Thursday, September 15, 2011

Learning to live on less

When you first lose your job or in my case, one of your jobs, you are at first optimistic that your former employer will realize that they can not function without you and quickly call you back to work.

Days and then weeks go by and suddenly you come to realize that this will not happen.  Your former employer can function perfectly well without you.  Now, you must really start looking for a new job while you collect unemployment.

But wait you were only laid off from one of your jobs, the one with benefits.  You are still working at another part time job.  You can collect unemployment if you work less than four days a week.  But if you work less than four days a week, how are you going to eat?  You ask if you can quit that second job hoping that perhaps you could collect that full unemployment benefit that you qualified for, but nope, that isn't allowed.  You must keep that job,  look for a full time job and attend any workshops that the Labor Department recommends.

In other words, you must learn to live on less.  Not just less money.  Less food, less clothing, less entertainment, less medication, less necessities.  Less everything.  I went from earning an average of $1600. a month to $671.  I do not qualify for healthcare unless I cut my hours back at work to less that 16 a week.  I do not qualify for food stamps.  I no longer collect unemployment because my part-time job has me working more than four days a week.

So I've created a list of what you can expect to lose when you lose your job or become under-employed.

1. Healthcare benefits.  I don't know many people that can afford to Cobra their benefits, the cost is phenomenal.  I was able to Cobra my dental for a low cost per month which came in handy when I had to have a root canal.  Unless you are the poorest of the poor you are not going to qualify for NYS healthcare.

2. Cell phone.  Most people I see are so attached to their phones they probably think they couldn't live without it.  But you can.  You may have to.  Or you may have to go to the most basic plan there is and get rid of your land line.  My land line was cheaper to keep.

3. Cable TV.  Sooo many folks say that they would never miss cable.  Well I do.  I miss Animal Planet and the History Channel.  Currently I get my local stations and PBS and I kept Road Runner.  Basic Cable package.  Boring.

4. Food.  Oh how I miss just going to the grocery store and really shopping.  I miss making my once a week trip to Wegman's.  I miss eating good healthy food, because when your underemployed or unemployed you lack the money to spend on good food.  Consequently I have gained weight.  White bread is often times cheaper than 8 grain.  Fruits and veggies are costly! Food stamps, like free healthcare, seem to be for only the poorest of poor or those with no income what so ever.

5. Money.  Of course I miss money.  I miss being able to pay my bills.  I miss being able to go out and buy a pair of shoes.  Last Christmas there were no present under the tree.  I managed the tree, that's all.  I miss money for food.  I wish I could pay my mortgage up.  I even miss being able to put money in the collection plate at church.  Money makes the world go around and they claim that is why I was laid off.  Money.

6. Necessities.  Oh how I miss my contact lenses.  I really, really miss them.  But I can not afford to buy them.  Are they really a necessity?  Probably not.  I went months without buying new printer cartridges, I literally had to save up the money to buy me they are a necessity.

7. Home repairs.  This was to have been the summer for some major home repairs.  Structural repairs that can not be done without money.  Materials cost money.  Bummer because my goal is to put the house up for sale and buy property with land where I can grow my own food. 

8. Haircuts and clothing.  Forget about them.  Or better yet learn to shop at the Salvation Army or other thrift shops and find a friend that will cut your hair for free.  Not that I ever spent much money on these things but I miss going into TJMaxx and Marshalls and some new underwear would be sooo nice!

9. Transportation.  In other words my car.  I no longer own a car.  I had a three year lease on a Jeep Liberty that came to term at the end of July.  I turned it in and still owe just over $500 on the stupid turn in fee.  I no longer have the freedom to just pick up and go where I want.  But on the other hand I no longer have to pay for car insurance or gasoline.  And by the Grace of God I have been blessed with wonderful friends who provide me with transportation whenever I need it.  I am never without a ride.  I just miss having my own ride.

10.  I know you thought this was a list of ten items and it probably could be a list of ten.  Ten things that make me angry about being unemployed.  Ten things that make me angry about the City of Fulton laying me off.  Ten things that make me frustrated about working my butt off for minimum wage.  Ten things that frustrate me about the system and unable to obtain help for food and healthcare because I earn too much money.  Perhaps the tenth item should be learning to do without the people at your former place of unemployment.  The ones that you thought were your friends. I'm not sure, the only thing I'm sure of is now you must learn to live on less just as people did many many years ago.  Maybe if our entire country learned to live on less we wouldn't be in the mess we are today.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011


No one person should be as angry as I seem to be.  I can't seem to escape it.  Anger at myself.  Anger at the world.  Anger at life.  At times it consumes me.

Don't talk to me.  Don't look at me.  Don't engage me. I don't want you're attention. I don't want to interact with you.  Later I'll only ask myself why I'm always alone, why no one ever talks to me.  Fool.  I exude anger.  It must flame around me.  It must be like a vapor around me ready to ignite.

There is nothing that can make it better, it is of my own doing.  My own making.  My own fault.  I dug the hole.  Who the hell knew that it would be such a pit and that I would never be able to climb back out.  Who knew that I would tear my finger nails down to nothing but bloody damn stubs...chewing the skin around the edges until there was nothing left to chew.  Who knew.  Who knew. 

One person should never be allowed to feel this much anger in a life time.  There are times that I want to smash the damn motorcycle next the noise it makes and cram it down the throats of the people that own it.  At the same time I can't seem to play my own music loud enough.

Turn it up.

Hold me closer one more time,
Say that you love me in your last goodbye,
Please forgive me for my sins,
Yes, I swam dirty waters,
But you pushed me in,
I've seen your face under every sky,
Over every border and on every line,
You know my heart more than I do,
We were the greatest, me and you,

I dare you to let me be your, your one and only,
Promise I'm worthy,
To hold in your arms,
So come on and give me a chance,
To prove I am the one who can walk that mile,
Until the end starts,

I know it ain't easy.  I promise I'm worthy.  I swear I'm worthy.  I keep telling myself that over and over again.  I am worthy...but it ain't easy to love myself and I'm so damn angry.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

No more answers.

I continually ask myself how did I come to be in this position?  How did I come to be this age, unemployed and living in Upstate New York?  How on earth did I end up living next to the neighbors from hell?  I mean if I have to be 50 years old and I have to be unemployed and living in Upstate New be it.  But why the HELL did these people have to buy the house next door to me?

What kind of Karma is this?  I ask myself this on a daily basis.

Take today.  An absolutely beautiful day.  Sunny and warm  I slept in this morning and then watched the French Open.  Later I cleaned out my garage.  A lazy afternoon spent in a chair in the front yard with the dogs enjoying the sun.  Then the neighbors came home.  First their dog started had been tied outside all day, so naturally it was excited to see them...but not they to see it.  "Shut up!"  they yelled at the dog.  And then the motorcycle started in the front yard...a friend had stopped in to visit.  And the mother starts yelling at the kids to be quiet.

So much for a peaceful Sunday afternoon.  And every day is like that or worse.

I feel like I'm being punished for some sin that I committed in my past.

Lately I've been fantasizing about building a moat or huge fence around my house.  Oh how bad can they be you wonder?  Well the oldest son was arrested for assault last summer and he is just graduating this month.  The family seems to have a long standing relationship with law enforcement.

Sell my house.  Yes that's what I'll soon as I find that elusive job that pays me an hourly wage that I can live on.  Fantasizing about having health benefits begins....Oops...stay on track before I can sell the house I'd have to make necessary repairs.

How the hell did I get here?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Oak Tree - Summer 2010

The tree was here when the woman first moved into the house.  She knew it was planted far too close to the house.  No one in their right mind plants an Oak tree less than ten feet away from the front of a home.  But it was already several years old and a good size; she didn't think this would be her forever home - so she left the tree alone.

It continued to grow as trees are want to do just as her children did, and sometimes she worried about the limbs during the fierce summer storms.  All of the her neighbors have Maple trees and they would lose branches during winds storms, some even split in half.  But not the Oak.  Not during the Labor Day micro-burst, nor even during the April ice-storm did the Oak lose anything.  Only twice in over 20 years did it ever lose a limb - once during a wind storm a large low branch came down and the neighbor had to help cut it off and the second time when the woman paid to have it trimmed.

The woman's next door neighbors hate the tree.  They hate the leaves and acorns.  They are ignorant and therefore she doesn't care.  She paid to have the Oak trimmed so it wouldn't touch their house.  If they can't appreciate the generous shade this tree provides than they are stupid.  It is a magnificent specimen filtering sunlight, leaves wafting in the breeze.  It gives shelter to woodpeckers and squirrels alike.  And the noise it makes in a storm is like none the woman has ever heard before.

The woman has watched her neighbors cut down their beautiful Maple trees and cringed as they did so.  Glad she is that her handsome Oak is healthy and stands as a sentinel beside her home. Inside her fence.

Fenced In - Summer 2010

She tries to sit outside whenever the weather allows it.  Always on the front steps.  Always with the Spaniel at her side  From this vantage point she can watch the world go by.  Her world.  The only world she has known for the past 24 years.

She sits in the same position with her elbows on her knees supporting her chin, gazing at the same fence, same telephone pole and same neighbors houses. Year in and year out.  Her fence has not changed.  It has aged and faded, it has not been painted.  It is weathered.  Many of the neighboring homes have suffered through improvements, not hers, it looks as it did 24 years ago when she moved in with the man, the children and a different dog.

There is a picture from that time.  The man left 11 years ago never to be seen or heard from again.  The children grew up and moved out.  The dog passed away.  But the woman remained in the house and little changed.  When the fence fell down she rebuilt it and fenced in less space.

She had never given the fence much thought before - what it represented.


Fences keep things in and things out.  If you want something protected you build a fence around it.  This fence was originally built to keep the children safe while playing in the yard.  They were 5 and 2 when they moved here.  The dog stayed safe behind the fence too.

It became a reference point when giving directions.  The house was always described as the green house on the corner with the big gray fence around it.

Keeping the woman in.

The Spaniel eyeballs her, licks her arm and lays down on the step beside the woman, as if to say, "all is well in our little world".

Fate and Her Sister Destiny

I recently had a long conversation with my close companions Fate and her sister Destiny.  I bet you didn't realize that they were sisters.  I didn't either.  Twins to be precise, though not identical, fraternal.  There is a third sister as well, named Doom.

Close companions?  Yes, we've been together most of my life, if not my entire life.  It's just taken me fifty years to acknowledge them.

No, my name is not Sybil.

I have been miserable of late.  I lost a job that I loved and was comfortable at.  A job where I felt that I was needed.  I've had a very hard time adjusting to my new life.  Adjusting to the fact that I no longer have this career, this income or the interaction with the people there.  So I finally sought out Fate and Destiny and asked them why certain things seem to happen to ME.

FC:  So why did I lose my job?  Why did that happen to me?

Fate:  Do you mean aside from the fact that your employer is in financial straights?

FC:  Of course.

Fate:  Well you became too comfortable.  Too confident in your position.

FC:  Too confident?

Fate:  Yes, don't you remember?  A person asked you if wouldn't you rather be full time at your current part-time job than at the job you lost?  You answered "no" because the job you lost was your "bread and butter", it was where your benefits were.  

FC:  I remember that conversation.  It's true, it was my primary job.  I had been there 12 years.  I worked hard there.

Destiny:  You felt like they couldn't function without you?

FC:  Yes.  I still can't believe they laid me off.

Destiny:  Have they called you back?

FCNo and apparently they aren't going to.

DestinyThen I guess they can function without you.  Can't they?

FCSo it was Destiny that I lose my job and my benefits and be cast adrift?

Destiny:  Oh, goodness no!  That was Fate's decision, not mine.

FCSo Fate, why the need to send me in this direction?  Why is it that nothing seems to ever go right? Marriage, relationships, love,  finances, work.  Nothing goes right.  Why?  What did I do to deserve this?  Do I not deserve some small portion of happiness?  Ever?

Fate: Your life course was decided long ago by decisions that you made and that others made for you.  The decisions that your parents made for you as a child have bearing on the paths you took as an adult.  Their Fate in some small way became a part of you.  You married the wrong person, it was Fated to end.  I saw to that.  But you were Destined to have wonderful children and raise them yourself, my sister oversaw that.  Your mother died of cancer, that was her Fate, but your Destiny is to bring awareness of health issues to those around you....something your mother was unable to do.  You chose to love a man who belonged to another, our sister Doom lived with you for those years.

FC:  Am I still being punished for that affair?  He met another and remarried.  I met another and it didn't work.  How much longer am I to be punished?

DoomAs long as I am with you, you shall be alone.  As long as you keep looking for a partner you will live unfulfilled.  You will feel me in the pit of your stomach, just as you have since you were in school.  I have been with you that long.

FC:  But why?

DoomBecause unlike my sisters, Fate and Destiny, I do not want what is best for you and will hold you to me until you accept what ever course they have set you upon.

FC:  So, I must accept the fact that I will never regain my position back?  My job?  That Fate has removed it from me?  I don't understand.  Why?

Fate:  For now, for this present time you must move forward and accept what has happened to you.  Until you do this you can not move out from underneath the hold that Doom has upon you nor can you claim the future that Destiny may have prepared for you.

FC:  But what is my future?

Destiny:  If we told you that, then we'd be out of a job.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Why do I let you bother me so much?  After all these years, why do I let myself go to that place inside and feel the hurt all over again?

How is it possible to recognize you sitting in your vehicle behind me in traffic?  Why do I even notice?  It's not like I ever drove past your house or you past mine.  I don't exist to you.

Why can't it be that easy for me?  Why are you the ghost that keeps haunting me?

It's hardly fair.  I'll be having a wonderful day and suddenly there you are and my day is ruined.  I know, it's not your fault, after all I don't exist to you.  The fault lies with me.  In me.  And just when I think that I have put it aside, I see your face and I know that it will never be put aside.

Resentment and anger.  I feel towards you.  Leave me.  Stop haunting me.   Let me never look upon you again or would that you know how it feels to be me.