Happy Spring! New Projects

Happy spring! 82 degrees on the last day of winter…whaaatt?! A harbinger of a hot summer, I’m afraid.

It’s time to plan projects for the next few months. And we have monkey wrenches already.

We had two major goals for this year: a bucket list vacation to celebrate our 25th anniversary, and addressing the retaining wall on the south side of the garage. Weeelll, wouldn’t you know it?

During a ROUTINE ANNUAL EXAM, a tumor was found, in my abdomen, which required major surgery to remove. I cannot stress enough the value of such exams. It had been two and a half years since I’d been to the doctor, and this thing developed during that time, with no symptoms! Sometimes we think since we’re feeling fine, our bodies are fine. But things happen when you don’t even know it, and the doctors’ jobs are to be aware and find these things while they can still be taken care of. It was ultimately benign, I thank God, but the size of a large, unripe pear. It and the obsolete organ it invaded were removed. There will be a scar, a very large scar. Which no one but my husband and me will see. I’m okay with that.

Without getting political, I have a pre-ACA health insurance policy, with excellent coverage, and my out of pocket cost will be quite manageable, although a big part of our savings. I know the dollar amount, and we are just waiting for the bills to roll in. I’m keeping track of the EOBs online. I have several weeks of recovery ahead of me, doing quite well, thank you. I am trying to learn to “be still.” I have more time to plan, less time to work, and less funds. Challenge accepted!

First of all, we’ve scratched the retaining wall project. My spidey sense is telling me it will cost much more than my marked up estimate. (I usually add 15% to what early research indicates.) While this does need to be done, there are also neighbor factors involved (they have their own issues this year), and more thoughtful planning required (electric supply lines run through the area). This is not something I want to tackle this year, especially since it would take several months from first calls to completion, and be angst-ridden the whole time.

My health issue brought to mind that our self-promised vacation should be a priority for us right now. Since we’ve already saved for it, even with the medical bills, we’re going for it. We may revise our itinerary a bit, but we’ve decided to go.

Meanwhile, the funds will grow for the retaining wall project, while this year we focus on more mundane and less costly maintenance. I will be using service professionals for most, if not all, of my projects this year. My body needs to heal, and the projects are very specific. Plus, I don’t have the equipment. Landscaping will probably not be a big thing this year, except for general cleanup. I’m still developing the list, and hope to get started implementing right after Easter. I’ll be back to share that.

What projects are you planning this year? How have financial surprises changed your list?


Mello Re-Hash — A Political Post

Warning: This is a post about an Omaha political race. It has nothing to do with my regular frugal projects. If you don’t care about Omaha politics, or this issue, I won’t be offended if you ignore the post.

Way back in April 2011, I wrote this post about two misguided Nebraska lawmakers and their attempt to prove that “it’s too difficult to eat well” on a SNAP program.

Well, I’ve learned a lot since then, and I hope Heath Mello has, too. He has announced he is running for mayor of Omaha this fall.  Let’s recap what happened in 2011….

The Omaha World-Herald ran an article (the link no longer works) about two Nebraska state senators attempting to eat for a month on a food stamp budget “in order to draw attention to the lack of healthy food available to low-income families” in Omaha. After buying a loaf of wheat bread, a half-gallon of skim milk, peanut butter, jelly and Frosted Mini-Wheats for “less than $16.85” and eating only that all week, then-senator Mello declared that it was “too difficult to eat well” on the budget provided by SNAP. My article suggested fresh produce and other changes would cost less and provide nutrition on that budget.

I was really taken aback by the comments made by our elected senators, and the fact that they really weren’t trying to learn how to resolve the education component of the SNAP program.  I offered to walk with Mello to his neighborhood store, make smart, nutritious choices, and show him how the program is designed to work.  He was not interested.  He told me he did this to “learn as a lawmaker.” I told him he could learn how to improve information programs for assistance recipients, and that would be a great use of state resources.  He still declined the opportunity to learn more as a lawmaker.

Five years later, I have worked even more in the area of feeding and educating the hungry in our community. I work with a food pantry that provides groceries to qualifying low income families. I work with another organization that teaches nutrition, food budgeting and basic cooking skills to low income families.  I have worked grocery store educational events in the poorest communities. I have learned more about how SNAP is intended to be a temporary stop-gap, not a permanent lifestyle. I have learned what it does and does not cover. Even though I no longer journal my family’s dinner menus (which can still be found in the archives here), I can still put together a week’s worth of meal planning for about $50/week for three of us. It IS possible, and there are educational resources available. I believe our elected officials should know how to make that information available to those that need the programs.

I never heard back from Mello, even when the Unicameral was considering issues affecting low income families. His steadfast refusal to consider a different aspect of SNAP, resources available to low income families, and the educational component of temporary assistance, is troubling to me.

The man wants to be mayor of Omaha. His political ambitions are clear. But if he doesn’t want to provide real assistance, if he isn’t interested in learning about solutions, if he only wants to be elected, then he cannot effectively be a leader that will make a positive impact in this city, or in the community that needs leadership in this area of hunger.

I believe Omaha needs better. We need to come together (which is happening in North O and Florence!), to build up the citizenry. We do not need to claim that survival is not possible, when there are so many opportunities for families to learn and thrive. We do not need to provide permanent assistance for everyone/anyone who is simply uneducated — we need to educate them.

And as long as I have the soapbox, I’ll say it again: The Unicameral, and the FedGov, need to attach to SNAP and any other state program, a requirement of an educational component if recipients request long-term assistance. Existing programs are already available in our area, and meet federal funding requirements.

I’m done now. Thanks for reading, and for allowing me a brief detour from my frugal journey.




* If you are in need of temporary assistance, or would like additional information, here are some local resources:

Project Hope Omaha

Cooking Matters Omaha