, then it all works out, and people wonder why they got worked up in the first place. And of all people, he would know. His first few memories are of living under martial law in Hawaii, then in adulthood seeing the Cold War & Vietnam War & Korean Conflict play out. He'd seen inflation skyrocket in the 80s and housing slump. He'd seen a lot.

If I called him up concerned about North Korea's threat to hit Hawaii with a missile, he would just remind me its nothing new. Then laugh & say that he will worry the day North Korea says they plan to hit Alaska - cause their aim is so bad, then they'll probably hit Hawaii - but till then, he'll just put it in the back of his mind & continue to enjoy life.

I never imagined the emotions I would feel from this. How something so small of a reminder can stop you in your tracks & bring you to tears for a moment. And yet, within a few moments have a smile cross your face as you recount all the wonderful memories you've had with that person.

I really was blessed to have had a father like him.

I was tempted

October 17th, 2009 at 04:25 pm

To overreach my budget tonight because my oldest had a playdate during dinner time. I sort of groaned at the thought of making a meal for 7, the dishes, etc.

But I didn't. I kept reminding myself the $35 I'd spend on pizza wouldn't be worth the one night off from cooking.

So I made beef stroganoff with peas. Nothing fabulous but I at least feel good I stayed on budget.

When the child's dad came to pick her up I told him what we had & he looked back curious if she ate it. I guess she is a picky eater at home but I heard no quams from anyone.

Aside from that I took the younger two kids to get their flu shots. The military is making the kids 2-18 get the flu mist & since they are getting the H1N1 vaccine at school, I didn't want to run the risk of them NOT being able to get it because they got the flu mist (there is a question on the consent form about that). So I have to see next week if the older two can get the shot since I managed to have my son get it because he is prone to asthma.

Normally I probably wouldn't vaccinate the kids for H1N1, the vaccine is still new but my youngest is 21 months and only 19 lbs. Having to hospitalize her in March from a simple virus is still fresh in my mind, I just don't want to have to hospitalize her again. Especially when one kid gets sick it then cycles through everyone else. So I decided to vaccinate them for both viruses.

I'm also trying to figure out if I can get vaccinated myself. There seems to be a shortage here & because I'm not in a high-risk category, my need for it is decreased. On the flip side, if I get sick - my whole household comes to a screeching halt.

I don't know. Dad's death also sort of reminds me that I should be more proactive about my own health as a parent. He always pushed things off, he never sought second opinions, he just trusted his doctors. They found the tumor in January, they could have done something then - or looked deeper, but they didn't. I know part of that was my Dad's choice too, even if he knew then it was cancer he wouldn't have done chemo - but maybe it would have been early enough in January to try other options.

The military isn't known for their proactive healthcare. In my experience it has more been about symptom management than finding the true source causing the problem. Its why we transferred the kids to a civilian provider, when my son was getting unexplained nosebleeds - the Navy just kept giving him medication for allergies & iron to treat his anemia. But his anemia did not respond to the iron & the medication never fully resolved his nosebleeds and we just kept getting the run around.

Then we transferred to a civilian and ONE visit to the ENT doc discovered that he had enlarged adenoids. The surgery was done & now my son does not need to be on medication or has anymore nosebleeds.

I know I don't take the best care of myself. I'm probably well overdue for several vaccines & just basic health management.

But where to start? Grant it, switching healthcare so that I can see a civilian isn't really all that costly in comparison to civilian policies. $150/year deductible, no premiums, and 15-20% copays with a $1000/yr catastrophic cap. I should probably just bite the bullet and start planning for that in my budget.

After all, your health is one of the first things that should be on your priorities.

I probably could fit it easily into the budget now though. I thought DH would get paid for making Chief in February or March but apparently he started getting paid for it yesterday. What a nice surprise!

Budgeting is not a sign of struggling!

October 15th, 2009 at 08:00 pm

I wish people understood that budgeting is a tool that helps you achieve your financial goals, NOT something you do because "money is tight"

We're thinking about adopting another Birman, have been for quite awhile - a year at least but timing is just not right, and I'm not suggesting it is now.

But I was telling my best friend about an incident this morning... short story is - my daughters were showering & essentially wasted their 15 minutes. Hot water & time are a premium in a household of 6 where 5 of them have to take showers in the morning.

Sooo... I went in there after warning them, and shut the water off. When their bathroom time was up, I kicked them out - my son had to get ready and I wasn't going to let my daughter's carelessness affect his ability to get a hot shower or have time to get ready.

So I told my friend this... and shortly afterwards told her we were thinking about getting another cat (because my cat was sitting on my lap).

She told me it probably wouldn't be a good idea if I'm concerned about "shower times & budgeting the water bill"

I told her its not that we can't afford it. I'm already putting an extra $510/mo towards paying down the credit cards, we have $1000 in our baby EF, and we aren't using the credit cards. Plus I didn't specify a timeframe.

Its not that I'm put off by HER. I'm put off by the idea that if you mention BUDGETING or ALLOCATING RESOURCES to someone, its almost like you get a look of concern as if "You can't afford it" or "You're in tight times".

No, actually - in general I'm feeling really good and am optimistic about the future.

I feel like I've just endured something, one of the worst things I can imagine - the loss of a loved one - that there is no direction to go from here but up.

I see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I just wish people understood that. I'm soooo happy and sooo excited about budgeting, I am finding ways to interject the discussion into my daily lives.

We aren't struggling, I'm not worried about money. In fact, for once I feel really in control. I know where every dollar that I spend goes & at the beginning of the month I know where I want that dollar to go.

Budgeting does not mean you are struggling or enduring hard financial times. Budgeting is something you should be doing each and everyday to make sure you stay on track with your goals.

If you're budgeting ONLY when you fall on tough financial times - you're doing it wrong.

Would you admit to your children if you need help?

October 14th, 2009 at 12:29 pm

I'm beginning to think my mom is in financial trouble.

Several months ago I received a phone call from an 866 number asking for her. I said she didn't live here (she doesn't, she's on the west coast).

Then another call. So I called the number back.

It was Capital One.

So I called her and told her Capital One was looking for her. She said she'd pass it on to my stepdad to take care of.

A few more calls as the months have gone on, one lady even saying that my home phone number was listed as a reference number for the account.

While I was in Hawaii, I checked my voicemail and received a message for her on my home phone with a claim number to refer to.

I called the number back & got a real person, I didn't reveal the claim number or my name. The name of the company was United Collections Bureau

So I called my Mom and asked her what was going on.

She said it was a phishing scam and to ignore them.

Last night, I got another call. This time asking for her husband.

I'm really doubtful that I believe her. If it was a phishing scam, I doubt that I'd be able to talk to REAL people and over the period of a year or so.

DH thinks she's in financial trouble that she doesn't want to admit because she's lied so much over the years.

A few years ago she became a partner for a McDonald's franchise, she also said she inherited half a million dollars (which I presume was actually her husband's inheritance when his parents died because they owned a business).

Either way, I think she's in financial trouble and too proud to admit it.

A part of me just wish she would. Adding me to the tree of people being lied to doesn't feel great. Even my brother is at least open about deciding to file for bankruptcy, so I just don't understand it.

What has my life become?

October 14th, 2009 at 06:45 am

That I am now excited about finding unused check registers so that I can give them to my kids so that they can learn how to balance a checkbook (or at least manage their money).

Each kid has a savings account at our credit union and they received their statements yesterday.

As I was sorting through all of our mail that we received yesterday & putting them in my box that I use to manage our bills, I found a "Child's Check Register" the credit union gave us for the younger two kids when I opened their accounts.

I then proceeded to show my 5 year old that this check register was to help him always know how much money he had available, and then I filled it out for him.

I then did so for the baby since I had all the statements there.

But I was disappointed because the older two didn't have check registers. I must have lost them years ago.

So this morning, as I'm clearing up my desk between studying for my mid-term next week, catching up on work, and overall just catching up on household paperwork between bills & school stuff for the kids... I notice in the box that came with all of our checks that there are two unused check registers in there.

They aren't as kid friendly as the younger two's since they are meant for adults. But they are there!

I was so excited to find them because its my goal that by the time they get their first job, my kids will know how to manage & balance their checkbook.

Silly thing to be excited about I guess, but if I can teach my kids to be independent... financially and in all other ways... I will feel like I have succeeded as a parent.

Gratitude

October 13th, 2009 at 05:02 pm

We finally got our mail for the past week and a half.

In there, I found a card from the American Cancer Society.

Now going back, my boss asked me to send her the funeral information once I found out & when I did I copied her on the obituary which said "No flowers, casual attire"

I think she was initially thinking about sending us flowers. But instead, I was overcome by my company's gesture to make a gift in memory of my father to the American Cancer Society.

It literally brought tears to my eyes.

I'm in the process of now of preparing all of my thank you notes to those who have helped me & offer their condolences and support during this difficult time. So many people helped me and offered so many kind words that meant so much to me, I just have to say thank you.

And in that note, its inspired me to do something else.

I was already planning on increasing our retirement savings to 15% of our income, after this month I'll have my $1000 EF, the Amex will be paid off... and yes, I'll still have 3 credit cards.... but I've decided I still want to save. As I said, I'm seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

But I'm going to try to find a cause for me to support on a recurring basis. This wasn't part of the initial plan, but now it is.

My Dad was a generous man, he always did whatever he could to help and support others, and if I want to continue his legacy... this would be another way to help start. Maybe not something big, but I'm sure $50/mo to a good cause is a very good start.

Maybe finding a cure for cancer or ways to help early detection would be my cause... its certainly affected my Dad and Aunt with liver, colon, nasopharnygeal, and breast cancer.

Maybe supporting the Children's Hospital is another, my son was in the NICU at one point & now my niece is. Its that same facility that currently assists my daughter in therapy.

There are so many causes, education... the environment.... I don't know what cause I will plan to support or how much... but I'm going to make it my goal to find some way to give back.

Revelations in Finances and The Past

October 12th, 2009 at 02:47 pm

My Dad's death has brought so much to light for me.

First off, I'll start with that. I was extremely emotional those first few days. I was fine on the plane until the pilot announced we were landing and I broke out into tears.

It was that sudden realization that this was the first time I was coming home and he was gone. He was really gone. As we'd drive in the morning to his place where he lived with my Aunt, I looked out to the beach and felt a void in my heart.

I had a hard time looking around Hawaii and not crying. A place that had brought me so much joy left me wondering if staying home would have been easier.

And then there was family.

My brother and his wife flew in for the funeral which would be on the 9th. And suddenly the solidarity of our family returned and I remembered that is what had made me feel so strong in September.

Eventually the tears started to wash away as my husband, the kids, and I were encouraged to go out and enjoy ourselves. My Aunt and Uncle had taken care of the funeral arrangements and my Dad had prepaid much of everything. They told me not to worry but towards the end of the week, it would get busier.

So DH and I took the kids out. We went to a luau, hung out with friends, let the kids spend some time with their Uncle, and my cousin's kids... memories of everything family means flooded back.

My brother and I are particularly close. He was like a second Dad to me because he's 8 years older.

At the funeral, neither of us cried. We both loved Dad soooo much, but it was like I just couldn't cry. My Dad was such a happy person that at one point I did get emotional, but all I could do was shake and tremble... maybe it was nervousness from my upcoming speech, or that my Dad just didn't want me to cry. He wanted us happy, even the songs he chose for his funeral were meant to be happy songs to celebrate his life rather than mourn it.

It was a beautiful day but when we had the speeches & blessings, it rained. Thankfully, it cleared up just as we were taking him to his grave and the funeral director said that it was a blessing. Then as I looked up afterwards, I could see seven waterfalls on the mountains overlooking the cemetery.

It was beautiful.

So I found peace and left the island with a mixed sense of missing my Dad but also gratitude for the family I was blessed to be a part of. I see the legacy he's left behind in each of us, and that alone makes me smile.

My brother did make me realize a few things regarding finances and our past during the trip.

He's like me, makes a good living (he's a prosecutor) but he has high-debt. He's decided to foreclose on his rental home and I think he's planning to file bankruptcy.

I'm not there. I'm actually at a point I can see the light at the end of the tunnel where I can see myself paying things off & coming out with my credit in tact.

But the realization was this... the entire time we were growing up, we were always told "Get what you want" money was no object. If we wanted something, we never heard 'No', and sometimes my Dad suffered for it cause he had to work extra shifts for it.

I'm not blaming any of our financial problems on my family... thats actually to the contrary. They seem very financially astute themselves, my Dad did have credit card bills due to a divorce and legal battles... but he cleared that up before he died so he could retire.

He left the world with no debts except his car loan of $20K.

My Aunt always pays for things with cash.

So where did my brother and I develop this problem? And I think it was simply... although we were told to put money aside, whenever we would go out to eat or celebrate - we were also told many times that money was no object, to get what we wanted without concern for the price.

DH on the other hand is the opposite extreme, he grew up with nothing so he splurged in adulthood.

So I learned there has to be a balance. You can live a frugal life, but at the same time - its important to teach your kids to be frugal themselves. Too often, my brother & I were just spoiled... it didn't matter what we wanted. But at the same time, all along, we were told to save but never given anything to budget ourselves. If we ran out of money we could always go back to the family and ask for more.

In the end, I learned its all about balance and consistency. Either way, I know I'm fully responsible for the choices I made in adulthood. I was told all the right advice, but at the same time I wish I hadn't been so spoiled... at least not so consistently.

Lastly, I've decided that with any money I receive from my Dad... it's going to be our safety net. And that I won't ever touch it unless there comes a time, and I'll know when that time comes, that I need to use it.

My Dad was always someone I could turn to in times of needs. He had bailed me out several times & I always felt protected by him.

I think by keeping this money safe specifically for a true emergency (the kind that I'd go to my Dad in tears over cause I didn't know what to do), in a way I think it will also give me that security that he gave me during his life.

Chaos of Packing for 6 in a Few Hours

October 2nd, 2009 at 05:21 pm

I'm still pretty numb about everything. We get on a plane in 10 hours and I'm still nowhere near packed for me or the four kids or DH. We hadn't even started packing 8 hours ago, I felt like all the energy had been drained from me.

We went out to eat while the older kids were at school at a small mom & pop place. It felt comforting to be there. Wasn't the usual Applebees or Chilis type of mainstream place that we usually go to.

No, instead this place reminded me of the type of place my Dad would have taken me to. He always knew the best little unknown mom & pop places in Hawaii away from all the tourists. This place had the same sort of atmosphere about it even though it was on the east coast.

I was a wreck as we dropped the dog off at the boarder's too. Nervous about how many times they'd take him out and what not. I had filled out the papers, got nervous and walked back to the parking lot where DH was sitting in the car & told him I was nervous, I didn't know if I could do it.

Finally, a lady from the vet's came out and talked to me. She reassured me Bailey (our dog) would be just fine and that they take great care of them.

So much going through my mind. There is the normal life stuff, having to pack, trying to coordinate flying a party of 6 for 15 hours, and then at the same time trying to cope with all the emotions.

Looked at the finances today. Dh got his bonus so I paid off my AMEX today. And I now have the $1000 baby EF fund Dave Ramsey recommends.

I thought again about my Dad's life insurance policy and unlike my feelings a month ago, today I just wanted to throw the money at the credit card.

But I'm trying to also keep myself level headed and remind myself that I need to process everything and heal first before I do anything with the money.

I feel like I've been worrying over silly stuff. I think about the funeral and the first thought I think is "What am I going to wear?" "What will the kids?" I never cared so much what I wore before, and now suddenly its important.

Dh and I aren't going to buy anything to wear, but we'll have to get something for the kids. They just don't have anything.

Most of all though, the main thing is... I just don't want to be alone right now. When I'm alone it hits me most, so I'm glad DH has leave & we're going home to Hawaii. I hope that time will give me what I need to start the healing process so that somehow I find a new normal in life.

He's gone

October 1st, 2009 at 04:37 pm

I got the call around 1 pm today that he had died around 6 am Hawaii time. I knew immediately when I saw my Dad's caller ID show up on my phone because lately my Aunt (she lives with my Dad) hasn't been calling us, I've been calling them every other day. So for her to call, I knew he had passed.

After she confirmed my suspicions, I don't remember anything else she said. It was like once I was told my Dad was dead, everything went blurry. I know her and I talked a little bit more but I can't remember what was said. I was in shock.

For the next two hours I was hysterical, desperately trying to get a hold of my best friends and/or my husband.

And I got no one... so all I could do was cry. I had JUST told my oldest two kids that I could not guarantee Grandpa would be there when we went to Hawaii... and then when they got home from school, how was I ever going to break the news?

My Mom called. I had told her about Dad's arms turning blue last night & she called because she had sort of brushed me off last night because she was distracted.

She calmed me down... and then when DH came home he just hugged me. He didn't know what to say but just him being here was enough. I don't expect anyone to know the right thing to say... all I ask is they don't tell me what the bus driver told me 1 hour before I found out about my Dad (which the bus driver told me to "Smile more").

I don't know the details yet of anything. I called my brother and my Aunt is supposed to call him with more details. I'm holding off calling my Aunt till later, I can imagine she's going through a lot with my Uncle trying to make arrangements for their brother. I know much of everything was planned, but since he died at home - I'm sure a lot is involved as well.

I don't really know what else to say. I'm heartbroken but "okay" as far as losing your parent goes. I can imagine had I not gone to Hawaii in September that I would be devastated right now. My Dad has always been that kind and guiding light in my life. I can't imagine life without him, but somehow I must.

I'll miss him forever... but as I wrote to him in my last email to him before his health started to decline, I know he is now with my Grandma and Grandpa & his two sisters so that when it is my time - I'll have lots of company. He'll always be in my heart. Rest in peace, Dad, and may you bring as much joy to heaven as you did to those of us here on earth.

My Dad
2-25-40 to 10-1-09

Expectations

October 1st, 2009 at 04:49 am

I've heard a lot of people say that I should allow myself to be angry. Angry that such a devastating disease has been able to take someone I love from me.

Perhaps I am confused, but I don't really see what anger would bring me. When has anger ever brought peace to someone's life? Peace heals anger, anger does not bring peace.

I can't ask "Why him? Why me?" or say "This shouldn't be happening"

Who says it shouldn't be happening? Was there a chalkboard in the sky that said he was supposed to live till he was 80?

What is to say this ISN'T happening exactly how it was meant to? What if this truly is the best and only way things could have ever occurred?

Maybe this IS the only way things were meant to happen. Who am I to say otherwise?

And I'm not religious, but extremely spiritual. I know some people lose their faith when someone they love dies... instead mine has been made stronger. In a way, I have to believe that death is not the end.

I told the older two kids this morning that I can't guarantee my Dad will be alive when we go there on Saturday. He's weak, his arms are turning blue, and he's becoming restless. He's stayed in bed a lot & I haven't talked to him since Saturday, he's just too weak and tired.

My oldest started to tear up and we talked for a little while about heaven and what I believe happens after we die. And reassured her that if he dies before we get there, we will still go to the funeral so we can say goodbye.

I think of all things, life is unexpected. But I can't be angry at anything.... I've had him longer than I could have anticipated. He could have died in '92 when he had his first brain tumor, or at any point during his 30 years in the police force, or when he was almost hit by a car.

But he didn't... instead I had him for numerous years and it is with that I find that I can't be angry because no matter what, even in this sad time - the good has outweighed the bad.

I don't know what the future holds but there is one thing I am sure about.... I am so glad that I flew out to Hawaii in September. Had I not, I probably would be a wreck right now.