Saturday, July 30, 2011

A mixed bag of July

Such a month it has been, this July. Unusually for these parts, we had many cool days where no air conditioning or swamp cooling was needed, we had some rain, and only a handful of days over 100 -- nothing approaching the usual round of 112+ degree days that is the fare du jour here in the north state.

 August may bring some of that, but it also brings a sighting of fall, although we know we will have some hot days well through September and sometimes even in October, but with cooler nights.

July has been stressful for both of us. Early in the month, Princess #1 rolled her SUV, totalling it. She was unhurt although shaken, miraculously, but that has left her without wheels and her boyfriend's car is unreliable on a good day. So I've done a fair bit of chauffeuring here and there, although I've tried to make it fit my schedule and not her whim, and have also done the bulk of research to find a new one for her, one that will last for a long time, and that is within her budget. Fortunately, she still has back disability dollars in the bank which need to be spent by this fall, so that along with the check from the insurance company should be sufficient to get her a decent car.

My ex observed cheerily from his home in Missouri that 'car shopping can be fun,' to which I suggested he get his butt out here and go with her. He backed off, but did send some pages from Consumer Reports which helped, and I've spent lots of time on Edmunds and Kelly Blue Book.

I think we've found a car for her, and possibly one for us, actually, although we weren't really looking hard. (Our 12-year-old Corolla has been a steady, reliable vehicle, requiring almost no extra maintenance, but it also is on the brink of things starting to deteriorate from sheer age.) So today Tony and I will go to the dealership so he can drive the car -- another econobox, really, but with some cute factor thrown into the practicality) -- and then I'll try to negotiate a deal for both cars.

R also goes on Medicare in August, and that has been a huge learning experience as well, as I've learned about 'benchmark' prescription plans, low income financial aid, and what and how expenses are covered.

And then there is the Congressional circus, with all the posturing and pontificating and pouting and pandering that has made news night after night. As we look towards retirement, this is extremely unsettling for our financial wellbeing, and unbelievably frustrating to watch the self-righteous Tea Party members who are refusing to play nicely with anybody, including members of their own party, and to wonder if anyone in the Republican party even is aware that there are more people in their districts who are not millionaires and big businesses than those who are. Most seem determined to throw our country under the bus in order to make their stand and get their own way; certainly they seem quite willing to bring federal programs and paychecks to a complete halt.

They underestimate us, I think. Obama's speech this week woke up some of us and the switchboards and websites were flooded with messages telling representatives to shape up and get on with it. But that will be a mere ripple compared to if Social Security, disability, and veteran's benefits checks are missed, even one.  People will lose their homes, will go hungry, will die, and there will be rioting, I believe.

Pretty dire scenario. I hope the Congress will start behaving like mature adults who are elected to represent ALL of the people, not just a wealthy few, and do what is right for our country. In raising the debt ceiling -- something that has been done over and over and over in the past, and is simply agreeing to pay bills we've already incurred -- we keep our credit rating in the world and act responsibly about paying our debts.

The budget issues are separate from this matter, and deserve to be addressed as such, but again, not by throwing people who depend on such programs as Social Security, disability and veteran's benefits to survive under that big honking billionaire bus. What they seem to forget -- and have for years -- is that WE fund Social Security with our wage dollars. It is not money to be spent or withheld by Congressional whim: it belongs to us and the government has been the (poor) caretaker of those funds. 

Okay. I'm getting off the soapbox. For now.

But it is stressful to read and watch, even the bits I permit myself to do. Suddenly I feel like our financial future -- our retirement nest egg -- is badly threatened by the actions of people who are not even elected by me and those in my area (not that our Wally Herger is a lot better). And it's all beyond our control to do much.

I feel as though I'm maintaining, not growing, not creating, just maintaining and doing what needs doing. I try not to beat myself up about not getting in a garden this year -- the first time in years I have not done so -- or about the other things that clutter my office space -- receipts, notes, assorted R papers -- or about losing that stupid 8 lbs that has gone back on again, and dealing with my own health issues. But these times are stressful right now.

I'm longing for some ocean time, too -- the constancy of the waves, the sea air, the crying of the gulls overhead, the smell of the salt and seaweed and fish all mixed together. The ocean helps me clarify and sort through things and dismiss those that are less important. It blows out the cobwebs and the sun-baked ennui. We're planning a trip for fall. And with August's coming, each day moves that relief a little closer to reality.

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