It has been a long time, and it CRACKS ME UP that my previous post was about setting goals, and it then turned into a dump list of everything I can imagine that I might do at some point before I die...
After six months of holding my dixie cup up to the waterfall, I have to say, "enough!!" Some may already know (if you are a friend on facebook), while other lurkers (readers in Japan and in Russia?!) may not be aware, but Ryan and two fellow Houston firefighters were exonerated and reinstated last Thursday by the ruling of an independent arbitrator after 6 months of an indefinite suspension and nearly a year of investigation by the City of Houston for a racial slur that was published in a patient record. None of the men wrote it, the signature on the record did not match any of their handwriting, and the slur was entered up to a full hour before they even left for the call that the record (...well...) recorded.
Despite the utter lack of evidence and proof of guilt, these three men (and their families) were indefinitely suspended in what we can only imagine was a politically motivated slaughter - by the city government that will not stop talking about how important it is to END discrimination in our city's government, no less. These men were considered guilty until called innocent by an independent source who reviewed the same facts of the case as those who declared them guilty in September. Ryan worked four separate jobs over the past six months, in that time we delivered our second son, we have a mortgage payment, a couple small debts that we had projected to pay off by the end of 2010, and all the necessities that a family has in the budget each month (food, clothing for the fast-growing toddler, utilities, car maintenance, let's not forget the HOLIDAYS!). It has been stressful, to say the least.
WE MADE IT THROUGH IT, but not without the help of countless friends and strangers who lifted us up when we felt our lowest. Truly, my dixie cup has long been overflowing with the grace, prayers, financial support, childcare support, flexibility, and compassion of others (some whom I have never met). The support has been truly overwhelming. Our marriage and family were put to the test, and to say that the past months were difficult would be the understatement of my lifetime. God is so good. We look forward to talking about this obstacle with our sons as a lesson of doing what is right no matter the cost. I married a man of integrity, and I could not be more proud or more faithful to someone who cares for me and our children the way he does.
It is time to look ahead, though.
1. Ryan will receive his full back-pay, and we will finally be DEBT FREE!! Our foundation repair loan and relatively small credit card debt will soon be paid. We've discussed paying off our small mortgage to free up that much money every month for other projects and savings. I am still a little shell-shocked by all the blessings we received! We made it through this ordeal without incurring any debt (beyond the debt we were already paying off before the suspension). We're kind of HUGE fans of Dave Ramsey. There were only a few weeks that Ryan was truly without work during this trial, and we have discovered newfound resourcefulness and frugality in this mess.
2. SAVINGS will begin now. Our goal will be to put aside six months of "emergency fund" in preparation for any future curve balls. The credit card is not a savings account, and we have lived without it since July. Thank you Dave Ramsey for this advice, did I already mention Dave? Sorry for the redundancy.
3. Eating NATURALLY! We will return to our previous commitment to eating only organic or consciously grown produce, dairy, and meat. We rarely eat meat at home (in fact, I cannot remember the last time we even had meat in our house... August? When we are eating meat it is the only option available, and we try to eat it moderately. We're FLEXITARIANS) Throughout this mess, one area that I refused to compromise was the dairy we offer Dominic - that kid would eat his body weight in cereal daily if we'd let him. Because of the hormones, antibiotics, unnatural diets and disgusting living conditions of conventional dairy cows we simply would not settle for less than organic in that department (perhaps not all conventional dairy cows live that way, but how can you even begin to research which hundred cows provided the gallon of milk in the fridge?). Moving forward I intend to research local dairies with free-range grass-fed cows to see about buying raw milk directly (I noticed a while back that our organic milk smells like corn... interesting, yes... surprising, no). I am looking forward to visiting the farmer's market this weekend for the first time in far too long!
3.2 Gardening and becoming a little bit more self-sufficient... this is totally experimental this season using the square-foot garden method and a bevy of resources I found over at the Grocery Shrink in the month of February. We built our raised bed last weekend, filled it yesterday afternoon, and planted it yesterday evening with Dominic. We planted broccoli, carrots, summer squash, peppers, spinach, snap peas, and green beans. Ryan and I have already discussed building a few more beds to plant more peppers and try some HGTs (there ain't nothin' in the world that I like better).
4. HOME IMPROVEMENT!! (with Tim the Toolman Taylor!... I couldn't resist) That want list is SO LONG. We've wanted to refresh our home's exterior for nearly two years now since the foundation repair (actually, we've talked about it since we first laid eyes on our house three years ago). Pressure washing, painting, and landscaping might be at the top of my wishlist today... the honor of the top of the home improvement wish-list changes daily. Other HUGE projects that vie for that honor include: moving the washer (out of the kitchen) to the garage next to the dryer, creating a utility room in the garage, renovating our two small bathrooms, renovating our kitchen (the washer necessarily has to move first... or maybe we'll enclose a utility room in the kitchen... oh the options!), replacing doorknobs throughout the house (we have 3 drastically different knobs within 3 sq. ft. of each other).
5. R & R. Ryan mentioned the possibility of a vacation to decompress from the stress of the last year (even the stuff before the suspension... remember when I broke my wrist?! This time last year I was writing left-handed because my right wing was totally useless). We go back and forth as to whether we'll do this before or after the goals up above; while I TOTALLY MISS ITALY, I think it is impractical to take a trip like that right now with two little guys - although if some family members went at the same time it might be more manageable (May 1st JPII will be beatified... cough... mom... cough... Aunchele...). I have to calm myself down. Not a day passes that I do not think about Italy; next to Ryan, it is the love of my life, so just thinking about Italy sometimes turns into surfing for cheap airfare and browsing hostel websites...
THANK YOU FOR SEEING US THROUGH THIS, AND LOOK FORWARD TO MORE FABULOUS POSTS OF OUR PROGRESS!! (photos to come... maybe)