Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Words and Weight Wednesday: It's Been A While...

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Words & Weight Wednesday. Both have been on hiatus under the extreme stress of the past year. But I need to get back on track, and so, here goes.

I go to a new doctor today, to meet her for the first time—had to have a new one, now that we’re in a new state, and frankly, my old doctor’s entire office was…lacking. I am hoping the experience today will be better. I have hope, since today was scheduled as a “meet & greet”, with no charge to me for this first visit.

Most of you know I have Type II Diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol; I am currently on medication for all three. I don’t know the numbers on those last two right at the moment, but I am sure the doctor will order blood work done.

I test my blood sugar every morning, and today was not too bad, coming in at 112. My Florida doctor told me I should be between 65 & 99. Considering that I wake up every morning and have panic attacks within moments of waking, and that I have not been keeping up on watching my food intake on My Fitness Pal, and that my exercise routine has gone down quite a bit, that’s not a bad number. However, I will need to work on bringing it back down.

My weight was 190.2 this morning, down by 8.8 pounds from my last visit to my Florida doctor in late May. It is time to get back to logging my food intake and watching what I eat. That last part may be the hard one. Previously, I was only working my Avon business and working (very) part-time in a little store. Now, in addition to the Avon business and my wife/mother duties, I am working nearly full-time, going in to work at 10 and not getting out until after 4. If I get the job/type of job I am pursuing, I will probably be working from 8-5, then driving home up to half an hour. I honestly don’t know how working women eat a healthy supper, to be perfectly honest, but I will have to find out. I would like to live a little longer than my poor Momma, who, had she made it just a few more months, would have been 76 this November.

And so, to something else that helps my health—writing. Most of the last year, my brain has been too much on overload to even relax enough to let creativity in. I have written little, and that in fits and spurts. I managed over 10K last month in Camp NaNo, but those numbers included my blog posts.

In the past week, I have written only about 300 words of actual fiction, then last night, I sat down and wrote out (long-hand) a more detailed outline of my Robin Hood story, so I could try to organize it a bit. I don’t know how many words were in the outline, and probably wouldn’t count it toward my weekly goals anyway, but it was front and back of one notebook page, with a note to do some research on some missing, but relevant, years in actual history that will affect my character. Between that and this blog post, I am quite proud of the amount of writing I have done this week. I know, it is nowhere near the amount I need to do if I am ever to actually become a writer full-time, but ‘tis enough, ‘twill do, for now.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Five For Friday: Jobs I Have Liked/Loved

I've been noticing a rather negative trend in my posts lately, and I apologize for that. I am still dipping in the pool that is depression, fighting it tooth and nail, but with very little protection. I thought it might be a good time to post something positive, and since I am in search of a new job because I hate the current one, I thought it would be good to explore which jobs I have actually liked over the years.

1. Bus-person. It might sound weird, but I loved being a busser and a dishwasher in the restaurant I started my "real" work career at. I didn't mind getting my hands dirty, and I could lift the heavy bus-pans with no problem in those days. There was something freeing about just letting your body go on automatic and your mind with it.

2. Waitressing. I like people. Shhh... Don't tell anyone I just said that--I've got a rep to protect. But I really did like working with people, waiting on them. Waitressing took skill, and I was good at it. Organizing my time so that my customers waited the minimum amount of time for me was a challenge. And the money was good, most of the time. I'm not sure that I'm up to the physical challenge of this job anymore, though.

3. Stable-girl. I've loved horses since I could breathe, I think. I cannot recall a time when I didn't love them. I loved the smell of them, the sight of them, the sounds of them--the whole package. So, working as a stable-girl, even if it was just in exchange for free lessons, was amazing. Again, a very physical job, and one I don't think I'd be up for at my age.

4. Receptionist/Administrative Assistant. Oh, there were times I wanted to strangle my Avon manager, but in general, I enjoyed working in the office--answering phones, helping new representatives, and all the other daily office routines. I would not mind working in this sort of job again.

5. Bookseller. Bookstores, sadly, are dying out, thanks to online sales. But there was a time when such was not the case. Waldenbooks, B. Dalton, Barnes & Noble--they were everywhere, along with hundreds of little independent shops. I worked for B&N when they first opened a store in North Haven, Connecticut. I started as a bookseller, and before the official opening, I was already promoted to cash wrap supervisor--a minor management position. The only reason I left this job was because hubby was in the Air Force and once I became his wife, I had little say as to where we lived. There is only one tiny bookstore in my current town, so I don't think I have much chance of working there; however, there are a couple of stores within about half an hour's drive.

Wish me luck in my job search. I think that once I find the right one, it will certainly help my spirits to lift up a bit. As well as the last two jobs, I'm also considering going back to school for a degree in either creative writing (to teach, possibly in college), library science or book-keeping (yes, I know that's to do with money and not hoarding books). If I could get some sort of grant that would help pay the bills in the meantime, that would be awesome. Any advice?

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Pardon My Dust...

I got bored with the purple/pink theme, so I'm playing with new ones. Anything you love/hate, please let me know. It'll take me some time to get it where I want it, so excuse me whilst I do. :D

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Five for Friday: Financial Regrets/Advice

I know this is a day late, but better late than never. This week, I am full of regrets of a financial nature. Despite a raise in hubby’s pay, we find ourselves broke. The cost of living is so much higher in Maryland, and the raise was not quite enough to offset that and continue our standard of living. That does not mean that I am unhappy to be here—the state is lovely, with so much to do, and the people are very nice. However, pretty and nice does not pay the bills, nor does it help save for a house, and so I am back to working a job, outside of my Avon business. We will get back on top--but it's tough to have a setback, however temporary, at my age.

I don’t necessarily like the job itself, but at least the hours are good, and my bosses are decent; the pay isn't too bad, either, but there’s no hope for a raise, ever. Add to that the fact that they are older than me, and I will probably be out of a job in the next ten years or so. And so I find myself not only working thirty hours a week give or take, but I am looking for a second (or different) job while trying to build my Avon business, and get at least one other business off the ground.

This doesn't sound like a bad thing, until you realize that I will be celebrating the 13th anniversary of my 35th birthday this September. I’m too old and tired for this crap. I should be working a job that is easy, that I’ve been at for years, and could do with my eyes closed. Something that’s not only not too physically challenging, but doesn't have me sitting all day, either. Something that is easy, but that keeps my mind and body occupied.

I know I should be content to have such a decent job, but I've always been the kind to want more. I should have been in a house that we have halfway paid off by now, not renting an apartment while trying to save enough in the next couple of years to have closing costs on a house so we can get a new 30 year mortgage when I’m 50.

Because I’m not where I wanted to be in life, and I've recently seen friends and family who are where I wish I was in their lives (continuity of living in one place for the past 40+ years, houses paid off or at least halfway there), I am writing this as advice to the younger me or to my boys, should they decide to read this and listen and learn.

1. Work hard when you’re young. I did this, sometimes working three jobs. For the past six or so years, though, I have allowed myself to be “lazy”, working only my Avon business, barely making the bills. Had I kept my job, too, or gotten serious about either my writing career or proofreading business, I’d be good right now.

Now, I am a wife and a mom still, and both jobs have gotten easier as the years have passed; I am also still an Avon rep, which has become harder and harder to make money at; I am working a direct sales job cold-calling businesses (which I hate). I want to get some books written, and get the proofreading business and/or the natural homemade products business off the ground. So, yeah, full plate. Like I said, I’m too old for this shit.

2. Save. Set aside $100/month, or more, when you are financially flush. Had I only set aside that small amount each month while I was working and in college, living at home, I’d have had almost $5,000 by the time I was done with getting my bachelor’s degree. Add that to the money we received from our wedding, and my husband and I could have had enough to put money down on a house in Texas, thus beginning our home ownership eighteen years earlier.

And that is assuming no interest and such a small amount of savings each month. If we had been able to set aside only $500 per month, we could be halfway to a quarter of a million dollars saved for our retirement. Now, it will take twice that amount monthly to achieve the same ends.

Along those lines, live within your means. Living high on the hog is great, if you have the funds to do so. Living large when your income is small is not the best move. And yet, in this day and age, where so many think they are "entitled" to live the good life (and yes, we even fell into that trap), it can be hard to resist the temptation and swim against the current. Oh, it's harder, but the destination can be well worth the fight.

3. Invest in real estate, and mutual funds. I’m not talking about scams or flipping houses or anything. Just buy a house to live in when you’re young, even if you have to work a couple of jobs to afford it. Take some of the savings and invest it in bonds or something that’s steady and stable. It’s always good to have something to fall back on. Read about investing—become familiar with it.

In this vein, keep a close watch on your finances. Know where your pennies are going at all times. Avoid credit cards if you can, but if you must use them, pay them off immediately, or as quickly as possible. Interest rates will kill your financial goals, and late fees are the whetstone that the credit cards use to sharpen the knives they will use to carve the meat from your financial future.

4. Get a degree or license that will pay for itself. My Bachelor of Arts in English cost me into the double digits. I have yet to earn it back. It did nothing to further my waitressing career, nor did it add value to any customer service or cashiering jobs I worked over the years.

If, however, I had had a degree in book-keeping, I could have added value to my earning potential, possibly even given myself an opportunity for a higher-paying job or to earn money on the side. So many opportunities are out there—book-keeping, medical transcription, welding, electricity, plumbing—all good trades to fall back on should the need arise, or to choose as your main income.

5. Do what you love. Even if you just do it as a hobby, your soul needs this healing time after being battered by job, family, and other stresses of life. Having something that brings you peace—reading, writing, drawing, yoga, BMX-ing, horseback riding, martial arts—is as necessary as breathing. 

Regrets are a terrible thing to have to live with. Try to have as few of them as possible. In twenty years, what will you regret doing or not doing?

Friday, August 1, 2014

Five For Friday: Jobs I Have Hated

Today's five for Friday is brought to you by jobs I have hated. I had begun to write something else earlier, advice to a younger me/my boys, but ran out of time, so I will save that one for next week. So for now, here's the jobs I've had that have truly sucked, at least to me.

1. Cold calling to houses to sell siding. Goddess, people can be rude. I get it--I've been on the other end, too. But the job still sucks.

2. "Warm" calling--to invite businesses to participate in an exposition. By the time I came to this job, all the low-hanging fruit had been picked, and the boss started giving me the hairy eyeball because I couldn't get any sales.

3. Real estate sales--I loved showing houses, hated dealing with sellers and all the paperwork. It didn't help that I later found out my broker was dirty. Right before I quit.

4. Working as a food server in a senior housing facility. So much of this was just awful. Everyone coming at once, demanding things right away. The "cleaning" staff that claimed that cloth napkins with lipstick on them were clean. The manager, who was also the owner of the entire facility. *sigh*

5. Selling timeshare resorts. Nasty food, trying to sell over-priced condos to people who can't really afford it.

Notice a trend? Apparently, I'm not meant for direct, high-pressure sales. :P Since #2 is my current job, I guess I should continue to look for a job to replace this one, eh?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Maryland Driver’s License Bureau, or Adventures in Becoming a Legal Resident of Maryland

Okay, I have been in Maryland a total of five weeks now—not all in one stretch because of having to take the two and a half weeks to go up and be with Dad when Mom passed. I love my new home, so green and hilly, and the people are (mostly) friendly. In many ways, it reminds me of Connecticut, where I hope to retire one day. Becoming a legal resident of this state is easier said than done, however, and not an inexpensive prospect at all.

First, there was the extra charge on the rental application for my out-of-state license. Naturally, I would not have been able to get the license without the proof of residency first, so there was no way around that.

Then, there was the state inspection for my car, which cost more due to somebody messing up on one of the nuts on one of my tires in Florida. At the shop that my son worked at, but it wasn’t him—he was hanging out with us in the office at the time. Mind, despite the extra expense, the car still didn’t pass because the Florida-legal tint was still too dark for the state of Maryland. So, now I have to go pay to get the tint removed and get the car re-inspected. Re-inspection, however, is free, thank Goddess.

Last Saturday, I tried to call to get the tint removed, but the place I called was closed, and it’s the only one within twenty miles. There are disadvantages to living out in the country. I also was planning on going to get my license that day, but in order to exchange your out of state license for a new Maryland one, you have to make an appointment. Fine, I run through the checklist of required documents and make my appointment. I text my boss to tell her I’ll be late and why—no problem.

Monday comes, I drive the 30 miles to the closest driver’s licensing bureau that services new licenses. I get there and inquire about where to check in. The clerk looks at my New Hampshire birth certificate, which resembles a credit card rather than being the flimsy piece of paper most states issue, and remarks about how cool it is. Once again, I am proud of my birth state, having the foresight to issue such an intelligent manner of proving my birth. I sit and wait my turn.

Moments later, I am called up, right on time for my appointment, and feeling very happy with the whole thing. Beautiful location, with a farm and mountain view; beautiful, bright, big office, with plenty of clerks to handle the human traffic. Things are good. This clerk, however, is confused by my birth certificate. He consults his boss, who says it is unacceptable. When he informs me of this, I ask him to call his boss over.

I explain to the boss that this birth certificate IS what I was issued. It has gotten me five driver’s licenses in four states (twice in Florida), a marriage license, and a military I.D. She tells me that it is not a birth certificate, because birth certificates do not look like credit cards. I tell her that I am well aware of what most states issue as birth certificates, as I have paper copies for my sons’ certificates, from Texas and Florida. She is perplexed, but goes to consult HER boss. It seems like the higher up the food chain you go, the less creative they get. Welcome to bureaucracy. Unfortunately, they set their hooves in like mules and I am forced to call New Hampshire and get a paper copy. They were at least kind enough to give me the contact phone number.

So, I get back to my apartment and call New Hampshire. They were very understanding, and even suggested that someone could come to pick up the certificate if anyone was in the state that was a close relative. I thank them and call my dad, who was visiting his brother in Hampton, New Hampshire at the time. Dad says he’ll drive to Exeter and get the certificate. He over-nighted it and the next day, I had a paper copy in my hot little hands.

This morning, I went in and handed them my paper copy, but of course letting them know that I only had to come back because of their ridiculous bureaucracy in the first place. Because I have a big mouth sometimes, especially when I know that I am in the right. They chuckled and sent me to the right booth. Five minutes and $72 later, I had my new license. Next week, I should finally be all set with the car, but with me, you never know what’s going to happen to make something “easy” take far longer than it should.

Oh, and I still have close to four thousand words to go to finish Camp NaNoWriMo. By tomorrow. Working tonight until 5:00. Then I have to cook supper, then drive 25 minutes to drop off hubby’s car at the shop and bring him back. And leave early in the morning to drive him the 30+ minutes to work and return so I can get to work on time. Ish. Yikes! I do hope Miss Muse will wait patiently until we get back this evening, then hug attack me.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Technical Difficulties

Don’t you just hate it when technology fails you? I admit it. I, who often advocate “back to nature” and “use a pen & paper”, was utterly bereft yesterday without my laptops.

Yeah, that was plural. Once again, I had not one, but two laptops going wonky on me this past week, hence the lack of posting. I also started my job this past week (yes, I am officially employed now), so I was coming home, too exhausted to do anything, and too burnt out on phones and computers to touch them for anything but play.

We’ll start at the beginning, shall we? A week ago Tuesday, we got home from helping and keeping company with my dad for my mom’s services. Finances, already strung tight, were wrapping around our necks like a boa constrictor going for the kill. I was depressed (and admittedly, relieved to some extent, but mostly depressed) over Mom’s passing. Every day, I would get up late, play on the laptop, take my walk, get a shower, then watch TV for most of the day. I was ignoring my business and wasting my time, and worrying myself over money.

I was also slightly depressed over making it to the phone interview with one job, only to be informed later that I had not passed the assessment test (I HATE those foolish, impersonal, “what if” crappy tests). I didn’t know if my son was going to be able to make his car payment, and it worried me that we didn’t even have enough to help him out if he needed it for just the next two months, until his military paycheck starts coming in. And while I am enjoying the scenery here, the fact is that Maryland is a killer for state taxes, so my husband’s paycheck has had a generous chunk removed by the hungry sharks of Maryland’s political ocean.

And so, typical me—worry, worry, worry. I decided to act upon this concern, though, and began looking for work. I applied to Random House and looked for work on various employment websites. I even looked on a Facebook page for local employment. I was already becoming frustrated, after sending out numerous resumes and filling out many job applications. Then, I got a call back from one of the resumes I had sent out, one in which I had forgotten to attach the resume in the initial email. I spoke with the woman and made an appointment to go in the following Monday to interview.

On Tuesday, I started. It’s not a great job, but I get okay pay and the hours are easy. I can only get up to thirty-five hours per week, though, thus limiting my income. However, the job is booking companies to attend events, and the owner, as a perk for me working there, allowed me to have a booth for my Avon for free.

All well and good. Until I tried, now that I was emboldened by a bit of success, to print up labels to place on my Avon brochures. That’s when the first laptop started giving me the blue screen of death and the other one became slower than cold molasses running uphill in the winter-time.

I spent all day yesterday watching television and trying to fix the laptops. As of today, hubby has taken over the big one, trying to get it sorted, and the little one decided to behave. However, neither one is talking to the printers yet, so I am still unable to print my labels (and I have far too many brochures to hand out to hand-write my information on them). Tomorrow, if they are not working yet, I will have to go to the library after work and print them there, or get hubby to print them at work. Oh, and I’ve got about six thousand words to go to complete Camp Nano. Wish me luck!