That probably best describes the mood government officials want to view their financial situations with today, yet constantly they are being splashed with a cold dose of stark reality.
On one hand officials look at Michigan statistics that show the state's unemployment now stands at 8.5 percent for March, its lowest point since 2008. Yet on the other they look at the assessed tax values in their jurisdictions, and for most entities, see those values drastically reduced.
Alpena County commissioners are typical of most entities these days. This week they learned that through the first quarter, their projected deficit of $399,160 has grown to $428,048 because revenue has been lower than projected.
Not only that, commissioners also learned the county's assessed tax values dropped about 5 percent this year. Analyzing the tax collections, it means approximately $96,703 less in collections this year for the county.
It must be frustrating at best.
On one hand they want to believe the economy is improving, on the other they have to wrestle with the fact that once again, they are faced with trying to stretch nickels into quarters.
Commissioner Lyle VanWormer reminded his peers Wednesday first quarter lags were not unusual for county finances. It was important advice that puts the numbers better into perspective.
Cautious optimism. Two steps forward, one step backward.
Such is life in Michigan these days when it comes to managing government budgets.