Pinch a Penny

Back in the day, when I was bean-pole and had enough energy to power a small village in Botswana, I was a flier. No, not of airplanes, helicopters, hang gliders, a Gumby-like trapeze artist or anything else quite as fascinating. A cheerleader, more specifically, the one who went 'up'.

Keeping your balance while standing atop of two pairs of outstretched hands while yelling and flailing your arms about in a somewhat purposeful manner with pom-poms to boot does in fact, contrary to popular belief, require skill and concentration... pinch a penny. I don't need to go too far into the genius of such a concept to make the point and will leave the rest up to imagination.

Oh, how times have changed!

Nowadays I'm excited to pinch a penny in a completely different way but nevertheless it gets my adrenaline pumping. I have discovered a trick to my budget balancing act through and my Sunday paper.

It seems like a waste of time and more trouble than it's really worth. I would hear the first-hand accounts of getting this or that for an unbelievably cheap price or for free and figured it was one of those housewives' urban legends. Next thing I know, all those goldfish I flushed throughout the years will come back to haunt my commode with clinking scales and ghostly 'glubs' of horror all through the wee hours of the night.

Armed with my printout from Albertsons, my Prefered Card, and a wad of coupons I set out to do the seemingly impossible. I gave myself $100 to see what and how much I could get. At check-out I watched the amount due climb higher and higher, well past the $100 allotment and worried that either the checker or the people in line would kill me the second I dropped my stash or I would have to bear the embarrassment of having copious amounts of items removed from my purchase, which would end, undoubtedly, in my demise as well.

With the last coupon scanned, my total amount due was $105.12! It doesn't sound nearly as impressive without the hand-wringing, original balance of $253.96! And I received a $10 cash gift certificate off my next purchase! Whoa!!! I was so excited. I had to tell someone what happened before I burst into 'the crazy lady'. Yes, now everybody else can look at me with those doubtful stares and rolling eyes, contemplating their own goldfish poltergeists circling the white, porcelain hell from which they came. I don't care, I just saved $148.84!

Unfortunately, with such a rush, I've gone a bit berserk and now have a binder-filing system and spread sheets matching every flier from local stores. Now I just point, click, and get the best price.

I loved pinching pennies then, I love pinching pennies now, and I don't mind the company of Bob, Bill, Fred, George, Spotty, Jolly, Roger, Harold, Willy, Wally, Jack, Adolph, Crush, Orang-cicle, Marshmellow Puff and the beloved Scurvy.

The Sound of Chaos

What is the sound of chaos? Blood-curdling screams of terror, the bone-rattling percussion of nearby explosions, a seven year old with a full drum set.

( Give me a beat! D.J. and his drums.)

Last week D.J. burst through the front door out of breath and grinning from ear to ear, trying to tell me why it was, in his own words, the "greatest day ever!"

"I found one hundred dollars! I found it! On the road- a hundred dollars!" He pulled the crinkled wad of green from his pocket and quickly smoothed it out in between his little fingers for me to see. "One hundrend dollars! It's the greatest day ever!"

At first I thought it was play money and felt the pangs of guilt that I would have to crush his excitement by telling him the truth. "Let me see," I asked, and he handed it over proudly.

Watermark, check. Fiber band, check. "It is the greatest day ever!"

After explaining the principle of tithing and giving him his choice of paying it or not (which he decided to), David and I asked what he planned to do with his new found wealth. The first words out of his mouth were, "I want drums."

"You mean you don't want a new video game?" I tried to hide my surprise, "Transformers for the Wii?"

"Can I have both?" His eyes doubled, "I have that much money?"

"One or the other, D.J. but not both."

His smile never faultered and neither did his answer, "I want to play the drums. The Cat in the Hat song."

(Hey Pachuco by The Royal Crown Review... The Mask soundtrack
It has an awesome drum solo. He hasn't seen the Cat in the Hat for ages and only the once, but I do have the song on my iPod under my soundtracks playlist; I have to admit, it's a swing'n song!)

The next morning we decided that the best place to look for a drum set within his budget would be a local pawn shop. I had purchased Devin's trumpet from a very clean, well-run store with a large selection of insturments two months earlier and thought it was worth a try.

Everything on the floor was too big and too expensive. We had almost talked ourselves- and D.J.- into buying a snare drum to start with, when the music department employee found a smaller set in the back, just his size and just his price. He threw in a kicker for the bass drum, which it was missing, and D.J. proclaimed it once again 'the greatest day ever'.

I will never forget his expression when another employee, who happened to be a drummer for a local rock band (he was very nice despite the tats and peircings) played for D.J. and explained how to hold the sticks etc.

One week, an empty bottle of Tylenol, a trip to the music store to order practice pads and D.J.'s rock'n the house... and he's pretty darn good!