Of Ladybugs and Congressmen

Did you catch the Steinbeck reference in the title?

I’m still working on the next part of the America Great series, but there’s a lot of research still to do, and sometimes I just feel like writing. That was, in fact, one of the reasons I began this blog: to hone my craft – to become a better writer. (Note to self: look up the best way to use dashes & colons). So while I will have one or two series in progress at any given time, I’ll write on completely unrelated topics as well to keep the writing process flowing.

My primary research source for the next part of the America Great series is the Conference Report on the Concurrent Resolution on the Budget For Fiscal Year 2016 (House of Representatives Report 114-96). Bad weather gave me the chance to read through more of the report than I had expected because my flight was delayed more than four hours on Sunday when the Detroit Metropolitan Airport was closed by snow. Still, I did fall asleep a couple time while trying to read the report – it’s not easy reading.

My last post about investing for a Millennial Generation economy grew out of Sec. 6202. The House of Representatives Policy Statement on Economic Growth and Job Creation (page 80). The statement laments the “slightly more than 2 percent” real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate from 2010-2014 and the projected 2.3% growth rate for the next 10 years versus the historic 3.2% rate. The policy statement goes on to describe how the sluggish growth negatively impacts many aspects of the economy and Americans’ quality of life, and proposes fixes.

That is when I developed the idea that this new norm – if that’s what it is – is the result of changes in spending patterns from an aging Baby Boomer population. If so, the country needs to look forward and plan accordingly, not look back and take drastic actions designed to bring back the glory days. With the generational shifts that are happening in this country, those glory days may not be achievable within the next few decades. The children of the Millennials may grow wary of their parents’ frugality and become the new big spenders, but that will take a while.

As I mentioned in that earlier post, my wife and I are at the tail end of the Baby Boomer generation, and our spending habits have also been changing. As is the way of the world, our children have moved out of the house and are pursuing their own lives. That leaves two of us living in a 5-bedroom house that we really should sell and move into something smaller.

Before then, I have do some work to get the house ready to sell. I, of course, will do the work myself because I like to be frugal (my wife would probably use the term “cheap”). Until I can get everything done and put the house up for sale, I’m taking measures to reduce the costs of living in such a large house. For winter, that can best be described as hypothermia.

I have closed off bedrooms that are not being used and covered the heat vents. I have programmed the thermostat for a 4°F difference between when I’m home alone and when my wife is at home. I’m willing to be cold to save money. I burn a fire in the soapstone fireplace to warm up the family room & kitchen area for the day (free energy!), then go up to my cold office to work because the fireplace also warms up the thermostat and the heat doesn’t come on as often as it otherwise would. In addition to the fireplace, we have a hot tub so I can always go to bed warm. Yes, I ran the electric, poured the concrete and built the deck around the hot tub myself. My wife may be right in the “cheap” versus “frugal” debate.

And that brings us to the ladybugs. I got annoyed with our cable TV supplier when they raised the price of our service by about 35%. They supplied our high speed internet, about 150 television channels that we almost never watched and a home telephone service. I wasn’t going to stand for a price increase like that. I purchased my own cable modem & wireless router, reduced my service to just the high speed internet and about 10 TV channels and saved about 65% off the new higher price. I lost the phone service, but we barely used that anyhow, so it didn’t matter. Or so I thought.

I have a security system (installed myself, of course) which monitors temperature and sound and calls me if something is outside of its designated range. I can then go online and view the live camera images to see what’s going on and decide on the next course of action. The system also controls the programmable thermostat and with a phone call I can turn the temperature up or down. That is why I need a phone line.

Before our recent trip to New York, I purchased a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone service package, but didn’t have time to install it before we left for our flight. With my wife in agreement, I lowered the thermostat to 52°F to save energy during our time away. Since our flight back was early in the day, and we have the fireplace and hot tub, we could be warm while the house heated back up once we got home. I hadn’t counted on that 4+ hour flight delay or appreciate the length of time it takes to heat up the house. My wife spent a couple hours walking on the treadmill in a winter coat and hat, and it was too windy to go into the hot tub. Live and learn.

One unexpected result of the 10 day drop in house temperature followed by a return to 70°F was the effect on our hibernating ladybug population. During the summer, I put our house plants outside so they don’t die while I’m away or busy with one project or another. When I bring them back in before the first frost, some ladybugs come along for the ride and end up hibernating until spring. The ladybugs thought spring had arrived on Sunday evening. We now have one to two dozen confused looking ladybugs all over the house and I’m giving them some water and putting them back in the plants. At least I assume they were in the plants – I really have no idea where ladybugs hibernate.

Well, I should probably go and do some of that other work I have been neglecting. I’ll make a promise to myself. If I win tonight’s $1.5 billion PowerBall jackpot, I’ll hire someone to get the house ready to sell instead of doing all the work myself. Maybe.

About tonyj126

I'm a 50+ married man who always seems to have a large backlog of work to do, but also a lot of flexibility in my schedule. Much of the work I do is volunteer or taking care of extended family members. I suffer from, as my priest calls it, "the sin of self-sufficiency," which means I can figure out how to do most things myself, and consequently, reduce the need for community to solve problems. As a logical extention (at least to me), I find myself called to comtemplate the country's and the world's woes and offer my observations. I hope someone out there will find them useful.
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