Wednesday, April 27, 2005

I have to quit my job, don't I?

The more I think about it the more I realize I have to quit my job. 20 years ago I quit my teaching job without a job, and that was the scariest thing I ever did. I was 28 years old, and we rented a house for $400. I had no concept of insurance and knew I could find another job at the low salary ($17,000) I was making as a teacher. Naive. Now I am older, so much wiser, scared, nervous, angry, hurt, mixed up, disillusioned. My mortgage has more than doubled. We have a car payment, car insurance for 4 and are desperately in need of health insurance. But at the measly salary I am making, I can't afford to work and pay for gas any more, can I? Help me out here. With one whining blog and one panicked e-mail, I have 2 freelance jobs that will pay me more this weekend than I can make in a month at my present job. So do I take the risk and quit? If so, that means I have to go into work Monday and give my two-week's notice. I really don't have a problem with my job otherwise or the boss. I admire her courage and strength to start a business, move it to an office building instead of her house, and hire 10 people full time to work for her and run a paper. But if I'd had any idea that I would be working for this salary and not able to afford the group health insurance she offers WHILE VACUUMING ON TUESDAYS, I would have never taken the job. Did you read that? I don't even vacuum at home, and I have to vacuum on Tuesdays at this job. What the hell is that?

So now I have to get the kahunas to face my boss and explain that this job is not to my advantage because of the lack of benefits. I am a chicken shit. This is just not working for me, is it? Back me up, blog friends. Am I doing the right thing? I would be more scared if I was giving up great benefits, but I'm not. I'm giving up filling up my car with gas and buying expensive lunches in "the valley." And I'm giving up VACUUMING!

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The Long and Whining Road

Can I just whine? I was out of work for almost 2 years, but while unemployed, I freelanced. First, I had an incredible severance so I could relax for a few months. Even in my panic of looking for work and not getting a nibble, I freelanced my old job at $25 an hour. So 2 months ago I got a job... finally. The prospect of a job WITH benefits was more than I could take. I forgot that it would merely be the OPPORTUNITY to have benefits. So I took this incredibly low-paying job, earning HALF my age. I'm 47. You do the math.

The last time I made less than HALF my age was when I first got out of college at the age of 21 and only made $10,200 as a first-year teacher. At the time, I had a tiny apartment ($199 monthly rent) and a tiny car with a tiny monthly payment. It was just me. 26 years later and life is no better. Aren't thing supposed to get better as you age? Better? Easier? More prosperous? So I take this job for a measly salary and discover that the medical insurance for my family will cost me an entire paycheck. You read that right. So half my measly salary will go for health insurance, which leaves me with the other half to... what? It won't even pay the mortgage. A month before I took my new job my husband took a new job after 5 years at a low-paying job that did not provide (the opportunity for) benefits. So at the anticipation of making twice his salary, he took this new job. Well, if you know me, then you've heard that he got a pay check after 4 weeks on the job, and IT BOUNCED. He went to the bank to cash it, not once, not twice, but three times, only to be told there was no money in the account. This guy offered to pay our car payment if my husband put magnetic signs on the door when he sold the roofing so we bought a new car to replace the 10-yr-old van. Now we have a huge car payment, and he has no salary, not even a lousy one.

How does this shit happen? I am usually such a positive person. I am exhausted from this job, but that's just because it's a new routine. It's not really that exhausting. But I drive 30 minutes each way and wonder how much of my crummy salary is going to gas. At least when I freelanced, I didn't go anywhere which meant I never bitched about the high price of gas. Now, if you're keeping score, that's a car payment, gas, wear and tear on a new car, clothes, lunch, all costing money we don't have that I never had to spend when I freelanced. So how do I quit my job? I don't. How do I find another one that pays me (a) what I'm worth and (b) what I need? I have no idea. Here's where the not-so-positive part comes. I am trapped. My daughter will graduate from college next year with her teaching degree and make approximately $15,000 MORE than I am making as the age of 22. She jokes about moving home and living in our basement so she can save money for a new car and a house. I joke about moving in with her, only I'm not joking.

I know there are people much worse off. I know there are people much better off. I really am not a jealous person. I don't begrudge anyone the joys in life especially if they have worked hard for it. But when I hear about people taking vacations or not having to work or buying a new car (they can afford), I grow resentful. I find myself resenting a lot these days. I am blessed with tons of friends, and we have our health (for the most part with the exception of those minor daily meds we both must take as we grow older). We have 2 beautiful, brilliant, witty, outspoken daughters. But I just can't shake this depressing feeling that I am trapped in a low-paying job, can't afford health insurance, and have a husband who can't find a decent job. This is a depressing blog. I'm sorry for that. I just can't shake this feeling. Oh yah, when I had to buy independent insurance (after my COBRA ran out), my doctor wasn't on the list so I've been taking much of my medication every other day until I find a new internist. (Now I know how old people on Medicare feel.) Thank God, my ob/gyn wrote me a prescription for my anti-depressants or we'd all be in a hell of a lot of trouble. Well, except that my insurance is so bad that meds are very expensive even with insurance.

To top it off, I joined an exercise club at the beginning of the year. Yep, in January. I've lost 2 pounds since I started. At this rate, I will lose 8 lbs in a year. I joined it for many reasons but mainly so I could lose weight for my 30th high school reunion. I thought joining in January was the the safe and healthy thing to do. Little did I know, I should have joined in January 5 years ago! When I worked out tonight, there was one woman there who thighs were as big as my arms (which I lovingly call my tharms). I found myself resenting the bitch! And the music they were playing was from The Rat Pack. Who wants to exercise to Dean Martin singing "Blue Moon"? That was just too depressing. So I came home and watched "Friends." And no, I don't care that there is a new Pope, but because my bosses are Catholic and we work inside their home, I had to watch Fox news on a big screen tv all afternoon. I'm resenting all people with Big Screen tv's. Does Pope Benedict not know that that name doesn't impress Americans?! I was so hoping the new Pope would be Latino, African, or gay. But then I have a sick sense of humor!

And I have a zit under my nose that hurts like hell.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Who took that picture?

One of my blogging friends (I am 47 years old. Did I just write that?) is an amazing photographer. She has a great website that is on my favorite sites list. Go visit it. Now she has some of her amazing black & white photos up on the Jones Co website so you can vote for soda labels. Wouldn't it be awesome if you knew (in a very roundabout way) the photographer behind the photographs on a soda bottle? So click on the website and go vote for Leesa White's photos. Then shoot (no pun intended) on over to her website and check out her pet photos. Best photos of animals I've seen.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Not head of my state

Am I the only one incensed by flags at half staff for the Pope? It was subtle at first, a flag here, a flag there. I started noticing it on the way home from work last week at various business. I thought to myself, "Relax, those may be privately owned businesses. The owners may be Catholic. Who am I to second guess?" Then it cropped up more and more until Thursday when I noticed the flags at half staff at public schools. EXCUSE ME!?? When I went to mail some letters at the Post Office, I took the opportunity to ask the man collecting mail, "Were you ordered to fly the flag at half staff for the Pope?" You can't get mad at civil servants who do what they are told. He looked at me with that apologetic look and said, "Yes Mam." I said, "Excuse me?" As I slowly drove off incredulously, he said, "Head of state." I shot back, "He's not the head of MY state."

I was furious. How dare the president make such an order of a foreign religious leader? The only reason HAS to be political. For the Catholic (pro-life, anti stem-cell, pro tuition tax credits) vote? When the head of my church dies, I doubt that Bush or the standing president orders flags at half staff. After all, the head of my church is the friggin' Queen of England. You don't lower the flag for a foreign leader for whom you once threw tea overboard. It just wouldn't be right. But it's ok to do so for a Polish/Italian/religious leader? Do we lower the flag for the head of the Muslims, the Jews, the Baptists, the Druids? It's just not right.

The problem is most of us who are not Catholic see The Pope as a man voted on by men. He is not a saint, but even if he were, you don't lower the US flag for saints. Ok, he did some good things, not so good things. (I side with Clinton's remarks, but that's not the point of this blog.) I truly respect others for their feelings toward their leaders, but to lower the United States flag is totally outrageous. Tell me it's not for 30 days. I hated Ronald Reagan but totally understood why flags were at half staff for a US President. I can name a few wonderful leaders who should be afforded the same respect: Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, Oprah Winfrey. So if we start lowering the flag for the Pope, where does it stop? Who gets to decide?

Friday, April 01, 2005

Living will is the best revenge

This blog is NOT original. I give full credit to the author from the St. Petersburg Times, but I do not have the time or the patience to get permission. Having worked in the publishing industry, I know that printing work without the publisher's permission is punishable by death. But what the hell. I like to live dangerously. This article says it all and says it well.

Published March 27, 2005

Like many of you, I have been compelled by recent events to prepare a more detailed advance directive dealing with end-of-life issues. Here's what mine says:

* In the event I lapse into a persistent vegetative state, I want medical authorities to resort to extraordinary means to prolong my hellish semi-existence. Fifteen years wouldn't be long enough for me.

* I want my wife and my parents to compound their misery by engaging in a bitter and protracted feud that depletes their emotions and their bank accounts.

* I want my wife to ruin the rest of her life by maintaining an interminable vigil at my bedside. I'd be really jealous if she waited less than a decade to start dating again or otherwise rebuilding a semblance of a normal life.

* I want my case to be turned into a circus by losers and crackpots from around the country who hope to bring meaning to their empty lives by investing the same transient emotion in me that they once reserved for Laci Peterson, Chandra Levy and that little girl who got stuck in a well.

* I want those crackpots to spread vicious lies about my wife.

* I want to be placed in a hospice where protesters can gather to bring further grief and disruption to the lives of dozens of dying patients and families whose stories are sadder than my own.

* I want the people who attach themselves to my case because of their deep devotion to the sanctity of life to make death threats against any judges, elected officials or health care professionals who disagree with them.

* I want the medical geniuses and philosopher kings who populate the Florida Legislature to ignore me for more than a decade and then turn my case into a forum for weeks of politically calculated bloviation.

* I want total strangers - oily politicians, maudlin news anchors, ersatz friars and all other hangers-on - to start calling me "Bobby," as if they had known me since childhood.

* I'm not insisting on this as part of my directive, but it would be nice if Congress passed a "Bobby's Law" that applied only to me and ignored the medical needs of tens of millions of other Americans without adequate health coverage.

* Even if the "Bobby's Law" idea doesn't work out, I want Congress - especially all those self-described conservatives who claim to believe in "less government and more freedom" - to trample on the decisions of doctors, judges and other experts who actually know something about my case. And I want members of Congress to launch into an extended debate that gives them another excuse to avoid pesky issues such as national security and the economy.

* In particular, I want House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to use my case as an opportunity to divert the country's attention from the mounting political and legal troubles stemming from his slimy misbehavior.

* And I want Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist to make a mockery of his Harvard medical degree by misrepresenting the details of my case in ways that might give a boost to his 2008 presidential campaign.

* I want Frist and the rest of the world to judge my medical condition on the basis of a snippet of dated and demeaning videotape that should have remained private.

* Because I think I would retain my sense of humor even in a persistent vegetative state, I'd want President Bush - the same guy who publicly mocked Karla Faye Tucker when signing off on her death warrant as governor of Texas - to claim he was intervening in my case because it is always best "to err on the side of life."

* I want the state Department of Children and Families to step in at the last moment to take responsibility for my well-being, because nothing bad could ever happen to anyone under DCF's care.

* And because Gov. Jeb Bush is the smartest and most righteous human being on the face of the Earth, I want any and all of the aforementioned directives to be disregarded if the governor happens to disagree with them. If he says he knows what's best for me, I won't be in any position to argue.

Robert Friedman is editor of Perspective. He can be reached at