Random

There are days.  
That blow  me away.
Wring me out.
Drip Dry.

7 AM
practice or perish
meetings, meetings, meetings
ill thought policy; change your ways! No no no.

argue exploratory analyses.
not everything in life can be pre-specified.
F-you statistics.

a numb convoluted conversation,
hold back tears,
accusations hurt,
distract.

meetings, meetings, meetings

5 PM – Caller ID – Daycare
in meeting, can’t answer.

Ingrid screams
103 fever
Ingrid screams

a beautiful friend delivers us supper.
dish it out one-handed,
clean it up one-handed,
prepare for the next day;
one-handed

Ingrid screams.

A day of holding my breath.
uptight,
shaking.

Trying to find my center;
head,
heart,
belly.

Breathe

 

We are not rich.

I think I’m in love with this article.

I must first preface this post with the observation that I’m grateful we earn what we do.  We are extremely lucky to have chosen two careers which have resulted in two high paying jobs.  We make well more than the median American household income and for that I am thankful.  But since I’ve been up here in this bracket of ‘riches’  I’ve noticed some slight inconsistencies.  One elephant in the room is that at $250k household income will take you a LOT farther in some parts of the country (say…for example Iowa) than here in DC.  Even the article points this out:

“Consider, for example, the tab for the same assortment of ground beef, tuna, milk, eggs, margarine, potatoes, bananas, bread, orange juice, coffee, sugar and cereal: In Twin Falls, Idaho, $23.41. In New York City, you would shell out $40.29, or 72 percent more…”

Of course housing costs are way different too, I won’t belabor that obvious point.  I know many of our friends in the Midwest who make less than we do who own houses and property far newer, nicer and larger than our home AND pay less for it.  Some are even capable of living rather luxuriously (owning vehicles nicer than ours, homes bigger than ours, vacations more often than ours) on a single income shockingly far less than our two salaries combined.

According to many we are considered “rich” because of this arbitrary $250k number that’s been assaulted over TV as of late.

“In the heated battle over extending the expiring Bush-era tax cuts, a single number has emerged from the crossfire: $250,000. It’s the annual income that President Obama and others have repeatedly used to define what it means to be “rich” in America today. And even though a tentative deal has been reached on the cuts, $250,000 is etched in the minds of policymakers and pundits as the number that separates the middle class from the wealthy.”

Let me get something straight.  I don’t feel “rich” or “wealthy”.  And neither are my countless friends here in the area making similar salaries.  We sound so much like the Jones in this article it is almost creepy:

“Mr. and Mrs. Jones – are both working professionals. They take advantage of all tax benefits available to them, such as pre-tax contributions to 401(k) plans and medical, child care and transportation flexible spending accounts. They have no credit card debt, but Mr. Jones racked up $40,208 in student loan debt…”

OK we have way more student loan debt that them, but we don’t have any car loans so it equals out.  And if we had two kids in day-care we would be paying way more than the article quoted $19k/year…it would be something more close to 25-33k/year depending on the age of the kid.  The article also fails to mention that because Mr. and Mrs. Jones are so ‘rich’ they according to our tax-law they can not take advantage of many tax deductions available to couples who make less….like student loan interest deductions…or that new cars sales tax deduction they offered in 2009.   And of course the more they add to their standard deduction the  more their AMT goes up (see below).  In a way the AMT honestly hinders my desire to give to charities because I don’t get to use it as a tax deduction like everyone else can, and that irritates me.

I don’t mind taxes, I really don’t.  They pay for lovely things like libraries, schools, roads, firetrucks, my salary.  They keep shit civil…I get that…I PREFER that.  I do not want to put out my home if it is on fire, nor do I want to quit my job to educate my kid full-time, and heck I LOVE me my free books.  What I don’t like is putting the same amount in the tax-pot as someone making the same amount in Idaho who pays less for their larger house and whose groceries don’t cost as much.  The government has used locality pay for as long as I’ve been working for them.  What that means is that living here in the DC metro area I get 24.22% more for the same GS scale/step than my fellow government worker living in Missouri who is also at the same grade/step.

I’ve said it many times, and I’ll say it again…taxes should be based on locality AND income, not just income alone.  It would level the playing field and ensure that those living in high cost areas were taxed at the same extent as those living in low-cost areas.  Although Obama says he is going to push for tax reform, and as much as I want to believe he will do it, it won’t happen because I’m starting to think that our political system is set up for failure.  If you need an example of why I think our tax law will never change read up on the insanity that is the Alternative Minimum Tax

And I’ll end with my favorite quote:

“Whether $250,000 represents affluence “depends a great deal upon where you live,” he says.”

Amen.

Strike two

Heading advise from our financial adviser Royce and I set out to re-finance our mortgage.  Given the current rates and the instability of them staying low we figured why not.  We tried last July, but our house didn’t appraise for what we needed it to.

This time we thought we had it in the bag.  In July of 2009 our house appraised for $500k; figuring it would appraise for that (or above that since the market here has been gaining) we set out with enough cash in our pocket to get our mortgage balance down to $400k (80% of $500k). We locked in a nice 5.125% rate and even our mortgage lady thought we would appraise for $525k given last July’s result.  We oo’ed and ahh’ed over our proposed new payment; nearly $1300k less per month than we are paying.  How sweet would that have been!  How sweet indeed.

But we failed, again.  We found out yesterday our appraisal came back at $470k.  It hurt, I was ill, angry, I wanted to throw something.  I cried.  We obviously don’t have enough cash floating around to get our balance down to $376k (80% of $470k).  So yet again we are stuck in this piece of crap mortgage that our lender said we would never be in this long because “no one stays in their first home for more than 3-4 years”.  Well lady; we are going on 4 years and in another year our stupid rate re-sets.  Although, if our rate reset today we would have a lower rate than we signed on to in 2006 so here is to hoping in Sept 2011 interest rates are still as low as they are today.

I’m curious to get the appraisal results in  hand because it really doesn’t make sense (this is the bargaining stage of Kubler-Ross 5 stages of grief).  I know of two homes in the neighborhood that we are larger than AND we have a garage/driveway, and they sold for $540k…something isn’t right. I seriously wonder if she calculated our square footage appropriately…she was a bit lazy, I had to show her the second full bath because she missed it during her walk-through.

I have few regrets in life; but buying this house with the type of mortgage we took on is defiantly one of them. I’m actually afraid to try for a third time because it will either the “the charm” or “you’re out”.

Friends & Expectations

I’ve been struggling a lot recently with expectations.

I found out this week that a friend of mine was in DC for a conference, and she managed to have time to contact and meet up with another friend of mine (I introduced the two of them a few years back).  But neither of them bothered to email, phone or attempt to meet up with me.  Ouch.  Kick me while I’m down (because I haven’t exactly been feeling all bright and cheery lately).

I don’t blame either of them though (I am the first to admit that recently haven’t been the most fun person to be around).  Instead I reflected.  Am I a bad friend?  Over the past 5 months I haven’t called people back, I haven’t met up for lunches, I haven’t wanted to spend my free time meeting up with other moms and babies while we do nothing but chase around and chat about said babies.  But I don’t think that puts me in the bad friend category.  Why?  Because I’m still trying to figure out what I think of this new life, I’m befuddled because the expectation is that I should LOVE my new life.  I should be over the moon about it.  Sometimes I am, sometimes I’m not.

People can’t accept the last part of that statement; they don’t how to deal with those who maybe may not be all oooh-baby-gaga over their new life (not that I’ve ever been overly-happy-gushy-gaga about much of anything, it’s not really my style).  Regardless of my reaction to motherhood, I would hope that women- mothers- friends could be more understanding, because when someone may not respond to you immediately…that probably means they need you as a friend more than ever.  They don’t need to be ignored.

But that is how I have felt recently.  Ignored and left-out.  Not just by these two friends but by some others that are even closer.  It makes for a rough go of it and complicates the funk I’m trying so desperately to get myself out of.  When it comes down to it I guess somethings never change; we all struggle with wanting to be included.  Right now I feel about as excluded as one can feel while struggling with my new role as ‘mom’.  In a perfect world my friends would surround and help.  Instead they forge on without.

Back to the expectations…Syd is amazing; I couldn’t have made a better child.  But that doesn’t mean my entire life revolves around her, nor do I expect it to. I am multifaceted; boss, wife, mother.  I’ve had many years to figure out ‘wife’, and I’ve been ‘boss’ for a while too.  I’ve only been at this ‘mother’ thing for 5 months.  It takes some getting used to.  And there is nothing wrong with that.  I just wish the expectations from other mothers and friends were the same.  I do find myself growing closer to friends who hold the same facets, but it still hurts to see others fade away.

Just can’t catch a break

Life isn’t fair.  I’m aware.  But so far I’ve been sick for our first two date nights.  I can’t even remember the last time I had a relaxing weekend.  I think it was back in March.

I was so looking forward to this weekend too.  Sun, warm, blue skies. We had planned date night Saturday (cocktails, appetizers, then a movie) followed by Cherry Blossoms Sunday morning (while everyone was at Church) and a late Easter lunch with friends.  I needed this weekend for my own sanity.

Of course none of that happened.  We spent our time praising the porcelain throne with ick coming out of both ends.  I feel so weak from not being able to eat or drink anything that the slightest effort makes me tired.  Poor Syd isn’t getting much from the ‘milk-lady’ either, we’ve had to supplement with some bottles.   I just hope my supply will come back.

Thankfully Syd has been spared (knock-on-wood) and somehow she must know Mom and Dad feel like death because she has been an absolute angel this weekend.

Maybe next weekend will be better…I can only keep hoping.

We still have a long way to go.

This is definitely a venting post so if you don’t feel like listening to a sleep deprived new mom on her soap box…move along…this post has nothing in it for you.

Growing up here in America you think you have it pretty good as a woman.  We have reproductive freedom (for now at least), we can work, vote, and most of us get paid somewhat similarly to our male co-workers.   I always thought that seemed to be enough, and then I had a kid.

First blow was lack of paid maternity leave.  I blogged on this back when I was pregnant.  It sill pains me to tell people when asked that “the federal government does not have paid maternity leave”. They gasp, and I feel embarrassed. Why?  because large companies typically offer a meager 6-weeks to new moms.  But our federal government, which should be setting the standards in my opinion, doesn’t give squat.  I’m glad to report that starting next week I will have exhausted all my accumulated sick leave and will be dipping into my annual leave bucket to cover the last 3-weeks of my maternity leave.  I could take a 3-week vacation…but I guess this is considered vacation…some vacation!  LOL.  Oh and keep your fingers crossed that Syd (or god forbid MOM) doesn’t get sick when I go back to work because I have no sick leave left to cover any time away.  A co-workers wife who works for a European embassy has an entire year off with her new baby.  I’m not sure of the details…I’m almost certain she is not getting her full salary during this time…but I know she is getting *something*.  Must be nice.

Second blow is the one I’m dealing with now…attempting to get my pump purchase and pump rentals reimbursed by my Flex-Spending Account.  This seems like such a no-brainer to me.  Its $$ I set aside tax-free to cover medical expenses, yet something that is considered to be ‘medical equipment’ isn’t reimbursable.  Huh?  I’m confused.  I’ve called, I’ve submitted claims…reject, reject, reject.  I even tried calling BCBS to see if they would just pay for it outright…the lady said No..but should have included a statement of the like:  No, we do not reimburse breast-pumps because that would promote breastfeeding and that would promote healthy babies which leads to healthy children and then we wouldn’t have any sick child visits and we wouldn’t make any money.

Luckily for Syd and me our pediatricians office has a nurse practitioner on staff who is also a lactation consultant.  Our weekly doctors visits with her during Syds first month were billed as ‘feeding problems’ instead of lactation consults which wouldn’t have been covered.  Our neighborhood lactation center charges $100/hour for a consultation.  Not cheap.  And definitely not something affordable by all women of varying socioeconomic classes.  Honestly if it wasn’t for my ability to get help from our pediatricians office for our $25 co-pay I’m almost 100% sure I would have given up on breastfeeding entirely.

Sadly, yes, BCBS  and Flex-Spending reimburses for Viagra and other erectile dysfunction drugs.  Said bluntly, erections are more important to the Federal Governments health plans than healthy babies.  Disgusting.

I could go on…the maximum 5k we can set aside with a Flex-Spending account to cover child care expenses is just laughable.  That 5k will barely get us through 3 months of day-care.  And the measly dependent deduction we get for taxes.  Make you wonder why people even want to have kids, and maybe explains why some women choose abortion.  No one is willing to help them raise a healthy child, or give them time off to bond with their child.  I’m actually amazed the pro-lifers haven’t starting using this spin to get somewhere in congress.  Maybe instead of taking away our rights to abortion they should start lobbying for women and family rights, which in turn would give women and families the support and encouragement they need to have their baby.

Makes sense to me.  I can only hope and dream that by the time Syd is in this situation there have massive changes to support these rights which seem to be forgotten.  Sadly, we still have a long way to go before all women and children are considered equal to the big rich guys (and their erections) in congress.

No one wants to help out the financially responsible.

We tried and miserably failed at refinancing our house.  I feel defeated, depressed, helpless.  I think I’m going through the Kubler-Ross 5 stages of grief…probably somewhere between anger and acceptance knowing there is no way to bargain ourselves out of this situation.

We needed our house to appraise at 530k because we could only afford to get our mortgage balance down to 424k (80% of 530k).  Sadly, our appraisal came back at 500k…a 9% loss from our 2006 purchase price.  If you add in the improvements we have made on to that though we have lost 17%.

The bank tried to appease us by telling us we could refi, but then we would have to pay PMI.  PMI is tacked to any financing that’s over 80% of the homes value.  However, given our job security, credit score (I didn’t know it was possible to have a credit score >800!), and past payment history (we have paid down our mortgage balance by 18% in 3 years!) I’m insulted the bank can’t find a way to get around this PMI issue.

It also comes down to the fact that I blame this entire housing crisis on the banks and credit companies in the first place…they are the ones who screwed up the system so that home prices were so inflated.  And then they practically threw money at anyone with a pulse…and now they are judging us and saying “no you guys aren’t good enough”.  Add to that Obamas April ’09 plea that “everyone should refinance and take advantage of these low rates” and I get really pissed.  Seems like the only ones who are capable of refinancing are those people who are so screwed they are about to lose their  home, or those people who have all the correct boxes checked and have 20% equity in their home (or have a Fannie-Mae backed loan).  There is no in-between.  An easy way to solve this is to make banks set refinancing terms based on the original purchase price.    Of course it isn’t in the banks best interest to get people like us into lower rate loans…they know we will pay because we have the $$ to do so and we are financially responsible.

I guess a positive to come from this is of this is when we are ready we will be able to pay cash for our car since we have it readily available.  Then the process of racking up more savings to hopefully refinance before our ARM adjusts in 2011 will begin again.  I’m still no where near the ‘acceptance’ stage but I’m sure it will come soon enough.

I’ve got an idea…

Royce and I fall in this gray tax bracket zone where we wouldn’t qualify for any of Obama’s ‘tax cuts’, nor are we ‘rich’ enough to get any attention by McCain’s policy.  So no matter what happens in November we are screwed tax wise so we chose to vote on other polices but that is a different post.

What is really bothering me right now is all of this bailing out.  The front of the Washington post today was "Look at the house you and Freddie own".  And I said "I don’t like that house"…and I really didn’t…it looked like crap.  Which got me started on this rant.  I’m tired of being responsible for people who aren’t responsible.  This goes to the most recent financial issues our country has created for itself, but also has been a big rant of mine for years of being a pharmacist and seeing the people living off the medicaid system pulling up in the drive-through pick up window in a BMW. 

So here is an idea.  Why don’t we reward the people who make good financial decisions?  I’m tired of bailing out the idiots with no insurance, no retirement, and no savings.  How come the only people I impress with our good finances and old plain cars are bad financial planners and my parents?  It wouldn’t be too much to ask to give small rewards at tax time to those of us who contribute the maximum to retirement.  Or those of us who don’t carry a credit card balance.  Or those who actually…i donno…own a house and cars that they can afford!  Maybe if the government stepped in and said people like us could get more money by being financially responsible more people would be willing to live within their means.

Don’t even get me started on the insanity of McCain’s health care proposal.  After what has happened recently do you really think if you gave every family $$ to go out and purchase their own health care that they will?  Hell no…they will take that $$ and go buy something they don’t need and then we will still have the same problem…tons of people under insured but still driving luxury vehicles. 

OK rant over…next post will be about something house related I promise.

Sicko

Last night was movie night and we chose to see Sicko…the documentary film (getting too little press in my opinion) about the plight of our US healthcare system.  I know I know…the director, Michael Moore, can be overly dramatic and can stretch the drama/truth to make a point (and I’m being nice here) but today while working at CVS I couldn’t help but wonder…IS there a better way?  DO Canada, France and England have it right?  Maybe this wasn’t the film to see before I picked up a shift for the first time in 2 months.  *sigh*

Today over my 5 hours at CVS I spent at least 2 of those on the phone to insurance companies…nearly 40% of my time was spent dealing with multiple for-profit agencies that didn’t want to either cover a drug or cover a patient.  This maybe a shocker to you not in the field but it really doesn’t take 15 minutes or more to fill your prescription…what takes long is dealing with insurance companies.  If all I had to do was type, fill, check and bag, I could get your prescription to you in less than 5 minutes…hell I got one ready today in 2 (gasp!).  You maybe going…but I never have problems with my insurance…yeah well maybe you don’t, but the guy in line ahead of you does, and the person 10 mins before him did too…and you can see how things start to get backed up and why those of us behind the counter get so irritable.

Now I know why American drug stores have so much stuff in them…so you don’t realize how long it takes because you are happily distracted by all the crap we are selling in the seasonal isle.  It was pure joy to hear the pharmacist in England say “I’ve gone to school for too long to care about your laundry” in response to Michael Moore when he asked why his pharmacy didn’t sell laundry detergent.

The conversation with the English Doctor got me thinking about how their bonuses are based on if they get more of their patients to for example lose weight, or to stop smoking, or to lower their cholesterol.  It seems so logical right…to get paid more to help people!???  Royce’s bonus’ are based on how many patients he can see and how much he bills…and your family practice doc isn’t getting paid more if you lower your Cholesterol trust me.  What a concept though when you really think about it…healthcare that actually takes care and believes in helping ones health.  I wonder if I or our children will ever see it that way in the US?

The entire way home from the film we were plotting how we could move to France…sad really…but the only thing holding us back is the language barrier.  Maybe I’ll sign up for French lessons again.

A nice afternoon discussion

Me:  Get this…NJ is requiring us to get criminal background checks to maintain our pharmacy licenses.  About a month ago I filled out this lengthy form and figured that was the end of it, but today I got this letter stating they need finger prints. 
Royce:  Nice.
Me:  So now I have to go pay to get finger printed AND I get to send NJ $78 when I send the prints back.
Royce:  Typical.  Nothing like paying for your own background check to maintain a license in a state you don’t even work in anymore.
Me:  Oh and to ice the cake, it all has to be done within 20 days of the letter.  Good thing I’m not on an extended vacation in Europe right now.  Hell I don’t even know where a police station is to go get my finger prints…
Royce:  I bet you can find a police station real fast…just go outside and run around naked.

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