Friday, May 22, 2015

Aftermath of Shanesha Taylor's Decisions

Okay, so it has clearly been a while since I posted anything to this blog. Actually, today's entry came as an accident. I was watching the May 21, 2015 episode of Dr. Phil about Shanesha Taylor who was homeless and came upon legal trouble after making the decision to leave her children in a hot car so that she can attend a job interview. A woman, upon hearing the story, was moved to collect donations for Shanesha online, and she has recently come under fire for the way that she has used the money. After hearing both sides of the story, I decided to comment on my opinions of the situation, but my post got longer and longer so I decided to turn it into a post! Here are my thoughts.

I do not think she thought this thing all the way through. I get what she is saying about how she would have been back in a bad situation in about two months had she complied, but according to her she was already homeless and trading in cans for gas money so an extra two months worth of living is better than the homeless position where she started. 

Also, if she thought finding a job before the car incident was difficult, she has no idea what she is in for now that she has two felonies on her record. Just having one felony is hard enough to get around on its own. They don't even want felons washing dishes at a one-star restaurant. I know because my husband is a felon. As far as HR is concerned (or Joe down street, for smaller companies) the buck stops when you check yes to having a criminal past and yes to having a felony on your record, and even if you check no they will still see it during the background check. 

My husband, James, had to wait about two years before he could find a steady job, and he was not looking for a glamorous position - we're talking about minimum wage jobs and less like scraping trash cans, delivering newspapers, dishwasher, busboy, basic custodian, flipping burgers. None of them were trying to hire a felon. In fact, the only job he could get was doing construction (and actually most of them were not interested in firing a felon, either) but he could not do it because he was physically unable to do hard labor anymore and had no health insurance. I wrote all about the experience on an earlier post. In addition to that, rental companies are also strict with letting felons live on their property, let alone housing authorities. In fact, many leases state that they do not allow felons to live on the property. I have been married for a year and a half and James still is not on my lease for that reason. I cannot even list him as an occupant!

Back to the topic at hand, had she complied and taken the two months of living (according to her calculations) I'm sure that local businesses would have appreciated her industriousness and can-do attitude and would have given her a decent job just based on all the positive publicity surrounding the case at the time. Now she has been blackballed and it really is her own fault. It seems like she has a pattern of thinking only as far as the next few minutes as opposed to thinking of the next year. 

Furthermore, how did she spend $7,000 furnishing a house? If money was tight, I can make a house a home by getting bunk beds and bedding for the children, a cheap basic mattress and rails and bedding for me, clothes for all from Goodwill, shoes for all from Payless, and toiletries, dishware, cookware, and just a few basic toys from Wal-Mart, and a cheap warehouse couch and dinner table and chairs for the dining area. I don't think all for this would have costed more than like $2000, if that. It would have been even less if family and friends gave her a lot of the furniture she needed (come on broke people, you know how we do). 

As for the preacher man who leaked the bad press to the news, I do not find him very credible, which is why I did not quote what he said. Shanesha, Dr. Phil, and her lawyer all stated facts and their own perception of facts. The preacher, on the other hand, came on the show with hearsay. Three things came to my mind about him: 1) If people really did come to him with concerns about Shanesha's spending habits with the gifted monies, he should had gone directly to her to get it straight, not go to the press based on hearsay. There are a lot of broke haters out there who don't like to see another broke person receive what appears to be a free lunch, and they can be looking to interpret things they do not understand to discredit her. For example, let's say her cousin just did her hair for free; a hater can see her looking cute one day on the block and think she just paid $300 to get her hair done. Or she could have lunch with a friend who works for a recording company and a hater can interpret it as her spending money for her boyfriend's rap album. I'm not saying that these things did or did not happen, since I don't know, but I do know that you have to be very careful about putting a lot of stock into the things people say, and you always want to check it out with the accused. 2) The preacher had a fall out with Shanesha because she refused to give a portion of the money to the church and took revenge by slandering her to the newspaper. 3) The preacher wanted some lime light for himself and wanted to be portrayed as a hero, so instead of talking to Shanesha about the things he heard he went straight to the press. 

In conclusion, I think that her shortsightedness is to blame. It sounds like her lawyer was trying to help her realize this but she did not want to follow his counsel and is in a much worse position than where she started. You know, that's a big problem with broke people though. In times of trouble we many times want to end the situation in a higher position than where we started. That is what it sounds like this woman was trying to do. Many times we need to be content with breaking even. Look at this woman. In trying to finish the situation in a higher position than where she started she ended up in a worse position. Actually, had she complied she would have been in a higher position, just not as high as she wanted. 

What do you think? Who side do you most sympathize with, or are you split? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

7 Tips to Deal With Those Outside the Marriage

I have been married only for five months (five long months in a good and bad way, if I am honest). Here are some tips I have learned when it comes to dealing with those outside of the marriage.

1.       Do not fling the good fortune of your friends in your mate’s face, especially if you are talking about a man’s good fortune to your husband, or if you are not working and your mate is. You are saying that you are proud of your friend’s accomplishments, but your mate is hearing that you are discontent with what the two of you have. It is okay to mention it, but don’t keep bringing it up.

2.       Do not spend your mate’s time with other people, especially if the other mate is the working mate. Here is the problem - Constantly texting, talking on the phone, playing video games, or doing anything that excludes your mate sometimes make them wonder what they came home for. We have such little time with our mates anyway after working 40 or more hours a week. Why waste the precious time we do have together ignoring one another.

3.       Do not allow members of the opposite sex to frequently make arrangements with you, especially when they have your mate’s phone number. It just does not look good. Once is fine, but if it is a habit, direct them to your mate.

4.       Do not frequently accept free money from others, especially the opposite sex. Again, it just does not look good. Try your best to keep your finances between your mate and yourself. Things are much easier that way.

5.       Do not hang out with your friends too much, individually or as a couple. If you want to hang out every night, then you are not ready to be married. Marriage means making your mate a priority and frequent alone time is needed to make it work. One common complaint of married parents is that they do not have enough alone time with their mate. The same complaint is common of married persons without kids when one of both hang out too much. Remember, “what God has put together, let no man put apart.” That Bible verse is not only talking about cheating, but it is talking about any person, including friends. If you are trying to put some distance between yourself and your friends, let them know that you love them, but you and your mate need time alone to be with one another. If the only time the two of you spend together is in bed, some priorities need to be shifted.

6.       Consider how your mate feels. Reality is perception, so if your mate feels a certain way and musters up the courage to let you know, then you need to take it seriously and make changes, period. Do not make excuses for your behavior or say ‘That’s just how I am,’ just change it. Your mate should be the most important human in your life, so cherish their opinions. Two considerate mates make for a happier marriage.

7.       NEVER, EVER FLIRT WITH OTHERS!!! It’s as simple as that. Don’t make excuses for it, just have some self-control. Let the world know by your words and conduct that your mate is the only one for you. Flirting undermines that and let’s others know that there is room for them to slip in and steal you away. On the other hand, you can flirt all you want with your mate. Hold hands in public and be loving to one another. Some do not like this and are ultra-conservative, but the problem with that is other’s around you will think that the other person you are always with is a sibling or cousin. Even if they know the two of you are married, a lack of public affection may make them feel that it is not a happy union and again, that there is room for them to slip in and steal you away. I’m not saying to be all over each other. Make small gestures.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Getting On the System

It seems like welfare is a hot topic nowadays. Taxpayers get upset about having to pay for those that they deem are just plain lazy and would rather sit back and collect a check than work, and many of those on welfare are breaking their necks to get off. Here is an article and me and my husband’s decision to apply to get on the system.

“Job for felons! Get your jobs for felons here!”
I would have loved to hear someone yelling the following statement for a street corner like they used to do for newspapers, but the only ones who would make such a statement are probably drug dealers, thieves, or some other kind of criminal. Seriously though, when a person is a felon, it is very difficult to find work. As many of you know, my husband James was charged with a felony 15 years ago for a crime he did not commit. He has filled out about 100 applications for work over the past five months and has not found anything. Neither of us thought that our marriage would consist of me working full-time as the sole breadwinner and us struggling to make my check stretch to cover two people. Our marriage is great otherwise, but we thought he would be unemployed for a short period of time, but as time goes on, we are learning little by little just how high the chips are stacked against him.

You know that line on a job application that says something like this: ‘A criminal record does not necessarily disqualify you as an applicant?’ The truth is that felons are automatically disqualified, but it gets better – those on the sex offender registry are practically burned in effigy by employers. It’s not just hard, it’s real hard. But wait, there’s more! There are some employers that are willing to look past the criminal section of the job application if they are in desperate need of help. Those on the registry who are still on parole must report their employer to their parole office. When they do, the PO is supposed to call the employer and let they know that you are on parole and your charges. James just found out that his by-the-book PO intends on doing this if he finds work.

 The scariest part is finding a job and the boss finds out his charges and mistakenly thinks that he is guilty and some kind of pedophile, rapist, or something like that and takes the law into his own hands against James in some way. I understand people’s zeal for disliking those on the sex offender registry, but most people on the registry did not commit sex crimes. Furthermore, like all other charges, being convicted is one thing, but being actually guilty or innocent is something else which is why vigilantism is a premature way of handling things because the vigilante never knows the whole story or if the accused is even guilty. There are plenty of people in jail that did not commit the crime they were accused of. Fear of vengeful bosses or others the boss blabs to has brought James’ job search to a stop.

In case anyone is lost let’s sum it up like this – 1) It is hard for an ex-con to find a job. 2) It is really hard for a felon to find a job. 3) It is impossible for registered sex offenders to find a job. 4) When either of these is on parole and manages to find a job somehow, it is the parole officer’s job to call your new boss and tell them all of the person’s business.

Getting Paid Under the Table
“But Erica,” you say, “why doesn’t he try to look for a job that pays completely under the table?” Good question! We have been looking for jobs for him that pay under the table, but they are harder to find. The problem with these is that there are many jobs he can do for himself where he can work as a contractor for an individual as a house sitter, a dog walker, or a personal assistant, but anyone with sense will perform a background check on someone who will be in their home.

We have a few ideas for starting his own business, but we don’t have any startup capital and neither of us have good enough credit to get a loan. I have also looked into some freelance office work that I can do on the side. A little work did come through, but not enough to supplement our income.

The System
I did not fully understand it before when people would say that the judicial system is designed to send ex-cons back to jail, but now I understand it more than I would like. The US government touts second chances for convicts by going back to school and pulling one up by their boot straps, but that’s only for a handful of people. Many people turn back to criminal activities because it is very difficult to find a job. We feel screwed by the system, to say the least.

So what do you do when you feel like the system is failing your family? Use that same system to get a check! To say that the government has let down ex-cons is like saying the fires that burned a large part of Rome in Nero’s day could be put out with a glass of water. I thought I would feel like a failure by getting loathsome welfare and food stamps, but I surprisingly feel very good about it. James and I feel a sense of satisfaction in knowing that we are making Uncle Sam pay for our troubles.

“But Erica,” you say, “that money is coming from taxpayers’ dollars.” Correct you are, and I do not feel badly about it at all. These taxpayers include small-minded employers, by-the-book parole officers, and judges that make hasty decisions without any proof because they are up for re-election. It also includes crooked lawmakers that continuously work to make the system harder on individuals while they sit back on their yachts in the Caribbean while drinking Bahama Mamas.

Yet, there is an upside to all of this. Perhaps James can get some additional schooling while he is collecting from the government to make the job search easier once he gets off of parole, but he will still be on the registry. Well, if it is still difficult for him to find work at that time we can continue to collect from the government.

What do you think? Is there something that James and I are overlooking when it comes to helping James to find work? What are your views about getting on Welfare or receiving food stamps? Leave your comments below, and be sure to +1 and subscribe.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

It’s Time for Some Major Venting!

You ever have one of those days? All of you should know what I mean when I say ‘One of those days.’ I am sitting here are work trying my best to remain composed but I need an outlet, and my blog is it! Here is why I am pissed off. When you are finished reading it, please feel free to post what is ticking you off in the comments section below.

No Job for James
My husband, James, is still unemployed, but he had a job interview yesterday and today. The interview yesterday went really well. However, the interview he went to today was a bust for a few reasons. James drove about an hour away to the company’s main office but he would be working not far from where we live if he got the job. Yet, there was no interview. He got there, figured that the office was way too small to be legit, and just came back home. He never even got out of the car!

When he called and told me about this after he got back home, it took all I had to keep from telling him off. It wouldn’t do any good anyway since he was back at home. I asked if the office was in a rural area and he said yes. Bingo! Offices in rural areas tend to be smaller than their counterparts located in cities. I know he was cautious because he found out about it through Craigslist, but I feel like he did not think this one through. He knew he was going to an office and there was an office. He could have at least got out the car and checked it out. Nevertheless, he said he prayed about whether or not to go and he still didn’t feel right so he left. I had to pray that his instincts are correct because I am upset with him for driving all that way for nothing. He said that he would not drive that far again for a job lead and I agreed.

Little Gas, Abundant Whine
Unlike many families, we have to budget our gas out. For this week and next week we had $90 for gas and drive a regular Sedan. James is in charge of the gas money and has been doing great with not spending it on things other than gas. The above non-interview for today took a toll on our gas tank, and James said that we may not have enough money for gas to hold us until next week and that we may need to borrow money because we only had $20 left. One thing about me: I HATE borrowing anything from people, especially money.

He asked me if I could think of anyone to borrow from because he cannot think of anyone. I suggested that we only use the car to get me to and from work and religious functions (held three times a week). Do you know this fool had the audacity to complain that he does not want to be trapped in the house while I am at work? The nerve of this guy! I am trying to make sure the necessities are met in the household and he is worried about his trips to the library and driving around the neighborhood to get out of the house. If he wants to leave the house so badly then he needs to walk.

I told him that I can’t think of anyone either to borrow from and I’m not going to think or anyone. If he feels that inconvenienced by being stuck in the house, let him be the one to ask someone to loan him money. I couldn’t reach through the phone and given him a dummy smack like we used to do back in the day when people would speak nonsense.

Guys, you may want to skip this one, but women should know what I’m talking about when I mention UTI, that is, a urinary tract infection. I found out I had it last night. To be fair, it is completely my fault for holding my urine way too long yesterday while at work. I had UTI before so I knew all of the symptoms to recognize – frequent and painful urination, blood in the urine (a lot of blood this time), strong odor in the urine, and today I felt very mild discomfort in my kidneys. I whipped out my cranberry pills last night and I already notice an improvement. Still, I hate the feeling of having to pee a gallon of liquid when only about an ounce is released, and I cannot hold it at all right now. When I have to go, I have to GO. I have to wear pads for the time being because it will leak out in an instant.

No New Job, Yet
I recently posted about my struggles to find a new job after that slap-in-the-face bonus. I applied to another job with my company and have yet to hear about it. However, the take like two to three months to hire internal employees for some reason. I hate the waiting game. By the way, I was right – my raise got me an extra $30 per check. Well whoop-de-doo!

Tyler Perry
In my opinion, Tyler Perry is a talentless hack, and I am more upset with people that like him than with him. Besides, he came up with a good hustle without any skill. His comedies are not funny at all and his dramas are often overly dramatic. Heck, I can tell this by watching his commercials which was supposed to show the highlights of his movies and TV shows. However, I recently had my suspicions confirmed when I recently saw Confessions of a Marriage Counselor.

First of all, the only reason why I saw this movie is because James picked it out. Most of the actors did any awful job, but hats off to Lance Gross, Ella Joyce, Renee Taylor, and Vanessa Williams, all of whom did great jobs despite the poor writing. This movie had a good premise, but it needs a skillful writer and a way better lead than Jurnee Smollett-Bell. The only thing she was capable of doing is looking at the camera with an aloof look as if she forgot what she is supposed to be doing. Actually, if you replace Perry as the writer and director and Sollett-Bell as the lead, it may have been pretty good.

As for Peeples, there is no hope for that movie. James wanted to see that one too and insisted that I would like it. I laughed not once, and there were times where the actors themselves looked as if they cannot believe they are saying what they are saying and doing what they are doing, like they were in disbelief at being associated with such a stupid movie. My husband laughed his head off while I was looking straight-faced at it waiting for something that is actually funny to happen. I could not even finish the movie. When he got up to go to the store, I put something else in.

So what is America’s fascination with Perry, especially among the black community? Nine out of ten people I have talked to in person and online cannot stand his projects, so why is he still successfully turning out new junky projects? Are we so bored with reality TV that we are willing to take anything? When did entertaining others become a lazy hobby? This guy needs to take a few years off to really study his craft and become skilled with it.

Entertainment Industry
Is it just me, or do all movies fall within certain categories nowadays? I don’t mean categories like comedy, action, and drama, but they are all way too predictable, as if I’ve seen them all before. For example, when it comes to action movies, the stunts are all the same, the plot is the same usually a cop looking to clear his name or a top secret agent trying to fight crime or terror, and a lot of the same actors are used for them (Tom Cruise, Matt Damon, Craig Daniel, etc). Comedies are either about dumb teens or college kids going through things that their real life counterparts would never experience, adult friends trying to find a man or woman by doing unnecessary things, or adult male or female bonding.  It’s ridiculous!

And what is with all of the language?! Something everyone should know about me is that I hate profanity to the core and have hated it every since I gave up the filthy habit in high school. There has been a few times that I was watching a PG-13 movie with more ‘fudge’ ‘shoes’ and ‘bridges’ than an actual thirteen year old should be hearing. A perfect example is Premium Rush. The movie was actually a really good movie with a novel plot, that is, it would have been a really good movie if it was not for all the language. It was terrible, and there are lots of movies like that.

Is it true that in order for a movie to be successful it has to be riddled with gratuitous profanity, sex, and extreme violence? I cannot stand movies where my ears and/or eyes have to be polluted. I do not need those things in order to relate to the characters, understand what is taking place, or perceive the character’s emotions - Bob does not have to curse his wife from head to toe for me to get that he is upset with her, Jane does not have to have a steamy sex scene with John for me to get that she likes him a lot, and Bill does not have to yank out Jesse’s eyeballs and genitals and stick them in his mouth for me to get that he hates him. Really, when did it become okay to depict these things in the movies? What is wrong with us as Americans that we like watching such things?

Short Cubicle Walls
I was sitting here a few hours ago minding my business when a colleague comes to my desk behind my chair. I greeted her but she did not acknowledge me at all. She started talking over my short cubicle wall to the person sitting on the other side and then left without saying a word to me as if it is okay to do that.

I am not completely against cubicles because many are big and private, but I hate the cubicles where I work because the walls are short - making it easy to do what my colleague did - and the top foot of the wall is glass. We used to have the prime cubicles in another building where we used to work, but they changed all of that. They tried to sell us on the change by saying it promotes camaraderie and gibberish like that, but I guess camaraderie means that rude colleagues can come to my desk to talk to others on the other side instead of walking around. The truth is that they wanted a better scope of what we are doing while at our desks.

Rising Cost of Food
‘Nough said.

Whiny Husband
I’m sorry, but I have to jump back to my baby for this one. I love James more than any other person on this earth and he is my best friend, but he is working my last nerve with his whining. The root of the problem is that the boy refuses to acknowledge just how down to the dollar we are. It is no longer the way it was when we were both working. Now that we have to live on one paycheck, I am doing the best I can to focus on what we need, but he keeps trying to squeeze some unnecessary things out and is getting on my nerves in the process. Here is what I am referring to, in addition to the gas issue mentioned earlier:

1)      When I got paid last week he said that he would like $50 for himself including $10 to put towards a bill he has. I was only able to give him $40 and he whined about how he has to have that extra $10. By the time I got off of work, I learned that his bill was unpaid and that he used most of his money to buy clothes from the thrift store. I was pissed off because he did not need new clothes at all, but the bills were paid and I was not dipping from bill money so he can go and play, so I didn’t let him have it. Do you know how much money I got for myself out of my paycheck that I busted my tail for? $0. ‘Why,’ you ask. Because I know how to do without while he is so set on having things a certain way.
2)      James will whine that we don’t have food in the house. Why? Because he does not know how to ration out his food for two weeks and when I try to do it for him he complains that he is still hungry. If I make 10 drumsticks, he can eat five in a day.  In the meantime, I’m sitting pretty because I don’t mind eating rice, grits, and cornbread, as long as I eat. He, on the other hand, keeps looking for meat with a side item.
3)      While shopping for household and laundry cleansing items, I am content to get everything I need from the dollar store and maybe three or four dollars on laundry detergent. James, on the other hand, insists on only using tried and true name brand items like Mr. Clean, Pine Sol, Gain, Downy, and Tide, which costs money. When I suggest that he try more budget friendly items he whines that it will not work as well and he must get the name brand items, and he has to buy everything. He doesn’t just buy name brand laundry detergent; he also has to buy the matching dryer sheets and fresh scent booster. He doesn’t just buy a name brand floor cleanser; he also has to buy the matching disinfectant spray.

James was raised in a very rich family where money was not an issue, but he is far from that lifestyle right now. I have tried to explain to him over and over again that we cannot indiscriminately spend money because when we do that we are hurting ourselves because bills are not getting paid. All I know for sure is that he can whine all he wants, but I am not budging when it comes to taking money from necessities so he can get a bottle of Champagne when all we can afford is a Four Loko and a smile.

What’s Eating You?Now it’s your turn. What do you need to vent about? What is making you angry right now? Leave your comments below.

Be sure to comment, +1, and subscribe.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Advice Needed for a Married Woman, Please.

It was the sweetest thing in the world that I have ever experienced. My boyfriend (whom I later married) and I were walking on the beach when some friends of ours came running to us saying that I needed to see something that washed up on the beach. I ran with them back to where they were a few yards away and there was written in the sand ‘Erica, will you marry me?’ I turned around and James was down on one knee with a ring. He said he loves me so much and could not imagine living without me. I emphatically said yes and we embraced and kissed, and all was right with the world in that moment.

It sounds good, right? Too bad it did not actually happen. If you asked me how James popped the question, I would not be able to tell you anything because he never actually proposed. ‘But Erica,’ you must be thinking, ‘how did you’ll get married without a proposal?’ Believe me, that’s just what happened. Let me try to explain as best I can.

First of all, from the beginning of our dating period to the end we knew that we would end up together. Things were not perfect, of course, but they were just right for us and we recognized it immediately. We would talk about when we would be married and how much we would enjoy being together all the time under the same roof as a family.

Neither of us had much money, but we needed an engagement ring to get married. When he started mentioning the need for us to have a ring, I told him not to spend a lot of money on it and we agreed on a reasonable cap. However, every time I talked to him about it he would say that he is going to get me a ring worth more than the limit we agreed on. I was getting worried that he would go completely broke on a ring. He also has untreated ADHD and has a hard time focusing on the bigger picture on his own which means that he can spend a lot of money in a short period of time if left to himself.

We went down to the beach with two friends of ours. While at an inlet thrift store, we passed a shop that sold jewelry and I saw a nice ring for a great price that would not break James’ bank. James paid for it and immediately walked away because the video game shop nearby caught his eye, and the shopkeeper gave me the ring. That’s it, ladies. That’s the “romantic” way it happened.

You know, in this life I am not ambitious and do not seek to have many things. I do not want to be a home owner, I do not want to have children, I do not want to have a college degree, I do not want to own a brand new car, and I do not want to be the CEO of my company. Regarding marriage, I did not want a reception or a big expensive wedding, but what I did want is a nice proposal. It did not have to be flamboyant and expensive, just nice and from his heart. The proposal I described in the beginning of this post would have been more than sufficient and it was neither flamboyant nor expensive.

We have been married for three months now and the marriage is just fine, but sometimes the feelings that I was cheated out of the proposal are overwhelming. Even watching fake proposals on TV and movies are overwhelming. And what do I tell my girlfriends when they ask how he proposed? Many of them have great stories to tell, and all of them are simple, yet very romantic. I have no story to tell. Nothing at all! What I have been saying is, “At the beach,” and I let them fill in the details in their mind. Besides, there are 101 romantic ways a woman can be proposed to at the beach. In fact, a close friend of mine (I’ll call her Maria) was just proposed to at the same beach, and that made me feel overwhelmed for a few reasons. Let me explain.

First, she got a proper proposal and I did not. Second, she got a nice sparkly diamond ring from Jared while my ring came from a thrift shop and already has a spot of brown on it, so I have been wearing my plain wedding band. Third, her fiancé has a nice job with little economic worries and is financially responsible while James is laid off, has a hard time finding work due to an old felony from the late 90s, and would spend every dime of our money if he could thanks to his ADHD, but that last point has already been addressed and is not a big issue anymore.

We hung with Maria, her fiancĂ©, and her family last night for a few hours. I am genuinely happy for her, but I could not help but feel jealous. I know that I am not the only woman to have a non-proposal engagement or be in a new marriage that is struggling financially, but it is still hard to see someone get all of the things that I wanted. She absolutely deserves to be happy and have all the good things in life, but don’t I deserve those things, too?

It seems like every time something is going well in my life, it comes with a big down side. I can marry the love of life, but it will be without the proposal I have been waiting for and we will have to struggle for an undisclosed amount of time while he looks for work. I can work the job of my dreams where I deal only with paperwork and computers, but only if I take a big pay cut in base pay and bonuses. I can go to college, but only if I accept a lifetime loan.

But I digress, a little. Anyhow, James noticed I was feeling down by the time we got back home and he asked if the proposal was the reason why. We talked about it before, so he knows that it is a big deal that I did not get a proposal. We talked about it and he said that since we were already talking about marriage he did not see the point in proposing. I told him that every woman wants a proposal because it is a public display of love shown for her. He said that he is very private and would not feel comfortable proposing publicly. I told him that he could also propose privately, but the point is that he propose, that I did not get any kind of proposal. He said he did not realize how important it is to me and he will keep that in mind for the future and that he can try to make things right when he gets my new engagement ring.

His intentions are good, but do I believe him? Not for a second. Like I said, James has ADHD which means that his brain is wired a certain way that, well, is not normal. If it is not the focus of the hour he will forget it completely whereas the average person can put something to the back of their mind while they are taking care of more urgent business. We have a number of important things coming up, including moving to a larger apartment, paying to have his mother move in with us from across the country, and buying furniture. After all of that is taken care of (money permitting) over the next few months to a year, do you really think he will even remember to buy me a new ring without me reminding him? And whatever manner in which he gives it to me will not really be a surprise since he just told me last night what he plans on doing and took the surprise out of it.

This is what I have learned: James is super sweet, loving, and concerned about my feelings. However, this is how things are going to be, not because he is a bad person, but because he is incapable of doing some things on his own because he cannot focus long enough to finish many of the thoughts he has. He is trying hard to do what he can and I really do appreciate his efforts. I know that if I had to do it all over again I would still pick him. Yet, he just cannot do the simple romantic things that a husband does for his wife. Our “night life” is great. No problems there, but I’m talking about romance, not sex. I have to plant the idea in his mind to get me even a simple card or teddy bear, and this is difficult since I am a hopeless romantic. Everyone knows that romance lies mostly in being caught off guard, but James has to be prodded to do romantic things because he cannot think beyond what we need and what he wants. That's ADHD in a nutshell.

So people, help me out here. How do I get over the proposal I never received? Have you experienced something similar where you got a crappy proposal or none at all, and when you look back on it do you feel robbed? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Friends Are a Funny Thing

Perhaps you have been in settings like the one in the graphic above - having tea with good friends without a care in the world. In those moments, did you ever think that one day your friends would betray you, avoid you, make you want to avoid them, or annoy you until you no longer wanted to anything to do with them? I have not been alive for decades upon decades, but I have definitely experienced all of these.

We all want friends that will support us, allow us to support them, and have a good time with us. However, the truth is that we probably have more fair-weather friends than solid friends. I am fascinated at how finicky humans are and, thereby, how finicky our relationships can be with one another in every way. In fact, I know of two couples who, when they were single, would complain about the person they ended up with and state how uninterested they are. One of those two couples is now engaged. Nevertheless, it is the relationship of friendship that is the most mysterious. We are not obligated to a friend in the same way as a family member, and we are not interested in getting to know a platonic friend better with the hopes of being romantic with them. They do not have authority over us like a boss where we are trying to get close enough to them to make things easier for ourselves and hopefully get something out of them.

Isn’t it true that we just like having friends to have someone to have a good time with and experience mutual encouragement? That is fine, but it leaves more gray areas than any other relationship I know of. For example, you know not to curse at your parents because they made it clear not to do so a long time ago; you know not to mention to your boss that you got drunk at the club last night and slept with a hot stranger because you like to keep a level of anonymity about your personal life from those that you report to in a professional capacity; you know not to call your girlfriend a whore because you know women do not like being called bad names and you do not want her to leave you.

What is it about friendships that make it difficult to have open and honest conversations with one another? Perhaps because there is no established relationship like the ones just mentioned. That always makes it easier for friends to break up. The truth is that a friend has probably one good time to come at us the wrong way or do the wrong thing before we refuse to have anything to do with him again, definitely not more than two for the average person. Life is too short to waste on frustrating friendships. I imagine that it would be best to set boundaries like we do with other relationships, but it is also more awkward to do because the relationship is between two equals, not a person who is an authoritarian over the other. It can best be likened to a relationship between siblings, but it lacks the familial advantage.

I don’t have it all figured out, but here are some of the funny friendships that I am currently dealing with, one of which prompted this post.

He Cares, but He Does not Really Care
Friends are there to help one another. When one is down, the other lifts him up. Sounds good, right? Hah! It does not always work that way. There is one very good friend of mine and my husband’s that we will call Jacob. In fact, he is the friend that we are the closest to, that we can be candid with, shoot from the hip, let our hair down, and just have fun.

Then what is the problem? As many of you know, my husband has been laid off for a while now. Jacob works in the same field as my husband and owns his own small business. He has a drug-user working with him who shows up for work dirty, smelly, and with his eyes half open. To add insult to injury, he works with clients like this. He has even left work before his shift was over because he was so high or needed to get high. My husband James has not said anything to Jacob about it and he probably never will, but he has expressed to me that Jacob needs to let that guy go and hire him instead.

I think that Jacob is one of those people that will help with some small basic things, but when you ask him for something big, like a job, the door shuts. What really hurts is that James and I are both thoroughly open-hearted with others, which sometimes gets us into trouble. So when we need something, we expect the world to open up and give us just what we need. Unfortunately, it does not work that way. We will continue to be friends with Jacob, but it is sad when friends do not look out for one another.

The Phantom
Most of us have been on a date where we think things are going well and we expect to go out on another date with the person, but they never call. The same can happen with friends.

Another friend that I will call Matt was very cool to hang out with. He is confidential and you never have to worry about what is said to him being told to another. In addition, he is also fun to hang out with. A few months ago he had us over for dinner and a movie. We had a great time and have been looking for that second ‘date,’ but he has not hung out with us since. When we see him in passing he seems fine and talks to us like normal, unlike someone who secretly hates us. James even called Matt a few times to see if he wanted to hang out, but he declines every time. It is possible that he actually could be busy every time, but James and I feel like we are being avoided. I guess I should not have burped the alphabet after eating a bowl of raw onions while dancing on his table with his cat.

Overly familiar
Remember the trouble I mentioned earlier that James and I sometimes get into because of being helpful? Well here he is, Mr. Overly Familiar. We became acquainted with him about a month ago and he is proving to be a nuisance to us as well as to others. He makes improper jokes, touches the person while he is talking (my creep meter goes off the chart when he does it), and his voice and ways are just plain annoying. He also overly flatters the person that he is with. He gave James so many compliments one time that I thought he was trying to give me competition for my own husband! James said he is uncomfortable with it, too.

I do not wish this man any ill will at all, but I just want him to find other friends to hang with and give us some space. It is like he is burping the alphabet after eating a bowl of raw onions while dancing on our table with the cat! Who does that? Oh. Um, forget that last point.

The fading friend
First, let me state that this friend is not necessarily a cause for concern. You know how you are close to someone and have great times with them, but the friendship fades as you get older? I think that is where this friendship is. This is the one that prompted me to write this post. I’ll call her Edna.

Edna and I were very close at one time. We would go over each other’s house and hang out all the time. Things started to change when James and I got engaged. That’s when she started to spend more time with her other friends. I guess she felt that I would want to spend more alone time with James instead of in groups like we usually did where we would all hang out. I think it’s great that she is spending time with other people doing things they like to do, but I was hoping to still be in her life, and so was James. We are not the exclusive married couple that only hang out with each other, but we love being around friends. To the contrary, we are the ones reaching out to her and she is the one declining our invitation. Trust me, I am not heartbroken about this at all. I have moved on from so many friendships throughout my life that it most times happens without me giving it a second thought.

Nevertheless, while I was at work I could not get some events off of my mind with Mr. Overly Familiar mentioned above and I wanted to vent about it to someone. She had just texted me about some work stuff and we went back and forth a little bit, so I thought it would be okay to vent to her. Besides, we would vent to each other all the time at one point. When I got it all off of my chest and was waiting for her to respond, she said that she was surprised that James and I were not being fair with Mr. Overly Familiar and that everyone needs a second chance. I think I was more upset with her response than with him. I gave her examples of why the problem is not us, and that he makes many others feel weird too. I don’t know if I was successful in making her see things from my point of view or not, but the conversation ended by her telling me to do what I feel is best. I immediately changed the conversation to something else which ended with me asking some question I was not really interested in about something I know she is looking forward to, but she never responded. That was over three hours ago.

There is probably nothing more irritating to me than being misunderstood. Well, that and being cut off while I’m talking. Not only that, but I felt like she was taking the side of someone she did not know over me, a woman that she knows is not quick to make conclusions about someone. Heck, my husband, the love of my life, is proof of that!

As I played over in my mind our conversation, I realized that the level of our friendship had been downgraded from good confidential friend to associate. That’s okay. It happens all the time. What is important to me is recognizing when it happens so I can act accordingly.

The Maybe Gossiper
As some could tell based on an earlier post I made about gossipers, I do not have friends that gossip. Now there are times when close friends will confidentially bounce things off of me to get another opinion on the situation, but that’s different from telling people’s business for sport. However, I do have a friend that I now feel uncomfortable discussing things with. I’ll call her Mandy.

Mandy and I met through another friend. She was cool and we hit it off instantly. However, ever since that initial conversation, I have a feeling in the pit of my stomach that I should not tell her anything else personal about myself. She says that she is confidential and I believe her on one level, but on another level I feel like she could possibly be sharing information with someone else. The reason why I feel this way is because sometimes she will text me out of nowhere asking for more details about some things I previously revealed to her, and the only people I know who bait others for additional details about a past topic out of thin air are gossipers. It is not just one question, it is question after question after question. Whether she is repeating what I tell her or not, I do not ignore my intuition, so I will not be telling her anything else. As far as she is concerned, my life is perfect, there are no problems, and sky is pink.

Like all things, there is a lesson in especially this kind of friend: Do not be too quick to give details about yourself to others. I do not think I told her anything too deep, but I do regret telling her whatever I did tell her. Right now, my new rule is not to say anything personal about myself for at least ninety days. Bad friends usually will have revealed themselves within that amount of time. We will spend a lot of time talking about the weather, but that’s fine with me. The funny thing is that James learned the same lesson with Mr. Overly Familiar, only in his world the sky is orange.

Who are your funny friends?
If you have a true friend that you really can depend on come what may, you should celebrate your friendship because many of us can only cycle through the friends we have that sometimes act funny. If you don’t have a true friend despite your efforts, join the club. Whether you want more friends, want to get rid of friends, or want to strengthen the friendships you have, you are in good company.

What funny friends are you currently dealing with? Are you one of those people with really good friends through and through? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Is It Like This Anywhere Else, Or Do We Just Suck?

The title of today’s post sounds strong, and it is. Many of us know what it is like to work hard for something with little or no thanks, but when it happens on a professional level with money, it is harder to swallow. Let me explain what happened and I would like you to explain if this is the norm where you live, be it in another part of the USA or another country.

The Meeting
About two weeks ago I had a meeting with my boss to discuss what I earned for my raise and annual bonus. First of all, my boss is the best and I understand that her hands are tied with a lot of things. She has guidelines to follow just like everyone else. Nevertheless, long story short, I did great last year! In fact, I only missed a perfect score for my annual review by one mark, just one mark! When I heard that, I just knew that I would be rolling in the dough, so to speak. Then we moved on to talk about the really important stuff: money. I learned that I had earned a little over $2200 for my annual bonus and my raise was 4%.

The Disappointment
I thanked her and was trying to sound as gracious as possible. Besides, one friend of mine did not get an annual bonus at all at her job and another friend who works at my job cannot receive any more raises because she has hit the proverbial ceiling. Yet, the truth is that I was really disappointed. I worked my butt (for lack of a much better word) off last year and I had the paperwork and testimonials to prove it. I did plenty of extra work, expanded my original ten daily duties that came with my job to over thirty (you heard it right, I do three times the amount of work on a daily basis than my job originally called for), and I was creative in saving the company money. $2200 for an annual bonus was kind of like a slap in the face. I was hoping to make almost double that amount and take it to buy a cheap, but good, used car so I could get out from under the burden known as a car loan.

As for the 4% raise, that would not be too bad for someone who was rich or at least well off, but not for someone like me who lives hand to mouth and by all accounts would continue to do so for at least another year since I can’t get rid of the car loan like I planned.

The Breakdown
Well, I tried to buck up and look for the silver lining in the increasingly gray clouds and told myself that I could still find a good car for about $2200, especially if I buy it from someone who is selling it not for money but to get rid of it so they can get a newer car. I hopped on Craigslist,,, and Ebay to find a car for sale by the owner, as opposed to a dealership in order to avoid ridiculous doc/administrative fees and taxes. I actually found a lot of good cars for less than $2200 and was starting to feel like maybe I could still go along with my plans.

That’s when the following question hit me like 3 tons of bricks: Are my annual bonus and raise amounts being given to me in the gross amount (pre-taxes) or the net amount (post-taxes)? The answer would make a world of difference and I needed to find out, so I shot an email to my boss and asked her. She confirmed that I was dealing with the gross amount. I hate dealing with the gross amount. It means nothing to me and is synonymous with the imaginary numbers I used to deal with in Algebra II in high school as represented by i, but I digress. My heart sank probably for the third time. Actually, my heart sank so many times during this whole ordeal that I was ready to take up residence in my local cardiac clinic.

I went on every website I could to calculate approximately how much would be taken out, but they only gave estimates and were pretty wobbly and I wanted to know exactly what I would have to play with. Well, my friends, I found out today. Here is the breakdown:

Of the $2200 for my annual bonus, I only received about $1300. Uncle Sam (who I would like to disown, by the way) took 39%. 39%?! That’s $858!

‘But Erica,’ you say, ‘take your raise to save and buy that new car next year.’ Good idea! However, the 4% raise (which raises my base income by $0.60) is only worth $1200 annually, and when you divide it by the 12 months of the year it only equals an additional $100 per month, $50 biweekly. But remember, we are talking about pre-tax figures, so the money that I actually take home will probably only be an additional $30 or so.

That is what all of my hard work is worth: an additional $30 to take home in each check, and a glorious annual bonus of $1300. Well, since I have no money to put towards a new car, the good news is that between my bonus and the cash I have in the bank, I can pay the back payments on my car loan, a badly needed fuel injection and what I need to perform an oil, oil filter, and air filter change, gas to get me through the one and a half weeks, put $23 in savings, and pay the light bill. After spending the remaining $12 on the luxury of lunch for today and monthly feminine supplies, the balance will be $0. Lovely.  

My Conclusion
The truth is that I love my job. I like paperwork, computers, statistics, and not dealing with customers. What else could a paper-pushing math and tech geek like me want? My management team and colleagues are great because they really know how to leave me alone to do what I do. On the other hand, another truth is that in this country people oftentimes have to leave the job that they love in order to eke out a living by working a job they dislike because it pays more, and that is what I am now seeking to do.

What else can I do? My husband is still laid off, we need a bedroom set (not a new bedroom set, but a first one), our mattress is murder to sleep on, and the pleather sofa in the living room is starting to rip up. It is also difficult to keep food in the refrigerator, gas in the car, and keep up with auto maintenance, which is why I went back to doing it myself but I still have to buy the supplies. We live on $1600 a month and have $23 in our savings account right now thanks to my generous bonus as explained earlier. As a side point, no, my current job does not offer overtime to help me earn more money.

I was just online yesterday looking for a higher paying job, anything to make it easier. It took a lot of time to get to this point. I like my colleagues and the management team I am under. I have done some side work on, sold items on the Amazon Marketplace, received pennies for performing tasks for Amazon Turk, created this blog to earn money from ads (which turned into more of a hobby after yielding $0) and posted ads on Craigslist to offer all kinds of services to people, and signed up for Fiverr, all in an effor to receive extra money, but something has got to give. I just need to get a new full-time permanent job that pays more money, even if it means doing work that I do not prefer.

The Effects
My situation has really made me feel self-conscious around others. I don’t measure my self-worth or my relationship with my husband in dollars and cents, but I still cannot help but feel a little disappointed when I have to get my shoes from Goodwill because I cannot afford a pair of clearance shoes from Payless; when I overhear other couples discuss how they are going to take a cruise or a trip out of state when we can barely afford the gas to travel to the other side of town; when I walk past a jewelry counter displaying cheap engagement rings that are less than $100 that we cannot afford while my engagement ring is home in my jewelry box because it started to change colors a little after four months of wearing it; when I have to turn down every invitation to eat out with others because we simply cannot swing it; when others were in their warm comfortable homes this past winter while we were huddled around a cheap small portable heater to keep warm in an effort to keep the energy bill down; when my co-workers go to the cafeteria or elsewhere to have lunch while I have sometimes had nothing to eat because I needed to leave enough food in the house to eat dinner – my one meal of the day; when friends are able to get their feet, hands, eyebrows, and hair done regularly while I can’t even seem to get up $15 up to buy the supplies needed to braid my own hair; and when others in the grocery store are able to purchase whole pork loins, racks of ribs, cuts of exotic meats like bison and lamb, and seafood, while we have to buy ramen noodles, grits, pork chops, and chicken thighs.

I am not comparing myself to people who are rich, but just what the average person can afford. We usually cannot even enjoy the basic things in life. However, no matter how I feel on the inside at times, I try to be strong for my husband and keep it inside. Any woman whose husband has been unemployed knows how trying that situation is on everyone in the household. My husband already has bouts of feeling less than a man because I am the only one working now, but the feelings intensify the moment I say that we don’t have enough to take care of something because he knows that we would have enough if only he could find work. He has the car right now and is driving around to find work, and he really will do anything, even if it means making minimum wage or less.  I try to reassure him and tell him to focus on what he does contribute to the household and that what matters are his efforts to find work, but sometimes I can’t get through.

What is your experience?
What I’m dying to know is the following: Is professional life this sucky for anyone else? As bad as things are for us financially, we have, by the grace of God, been able to keep things together thus far. We are also able to enjoy spending time together doing very simple things, and I would not trade those moments for anything. Yet, the fact remains that currently my professional life sucks and his is nonexistent.

What about you? Are you able to purchase what you need with little care or are you also in a constant struggle? Do you feel like you are being fairly compensated, or is your income not equal to the work you put out for your employer? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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