Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year Meanderings

I'm not the type to make new years resolutions. You won't find a list of my goals typed up in order with dates beside each for when I want them accomplished. I like to keep things simple, and I certainly don't want to disappoint myself when I fail to meet all those lofty goals.

This is the first new years eve I've ever had off. I only got the night off because there was a problem in the schedule for someone else and they needed me to swap for another day. It was nice to have off because I accomplished a lot around the house, although it would have been nice if my husband was off too. There's an old saying that what you do on new years is a reflection of what the next year will be like. If so, I will have a squeaky clean and clutter free home in no time.

Next year at some point, I want new jobs and new surroundings. Quite simple, it's all I need for now. I've already been working to reduce the debt, and save. We have a start, and as long as we keep earning as much as we can, we will meet out goals without going into further debt.

Happy New Year everyone! Whether you're a resolution maker or a resolution hater, I hope you have a wonderful time in 2011.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

They Have Us Where They Want Us


We are now in an era where jobs are hard to come by including "pink collar" or "Joe jobs." Workers are holding onto their jobs in fast food, retail, restaurants, and the few remaining factories. Many of us are holding onto whatever jobs we have for dear life. We realize new jobs are hard to come by, especially for older workers.

It seems younger workers are favored by many corporations at this time. They can pay them less, and some may not ask as often for pay raises or more hours. Some will put up with unfair working conditions longer than an older person who may speak out against certain practices.

There are some terrific younger workers out there who deserve jobs. All I am referring to are the older workers who are still quick, hardworking, experienced and well...mature, who are being overlooked when companies hire.


In some jobs a bully makes the workplace very unpleasant. Under normal circumstances the bully is dealt with by management, written up, counseled, and eventually let go. When the bully becomes friends with the manager (also another bully) things become very stressful.

The bully I know of is a very strong former construction worker with a prison record. He lost employment with the building trade when the economy tanked and had to try restaurant work. He walks about with his chest puffed out and his arms flexed pushing others out of his way to prove he's alpha male.

His manager sometimes joins in the bullying. The two of them cornered a younger and smaller male worker in the walk in cooler and acting serious said they were going to "have fun with him" and they proceeded to unzip. Then they had a good laugh and joked about the young man's white face and shocked expression.

That walk in cooler is for more than storing food. On another occasion that same manager went into the cooler and dropped his pants so he could take a photo of his naked backside which he then showed to several of his employees both male and female.

The bully likes to corner other male workers against a wall, punching an arm or getting someone in a headlock. I know it is assault but there are so few jobs here they are afraid to rock the boat. One former employee is already on unemployment and hasn't found work yet.


The bully hated a former co-worker, the oldest one there. After a year of searching the man found another job so he could escape. He is now earning less money but isn't constantly harassed. It got to a point where the bully would chant, "Send him home, send him home, send him home." until the manager listened and sent him home early. So what if he only worked two hours and so what if they got busy and needed him later, at least the bully was happy and somewhat quieter. Now my husband is the oldest...

One of our money saving techniques is sharing a car. I went to the back door, a few day ago to see if my husband was ready to leave. He was walking between the oven and a work table when the bully stepped into his path. He pushed close to him and whispered something to him and then looked back at me and laughed. My husband didn't want to repeat what he said but I insisted. He said, "Do you want me to violate you in front of your wife?"

There are things going on at my place of work that shouldn't but it is nothing like this place. It's a nightmare.

You used to be able to leave one job, fill out three job applications, and have your choice between two new jobs four days later. Now it will take four months to a year of constant search to find a part time minimum wage job. It's discouraging and we the poor feel beaten down, tired, and defeated.


A friend works in a department store. They dropped her hours and moved her to a different department. She used to make thirty hours a week and now she makes three. This is how they force people to quit so they can't collect unemployment. This same company has a rule that jobs must be posted for a week before they fill a position. A male was moved up to fill a management position that was never posted. Several female workers had been asking to move up. Many of then had been there for years and the man had been there two months. One manager told several workers point blank that they had wanted a man for the job. My friend has a lawyer.

I've told my husband to document things, put notes on a calendar or something. He may need it one day. I wish I could afford a hidden camera. At the end of the day he just doesn't want to dwell on it. It's already affecting his health, mine as well, and I don't even work there. We are just holding on for now. Go in, collect your pay, come home and attempt to de-stress.

We will have changes. Even if the economy doesn't improve here, we will go elsewhere. Somewhere, they must be getting ready for an explosion of jobs. I could get back into retail management, and my husband could find another pizzeria or restaurant he would enjoy working in. I don't care if we are shoveling poop off the sidewalk for a living as long as we are happy and there are more job choices out there. I want travel, and fun, and peace. There is so much to see yet we always seem to feel trapped by poverty. Not for long, we will climb our way out. World, here we come.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Holidays

This will be a shortened version of the post that should have been published on Thanksgiving. Life, once again, got in the way. I only have a few minutes before heading to work and many of you will be too busy to read anyway.

I've shortened it down to two links that I would like to call attention to.

April reminds us many are still facing the Great Recession

I know all too much about running late as I had to add this one after work.

Happy Holidays from the working poor.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Warm Welcome to MSN Money Smart Spending Readers

Hello everyone, thank you for stopping by and I hope your winter holiday has been a pleasant one. I'll be very brief today, I can't let those cookies burn!

Welcome too my regular readers, both new and old. I have a guest post today over at the Smart Spending Blog. If you head over be sure to check out the great articles by Karen Datko, Teresa Mears, and Donna Freedman. I sincerely apologize for the lack of a proper link tonight but I seem to be completely brain dead. Must be the fumes from several batches of various cookies. Boy do I need some sleep. Clunk.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Work Work Work

Sometimes I am too busy. I work my schedule and go in to work extra when anyone calls out. I'm paying down my remaining debt and saving every penny I can so I will be prepared for upcoming changes. I'm not even sure what the changes will be but I will be ready. I will either get a fabulous job offer, or I will seek work in another state and move, or I will just find a temporary spot to land in this state. I want changes and soon. I'm ready.

My husband and I are hemmed in by negative work environments and a stagnant job market. We are waiting for changes. I'm not talking political changes, I'm talking about the kind of life changing moves you make on your own that open up new opportunities. Different jobs, different surroundings, change.

I have a lot to do at home. I have bookcases to empty out, and closets to clear out. I want to be ready.

I must make sure my children are fully independent and doing well so I will not worry if I am living a bit further away from them. My youngest daughter needs a license and a car. My eldest daughter needs employment. My son needs to build an emergency fund now that he has a car and a job. All three need to be careful in their relationship selections, their decisions. They are grown, it's my time now. I need to be ready.

I have tomorrow off, but it is cookie baking day. I had a baking day with my brother but we didn't get as many completed recipes. I have a lot to do with only one day to do it. I work several days straight after that with no time for extra baking. I love baking, so it's not a chore but it will take all day and night. Perhaps I will have time, ten minutes at a time, as each batch cooks to daydream a little, and plan for a new future.

I am glad I started this blog. It boggles my mind how many people stop in to read this stuff. If you've ever stopped to comment or just read and never said a word, I am grateful for you. Thank you for joining me on my journey. I'm wishing everyone a happy holiday and a pleasant winter. I hope you'll still be around for new chapters yet to come.

Monday, December 20, 2010

If It's All You've Got Take Care of It

I drove a new car once. My old one broke down and I got a good deal on a rental with unlimited mileage so I could continue going to school and complete moving to my new rental. The car had point six miles on it when I picked it up so I'm quite certain I was the first person to rent it. It was quite a luxury for a young college student and mother even though I've never been much of a car person. Get me from point A to point B as cheaply and quietly as possible please. I've never purchased a new car even when I made a decent salary. What's the point?

My first car cost fifty dollars. No it wasn't a Model T, I'm not that old, but it was junk and I had a friend of a friend take pity on me when I really needed wheels and give me a super discount. It burst into flames when I was taking my sister to the mall. I know what it feels like to have flames licking the side of your boots while you toss your children car seats and all into the grass on the side of the road. But that's another story. I'm getting off topic.

I've had more cars since then, some good some bad but I have learned the single most important lesson. MAINTENANCE! Being poor, this is the main expense my emergency fund has fed. In a rural, or semi-rural area you must have a car for independence, to get to work and or school, and to transport any number of things. You cannot always rely on someone else. Not having transportation really limits a family.

It's always a good idea to shop around and try out a few mechanics until you find one you trust and feel comfortable with. Once you find a good one show loyalty. They will appreciate it and treat you well. Most will be honest and let you know when something can wait for repair, and some will explain how to repair something easy yourself if money is an issue.

When I buy a used car I also buy a used Haynes or Chilton's manual for that exact car. Even if you have zero skills when it comes to mechanics, your mechanic may find the specialized manual useful when doing major repairs. I've used every manual I've bought more than once.

I wouldn't trade my car for anything right now. We drive a 1994 Honda, a gift from my husbands' aunt when she upgraded. We get oil changes regularly, repairs like timing belts and tuneups when suggested. Sometimes we go a bit longer before we get routine maintenance but that is only because we are saving up to pay cash. We treat this car right and don't make it wait.

I see other used cars with black thickened oil that has probably never been changed, transmission fluid leaks, and old windshield wipers that have worn away and scratched the windshield. I've heard cars with clearly bad brakes screaming on the road. It makes me sad because these cars will probably die and hopefully we will still be driving our beloved Honda decades from now. A used vehicle is so much better than new when it has been well maintained. They depreciate so quickly why buy new?

We've recently passed 200,000 miles. I'll make sure to have an update post one day and let you know what it's like at 250,000.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Power Company is my Secret Santa?

While I haven't always enjoyed the ever increasing electric rates, I was quite pleased when I opened the electric bill this month. They had a note saying they appreciated me as a valued customer and because of my excellent payment history they were crediting my deposit back to me. After they said that they said they had asked for and had been approved for a rate change starting in January. I thought "Oh great they soften us up with a deposit refund and then raise the rates again." I continued reading and it is a rate reduction not an increase.

What does a deposit refund mean to a person who has not used the heat yet, turns off lights when not in use, and unplugs appliances when they aren't needed? It means that the money I had waiting in the account for this months bill can stay there. The bill is at zero. But wait, there's more. I still have enough credit to cover next months bill, and possibly take a few dollars off of the February bill as well.

The extra money will go towards the final vet bill we are paying and the remaining credit card bill. DEBT FREE is so close I can almost taste it! Years ago I never would have believed my income could be reduced to a third of what it was and I could manage to pay off my debt on the reduced income better than I was doing before.

Friday, December 17, 2010

"Is This What We're Reduced To?" or A Conversation Overheard

I'm still not seeing this recovery we are supposed to be in. None of my customers are feeling it either. I haven't once had someone come through my line and say, "I'm buying extra for a party to celebrate my promotion. My company can't find enough people to hire for all the work that needs to be done." Nope, that's not going to happen.

I have a regular customer, probably in her late fifties to early sixties, who used to work at a store in the next shopping plaza. I think they went through some management changes and the entire crew lost their jobs for new hires at one point. This is something that some companies will do occasionally instead of letting new management work with the group already employed to see who their good employees are. The last time she was in she told me her unemployment ran out and she was desperate. She said she qualifies for some program that will give her $325.00 per month. Can you live on $325.00 per month?

A cook from a restaurant spoke with me yesterday. He said he was grateful for a job in food service because people are still eating. Several of his friends and family are about to lose their unemployment benefits.

Two women, most likely in their mid fifties, stopped in front of my counter to converse a few days ago. They told each other where they had applied, how many interviews they had been on, and how many resumes they had sent out. Each was involved with a very extensive job search. They were professional and they definitely were not slackers. One told a story of how after the interview she was offered a position helping to unload a truck when needed. She was told that she would only be called in when there was a need for extra help and she would only get two to five hours if they needed her at minimum wage. She said, "Is this what we're reduced to? Are we just occasional stock boys to them?"

Tonight I overheard a loud conversation by the exit door. One young man who I know has been on unemployment was almost pleading with another man. "I don't care, it's a job." he said, "I'll do anything. I'll work for five dollars an hour."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Not Entirely Friendless

I must thank everyone who dropped in with condolences. It has been a rough time for my family. Add to the mix a six day work week, extra holiday baking on the one day off, the household chores building up, and drama stories from the grown children and whew...I haven't even had the energy at the end of the day to turn on the computer.

We are not planning on getting another dog at this time. One day another dog, cat, rat, or snake may find us and join our family but until then we are going to spend some time saving, planning some changes, and recovering financially. It has been a very expensive few years. Veterinary care doesn't come cheap.

We do have another dog in the house, courtesy of the youngest daughter. When she graduated from high school she went on a long vacation with her friend. She was planning on sharing an apartment with her and moving. It didn't work out but while she was gone she bought a dog from a man in a parking lot. When she didn't have a place to stay daughter and dog came home. Now she shares an apartment with her cousin and brother and there is no room for the dog. We have her for now until she rents a better place where the dog can move. She says she is taking her when the lease is up on the current place...

She named her dog Sasha but my husband and I call her Snugly Snugs Snug. I know it sounds silly but she is an extreme cuddler. She sits right next to you, and leans against you all day long. She's a sixty pound dog but she still likes to sit in your lap for a car ride, climb on top of you in the recliner, or nap with you in the love seat. We took her to the vets to see Chloe after she passed because I didn't want her to wonder what happened to her. It seems as if she understands. I wonder how long her scent lasted in all the places we used to walk together. It seemed as if one day, that Sasha was walking in the same spots Chloe had been, looking for her scent. Collecting memories in her own way I suppose.

Friday, December 3, 2010

In Deepest Sorrow

Another silence has fallen over my mind, my blog, my life. My husband and I cry ourselves to sleep and then cry ourselves awake too early in the morning, for our beloved Chloe died in the hospital Sunday morning after Thanksgiving. I can't put into words how we miss her.

She was our best friend, our family, our life. It is so hard to go on. She had the biggest personality, I am glad we shared our lives for a while. I am also so glad I went to the trouble to cook a turkey this year because she was able to have one last turkey dinner before she went to the hospital. She was a big fan of my cooking and I always felt as if I had my own Food Network cooking show because she would stand a few feet away in the kitchen and watch me work with a smile on her face and interest in her eyes.

Chloe had a special connection with my husband. I noticed early on when he had a restaurant job and would get sent home whenever it slowed down that she knew when he got off work somehow. Twenty or thirty minutes before he came home she would get up and sit in front of the door and stare at the doorknob. He did not have a steady schedule, sometimes he would get off at eight, sometimes nine, or sometimes even midnight. I would note what time she started staring at the door and ask him if he got off at that time and it was spot on even though he was eight miles away.

One of the things I will miss most is holding hands with her. Chloe would give you her paw and then pull your hand towards her and hold it next to her heart. She learned to shake from us and the heart portion was what she taught us. She also taught us the importance of a good stretch before walking and to enjoy the small moments in life. She often stopped to smell flowers when we walked and she seemed quite pleased when I bought a bouquet of flowers and put the vase on the floor beside her food bowl. Yes, she was that important.