The Joke Is On Me: Traveler's Checks

The first time I traveled abroad, I went equipped with several hundreds of dollars worth of traveler's checks. In case you have no idea what I am talking about, or forgot about these (it has been a while!) they are a check that you pay cash for and when you get them from the bank, you sign them once. Then when you want to exchange money, you give the teller in a foreign country the check, you countersign and date and they give you foreign currency in exchange. If I recall, they were a little safer than cash because they had a serial number so if you lost one or it got stolen, you may have been able to get your money back. I think this is true. 

Anyway, I did not use all of my travelers checks and I came back to the US and put them somewhere safe and then proceeded to move a few times, travel for work, move again and travel more until finally I bought my house and unpacked some boxes that had been sitting in storage for well over a dozen years and guess what I found? Two hundred dollars worth of travelers checks. So I put them in the "paperwork that needs attention eventually" pile and they sat there for about seven more years. I would look at them from time to time and think that I should probably just take them to the bank, but I was not in a rush, since they were issued by my bank where I still bank and hey, they are the equivalent of cash, right? 

Finally I decided to cross some of those long standing tasks off my eight year old to do list (there are still some things on it. I am looking at you, front yard drip system) and I put the checks in my purse with the intention of taking them into the bank as soon as I had the chance. First I tried the bank near my house, which I found out had been closed down about six months ago, which goes to show how often I go to the bank. Then I decided to take the checks to work with me with the intention of taking a lunch break and finally depositing them. You are probably not surprised to hear that they sat in my purse for another week before I finally made my way down to the bank. By the way, do you know how hard it is to find an actual bank that you can walk inside of and talk to a person in San Francisco/Oakland? It is hard. There are tons of ATMs but an actual person is rare! However, I had to take these to an real human, as they had to be countersigned in front of a person in order to be deposited. 

The first time I went down and got in line (where there were no people) I was told by the teller that their systems were down and they could not do any transactions. I felt like maybe someone was plotting against me. I went back the next day and wonder of wonder, the systems were working, the line was short and I was at the teller before you knew it. And then I deposited the checks and walked away whistling Dixie. As Borat would say, this story is NOT true. First of all, the teller had never seen a travelers check. No joke. Never. So she had to get her coworker to come over and explain the process. Then she had me countersign them. 

Then she looked at the two signatures and said that they did not match. I did not disagree with her. One was signed when I was not even legally allowed to drink yet and one was signed....a few...years...or decades....later. My signature is not the same as it was. I used to perfectly swoop every letter and write in perfect cursive; now my signature looks like I am a harried MD with a hot date. So she brought the coworker over again and the coworker said that they could not take the checks. I asked if they could look up the serial number and then verify it against my ID and she said that they do not keep records that long. She finally said that she would check my signature on file and would compare that. Unfortunately, the signature on file (from when I opened my account, which was opened before I could legally vote, or maybe even before I could drive) also did not match. 

She went into this big spiel about how she is doing this for my protection and I was thinking in my head, "lady, I work in finance; you are using MY LINE!" and I made affirmations about how I totally and completely understand, I work in the same industry, I have to tell people the same thing all of the time etc. We finally got around to a point where she said that she would attempt to deposit them if I crossed off and initialed the co-signature I had just done and then signed again but tried to copy the original one, BUT she was not making any guarantees that it would go through, she said. I thanked her profusely, signed again and left the building. 

I know that $200 is not chump change, and I know that I was an idiot and I should not have waited so long to deposit the checks and I know that now I need to go into the bank to sign a new signature card because my signature has changed a lot from the time I was 14. I also really had no expectations that they would get successfully deposited. However, imagine my surprise and glee when the next day I saw that I was $200 richer! 

Verdict: Don't be an idiot. Deposit your checks on time. BUT if you happen to be an idiot, but things end up working out in the end anyway, enjoy the small victories, because they are awfully sweet. 

Have you ever done something silly like this? If so, what was the outcome? Did you end up being successful in the end? 


Looking Back: Books

The year is half over now and it is time for another book check in! Since I posted in February about the handful of good books that I had read so far, I have found a few more good ones! Without further ado, here are a few more of my favorites so far this year. 

All The Broken Places by John Boyne: I know I am not the first person to suggest this book, so I will not go into too much detail. It is about an elderly woman living in London. When a new family moves in downstairs from her, it brings up some memories of the past, which are mostly surrounding her escape from Nazi Germany at age 12 and the fact that her father was the commandant of one of the concentration camps during the war. It goes back and forth between the two time periods, weaving a story of guilt, complicity, grief and remorse and in the end, she has to decide whether or not to reveal some of her long kept secrets. 

Quit Like a Millionaire by Kristy Shen: Although I work in the finance industry, I enjoyed this book because it is written in a simple manner that anyone can understand. Shen talks about growing up in China where her family lived on pennies per day, to moving to the US where she learned how to invest so that she could quit work early and travel the world. Her plan is pretty simple and you may have heard it before but it is still a nice reminder that we can live more simply than we do and perhaps spend more time enjoying our lives now rather than always working so hard to make more money for the future. 

In Love by Amy Bloom: Get your tissues out for this one. This is not a spoiler, but this book is about a woman whose husband gets diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's and he decides to die with dignity rather than living out his life with the disease. Obviously this is not an easy decision and Bloom goes through some of the struggles that they face as they work through the plan. 

I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys: Although this is a YA book, it touches on something that we sometimes forget about here in the US, and that is the fact that as late as 1989, people in Romania were still under communist rule. The main character is a teenager who has normal teenage dreams but is held back by the government oppression and has to decide whether to do nothing or to fight back and risk the lives of his family. 

Kindred by Octavia Butler: This book took me by surprise. The author was recommended to me by a client who is very involved in minorities in the arts, and she said that Butler was the first published African American science fiction writer. I am not big into science fiction, but I thought I would give this book, written in 1979, a whirl, and I really enjoyed it. Yes, it involves time travel, but it is about a modern day African American woman who keeps getting sent back in time to the slavery days, and how she handles the differences between the two time periods. Apparently there is also a TV show, but I have not yet seen it. 

The Golden Couple by Greer Hendricks: I am a sucker for a thriller and this one was a fun one. A couple comes into therapy due to infidelity and the therapist has some unconventional ways to try to get them to work through their problems. In trying to get them to do so, she uncovers some secrets that she did not expect. I listened to this while backpacking and it kept me entertained over many miles. 

Some others that I gave four stars on Goodreads include: Hello Beautiful by Janet Napolitano, I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron, I Will Find You by Harlan Coben, American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins, A Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell, and many more. You can find my entire list of 2023 books read and reviewed here on Goodreads

Have you read any of the above books? If so, what did you think? What has been your favorite book so far this year? 


Looking Back: Purging Progress Report Q2

And that is the second quarter of the year, over already! As you know, earlier this year I talked about doing some purging and since we are now another quarter into this year, it's time for another accountability check! My three areas I wanted to work on for the second three months of they year were pantry, garage/camping items and bedroom/clothing. 

Pantry: The goal here is to go through things, check expirations, eat things that are getting closer (or are over, I am not against that) and then reorganize everything and get a good handle on what I have left before starting to restock slightly. 

How am I doing? I am a woman on a mission. First I took stock of how many of each thing I had. Don't laugh at me, but I found a lot of good deals during the pandemic and when I found a deal, I bought a lot. Didn't everyone? No? Okay. At the beginning of January 2022, I somehow ended up with 14 cans of coconut milk, 12 cans of garbanzo beans and 10 cans of artichoke hearts among other things. I revisited this list in April of this year and although I had done a very good job of eating my way to a cleaner home (I only had 2, 5 and 0 left respectively), I am still working on it (I now have 1, 2 and 0!) 

What is next? I still have some weird items like tomato paste (I guess I don't make as much sauce as I used to), pureed pumpkin and canned sardines left which I will probably try to make into a meal (not together mind you!) while also focusing on using more of my dried items (quinoa, dried beans, rice, lentils etc.) and bakery items (pumpkin bread anyone?) before taking stock again and then maybe buying a few things to fill in the gaps. 

Garage/Camping: The idea here was to prep for summer by organizing all camping stuff, make sure it's all in top shape, update it, fix it, patch it, go through my food supply etc. 

How am I doing? Meh. I went through the food as part of the pantry clean out, and have all of the stuff organized by car camping vs backpacking items, but I still need to get down and dirty and throw some stuff away or give it away. However, I am ready for a summer of camping, even if I did not do a good job of purging. 

What is next? Get down and dirty and sell, give away or throw some stuff away. 

Bedroom/Clothing: The idea here was to once again go through drawers and closets and pare things down. Kae and Lisa will get a kick out of this line, which I wrote in January: But really, how many hoodies does one woman need? (the answer is...seven...or eight...or maybe nine? See what I mean!?) 

How am I doing? Great! I have desecrated my closet and it is about half as full as it was six months ago. I only own two pairs of jeans and two pairs of (non-running) shorts. However, I have a pile the size of the Empire State building of "stuff to sell" and another of "stuff to donate" so we are not quite there yet. HOWEVER! I did put some stuff on eBay and have had some luck, and I also have a drop dead date where if it is not sold by that date, it will go to either threadUP (nicer brands) or Salvation Army (everything else). So we are making progress! 

What is next? In about a month, the neighborhood is doing a donation pick up, and I already took a few boxes over to my neighbor for that. For the rest, I will continue to try to sell a few things and then in October (beginning of Q4) if they are still not sold I will send a bag to threadUP and take the rest to Salvation Army. You heard it here first. 

One thing I did not put on my list, but I would consider it "bedroom" for now, since my spare bedroom is also my office, is electronics. I have two old laptops, a printer and various old cell phones (along with the usual cords and other random electronic things) that I need to get rid of, so for Q3, I am also adding an e-waste drop off to my list. The place I found will try to refurbish the item and if they cannot, they will properly recycle it. Before I take things to them, I do need to clear out any files or personal information though so this is one of those two step processes that can take longer than expected sometimes! I am also planning a bulky pickup later this year, which will only be for trash, but is a good way to get rid of some of those odds and ends once they have been picked through. 

How are you doing on your goals so far this year? What is your strategy for getting rid of stuff? How many hoodies DOES one woman need?