Monday, April 1, 2013

This Is the End, Beautiful Friend...

As I sit here waiting to leave I can't help but be overwhelmed with melancholy. South Korea has become home over the past year and a half. I broke down last night and cried. Not for the first time over leaving but definitely the hardest cry. Daric wanted to know why I didn't cry that way when we left Fort Leonard Wood or when I left California. He even asked why I didn't cry like that when I was leaving Germany when I had visited him. He jokingly commented how I must not love him to have not cried this way over leaving him back then. He knows that's not true. I can't label why I'm so heartbroken over this move. Daric has his theories but even I'm not certain why I'm feeling this way.

Would I be feeling this way if all my friends had already left like the Fort so when it's my turn I'm fine with it? I honestly have no idea. All I know for certain is I'm sad and confused. Confused? Yes, confused. You see there are a great deal of Facebook pages that are pertaining to being stationed in South Korea. There are different spouse pages, yard sale pages, info pages, etc. I had to remove all but 3 of those pages because they were making me angry last year. Why were they angering me? Because there was an overwhelming amount of people on those pages bashing Korea. Either they had chosen to stay in the states while their spouse did his year long tour over here so they knew nothing but rumors, or they had come over not sponsored so they only had to stay a year and instead of taking advantage of the opportunity they squandered the chance of a lifetime being miserable because this isn't the U.S., or they came over sponsored and were "stuck" here for the 2 years with their spouse, as a family, but miserable because they were expecting America. It baffled me at first how so many of those spouses didn't realize they got on an international flight to come over here. It baffled me they didn't understand they were no longer in America. Then it started angering me because there would be families asking questions, worried about coming over and all they had to say was negative. How could you say anything negative about Korea?

Koreans are rude! No they're not rude. Americans have the concept of personal space, Koreans don't. If you're in the way then you need to move or they're going to push past you without an excuse me because that is just their way. This is their country, NOT ours! Acclimate.

Koreans hate Americans. If Koreans hated us then why does the military make us live amongst them? If Koreans hated Americans then why isn't there way more violence against us? I'll tell you what Koreans hate, and I can't say I'm not with them on this one. Koreans hate disrespect. We have a great majority of soldiers fresh out of basic and AIT coming over here being barely over 18 years old, first time on their own and they show it. They act disrespectful and disgrace the American image. Would you appreciate an invited house guest coming into your home only to treat it like a dump? I think not.

Your husband will cheat on you whether you're with him or not. If your husband is going to cheat on you the locale doesn't make a difference. *See above reference to barely over 18 year old soldiers. Too many kids are in a rush to prove they're an adult. They join the military, their girlfriend becomes their wife far too young in my opinion, they are feeling trapped because they're so young and already have a wife maybe a kid on the way or already had a kid, they have friends who don't have any attachments i.e. wife, kids and watch them "living the life" of bachelorhood and want the same. It's a sad state indeed. No one should get married before the age of 25 and kids shouldn't come before 30...but that's just my opinion and if you know me then you know I didn't follow my own advice on the matter. (which is why I feel that way!)

I could go on with the slew of moronic statements these people have made but I won't because I take it personally. It's a personal slap in the face for me. I must have been Korean in a past life...

I have NEVER in the entire time we've lived out here encountered these rude, American hating Koreans. Even when I'm in the exact place they are. I smile, I bow my head, I say hello in Korean, I make the effort to show respect and you know what happens? I GET TREATED WITH RESPECT!! What a foreign concept. So what I'm saying is that if you give respect you get respect? Whoa! Mind = Blown! I know I have a friend or two who'll want to fight me over this point, I'm never disrespectful but they are, well I don't know what to tell you. In my experiences with Koreans I've never had those issues so I don't know what I'm doing differently. Maybe it's the way I approach them or the way I interact. My body language is saying friend, maybe yours isn't. Even when I'm frustrated because of the language barrier I still maintain respect. I don't change my tone to a disrespectful tone because that will translate even if the words aren't. Maybe Koreans just like brown people, I don't know! All I know is that we lived in the thick of Korea. There were few, if any, other Americans living around us so when we went to the stores or restaurants around the house English was extremely limited and yet we still managed to develop friendships with the restaurant owners we'd see fairly regularly. There was a chicken restaurant directly across the street from the house and the owner made the effort to learn some English words to better communicate with us. When we first started going there she spoke not a word. Ordering involved much pointing and hand gestures. When we ate there for the last time she understood when we told her we were leaving and even though a slew of Korean came flying out when she was saying goodbye she still tried to throw out the only English words she knew. She came out of the kitchen to give us all hugs and love on the kids and say "visit" over and over. Every time Daric went there she'd give him something for "service". We'd always get a freebie. That last meal was no different.

Koreans are warm, kind and giving. I can't even count the number of things the kids have gotten for free or were given by Koreans. I always felt bad for taking anything they tried to give me, always offering to pay or give them some monetary compensation only to be told no, gift. If only everyone were as generous. And maybe that's why this is so hard. I've finally found a place where I fit in. We are a large family. We go out to eat and our kids are noisy and make a mess unintentionally, they're kids. We're all guilty of wishing ill on "that" family in the restaurant. Here we never got those looks or felt like we were bothering other patrons. I would try to clean up the mess they made on the floor or table since I felt bad and they'd always shoo me away saying ok, ok. I give, unconditionally. I don't expect anything in return when I'm generous. If I pay for something when you can't I don't expect an I.O.U. or a date when I'll be reimbursed. It's ok, get me back when you can or don't even worry about it. There are much more important things in this world than money. When a group of Korean friends go out to eat, 1 of them pays for everyone but it's ok because next time someone else will pay. It's more important to go out and spend time with your friends or family than to keep tabs on exactly how much everyone's portion of the bill is. I like that. Maybe I really was Korean in a past life...

So what was the point of this entry? Honestly I don't know. I'm just sitting here, watching the time go by as I wait for my ride to the airport and I felt the need to get some things off my chest. Whether this made sense or whether it was all just a regurgitation of random thoughts and feelings onto the computer, I hope it made you smile.

And with that I will say for the last time, 안녕히 가세요 (annyeonghi gaseyo)! I am going to miss you Korea but I will return some day.

Good morning, afternoon or night where ever you are in the world from our traveling family to yours.


what a difference a year makes...
I came with babies, I'm leaving with kids!


no doubt about it...this baby is Korean!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Behold the Power of Google...

I've been seeing multiple Facebook posts over the past few weeks linking to an article written by a man for the Huffington Post. If you aren't familiar with this article here's the link Lavish Military Lifestyle. (I was able to title the link myself and I thought this was fitting.)

Just today I took the time to sit down and read what was causing quite the uproar amongst my military spouse brethren. After reading this article I had to laugh. I read a few of the comments and laughed even more. This article is just that, laughable! If Mr. Wood's article is indicative of quality journalism then I really need to submit an article because my mediocre blog has far more journalistic quality than his "kick to the hornet's nest" article. I know a very good majority of my readers are military affiliated so they know but for the friends and family I have who DO NOT have a clue how things are because they don't live my lavish lifestyle let me give you a little clue into my world.
**Everything I am about to write is 100% factual. You can Google 'military base pay', 'COLA calculator', 'BAH calculator' to fact check my numbers. It is PUBLIC record the pay and incentive pay of our military, every single branch not just the Army.**

Let me throw my very first link out there pertaining to our lavish lifestyle. This is the spreadsheet of military pay, not average, ACTUAL! 2013 Military Pay Scale The O section is for Officers, W = Warrant Officers, and E = Enlisted a.k.a. low men on the totem pole. Let me tell you that Daric was an E-4 falling into the over 8 years service category. He is now an E-3 in the over 8 years service category. So his base pay, the bare minimum we get paid is exactly $2,014.80...exactly! He is maxed out on the amount of money he can make because he was reduced in rank so even if he were to promote we'd be back at E-4, also maxed out on the amount of money he can make, making $2,403.30. Keep in mind this is a BEFORE TAX number. Our home of record is California so you better believe we pay not only federal income tax but also state tax. *We choose to be taxed at a single 1 rate also so don't think we have some huge tax break all year, we're taxed just as much as everyone else or more but at return time we get a lot back due to our family size. It's how we save money.* For those of you who think "my taxpayer dollars pay your salary!" think again, HIS taxpayer dollars pay his own damn salary. By the way that number is MONTHLY, not weekly or bi-weekly. But before I jump the gun in breaking down his salary let me add in the other pay we receive.

Next link Overseas COLA Calculator. This calculator ONLY APPLIES TO THOSE LIVING OVERSEAS! We get a COLA, Cost Of Living Allowance, stipend every month that fluctuates with the exchange rate. When you live in say Germany your COLA allowance will be higher because the cost of living on the Euro is a lot more than living on the cost of the Won. The American dollar is still slightly stronger than the South Korean Won but if you notice on the calculator it is broken down into two periods. The 1st through the 15th of the month then the 15th through the rest of the month so if say the Won drops a lot any time during the 1-15 of the month but then rises to higher than it was during the 15-30(1) of the month then we'll get two different amounts to equal one monthly payment. It is hard to say exactly how much we make here every month since it fluctuates so much but to say we get $300 in COLA a month is a safe average. Sometimes it's more but sometimes it's less. So adding Daric's base pay with COLA we are making $2,314.80 a month BEFORE TAX. But lets add more!

Overseas Housing Allowance This calculator again ONLY APPLIES TO THOSE LIVING OVERSEAS! We get a higher housing allowance because there is NO ON POST HOUSING AVAILABLE! We live in Yangju but if you use the calculator and need our locality it's Uijeongbu because Daric is stationed at Camp Red Cloud (also use that for the COLA calculator). We are lucky we get an Utility Allowance that is added into our OHA stipend on the paystub. Yes we can get $1,743.01 in rent BUT we only get EXACTLY what our rent is, no more. We do get the full utility allowance however last month's gas and electric bills were $600 so as you can see we need that much especially when the exchange rate sucks and it takes more US dollars to equal what we owe in Won. I know people out here who have GONE OVER the utility allowance and have had to pay out of pocket for their bills! Yes, it's that expensive. We pay our rent and utilities in the local currency. We are at the mercy of the exchange rate. When we first arrived it was great and we were able to spend less to get more, if that makes sense but now it sucks and continues to drop so we are spending more to get less! If you are curious to know what we were being paid while we were living in Fort Leonard Wood then here you go Basic Allowance for Housing and our zip code was 65473. As of right now if we still lived there we'd be getting $996 for rent which is more than we were getting when we lived there by about $88. Remember we lived on post so no, on post housing is NOT free. That money was put into our paycheck and taken out so we never saw it except as the transactions on the paystub. Would you like to know the average price of a 3 bedroom, 2 bath house outside of base in town? $1,200 so if we had chosen to live off post we would have been paying at the very least $292 out of pocket every month. No COLA for living in Missouri! No utility allowance either. Now let me touch very briefly on our housing. Our first house on post was built in the 60's and it showed. We signed lead paint and black mold waivers upon move in. So when we found black mold it was not a reason to re-home us because we signed away that right. Refuse to sign? Then we don't get a house on post. Plain and simple! The joys of privatized housing on post, the company's bottom line is THE bottom line. Our second home was a renovated house, large and very quickly renovated. And it showed! As the house settled in our first month living there cracks starting appearing in the paint in corners and on the ceiling. Very comforting indeed but since we already moved we couldn't move again and just fyi we had to pay to move out of our house and into the new one. None of that money was reimbursed. $300 for a cleaning fee, the cost of the moving van, the cost of boxes, the cost of paying friends in food for helping since I was very pregnant during that move and couldn't do anything to help. Oh and that house had mold too, and ants and mice and lots of other quirks I could list but this section is getting too long so I'll move on.

Other incentives/other pay we receive Basic Allowance for Subsistence a flat rate across the board for enlisted service members of $323.87 a month. "BAS is meant to offset costs for a member's meals. This allowance is based in the historic origins of the military in which the military provided room and board (or rations) as part of a member's pay. This allowance is not intended to offset the costs of meals for family members." Unless you are a single soldier this money is used to help offset the cost of groceries for your family. Lets face it, groceries aren't cheap! We get to shop at the commissary it's so much cheaper than a grocery store! Not necessarily true. True the commissary doesn't mark up the prices, they sell it to us at cost and true there's no tax however there is a 5% surcharge to cover their overhead. That is on your entire purchase. You shop at Walmart or Albertsons or Safeway and there are food items that aren't taxed so if you compare them that way it's either the exact same or slightly cheaper off post. Granted we get to use coupons and we have sales also so I'd say on average there is no difference between the commissary and a normal grocery store. When you live on post shopping at the commissary is just a matter of convenience.

Being in Korea we are given Command Sponsorship pay of $300 a month All About Command Sponsorship Straight from the Source. That is a bonus given to Daric for bringing his family to Korea and staying for 2 years. If he would have come alone and done only 1 year here we wouldn't qualify for that. There are a lot of families out here that come stay with their service member for the 1 year, they are non-command sponsored so they don't get that money. THIS MONEY IS ONLY FOR SOUTH KOREA! We didn't get that money in MO. Daric is stationed at Camp Red Cloud which is considered Area 1 in South Korea so he gets Hardship Duty Pay which is $150 a month Hardship Duty Pay. If we didn't come to Korea with him he would have also received a Family Separation Allowance of $250 a month for being physically separated from his family for longer than 30 days Family Separation Allowance. We don't get that since we're here. When Daric was deployed to Iraq his base pay was roughly $2,200, BAS $300, HDP $150, HFP/IDP Hostile Fire/Imminent Danger Pay $225, and FSA $250 a month so while he was deployed we made $3,125 a month BEFORE TAX! Not too bad for a one paycheck household true but we don't get that pay forever, it doesn't start until after 30 days, it's only while he's deployed, only while we're living in South Korea, etc. Subtract $625 and that's how much we really were making the entire time we were at the Fort BEFORE TAX!

Now lets do the math. I have copied Daric's February LES (Leave & Earnings Statement i.e. paystub). I have highlighted his Grade because we are STILL receiving the wrong pay since his command is wonderful and totally on top of everything so when we leave Korea we will owe the Army about $3,000 for being over paid. That amount will ALL be taken in one transaction out of our bank account. Thank goodness for tax returns! I have also highlighted all the taxes he pays every month in turquoise. The purple highlights are our life insurance premiums we are required to have. If Daric were to die we'd receive $400,000, for me or the kids it's $100,000. Our deductions aren't that different from a normal person's deductions. The allotments we have are savings and also for rent. We have had to pull a few hundred more than the $2,000 we've allotted for rent for the past few months since the exchange rate has been on the steady decline. I can only access the past years worth of LESs so I can't put up a picture of our Fort Leonard Wood pay but subtract rows D-F and about $1,800 from row C. Oh don't forget to subtract about $200 from row A as well and that's a fair picture of what we made in FLW. We get paid on the 1st and the 15th of the month so that $1,586.77 is what we get for 2 weeks which isn't too bad. If you break Daric's base pay down into an hourly rate he makes exactly $3.58 an hour since he is on call 24/7, 365! He does not get overtime, he does not get holiday pay. It's a wonder, with a wage like that more men and women don't join the military!
DEFENSE FINANCE AND ACCOUNTING SERVICE MILITARY LEAVE AND EARNINGS STATEMENT
ID NAME (Last, First, MI)BISHOP DARIC EARL SOC. SEC. NO. *********GRADE E4PAY DATE030702YRS SVC09ETS130815BRANCHARMY ADSN/DSSN6411PERIOD COVERED1-28 FEB 13
ENTITLEMENTSDEDUCTIONSALLOTMENTSSUMMARY
   TypeAmount
TypeAmount
TypeAmount
+Amt Fwd .00
A
B
C
D
E
F
G
H
I
J
K
L
M
N
O
BASE PAY
BAS
BAH
SAVE PAY
HDP LOCATION
COLA



2403.30
352.27
2686.69
300.00
150.00
438.20



TOTAL
6330.46
FEDERAL TAXES
FICA-SOC SECURITY
FICA-MEDICARE

SGLI
STATE TAXES
AFRH
SGLI FAM/SPOUSE
MID-MONTH-PAY

314.60
149.00
34.85
27.00
56.16
.50
5.00
1618.58

2205.69
DISCRETIONARY ALT
BANK ACCT ALLOT
BANK ACCT ALLOT






100.00
2000.00
438.00






2538.00
+Tot Ent 6330.46
-Tot Ded 2205.69
-Tot Allt 2538.00
=Net Amt 1586.77
-Cr Fwd .00
=EOM Pay 1586.77



 DIEMS
  030213
 RETPLAN
  CHOICE
LEAVE BF Bal 71.5 Ernd 12.5Used 0 Cr Bal 84.0 ETS Bal 98.0 Lv Lost .0 Lv Paid .0Use/Lose 26.5FED
TAXES
Wage Period 2853.30Wage YTD 5706.60M/SS Ex01Add'l Tax .00Tax YTD 629.20
FICA
TAXES
Wage Period
2403.30
Soc Wage YTD
4806.60
Soc Tax YTD
298.00
Med Wage YTD
4806.60
Med Tax YTD
69.70
STATE
TAXES
St
CA
Wage Period
2853.30
Wage YTD
5706.60
M/S
M
Ex
01
Tax YTD
112.32

Now lets do the math for when we are living in Fort Bliss. Lets take that same LES but plug in different numbers since we won't have all the entitlements we are getting now.
DEFENSE FINANCE AND ACCOUNTING SERVICE MILITARY LEAVE AND EARNINGS STATEMENT
ID NAME (Last, First, MI)BISHOP DARIC EARL SOC. SEC. NO. *********GRADE E3PAY DATE030702YRS SVC09ETS130815BRANCHARMY ADSN/DSSN6411PERIOD COVERED1-30 APR 13
ENTITLEMENTSDEDUCTIONSALLOTMENTSSUMMARY
   TypeAmount
TypeAmount
TypeAmount
+Amt Fwd .00
A
B
C
D
E
F
G
H
I
J
K
L
M
N
O
BASE PAY
BAS
BAH




2014.80
352.27
1113.00



TOTAL
3480.07
FEDERAL TAXES
FICA-SOC SECURITY
FICA-MEDICARE
SGLI
STATE TAXES
AFRH
SGLI FAM/SPOUSE
MID-MONTH-PAY

408.57
215.76
50.46
27.00
118.17
.50
5.00
770.81

1596.27
HOUSING ALLOT






1113.00






1113.00
+Tot Ent 3480.07
-Tot Ded 1596.27
-Tot Allt 1113.00
=Net Amt 770.80
-Cr Fwd .00
=EOM Pay 770.80



 DIEMS
  030213
 RETPLAN
  CHOICE
LEAVE BF Bal 71.5 Ernd 12.5Used 0 Cr Bal 84.0 ETS Bal 98.0 Lv Lost .0 Lv Paid .0Use/Lose 26.5FED
TAXES
Wage Period Wage YTDM/SS Ex01Add'l Tax .00Tax YTD
FICA
TAXES
Wage PeriodSoc Wage YTDSoc Tax YTDMed Wage YTDMed Tax YTDSTATE
TAXES
St
CA
Wage PeriodWage YTDM/S
M
Ex
01
Tax YTD


So as you can see we most certainly ARE NOT living lavishly. If you do a little fact checking here Poverty Data, we are actually living at or below the poverty line for a family of our size (they don't include our BAH payment since it's not money we see ever!) depending on which LES you use. Korea at the poverty line, Bliss well below the poverty line. We do get WIC, we do not get food stamps because I feel we do not need it so why take away a benefit from someone who truly does need it. We know how to budget, we've eliminated all our debt during our time in Korea with all our extra pay so we don't need very much more to support our family comfortably. Based on the budget we have now using our Fort Bliss "guesstimated" pay we'll still be able to put about $100 each pay period into savings. We have our emergency fund but it's not at the 3-6 months expenses level yet. Hopefully by the time we are finished with the Army we'll have a nice cushion in savings so our transition to the real world won't be so bad. So here you go non-military affiliated folks. This is a true and accurate portrait of the lavish lifestyle we all have signed up for. And on that note I will say "let them eat cake".

Good afternoon, morning or evening where ever you are in the world from our 'living in the lap of luxury' family to yours! 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

I've Got Two Tickets to Paradise...

Alright, it's technically not paradise it's North Korea but hey...semantics!

This weekend, as part of our H.U.A.S.K.B.W.L.B.I.N.L.W.B.L.H.F.O.A.Y.A., "hurry-up-and-see-Korea-before-we-leave-because-it's-not-like-we've-been-living-here-for-over-a-year-already", weekly excursions, Daric and I took a tour of the DMZ and JSA here in South Korea. The DMZ is the De-Militarized Zone and the JSA is the Joint Security Area. It's where a bunch of important, cool stuff happened way back when and happens sometimes in the recent present. I don't want to bore anyone with the details but if you don't know what I'm talking about there's this magical invention called "Google". I highly recommend it. Moving on...

The tour is *supposed* to be for anyone over the age of 11 years old so the kids didn't get to go but at the very least Akira could have gone since there was a kid, around the age of Riley, on the tour with us. (hindsight...you get me again a-hole!) Daric and I were looking forward to the tour since it's been on our Korean Bucket List since before we got here. If you ever are stationed in Korea, or visiting, I highly recommend taking the tour. It's amazing! I'm also a history nerd so things like that fascinate me. There were many parts of the tour where picture taking wasn't allowed so someone get on inventing a device that can tap into my memories and record them like a movie, stat! Thanks.

not a coal miners daughter
Part of our tour was the 3rd Tunnel, the above picture was taken there. It was so cool yet at the same time I hated it! Explanation for the hate is as follows: I am incredibly out of shape, we walked down about 350 meters which means we had to walk back up those same 350 meters but the best part...IT WAS AN 11% SLOPE!!!! I dare you to put that on your treadmill. Now you understand why I would not like that part of the tour so much. But I'm merely making a joke, I loved the entire day, every last grueling part of it! Yes my jacket was soaking wet (with sweat, yummy!) for the rest of the day since we did that first, yes I wasn't sure if I would be able to climb the stairs in any of the other places we went, yes by the time the bus dropped us back off to our starting point I was beyond exhausted but if I had to do it all over again tomorrow you better believe I would! Fine...maybe not tomorrow or even next week, I'm not sure how long it's going to take for me to recover. *wink* I'm actually not hurting much, my shins are killing me but I think I walk funny so... (sorry train of thought derailed there, forgot where I was going with that)

We also went to the JSA which meant in the conference room we were able to stand in North Korea. The atmosphere there was different than anywhere else on our tour. I could feel it but I can't describe it...surreal? That might be a good enough word. It was something to behold that's for sure. Outside the conference room we were allowed to stand in front of the JSA main building, Freedom House, and take pictures of the North Korean version of the Freedom House. We brought the good lenses for the camera so I was able to zoom in on the North Korean guard outside the building and the camera that was pointed at all of us in the window next to where he was standing. I didn't get the camera out in time to get a picture of the guard looking at us through his binoculars but I did catch him yawning. I think that's a better picture anyhow.


mid-yawn & spy status to the left

 We had lunch at Dorasan train station which is the last train station in South Korea or as they like to say, "Not the last station from the South, but the first station toward the North". This is where we were able to purchase our tickets to "paradise". It was only 1,000 won for two tickets, roundtrip. As of publish date on this entry $1 = 1,085KRW so both our tickets were roughly 90¢...yup. We got to stamp our ticket with a souvenir stamp showing the station name plus the destination of Pyeongyang, North Korea, the first station you'd reach if you were allowed to ride the train into North Korea.

 
Dorasan Station's motto
North Korea bound...someday...
no really, it's a good restaurant
my bibimbap which was DELICIOUS

for 25K won it better be good for me!

Daric's "BBQ" which was really bulgogi









I have tons more photos but that's going to be all I upload here. If you're my Facebook friend you'll get to enjoy all the pictures of our day, we took 477! Alright, maybe not all but let me get them edited then I will post them for your viewing pleasure. If you're not my Facebook friend...sucks to be you cause I'm awesome!!

And on that note, goodnight, morning or afternoon where ever you are in the world from our history "buff" family to yours!


Seoul sunset

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Veni, Vidi, Semi Vici....

I came, I saw, I semi conquered...

If you've kept up with my blog then you should remember our brief foray into the Korean version of a spa. *see: Herb Island...Neither an Herb nor an Island Discuss!* If you remember the way that blog post ended then you know there is much nudity involved at the spa and you should also remember I came to the realization I'm somewhat prudish. I am proud to report I can no longer use my name and prude in the same sentence. Let the story begin...

Saturday we took an over delayed trip to Woongjin Playdoci, a.k.a. Tiger World. It's an indoor water park/ski slope. We went to the water park side, that's what the kids wanted to do and we went as a group the Chaplain organized for Daric's unit. I didn't take any pictures, I didn't purchase the cool plastic bag looking thing to protect my cellphone so I could take pictures in the water. I think the Chaplain's assistant took pictures though so when I find them I'll post them. Back on track...so part of the water park is a spa area with aqua therapy massaging pools and such. BUT even better than that is part of the locker rooms is a spa area with all the same stuff but as you may remember if it's a locker room spa that means NUDITY!! The water park has an incredibly efficient system in use, they scan your entrance ticket before you hit the locker rooms and assign watches to everyone in your group. The watches have numbers on them, those are your locker number. You hold your watch up to the lock on the locker it opens, hold it up when you're done it locks. Amazing! But wait, there's more! You DO NOT need money on the inside, that's what the watches are for. You scan them at all the food kiosks, the Dr. Fish pool (the fish pedicure thing), the souvenir shop inside to purchase floaties, swim caps, etc. You scan your watch and when you're exiting they scan all the watches then give you your total if you've used them. So freaking cool but easy to lose track of how much you're spending since each kid, well big kid, got a watch too. I'm still in awe.

Back to the story...so I take the little princess with our swimsuits and proceed to the women's locker room to find our locker. I'm expecting the nudity this time so it isn't as shocking. Thankfully everyone is clearing out of my row so I'm alone with baby girl. I get her changed and while I'm changing her into the swimsuit an older ajumma (older Korean woman, I'd say grandma age range) comes and sits down on a stool in front of her locker to I guess hang out before she got dressed or did whatever it was she was going to do. So now I have the task of getting myself into my swimsuit with a naked grandma eyeballing me. Yes, it was as comfortable as it sounds! My shirt was long so I thought I can take off my pants and underwear and slip my swimsuit on without her seeing the goods. I was incredibly graceful, seriously, it went smoother than I had expected. Everything slid off and on with ease. I was feeling pretty good about myself so I pulled my swimsuit up further to right under my bra then took off my shirt. I could put my swimsuit on all the way then take off my bra so no one would see anything I kept thinking with a triumphant smile. I didn't have to get stark naked and change in front of the prying eyes because I saw them all start to look in my direction. I'm the freak there, the oddball, the exotic stranger...ok maybe it was my imagination but I swear even ladies in the row across from mine were looking over as they changed into/out of their clothing. Well getting the bra off with the swimsuit on wasn't as easy as I thought so I had to bare my boobs but it's ok they're just boobs, we all have them. I only felt a little mortified as I saw ajumma eyeballing me. Now being all ready for the water park, I grabbed the princess and headed out to meet the rest of the family. The boys disappeared into the crowd of kids, Daric took Ezzio and disappeared then reappeared to take Katerina but stuck with me in the lazy river which was more like whitewater rapids! Those kids were going nuts! Our day at the water park was much like anyone elses day at the water park. We swam, we went to the water park spa area and sat in the massaging pools, Daric and the kids did the Dr. Fish pool, I didn't still creeps me out a little, we ate Korean snacks and food for lunch, we spent entirely too much money on floaties for Ezzio and Katerina but hey they're Korean and awesome so it was money well spent in my opinion. All in all it was a fantastic day and we really didn't spend that much.

When it was time to go I took princess and realized as I stepped into the downstairs of the locker room (the water park was downstairs so I had to walk down 2 flights of stairs in the locker room to get there) I'm going to have to walk upstairs NAKED with Kat if we are going to take a shower and dry our swimsuits in the drying machines. DAMN YOU KOREA!!!! I thought I had gotten over it all but I hadn't. I stood in the shower holding Katerina, fully swimsuited, while we were surrounded by young and old alike fully naked. The younger kids were playing and running around chasing each other, naked, the older ladies were hobbling around, naked, the ladies closer in age to me were in groups chatting along as they dried their hair, showered, walked around, naked!! Ugh...my ego from earlier had left me. Now I was just an embarrassed, stupid American kid. Kat's a baby, she was naked but I'm a grown woman, I can't just go around naked like that. DAMN YOU AMERICAN PRUDISHNESS!!!! I realized I was spending far too long struggling with what to do so I decided I'd just go to my locker and get dressed there knowing my clothes would get soaking wet since I was still soaking wet. I went upstairs with a handful of tiny towels thinking, in vain, I could use them to dry off  before I put on my clothes. To my pleasant surprise there was no one in my row, the row across or the rows to either side. I had to carpe diem! There was no time to waste so I got naked, stark fucking naked and toweled off as fast as I could but something happened while I was toweling off. I realized it was kind of refreshing to be naked like that. Kat was crawling around on the floor playing with towels I dropped and I stopped to watch her play for a minute. I bent over to start drying my legs, now taking my time and that's when it happened... My big, bare ass was up in the air on full display when an 80 year old ajumma walked right up next to me to get in her locker. THE HORROR!!! My ass was still wet but I threw on my undies quick as a flash, practically ripped the straps off my bra in my haste to get it on too so at least the goods were once again concealed. I swear ajumma chuckled as she slowly put on her undergarments and sauntered off to the mirrors. Now in a complete tizzy I threw on my pants and shirt, dried my hair as best I could, threw Kat's clothes on her, grabbed our wet stuff off the floor and out of the locker, and left. I felt stupid for my knee-jerk reaction but hey, I've got 31 years of being told public nudity is bad to contend with. I was doing pretty good for a minute there.

At least I wasn't the only one having issues with the locker room nudity. Daric told me on the way home the big boys were freaking out about being around all the naked men. Ezzio, of course, had no issues with the nudity. He's my little aborigine! I'd say 95% of the time he's naked, the other 5% he's clothed when he absolutely has to be, like when we aren't home. I can only hope my little nudist never develops shame or embarrassment over his body. I had thought I was doing pretty good with the bigger two, making them comfortable with their bodies but something must have happened for them to become so shy about being naked, even at home. Doesn't matter if there's a stranger in the house or it's just us, Ezz will let it all hang out and even shake it a little for your entertainment. I know, sounds terribly wrong but he's his own spirit, if he wants to shake his naked butt in the air so be it! I am in awe of Ezzio's confidence and amazed my sweet little man has learned a lesson well before his time. I just need to make sure he keeps that confidence so he doesn't develop into a "prude" like the rest of us. With confidence like that, one day that kid will move mountains! And now I'm rambling so on that note I will say...

Good afternoon, morning or goodnight where ever you are in the world from our au natural family to yours!
isn't she lovely?

that's how she...rolls!!
modeling the scarf I'm crocheting
look at that face!
who wouldn't fall in love with this face?

oh look I do exist
our quick layover tour with Be






Thursday, February 14, 2013

FREEDOM!!!!

All we have to do *now*, is take these lies and make them true somehow, all we have to see-ee-ee-ee, is that I don't belong to you and you don't belong to me *yeah yeah* FREEDOM!! Thanks George Michaels and you're welcome for the song being stuck in your head now.

In October our world was in turmoil and chaos. Our future was unclear and panic set in. Granted panic isn't the most appropriate response unless there is actual danger but for us it worked in our favor...**Brace yourselves for the mother of all digressions**

I am a Pinterest junkie! There I said it! Yes, I have spent many a wasted day on that *evil* site. I love seeing the food, the world, the pictures. Like books, Pinterest takes me away to a land I might otherwise never see, a point in time I wish I could have been a part of, it makes me a culinary Goddess, it appeases my inner gypsy. If you don't know what Pinterest is STAY AWAY!! No seriously, it's like cyber heroin. I've managed to control my time spent browsing but it's still a black hole. I just sat down to look for a recipe for dinner and now it's the weekend. Ok maybe not that bad but pretty damn close. Anyway, my point, so while browsing Pinterest for quite some time I kept seeing the same pin pop up and not from people I know pinning but from the magical, mystical void. I was actually getting annoyed with seeing this pin over and over so one day I decided to click it and see what exactly it was. The picture was of envelopes in a wallet, all prettied out on scrapbooking paper or some shit (yes I'm making up my own damn words since they fit MY damn story!!) Every time I saw that picture I'd think "oh those are cute but how inefficient. I'd hate to have to fish my money out of envelopes every time and what about the coins? They're heavy and would ruin the pretty paper. Besides, who uses cash when you have cards that are soooo much easier?" Following the link led me to a blog. That person talked about how they got onto some cash only system and budgeting and blah blah blah. I skimmed since it barely held my interest. There was another link on that person's blog leading to the final destination of all this financial nonsense. I looked the site over, seemed legit, I decided to try making a budget and that's where they got me! I knew there'd be a catch sooner or later and when I wanted to make my "free" budget online they asked for my payment information. I'd get a free trial period of one week to play around on the site, utilize any/all tools I wished and see if I'd like to go ahead and be charged the $79 for the year's subscription. I thought why not, I can just cancel it in a week, no harm, no foul. I started reading, started listening to the podcasts, started downloading forms and before I knew it I had made a budget, made a list of all our debt as well as the payment plan we were currently implementing. I DID NOT like seeing the projected pay off date on all the credit cards we had and that was assuming you cut your cards up so you couldn't charge anything else to them. The payments we were making weren't the minimum, I'm smart enough to have figured that nugget out on my own, but they weren't enough to make a difference. It would have taken us like 4 years to pay them all off. About a week after I entered my payment information I still had not canceled the subscription. I wanted to see just how well this was going to work (THEY GOT ME!! Sucker...) and then a book came in the mail. I didn't realize I was getting a book also. I read that sucker cover to cover, slowly, to let the flood of information really sink in. When I had finished the book I had a plan. Now to get Daric on board, not the easiest of tasks. 

To make this long story short-ish, we sat down together after the kids had gone to bed, we pulled his paystubs up online and figured out, to the penny, how much he brought home (which surprised us both), we made a budget which was possibly the most stressful thing I have ever done with him. We realized how much money we blew on well nothing! Eating out, random useless shit, you name it we were guilty as charged. We eliminated all of the mindless spending, we cut up every single card we had except our ATM cards, we knew how much we spent paying bills online out of each payday and we figured out how much cash we needed for the rest, the essentials. We made a $0 balance budget meaning we allocated every last cent of his bring home pay somewhere, we have no money just hanging out doing nothing anymore. I cannot sing the praises of the man responsible for getting us on track enough. Yes, I still think that $79 for the year is a sham BUT it keeps us dedicated because WE ARE going to get our $79 worth!! If you're curious to know who this man is, his name rhymes with Rave Damsey *wink wink nudge nudge*. If you already knew what I was talking about good for you or if you're skeptical, trust in his system, I can vouch...it works! 

We went from having 8 credit/store cards to zero. November was our first month of using the all cash system and in 4 short months we are 100% DEBT FREE!!! Even if we didn't use part of our tax return to pay off the last card we would have been debt free next month. You bet your ass that was hard and took LOADS of dedication. I don't know how many lunches I missed out on with friends because it wasn't in my "budget". I can't tell you how much whining I've had to endure from Daric because he wants to eat out or buy something random and useless but it's not in "the budget". In his head we're poor because we "never have any money" but it's the opposite. We have money, plenty to be comfortable, plenty leftover to use on that random, useless shit or eating out BUT I had to break him. Those are bad habits that helped create the debt in the first place. He's not the only one to blame though, I definitely had my part in all of it but I'm also a stubborn, frugal ass so my resolve is a little stronger than his. It has sucked to "limit" our life but none of us ever goes hungry or without what we need. Need, that's the key word. We've had to give up on some wants but I knew how unhappy this house would be if I made everyone sacrifice all their wants so I budgeted for a few wants to keep the peace. I've gotten so good at this budgeting thing that I always have money leftover out of my grocery and gas budgets. I don't want to readjust those budgets since there are times when I need the whole thing, and a little more, but I'm able to make my family happy with the random, useless shit they want with the extra money I find in my pocket every week.

So what was the point of the song at the beginning? Well, in Mr. Damsey's book he touched on what a scam credit cards are and not just for the interest rates on them but mostly the illusion all of us are under that we need credit cards or some sort of revolving credit to be able to get stuff. "We take these lies, and make them true somehow" (George not Rave). It is a lie that we need credit or debt, we don't! Ask your grandparents what their FICO score was when they were in their 20's and they'll laugh at you. (Unless you are a young reader and your grandparents therefore are young. In that case ask a great-grandparent!) They didn't have FICO scores back then, they didn't have credit cards well they did but credit cards weren't for the "common man". They dealt with cash. It HURTS to spend cash. It doesn't hurt to swipe a card that pulls money from some mythical land where money grows on trees and the streets are paved with coins. Only problem is there is no mythical land like that, the money comes out of your bank account, eventually. It hurts me to hand over cash for random, useless shit. It didn't hurt when I was swiping a card. "All we have to see, is that I don't belong to you and you don't belong to me" (again George, not Rave). I had my eyes opened and Daric is slowly getting there as well. I don't belong to debt and now debt no longer belongs to me! I keep my life 'negativity' free, or at least I strive to, and part of that was eliminating debt. Talk about a major negative in every sense of the word! We have a nice chunk of change in our savings account for our pending move since we have to foot the bill until the Army decides to reimburse us, we have ZERO debt so all the money that was being funneled to pay it off now goes to our emergency fund which we were already funneling money to (we were that dedicated, killing two birds with one paycheck), and when we get back to the states the major change we'll be experiencing in Daric's pay won't hurt so bad. We'll be losing more or less $2,000 a month since we won't have all the extra/incentive pay but it won't matter since we won't have debt to pay off. We have our budget, it works even with the lesser pay, and with coupons I'll still be able to save on my grocery trips so I'll still have money leftover to get my family all the random, useless shit they want! Win, win, win!

I started this blog as a way for our friends and family to stay involved in our life. This has been a big part of our life so I wanted to share. I hope you enjoyed your "day in the life of" entry and now for the part you've all been waiting for...PICTURES!!!! Enjoy the barrage of images and as always...
Good afternoon, morning or night where ever you are in the world from our financially fit family to yours.

the little princess

she is beyond perfect!
sang il chu ka hamnida! or happy birthday!


he had a rough night
I get to see this every morning...LOVE!!
showing his sister how to do something destructive



sang il chu ka hamnida
taking in Le Cirque
he is pretty awesome like that

she is pretty awesome like that