no bad days? really?

I think I first saw the “no bad days” bumper sticker on a car in Hawaii. I wish I could share the philosophy. Of course, if I lived in Hawaii I probably could. Today, however, in this heartless metropolis I had a bad day. The entire family had a bad day, in fact. My husband was stuck in traffic for four hours, for one.

As for me, the day started normal enough. But then a plan I had went unfulfilled and so I decided to run an errand in the short amount of free time I had. I needed to exchange a pair of running shoes at a department store. This was my second time making the trip. The first time I discovered when I got home that in the box was one white sneaker and one gray. I couldn’t make an even exchange, I was told, because I had paid for the more expensive gray pair, so I had to find the match to the white one. With the assistance of the shoe clerk, I had a matching set, or so I’d thought, until I got home, tried them on, and discovered that although the colors of the shoes were now the same, one was a B, or medium, width and the other, a D, or wide.

So, a week went by until I could go in. And, you guessed it, the other mismatched pair was nowhere to be found. And there were no others of this type in my size, so I came home empty handed. (Somewhere in a neighboring community a woman is thinking to herself, “My, that right shoe is so much tighter than the left!”)

All right. Not the end of the world there. But then I had to gently encourage my son to figure out a schedule of classes for his first semester of college (I lied, I yelled). It was his day to register online, and the classes go fast.  Mind you, I never had to do this for my girls. They just knew what needed to be done and when. They figured out a schedule and myriad possible alternatives in case their desired courses were filled. Once they had what they needed, they then asked me to put the credit card info in, and, just like that, they were registered. My son, however, waited until the last minute to even figure out which classes are recommended for his major–or for any major, for that matter. So, I was in a scramble-bamble to help him determine what was necessary. And of course, being this day and age and trying to enroll in a public junior college, the pickings are extremely slim. There isn’t enough money to pay enough professors to fill the need for the students, so the students suffer. We all suffer. Especially me. Today. I was on my last nerve, in a panic, trying to help him out, while simultaneously working on two assignments, which are timed. Picture the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Picture me being trampled on said floor.

And if that isn’t bad enough, in the middle of it all, my son looked out the front window to see a meter man (or whatever the male equivalent of meter maid is) getting back into his buggy after leaving a parking citation on my van–the van my son drives and had parked with the front bumper one foot over the red curb. A curb that was painted only at the prompting of a neighbor who wanted another feuding neighbor to stop parking his and his visitors’ vehicles all over the cul-de-sac. So, within the next thirty days, if and when I can find the time, I will have to send a letter off to the city to fight this ticket. The city will probably be reluctant to give in, being that it’s an institution that gets funding from the same people who won’t allocate enough money to the colleges in order to provide enough classes for their students. Sometimes I just want to pack it up and move away. But what state isn’t suffering like this one?

I’m guessing Hawaii.

the devil i know

I think myself unfortunate at times to not have all the accoutrements of what has become today’s middle-class lifestyle, but for the most part I realize how fortunate I am to have the objects–and especially the people and the peace of mind–I do have in my life. I’m not a risk taker and neither is my husband. The few risks we have taken have paid off, but they were well-thought-out plans, not impetuous, off-the-wall decisions. I can say I’d rather be this type of person and maybe not have all the stuff, all the fun, and all the adventure that others have in order to live a lifestyle I can trust will be there tomorrow, and the next day and the next.

One of my dearest friends just called me up to say that she and her husband are facing foreclosure. He had taken a huge risk by stopping to pay the mortgage eighteen months ago in order to force the bank’s hand into setting up a loan modification on a house that has lost nearly half its original value. The risk did not pay off, obviously, and my friend is faced with having to uproot her family to a temporary residence before her husband (he’s the one who makes all the financial decisions without even consulting her) can acquire a loan to buy a less-expensive home. As I said, the value of the houses in their once-promising area have halved in the past six or so years since moving in. The area that was once in the works to be an inexpensive enclave of homes away from two very big cities, where families could buy 3,000-square-foot houses for $300,000 to $400,000–at the time, half of what they were in the two nearest big cities–went belly-up. Losing jobs during the current bad economy, the homeowners who moved there five or six years ago looking for that steal of a deal are now walking away from those very homes, because many of them didn’t have the money or the good credit or the dependable jobs to pay for loans in the big cities in the first place. Banks were eager to lend to these property virgins in order to make a sale.

My friend’s husband, ironically, did have the money to pay off the original loan, and yet he was willing to play with the bank in order to try to get them to reduce the mortgage to current market values. He had thought it was wise at the time. Now the decision looks extremely foolish.

So, my dear friend may very well be facing the biggest move of her life, packing up her two girls and the beautiful home they have containing all the fine things in life (a baby grand piano, flat-screen TVs, a Wii, granite countertops, nice clothes) because of a foolish decision made by her husband.

If taking risks means possibly gambling away my lifestyle, my well-being, my kids’ stability, I’ll happily stick with the devil I know than the very real, risky devil I don’t.