Friday, February 26, 2010

Plodding Along

I had meant to have several entries in the last few days. However, I arrived home Sunday night and went straight to work Monday morning and have been running ever since. Today was to be my first day off, until I was called in. My daughter went to work this morning and had to stay to close because someone called in and my son was called in at his job for the same reason. Even my husbands and my anniversary was not spared this week. We ended up doing laundry in the morning and heading straight to work after that. Sigh. The bright side is I will be able to recover financially from taking time for the trip quicker than I thought I would.

I'm completely exhausted but hopefully all will be near normal after this weekend.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Independent Contract Worker Woes

Today is my last day to visit so obviously I will be brief. I wanted not to dwell on the situation at hand but to get back to the first purpose of this blog, a little diversion for my mind.

This Sunday I had to purchase a newspaper when I went back to the hotel. I always use the coupons and it is a pleasure to relax and read the news and features and the comics of course. The front page had an article about companies that classify their employees as independent contract workers. They get out of paying benefits and workers comp for these employees so they can get the same amount of work from them for less. Some employees, don't know they are classified this way until they become injured and ask for workers comp. The construction worker they interviewed for this story was unaware of this until he fell at work and was told that he would have no help from workers comp because he was classified as an independent contract worker. He went through a financial nightmare because of his injury.

In our area newspaper delivery people are independent contract workers. They use their own vehicle and their own gas and they work very early yet brief hours. However, if they want a day off they have to find a replacement and train and pay them. I'm not sure if it works this way everywhere.

A large cable company has been sued in several states for classifying their employees as independent contractors. When we first moved to this state my husband applied for this company. They had a building where they did the interviews and the company name was not posted although this was the only company they worked for. They also had a page long list of tools they wanted you to buy from them before you could start. You could use your own tools if you already had them but there was about $300 worth that they wanted you to get from them. I'm glad my husband didn't work for them after considering it for several days. Months later we met some people that worked there and one who had quit. They all said they didn't make enough money to survive on.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Collecting Memories

Years ago, after my mother died, I had a dream in which I was walking down a wooded path in a park at dusk. I came upon a small building and noticed the soft glow of a lamp and went in. Inside my mother was resting in a bed. She said, "Hello, I knew you would stop by for a visit." There was minimal furniture, a bed and maybe a table and a dresser. There was a rustling sound and when I looked down there were hundreds of pieces of notebook paper wadded up and rolling around on the floor. Along the walls there was some sort of air filtration system and the papers were being blown toward corners and collected in metal boxes. I watched for a moment and asked her what they were. She said, "Those are my memories. I can't take them all with me, so I'm sorting through them and keeping the most important ones. I'll take my favorites with me."

When we arrived here to visit my dad, we managed to keep the great grand baby a secret. He had no idea we stopped to pick up my daughter and her baby along the way and he was very excited to see us all. That first day after a visit with us he was heading out to the store with a neighbor. Before heading out the door he turned and looked slowly about the room. Our eyes met for a brief second and I had a feeling what he was doing. Three of his children and two of his grandchildren were in the same room playing with his great grand child. He was collecting a memory to take with him.

We went to his last doctors appointment with him, the one where the doctor explained to him that there were no treatment options left and he would steadily get weaker until the end which could be a few weeks or a few months from now. He meets with hospice for the first time tomorrow. The doctor shook his hand, the nurse gave him a huge hug. He told some of his neighbors in his apartment complex, several wiped tears from the corners of their eyes, and one slipped a beautiful handwritten two page letter of encouragement under the door. Some of them are cooking a big dinner for us on Thursday. He went to the senior center where he plays cards to say goodbye to some of his friends. We went for a drive through the neighborhood where he grew up and he gazed out the window, savoring his memories. This is such a difficult time and I am so glad I made this trip.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Bittersweet Journeys and Motherly Guilt

I'm glad I made the journey. It is always good to visit family from out of state that you don't get to see often. It is bittersweet when there are health problems and you know there won't be many more visits. We surprised my dad by picking up my eldest daughter along the way and bringing his great grand baby. The joy on his face made the whole trip worth it.

When the kids were little I often suffered from what I call motherly guilt. When I couldn't afford a toy they really wanted, I suffered. When I couldn't get the day off for their birthday and we had to celebrate on another day, I had motherly guilt again. Now they are all grown and I still get motherly guilt. My son just started a job so he couldn't leave. My daughter is working a full schedule and had to stay. My husband had to stay and work as well. So today, valentines day and more importantly, tomorrow his birthday I am here. We had made plans for his birthday for the first time ever. We usually just work our birthdays as any other day but this year we decided to do something. I'm feeling bad for that too. We both know that things happen and we can reschedule because this trip was important. I still feel bad. What's wrong with me? I also feel really bad because he has to work and I got to take a trip and visit with our grand baby. Silly, I know. I just wish we all could have afforded to take off and come up here.


Yes, I decided that I just had to take the emergency trip. I will be posting as often as I can. Thank you for your thoughts.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Hard Decisions

This is one of those days where it really hurts to be a member of the working poor. This morning my brother called to let me know our father is in the hospital. He left his apartment to get the mail and collapsed in the hall. A neighbor found him and drove him to the hospital. The doctor said he has acute leukemia now and he has no more than two months.

I have no sick days and my small amount of vacation hasn't kicked in yet for the year. My brother is leaving in the morning and I can ride up with him "IF" I can afford to take a week off of work. I'm working today and going over my bills tonight to see if I can afford to be gone for that amount of time. I have no idea at this point whether I am going or not.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


This is one of those days where I feel kind of yucky but I have to spend a few hours convincing myself that I feel fine and go to work anyway. There are no full time jobs available. Part time employees get no sick days. The trick is to multiply your hours by your wage and imagine you are picking up next weeks check and it is short by that amount. Will you be able to make your bills? Do you really need those groceries?

This is why the gas station attendant keeps sneezing, and the Walmart cashier looks like she's going to pass out. All part time employees must plan illnesses to coincide with their scheduled days off or they are out of luck. Oh well, I would rather be ill at work and feel better on my day off.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Off to the Races

Days off are almost always spent on errands. Make a long list and run here and there checking items off as you go. That's how it always ends up for me. I love being productive and having several accomplishments for the day, just not every day! It's definitely time to free up a day in the schedule for a beach or a state park trip, some small leisure to break the monotony. I've moaned enough, I'm off to the laundromat and the bank and the grocery store....

I'll leave you with one of my favorite work stories. I waited on a young woman in a grocery store. She paid for her eggs, milk, and cheese with a WIC voucher. She could have also received cereal and dried beans. I asked her if she wanted me to get them for her and she said, "Nah, that's alright. It's no big deal." She then bought a small amount of groceries which she paid for with food stamps. Then she bought cigarettes and diapers and she paid cash. I went to hand her thirty eight cents in change and she said, "You give those thirty eight cents to someone who needs them."

It was all I could do not to laugh. That night when I dropped my thirty eight cents in the change jar and told my family we were rolling with laughter.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Lost Love Rediscovered

For a few months I was working mostly opposite shifts from my husband. When I came home from work sometimes I was alone and sometimes my daughter was home too. I would offer to cook and give several suggestions. She would reply with "I already ate." or "I don't like that." I stopped cooking dinner for several months.

Since my son came home he noticed I am cooking a new dish every night and have tried several new recipes. I told him I guess I rediscovered my love of cooking now that I have someone to share it with. I love working in my kitchen.

The past few weeks we had fajitas, fried plantain with brown sugar and brandy, a new pork and cabbage recipe, spaghetti and meatballs, guacamole salad, the best batch of French toast I have ever made with whipped cream and blueberries, and my very first pineapple upside down cake. About the pineapple cake, I have always detested it. I have never tried this cake and liked it but I found a recipe and just sliced a fresh pineapple and wanted to try it. It actually turned out very well and I like it now. I guess I never liked it before because my mother made one at some point.

My mother was a horrible cook. She turned scrambled eggs to rubber. She thought all meat must be blackened so it wouldn't kill you. She would make one dish for a dinner. If she made salad, or a soup, or even baked beans that was it. She would put whatever one dish she cooked into a bowl and that was dinner. Even prepackaged food was a challenge for her. Following directions was a foreign concept. She never measured the water for rice but tossed it in a large pot of water until it was like a thin soup. She ripped into packages like a barbarian so your cereal went stale and your chips had to be picked up off the floor and any surrounding furniture. Looking back I guess we had to learn to cook at an early age for survival.

My point tonight is cooking is a skill that really helps when you are on a tight budget. Prepackaged foods are so expensive. Some people, like myself, love to read cookbooks and try new dishes. Others just want to stick to a basic menu plan and are okay with the same meals each week. And then there are some who have a hard time breaking free of their fast food habit. Lastly there are a few that should be banned from the kitchen for the sake of the children.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Pennies, Nickels, and Dimes, Oh My!

I'm thinking of vacations again and couldn't afford even a weekend getaway so I will tell you how I managed to take my family on a weekend trip using one simple saving strategy. My eldest daughter was about to have a birthday and instead of presents she wanted to have a beach trip. It was all she talked about. I had to make it happen.

I made a bit more money then but it still wasn't much. We were still leading pretty much a hand to mouth existence. Was I going to get my credit card and rent an expensive room, and eat out every day, and pay for it for years? Nope, not me. I called around and did some research and places were very high and we had a dog who had to come with. (The dog story will come eventually in another post.) We had to save a lot in about six months for this to happen and we would definitely have to economize.

I already had a change jar but we decided to really kick it into high gear and start saving a lot more. We got into the habit of not using exact change ever. All change was placed in a pocket or change purse which was emptied into the jar every night. If we found a penny we picked it up. It may be too much of a bother for some but they really do add up eventually. When the jar was full instead of taking them to a coin machine which charges almost ten percent of your money (a real rip-off) we rolled them ourselves and took them to the bank.

We didn't collect enough for a fabulous beach hotel and all the trimmings but we did manage a few small presents, a dog friendly camping spot right on the beach, food for the whole weekend, gas for the vehicle, and we managed not to short any household bills to make this happen. We had our three kids and our dog and my daughters two friends with us. It may not have been perfect. We had three tents instead of two hotel rooms, and we had to grill ribs and chicken and eat salad instead of having fast food burgers.

I think we did pretty well taking a weekend trip using money gathered solely from our spare change. Its a great way to save and anyone can do it. Some people just have to get past their dislike of pennies. This is some "change" we can all agree to embrace.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

39% Dead

I'm too exhausted for a long post. It was very busy at work today and I worked on my day off again and I just agreed to cover for someone on my other day off. To top it off I could not sleep last night so I arrived at work in fine shape. The following is one of the dreams that woke me:

I went to dinner with my husband and son. Once seated they started playing cards. I felt ill and then fell to the floor and passed out. They continued playing cards. I came to in a hospital. I dragged myself out of the bed and started walking the halls looking for my family. There were escalators and at the foot of them two old men in motorized wheelchairs with thick tires were racing and burning rubber. A nurse started chasing me and yelled, "You need to get back in there and see the doctor! You were in bad shape when they brought you in. You're 39% dead!"

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Reality Bites

A year or so ago there was a news story about those poor Brits and their awful health care system. Perhaps this was a story started just to make us as a nation feel better about how we have it. Didn't work for me. The whole thing angered me. The premise was they had medical coverage and sure that was great but the poor dears had no dental coverage so many who couldn't afford it or had to wait too long resorted to pulling their own teeth.

What do we have in America? I've heard of one dentist who accepted payments and he was an elderly gentleman in North Carolina. Who knows if his practice is still run the same way. What do we do in America where many have the choice between rent and groceries or health care. Well, hello! We do the same thing. Haven't these health reporters or raging anti-health care people ever gassed up at a 7-11, bought milk at Walmart, or grabbed a bag of diapers at a CVS. Have they ever really looked at their waitress or cashier and noticed the blackened rotting teeth, or the limp. The media paints a pretty picture but seldom show all sides.

Hey, anti-health care people, take a look around you. Open your eyes and see. Watch the sixty five year old clothing store merchandiser limp across the parking lot and hobble to her car. She does that because she needs everything she makes for rent and food and she can't afford that new knee the doctor said she needed six years ago. Look at me handing you your purchases and smiling. I don't have disgusting teeth because I'm too lazy to get up and go to the dentist. I just don't have the few thousand dollars it would take for the dental surgery. I'm not choosing to go on luxury cruises instead. I live simply and pay rent, buy groceries, and pay the simple bills required to live. I just don't have enough left over for splurges like health care for myself.

When the molar starts hurting if you tear off the offending bit that hurts the pain will stop almost immediately and you never have to miss work. I know it's disgusting but it's another day in the life of the working poor. Someone had to tell the ugly truth.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

High Hopes

I had my first day off in a while today. Since my husband was scheduled for the night shift I decided he was taking me out this morning. We had breakfast out and then I bought work clothes. I know a splurge, but I had coupons and a gift certificate. I had the rest of the day planned with a trip to the post office, a much needed nap, and a long time spent updating this blog. As soon as our car pulled into the driveway my son ran out and handed me the phone. They needed me at work. I haven't had a day off in a while and I am really tired and my legs are aching. I said yes and threw on a uniform and was back out the door ten minutes later. I have to take advantage of these hours now, while they last. We live in an area where we rely heavily on the snowbirds for our economy. Summer hours will be horrible, sometimes dropping as low as fifteen to twenty per week for some people. Those that work the hardest now have a little $ to save for the leaner months and get more hours during the summer as well.

If you have emailed me or commented here, I want you to know how very much I appreciate hearing from you. I am so grateful for your comments. I will be getting back on track soon with my email and more frequent blogs.