Monday, January 31, 2011

Unemployed: Joining the Ranks

Here is some text extracted from the thought balloon over my head since last Thursday, 2:30 p.m.:
Ugh. 2 weeks? How much money do I have in the bank? What's due? Where's the CD with my resume? That Fossil purse, ugh, I wish I'd known this before I splurged on the new purse. Health insurance, fuck. I think I'm going to be sick. Facebook it! Get the word out. I can do this. I'll be fine. I can get two jobs. Why should I get two crappy jobs when I can bring in more money on unemployment and skate until I find something worthwhile. How much would I make on unemployment? How do I find out? Unemployment! God, how embarrassing. I'm dynamic! I'm worthless. I'm worthless to Clint! I have nothing to bring to the table in his home right now. I'm smart! I'm a giant pain in the ass, a big financial drain. God, my own house payment. I have a house payment! What do I want to do? Could I possibly do what I want to do? I've wanted to work on my own for years. Can I? Could I? Are my ideas ridiculous? Am I living in a fantasy world? Should I go for it, or will reality knock me between the eyes with a two-by-four? I think I'm going throw up.
Rinse. Repeat.

Yes, after 36 years the company I've worked for is closing its doors. I've been here for 24 years. I was 24 years old when I began working here. Brian was 1. 24 years. 2 husbands. 7 houses. 1 job.
It's not that it's a huge surprise. Outsourcing, globalization, and technology has done us in, as it has many other U.S. publishing and printing businesses. 6 years ago I was in a managerial position, training and overseeing several employees. For the last 3 or 4, I've been side by side with 1 employee in my department, at the same time moving into the "receptionist" chair in the front office.

I'll admit to skating. Skating on a slightly higher wage while I can, trying to knock down some debt. I've also held off moving forward professionally while I rode out the last couple of years. How could I tell a new boss, "yes, I'm reliable, but my sister is ill, and I'm taking care of my mother, and I need to take phone calls, and I need to leave when I need to leave!"? I just didn't see too many potential employers going for that, while my own stood by me every time Mother lost her glasses.

This was to be The Year. It was less than a week ago that I was discussing with Clint the number of changes that were going to occur in my life in 2011—thus affecting his life, and ours together. Changes that would will causing both some unstability, and yet lock in a more solid future with a little more breathing room: I'll get Mom settled, and tend to her house, her assets, her finances. I'll decide then, what my options are: school, employment, self-employment. Sell my house, keep my house, what to do, what to dooooo.

Well, circumstances have taken a turn, and while I still have the same decisions to make, I have to make them fast, and oh, figure out how to bring in thousands of dollars while I do it. I've got 10 days of employment left before I figure it all out.

I have ideas. I know what I want to do. I know what I have to do.

Wish me luck, smarts, courage, and, if I need it, the sheer false bravado I need to somehow make the two coincide.

I'm going to go throw up now.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Cancun: Vendor Photos

Here's another round of vacay photos. I began organizing them day-by-day, but as the week went on, what happened on which day became a bit blurry. It was just too much fun to keep track of. Or maybe too much Dos Equis. At any rate, I recategorized, and here's a few highlights from my "Vendors" folder.

With all-inclusive at our fingertips, we never did taste food from the beach vendors. I kind of wish I had, now. I have no idea what this woman was selling, but it looks like pineapple, pork rinds, and hot sauce. I'm sure some of my more well-traveled friends can enlighten me.

 More pineapple, carried on the head of a guy that had a great sense of balance. I'm going to try this.

This guy walked around all day yelling "Kibbeh, Kibbeh." I've eaten Kibbeh at Lebanese restaurants before, but I doubted this was the same thing. I was wrong. Upon further research, I found out it was just that: bulgar and ground meat. I'm not sure I want to eat ground meat out of a glass aquarium being carried around in the hot sun all day. I passed this time, and will most likely pass again, if we ever return. 

Hats! The day before the last day we were there was a windy one, and one of these hats mysteriously blew around and ended up on Jen's beach chair. No one around by the end of the day, so free hat, she was adorable in hers!

This lady was offering to braid your hair, but I referred to her as the "head-on-a-stick lady" for the duration of our trip.

Our bags were packed, and we were checked out when we did some last minute shopping from this young lady. I bought a beaded shrimp keychain from her, now hanging in our kitchen. I love it; it's adorable and it reminds me of all of the shrimp and seafood we put away on our trip. Nom, nom nom.

Puppets, anyone?

We bought belts and bracelets from these 2 young girls. It's hard to resist kids. Kids with pretty-pretty things.

These women, at dusk would plop a 9-month old baby in the middle of the sidewalk. That's cold, isn't it? I got a running start and hurdled that baby. Almost cleared him, too.

Beautiful bottles to put your Tequila in. These remind me of my sister; she used to dabble in this sort of clay stuff. I have a letter opener with a clay handle she made, that I use every day

Dresses. One size fits all, he says. I remember when I could fit into one size fits all.

This guy was selling the chimes, but he was really good at getting your attention with that Conch shell. Sneaky; once you look up and make eye contact, you're doomed, he's going to try to get your money!

Oh, crap, I did it, I made eye contact. I bought a silver bracelet from him on the first day. Interesting tactics, this one: I didn't have cash on me at the time. He gave me the bracelet, and said he'd be back in an hour. Honor system! Ooooh, that sucks me in every time. "You TRUST me? Awww, ok, I'll pay too much for your jewelry!" Plus he worked so hard on the 4-children-that-need-chicken-tacos sob story.

On the last full day we met him on our daily beach walk. I told him I wanted 5 bracelets to go. We bartered and argued until he accepted my offer and agreed to meet us back at our chairs in 30 minutes.

I really dig that "bring the stuff to me" shopping! I picked out my 5, and bid him adios.

Our agreed-upon price, by the way, was too-too low, he said, and he made me swear to never ever ever tell anyone how much I paid for the lot.

I promised him I would not.

And I'm as good as my word.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Guest post, from "Showers with Beetles"

For those of you not from around here, I'll enlighten you with the fact that this part of the state is inundated, every Autumn, with "Asian lady beetles." I just call them ladybugs. They hit the area like a snowstorm sometime in October, creep into our houses through siding and window sills, and as the weather cools, they fall asleep.

Well, that's my theory, that they fall asleep. They fall asleep and intermittently wake up throughout winter, wondering where they are. They buzz around sluggishly, die mid-air, and fall into your drink, your lap, into every crevice in your house. Heat and humidity seems to rouse them from their sleep also; they come to life every time I run hot water. My self-appoined Native American name, since moving out into the country casa, is "Showers with Beetles." Not as sexy as "Dances with Wolves," but succinct and accurate.

Every year, there's one entemologist or another on the local news, stating "there's nothing you can do but vacuum them up." Vacuum them up I do! My baseboards and window sills fill up with their dead little carcasses every 2 weeks or so throughout the winter. I'm trying to figure out how to make money off of the damned things but the going rate for lady-bug meat thus far is nil.

Last Saturday, then, was lady-bug day. This entails using a broom, a brush, a dirt devil, the manual hose of the sweeper, and any other means possible to get deceased ladybugs out of the gaps between the carpet and the baseboards, and in every other crevice they manage to squeeze into. I spent a good 90 minutes on Saturday morning moving furniture and doing intense cranny-vacuuming.

When I finished up, I put the sweeper back together to finalize the floors, and casually thought to myself, "after this, I'll change out the bag, and it will be fresh next time I need it."

I turned the sweeper on, and ka-BOOM! "Ka-BOOM!!", I say, and while my mind was busy registering that the cover of the sweeper was on the floor, the bag had split open and the sweeper was shooting the last few weeks' worth of dirt, dust, hair, and ladybugs back into the living room, firehose-style. Screaming and screaming, I was, trying to remember which button turned the machine O-F-F.

After my senses returned, I managed to shut the thing off, and my screaming graduated to  "#$%@$^$," Clint meandered in to take a look, and said, "well, that sucks." We ended up having to vacuum the vacuum with another vacuum. We had to move other appliances outside to blow them off with an air compressor. The furniture needed to be vacuumed, every surface in the house needed dusting, and of course, all of my just-cleaned-crannies were no longer for this world.

Hours later, I turned my attention to myself and turned the water on high-and-hot in the bath tub, thus bringing to life another round of zombie-beetles that would stagger around the house in sporadic flight until their beetle-eyes rolled back into their beetle-heads, and ::klunk::!!

Welcome to the Grand Circle of Life at the Country Casa.
If you know what's good for you, you'll just stay in bed.

—Showers with Beetles

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

RV Show Wrap-Up

The weekend was a blast, oh how we laughed and laughed. In fact, I came home of dozens of photos of us doing nothing but that. They're all funny to me, but since 144 photos with the caption "here's us, laughing" would probably get tedious to you, I'm posting a select few in a slide show. I'm thoughtful that way.

I mentioned before that the RVs get pricey. Check out the price tag on the first photo. I could buy 2 of my condo's with that, and still have some decorating money left over.

Anyway, you'll see that there aren't a lot of photos from the actual show. Most of the fun was had holing up in the lobby after the show with a lot of good food (nachos, pizza, chocolate birthday cake!), and having a ruckus-y good time.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

When Popcorn Attacks

Clint's driving, and we're on our way to St. Louis, with 10 of our best friends behind us. For the last 2 years we've attended an RV Convention in Chicago, and we decided to switch it up this year. RV Convention: Where you pay $8 to walk around all day and look at campers more luxurious—and more expensive—than your home. We may leave with RV Envy, but at least we have plastic bags full promotional gee-gaws, that's the part I love!

Completely off-subject, but speaking of gee-gaws, I went into Best Buy last night and said to the clerk, "I'm looking for a gizmo that I've seen online, but have never found anywhere else..." My clerk promptly turned around and asked his 2 colleagues, "Do we carry `Gizmo?' " A powwow ensued about how they'd never heard of "Gizmo." I contemplated letting them search other departments for "Gizmo" before I told them that I was mistaken: I need a "Gadget." Dang whippersnappers, never heard of gizmo, yeesh.

Anyway, while you wait for me to return with your souvenir magnet, here's a little movie about a popcorn experiment gone awry at our Labor Day camping trip. Oh, and hide your kids, someone keeps messin' up my videos with gratuitous cuss words, and I don't have a bleep tool. (I wonder if Best Buy has "Bleep.")

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Random "Quite Wonderful"

I ran out to Big Lots the other day, on my 30-minute lunch break. 5 minutes to get there, 5 minutes, back, I had 20 minutes to scramble for some sundries for my mother. I gathered what I needed, raced to get in line,  suddenly realized I'd forgotten toothpaste, and ran back to grab a tube.

I stopped to browse, when a beautiful Korean woman, about my age, stopped me to ask where she might find tools for her mother's dental care, in this town. I hit the brakes to think, and admitted that I had no idea. She told me that her Mother had a stroke last fall, and that she her soul caregiver. She could barely get her Mother to open her mouth, and getting her to a dentist was out of the question. She's looking for a tool that will do the job, a good one, not a cheap one that might cause damage.

After she opened up, I shared with her that I also take care of my mother, and dental care is a tough one to stay on top of. There was an odd, wonderful moment, then, when she just looked at me and sighed, a moment in which we each recognized the other's exhaustion, and frustration; a moment in which we were suddenly friends.

I realized that I was going to be late getting back to work, sat down my basket, scrounged for a pen, and told her about our local family resources. Did she know that she can get some help? Catch a break? She did not. Although she's been  in the U.S. for 25 years, she has only been in this area only for 4 months. She has no idea that there's assistance, and when I tell her that someone comes to my mother's house for 3 hours a day, she almost melted: "You can get 15 hours a week of help? 15 HOURS to YOURSELF?"

Yes, honey.  I wrote down the phone number, and then gave her my name and phone number also, demanding that she call me if she needs any more help.

"Who ARE you?" she asked me. "What do you do? Are you a social worker?" I laughed and told her "I'm someone else in charge of her mother's care, and I know how tired you are."

I finally rushed out with a reminder: "Call that number. Call me. Good luck getting some help." I was rushing out when she laughingly yelled after, "you've already helped me!"

I like chance meetings. I like spontaneous connections. I like to believe that they weren't spontaneous at all.

I like to believe that I was meant to forget the toothpaste, at that particular Big Lots, at 12:17 on that particular day.

And I hope it changed the direction of her life just a little bit.

I hope she gets her 15 hours.

*Title of this post refers to closing thoughts on  the last.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Not a Mexico Blog

Sometimes I paralyze myself with my own promises; 'dja ever do that? I have 400 photos to sort through on an an outdated laptop in which the homerow's Row #3 works quirkily. if at all. My vow to post Cancun adventures "next" simply bottlenecks all of the other prolific posts I could be writing. I surrender! Cancun photos and adventures will come in due time.

I read back to the "olden days" of this blog, and I feel like I've lost my voice and the courage of my convictions in the last couple of years. An increased readership intimidates me a bit. The last couple of years have been tough, tough. 2009 was blogging the year of Teri's death. In 2010...I just felt like I'd suck out your soul if I told you  how I really felt, adjusting to the first year without her. I fell into a "if you don't have something nice to say..." mindset.

In truth, last year was tough. The year before, when Teri lost her battle to cancer, was terrible, it was terrible. But she was here. And last year was our first where she wasn't. Toss in living under construction. Most of my material belongings have been in storage or still in my home, which I'm now renting to a friend. My sister is gone, and I don't have my *stuff.* Whatever the hell stuff I thought that would be, that would make things better, I don't have it, I can't find it, it's in a freakin' box somewhere, and it's just easier to go buy new stuff, thus adding financial strain to my stress.

I miss my sister, I'm broke, I can't find my stuff, my kid is in Iraq, my Mom is combing her hair with a fork and pooping on the floor, and who in the hell can cope with all of this stuff and maintain a merry relationship every single day? Not me, there was tumult everywhere! I really thought I was keeping my shit together in 2010, but when I look back at the year, BLEAH. Barf. Blurp. Puke.

I am still standing because of a lot of good friends, and a few *great* friends, that held me up through the year. It's funny, how I want to tell you that "Clint's friends" rallied to keep me upright through some tough times last year, their rallying making me realize: they are MY friends now also. My family now also. I love that.

All of this spewing beget from a desire to let you all know, "I miss blogging," and I'm going to stop worrying about that prolific post, and I am going to blog every single day. Ok, big lie, the every single day part. But I'm going to make more of a point to get the daily stuff back out here, because despite the aforementioned bellyaching, something quite wonderful really does happen almost every single day.

Thank God, because I'm not sure I would have survived 2010 without the "quite wonderfuls."

See you tomorrow.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Iguana Blog My Mexico Photos...

...but we're gearing up for one more family Christmas this weekend, so you're just going to have to wait.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Sand Castle Walk and The Cletus Castle

Happy New Year!

I mentioned in the last post that we were taking off for Mexico for the holidays, and we did just that. One week in Cancun and thereabouts has given me enough blog fodder and photos to last a couple of months, so I'd best get to it.

This one's short & sweet, as we just got home yesterday, and I'm still unpacking and sorting out photos—photos we are lucky to have, mind you. I bought a new Nikon S8100 digital camera 2 weeks before the trip, and somewhere in the midst of Day 1 in Cancun, the thing completely putzed out on me. Would not focus, the zoom button had a mind of its own, and the camera would not shut off or on.

The good news was that I took a second, backup camera that  had just gotten out of the repair shop.

The bad news was that I had been asked to remove the memory card from that camera while it was being repaired, and I never put it back in, for the trip.

The good news was that the Kodak kiosk across from our resort had a 2 GB memory card to sell me.

The bad news was that they were going to charge me $55.00 for that card (a $14 value in U.S. AND down the road at Cancun Walmart).

The good news was that we could hop the autobus to Walmart for $1. (More good news is that we arrived alive; it was touch and go for a while there: Cancun bus drivers will really get your adrenalin going.

The bad news was that Walmart only had HC cards, and I needed an HD.

In the end, the good news was that Clint took his camera.

Anyway, Clint and I took a "sand castle walk" down the beach every day, snapping pictures of castles good and castles bad, but all castles fun.

After a week of admiring castles, I was inspired to whip one up myself on the very last day. As our bags were already checked at the hotel, I had only my God-given hands and a straw to work with.

Clint's nickname at the firestation is "Cletus," so we dubbed this one "The Cletus Castle." Using seaweed for fine details, here's what I ended up with, followed by a photo of my live model:

An uncanny resemblance, don't you think?