Thursday, January 28, 2010

Here I Go Again

I wrote a silly post with an even sillier title about a vacation and then I disappeared. I'm certainly not keeping up with this blog on a daily basis as I envisioned when I started. I have every intention of daily posts and wonderful ideas. Life gets in the way.

I'd love to tell you I've been away on a fabulous vacation but that certainly isn't the truth. The truth is I've been working extra hours and when a spare moment presents itself I've been very busy decluttering my home. While nowhere near a hoarder, I still have a great amount of stuff that's taking up way too much space in my home and in my life. I hope to have it cleared up soon. What doesn't sell in a yard sale will be donated to charity. We moved from a four bedroom home to a three and now to a two but have carried most of the stuff with us. Why? I couldn't tell you.

It's dreadful that I do this but when I'm planning future changes such as a move I live in a state of limbo. I daydream about where I will live or work. I save all the money I can and plan no short trips in the meantime. I just want to move on with my life and get to the next spot so bad. It isn't happening fast enough. The most frustrating aspect of my wait is there is no sign of a recovering economy in my area. Everything is at a standstill.

I manage to make ends meet, but barely. I feel as if I've worked so hard this past year. I've given it my all, gone in almost every time I was called, have always been courteous professional and fast. I've done it all yet when my W2 came back I realized I only earned $11,000 for an entire year of my life and energy. I made three times that when I worked retail management, which required the same amount of energy and only a few more hours, although there is no overtime here.

Wow. This discovery made me blue and then made me realize I need to do this move as swiftly as possible. So I will be squeezing the budget as tightly as possible. Savings must build up quickly because I don't want to live in limbo anymore. I want to enjoy my life.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Lesbian Road Adventures

My husband and I both worked extra hours last week. The slightly bigger paychecks enabled me to pay all but two of the January bills. With the breathing room and the positive energy I have a bit of time for reflection today. I am dreaming of a real vacation. I have never been out of this country and long to one day have the extra money to see the world. At this time I would settle for a week in a ratty motel in a state I've never been to before.

Don't get me wrong we have traveled before, however they are usually brief dual purpose trips that put us into debt. We have taken a brief vacation to find housing before an out of state move. We have gone on weekend camping trips that we counted as vacations. We have traveled to see relatives with failing health. That's it. We have never taken a real vacation just for pleasure and without an extra agenda such as job or housing searches. I have joked with my husband that moving is the poor mans vacation. And let me tell you, I am ALWAYS up for a move.

I have a friend who is in a similar boat financially as myself. Years ago we were working for the same company and living two counties away. We were always busy and got together infrequently. She called one day and said that she was planning to visit her mother in Wisconsin and asked if I would like to come along. She said she would be driving and we would stay at her mothers house so all I had to take care of was food. I thought about it (for two seconds) and replied "Woohoo! girls road trip it will be like Thelma and Louise, well, without driving off a cliff, or killing anybody, or getting busy with Brad Pitt."

Later that week she called and asked whether I was Thelma or Louise. I told her she could have Brad Pitt and I'd do the killin' hey, what can I say other than she asked after a bad day at work.

We filled a cooler with deli meat, drinks and yogurt. A bag in the backseat bubbled over with a plethora of snacks as we each did our separate shopping. We were ready to go, so before we said goodbye to our husbands she grabbed a gift box from her room. She worked for a video store so she used one of the old advertisements for the pictures and comments and quotes from movie reviewers to decorate the box with a Thelma and Louise theme. Inside was my very own "Louise" shirt. She had gone to the flea market and had Thelma spray painted on one shirt and Louise on another for herself. She said the foreign man who had painted them kept asking which one was her name. "You Thelma? You Louise?"

We had a blast on the way up, stopping for gas and snack breaks along the way, having long conversations, and playing all kinds of music. It was nice to get away from the struggle of everyday existence for a brief period. We stopped at state lines taking pictures there and at any odd sites along our route. Wisconsin itself was a whole other world to me. Every three miles there was another whole entire store devoted to nothing but cheese. Luckily, I'm quite fond of cheese.

My friend told me I would be amazed once I was out of the South and heard some people speaking because they didn't have accents in Wisconsin. I managed to make it into the parking lot before bursting into hysterical laughter after speaking with a sales clerk in a store. "Ya ye betcha," I said,"There were no accents there."

One morning on the way up we stopped for breakfast at a truck stop diner where we realized people were giving us strange looks. Some stared as if shocked by looking at a strange insect. Some men outright leered at us. It finally occurred to me why we were getting the extra attention.


"Yes Louise."

"Um, I believe people think we're lesbians because of our matching t-shirts."

We had a big laugh, enjoyed the rest of the trip, and filled the cooler with cheese, before making our way home. Hope everyone out there is finding joy and laughter in their lives. If you were intrigued by the title and are now disappointed by reading through my story ha ha ha you dirty pervert. ;)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Employment Arrives

The wait is over! My son went to fill out the paperwork for his new job today. The only hardship now is the job is in the next town so we will have four workers with four different schedules doing the one car shuffle. It will work out though. In a pinch he can figure out the fledgling bus schedule.

I never thought I would see buses in rural areas and small towns. I've read it was lobbyists for the care manufacturers who killed public transportation. This was their way to force the last holdouts to purchase automobiles and turn us willingly or not into the oil chugging car crazed nation we became. Perhaps the recession is helping us to evolve past that mentality. I dislike living in a country ruled by corporations. We need more common sense and more compassion as a nation.

Since I'm planning a move in the near future I don't want to purchase another vehicle. My husband grumbles about wanting another one each time he is inconvenienced and I have to remind him of the insurance and upkeep savings. I hope to keep us away from further debt so we can save as much as possible. The savings are building very slowly because bills keep popping up. I'm dreading the upcoming electric bill. The last one was quite nice at $89.00. Now after almost two weeks of record cold and actual snow (a small amount of snow, but it was enough to freak out people in Florida)that bill is going to be scary.

When we finally do get to an area with a lower cost of living and more job opportunities we will be prepared to do better financially. After making do with close to nothing for so long I will be able to do a lot more with a better paycheck. I can't wait!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Dear Florida

Dear Florida,

I am so sorry I complained about your Summers. It just gets hard to handle the ever increasing heat. It is difficult to survive financially sometimes because of the horrendous air conditioning bills. It is also painful trying to get into a hot car and my fingers often get singed on the steering wheel your sun beams down on.

I understand that it is indeed Florida and I will try to keep my complaints to myself from now on if you could tone down winter just a bit. My fingers are numb and I'm so over this shivering all the time. So, do we have a deal? A bit less complaining from me and a little less winter freeze from you?

Thank you,

Oh and, PS Could you keep from snowing again? That was just too much.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Silver Lining Found

Today was another of those days. It started yesterday when my sister called to let me know our father was in the hospital. She was going to call me this afternoon to let me know how he was.

This morning we had workers in our back yard bright and early to repair our septic system. Tree roots had grown throughout the drain field and destroyed it. We had a nice view out the kitchen window before, a lush lawn with birds and squirrels. Now we have a big dirt mess. Only one tiny corner of our backyard was spared. I imagine it will take sometime to repair the damage and we will have to wait a few months before things start growing in again.

At some point in their work they cut our cable. We were without phone, Internet, or cable. As I'm one of those strange people that detest cell phones I had no way to hear from my sister until this evening. Dad is back home after having three units of blood and the rest is a mystery. He's kind of funny about his doctor visits. He just won't talk about them. I have no idea what treatment he gets. He says he gets "juice" through an iv drip. That is the extent of his discussions.

My husband must be catching on with optimism. Sometimes he can be a bit grumpy when things do not go as planned. I was expecting a negative reaction to the backyard devastation. This afternoon he gazed out the kitchen window and a big smile spread across his face. He said, "You know, I won't have to mow this for quite some time."

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Trudging Through the Recession

I read somewhere that the recession has not affected those who were already poor as they are carrying on as usual. The ones who are truly affected are the newly poor. Those who have been laid off and haven't found new employment or those who have used all of their savings or retirement are the ones who are affected the most. I agree that it must be a new experience for people in that situation. I can sympathise with those dealing with poverty for the first time. What I disagree with is the idea that this has not affected the already poor. I can tell you we are worse off than before.

The main way this has affected us is with jobs. A few short years ago jobs were more plentiful. You could leave one low wage position and be in another within a week or two. Individuals are hanging on to even the worst of jobs at this time. Sure some people quit, due to their addictions or problems, but most workers are staying put until a definite replacement job is in their grasp.

I have also noticed that many managers, at least in my area, are reluctant to fire at this time. They are aware that unemployment benefits may be paid out for quite some time. They also know that there aren't many other places to find employment. They are more willing to work with the staff they have and retrain people or even transfer them to other locations instead of firing.

Some businesses seem to be using the recession as an excuse to take advantage of their work force. Benefits are being slashed, raises denied, unsafe working conditions ignored. When you were treated like this a few years ago you could just go pick another job but now many are stuck dealing with it.

My husband is one of those dealing with it until something somewhere opens up. He is working on his third year with no raise. He has been told that he would get one after a sales goal was met and then he was told to wait a month, then he was told all raises were held because of the recession. When hired he was making above minimum wage. When our state had the minimum increased all the workers were dropped to minimum wage. He worked for the same company, different owner, years ago. He used to get a raise every three months and a holiday bonus. Now he gets minimum wage and the run around.

I just wanted to say that the economy has affected the working poor by taking away our choices. There are fewer jobs and more people applying for whatever does open up. We may have always been poor and already had the skills to survive but it is harder now.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Little Things Revisited

I have a lot of tasks to accomplish each day as millions of others do. Work takes a big portion of my time. Keeping up with a household, caring for my family, and surviving financially can weigh on me too. Days off are often spent running errands, cleaning, or organizing. My point is all this monotony can weigh you down.

In an earlier post I wrote about my dryer breaking. I was dealing with it just fine, hanging everything out to dry and keeping up with things. Now my washer broke.

Years ago in a fit of frugality and independence I purchased appliance repair books. I was sure I could figure it out when a future problem happened. I looked through them. They had a trouble shooting guide and diagrams and step by step instructions. Only one problem, now that I need them, my brain turns to butter when when I try to even glance at these books. My husband tried to look at them too. Then he asked me to fix it. I realize now that we must be incapable of this.

Our routine has now changed and we have another day off task to accomplish. We have to go to the laundromat. Trudging into the crowded place with basket after basket of uniforms, regular clothing, smelly towels, and dog bandannas. We could resent this new intrusion on our time. However, I am determined to find the bright side. I will make the most of this.

My husband was dragging baskets to the car today and muttering about wanting more free time and how awful it was we had to go to the laundromat and couldn't we have another go with the repair manual. We loaded up the washers, and sat. I pulled a deck of cards out of my purse and soon our grumpiness was gone. We were able to get all of our laundry done at once and spend quality time together. Matter of fact we got a few jealous looks from grumpy people who didn't want to spend time doing their laundry where they had to wait for a dryer.

My point? Find small moments, little wisps of happiness everyday, in the most unusual of circumstances, or in the most common of chores. Seek out the joy in everything you do.

As we loaded the last basket in the car, my husband laughed and said,"You know, I had the most wonderful time doing laundry with you."

Of course maybe that was because he beat me at rummy 335 to my 225.