Monthly Archives: March 2017

Last Simon Says Stamp–“Things with Wings”

I made this card without any challenges in mind. Butterflies just seemed appropriate to add to this otherwise simple patterned paper card.IMG_0233

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Post 3 for Simon Says Stamp–Things with Wings!!

Here’s the 3rd card I made tonight inspired by Mojo Monday’s sketch of the week.

IMG_0234

This one didn’t originally start as appropriate for the “Things with Wings” challenge. I knew I wanted to make another card based on Mojo’s sketch and was staring at the random papers on my desk and spotted the advertising card that was included in a package of antique-inspired postcards I’d gotten from my mom. I cut it down to just this image of all the cards. I spent a little time looking through my patterned papers for an appropriate background, realizing quickly that it needed to be a pastel color.

This background paper immediately shouted “postcard” to me, so I kept with the whole “piece of mail” theme–the butterfly is a real US postage stamp. I think this is my favorite of the three I made today!

 

Patreonship Opportunities

So I have decided to start a page on Patreon  This is a site that allows people like you to fund my (or anyone else’s) arts and crafts.

For $2/month, you get to see a daily post of cards I’ve made as well as receive a card for your initial investment. When we’ve reached $50/month, I will give all my patrons another card. At $100/month I will start having a monthly giveaway where the first 20 patrons to comment on that post will receive a card.

All my cards come with an envelope and 2 sheets of 8.5×5.5 paper (both plain unless I get ambitious :-)). Generally I make cards that are sized A2, but it really depends on my mood.

The money I earn on Patreon will go towards purchasing supplies for making cards as well as to cover the postage to send out finished cards. I really appreciate your support!

Cathy

Going back to school…

So, after 5 years of not being in school, I’m seriously considering taking the plunge and going back to get my master’s in elementary education.

This is one of those things that has been sitting in the back of my head forever. Well, kind of. I went to college thinking that I wanted to work in business because I love the logistics of getting business done. But, that’s really vague and not really degree worthy when you don’t really care about the means to the top so long as you get to the top. Seriously folks, “hire me and I’ll get your shit together” doesn’t work so great when your resume is lacking in usable details.

In any case, the Comm School at UVA is one of those that you apply too after you take the pre-requisites while an undergrad. After my dismal experiences in accounting and economics, I didn’t really want to apply anymore, but I did and got rejected. No hard feelings.

This was all during my 2nd year, which is when you have to declare a major. Since I’d spent my first 3 semesters going along the Comm School route, I had some pretty random classes under my belt, but was like “Hey! I’ve got a lot of history classes and a Geology of Virginia class here, let’s declare history and environmental science and apply to the education school! I’ve always liked to help my friends with their homework!” They rejected me, too.

But, I really did like the idea of being a teacher! It is one of my automatic soapboxes and I enjoy reading homeschooling and teachers blogs to know what’s going on in that world. And then I remember that in 9th grade my science fair project was about whether reading aloud, reading silently, or being read to lead to the best reading comprehension results. Yes, I suffered my extended family to participate in this as my research subjects. It is the only actual experiment I developed on my own. I kind of wish I had remembered this in college, but it’s something I hadn’t really thought about except in passing.

Anyway, I kept my random double majors because I knew that one day I would want to go after that teaching degree, once I finally got over my fear of public speaking. I haven’t done anything recently to really tackle this, but I have explored (mentally) what it is that I don’t like about public speaking. I gave one of our graduation speeches in high school without a problem and have done a few projects that involved presenting to the class over the years with mixed results, usually based on how comfortable I was with the subject matter and relationship to the teacher.

I also didn’t like the idea of me standing in front of a classroom of 30 kids and being expected to speak for 6 hours. That would exhaust me! But in the past few weeks, it’s finally hit me that in elementary school, at least, kids need to spend most of their time experimenting and exploring  and not being talked at. I figure that really I’d spend maybe 2 hours total per day actually standing up there talking and most of that would be reading from a prepared piece. Otherwise, it’s answering individual questions that may or may not be directed at the whole room. I spend 6 hours per day doing that already! And I don’t have such luxuries as spring and winter break to recuperate!

So… going back to school. I know that I don’t have to get the full blown master’s degree, but I will because I know myself and I want to be fully prepared for anything. I plan to rely on a lot of what I inadvertently learned in elementary school, especially in math. I remember being in like 4th grade and was told that I was doing fractions wrong because the teacher wanted us to write them “vertically”

1

2
+
1

2
——
2

2

But my dad had already taught me to write them out “horizontally”

1          1         2
–    +   –   =   –
2         2         2

(that was actually easier than I thought to write out!)

What pissed me off about the whole ordeal back then was that after struggling all that year to not get confused with that crappy “vertical” system, I never saw it again! I mean, I can kind of understand the idea behind it, but really, it’s just stupid! But, I’d teach both ways at the same time in my classroom because hey, one way works for some students, the other for others! There’s not one way to solve a problem (usually). This happened a lot in elementary school, where my dad would tell me one thing and my teacher would say something else and I would have to defer to the teacher or I’d just get confused further down the line.

My dad’s favorite saying: “fractions, decimals, money: it’s all the same thing!” I think this FINALLY  made sense to me by 6th grade! Which is kind of ridiculous, when you think about it! I’d totally teach this in 4th.

And I shall DEFINITELY teach algebra in 3rd grade! I was in high school, flipping through a workbook long ago bought for my brother when he had trouble with math in elementary school and was surprised to see a chapter titled “Algebra”. In that chapter were problems such as 3+__=7 and 9-__= 2. It was in this moment that I wanted to punch every elementary teacher I had ever and never met!

During these years of middle and high school, I spent half my time whilst helping with homework trying to get my friends to understand that x’s and y’s in math problems are just numbers that we don’t know yet, but if we manipulate the equation a little bit, the variable will present itself. There was a lot of push back because x and y MUST mean something specific and it was confusing because in one question x is 4 and in another x is 7. So, when I came across this workbook and realized that students SHOULD be taught about x’s and y’s in ELEMENTARY SCHOOL instead of that damn BLANK…ooh…I’m STILL livid! Yes, a blank is helpful in elementary school to begin learning about manipulating the equation, but it should NOT take 3 years for the BLANK to be replaced with an X! Seriously–pre-algrebra is the exact same thing as 3rd grade math! This is ridiculous!

So, every kid in my elementary class is going to learn algebra and they’re going to KNOW they’re doing algebra and that will be that!

And word problems are LIFE. All I do at work all is word problems:

If the customer wants 250 sets of a form and each set is 3 parts and you can print the form 2-up, how many sheets of paper do you need? 250*3/2=375 sheets.

But…thinking about my classroom and how I’d teach math won’t help me pass the GRE or MAT if I decide to go that route. I’ve already emailed ODU asking for information on their online master’s degree for elementary education with initial license (because that’s the full name for what I want) and got a helpful reply. I did send back an email to that adviser asking whether he’d recommend the GRE or MAT and will take his advice seriously.

I’ve heard of the GRE and looking at it, it’s a lot like the SAT on steroids, which would have been fine 10 years ago when I’d been fresh out of calculus. But I spent the next 4 years struggling with math in environmental science classes (because the transference didn’t click) and otherwise avoiding complicated math. And then I spent 5 years avoiding equations in general except for those word problems.

I’ve never heard of the MAT, but it looks like a straight forward knowledge test…he he. he…okay, not really (I just researched further). It’s a straightforward ANALOGIES test, which means you need to know content as well as their relationship to one another. But, you know, it’s a lot less scary looking than the GRE! I was always good with the analogies section on the SAT (did I mention that I took that test and the Pre-SAT about 8 times in total between 7th and 12th grades? If it was offered (ideally free), I took it because I actually enjoyed taking it and improving my score) and these words are all in ENGLISH!

So…back in elementary and middle school we took the STAR Reader test at least twice a year. It was supposed to test our reading levels and each of us got a different test depending on our score from the previous time. I remember vividly sitting at my computer come September cheering because my test was actually in ENGLISH! This was because the May test from the previous year had been full of 6 syllable words that I could only guess at the meanings of. I’d peek at my neighbors’ screens and whine that I couldn’t get words like “atrocious”! I’m not sure if anyone else ever looked at my screen and wondered why they’d given me a test in Portuguese! Come May, every year after I’d probably nearly aced the September test, it was back to Russian. Sigh. But, it did prepare me for the SAT where most of their analogies are in Hebrew. Not prepare me as in I could actually understand the analogies, but prepared me to snicker to myself and move on because skipping questions doesn’t hurt you.

Apparently in 4th grade my reading tested at a “post-college level”–I’ve been in college and NEVER SAW THE DAMN WORDS THAT I FACED ON EITHER THE STAR READER OR THE SAT!

Yeah…I think I’ll be taking the MAT unless the adviser suggests otherwise. I’d definitely shell out $30 for a practice test before taking the real thing, but I think it’ll be a lot more pleasant experience.

How to live like a rich person without really trying.

My dad and I enjoy discussing politics with each other. We also openly discuss finances. These areas collide often because my dad like’s to recall a story about some politician who was being audited or vetted or something else to do with his finances.

This politician had like $30,000 worth of credit card debt when the person doing the auditing did the investigation. Most people who heard about this started booing the politician. Then the politician stood up (I’m dramatizing, this was all interviews and typical “he said she said” type reporting) and said, “Look more closely at my credit card bills and income! I pay that damn thing OFF every month. We just rack up the debt because we get airline miles.”

(Or cash back, or whatever the offer was at the time.)

This has always stuck with me, of course. I mean, credit card companies are ALWAYS going on about the many perks they offer. Airline miles! 1%, 2%, 3% cash back! Free food! All these gimmicks to get you to use their card.

But debt is bad, right?

WRONG! There is GOOD debt and there is BAD debt.

Good debt is used to buy things today that you can pay off ONLY if you save up for years and years and years. 30 years in the case of a house (15 if you’re that type). 5 years for a car. You know: the stuff that you can either put that payment in the bank every month until you have enough to pay it off “debt free” (whilst living in a rental place paying DOUBLE the mortgage payment, thus paying essentially 3 months for every 1 out of your paycheck).

If you can afford a $150,000 home after saving for 30 years, guess what? You can afford a $150,000 house TODAY. Congratulations! Save a ton of money, too!

Anyway. That’s GOOD debt.

BAD debt is the stuff that you could never afford even if you saved your money for your entire life. The super expensive home. The credit card bill that you can never pay off. Using a credit card to fund your new business because you’d heard that you should never invest your own money (I heard this one on The 700 Club once and I very nearly threw my shoe at the TV).

Of course, in the case of that credit card, it might be the only thing keeping you with a roof over your head. And the expensive home, well, banks are supposed to prevent that sort of thing, but they didn’t in 2008…As for the business investment, honey, a credit card IS your own money–only you (and your spouse/cosigner) are responsible for paying that money back. I’m more upset that The 700 Club just went on to demonize all credit card debt instead of explaining that this was an idiotic idea to start with! Yes, if possible, you should always get outside investors to put up the money for your new business idea because this way you’ve done half the work to ensure that your idea has a MARKET. People can be very shortsighted when thinking that their idea is the boom-diggity.

Anywho, there are lots of folks who say that all credit cards are evil. That they’re a slippery slope to the poor house. While I suggest doing everything in your power to avoid using your credit card as a life preserver, sometimes shit happens and it’s better to have it available than to be completely destitute.

Okay. Back on positive notes! There are two (in general) types of credit cards. Those with a low interest rate that don’t offer any kinds of rewards and those with a high interest rate that pay you to use them. Hehe.

Okay–you need one “emergency card”–this has a low interest rate (ideally under 10% APR) that you can probably get from your primary bank. A line of credit may also work because it’s a low interest way to put money directly into your bank account (if I’ve correctly watched my dad do this–I don’t have one, so I’m not sure exactly how it works). All that matters is that you have your life preserver available for when an emergency happens. This is for all purchases that you know you won’t be able to pay off within 1 month of obtaining it. This is for everything you don’t mind paying interest on–you know: EMERGENCIES!

Now, you need at least one (more can be fine–I have 3 currently) REWARDS CARD!!! Seriously peeps, get excited about these! Now, these things have a ridiculously high interest rate (25-33% APR), BUT, you never have to pay a single penny of interest, IF you pay that sucker off every month (I pay mine off every 2 weeks when I get my paycheck).

MAKE SURE THAT THERE IS NO ANNUAL FEE! A high interest rate can be circumvented by paying it off before any interest is incurred, but a fee can be tricky to avoid. You might have to spend so much during a given year or jump through some other kind of hoop. I don’t know, so I wouldn’t even worry about it. The goal here is to be paid to use a card, so do not spend any of your money upfront in the hope of getting more back than you paid in–it’s not worth getting burned.

My rewards cards are as follows:

Amazon (though Chase) where I earn 3% on Amazon purchases, 2% at gas stations/restaurants/pharmacies and 1% everywhere else. This is my primary card and I make about $5/month that I can use on Amazon, use towards paying my bill, or be put directly into my checking account. I use this card whenever I would otherwise use my bank card. These are everyday purchases (NOT EMERGENCIES) like eating out, groceries, fun stuff. These are purchases that are part of my regular budget and before getting a credit card, were just regular checking account expenses. I’m making $5/month to do my regular shopping and not paying a penny of interest.

My second card is via State Farm. This is our car insurance company which happens to be a bank as well. I got this card because my husband wanted to have a card in his pocket to help him build up his atrocious credit score. He’s never had a credit card before. This one came at 0% interest for it’s first year, which was very handy because we needed to buy new exterior doors and were able to put this expense on this card to get a bit longer to pay. It also gives us 3% points back when it’s used to pay for car insurance (we’ve set up my husband’s insurance to automatically debit this way (monthly) and I pay my insurance every 6 months this way) as well as 1% on all other purchases. He uses this card sporadically, but tells me when he does and tries to give me the cash to cover his expenses. We’ve only just starting to use this card to benefit from the rewards (the original plan was for him to put about $30/per month on it to keep it active and for his credit score to note some on-time payments), but now that we’ve decided to put our insurance payments on it, then immediately pay that off from my bank (I LOVE free online bill pay!), we’ll be able to earn points fairly quickly now. These points can go towards our bill or we can get gift cards. In the year we haven’t really been using it, we’ve got enough points for a $25 gift card. Not bad for money we would still have spent even if we weren’t getting paid for it!

Do not be afraid to get a credit card just for the 0% interest introductory rate! Use it, enjoy it, but MAKE SURE YOU PAY OFF THE BALANCE BEFORE THE 0% WEARS OFF! Our method is to make sure we have the money in the bank before we make this big purchase and use that money to pay off the card. Otherwise, it’s an “emergency” and it may need to go on the “emergency card”, depending on the rest of your finances. You do not want to put a big emergency purchase on a 0% interest card if you’ll ultimately have the expense for more than the introductory period, though you may have the option to transfer the balance to your emergency card, but I’m not sure of these rules. Luckily we’ve never had to deal with an emergency situation, yet.

My 3rd card exists SOLELY for the 0% interest for 2 years. We used it to purchase our new couch (got the card through the furniture store). We had all the money for the couch saved already, but getting the card let us get another account to improve my credit score and let us keep our savings flexible for 2 years. But, I’m always cautious when it comes to debt and don’t trust minimum payment figures, so we’ll actually have the couch paid off by about the year and a half mark. Once this card is paid off, I’m debating whether to close the account since I have no expectation to use it ever again.

My credit score suffers from two problems: my accounts are too young and I don’t have enough of them. Our goal is to buy a house, but we’re not exactly in a hurry to do so. I will start losing closed accounts (2 student loans that were closed soon after opening them because the banks like to buy and sell such things to each other) in a few years, so I may decide to leave the couch card active, but not use it, just so it continues to exist on my credit report longer (closed accounts disappear after 10 years, open accounts exist indefinitely). I’ll need to discuss things with the bank before making the decision one way or the other. I do not want to get hit with a higher home mortgage rate just because I don’t have 15 credit cards and a car payment…I guess I’m lucky that my student loans are all considered separate loans even though they’re consolidated into one payment with one company.

By the way, I shall end this with remarks on student loans. Mine are all through the Department of Education, some subsidized some un-subsidized. But, overall, my entire student loan debt was capped at just under $20,000 for 4 years of school, meaning that the school/Department of Education had to find a way to pay for the rest of my education. I realize that I’m incredibly lucky in this way.

For those who are considering student loan debt, my words of advice are to know exactly what you are getting an education for and to take just the amount of debt that you are confident that your future plans can sustain. For instance: I had no idea what to do in college. I as going because it was expected of me ever since elementary school. I spent 2 years bouncing between majors and ideas before finally settling on history and environmental science because I want to be an elementary teacher. Then I got rejected from the Ed school. I still have my double majors, but I graduated with few marketable skills and no idea what I wanted to do with my life.

But, I do not regret a moment I spent in college. I consider it the best 4 years of my life because that’s where I really grew into an adult. As it is, $20,000 in student loans is a hell of a lot cheaper than the therapy I’d otherwise have needed when I hit middle age! But, had I paid the $80,000 (in-state) that is the actual going rate of 4 years of education at UVA…well, therapy would have been the cheaper option.

I am currently contemplating going for that Education degree (though ODU, online) and will soon be filling out that FAFSA again. Since I am very confident about my major and what I will be able to do as soon as I graduate, I am comfortable taking on another student loan (or 2 or more because apparently that’s how they get billed through the Dept. of Ed.), but I will ONLY take on these debts if they come from the Dept. of Ed. and are of a reasonable amount. It’s a lot like I was saying about not using credit cards to fund your new business–by going to the Dept. of Ed. to get your loans, you have someone looking at your goals and saying that they want to invest in you. When you go to a private student loan company, you’re dealing with someone who only cares about getting their money back. There are a lot of unscrupulous lenders who can make an awful lot of money by screwing over their customers and I don’t want you to find yourself in this situation.