Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Nickel and Dimed

It is time for a book review! As I have said, I was able to read 3 whole books while on our little vacation. One was a book that was at the rental apartment on Harbour Island and I found it most fascinating. I remember the author, Barbara Ehrenrich, being on t.v. a few years ago discussing the book, Nickel and Dimed, and I wanted to read it then. Well, I saw the book in the large collection and decided this was the time. No trashy mindless romance novels for me on the beach!...I had real romance :)

So, Barbara essentially took on a challenge at the fault of her own suggestion and became part of the working poor in America. While Barbara in reality has a comfortable life, she attempted to understand how the working poor live and the challenges they face - she wanted to see just how hard it was for them to make it day by day.

Barbara had a couple of "conveniences" that she allowed herself that a true working poor, minimum-wage making person does not, primarly that she always had a car (rent-a-wrecks) and was not at the whim of public transportation. She moved a couple of times to different regions of the US to see how different minimum-wage living was in different areas.

She worked as a waitress, at one point at 2 restaurants at once - she discovered that life was hard, the people were generally good, and she ended up walking out and walking away after one fateful night. She had a good taste of how hard it can be to make it on minimum wage and what a difference there was between the "workers" and "management". It has been a long time since I worked such a job and it was a good reminder for me.

She then moved North (Maine I think) and worked at a housecleaning business, although she never names which one. Here she dispels some true myths about the "cleanliness" of such services as opposed to the "appearance of cleanliness" that is actually the goal of these businesses. Here she gives the reader a better understanding of truly how quick the turnaround is at these type of jobs and how truly difficult it would be to have children, get injured, or any other "inconvenience" while working a minimum wage job.

Finally, she moved to the Midwest and ended up working at Wal***Mart. Again, I marvel at how power hungry and divergent the workers and management seem to be at these types of employments. This time, housing was a serious problem for Barbara and she actually sounded like she stayed in a place that was unsafe. Imagine being in her shoes, having difficulty finding decent housing (even with the help of agencies that are supposed to help), with children to protect!

All in all, it was an eye-opening read. I am glad that I went to college and have a good job that I do enjoy. While in debt, I have the capacity to get myself out. Without this education, I would be working the minimum wage jobs and would NEVER have been able to afford an adoption, let alone 3. I have thought about that a lot since reading this book. Even with 2 people working minimum wage jobs, it does not end up being that much money coming in.

I recommend reading this book. There are a lot of people in the US living as she describes.

Thank you Barbara for taking this leap and truly investigating so you can share. My eyes will be much more open now to families, especially single parents who I know might be living this way.


Sunday, January 28, 2007

2 Weeks

2 weeks, why that could refer to anything, it refers to anticipation - makes you think I am awaiting something fantastic to happen in 2 weeks, right? I remember when I was little counting down until it was 2 weeks until school was out for a break, 2 weeks before I got my driver's license, 2 weeks before my wedding - you get the point.

Sadly, this 2 weeks refers to how long my uncle has been given to live.

Yes, I realize this has been a rather depressing blog of late, what with floods and death, but right now such is my existence.

My Uncle is my uncle by marriage and he rocks. He is just one of those people who are genuinely good, good in a way where they donate $50 instead of $1 to the jars on convenience counters for strangers, never wanting any credit or notoriety. He is in his 50s, he and my aunt have a 13-year-old son, and he along with his brothers runs a golf course. Not long after he and my aunt starting living together (before married), I was in a situation where I needed to not live with my mom at my grandma's while we were in between houses - so he and my aunt took me in, and I stayed for almost a year! He treated me like his own and while I was not exactly a rowdy teenager, I was a busy one who was out late at times and he always seemed to wait up for me - without ever making it seem that way. I only remember one time when he was obviously worried and all he told me was that I needed to call when I was running late. Not ever having had a father, his gentle admonishment was soothing to my heart and in no way felt like a scold, rather a sign that he loved and cared about me.

He and my aunt developed a loving and welcoming home, one I always like to visit and know I will feel welcome. They gave me a job at the golf course while I was in college and they were fun to work for, and it was a good time for me to see how much everyone liked both of them. They are a happy couple and it showed from them. I liked to tease about getting off work early, large bonuses, etc. and my uncle always told me to "blow your nose and get that shit out of your head." It always made me laugh.

About 8 years ago my uncle had a serious heart attack that left him in the hospital for about 7 months until a heart donor could be found, a titanium pump doing the work of his own tired heart. During this time he charmed the nurses, his doctors, the transplant team, and everyone because of his positive attitude. I remember the night he received the heart, the hospital chaplain, our family, and a few doctors, surrounding his hospital bed in the hallway on the way to surgery, praying that God be there during the transplant. He recovered amazingly and has been relatively healthy since that time. A wonderful blessing to both my Aunt P and their son.

Flash forward to this past summer when his health begain to decline. He was sent to this doctor and then that, with much delay in between specialists, until he was finally given the diagnosis of lymphoma. This was October and he has been on chemo since that time, mostly as an outpatient. While feeling crappy, we all still had hope that things would return to normal and scans were showing positive results and greatly reduced tumors. A week and a half ago, he went in for a chemo treatment and his oncologist admitted him to the hospital, he was not feeling too well and he had a good deal of swelling in his right thigh. I got a call and so stopped by on my way home from work as the hospital is in the city where I work, about 45 minutes away from the rest of the family. He seemed okay to me and before I left a nurse even came in with a preliminary suspected diagnosis of excess uric acid collection and that it looked to be easily treatable. I went home happy and thinking good thoughts. On January 25th, the oncologist told my uncle and aunt that the bumps that were becoming increasingly noticeable all over him, were a more aggressive form of lymphoma and that while she could create a secondary chemo, she did not feel she had a chance of success in a recovery, just prolonging his life while on 2 chemo treatments... My uncle decided he wanted to go home and try to enjoy the time he has left. When asked how long, the doctor replied, about 2 weeks.

I have cried innumerable tears over this, wanting to spare them all the hurt and sadness that is coming, feeling a loss myself over a wonderful man I have admired from the beginning. I did not get a dad in this life, but he has been one of the most positive male role models I have had and I have always been grateful for him in my life. The comfort and happiness in their home and marriage were part of the foundation that D and I have used to create the same in our lives. I shared this with my aunt on Saturday and will share it with my uncle if given the chance. They have had many visitors, a testimony to my uncle's big heart.

So as you wake up each day, be grateful - no matter how early the alarm goes off. Be grateful that you are alive and able to lose those pounds or pay off that debt or hug that child or send a card to a friend, or just about anything. Please be with me in prayer for my aunt, uncle, and cousin, ask that God pour his love over them all - and a miracle would not be too much to ask for right now either.


Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Dichotomy of Water

I know, you thought I stayed on Harbour Island and decided to play hooky from my life for a while, while I certainly thought about it, we actually came back as planned on the 10th...why so long then for an update? I blame it on the dichotomy of water. You see, on Harbour Island water was my friend, it relaxed me, soothed me, calmed my nerves. The sound of splashing waves coming through our bedroom window - it was sensually magnificent. Now, the downside of water, floods. Big, 5', over the light switches, ice cold, sump pump-stopped induced flooding water. Yes, we had ourselves a flood at home, our basement had over 5' of water for multiple days. Talk about a headache and nightmare.

We lost everything in our basement, absolutely everything, including furnace, water heater, all my NFP paperwork, personal files, desktop computer, TONS of kids toys, and on and on. We had to tear down the walls, remove studs, it has been SO MUCH WORK. I have cried a few times and am now just settled into a nasty little funk that I hope is temporary.

On top of all of that and the insurance frustrations that we must endure, I have a huge deadline looming over my head to get all the tax receipts out for our NFP. I will have them out by Thursday at the latest - that is my goal. Oh yeah, then there are the 3 cherubs, husband with 5 classes and a job, and my paid employment - plus a house in disarray, 4" of snow on the ground, and I have gained a few pounds back as a result of all of the above.

Let's just say I am going to the garden to eat worms...I'll be back soon and will try to be in better spirits.

I keep reminding myself, life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it.

I do have the BEST husband in the world though and enjoyed our vacation together so very very much and have been even more in love with him watching how he has worked so hard to clean up the basement mess, he rocks and I could not live without him.

I promise to tell more about Harbour Island soon.


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

$14.50 and a Free Coffee...and 2 more sleeps...

I had to run some errands this afternoon in preparation for the trip to Harbour Island, YEA!!!!! - but I digress. I had to return a swimsuit I had ordered that made me appear to be a rather over-sized sausage that would not fit in its wrapping = NOT PRETTY or plausible. So, off I go to return it and find something suitable (get it...ha ha, swim suit). Well, I did accomplish this somewhat, although things would be much better if I were farther along in the weight loss journey, but I am what I am.

I also had a stack of books to take to the 1/2 price book place that buys books. And, I had not stopped at S**rbucks like I wanted to because I am truly trying to be more frugal. I went to the book place, turned in my books to wait for their offer and had a FREE cup of coffee, mind you there was nothing fru-fru about it, but it was FREE. AND, I made $14.50 off decluttering my house of some of its books. Yea me!

In other frugal news, I did not stop at Tarjay as I wanted to because I did not NEED anything from there. This showed serious restraint on my part and gives me hope that my mind is truly changing to live more frugally.

And, 2 more sleeps until Harbour Island, ahhhhhhhhhh.


Tuesday, January 02, 2007

3 More Sleeps

We only have 3 more sleeps to go until we leave for our relaxing, romantic, calm and peaceful vacation together, D and I. We are going to Harbour Island and could not be more excited. D and I have not been anywhere, just the 2 of us, for the purposes of relaxing and vacationing since before we started our first adoption in 2001. Now that is a very long time! Every other trip has had a purpose, be it charity work or activism, or whatever. This is going to be our time!

The kids are staying with their beloved sitter, who rocks so much I can't even tell you. We would have a much less happy life without her and her family. I have HUGE love for her:)

I have updated the books I want to read, but just purchased a few more the other day in anticipation of our beach and relaxed reading time...will update as I can.

On the weight front, while there was no real decline over the holidays - there was also not a HUGE gain and I kept under the awful 190s. While I am not as svelte as I would like to be for this bathing suit required adventure, I also am not horrifically appalled by the site of myself. While I have my goals and definitely want to get the weight off, I am not going to let it deter me from a good time on this trip. I brought my lunch to work today and had a garden burger for breakfast at home this morning, so I am off to a very good eating start!

3 more sleeps until we fly away:)