Jana Says

Living life from cover to cover

Life

4 frugal methods for pest control

Apparently, where I live now is considered “country”. As a suburban girl my entire life, country living takes some getting used to. For instance, did you know that here in the country, people actually talk to each other? Did you know that their kids play with each other? Outside, even? Did you know that neighbors offer to do things like lend you their lawnmower? And don’t expect anything in return? Did you know that they invite you to their homes and let you inside instead of making you stand on the doorstep?

It’s all true.

The niceness is overwhelming. You know what else is overwhelming? All the damn bugs.

You see, when you move to the country, bugs outnumber people by about 40 million to 1. Not only that, the bugs are everywhere. There are crickets in my garage right now. There are flies in my house. Let’s not even discuss the seemingly insatiable mosquitoes that are bad asses and are apparently resistant to bug spray, citronella candles, and jeans. Even when used in combination with each other. It’s disgusting. And then there’s the spiders. I’m pretty sure they’re bigger than my dogs and I’m pretty sure they’re going to eat me. Or at least wrap my house in a a cocoon of spider web, effectively making me their prisoner.

Also there are snakes. SNAKES.

My husband, who grew up in the country, thinks this is all fine and normal. My friends who’ve lived here for years are unfazed. I, however, am disgusted. It’s not that I hate nature; I don’t. It’s just that I want all the creepy, crawly, disgusting parts of nature to relocate to no where near where I live. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

However, until my creepy crawly relocation plan has had time to take effect, we’ve been having to do some pest control on our own. And while it’s somewhat satisfying to murder a spider with a flip flop (cruel? Perhaps. But when he’s as big as my fist and his web is preventing me from getting through my front door, he’s got to go), I’d rather not commit regular arachnid genocide or anything worse. So we’ve taken to doing the following frugal (and less violent) methods:

  1. Regular lawn maintenance. Okay, fine. My husband has been taking care of this, and it has nothing to do with the fact that I am terrified of the lawn mower. But the point is that by regularly mowing the lawn, keeping the grass short and the weeds out of the plants, we’re eliminating much of the breeding ground for snakes and bugs. This is an excellent start.
  2. Having an outdoor cat. An unintended side effect of having an outdoor cat (you can read her whole story if you want) is pest control. She’s great at killing mice, which are apparently a problem where we live. All we have to do is pay for food and flea treatment and she takes care of the rest.
  3. Bug repellent lights. We have several exterior light fixtures. Regular light bulbs attract insects of all kinds–including the ones that fly–and you have to run faster than Usain Bolt in order to get into the house without also letting in bugs. The repellent lights aren’t perfect but they’ve definitely decreased the volume. And they’re not too expensive either.
  4. Keeping outdoor areas clean. One of our neighbors told us that black widow spiders have been sighted in the area over the years (see, I told you that country folks are nice). No, thank you. Since these vile creatures live in dark, damp places (does it disturb anyone else that black widow spiders and mushrooms thrive in the same kind of environment?), we have to make sure that the area around our wood pile, our garden, and our outdoor storage bin stay clean and as dry as possible. Because if I ever see one of those, I’m moving.

We also plan on using a pest control company to spray around the house but we’d like to get it under control on our own before we introduce chemicals. Neither of us are a huge fan of them but if it’s going to make the unwelcomed four and eight legged, as well as the winged and the slithering, guest leave, I’m all for it.

I guess there’s a downside to living anywhere. For us, it’s the bugs. On the bright side, at least the weather is getting cooler. That’s the best free pest control I can ask for!

 

I agreed to marry a chicken (or, how we got engaged)

I recently completed one of Frugal Portland’s amazing “Get To Know Another Blogger” interviews, and, in my interview, she asked both how my husband and I met and our proposal story. Due to some of the language used, and the sheer length of the story, I gave an abridged version for the interview. Below is the complete, unedited version. 

How we met

This is the boring part. We met in one of our college classes–Great Crimes, taught by Dr. John Kelly. The man was obsessed, and I mean OBSESSED, with the JFK assassination. But that point is irrelevant.

Dr. Kelly, for reasons that we still don’t understand, sat us in alphabetical order. As a result, one of my roommates sat directly next to my husband and one of our good friends/fifth roommate sat directly behind him. Since they are both extremely outgoing, they struck up a conversation with him and me, being of the beginning of the alphabet sect and designated to what was clearly the uncool part of the lecture hall, could only wave from afar.

At the end of class, we all talked some more and found out that we all lived in the same dorm. Friendships ensued, we worked on our captions (read: Dr. Kelly’s unnecessary busy work that he made us do because he was too busy mulling over the single bullet theory), I brought the husband as a date to my sorority hayride and now, almost 17 years later, we are still together.

Oh, I should also say that at the time, the husband’s mother worked in a perfume outlet. She would buy him all kinds of colognes and he actually wore them (a practice he has abandoned). He usually smelled good, too, which is why we called him “Smelly Boy”. Friend who sat behind him, Steph (who has a blog that you should read), would do random and periodic smell checks and then give a signal to me if he smelled good that do or no.

Our proposal story: The discussion

My husband and I moved in together in June 2000. This was more of a business arrangement than anything else (my roommate had gotten pregnant and graduated early; he graduated and could no longer live in his fraternity house. I had an empty room, he needed a place to live, the apartment was cheap and thus, our cohabitation begins).

(more…)

So about that time I was almost homeless

If you are a fan of Jana Says on Facebook, you know that for the last few weeks I’ve been in the process of moving. We sold our house, bought a new one, and moved into the new one at the end of last week.

house_move

Exact depiction of our situation. They took the house, too.

Except I wish it had been that simple. Over the last 8 weeks, my husband and I encountered every problem possible when buying and selling a house. You already know about the lying liars who lied. That was just the beginning of our problems. I won’t go into all of what happened because there are some of you reading who might want to buy a house someday and I don’t want to scare you out of it. If done properly, it’s a relatively easy procedure. But that’s not how the husband and I roll so of course it had to be as difficult for us as possible.

And it all came to a head last Friday.

We had planned to settle on both our townhouse and our new home on the same day, Friday. Due to some…problems that had nothing to do with us, we found out at 10:00 AM on Friday that we would not, in fact, be settling on our new home at 2:00 PM as scheduled. We were, however, still settling on our townhouse at noon, effectively making us homeless.

I had never been so scared in my entire life. Here we were, people who follow all the rules, pay all our bills on time (early, even!), submit all required paperwork when requested and we weren’t going to have a place to live. I joked for weeks that I’d be living in a cardboard box behind a McDonald’s (you know, because of the free wifi) but on Friday morning, the joke was quickly becoming a reality.

And this was the complete opposite of funny.

What really freaked me out, besides the fact that I HAD NO PLACE TO LIVE, was the fact that this was happening approximately 3 days before my child was starting school. In a new place. With all new people. And she’s terrible with change. The very least we could do for her was have a house to move into.

Clearly no one else thought of, or cared about, that.

I finally broke down. After all that we’d been through during the home buying/selling procedure, I’d kept it together. But getting that phone call was my complete undoing. Already emotional from leaving our house of 9 years, the one that we brought our daughter home to, the one where we started our marriage, I now had to contend with having no where to go. With no clear time frame of how long our impending homelessness would last. So I wept. A lot.

Sensing the urgency and direness of the situation, my very generous parents and in-laws offered to pay for us to stay in a hotel (I should note here that if you do not have an emergency fund, get one immediately. I don’t know what would have happened to us financially if we did not have that emergency fund in place) and while at least a hotel offered shelter, the thought of sending my child to school from a hotel made me feel like a terrible parent. Like I had somehow failed her. Like I was deficient as a parent.

And that made me think about the parents all over the country who are living in hotels. I don’t know why they’re there. It could be for reasons like ours. It could be because they lost their house and this was the only place to go. It could be because they don’t want to be tied down to any one place. It could be for reasons I’m not thinking of. Maybe they’re happy living there. But my guess is that they’re not.

Any parent with even a small amount of concern for her child’s well being doesn’t want her living in that type of unstable environment. Parents want their kids to have the sense of stability that a home brings (in this situation, “home” does not necessarily mean “house”. It can be trailer, apartment or house. “Home” also does not imply ownership; a home can be a rental as well). They want their kids to feel safe and secure. You can’t get that in a hotel, long term, even if you try to jazz the place up to feel more “homey”. You get that from an actual home.

In a hotel, you can’t provide the meals that your kid needs to thrive in school. It’s hard to get them a bus to and from school, and maybe driving them isn’t an option. In a hotel, there are noises and distractions that prevent a good night’s sleep, which also help kids succeed in school. There’s no privacy. There’s no space. There’s nothing except shelter.

Shelter, which includes running water, electricity, beds, and a roof, are, of course, of primary importance. But don’t we all deserve more than that? Don’t we all deserve a home? Don’t all kids deserve that feeling of having somewhere safe to retreat to at the end of the day?

I think they do. So do adults. (Note: I’m not going to launch into a soapbox tirade about safe, affordable housing and/or the causes of homelessness here. I’d like to but then this post would run on for 8000 words).

End rant.

Fortunately for my family, things ended positively. Without going into specifics because I don’t know that I’m allowed to discuss them, we were able to (legally) get into the house on Friday. My daughter had her own bed to sleep in before school started, I was able to pack her lunch, give her a good breakfast and take her to school. But what happened for us doesn’t always happen. We were luckier than most. I know that.

After our experience, I’ll probably think a little differently when I hear about a family living in a less than desirable situation, like in a hotel or with relatives. I might not assume certain things as quickly and I certainly won’t judge them. Because we were almost that family. And I know how I would have wanted to be treated. And they deserve the same.

 

5 things I wish moms of more than one child would stop saying

There’s a new sport in which I have unwillingly been participating in for the last 6 years. It’s dirty, it’s mean, and it makes rugby look like a leisurely Sunday stroll. No matter how hard I try, I’m stuck playing for pretty much the rest of my life.

someecards.com - Thank you for sharing your parenting skills with me...and without any judgement at all.The sport? Competitive parenting. And I can stand it.

Even if you’re not a parent, you probably know some parents and you know what I’m talking about. The conversations you overhear probably go something like this:

 

 

Parent A: “Little Madison was such an easy baby. She started sleeping through the night at 3 months old and could feed herself by the time she was 8 months.”

Parent B: “Really? That’s wonderful. My Ryan was sleeping through the night at 2 weeks, could feed himself at 5 months, and was potty trained at 10 months!”

Parent A: “Yeah, we had some trouble potty training but Madison could read War and Peace by the time she was 2 AND wrote and published a novel at 4.”

It goes on and on and on. It’s painful and unnecessary and I hate it. Yet there are times I feel compelled–against my anti-competition nature–to participate. Then I feel shamed that I even bothered because I understand that my kid does things at her own pace and makes her own progress, and getting her to compete with the progress of others is unfair to do to her (even if she doesn’t know it). I didn’t have a child to win some race or medal.

However.

Some parents clearly use their kids to fulfill some deficiency in their childhood or as a way to feel superior to other parents. It’s sickening, actually. And it extends to everything–academic, social, developmental, and achievement (you know, the “my kids are all-stars in every sport and Eloise is a piano prodigy and Morgan is an accomplished artist” type stuff ) based competitions. It doesn’t stop there. It even extends to moms competing with each other over the NUMBER of kids they have. There seems to be an overall attitude that the more kids you have, you are automatically a better mother. And after working in social services for 10 years, I call bullshit on that. Quantity does not automatically trump quality.

So there’s that.

Competing over the number of kids we have makes me want to tear my hair out because really, who gives a fuck? Yes, mom on the cheer field or soccer field or at the gym or wherever I run into you, you have more kids than I do. I’m happy for you. I really am. You’re a very lucky, blessed woman. But the fact that I only have one does not make me any less lucky or blessed than you. And when you say these things to me, it makes me want to punch you right in the face:

“You’re smart that you only have one.” I really don’t know how my intelligence is any reflection of my reproductive choices. Quite frankly, you don’t know the reasons I have one child and I can assure you, none of them have anything to do with whether or not I’m smart. But if you’re asking and putting me on the spot and making me uncomfortable, maybe I’ll make you uncomfortable and tell you that I have secondary infertility and cannot, in fact, have more children. And even if I had one child by choice, that’s my business and you have zero right to comment on it. Imagine if I told you that having 3 or 4 kids made you stupid. You’d be pissed, right? Same concept.

“Now try doing (fill in the blank) with 3 kids”. I’m sorry, what?! Yes, I acknowledge that not having to split my time between different schools, homework, bedtimes, and activities is easier on my schedule. However, having one kid does not mean that getting places on time, getting homework done, paying for activities or anything else is any easier. I still work. My husband works full-time and part-time. We have no family around to help us when we both have to be somewhere work related and the child needs to be somewhere else while you might have an aunt or uncle to drive your kids in that situation. We don’t get a date night without paying a fortune in a babysitter while you might have grandparents around to provide free babysitting. Certain circumstances don’t change based on the number of kids and guess what, mom of 3? You might just have it easier sometimes.

“She must be so spoiled because she’s an only child”. Fuck you for even thinking that. Having one child may mean that we might have a little more discretionary money to spend on her but you don’t know my financial situation so why even say that? Assuming my child is spoiled is just wrong and also kind of rude. And mean. Because I can assure you that my only child is way less spoiled than a number of children with multiple siblings.

“What do you do all day when she’s in school?” Work. I work. Having one school aged child does not mean I am exempt from all of life’s necessities like money, laundry, cooking, cleaning, or the dozens of other agenda items that need to get ticked off every. Single. Day. Life still goes on even with one child. And what if I homeschooled? Would you still say that to me? No? Then don’t say it now.

And lastly, the nonverbal look of pity because I only have one child. Pay close attention. I am perfectly happy with the way my chips have fallen. This is the way life has turned out for me and I wouldn’t change anything. I don’t need your pity. So take it on down the road.

I can see how, on the surface, life with an only child might seem easier to a mom with more than one. And maybe in some situations it is. But the bottom line is that we’re all mothers. So let’s stop competing and start supporting each other.

P.S. Whether you have one kid or 14, it is NEVER okay for one mom to tell another that having a c-section means that she did not “have” her child. 

A few words on transparency

soapbox>>>Steps on soapbox

Earlier in the year, when I was attempting to get a blog consulting business off the ground, I entered into a contract with a gentleman who was at the very beginning stages of building a blog. After some conversation, I figured I could help him, he figured I could help him, and he paid me for a few months of work up front. Everyone was happy.

The contract ended and we informally kept in touch, mainly due to some side projects this gentleman was working on. He wanted to bring me on board for a very large scale project, one that I was extremely excited for because of both the scope of work and, yes, the potential paycheck. And, despite the fact that details were fuzzy and progress was slow, I maintained enthusiasm for project. I couldn’t wait to get started.

And then.

I was fired. Before I was even officially hired.

Why?

According to this gentleman, I am not transparent enough. Which is not something I have ever claimed or even attempted to be. There are certain parts of my financial and personal life–and this was true, even when I had a purely personal finance site–that I never shared (and never will share). That was a conscious decision, made out of a number reasons, including a respect for my husband’s wishes and the fact that too much transparency can wind up hurting rather than helping.

I don’t know where the expectation for complete and total transparency happened. As bloggers, we do share a certain amount of information. That’s our choice. But to expect that we share everything is asinine. There is no law or rule that states we are required to put each intimate detail of our lives online or in our blog. It’s our content, our rules, our lives. We get to decide what to do with it and how much of it to share. And where, with whom, and in what context that information is shared.

To tell us otherwise is ridiculous. No one has any right to dictate or bully us into divulging any more than we are comfortable with. There are reasons that people don’t share everything, and guess what? We don’t have to share those reasons either. If someone says “I’m not comfortable sharing that”, then their choice deserves respect. You can choose to move on to another person who will be more transparent if that’s what you like to read. That’s fine. We understand. But if you’re going to continue to read our sites, then you need to behave, act like a grown up, and show some respect for our decision not to share every intimate detail.

However.

Bloggers have to take ownership of the situation, too. If we choose to make any part of our lives available for public consumption then we must be prepared for readers to criticize, disagree, or dislike those choices. We need to be prepared for people wanting or insisting on having more. Hell, we even need to be prepared for virtual strangers to dislike us as people. And we need to let them. Because while they might not have the right to force us share, we can’t stop them from trying. It’s how all of this works. Announcing your life to the world–and in part, that’s what blogging is–opens us up to that. If you can’t handle it, don’t blog in a public manner. It’s not for the thin skinned and easily offended.

Also, bloggers, if you choose to be transparent in every way possible, please consider the effects on your:

  • Personal life, particularly family and friends. Speaking from experience, you can unintentionally hurt people you care about even if what you write has the best intentions.
  • Job, and everything that goes with it including promotion potential, earning potential, raises and the like. There have been people who have been fired as a result of what they write on their blogs.
  • Legal issues. I couldn’t think of another way to describe this. But if you have anything like pending mortgage information, child support, or other income based proceedings happening, full transparency can hurt you.

If you think, even for a second, that something you say can harm you, your career, your family, or whatever in any way, don’t use it in a post. And if you do, accept the consequences. Don’t place all the blame on the reader. You put it out there. Deal with what happens. Even if you don’t like it.

That said, if you’re okay with the consequences, share away. Disclose everything if you choose. You have mad respect from me for doing it. But I won’t be jumping on that train. I still need to keep some cards close to my chest.

>>>Steps off soapbox

P.S. For those wondering, I don’t mind that I lost the job. Yes, I was pissed at the time but compromising my standards and my promises wasn’t going to happen. It makes me sad that this gentleman couldn’t understand that but I wish him luck in finding someone who gives him what he needs. I hope his project goes well. I hope it succeeds. And I also hope he realizes that, just as we don’t accept bullying on the playground, we don’t accept bullying in the workplace either.