Friday, November 26, 2010

Contemplations on Black Friday

Yesterday I tweeted this:

What kind of society do we live in when retail stores are open today & we can't allow people to enjoy the holiday so we can shop at 3am?

Apparently I struck a chord based on the responses on Facebook. People seem to fall into one of two categories: those who are out shopping for deals today and those who are staying as far from the stores as possible.

The reasons behind that tweet were many, so I would like to share a few of the thoughts leading to it.

Thanksgiving is a national holiday. We are supposed to give thanks for all our blessings. It is a time for family. Yet while most of the nation had the day off, there were retail stores open, trying to get a jump on Black Friday profits. I can somewhat excuse grocery and drug stores and gas stations. But Walmart and KMart and the like really had no reason to be open except plain greed. Their employees didn't get to enjoy a holiday, but you can bet the corporate offices were closed. Are we so lost in our need to own things that we can't allow people the opportunity to spend a holiday with their loved ones? Thanksgiving is not a religious holiday. Everyone in the nation can celebrate it.

It seems as soon as the turkey is eaten, minds turn to the deals many stores offer the following day. But what of the employees who have to work? I know some, and when a store is opening at 3 a.m., you can bet they had to go to bed early. Sure puts a damper on spending time with family when you plan to go to sleep as soon as dinner is over. And that is if those workers even got to spend time with family, considering their abbreviated holiday!

And about stores opening at 3 a.m., why???!? Why can't they wait until their regular shopping hours? Because they want to open before their competition to get as much money as possible. Surely the holiday would be more enjoyable for everyone if the sales started at 9 a.m. Better rested shoppers and employees might even make for a more pleasant experience.

And to top all that corporate and personal greed off, this was posted just a few days ago.

Next year, let's start a movement and commit to NOT go to any stores on Black Friday, at least not until normal business hours, even if it means missing a great deal. Because do we really need that whatever enough to sell our souls for it? Anyone want to join in a quiet protest?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

On this rainy, dreary Thanksgiving morning, I thought I would sit down and mention some of the things I am thankful for. 

First and foremost, I am thankful for my family. As much as they can drive me crazy, we have two beautiful boys who can be absolutely charming and cute. I have a wonderful husband who encourages me to pursue my passions. Neither of us is perfect, but I think we are pretty perfect together. We have great parents who are actually friends. No worrying here if someone will feel slighted. (How great is it that my mother-in-law invites my parents to Thanksgiving so we can all be together?) 

I'm so grateful that we are all more or less healthy. Yes, Sam has officially been diagnosed with asthma as of yesterday, but that is something minor in the grand scheme of things. He has only had symptoms when his lungs have already been taxed by a cold. 

I'm very thankful that Chris has a steady job and we haven't been overly effected by the recent financial problems. We can pay our bills each month, we have a roof over our heads, and we've only had to make minor adjustments in our budget.

I'm happy the tornado sirens at 5 o'clock this morning heralded a severe storm and any tornados missed us. 

We have many, many wonderful friends, and we are all very thankful to have each and every one. 

I'm thankful that the boys are growing up and gaining independence. Having one out of diapers and one working on potty training is amazing, especially after years of diapers. Being able to sleep a little longer in the morning because they can get up and play quietly is priceless.

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Here's the story....

A number of years ago, as part of a secret Santa game at work, I decided what I really wanted was a housekeeper. I've finally come a big step closer: we have hired a cleaning service to come once a month to deep clean the house. I just need to keep it up in between.

Now, that seems like such a simple thing, but when your official job description is 'homemaker', there's a bit (or a lot) of guilt. After all, isn't that what I should be doing while I'm home with the kids all day? Except it isn't that easy. Between breaking up fights, keeping the boys entertained, and trying to clean without them getting into dangerous chemicals or breaking the vacuum, the house is never all clean on the same day. And a lot gets skipped, put off for another day....

Luckily, Chris is very supportive and was all for hiring help. Especially because we found a service that it very affordable (some cleaning services are way too expensive!) But it's still hard... until I realized that Carol Brady, that paragon of tv-mom-dom, had a full-time housekeeper with 6 school age kids old enough to help out. Seriously, if Mrs. Brady needed or just plain wanted help, I can too.

I hate cleaning. Yes, this is a splurge, but worth it to me. I can pursue things that make me happy like writing. Part of what spurred me to finally make the call was participating in NaNoWriMo. It's slow and I won't be done in the 30 days, but I'm enjoying trying to tell a story. I'd like to do more things like that.

Today was the first time they came to clean. It took 2 professionals nearly 3 hours (6 work hours) to clean the house completely. Seriously, if it took that long for them to thoroughly clean, how can I do it with 2 kids clinging to me, needing attention? I've already scheduled a date for next month. They did a great job. The mopped floors and the sparkling kitchen are totally worth it.

So, in a nutshell:

1) It's ok to hire a cleaning service. Mrs. Brady had a housekeeper.
2) It takes a lot of time for pros to do it. We can forgive ourselves for not having time.
3) Husbands: this is a great Christmas gift. Cleaning companies give free quotes. Merry Maids is expensive. Other companies are affordable.
4) You can have a cleaning company do as much or as little as you want. I have a thorough deep clean, but know several people who just have someone in to do the kitchen and bathrooms.
5) I love my new cleaning service!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Just say so

So here is the update:

A representative from HAND called back and apologized for the misunderstanding. Apparently all the slots filled up before I called in to join the program, but instead of just telling me that, the person I talked to tried to see if we qualified for another program. And didn't explain that, leading me to believe we were in the Beat the Meter Blitz.

I have had time to calm down to write that statement without being too rude. Here's my take:

A lot of the problem, actually all the problem, could have been avoided if they had just told me up front that all the slots were taken. They could even offer to see if we qualified for the other program, but I already knew we didn't and even mentioned that to the person I talked to originally. I would have liked to hear the words "we should have told you upfront all the slots were filled." Period.

I can't change things now. We're not going to get a free energy assessment. It was already too late by the time I finally got through around 9 o'clock since they filled all the slots by about 8:30 on the day I called according to what I was told today. Please just admit that. It's that simple.

I'll give a free clue to anyone wondering how NOT to anger customers. Don't lead people to believe you will give them something when you can't.

The problem of being middle class

The big problem of being middle class, as far as I can see, is that you earn too much to qualify for assistance but not enough to really make headway.

I just did a little research on the definition of middle class and it's pretty complicated. Part of the problem is that a high income in one area is barely scraping by in another. But I think J. D. Foster has a pretty good way of defining income class: the top 20% are rich, the bottom 20% are poor and the middle 60% are middle class, which is household incomes of around $25000-$100000. Yep, that pretty much include just about everyone I know.

What started all this? Last week I called the City of Bloomington Housing and Neighborhood Development Department (HAND) because they, in association with other organizations, were offering free home energy assessments as part of a Beat the Meter Blitz. Since I called so early, I assumed I had a place in the program.

Until today when I received a call from South Central Community Action Program to see if we qualified for their free program (we don't) because a question the person who took my information asked was misleading. Fine, we make too much so I needed to call HAND and try to get back on their list. But their list is full.

Now, I left a message with the person coordinating the program because I am NOT HAPPY about this. The reason we are apparently falling through the cracks, unless I get a phone call later today with positive news, is because I was asked what our monthly income was.

I told the woman I wasn't sure, but she had me guesstimate. So I guessed and told her that was approximately our TAKE HOME PAY. There is a big difference between net and gross income and I could have told her our annual gross income was too high. Actually, I did tell her we make too much to qualify for a free assessment and that was why I was so happy about this opportunity.

So now, because of a poorly worded question, it looks like we are getting screwed out of something we should have been able to get based on my applying in time.

Thanks, city worker. Want to pay for the $300+ assessment we're apparently not going to get for free? I thought not. I certainly don't have a spare $300.

I will update if we manage to squeak into the program, but right now it looks doubtful.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I want to be a paperback writer

With my apologies to the Beatles for using their song in the title.

I decided to try my hand at NaNoWriMo this year. It's only the second day and the going is slow, but I'd like to use this as motivation to try to pull a story from my head and put it on paper. Or computer, as the case may be.

It may wind up being utter crap, but at least I'm giving it a try. The piece I'm working on is a fantasy. I don't have a title yet, and I'm not sure exactly where the story is going, but it's fun and terrible and everything in between to try.

I hope I make the 50000 word goal and get my nifty certificate. But if not, at least I'll have something.