New Year’s Resolutions

At the beginning of the school year, I volunteered to be the “Cookie Mom” for Katie’s and Jenny’s Girl Scout troops. {If you live in Northern Virginia and you want cookies, just let me know.} In November, I had to attend a training session to learn how the whole program works. The woman doing the training mentioned that being Cookie Mom was a great résumé builder, especially since you would be responsible for thousands of dollars of cash.

{Tangentially, it was then that my friend, Rachel, turned to me and asked if I kept an up-to-date résumé with a tone that suggested but of course you do, right? If I didn’t know Rachel very well, I might have been tempted to lie and pretend that I was all hip and ready to jump into the real world any time a lucrative offer came along. Instead I said something about God knowing what was on my résumé.}

{Also, tangentially, when I relayed the whole “responsible for great sums of money” line to my husband, he seemed to think thousands of dollars of cash was chump change. I had to remind him that despite my high salary and responsible-sounding “Engineer” title, I never handled actual money or even an inventory. He, on the other hand, was personally responsible, as a 30 year old Company Commander, for millions of dollars worth of equipment, including tanks, and I’m sure he’d be more than happy to brag about how many millions of dollars his department’s operating budget is. But I don’t think most people do jobs where they are responsible for seven-or eight- or nine-figure budgets.}

Well, like Bill, I don’t really think handling even $5,000 cash is truly a big deal. But I’m also not interested in building my résumé either.

{On another tangent, it reminds me of looking back at my senior year high school yearbook picture which lists all my “accomplishments.” I think it says that I was VP of the German Club or some other position. I barely remember that. I know I didn’t lie when I filled out the data form, but I also know that I remember the things which truly meant a lot to me, and those which were less important, I have forgotten. Being a Cookie Mom, I predict, will not rank among my cherished memories.}

But the talk of operating budgets and large sums of cash got me to thinking about my own household budget. Thanks to direct deposit and the ability to pay bills electronically, I don’t have to handle actual cash most of the time. And although my household operating budget will likely never be remotely near the seven-figure level, it certainly exceeds any amount the girls’ troops will generate in cookie sales.

This is actually quite an enormous responsibility, this running of the household finances and the household in general. Although ideally it should be a shared responsibility between me and Bill, who is oh-so-experienced in managing budgets, realistically, this burden falls primarily on the shoulders of anyone who is married to the military.

{When Bill deployed to Kosovo in 2003, the first thing that broke was the oven. “Bill, I broke the oven,” I told him. “OK,” he said. Such is the level of involvement an Army wife might expect in her away-from-home-for-months-at-a-time husband in the management of household affairs. Next up was the transmission in the mini-van. “It’s not worth fixing. Get another one,” he decided. Easy for him to say. Have you ever tried to test drive a car, a lone adult, with three little kids in tow, all who require child safety seats? But I was happy enough that I could easily obtain his opinion on whether to repair or replace.}

Sadly, I do not think I have taken this responsibility very seriously. And not just the budget but the whole running of the household, in general. Recently, I had to email someone for her snail mail address, again, having apparently deleted her email from weeks ago with that information. The kids and I went to the dentist just before we moved from Kansas in June, and I’ve been telling myself for 6 months to get appointments with the new dentist. I generally think of it at eleven o’clock at night.

Why is it that I tolerate a lackadaisical attitude toward home management when I never behaved that way when I worked for pay? When I left my desk at the end of the workday (way back when), it was neat as a pin. Everything was filed or placed neatly in my in bin. There was no dust. My “hot” to-do list was placed squarely in the middle so I knew exactly what I had to begin when I arrived in the morning. Addresses and phone numbers were consistently updated and kept in the same place (this was in the day before everything was done on the computer). I never missed deadlines. I never forgot appointments. I was much more pro-active than reactive.

It’s not that I want to treat my family as employees – cordial, yet detached. It’s that I want to bring my talents to organize and manage and multi-task and plan and budget both time and money into play when it comes to my home. I don’t want to merely say that my grocery budget is $800 a month, I want to be as hyper-vigilant in meeting that budget as if my job depended on it. I want to eat like a king the last week of the month (or the last month of the year) because I was so frugal at the beginning (or take the money saved and splurge on some luxury).

I don’t want to dig under the pile on my desk for a phone number. I don’t want to climb into my closet looking for that bag of fabric I’m sure I put in there somewhere. I don’t want to have to move a pile of junk in order to use my copier (as I’m doing right now).

So, my resolution for this year is to treat my running of the household more as I would treat my running of a business. My monthly resolutions will reflect this goal. This month’s focus will be on organizing the office and the school room so that the two areas which cause me the greatest headache and where I spend much of my time will help me succeed in my mission.

And I’m going to run 15 miles a week and lose 10 pounds.

And pray more. And read more.

And hug the kids more.

The usual stuff.

7 thoughts on “New Year’s Resolutions

  1. Wow. Are you living in my brain? 🙂I don’t have my post ready to go, but maybe I’ll just link to you. (I’m starting in the kitchen, though – the office is in March.)Great post!

  2. I LOVE your resolution. Do you mind if I just steal it?! In fact, I’ll just let you come up with the resolutions and I’ll just follow behind. Today I’ll start on my school room/office too.Thanks!! 😉

  3. Go for it! But don’t go overboard as a friend of mine from college has done. She is so completely overwhelmed with her 3 kids that she won’t try for a 4th (she has mentioned she wants another about 1,000,000 times). BUT, she does the coupon/rebate thing to the point where she spend less than $75 a month for groceries and puts all her savings on a spreadsheet so she can justify staying home. Kids are more important than organizing. My resolutions: lose 40 pounds (’cause I’ll be up to that by March), run in 2 races, learn how to use my quilting machine, and be nicer to my children.

  4. My new month’s resolution is to spend less time on the computer. I spend way too much time on the computer. If I spend less, other things will naturally get done more, as long as I stay away from good books during the day.On the budget front: Sometimes, Gary calls and says he’ll be home late because he just got $200,000 he has to spend by such and such time. Yeah, a few thousand dollars sounds puny after that.

  5. Yeah, I’ll never buy a new car during a deployment again. Though I highly recommend test driving cars with kids and car seats. The sales guy who worked with us when we bought our van learned many new things 🙂 15 miles a week! Are you still getting up super early in the morning to do that? Oh I lack dicipline.

  6. Mm. Yes. Organized. I have all this <>stuff<>, books and gadgets and other useful things, that are only occasionally useful and mostly just collect dust and take up space and make me wish I were more organized. What if I only had the stuff that I actually <>do<> use, and got rid of the stuff that only <>might<> use? I think I’d have a lot more space on my shelves and in my cupboards, and less to clean, and more…peace. Yup. I’m with you. Office and school room first sound just great to me!

  7. Sounds good – and I totally wish I lived close enough to buy them, instead I’ll have to case the Grocery store as I usually have to.

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