Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Living The Life

Hm.  Haven't done an a.k.a. for a while!

Alternate post title: If I Had A Billion Dollars...

It has been hard to avoid hearing about the billion dollar bracket challenge that started recently, so I'll assume that you already know about it, or have clicked on the link I provided just there.  I entered, and lost almost immediately.  However, it is also hard to keep from thinking thoughts that start with, "but if I did win a billion dollars..." even now, that my chance of winning has been reduced from 1/920,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (That might be too many zeros.  It might be too few.  I know I'm tired of typing them, is all.) to zero.  Rip Claw knew about the challenge, and helped me make my picks.  The day after my bracket was submitted, I saw this article about Patriot's Quarterback Tom Brady and his wife, model Gisele Bundchen, putting their home on the market for $50 million.  Rip Claw has lately been thoroughly obsessed with football, so I called him over to look at the pictures with me of Tom Brady's house.  It is jaw-dropping.  Beautiful.  Magnificent.  Eco-friendly!  Enormous.  Palatial.  And, nauseating.  
I hope that's a secret passageway above all the shoes.  Otherwise, I don't want it.
I told Rip Claw that, sure, we could buy Tom Brady's house if we won the billion.  He understood, though, that we weren't going to win it, so he quickly informed Charming that it was time for him to start playing in the NFL.  I guess he thought that our telling him that Daddy didn't play tackle football because it was too dangerous meant that Daddy's fear was the only thing holding him back from an NFL career.  Awwww, right?

Later, once we had explained the statistical improbability of Charming going from his desk job in the communication industry, and taking his English degree to the gridiron to start making millions of dollars, Rip Claw asked me about other ways we could afford to buy Tom Brady's house.  

RC: "Well, what other jobs make a lot of money?"
Me: "Other than professional athletes?  People who make smart business decisions usually make a lot of money.  People who invent things, people who make things that almost everyone needs or uses every day, they have enough money to buy Tom Brady's house."
RC: "Ooh!  What can I invent that nobody else has thought of?"
Me: "Um.  If I knew that, I probably would have already invented it.  The point is to think of something that nobody else has thought of or been able to make before.  Like, the guy who started Facebook.  He has way more money than any football player."
RC: "Hm.  Are you sure that Dad won't play football?"
Me:  "Yup.  You know, Tom Brady's wife also has a lot of money.  Her job is to be a model."
RC: "What's a model?"
Me: "A model is someone who wears clothes for pictures or shows in order to make people want to buy the clothes."
RC: "What?!  So, she just gets paid to wear clothes?  How did she get to be a model?"
Me: "Models are usually very good looking.  They make people think that they'll also look good in the clothes they're modeling, so the companies that made the clothes get a lot of money from people buying their products."
RC: "Why don't you be a model?"

My first thought at this point in the conversation was to use the following visual aid:
Your mom, modeling her clothes. "Look how many shades of pink I can wear at once!"

Yeaaahhh.... That just ain't me.
Me: "You have to be really good looking to be a model.  They're pretty much all a lot taller than me, a lot skinnier, and they don't eat nearly so many chips as I do.  Plus, I never really wanted to be a model."
RC: "You're really pretty!  Sometimes you even smell pretty!"
Me, thinking: "Coincidence that the times I smell pretty I am wearing Victoria's Secret Halo perfume and Gisele is a Victoria's Secret model?"
Me: "Thanks, son!  But really.  I don't want to be a model."
RC: "Can boys be models?"
Me: "Oh, yeah.  There are lots of boy models.  You're definitely good looking enough to be one, too, but that's not really something Daddy and I want for you.  We like to focus more on your character and your actions and teaching you to be honest, kind, friendly, generous, and, you know, to make good choices."
RC: "Yeah.  You want me to do the right things and not worry about how I look."
Me: "Exactly!"
RC: "So, why do you think they're selling that house, anyway?"
Me: "It's hard to say.  Maybe they want a bigger house.  Maybe they want to live somewhere other than California.  Maybe they want a smaller house!"
RC: "OOH!  Like our house?  Do you think they want to trade houses with us?
Me: "It's possible.  About as likely as us winning the billion dollars

Why wouldn't they want to trade?  

Because of all the talk about becoming billionaires, I came to a few conclusions about riches.

  • You know how they say money can't buy happiness?  I believe it.  Not to say that the Brady-Bundchens aren't happy because they have so much money, but I cannot imagine that they're happier than my family.  
  • The next bullet point is going to sound like a lie.  It's not.
  • ~$2 million would go toward buying a few nice houses in a few nice locations.  ~$1 million would go toward traveling, with the family.  We might have to do it all on land and sea, though, as Charming hates to fly.  I would hire a financial planner and make some investments.  Charming and I would play in the World Series of Poker.  Then, I would donate the rest to causes I feel are important.  
I think that the best part of having a lot of money would be the ability to give a lot of money away.  I would love to have a house with a spiral staircase and more than one bathroom, but I don't need 14,000 square feet, a crystal chandelier in my closet, or pictures of my home in Architectural Digest.  My favorite wine costs $10/bottle.  I mean, I'm sure there are better wines out there.  Otherwise, why would Sommelier be a job? But I just can't see myself suddenly finding a gaping hole in my life that only fine wine or expensive shoes or extra cars could fill.  You know where I do find myself lacking?  I'm lazy about housework.  I waste time on social media sites and on playing games I will never win (which you should totally start playing right now, by the by).  I certainly wouldn't become a better person by having the money to pay people to clean and organize my house(s).  I don't need extra time until I learn to discipline myself to use the free time I do have in wise ways.  If I could buy a migraine cure or the ability to never procrastinate, show up late, or snap at my kids, I might spend more millions.

The bottom line is that I really, truly can't see how anyone with gobs of money can possibly justify spending it on themselves.  Now, I do realize that my buying a couple million dollars worth of houses and spending so much on travel and poker qualifies as spending gobs on myself.  However, I feel I'm being realistic.  It would be thrilling to not ever have to worry about having enough money, to live comfortably, and to not worry about a job schedule, retirement, or my family's well-being.  I would love to be able to go with Charming and the kids to see different places and experience different cultures all around the world.

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow mindedness,
and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts..."
                                                    -Mark Twain

I also feel I'm being realistic about how much money I would share.  Enough to make a difference, that's for sure.  I'm not the smartest brick in the tower (or however the saying goes) but I can give money away to worthy causes like nobody's biz.  I have no desire to go to fancy parties with other rich people, I have fun friends already.  I couldn't care less about fashion designers or expensive clothing/shoes/accessories.  It's the poor people, the sick people, and the parents from my son's school who are unable to afford $50/year for their kids to join a running group that make my heart hurt.  Come to think of it, I got the same sick feeling from looking at all those scholarship applications as I did when I looked at the pictures of Gisele's closet.

For once, I'll let you solicit advice.  I shouldn't tell others what to do with their money...unless they ask.  Just remember this: "rich" is totally subjective.

Monday, March 10, 2014

What Else is New?

When I take these long breaks from blogging, I always feel the need to catch folks up on what is happening.  Probably, none of these items will come as a surprise, but here they are anyway!
  • I'm reading a book about running.  I don't like it, but I can't seem to put it down, either.  I'm not sure that the author is telling truths about herself and her life, the beginning seemed to drag on forever, and there are way too many details about who she thinks people resemble.  Although I think some of her accomplishments are inspiring, I find myself too distracted by her rambling writing style and by rolling my eyes at some of her stories to actually feel inspired.
Dandelion Growing Wild
  • I'm not running my first full marathon in a few weeks.  I finally decided to switch to the half after reading the advice given to Shut Up + Run blogger, Beth, by her coach, Andrew Kastor.  In more eloquent language, he basically said that training for a marathon is the hard part.  Running the marathon is the reward.  I remembered how true that was for me when I trained for my first 13.1 mile race, and I realized that I don't deserve the reward of completing a full marathon yet.  I haven't put in enough training time or hard work, and I feel like I would be cheating, in a way, by crossing that finish line without having properly prepared myself.  I don't want to run a marathon just to say I've done it.  I want to challenge myself, become a stronger runner, and I want to give it my very best.  Toeing the starting line sort-of injured, half-trained, lacking confidence and drive, and with the mantra "Slow down and walk" running through my head is not the way I want to be there.
  • Rip Claw is amazing.  He ran his 3rd 5k race in a year, and set a PR by more than 10 minutes!  
The results board showed that he was in 3rd place, earning an age group medal.  However, once the official results came out, he ended up in 5th place.  Fast forward past the crushing disappointment, tears, anger, and shout of, "It's not FAIR!" and you'll find him proud and smiling again.  He asked if Charming and I would make something for him to replace the medal he thought he earned.  We agreed, and he said that he will "love it no matter what it is or how good it looks, because it's not something you buy, it's something you make special just for me."  After the race, we came home and relaxed for a while before going to his first ever Flag Football game.  He played magnificently.  He even scored a touchdown!

Charming and I have always agreed that tackle football is too dangerous for our kids to play.  I still believe that, but I must admit, I had a brief, "What if, maybe..." thought after watching him catch the long pass, dodge "tackles" and speed into the end zone.  I love watching football, and it didn't ever really occur to me that a Pee Wee league game could be more exciting than an NFL game.  I wanted more, more, and more.  It was awesome to watch, and he loved every moment of playing, too.

  • Kids who go to day care tend to get sick more often than those who don't.  Cupcake started going to baby school 2 days a week in early February, in order to free up some extra days for me to pick up substitute teaching jobs.  She has been sick 3 times in the past 4 weeks, and only twice in the previous 22 months.  The good news?  I learned that the after-hours pediatric clinic nearby is actually a pretty decent facility.  Also, I learned what the rash that comes with hand, foot, and mouth disease looks like.
The first time she has fallen asleep on my lap in more than a year!
  • I'm off Facebook for a while.  40 days, to be exact.  I don't do Lent, but our church asks the goers to do something similar every year around this time.  We're to make a few commitments, like attending services for 6 weeks, memorizing some verses, etc., and to sacrifice something that occupies our attention so that we have more time to spend cultivating our relationship with God.  As I told my friend earlier, it's going to be tough for me.  Not like 40 days of fasting alone in the wilderness before being betrayed and crucified tough, but still.  Mostly, I'm excited to break the habit I have of checking FB every time I pick up my phone, and keeping the tab open every time I'm on the laptop.  
  • I have a horrible cough.  I keep reminding myself that it has been this bad before, and it always goes away eventually, but it's still awful in the meantime.  I think I used to get my yearly cough in the late Fall/early Winter months.  Some years, I had it more than once.  No matter when it comes to visit, I loathe it.  It's embarrassing, gross, painful, annoying, and unpredictable.  Here is how it sounds, in words:
ughaghKACH ughaghKACH
Repeat, repeat, repeat, sometimes for as long as 30 minutes. 
  • I really enjoy doing volunteer work.  I've done several different types, too, so it isn't as if I just need to find a paying job doing the work I volunteer to do now.  Obviously, serving others and being helpful is rewarding in its own way, but I also like the freedom that not getting paid offers.  I can refuse to do things, if I want to, or leave early if I must.  If you have any free time, try it out.  Volunteer at a local race, or help feed hungry people.  I bet you'll be happy you did!

So.  What's new with you?