#2 daughter and I combined necessary stuff with a Girls’ Day Out attitude yesterday. We went to TJ Maxx for bathmats (and they had good cotton ones for $4.99, in case you need one yourself), and I walked out not only  with the long-needed bathmats but also with these extremely frivolous $9.99 shoes.

I feel a little bit as though I, since I like to wear ballet flats, should stock up on them right now when they’re in style. I realize that the correct attitude for someone planning to become a chic old lady in a decade or two would be to wear them only when they were in style, but I haven’t yet reached that point.

#2 daughter didn’t find the shower curtain she needed, but we did find a new camera for her upcoming trip to Paris at our next port of call. She had a combination of sensible well-researched preferences (rechargeable lithium battery) and frivolous concerns (wanting to feel like a spy). The salesperson was very helpful, even knocking off $20 since she had to go with an un-spy-like plum color.

We went and dealt with the cell phone changeover next. I’ve been not just dreading having to deal with that but actually procrastinating about it, but in fact it was practically fun. In addition to the useful man who fixed it all up for us, there was also a girl who had shoehorned herself into a trendy outfit featuring a white blouse with a bright coral bra, several sizes too small, peeking through it. This preference for tight clothing gave the girl’s curves an exuberance they wouldn’t otherwise have had, and she talked a lot, largely about shoes. This made her entertaining, in a Marilyn Monroe sort of way. When she told us she was going to join the Marines, the other customer in the place — a diminutive Japanese man with white hair and a kind face — burst out laughing. He’d been a submariner in the Navy, he told us in accented English. This caused all the people in the place to share their military experiences, and in fact I chipped in with my son-in-law’s having also been a Navy sub guy. Because this is how we behave where I live.

I think my husband will look something like that man in a decade or two, when I’m a chic old lady.

We made a few more efforts to find a shower curtain for #2 daughter, and looked also for a marker board with a grid for me (#2 daughter was thinking that would help with the whole project management issue). Then it was time to buy tires.

My husband told me Thursday morning as he left for work that I needed to put new front tires on my car. Thursday evening, the boys drove off to work and had a blowout about a block from the house. Accordingly, we went to the Firestone place and relayed the need for front tires. The nice man took a look at my tires and assured me that I needed four new tires. I went out with him in the rain to look, informing him that I had been told to get front tires only, but it turned out that my tires were in fact quite bald. I know there’s supposed to be some texture on the surface of a tire, and mine had none. While I did make the man look at all the tires, or at least the three that didn’t have a big hole, in case a couple might somehow be in good condition still, I had to admit that I needed new  tires.

They cost a whole lot of money: $460. The guy began by asking me what was important to me in a tire. I have no category in my brain for “important things about tires.” Maybe “having air inside them.” As it happened, he only had one kind in stock anyway, so it was a moot point. I forked over the spondulicks and #2 daughter and I went to lunch.

This made me think of two things. First, the many times in my life when having to come up with that amount of  money would have been an emergency. I’m very grateful that, while I may still have to worry a little about taxes and tuition, and I still might not be able to have the dental work I need done, I’m now able to buy new tires and still go to lunch while they’re put on the car.

The second thing it made me think of was the book I’m reading, Thinking in Systems. I’ve only read the first couple of chapters, which are occupied mostly by stock and flow diagrams. I’m putting some diagrams like this into this post for your amusement and possible edification.

This bit about stock and flow isn’t exactly a new concept for me, but it’s new terminology and formalization, so I’m finding it cool. The basic idea is that systems can be thought of in terms of a stock of something (like water in a bathtub), with inflow (like water from the faucet) and outflow (like water going down the drain).

One of the examples in the book is the bank account. If the stock of money goes down, we’ll work more or spend less. If it rises, we may feel free to spend more or to work less.

I’ve tried to avoid responding to my bank account in this way, because of the aforementioned taxes, tuition, and dental work. But I immediately realized that if #2 daughter and I had gone to the tire place first, I would not have bought the frivolous shoes.

Whether I had to buy four tires or not, I still had ten bucks for the shoes. Whether I had to buy four tires or not, I did not actually need a pair of shoes patterned like a beige dalmatian. But once I paid for those tires, I became unwilling to spend money frivolously any more.

My husband was actually very upset by the cost of the tires. He spent a lot of time telling me what I should have done instead of meekly handing over the money. But I now have four new tires, and needn’t worry about it any more.

#2 daughter stayed in last night, having been unable to pry The Computer Guy away from his work, and we watched silly movies with #2 son. Johnny English and I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, to be precise. When I said that I thought the former was just stupid enough but the second was too stupid, #2 son said. “True. But it addresses issues that are often overlooked in movies.” I find that kind of comment from a seventeeen year old completely adorable, but I made sure not to show that in my response.

While watching said movies, I frogged Salt Peanuts again. Since the Keyboard Biologist obligingly pinned hers out on a 1″ grid at her blog, I added the inches of plain stockinette that she had between the armscye and shoulder shapings. I still can’t find those inches in my instructions, but I find them more plausible than the instructions.

I woke up at 4:00 this morning with a feeling of overwhelmedness about the amount of stuff that has piled up in the past week or so. I did no billable work yesterday, though I had a productive meeting with The Computer Guy and useful communications with clients. I did, with the help of #2 daughter, get the phone and tires dealt with. She and I and her sister also had a good planning session, since we are contemplating making my business into a family business. Both the girls have had the opportunity to see what I actually do during their visits. Reassuring tech-challenged people, advocating for them with their webmasters, and writing stuff are probably the most obvious bits. But #1 daughter sat down with me and looked at Analytics and #2 daughter sat through a meeting full of staring at the screen as though it were a patient, discussing f onts and embedded colors and missing images and launch dates with furrowed brows. I think they have a fairly realistic idea of the work involved.

#2 daughter’s employer is going to pay for her to get an MBA. She is then committed to one more year with them. The year she finishes will also be the year the rest of the kids graduate. We made a timeline for moving from my freelancing to an agency big enough to support the three of us by that year. I don’t know whether it will really happen or not, since one or both girls might become committed to some other job in the meantime, but it clearly could. For the sake of the fantasy, we went ahead and picked out our office building and planned to hire Arkenboy, too, though he is unlikely to be available. Hiring The Computer Guy would involve his firm’s not reaching the heights of success we plan for him, so it couldn’t be included in the fantasy, but #2 and I are including a plan for continued informal partnership, while #1 plans to become a designer herself and compete with him head-on. She has always been the scary one.

#2 daughter is going back to the Midwest today, and I plan to catch up on the most urgent work and housework. I’m also going to the grocery store before it starts snowing. In fact, I think I’ll do that now, before it becomes too crowded.