Where Has the Time Gone?

I just looked at my list of postings, and I can’t believe the last one was in March! Holy Cow! Where did the time go?

Lemme see….since March, I’ve been: Working at Ryder first part time and then full time. Carpooling with Burly Man to save on gas. Working the “Total Money Makeover”. Being step-mom to Burly Man’s two boys. Keeping the grocery budget small – as of today I’ve saved almost $1500 at Harris Teeter. Being a slug. Battling my diabetes. My mother was diagnosed with dementia and put into assisted living. Finding a new doctor, well really I just switched doctor’s in the same practice. Learning to get along with, and being grateful for all the people that come with being Burly Man’s girl. Reading. Getting caught up in Game of Throne, Boardwalk Empire and Homeland on TV. Finding peace in my circumstances. Vanquishing those failures and dissapointments of yesteryear and lopping their heads off (figuratively, of course). (and speaking of which, why do those little niggling thoughts come at you at 2 a.m. as you’re rolling over into a more comfortable position? I dunno, I wish they’d stop.)

I’m looking forward to the new year. This is the year that the jobs are in line, the first baby step is conquered and we’ll make headway on getting out of debt. Also, this is the year of good health – 2011 was sickly; 2012 will be healthy.

So, to borrow from Benjamin Franklin, while I may not always be early to bed and early to rise, 2012 will be healthier, wealthier and hopefully Burly Man and I will be wiser, too.

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Umemployment…

is for the birds. I’ve been unemployed now since February 17th. It’s been almost five weeks. I get interviews – the last company I interviewed with I had three interviews, meeting a broad sampling of employees, up to and including the CEO. The CEO thought, although I had many positive qualities, I would not be happy in a job with constant phone interruptions. He is probably correct.

I’m getting interviews and doing well with them, but the companies all are going along another path, to use the cliche.

I understand the times we live in, that the job market right now is a buyers market, that job seekers must be 100% on their game 100% of the time to land that job.

This post really isn’t about me, though. What I’m thinking, given the closeness to despair that I get at times, in just five weeks, is overwhelming. If that feeling is overwhelming to me in just five weeks, what on earth are those poor people who’ve been unemployed since the start of the recession feeling? I can’t comprehend the level of stress and despair they must be going through.

Burly Man has a friend who has been unemployed for that long. He is now facing the very real possibility of “living rough” as he calls it, the British term for being homeless/houseless. This man is erudite, charming, engaging, talented and hard working. He is not unemployed because he’s lazy. Why can’t he find a job?

I was reading one of my favorite blogs a couple of weeks ago with a post about either the unemployment rate or benefits extension. One of the commenters kept posting that the unemployed should volunteer, take any job out there, etc. because who wants to hire someone who has done nothing but sit at home doing nothing?

I immediately thought of Burly Man’s friend. He has not been sitting at home doing nothing. He has been pounding the pavement, applying for everything, and still no new job for him. He tried to go into another field, but he was under qualified for those types of jobs. He applied to McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, etc – the epitome of “take any job” – but was turned down for those positions because he was over qualified and the manager’s didn’t want to take the time to train him when the odds were he would leave as soon as something more suitable for him came along. His education, experience and skill-set placed him out of “just any job”.

This is the plight of today’s umemployed. I am sure there are some unemployed that delay finding a job until the benefits run out, but I think that’s a small minority. Most people I know want to work, are looking for work and are miserable sitting at home. I’m sure there are some that take advantage of the system. But they are the exception and not the rule.

I’m fairly conservative in my political outlook; I’m not for government programs to fix whatever plight someone may be in, mainly because I think the government should be the last option, not the first, and that local groups can better handle local needs. That said, I cannot buy the line my conservative brothers and sisters put out there that the unemployed are just lazy people scamming the system for that sweet, sweet unemployment benefits. Have they visited the unemployment office recently? No one in their right mind would be there if it wasn’t necessary.

There is dignity that comes in honest work. There is security and self esteem that comes in a paycheck. There is a longing for work, income, security in most of the unemployed. These people need a helping hand, not someone telling them to just “take any job”. There aren’t any “any jobs” out there.

Anticipation

My horoscope for today reads thusly:

You might feel as if you’re on a roll now. Or, perhaps, it seems like you should be getting ready for something really big. You can feel the changes coming, even if you’re still trying to hold yourself back. However, it’s not smart to focus on your worries or fears. Today’s thoughts shape tomorrow, so visualize the amazing opportunities in front of you. Tie up any loose ends from your past because you don’t want anything to get in the way of your future.

(Bolded for emphasis.)

I don’t usually pay a great deal of attention to the horoscope; most of the time, I think they’re generic with a little something that anyone could recognize as pertinent to them. Sometimes, however, the posting for the day for Gemini just seems to hit the proverbial nail on the head. Today is one such day.

I’m waiting to hear back from an interview I had on Tuesday. The Monday interview with another company went really well, so it’s nice to be in a position to choose – so many people aren’t. However, the anticipation of the response is starting to fray my nerves a bit. I really want this job. I want to be doing something new, with a learning curve, instead of doing what I’ve always been doing, in the same industry I’ve been in for years. I want my answer, and I want it now. (insert child stomping feet)

Yesterday, I checked my email much more frequently than normal. I’m fighting the urge right now to stop writing for  a second to refresh my email for news. I’ve also been worried that I didn’t answer a question right (What makes the difference between the excellent sales person and the not excellent… I went on and on about customer contact, but the obvious answer – five minutes after I left the office – is product knowledge plus customer contact) and I’ve been beating myself up for not throwing in the obvious component to the answer that I missed. Secretly, I think that answer blew my opportunity with this company.

So, I’m taking the advice of my horoscope and I’m going to visualize the answer I want. That’s seems pretty New Agey and non-Christian, but how different is that thought from the “name it and claim it” philosophy spouted by however many mainstream Christian churches? I’ll give it a whirl. I am also concentrating on the kitchen today, getting it clean, getting things where I want.

I may even bake.

Things I Put Here Instead of Facebook

There are things I don’t post to Facebook, because too many people from work post there and will see it. I don’t think anyone follows this blog besides me, so I feel a bit more free to put my thoughts here. Here goes a list.

  • I was so incredibly disappointed that the position I thought had dropped in my lap like mana from heaven seemed to evaporate
  • I’m shocked at how poorly I handled that particular disappointment
  • I’m shocked at how much I had depended on that position, and took it for granted that it would go my way (I did have good reason to think that it would) and in doing so, have blown off, to a point, my current job. I have not been doing my current job to the best of my abilities
  • Having a significant other with depression is very difficult to manage for the family and personally; the emotional impact is overwhelming at times. I’m split between wanting to slap him “Moonlight” style and say “get over it!” and weeping for this bright, witty guy as he turns in and collapses on himself.
  • I was feeding Molly cat this morning, and thought, ‘well at least pet supplies won’t cost as much now,’ and started bawling like a baby for my Willow kitty
  • I’m happy for the Molly cat’s company and desire to be next to me, but her desire to be on top of me constantly is annoying the living daylights out of me.
  • I had a really good interview yesterday with a small company that looks like it’s about to burst forth into great things. There is excitement and great potential there and I would like to be part of it.

In Regards to Cats

Growing up, we never had pets. My mother was allergic to anything with fur, so we had no pets of the four-legged kind. We had fish, but as you cannot safely remove a fish from the water to play with it, fish don’t really count as a pet.

When I was in college, my parents moved to the country. Their nearest neighbors were half a mile up the road. One day, on a visit, the neighbor’s little girl came out with two young cats by the scruffs of their necks and said “You wanna cat?” I took the black one, who was named Cedric. Over the course of the next day, I discovered that I’m allergic to anything with fur, and Cedric decided that my mother was his person instead of me. Knowing cats as I do now, I am not now, nor was I then, upset by this apparent defection. Cats pick their people, and that’s all there is to it.

It’s one of the things I like about cats…they’re not wishy-washy. They know their minds. They know who they like, who they don’t, and what’s worth their interest. I think my life would be better lived if I had that kind of discernment and steadfastness of mind.

The next cat I had, I got as a kitten from a co-worker. He was a black little fur-ball  with a white key on his chest, and I named him Sebastian. After Sebastian Cabot, the English actor who was the voice of Bagheera, the panther, in the Disney version of The Jungle Book. He was great kitty, but got lonely in the house by himself. If you know cat behavior, or dog behavior for that matter, a lonely cat is a bored cat, and a bored cat becomes a destructive cat. So Sebastian needed a friend.

I took week of vacation during my first job to take care of my mother after she had knee surgery. My reward was a kitten from her vet, who ran a home for orphans and wayward mothers. He was a little tan and black tabby with peach colored fur on his belly. Sebastian took to him right away. The only option for his name was, of course, Cabot.

It turned out that Cabot was a Maine Coon cat. He grew to be a whopping 18 pounds, stood almost a foot off the ground and his tail was as long and fluffy as his body was. He played fetch. He warbled instead of meowed. He was a sucker for anyone who called him a handsome kitty. This meant he had a lot of friends, because he was a very handsome boy, and my friends and guests told him he was handsome all the time.

We moved to Houston when Cabot was a year old. I let Sebastian out of the apartment one evening, and he never came home. I was disconsolate for quite some time, because I could picture in my mind all kinds of bad things happening to a black cat around Halloween. Or that he was trying to get to our old house in Texarkana, and couldn’t find it, and was lost, confused and hungry in that huge city. I had a dream about two weeks after he left, that I was walking through a neighborhood nearby. I was just on a walk, without purpose. But then, in a yard in the distance, was a black kitty with a white key on its chest. I hollered out for Sebastian, and the kitty came running. I picked him up, crying and hugging him, petting his head and loving on him, with him purring and butting his head against my hand. Then a little girl came out of the house and called a different name. Sebastian crawled out of my arms and ran off to the little girl, who picked him up and took him inside the house.

I don’t know if Sebastian really found a new home, but I did feel like it was an answer to prayer. I felt like I could quit worrying about him, that he was being taken care of by people who loved him.

Cabot ended up living with my parents for a while. My father thought he was the best thing since sliced bread and Cabot dug Daddy too. Whenever I went to visit, Cabot would hang out with me for a little bit, but he always ended up on Daddy’s lap while he watched TV.

After my father passed away, and I was living where I could have a pet, I took Cabot back to live with me. So he wouldn’t be lonely, I got him a friend – Willow. More about Willow in a little bit. I remember a time I had been on a road trip and had just come home, when my mother called to tell me that Cedric, who by this time was an old boy, had diabetes, and she couldn’t manage it or him any more, and the kindest thing was to gently put him down. Because he’d been my cat first, and he had been in the family for a very long time, she wanted me to be able to come home and visit him before she took him to the vet. I was pulling out my suitcase to pack it for the weekend, as Cabot came be-bopping into the room. He saw the suitcase, stopped in his tracks, and let out a stream of warbles that I’d have to censor if I could translate from Cat-Talk into English. However, I know very definitely that somewhere in the harangue he said “What?! You’re going somewhere again?! You just got home!”

Cabot was also an escape artist. I watched him figure out that he could jump onto my rocking chair, use it like a spring board and leverage a barely open window into one that he could get under. He then proceeded to pry open the screen, and without knocking the screen out of the window, jump out to explore the flower beds outside the window.

Cabot developed cancer when he was 12. The vet wasn’t very hopeful, and fortunately didn’t try to sell me extreme measures that only would’ve caused Cabot pain and bankrupted my finances. He told me that when Cabot no longer was interested in food, that was the time to end his suffering. He did give us some medicine that might make a difference, and for a while, it did. Cabot, who had lost interest in almost everything, perked up for a bit, playing with the sheets as I changed the bed linens, played catch, etc.

We had a routine at night. I’d get into bed and grab my book. Cabot would hop onto me, knock the wind out of me with his 18 pounds, and we would have a Cabot-Annie mutual admiration society meeting, with me petting his silky head and him kneading. The night we came back from the vet with the cancer diagnosis, I said, “Bubba, you’re going to have to tell me when it’s time, because I can’t make that decision on my own.”

About a six weeks later, following our usual routine, Cabot jumped on me. But this time, he didn’t knock the wind out of me, because he’d lost so much weight. I could hardly feel his kneading me, and the look on his face broke my heart. Very plainly, it said “please make this stop.” So, I called the vet the next day, and that evening, flanked by my best friends, I took my boy to the vet to cross the Rainbow Bridge.

Knowing you’re doing the right thing, doesn’t help the feelings of betrayal and loss. He’d lost half his body weight. He was in pain, and it was the kindest thing to do. But I still felt like I had betrayed my best friend.

Willow kitty, is another black cat. I couldn’t figure out what to call her for the longest time. One night, I was on the phone with a friend, talking about an episode of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. I said, “I can’t believe Willow did that.” And out from under the desk came little no-name kitten, meowing in question. I told my friend to hold on, said the name Willow again, and the kitty came gamboling to me. And thus, no-name kitty became Willow.

When she was six months old, she got very sick – so sick, the vet gave me his cell phone number. We ended up having to give her subcutaneous fluids to bring her fever down. But my sweet, know-no-stranger kitty became, if still a sweetie, a touch-me-not, scared of her shadow kitty. She’s special, and she’s been my favorite, even when Cabot was alive.

Willow kitty is now 12 years old herself. She’s spent the past week under some piece of furniture. Thursday morning, she was weak, and not very happy that I had found her hidey-hole. Thursday night she came and spent time with me in my room, and was getting around pretty good. I got up for a moment, and she crept back to whatever hiding place she has now. I wasn’t able to find her Friday or Saturday morning. Saturday evening she crept out, wailing, and stumbled into my room. Her legs wouldn’t hold her up, she missed the litter box, and then passed out in the doorway. I couldn’t get her to eat, but she did take some water. I held her, sat on the floor with her and petted her head, and then put her next to me on the floor. Sunday, she stayed on my bed. I put her on the floor last night, and somewhere during the night she slunk off. I haven’t been able to find her in the house. Brian’s boys are here for the weekend, and I’m sure that the noise of two pre-teen boys is too much for her.

She’s an awesome girl, has been the apple of my eye for almost 13 years. I don’t want this to be the end. I don’t want this to happen while I’m not in a position this week to take her to the vet and ease her out of her pain. I’m not ready for my Willow girl to go.

I Like Muggy Days

Really, I do.
They remind me of Houston.
They make my hair curly.
They keep your skin looking dewy and youthful (which is good when you’re no longer as youthful or dewy looking as you used to, and you’ve got people fooled that you’re younger than you are)
Lichen and moss growing on the rocks, concrete and the side of your house is kinda cool looking
Muggy days make for lusher plant life
Greener is better
Bugs don’t seem so bad on muggy days
Most of all… they remind me of home.

Where Has Ann Been?

Working my tail off at a Toyota dealership. I can’t mention which one. I’m not totally sure I should even mention the manufacturer at all. So, I’ve been silent for the most part, over-worked and unsure of what mention of the company, my employer, and my experiences is even ethical on the blogosphere. I can say this, the woes of Toyota have been a double-edged sword: 1) job security for the customer service manager – me, and 2) overwhelming hours and numbers of people calling in afraid their vehicles are going to kill them. I think I could get graduate credit in psychology for the time I’ve spent on the phone with scared, angry, and upset customers.

The hysteria has past. Life has somewhat returned to normal, although I’m not really sure what normal is at this point. I’m getting exercise again. I’m keeping track of my blood sugar and the effects of my medicine. I’m focused again on following Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover ($745 to go in the emergency fund! WOOT!)

Speaking of the TMM, we were able to go see Dave Ramsey live in Charleston. It was a great motivator, and got me and Burly Man on the same page with the same level of intensity and enthusiasm.  We moved from Summerville to Charleston in February, to a place that’s closer to work, has cheaper rent, and rent includes all utilities. It’s a walk-up attic apartment over a business. It is certainly not my dream home, but it will get me out of debt and into my dream home.

Moving was step one of our journey into financial adulthood and freedom. The recall fiasco at Toyota took my eyes off that goal for a bit. And then Dave came to town and gave us a much needed booster shot. Burly Man has been checking out books about cheap grocery shopping, cheap living, etc. He even crossed 6 lanes of busy traffic to get me a Sunday paper today to check out the coupons.

It’s coming together…we will do this…we will be gazelles that outrun the cheetah.

So, TMM recap:

weeks of not eating out: 4

weeks on the envelope system: 2

emergency fund balance: $255