I am allergic to money

News from the Surrey International Writer’s Conference: It has been a busy couple of days in the vendor hall and I still have one more to go. I have had a wonderful time encouraging writers, sharing information, and generally basking in the cumulative affect of having this many truly creative individuals in one place.

I did all of the typical Surrey things: I got Jack Whyte’s autograph. I got KC Dyer’s autograph after she fell into my booth through a door that looked like it went into the hallway, but actually dumped her into my clutches. Since listening to Jack speak and getting Karen’s autograph were both on my list of things to do, I feel blessed. (I even got to hear Jack say my name…oh, and of course, there was a picture taken with Julie and me in our hobbit costumes with Jack between us.) I got to talk for a moment with Diana Gabaldon and several other writers. Ah, the joys of Surrey.

More than that, I discovered something about myself. On Friday, a gentleman began telling me about a web design proposition that he had for me, except that it was quite large — much larger than I would normally take on. He wasn’t looking for anything beyond my scope, yet it was not what I came here to find. I said I would likely turn him down. "Oh, you’ll do it if I make it lucrative enough," he said rather snidely before stalking off as if that was all there was to it. The thought bothered me all night. If someone offered me a large contract, what would I say?

Today, a different gentleman offered me a large job — 20 hours per week for about 6 months. At my rate, that isn’t chump change. What shocked me was the image that came to mind as he described the job. It wasn’t keeping my van — which I could with that sort of money — it wasn’t paying down the debt or avoiding predicatable headaches over the next few months…it was an image of my daughter’s face. A year from now, we will still have bills, but we won’t have a 4 year old daughter. And so, I turned him down. "You can’t be serious!" was his response. I gave him the information for another designer I think will enjoy the project and do a fabulous job for him. He walked off in shock.

I was asked last night if I’d gotten contacts from the show. How to answer that? Yes, many. Will they call/email/write/follow through? Will there be money involved? I don’t know. I would like to think so. I’d like to make the money back I spent on the convention. On the other hand, something delightful happened: I have gotten to spend several days talking to writers and encouraging them. One of my favorite conversations was with a woman who asked me how much a site would cost — and in her eyes, I saw the same fear I’ve felt so many times. "I want this. I need this. I can not afford this." I sat her down and gave her step by step instructions to get it for free. I hope she does it. If she emails me a success story a year from now, I think I will be more satisfied with THAT than many of the paying gigs I’m sure I will work hard on.

There were several delightful projects dangled in front of me…the most fun site being a children’s writer with a cheerful personality bubbling all over the place. She will be so much fun to capture in electrons! Of course, one of the perks is that I get to know these fabulous people when I work with them.

And so many of them ARE fabulous. I have found myself just sitting and watching people. God truly has created a lovely boquet of artists. They come here from all over — timid, terrified, hopeful. Some leave happy, others do not.

It was suggested that I consider a speaking engagement at a writer’s group. That’s another venue I hope opens up. I have had such fun encouraging people.

I guess what that software developer asked me once really is true: I do seem to be allergic to money.

Wants and Needs

There is a lot of talk about what is wrong with the economy. Personally, I think the root of the matter is a problem with the English language. Language is such a fluid concept, and words can change their meanings over time. Culturally, we’ve lost our understanding of two words: want and need.

Those words have gotten mixed up. I see it in my children, my friends, myself. "I need a safe car to drive to work." Actually, I don’t. A bus would work, or I could change to working from home, or I could drive a beater for a while. That car is a want, not a need. I remember discussions of this nature with my mother many years ago. She would have argued that it is a need.

But needs…those are few. One of my precious sons was discussing the economy with me the other day. Fresh back from a class where he learned about modern slavery and child trafficking, he explained, "I’ve never needed anything in my life, Mom! In fact, I’ve hardly even really WANTED anything." As a mother, this makes me very satisfied. On the other hand, both he and I agreed that "real life" holds some unpleasant surprises for him…as it does many people.

What is a need? My husband talks of survival training. I need: air, water, food, shelter…in that order.

Am I breathing? Check one off the list.

Water — ah, here comes the first battle for me. Our local water used to be so sweet, but of late it tastes like chlorine and has been known to harbor interesting beasties. My water is currently provided by Crystal Springs. Sadly, that lovely water service is a want, not a need…but I’ve been guilty of calling it a need. I’ve wined about it, too. Claimed it was best for the children. But in a pinch, there’s the first area I could cut.

It gets way worse from there, though. I have been so blessed in my life. My real needs…those have all been met, as have many of my wants.

Like many people, I have been guilty of buying wants with credit. Now, we’re paying for those wants, and we’re paying a lot more money than we needed to because we allowed companies like VISA to tell us it was ok. There is a VISA commercial that my husband hates. It shows a shop of some sort where people are all working together and buying things in a machine like manner. Each person pays with a VISA and the machine hums along. One person tries to pay with cash and the gears grind to a halt. With an appology, the person pulls out a card, swipes it, and all returns to normal. As human beings, I think we all should have been offended by that commercial. Whose lives was that card really making easier? Compouded interest being what it is, believe me, it isn’t the poor schmuck who is trying to pay for his needs.

I do blame the banks for this money crisis, and yet…who let them behave that way? Who let them get away with charging me interest on a cup of coffee that was over-priced to begin with? I did.

One of my customers today was talking about how sad the pictures of the Great Depression were. He said, "I guess we’ll really understand now."

Maybe we will…or maybe we’ll believe the ads on television. Whatever happens, it does look like it will be an interesting ride.