Monday, July 30, 2007

More about the Union

Today we stopped by the Union office for Paul to pay the $110 they are demanding in order for him to work. That is only for the first 2 months dues. The initiation fee will be taken out weekly for the first 30 weeks he works, along with his further monthly dues. There is just something unnatural about paying someone so you can work.

Paul asked what exactly he is getting for his $500 initiation fee since a regular clerk only pays $100 (he is a food clerk because he touches produce that isn't canned). The woman said he can buy discounted theme park tickets (not like we could ever afford to go) and a shorter waiting period for medical coverage. Ummm, the medical coverage is one of the worst plans I've ever seen. With the new contract he will ONLY have to wait 7 months to get coverage. The kids will be eligible for coverage when he becomes eligible. I, on the other hand, wouldn't be eligible until he has worked for 2.5 years. The coverage has a very large deductible and doesn't cover RX, vision, or dental for 3.5 years. The co-insurance payments are 25% after you pay the deductible. I will admit that it's cheap but that's because the coverage is so lousy!

So it looks like there is no benefits attached to the mandatory Union membership. And no, I'm not surprised. I'm very thankful that we won't be relying on this job for medical!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

13 years ago

Today is our 13Th wedding anniversary.

It's really hard to believe that it's been that long. I feel so blessed to be married to my best friend.

I look forward to many more years together. Happy Anniversary, Honey!

Friday, July 27, 2007


Paul's second job is at a grocery store. Since it's part of a chain they are unionized. There is no option, you must join. Paul said it was like the mafia, you had to pay money for protection but instead of breaking your knees you lose your job.

We got the initial paperwork in the mail yesterday. It will take, at least, his first full paycheck to pay for the dues to get started. After that they will take a monthly dues payment out of his check. Getting information about the amounts is almost impossible.

The industry is so scared of making a mistake here is some of the absolute ridiculous stuff he has already encountered...

No one could give him information on the local to being with. It took us looking online through countless Google searches to find the local branch in Bakersfield. Paul called and the lady said she was setting him up in the computer and would be sending out paperwork. It took a week to get the paperwork which said he had to go into the branch office to get things started! Luckily he is in Bakersfield every day for his day job. it makes me wonder what the people do who ride a bike to work (Bakerfield is 50+ miles away).

The assistant manager couldn't tell him how much he would be making, that's the Union's thing. She couldn't even tell him what his official job title was so that he could look at the current contract to find out his pay scale! We still don't know how much he is getting paid, I guess we will have to wait for his first paycheck.

So far we have yet to find out what the monthly dues are. I'm gathering from the letter sent stating how much he currently owes, did I mention he hasn't even gotten a paycheck yet, that the monthly dues are about $50 a month. This is after a $500 initiation fee. Of course they won't take a check but they will be more than happy to take a credit card.

All this so he can work a second job. Supposedly the Union gets the employees more money, which then goes to pay for the union. You can't get merit raises but you do get a raise every 4 months whether you deserve it or not. Hmmm, now I know why the employees don't go out of their way to be nice and helpful.

So Paul has to pay this money to the Union but the store has 90 days in which to decide whether they want to keep him. So my question is, if they decide to get rid of him does he get his money back?

It's no wonder so many of the store employees work a second job. The government gets their cut, the Union gets theirs, and you get what's left which means you have to get another job in order to live.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Here is one of the many things going around the blogosphere. I was tagged by Cheryl so here it goes.

Personal Style Quiz Rules: You have to choose one of the two. You cannot answer "neither" or "both." You can indicate that you like both or neither, but you must state a preference.

Animal fiber or plant? Plant, I don't know that I own much of anything that is made of animal fiber.

Natural or synthetic? Natural

Ornate or simple? Simple. I like ornate stuff but I feel most comfortable in simple.

Color or neutral? Color. I love lots of color, it makes up for m grumpy personality.

Pastel or vibrant? Vibrant, although I have a difficult time finding things that I like that are vibrant.

Blue/green or red/orange? Blue/green only because I'm not a huge fan of orange. I like red though.

White gold or yellow gold? White gold, most everything I wear is silver so yellow gold just doesn't match well.

Gems or texture? How do theses two things go together? I guess if I have to choose it would be texture.

Watch or no-watch? No watch although I collected watches for many years. I have watches and enjoy wearing them but can't keep up with the battery changes :)

Comfort or fashion? Comfort, I couldn't care less what anyone else is wearing as anyone who sees me can immediately tell!

Trendy or classic? Classic

Cables or lace? Cables cause I can't stand lace. Lace is itchy and reminds me of the 80s.

Heels or flats? Flats, I can't walk in heels.

Flip-flops or sandals? Sandals, although I only have flip-flops at the moment cause I can't find any comfy sandals.

Skirts or pants? Pants except for church.

Geometric or floral? Do I really have to choose? It would really depend on the floral, I don't want to look like I raided some old lady's closet. I guess floral.

V-neck or turtle-neck? Either/both. If it's cold I'll wear a turtle-neck but right now I would prefer a v-neck. I'm not picky I can wear just about anything.

Skulls or butterflies? Butterflies

Loose or snug? Loose, I like to be comfortable.

Long hair or short? Long, right now it's to my waist and hasn't been cut for 3 years or so. I've cut it short a number of times but I always hate it.

Headbands or barrettes? Barrettes if I can find ones that won't break. I have too much hair and can't usually find ones that work. I usually use rubber bands.

Shoulder bag or handbag? Shoulder bag, I like to have my hands free.

Thanks for tagging me Cheryl! I have a blog post and I didn't even have to think up a subject.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The problems with HMOs

We received a very disturbing letter today from Lorna's specialists. It seems Blue Cross and UCLA couldn't come to a contract agreement so they will no longer be accepting her insurance. I called the number on the letter to ask what we were supposed to do about her upcoming appointments, they had very few suggestions.

I called her primary doctor who said that we could get a special okay to see her doctors for the few things scheduled but then we would have to change specialists. The new doctors would be located 3 hours away in the other direction. I looked them up to find that they too couldn't come to an agreement so they are no longer accepting her insurance. I can't say I was at all calm. There are no other specialists within a 3 hour drive.

I called the insurance company who wasn't exactly helpful. Their solution was for us to put in for a special authorization for each appointment. They couldn't guarantee that they would accept the request, meaning at some point we would have to switch doctors and drive around 5 hours each way to see one of these specialists.

I was able to switch plans because of the extenuating circumstances. As soon as we have the new cards I can call the primary doctor to get us referrals to the UCLA doctors. I've already cancelled the special CAH clinic appointment in September. I did it before I found out we could switch midterm. I'm not all that broken up about it, I didn't feel right about going anyway. I have no idea what all of this is going to do to the tentative schedule for her surgery later this year.

All of this was caused because the doctors feel they aren't getting fairly reimbursed through Blue Cross. Looking at the charges and payments over the last few months I'm not sure who is right. $600 for a 10 minute office call with a pediatric urologist seems a bit much, only paying $120 of that charge seems a bit too little. The procedure Lorna had done as an outpatient was reimbursed at around 60%. That seems kind of low until you look at the charges. I just hope we can get the surgery done soon so the effects of any further changes in health plans won't be so far reaching.

Sunday, July 22, 2007


As I've posted before we are not a very scheduled household. The kids don't have set times for bed or getting up. Paul's day job is very flexible allowing him to set his day. Sometimes he won't leave until late morning because of phone calls and emails that need to be done first thing. I think all of this is about to change.

Paul starts his new 2ND job tonight. He will be working 10pm - 7am 4 nights a week. I realized today how hard of an adjustment it's going to be for all of us. Poor guy tried to sleep this afternoon but just couldn't, I'm thinking that this won't be a problem after tonight. The plan is for him to sleep from lunch till a late dinner. It should give him 6-7 hours on the days he works at both places. I'm sure the other days will find him sleeping at any hour he can.

I feel truly blessed to have a husband who believes so strongly that I need to be home that he is willing to work 2 jobs. I know this is an odd thing in today's society where women are expected and encouraged to work outside the home.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

It's Here!!!

I honestly didn't think the 7Th Harry Potter book was gonna make it here in time. I talked to UPS this morning after picking up the mail because the shipment wasn't there. They guaranteed it would be delivered by 6pm which would have done us little good since the post office is only open until 2pm. Actually it's not technically open, you can only pick up packages. After watching the computer anxiously all morning I gave up and decided to drive into town to talk to the person manning the window. The UPS driver was pulling away as we turned the corner so I was pretty sure he had delivered. I hope everyone else in town who ordered gets there in time to pick it up. Luckily they just extended the hours until 2, it used to be 1. If that was still the case everyone would have had a whopping 15 minutes to pick the book up!

Unlike many I won't get to sit and read it straight through. All four of us wanted it first so we decided to be fair and do it as a read aloud. As soon as Paul is off work this afternoon we will start. I'm hoping we can get through it quickly because I hate waiting and have no patience, usually I end up reading the ending of a book somewhere near the middle because I just can't wait to finish!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Well idea put to rest

After fighting with various well drillers and now the pump guy about getting bids, the idea of putting in a new well has been put to rest.

I just don't know how anyone gets financing for wells around here, no one want to give you an estimate. We received a perfect driller bid yesterday but the pump guy's office won't give us a bid until the well is put in. Um, how can we make sure the financing is enough without an estimate? The people who loan out the money won't even consider an application without a bid so it must not be impossible to get one. We were told it would probably be around $5000 for them to connect everything up. We want to reuse everything that is in our current well and it's still $5000?!? Then it was mentioned we would be REQUIRED to put in a 3500 gallon storage tank with a fire department nozzle. We aren't required to have one now so why would a new well need that? And of course that is not included in the $5000 price tag. At this point we are talking about $25,000+ just to get a new well put in to 300 feet. If you break down the total cost by foot it's around $85/foot. Just the driller's cost alone is $50/foot.

I guess we will just have to limp along here and pray for rain, lots of rain, lots and lots of rain...

I don't believe it

We got an email today from about our order for the Harry Potter book. It stated that our shipment was being prepared and that it would arrive, as promised, on Saturday via UPS. I kept staring at the email wondering why it bothered me. I walked away and then came running back to verify what I saw. UPS to a PO box? That's what the email said. I shook my head and waited on hold for a customer service rep to answer.

I made the guy repeat it twice just to make sure I heard correctly... It seems Amazon has made special arrangements with UPS and the USPS so that they can deliver the books. According to the rep, UPS will be delivering to my PO Box. I'm not exactly sure how this is going to work but I'm going to be sitting at the PO waiting for our book. Our PO isn't open on Saturdays but there is a 4 hour block of time that they have someone who will retrieve packages for you. Even if we are disappointed and the book doesn't arrive there is the bonus that we will get the book for the cost of shipping only. It seems like a win-win situation.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Well driller bids

Getting bids shouldn't be so difficult. There is one well driller in our valley, we called him and asked for a bid and a few hours later we received it. In my opinion it was a bit high but not totally out of line.

We called another driller that advertises in our local phone book. He was too busy to really help us but quoted an approximate price twice that of the bid we already have. His price was around $30,000 for a 400 ft well. That didn't include all the pumping equipment either.

Today we finally got in contact with the driller that the pump guy recommended. He was $11 more per foot than the first driller. That's $3300 more for just the drilling. He also charges over $1000 for mobilization. He hasn't gotten us a written bid yet but what he said over the phone means he is $5000 more than our first quote.

At this rate I'm wondering if this is even going to work. The maximum amount the non-profit can guarantee is $8000 but the woman we talked to felt confident she could find an additional $7000 through other programs they work with. Even if she can find enough, can we afford the payments? Maybe the best we can do is pray for rain and a miracle.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Birthday card

I bet you are wondering what I'm doing besides whining about our water problems. I admit I'm just not handling all of this very well (no pun intended). Things are starting to sort themselves out. Paul starts his new job at Vons (Safeway) on Saturday and we are all breathing a sigh of relief and thinking of all the things we will be able to do with the extra income. The top of all of our lists happen to be food, so I guess once we get that first check we will be heading to the store to splurge on a big meal of meat and veggies.

We have a local non-profit company that's helping us find financing for a new well. If we can just get a decent written quote from a well driller we can send off the written application this week. Everyone is a bit leery about putting things in writing but it's a requirement for financing such a thing. We know there is never a guarantee with a well but we need to have something to show to the loan holder.

This brings me around to the title of my post. 2 of my friends have had birthdays recently and I actually remembered in time to make cards. This is a minor miracle! I forgot to get a picture of the first one I mailed but here is the second one.

I was going for a sort of vintage, understated kind of look. I'm really pleased with the layout and suddenly realized how much I miss crafting and sewing. The problems we have been facing seem to have overshadowed all of the things I love to do. I'm going to attempt to get back into those projects that have fallen by the wayside.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Ways to conserve electricity

Since I recently posted the ways we are conserving water I thought I would add the ways we conserve electricity. We've gotten our consumption down to an average of 200 kw a month.

1. Turn off lights when you leave the room.

2. Put most everything (TVs, DVD players, etc.) on power strips that are turned off every night. Each of these things draw power even when they are off.

3. Switch over to fluorescent bulbs where possible.

4. Choose to replace appliances with energy efficient models and make sure they are the right size for your family. It makes no sense to have a huge refrigerator if you only need a small one.

5. Turn off monitors or printer when they aren't in use. We use the sleep mode (standby on the PC) on the mac since I check email frequently throughout the day. The amount of power required to actually start the computer is tremendous.

6. Don't turn on the lights during the day. We have a window in the bathroom and all the other rooms so we don't use the lights during the day.

7. Turn off the porch lights unless you really need them. I can't tell you how many of the people around us leave them on all night.

8. Set the thermostat at the top of your comfort range. We don't have one since the swamp cooler is either on or off so we make sure to turn it off and open all the windows when it gets comfortable outside.

9. Hang your clothes on a clothesline. We own an electric dryer but have no way to plug it in since there are no 220 outlets in the house. As long as I'm careful about taking the clothes down when they are dry, a clothesline has worked well. This probably wouldn't work as well if we had a lot of rain but since it is very, very dry the clothes dry in about 30 minutes.

The light bulbs are the easiest thing to change. Depending on the size of your house, you may see a large change in your monthly bill. Having lived completely without electricity I sometimes feel guilty for the amount of energy we do use. But I admit I really like being able to turn on the sewing machine without having to plug the inverter into the car!

Friday, July 13, 2007


Paul has the kind of job where he has the opportunity to get a bonus each quarter. The first quarter was great, he grew his territory enough that he qualified. We planned that the second quarter check would pay for the last installment of the property taxes and the rest of the truck registration. We got the statement today and the news wasn't what we had planned on. It seems Paul missed the mark by .01% on the gross margin of his sales. The frustrating thing is that he doesn't have much if any control over the margin. Big accounts like Halliburton have the margin set at corporate and are below the minimum rate needed for a bonus. The most frustrating thing is that he worked harder the second quarter and even grew his accounts more than the first quarter. So he sold more but got a lower bonus, somehow that doesn't seem like a very good incentive for the third quarter. I can only thank God that he got that second job and will start in 2 weeks.


We've really enjoyed our Netflix subscription averaging 12-15 movies a month. I keep coming up with excuses not to cancel it and cutting out other things in order to keep it. Here is a list of a few of the movies we have really enjoyed over the past few months. Warning: we are not easily shocked and do watch a lot of rated R movies.

Proof with Gwyneth Paltrow and Anthony Hopkins Spectacular movie but of course I was once a math geek!

The Holiday with Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz Funny but lots of sexual situations

What a Girl Wants with Colin Firth This one is not your typical romance as it focuses on the growing bond between a father and daughter. We really enjoyed it and were pleasantly surprised.

The Shop Around the Corner This is the movie that You've Got Mail was based on. Very sweet, B&W, very wholesome.

Music & Lyrics with Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore Good music and a cute story.

High Fidelity with John Cusack Good music and a good plot. Lots of sexual situations.

Carolina with Julia Stiles and Shirley MacLaine Really good, funny story focusing on a messed up family of 3 young girls and their grandmother.

Shall We Dance with Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez Nice dance scenes and better than the reviews let on.

Shakespeare in Love with Gwyneth Paltrow Funny and well acted.

Cider House Rules with Tobey MacGuire and Michael Caine Lots of adult themes but exceptionally good.

We are also enjoying some of the older movies and musicals like Singin' in the Rain, Pillow Talk, That Touch of Mink, etc. They are wholesome and fun but usually have a very weak story.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Water Transfer

Here is the temporary solution we've come up with. It has morphed over the 4 days we've been doing this.

The first day we transported water in a green pepper barrel and 3 seven gallon blue drinking water containers.

The next day we had purchased the tank you see in the photos. We tried a hand transfer pump but at 80 revolutions per 8 gallons it was just too difficult. Paul ended up carrying the 210 gallons of water up the ladder 7 gallons at a time.

Next we purchased the blue transfer pump in the pictures but the hoses just didn't work quite right. Today we graduated to the setup you see. The water flows through a suction hose into the pump, which is actually a shallow well pump, into another suction hose attached to the green storage tank.

Since we've been incredibly frugal with our water usage we are actually gaining more than what we are trucking in. Yesterday we gained 100 gallons from the well and 200 from town. Today we gained 50 gallons from the well and 200 from town. At the rate we are going the tank should be full by Sunday afternoon. After that we figure we will only have to haul in 1-2 tanks a week. We noticed a dramatic improvement as our temps have dropped 10 degrees over the past few days and none of our "neighbors" are here (they don't live here full-time).

We know this is only a temporary solution but at least I no longer have to worry about our immediate needs.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

News sure travels

Paul was stopped on the way to work this morning by a guy that lives a few streets over. He said he had heard our well wasn't doing well. His response to the news was, "Didn't you know the well was slow?" Well duh! We knew and had the storage tank installed to guards against this problem. Of course it doesn't matter that the well has been serving our needs just fine for over 9 months. In his mind I guess we were foolish to have a well that's slow in production. We went to Tractor Supply yesterday to pickup a water tank for the back of the truck. While there we met a really nice lady who lives in the mountains around us. She mentioned that her well is really slowing down, as is her neighbors'. There is some comfort in knowing that we aren't alone and that it isn't just bad planning on our part.

The same guy that asked about the well also told Paul that people have been complaining about our dogs barking. Since the majority of the time that they bark is in response to the ones down the hill we made sure to mention that. I've been working on going out to quiet them down over the past few weeks. There have been many times the barking is because of the coyotes that live in the boulders above our property or because of the neighbors' dogs that are running loose. I'd be more concerned about the noise if it was frivolous or if we weren't woken up by dirt bikes,loud parties, and ATVs at all hours of the night. At least our dogs only bark during the day!

We did have some good news yesterday. Paul was able to secure a second job working graveyard at Vons. We are relieved because we need the extra income to help make ends meet. The well driller's estimate of $15,000 means it will take over 2 years of saving but at least we will have the ability to save!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Ways to conserve water

Here are the ways in which we've thought of how to conserve.

1. Flush only when necessary

2. Catch the washer water as it drains to use in the toilet

3. Get wet, turn off water, soap up, then rinse in the shower

4. Plug the bathtub when showering so the water can be bailed out for the garden

5. Turn off the faucet while washing hands and teeth

6. Wait to use the bathroom when going out

7. Use a wash tub for the dishes so the water can be used outside or in the toilet

I think we can get our usage down to 50 gallons a day with the horse and dogs drinking a large part of that. We already only do full loads of laundry, have a low flow shower head and toilet, and use the other ordinary ways to conserve. If you have any other extreme ways to conserve I'd love to hear them.

Daily Bread

In the section of the catechism on the Lord's Prayer it says:

God certainly gives daily bread to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people...

What is meant by daily bread?

Daily bread includes everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home...

I'm wondering how exactly our needs for water are going to be met. I already struggle with this idea since the kids' clothes are worn through and have been grown out of in many cases so it makes it worse that now we are having water problems. Our well isn't producing enough to keep up with our needs at all. We've called around only to find that no one will sell us water that we can haul ourselves unless we have the means to hook up to a fire hydrant and we don't have the ability to pay someone to haul it for us. Paul's mom is allowing us to fill up a barrel for right now but that isn't enough for anything other than drinking and cooking. The well driller we called still hasn't called us back but even if he did we have no way to pay for a new well or to even finance one. I've been reminded that I should just have faith and let it go but I can't seem to do that. Maybe I should worry more about that than the lack of water...

Thursday, July 05, 2007


It's been exceedingly hot the last couple of days, today we are supposed to get up to about 110 degrees. I'm convinced that people who say they prefer heat to cold must spend most of their time in air conditioned buildings. We have a swamp cooler instead of ac, like most people in this area, and although we are luck to have a very good swamp cooler it just doesn't do as good of a job as ac. The only real upside is that it's really cheap to run.

For those that aren't familiar with these types of coolers I'll give a quick run down on how they work. Inside the metal box is a series of pads that are made up of a paper-like material. Water is run into those pads and air is forced through the wet pads. It's amazing how cool the air is that comes out, it's also humid air which is great in such a dry area. This is why this type of cooling doesn't work in humid climates, there is already too much moisture in the air. Last year we were stuck with fans only and no cooler at all. Lucky for us the whole thing only takes a little bit of water.

Along with the heat and drooping plants we are having to contend with a thief. Something is uprooting my squash plants and stealing tomato plants. Over the last 3 days we have lost 4 different plants. The squash plants get broken off at the roots and left on the ground, but the tomato plant was pulled clean out and taken. I have no idea what could be doing this. The garden that's being ransacked is right next to the horse's pen so whatever it is isn't scared of the horse. Now I'm glad I have three separate places with squash plants. At the time I planted them I was frustrated with the distance between each area but now I think it's the only thing saving the rest of them from being destroyed. We aren't getting very many zucchini off each plant so it's frustrating to lose so many.

Already I'm trying to plan to see if we can move everything next year. I'm also finding that we are going to have to adjust the kinds of things we want to grow. The tomato plants continue to grow but haven't produced anything and we didn't get any beans before the plants died. None of the lettuce survived past the first cutting and it's been too hot to try to plant more. On the whole all we've gotten is a few yellow squash, a few zucchini, and one bowl of lettuce. The dirt just isn't very good and I don't think we have the means to improve it enough. I'll probably try again next year or maybe even in the fall but right now I'm just frustrated.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Well verdict

The well guys came out today and the news wasn't good. They were able to lower the pump 14 feet but we are still short on water. The recommendation was to call a well driller to possibly drill a new well. Not exactly the kind of thing I was hoping for.

The guys were great though. They pulled out the pipe and pump, determined how deep the well was, connected 14 feet of additional pipe, and put everything back together. All of this came to the price of $0. The owner of the company was very nice, felt very bad, and didn't charge us. I can't even begin to express how much of a relief that was. He recommended a driller that he trusts. We have a call in to him to get an estimate.

Paul has spent the day calling various water companies to see about having enough water delivered to fill the tank. So far we have had very little luck. It seems the only water hauler in the area charges by the truckload whether you need all of it or not. For $225 we can have 3725 gallons of water delivered, we only need 2000 gallons. We've tried to find a place we could buy from and haul it ourselves but it seems no one will sell to individuals.

Who knows, maybe some day I will be able to look back on this whole mess and it won't seem so bad but right now that's not the case.

BTW, when it rains it pours... the tires we bought for our truck less than 4 months ago are wearing poorly and it looks like we needs new tires again.