Aspiring to a zero balance

12 06 2010

The first Saturday that I don’t have to rush off to bring children to activities of one kind or another, and I am unable to relax and enjoy the first(what should be) hassle-free day in a very long time.  This is mainly due to the fact that my mind is racing and crammed to bursting (I wonder if anyone’s head ever actually exploded with worry?) with everything from last winter’s oil bill, to when the next overdue bill will arrive from the ESB, to the motor tax/insurance due at the end of the month, to how I will repay my mother the money I owe her, to how will I buy the kid’s school uniforms & tracksuits and new books, (all 5 in school from september) to how I am going to fill the freezer & pantry for a whole month on what is now a modest domestic budget. The list is never-ending and I sink deeper into despair….

I wonder how many other mums are haunted by the spectre of debt and fear of their children’s future?  My guess is very many.  Like many families, during the period of what we believed was “economic growth”, we availed of the credit facilities that were being thrown at us from practically every lending institution around us. While as a couple, we did not avail of a huge mortgage to purchase what we believed even then, was insanely overpriced bricks and mortar, we instead chose to rent, my other half & I did, however avail of a few relatively small loans, both privately and for a couple of start-up businesses. The rest, as everyone knows by now, is very recent history.  The bubble burst and we all had to get back to basics. The term “basics” represents a variety of things to a mixed bag of the Irish public. To some, it means selling the boat or the holiday residence on the continent. “Basics”  may represent not sending children to a fee paying school, to others, it may mean dumping the 89k vehicle and the flashy convertible and buying a second-hand car for cash. These are readjustments, while a pain in the butt & an unpleasant wakeup call, are not real sacrifices in the grand scheme of things.

A disconcerting side effect of all the stress brought about by our collective & varying debts, is the ever-increasing ominous presence of buzzards circling over our heads.  Those who would pick over our entrails as the vestiges of what has been our lives shrivel up and cease to exist in that form.  I have seen much of this in the media and it is a tragic indictment of what we have become as collective humanity.  The conspiracy theorist (that lurks within us all) would say that perhaps this is stimulated by our politicians. If there is a jumble of in-fighting and fault-finding amongst the common people (and some middle-class newly poor people) perhaps there will be slightly less focus on those who lead us into the debacle in the first place. I will concede that we did not have to blindly follow irresponsible leaders, and the extent to which some have chased the tiger is in direct proportion to the mess they find themselves in now. Fortunately (in my case) our debts are not in the hundreds of thousands, not even close to that figure, so a few good years of all the work that has been put in to date in various projects, may eventually yield enough to get back to a zero balance. What an aspiration eh!

No matter how much pressure we feel it always should be remembered that there are others on this planet who have a life or death struggle each and every day. We in the developed world will never know what that truly is. Even those who take time out to assist the needy in various less developed countries will admit that somewhere in the recesses of their minds, is the certainty that eventually they will again experience a warm bath and a satisfying meal.  I have met many good people over the past number of months and many of them are struggling financially in their personal lives.  This does not deter them from giving time and what ever little material help they can squeeze out or raise, to a worthy cause.  It is the experience of struggle in our own world that heightens our ability to empathise with those in places much less forgiving.

I had a bizarre experience the other day. A local business person to whom I owe EURO900 flagged me down on the road (making me late when I was on my way to pick up my 6yr old from her school tour, more stress *que exploding head*), this person proceeded to reference a recent distorted tabloid article regarding volunteer work. “I’ve seen how you were able to raise money to go over there, why can’t you pay my bill?” What an extraordinary leap!  Do only those who are completely debt free have the ability to help those who are much worse off?

If this were the case, most of the charities now in existence would lose most of their volunteers. Of this I am absolutely certain. I wondered afterwards how a respected business person could assume that funds raised for a charity could be somehow used to offset personal debts…….???? Major WTF moment. Perhaps that anyone could make that leap says a little more about them than the person they are apportioning this judgment to.

It is possible and necessary to compartmentalise our lives at times. The events in each compartment remain apart. Each compartment is dealt with separately in whatever means exist in that compartment. If one compartment appears to be covering costs and meeting demands and another compartment is not, the explanation is simple and obvious. The means to resolve the requirements in the struggling portion have not been achieved yet. My struggling portion, like many other mums at present, is my domestic budget & personal finances. I am working on it. Some of the other compartments are doing ok and covering at least some bases.

When I was in my twenties, my biggest worry was whether or not I would have enough cash flow to support my shoe/clothes/accessories/restaurant/concert/party/ motorcycle gluttony. It was all about me, and that’s ok.  I am glad to have had those self-indulgent days.  It makes these days of taking care of everyone but me somehow easier to deal with. Taking care of others is actually more gratifying in the long-term. The *I, me, myself* era tended toward an unsightly feeding frenzy more often than not.  Been there, done that to death. I now aspire to that magical , illusive holy grail that is the zero balance.

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Inside redser’s head….

8 04 2010

Inside redser’s head….

Dont you have anything better to do?

The response I receive from people when I inform them that my husband is involved in charitable work can be loosely divided into 3 groups. There’s the “fair play to him” group, which is the commonest of the three. There’s the “how can we help?” group, to whom I am eternally greatful, and then there’s the *blank look and dumbass questions* group.  The third group frustrate the hell out of me.  They really dont get it.  When I try to explain to them why exactly my husband founded a charity & is now actively working to achieve the aims of that charity, it is as if I am speaking in some ancient, long forgotten language.  Oddly enough the ones who dont get it are comprised mainly of the mature, the well heeled, the devout church going good citizens and successful business people of this island of (cough) saints & schollars.   There have been remarks to the effect of “I didn’t realise you guys were so well off that you have the resources to spare for this kind of thing…”, and “sure wouldn’t you be better off putting that time/energy into better car/home improvements, to make your life a bit more comfortable?” The latter comment made by folk so closely associated with us as to be aware of our less than luxurious lifestyle (eg old falling apart cars & damp draughty house).  We may live in a cold house, and drive old cars, but our lives have not been shaken to the foundations (in every possible interpretation of that phrase) by an earthquake.  The things that I whinge about impatiently on a day to day basis are there today and no doubt will be still be there tomorrow, but my children are safe, and they have food in their bellies.  We have a roof over our heads, and there is no rain leaking in to our home.  If it gets cold there is a closet full of blankets to draw from. 

If my lovely husband was a construction worker, or a doctor, I have no doubt that he would be winging his way to Haiti to ply those trades. He’s a wireless guy, so that is the know-how he is bringing to this disaster struck place.  Other professionals are bringing their specific skills there, to be utilised in the most helpful way possible.  The equipment and expertise that Haiti Connect are bringing to the aftermath of a devestating earthquake will ease the burden of those who are trying to assist and rebuild.  Haiti Connect’s contribution to those efforts, whether large or small, when combined with all the other efforts will make a difference.  So the next time someone asks me if we have “nothing better to do?”, my question to them will be “can you think of something better you could be doing right now?”

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Portmarnock, does my face look bothered?

8 11 2009

“Am I bothered?, Does my face look bothered though?” Good question.
A few folk with bothered faces emerged from the Supreme Court last week. Some distinctly unhappy with the verdict,  proceedings of which were initiated no less than 6 years ago, a prolonged battle, regarding Section 9 of the Equal Status Act. It seems an elite few of the men folk of this island are making a stand and marking their territory. That territory being Portmarnock Golf Club, established 1894, with now 662 members and 625 associated members. On the face of it, the Supreme Court action of The Equality Authority v Portmarnock Golf Club , could be the right and virtuous stand of a much maligned social demographic (the well-heeled women of Dublin) against a very sinister elite (the well-heeled men of Dublin). These pillars of society, captains of industry, and leaders of men (or fat cats on the fattest side of fat) are greedily and nefariously coveting the lion’s (as opposed to the lioness’) share of Ireland’s top jobs. Their secret weapon being, that they are card-carrying members of the tabernacle of the holy grail. Or could it be that like so many controversies, what the general public perceive as a righteous demand for equity and reform, is in fact a grudge match of gargantuan proportions. Someone is ticked off with a man (or men in general) and they couldn’t let it lie…
Rowley Birkin “Are you disrespecting me?” Clearly there are those who feel acutely affronted by being prevented from joining a gender specific golf club. Cited in this (yawn) ground breaking case were various aspects of Article 40 of our constitution, which deals predominantly with our fundamental rights as citizens of this land. “All citizens shall, as human persons, be held equal before the law.” Discrimination on the basis of gender would contravene Article 40 section 1 of our constitution.

“Are you calling me a pikey?” Now there’s a good point. Article 40.6.2 clearly states that “Laws regulating the manner in which the right of forming associations and unions and the right of free assembly may be exercised shall contain no political, religious or class discrimination.” I wonder how many members of the better heeled traveling community are members of Portmarnock Golf Club? Pavee Point, you might want to get on that….???

“Are you saying my dad’s a wino?” Discrimination on the basis of disease or disability or that of a family member would also be a breach of fundamental rights under Article 40. Another section of the Article cited in this kerfuffle, the right of assembly Article 40.6.1 (ii) “The right of the citizens to assemble peaceably and without arms”, was used by the defendants to rebut the Equality Authority allegations of all kinds of breeches. The right to assemble being one of great value to any self-respecting democratic nation. No matter how one interprets this little Supreme Court spat, it seems equally hard to swallow the reasoning behind either side of the argument.

Are we really that bothered? Which is more pointless? The relentless pursuit of a bunch power-hungry blokes to whack a little hard ball around a course, where female membership is taboo, or the relentless pursuit of a bunch of power-hungry gals to achieve a ruling that states they may become members if they so wish? Will membership of Portmarnock Golf Club really empower these women so substantially as to grease the wheels of their career stagecoach into the Dodge City of Irish politics/property development/banking/the higher echelons of the legal profession ie the Judiciary? Or would those whose time and effort could make a difference not be better advised to focus on more compelling front line issues? Anyways, us “ladies” need all the time we can claw back to practice our domestic godessry. Innit?


Getting My Freak On

3 11 2009

Some would say that being 43, and having bourne, birthed and raising 5 kids would pretty much mean that getting your freak on days are over. Well in the words of the inimitable Beck “suck on this you weasels”…

Even my own pre-teen daughters (11 and 12, going on 18) are “like, so, omg I cant believe she just did that!”. Given the choice, they would have me at home doing laundry (in a hairshirt, preferably) 20hrs a day, and the other 4hrs would be spent preparing their never-ending meals. Funnily enough, my sons, aged 11 and 3yrs, react approvingly to my spontaneous eruptions of headbanging(usually accompanied by music). These generally occur when some errant radio dj accidentally slips on some AC/DC in the middle of the afternoon without warning.

The boys seem to be genuinely gratified by the fact that “mom is having fun”, as they gleefully join in. My daughters, however, look on with disdain in their eyes and matricide in their hearts, like little harpies… Which brings me back to 1978, and Loretto Abbey, Gorey, then a convent boarding school(and my home from mon to fri). compulsory study sessions were punctuated by intermittent periods of jumping about the rec hall to either Pat Benatar or Patti Smith (the only two 45s we had).

Some of us would work on our moves, while others would sit on the stage steps and scowl. I was never a scowler. I dont want my daughters to be scowlers. So at last weekend’s Halloween hoolie, when I was getting my freak on, I dragged my scowling daughters on to the dance floor. I didn’t have to drag the boys on, they were already pogo-ing. The girls were reluctant at first, then they started to loosen up. But I soon realised that the floor of Elsie’s in Ballinderry was not big enough for this ageing rocker and her pre-teen(not still a child, but not yet a woman(cringe)) daughters. So I straightened my wigs(I was wearing two), adjusted my Vollers corset(every gal of a certain age should have one), and strutted back to the bar, where I sipped my pear cider and watched the next generation get their totally unique, budding freak on.
This made me reminisce about my own parents, and life in general when I was a similar age to my older children. When I was 11, I liked the Bay City Rollers, Alvin Stardust, and Garry Glitter(I know, I know).

When I got a little older(12), I discovered Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and AC/DC (replace “discovered” with “worshipped” for the latter).

My parents’ 8-Track collection consisted of Big Tom & the Mainliners, Margo, The Dubliners, The Wolfe Tones, and Johnny Cash & June Carter.

The latter was secretly listened to a lot. Bear with me, there is a point, and I am getting to it. My folks never brought me and my 5 siblings to any parties with them(they didn’t go to many tbh), but if they did, I think I would have enjoyed watching them getting their freak on….