Wednesday, May 8, 2019

The Passover/Easter Collision 2019

The year, Passover, the eight-day Festival of Freedom, began Friday, April 19, which also happened to be the Christian holiday known as Good Friday.

Well, that is a little awkward. Historically, the whole Holy Week/Easter weekend has been used as a justification for pogroms and violence against Jews and Jewish communities, and the two holidays coinciding courtesy of the lunar calendar made me wary. I don't think it coincidental that the white terrorist opened fire at Chabad of Poway Synagogue on the last day of Passover. Even before the Poway shooting, for the first time since converting decades ago, I am fearful living in my country as a Jew. All the same, I openly wear a small Star of David daily, because I'm not going to hide and, if someone wants to take me out, I might as well give them a target.

But what happened to me personally this year had nothing to do with terrorism or anti-Semitism or anything evil. It had to do with absolute goofiness, good Christian intentions, and a whole lot of laughter.

A couple of salient points:

1. Observant Jews eat no leavened foods (chametz) for the eight days of Passover. They rid their house of chametz prior to Passover and often have special sets of dishes and tableware kept just for Passover to prevent contaminating (in the spiritual sense) their meals during the holiday.

2. My husband Warren has had a long-standing professional engagement to play the Easter services at Maple Grove Methodist Church in Columbus and 2019 was no exception. I always go along; the morning consists of a rehearsal, the first Easter service, a congregational brunch in the fellowship hall, and the second service, which pretty much mirrors the first.

3. I don't keep kosher (follow the prescribed dietary laws of Judaism). I never have. I eat pork (thus my stocking up on hams when they went on sale pre-Easter at Aldi). I eat shellfish less often, because it is so expensive, but I love it.

4. This year, I thought I would try to observe the laws against eating chametz. Hence, my sticker shock when I bought matzohs just before Passover. [Yet another note: this is Delaware County. Not a huge or even noticeable Jewish population. The matzohs available in the grocery stores? Not kosher for Passover, which is a whole other issue, but I bought them anyway.]

5. We eat oatmeal for breakfast almost every single morning, except on Sundays or when we are traveling. We keep dry cereal in the house, but rarely eat it except when trying to get to a very early appointment (like my 7:00 a.m. oncology appointments in Columbus). So a very conservative estimation is that Warren and I each eat over 280 bowls of oatmeal annually.

Okay, cue Easter morning. At Service #1, several new members joined the congregation and, in some cases, the Methodist Church. Some were by transfer, some were by affirmation of faith, and one, a middle-aged woman, was by baptism. She was (wait for it) Jewish and Pastor Patricia (who was installed last summer and who I really like) mentioned that the new convert had said she'd been to mikvahs (ritual Jewish pool) and wondered "did that count?"

"Of course that mikvah counts," said the pastor. "But so does this baptism." And she proceeded to baptize the new member, then concluded the new member service.

All well and good. But then the pastor and the assistant minister went back to the baptismal stand, poured more baptism water into two bowls, prayed, and proceeded to go throughout the sanctuary, up and down the aisles, flicking water on the congregation and calling out, gently and lovingly, "Remember your baptism. Remember your baptism."

Well, hell, what's a Jew to do? I sit in the very front pew near Warren and his timpani. Those timpani make a formidable barrier to walking by and I figured Pastor Patricia would not thread her way past them, but by golly, she did. And I got watered.

I was stunned.

After the first service, as Warren and I went down to eat, he asked me if I were okay.  Sure I was. I just wasn't expecting that. Why?

"Well, you looked alarmed when she headed towards you."

Well, maybe not alarmed, but just not expecting it.

At the brunch, I picked my way through the line. Yes to the eggs/ham/potatoes casseroles and the fruit salad, no to the wonderful sweet rolls and doughnuts and cakes and breads. Okay, I'm rolling.

At the second service, looking at the bulletin, I saw that for the 11:00 service, there was no new member event, but a "reaffirming your baptism" event. And by golly, Pastor Patricia and the assistant minister prayed over the water and proceeded to walk through the sanctuary again, flicking water on one and all and calling out "Remember your baptism. Remember your baptism." This time, Pastor Patricia got me but good, even though she had already sprinkled me once earlier and even though the timpani were still in the way.

"Remember your baptism. Remember your baptism."  Flick, flick. Water drops sprinkled my bulletin. And me.

[An aside: Even though Warren was just a foot away from me, he did not get sprinkled either time. I suspect the pastor was respecting his musical instruments and did not want to get water on the timpani and there was no way to sprinkle him without getting the timpani wet.]

[A further aside: Warren was raised as a Christian Scientist. He was not baptized with a water ceremony, because that is contrary to the teachings of that faith. I was raised Lutheran and was baptized with water as an infant. When I converted to Judaism, I went to a mikvah as part of the conversion ritual. I got sprinkled on Easter, he didn't. Go figure.]

On the way home, I said to Warren, "Two baptisms in one day. During Passover yet. What next?"

What next was even more ludicrous. Sometime in the afternoon, maybe after watching the Lion King Passover by the group Six13 for about the thousandth time, I found myself thinking of chametz (doesn't everyone?). I knew there were five grains: wheat, rye, barley, spelt (look it up, I had to) and...and...

I Googled it. Wheat, rye, barley, spelt, and...oats.


As in oatmeal. As in every morning for breakfast.

I found Warren on his computer, working on a grant. "Hey, you know how Jews don't eat certain grains during Passover?"

Warren acknowledged he didn't totally get it, but yes, he was aware and that's why I was avoiding bread this week, right?

"Well, guess what they are? Wheat, rye, barley, spelt, and...OATS!"

Warren looked at me and burst into laughter. I looked at him and burst into laughter.

So there we were.

Passover 2019.  That was one for the books.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Boys' Week

The past week has been full of boys.

Boys as in "long ago boys." Boys as in "they are all grown men now." Boys as in "they were at various times a huge part of my life and my world."

Boy #1 was Jacob.

Boy #2 was Sam.

Boy #3 was Danny.

Boy #4 was Ben.

[Note: They are numbered in order of chronological appearance, not in any priority.]

Let's start with #1, Jacob. Our Symphony just last week closed out its 40th Season with a truly stunning concert. How stunning? Two world premieres for compositions, one world premiere of an orchestral version of a composition, one world premiere film by a (truly) world renown photographer, and the professional orchestral debut of a pianist performing George Gershwin's "Concerto in F" (which is no walk in the repertoire park).

The pianist making his professional debut? A DMA student at the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music, an amazingly gifted performer. Here is a link to a snippet of his rehearsal with the orchestra (You do not need a Facebook account to open it):  The pianist bringing the concert to a halt at the end of the first movement because of the storm of applause, and then receiving a shouting, cheering standing ovation that lasted several minutes? The pianist walking into our after-concert reception (in honor of all the artists and our 40th season) to wild acclaim? That one?

It was Jacob. Jacob who I have known since he was 4, Jacob who I coached (along with my son Ben and several other brilliant, gifted students) for five years in Odyssey of the Mind and Destination Imagination, Jacob who at one point as a young adult in his 20s walked away from piano totally. That Jacob.

We hugged repeatedly Saturday night at the party, both of us over the moon and not a little dumbstruck that, after so many twists and turns for each of us, here we were celebrating an event that at more than one point in our respective pasts neither of us were ever sure we would ever see, Jacob for personal reasons and me for health reasons.

That Jacob. That boy.

Sam was #2 last week. Sam my youngest son, Sam my son who became a welder, Sam my son who sometimes is just a blur. Sam popped up out of the blue in my mailbox. Oh, not because he wrote me a letter. Oh, no, no, no. My sons (plural) do not write letters, a clear failing on the part of their mother. Instead, he popped up because the grandmother of one of his childhood friends, Clayton, has been winnowing out the decades (decades) of accumulated papers, clipping, and photos in her home, and whenever she comes across ones with either of my children (Ben was in her preschool, so pictures of him surface from time to time too), she mails them to me.

I suspected what was in the envelope before I opened it and I was not disappointed. There was Sam, maybe 5, maybe 6—all grin and skinny. One photo was taken on a school bus, the other at one of Clayton's birthdays. And suddenly we are back 23, 24 years and my youngest boy is just that: a little boy.

I mailed the photos onto Sam, who is almost 29 and long grown. With them I included a letter from mom, commenting on this or that, nothing too weighty. I plan on being out in the Pacific Northwest later this summer, and we will talk and laugh together then, that boy all grown up.

Then there was Danny, Boy #3. Danny was Ben's first best friend when we moved to Ohio. He lived across and slightly down the alley and they became friends when the weather warmed up (we had moved into the house in January) and the kids were finally outside. Danny spent hours and hours in our house, playing with Ben, fighting with Ben, tormenting Sam (when Sam was a baby and unable to tell on him), causing havoc, causing joy, causing all kinds of things. Ben tolerated a lot from Danny over the years, but they were genuinely close. All the same, there were limits even to Ben's patience.  I was at the kitchen window looking outside the day Ben finally punched Danny in the face, after years of being pinched, punched, kicked, and laughed at.  I admit it, I cheered (and so did Bethany, our next door neighbor, who came running into our house to make sure I'd seen it). Danny and Ben drifted apart as they got older: Danny was a year ahead in school, his family stayed in the neighborhood but moved farther down the block, and there was a painful rupture between the adults, but over time we (we meaning his father Ted and I) reestablished a connection, so I often knew of Danny even if I didn't see him. And not unlike the other boys in this post, Danny had his own twists and turns as he moved from childhood and teen to adult.

Ted just retired from OWU after 30+ years of teaching in the sociology department. There was a packed reception for Ted and another sociology retiree; Warren and I dropped in briefly to say congratulations. I saw Ted's daughter Allie and son-in-law Joe right away, but not Danny. "Around the corner," said Joe.

I headed in that direction and saw Danny talking to two of his dad's colleagues. I stayed back, watching him laugh and interact as an adult. Then he looked up and saw me. His eyes grew big and he excused himself from the conversation.

Oh my gosh. Danny, Danny, Danny. A long hug: is it really you? We laughed, we talked quickly and excitedly. Danny said, tears in his eyes, that when he thinks back to his childhood, it is our house and time spent at our house that he remembers most vividly, not his childhood home. I told him I still have the dining room table that he deliberately and methodically defaced with fork tines over the course of several months. Danny turned bright red. "I'm sorry. I was really awful." "Yeah, you were sometimes."

We only talked for a couple of minutes, maybe three, maybe five. He asked about Ben and asked me to tell Ben hello. Then it was time for both of us to turn to something else—the guests in his case, leaving in mine. Another long hug, kissing one another on the cheek. "I love you," we said, simultaneously.

When I got home from the reception, I texted Ben about seeing Danny and all the memories. Warren was taking apart a marimba he had to transport the next day and was surprised to see me crying when he looked up (the marimba was in our living room—isn't everyone's?). He was concerned: was I okay?

Yes, yes, I was okay. I was just caught in a long look back over 28 years, over my sons' childhoods, over the old neighborhood, over the delight of seeing Danny not only grown to man's estate but looking and sounding grounded and healthy and positive. "I miss my sons," I said, and burst into tears.

And that brings us to Boy #4, who popped up this morning, not directly like Jacob and Danny, but through another medium, this one Facebook. A Facebook friend posted this meme:

I immediately sent it to Ben's page, with this tag: I read your very first book to you (Are You My Mother?) when you were less than 48 hours old. I believe we sailed past the 1825 mark long before your 5th birthday. Hell, we may have hit it by your 2nd birthday. Thinking of you with lots of love and memories. 

And that is true. 1825 books? Piece of cake. Ben was the child I read to all the time. All. The. Time. Don't get me wrong, I read to Sam too, but as soon as Sam gained mobility, he chose chasing after his big brother to sitting still and being read to. But Ben? Daily. Daily. And it was something we kept up until he was in almost in high school—not because he couldn't read, not because he didn't devour thousands of books under his own power, but because reading connected us in some deep, inherent way that we both needed. Books were our safest harbor in a house filled with turmoil and conflict. Books kept us alive and I will always, always feel that way.

But that was then. That Ben is as long gone as that 5 year old Sam, as that Jacob playing Sam's small cello while on his back (I have photo proof), as that Danny who left his permanent mark on the table. (Danny just bought a house in Las Vegas, where he has lived for several years. I told Warren over lunch that I am strongly tempted to box up the table and send it to him as a housewarming present.) That was then and this is now.

All those memories. All that love.

All those boys.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

April Financial Review


Let me say that a little bit louder.


The month of April, which comes to an end in about five more hours, hit the bank account hard, hard, hard.

Let's start with the grocery purchases first. Grocery purchases (edible) for April? $206.52. Household items? $17.99. Grand total? $224.51.

We're aiming for $175.00 a month annually. We blithely sailed past that—right around April 16 by the looks of my notes.

Now, there is about $24.00 worth of hams in that figure. Aldi was running an amazing sale leading up to Easter. Their hams were all on sale, ranging from 55¢ a pound to about $1.29; we bought two of the 55¢/pound ones and a slightly ritzier ham at 85¢/pound. Those came to about $20.00 total; there will be a lot of meals, not to mention some pretty amazing soups with the ham bones later this year.  There was some extra spending, anticipating a guest's needs, which added a little extra (a pound of coffee, for example).  And there were two boxes of matzohs, because it was Passover the last full week of April, and those were a staggering $3.99 apiece. (I don't often observe Passover and as you will read in a later blog, I blew it this year as well, but clearly it had been awhile since I'd bought matzohs because I almost let out a shriek when I saw the price.)

Okay, so strip out the matzohs, the hams (yeah, I know, a little incongruity with the food item immediately preceding), and the coffee and we're down to about $188.00 for April, which is much, much better. And way closer to $175.00. But still OUCH.

The April amount shoots our annual monthly average year-to-date to $174.62, so we are just hanging at the $175.00 a month average. Just.

Despite how much our grocery spending veered upward, our eating out came in at $66.39, considerably better than last month, despite being out of town early in the month, despite our both having birthdays in the month (we ate out for Warren's; we ate leftovers very late on mine due to an unfortunate combination of meetings), and despite our having the perfect storm with the final concert of the season and my absolutely heaviest two weeks of school attendance mediations leading up to that concert. There were several nights when we toyed with the idea of grabbing something fast and easy, but with one exception (which had other ramifications, to be blogged about along with the matzohs), we did not do it.

Warren and I also hosted at our home a reception for our final concert. Those costs are tallied separately. The reception was great. It had laughter, it had warmth, it had great conversations, it had wonderful guests artists, and it had a lot of food. I had budgeted $75.00 for it, but went over because I anticipated a far larger turnout and wanted enough food. However, a number of guests who had said they would be there were exhausted or feeling under the weather that night (one couple left the concert at intermission, in fact) and went home instead. So I bought too much food, probably.

The reception came to $151.63, about double what I had planned. $25.65 went to the purchase of three bottles of prosecco (I had two bottles left over from the fall reception). Several guests showed up with wine, all of which got consumed, and that was great, but now I have five (5!) bottles of prosecco stored in the cupboard. (We don't drink alcohol. Warren by principle/beliefs and me by health issues. Just saying.)

Things I learned about future receptions, watching what got consumed and what didn't. Biggest hits? Sliced cheeses, crackers, wine (but not prosecco), olives, the shredded lime-garlic turkey (a variation of a Cuban dish; I used up all of our Thanksgiving turkey in the freezer) and the mini eclairs and cream puffs (bought frozen from Aldi). Medium interest? Cut vegetables, seltzer water and flavored sparkling waters, homemade gluten free chocolate cookies, and an avocado spread I also bought at Aldi. Least interest? Fresh cut strawberries (now in the freezer), clementines (in their peels), and hummus.

An observation: almost everything came from Aldi, so had I not done my shopping there, the cost of the reception would have been considerably higher.

Some of the leftover food went home with others. The rest of it went into our freezer or refrigerator or pantry. None of it went to waste.

And, truthfully, the evening was so sparkling, from the stunning final concert to the height of the party to the last guest out the door, that it was worth every penny. Warren and I were both beat to pieces by the end of the "day" (a 22 hour day that started early Saturday and ended in the wee hours of Sunday) that we put away the perishables and left everything else—everything—until Sunday late morning. And although we still had three days left to the month, that was the end of April for all food expense purposes!

Here's to May!

Friday, April 19, 2019


Years ago, when I was in the therapy that I attribute with saving my life, my therapist Doug said that one of his goals was to work with me on not marrying or having a relationship with the same sort of man I tended to gravitate to, none of whom were good for me in the long run.

Doug would so pleased with my marriage to Warren in so very many ways. Being with Warren broke the cycle of abuse on all fronts and gave me, for the first time in my life, a stable, sheltering, supportive, encouraging relationship.

I still marvel at us.

In the last two days there have been two moments that drove home the love and support we share. The first was yesterday at supper. Warren, with a suppressed grin in his voice, shared with me the results of the Symphony's Ohio Arts Council review (to which one can listen in by phone) for operations funding (as compared to special projects). As he shared the strong, stunning, positive comments from the reviewers—observations about thinking outside the box, community engagement, diversifying the programming, the groundbreaking therapeutic drumming program, his leadership role and planning for succession, the Getty and NEA grants he has procured for the group—I found myself in tears. These reviewers put into words the strength and passion Warren brings to the Symphony and underscored how significant his tenure as Executive Director has been in helping move the organization from being a small, somewhat average arts group to being a recognized regional force and has moved Warren from anonymity to being known at the state level.

Warren then capped the OAC notes off with notes from his discussion with Nick Pozek at the League of American Orchestras earlier that day. Nick reached out to Warren to start a major session with Futures Fund grantees (of which our Symphony is one) at the annual LAO convention this June by—wait for it—leading the group through a drumming exercise and discussing how the drumming program is used for social good (my emphasis).

My tears? That my hardworking husband who I have championed for years, long before we became a couple, is recognized by his peers and colleagues not only at a state but also a national level for his innovations, his passions, his dedication to not just our orchestra but to this community.

Tears of pride.

The second set of tears fell this morning. Passover starts tonight at sundown. I will not be participating in a seder, the ritual meal, for lots of reasons, many of which tie to my health limitations. We live in a decidedly non-Jewish town and going to and from Columbus for a full evening is beyond me. I told Warren over breakfast that had I planned better, I would have gotten in touch with the Chaplain's Office at the local college and offered a seder in our home to however many Jewish students wanted to attend (the college does not have very much programming for Jewish students and often arranges for them to head to Columbus for major holidays).

As we talked, I thought back to the hurdles thrown up in my long-term marriage to practicing Judaism, the opposition to sharing it with my sons, and I shook my head. My voice breaking, I said that I missed seder, that it wasn't a two-person activity (in my opinion), and, well, I just felt sad.

Warren looked at me and asked in the gentlest voice possible, "Is there anything I can do to help you feel better tonight?"

That is when the tears fell, and they are crowding my eyes as I type this. Warren is from a very different religious background, we are on the cusp of the major concert week of the season (the finale concert), and both of us are running on fumes much of the time right now, Warren more so than me. It would have been the easiest thing in the world for him to nod and ask me what the day held. Instead, he reached over, literally and figuratively, to see what if anything he could do for me for Passover.

Tears of gratitude.

I told Warren that next year, assuming I am still around (always a tricky assumption), I will contact the college early and we will host a seder.

One ends a seder, after retelling the story of Passover and sharing a meal, with the words "Next year in Jerusalem!"

Jerusalem, hell. Next year in Delaware, with my Warren beside me, with tears of gratitude in my eyes.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

I'll Always Have Paris

The news this week has, of course, been dominated by the fire at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris.

I have never been to Paris. My only trip to Europe was 40 years ago this summer, and France was not on the itinerary. And, honestly, Paris was never high on my "I must see this" list. All the same, the day the edifice burnt, I kept the CNN camera nonstop video running in the corner of my computer screen, enlarging it from time to time to watch the building glow red and the flames reach silently upwards.

I told Warren that night that all I could think of was Samuel Dodsworth, my favorite Sinclair Lewis character, found in his novel Dodsworth. There is a wonderful scene when Dodsworth has a rare afternoon to himself in Paris (his shallow, shrill, and social climbing wife is off at a fitting and a sitting) and decides to go see Notre Dame, thinking rebelliously, "I think I'll sneak off and see if I really like it! You can't tell! I might!" So he takes a taxi to the cathedral, then crosses the river to sit in a cafe and looks at it without "Fran's quivers of appreciation." I'll let Lewis take it from there:

He admitted the cathedral's gray domination. There was strength there; strength and endurance and wisdom. The flying buttresses soared like wings. The whole cathedral expanded before his eyes; the work of human hands seemed to tower larger than the sky.

Dodsworth crosses the bridge and enters the cathedral:

[The lack of cushioned pews] made the cathedral seemed bare and a little unfriendly; but aside a vast pillar, eternal as mountains or the sea, he found a chair, tipped a verger, forgot his irritation...and lost himself in impenetrable thoughts. [He] stared at the Rose Window, but he was seeing what it meant, not what it said. He saw life as something greater and more exciting than food and a little sleep...he felt that he could adventure into this Past about him—and possibly adventure into the far more elusive Present.

At this point in my life, I will never get to Paris. I doubt I will get to Europe again, for no reason other than my traveling capacity has been circumscribed by the myeloma which co-inhabits my body and demands a seat at the table. And that's okay, for I'll aways have Paris, thanks to Samuel Dodsworth.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Bad Math

In my most recent Myeloma Beacon column, I wrote about the type of math I increasingly use when calculating energy and stamina against activities. I mused: "Which is greater: the energy expended driving to and having dinner with friends who live 35 miles away, or the energy expended by having those same friends for dinner with me preparing most of the meal, including baking dessert? Solve for x, with x being how exhausted and/or ill I will be the following day."

That equation has nothing on the one I did last Friday night: "If 3 teaspoons equals 1 tablespoon, how much salt have you added if you misread the recipe (which you have made hundreds of times) as 4 tablespoons instead of teaspoons?"

Answer: 3 times too much.

I was making two large batches (two pounds of blacks beans in each pot) of Cuban black bean soup. Truly, I have made hundreds of batches of black bean soup over the last almost four decades. Hundreds. So why this time did I read the salt amount in tablespoons instead of teaspoons? It wasn't that I was distracted by multitasking; I had finished an earlier phone call with my brother during which I set the recipe aside, knowing I would need to concentrate on the seasoning. It wasn't that I blithely assumed I could estimate the salt needed and tossed it in with abandon. No, I have no excuse for calculating "oh, 4 tablespoons equal 1/4 cup, let me pour a quarter cup of salt into each pot." It was only after I poured the second quarter cup of salt into the second pot that the gravity of what I had done hit me. And at that point it was a done deal.

There is not a whole lot you can do when you oversalt a recipe by a factor of three. My first reaction (after four-letter words raced through my head) was to rush to Aldi to purchase a bag of potatoes, remembering an old World War One story about some wartime singer sent to entertain the troops helping peel hundreds of potatoes to reduce salt in an oversalted cauldron of soup. My second reaction (after purchasing the aforementioned potatoes and popping a few in each pot) was to Google how to counteract too much salt in the soup. The potato story was untrue. Add water. Add something sharp (like vinegar) to counteract the flavor. Throw it out and start all over.

You know how this ends.

Even the Mathemagician couldn't save this one (illustration by Jules Feiffer)
Two massive batches of black bean soup, down the disposal the next morning. Because the vinegar (which the recipes calls for anyway), the extra water, and the potatoes did absolutely nothing to cut the saltiness of the mixture.

From a dollar standpoint, that was about $7.50 or so down the drain. (I have a pretty good idea of the cost because the next morning we returned to Aldi to buy more beans and a few other ingredients.) From a personal standpoint, it was an embarrassment beyond cost. I'm good at math. I'm good at cooking. What the hell happened?

As I thought about the soup disaster, a favorite scene from The Phantom Tollbooth kept coming to mind. The Mathemagician serves Milo and his companions subtraction stew when they arrive in Digitopolis. They are baffled as to why they feel hungrier the more they eat, until the Dodecahedron explains it to them:

     "And suppose you had something and added less than nothing to it. What would you have then?"

     "FAMINE!" roared the anguished Humbug, who suddenly realized that that was exactly what he'd eaten twenty-three bowls of." 

I made two fresh batches and trust me, they are what they should be. As I began to type this in the early hours of the morning, I could smell the pungent aroma of the soup threaded through the house. At breakfast, we diced and fried the potatoes with which I had tried to salvage the original soup. They were none the worse for wear for their stint in the salty batches.

While Milo and his companions are in Digitopolis, the Mathemagician demonstrates stunning feats of (simple) math, using his magic staff, which the Humbug observes is "only a big pencil." The Mathemagician agrees, then adds, "but once you learn to use it, there is no end to what you can do."

True enough. But even the Mathemagician could not have saved that soup.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

March Money Review

End of March, end of the first quarter of 2019. Where do we stand?

In March, we spent $163.98 on groceries (food items) and another $13.38 on household items. That brought the monthly total to $177.36, just nudging over the $175.00 monthly mark I am aiming for in 2019. Okay, I confess: some of that "extra" expense was buying a large salmon filet, marked down, at Aldi. With the discount, the salmon came to a little over $13.00. So if I hadn't bought the salmon, our monthly totals would have sailed in under $175.00.

It was totally worth it. Chopped into thirds and frozen, that salmon will bring a huge smile to my face somewhere later in the year. More than once, in fact!

Our eating out expenses were $98.34, darn close to $100.00. We had several meals out, including after last Sunday's concert, when we were both so tired we could barely function. Warren, of course, had put in 15-hour days leading up and including the day of the concert, in which he also played. With the exception of the opening fanfare (each concert this season opens with a different 40 second fanfare commissioned by the Symphony for its 40th anniversary), the remainder of the concert was Verdi's Requiem, which is stunning, moving, massive in length, and takes a lot of timpani playing. So we ate out after we came home and changed enough to get comfortable (Warren was not heading out in his tux). And, in the spirit of transparency, about $18.00 of that is attributable to my having coffee "out" with friends.

I look at the eating out figure and have conflicting feelings. On the one hand, I don't like dropping money on eating out, period. It's not where I want to spend my/our dollars. On the other hand, well, maybe there is no other hand. No, that's not true. One meal was breakfast at a hole-in-the-wall diner in a nearby community and there was the satisfaction on knowing those dollars were going right back into the local community. In fact, when I look at where we spent our money eating out, all but one expenditure—a $2.00 McDonald's milkshake Warren bought following dress rehearsal (and a 15 hour day)—were made at a locally owned small business. While I have no delusions about keeping the local economy going with our $96.00 heavy spending, I also know that every bit helps.

I also speculate the eating out figure may stay higher this year than I want, not because we are profligate, but because there are going to be times due to Warren's schedule and my health when grabbing something to go is going to top making something. I don't know. I know that I am starting to struggle, and I don't use that word lightly, with energy and capacity. We'll see.

For now, though, we have the first quarter behind us, and spring is coming. My dad and I have talked gardening; I'll grow tomatoes if he grows zucchini (our garden isn't so large that I want to give up space for zucchini). We are just now finishing off all the zucchini I sliced and froze in 2018, so I am excited to restock the freezer this summer. I scored four free (FREE) long planters in excellent condition in which I am hoping to grow lettuces this year so, at least during the summer, we will eat salad for pennies.

I can almost taste that first tomato.