Saturday, August 31, 2013

What is a Living Wage These Days

When I was growing up, somehow the culture instilled in me that waiting tables at the local fried chicken restaurant, which was popular for miles around, was not a path to long-term financial stability.  It was a summer and weekend job to provide me with money for the frugal college years ahead.  My family was poor as were most of the farming families in the area and yet most parents wished a college education for their children.  So, children took jobs and worked and saved.  Yet, there were women, not men, for whom this waiting tables was a permanent job.  They were proud of being excellent at what they did and being able to carry five plates on one arm and remembering every customer's unique needs.  They bragged about tips sometimes.

I never wondered about those women.  They frightened me a little because they were so good at their jobs and so intense about their work and so rough when they took their cigarette breaks outside.  But I never wondered why they took the career path they did and how they made ends meet when they got home.

Now there is a movement to give fast food workers a living minimum wage.  While I agree that we need to raise their salaries in conjunction with the way profits for fast food places has grown, I wonder when we accepted that this type of job should be considered a realistic permanent career and a path that would allow them to raise families.  Yes, I a aware that many have no other opportunities, many are not expertise enough to do another type of job and many do not realize they are in a financial path that has no hope for escape.  But an opportunity for a lower middle class lifestyle...I think not...unless they are working to be a manager of such a franchise.

Yes, I am a liberal but concerned about how we think about jobs in this country. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Regarding the various comments from my prior post, you all have me thinking, thinking, and thinking.

Well, I am going to be honest regarding the financial help without being too honest.  It was over 100K that we provided to the purchase of this new house.  It is a holding space so that they qualified for the mortgage.  The plan is that they will give it back to us when they sell the house they are currently leaving.  They have that much equity in it.  (Maybe this is why we are so invested in the immediate and best price sale of the house.)

Yes, Mage, we could afford to hire painters and fence installers, but  kids cannot.  We would probably not see that money returned to us if we did this.  Therefore, we are too frugal and do it ourselves.  Or we negotiate with their neighbors next door and we have the kids provide the fence materials and find the neighbor and his landscape crew are more than happy to install the fence AND tear out their rusted,ugly chain link fenced.  (Mr. Neighbor seems thrilled to be able to hide all his lawn mowers, work trucks and other stuff behind an 8-foot fence!)

Earlier this year my husband and I washed and painted a small condo that my son owns (with 5K we gave him and which he never paid back) and which he now rents and clears a few hundred each month for income. My son and his wife did help us with this project on that weekend.

Regarding the word "No."  followed by "Just cannot work out time to help you at this time.  We would love to, but just cannot." who knows why we cannot say this?

I have gone over the reasons:

DIL's parents are extremely hard workers and if they lived closer would put us to shame as they are also talented in this type of work, unlike we, who barely get a fine coat of paint across a wall.  Fear that they would show us up, if not now, then someday?

Perhaps after a number of years of distance we have our son back in our lives and we are afraid to lose him again, if we do not help and help and help?

Perhaps we are those Puritan work ethic types that feel guilty if we do not display love through hard work?

Perhaps we are so insecure that we are afraid they will only love us if we make such sacrifices?

Perhaps we like the sense of accomplishment as it proves we are not dead yet and we know that soon we will not be able to offer this help and be too old and it give us bragging rights?

Perhaps we subconsciously want to use it to manipulate our children thoroughout their lives as many parents do???

...Oh Gee, I just noticed I have white paint under my fingernails, the few that have not been totally chipped away by all this work.  Excuse me....will you?

On the Road Again

Off today for the 50 mile drive up to wash and paint the kid's kitchen and utility room, spackle a crack in the living room ceiling and if time, paint that, and then pick up the fence parts and posts that Home Depot failed to deliver.

Yes, Mage, I will post about the word "No,"  in a few days.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Sleepless in the Mid-Atlantic

It happens these days that insomnia is the only way I find time to collect my thoughts and do some blogging.  Watching the moon fall across the sky, I can sit without distraction.  There is no reason for my inability to sleep.  I have been Uber busy leading the life of a workhorse keeping up with very small children, then working strenuously on my son and DIL's home to get it ready for sale.  Weeding, mulching, trimming trees, bundling twigs, planting annuals...all to get it ready to put on the market.  When we finished this we turned to the inside of the house and helped them pack to get the house ready for house shoppers.

My DIL is a hoarder collector of all kinds of stuff and she gets very attached to memorabilia.  I can sell you two boxed and never opened Baltimore Orioles bobble head dolls! ( I also discovered that fancy letter boxes would be a nice Christmas gift.)  My son is a sound engineer and owns three four guitars along with enough sound system equipment to furnish a studio.  Various relatives have donated odds and ends furniture to the young couple over the years and if you add all the wedding gifts, mostly kitchen stuff and linens, then you have a two-bedroom 900 square foot house that has only pathways between rooms to move about.  For many days it has looked like an episode of Hoarders or some tragic accident of nature.

They finally rented a storage unit and have it now two-thirds filled it with crap all their extra stuff.  We packed boxes, lifted heavy furniture, loaded a file cabinet, and threw out as much stuff as they would let us after we finished the yard.

I remember one year when I moved my daughter into college and my mother-in-law into our house in a matter of weeks.  I had hoped then that this type of craziness would no longer fill my life.  ( I really have to find a way to be out of town when they make the move into the newly purchased house!)

Monday, after this super weekend, I came home and realized I had to go over my house with a fine tooth comb after the departure of little ones.  I got 6 loads of laundry done, (haven't yet stripped the two beds upstairs,) and dusted, vacuumed and mopped floors, cleaned out the toy cupboard to throw away stuff, cleaned out the DVDs and separated children's books from library books, completing just the main rooms on the main floor.  Next, after Tuesdays volunteer morning, I have to do bathrooms, my master bedroom and the main floor closets.  The basement and upstairs will have to wait a day or two more.

I am not writing all this to brag about my industrious life style.  This is just he way that I am.  I do get pleasure out of having things neat and organized for at least a short time.  I could also write about months being a couch potato, but that will happen this winter.

At any rate one would think that restorative sleep is what my body would demand after all this physical and mindless labor.  But it seems that I get about 5 hours of sleep and then find myself wide awake waiting for morning to begin so that I can get more stuff done.  I am sure a therapist could have a field day with such antics, but unless they can help me sleep through the night, I have no desire to know why I am this way.

Friday, August 23, 2013

What? You will have to speak louder.

What is it about the shrieking lilting laughter of a five six-year-old that reverberates to the point that it wants to make your head explode?

What is it about the sound of moving furniture upstairs that makes one cringe?

What is it about the sound of running water that makes one very, very uneasy?

What is it about the slam of a door that makes one think of pinched fingers?

What is it about the stomp patter of feet running upstairs that makes you hold your breath?

What is it about waking up to a little face just inches from your nose that puts you in the twilight zone?

What is it about the silence in the rooms at the end of the visit that makes you so very sad?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Lists and Plans

Lists!  I have to make them. Plans!  I frequently break them.

Thursday:  processed Italian flat beans for freezer, made two loaves zucchini bread from new Cuisinart cookbook, was interrupted by various calls from son who has found a house they can't afford, thus,bread gets over processed and becomes brick pudding!
Friday:  agree to provide financial backing to son until they sell their current teeny-tiny house so that they can bid on this other house---excellent location and move-in condition, prices will go up this coming spring and they will not be able to afford anything in this neighborhood!  Those of you who do not live in a dynamic city have not a clue how expensive real estate is/was and why we agree to jump on this.
Saturday:  six loads of laundry after the grands left and straighten upstairs and basement toys!   Feed pets they accidentally left behind with garden harvest cherry tomatoes.  Roast garden eggplant.  Weed flower beds.  Take photos.

Sunday:   finally cleaned out the inside of my car, shopped for walking shoes for a fall vacation trip (a really neat one that I certainly deserve after this crazy summer), bought new luggage as mine broke, and shopped for food.  Son calls and his offer is accepted.   (Between vacations and real estate support watching money dwindle fast.)
Monday:  changed master bedroom linens, paid bills online, drove up to the city and took a walk through with the son's home inspector on this "new" house, impressed with small house and location, depressed when returning to son's/DIL's teeny-tiny house in its NOT move-in condition.  Tons of work to be done and they are not happy to hear us tell it.
Tuesday--TODAY:  morning volunteer work on marine museum landscaping, then an hour at the art museum children's vegetable garden getting it wound down, then food shop for the grands, then trip up tonight or tomorrow to get them.
Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday:  entertaining the grandchildren once again.  picnics, museum trips, boat rides, hikes, puzzles, movies, cooking....whatevah!
Saturday:  drive the hour up to drop off grandkids, head over to son's/DIL's house and begin hours of yard work, mulching, cleaning up old wood piles and leftover gutter grids, pruning back invasives etc. then head home. (There is not room in their house to sleep with all the wedding gifts.)
Sunday:  drive the hour back up to finish yard work, look at prepping outside house trim for painting, plan for installation of a fence on one side of the yard to hide the neighbors backyard which they have turned into storage for their landscape business. (Hoping neighbors fix the large work truck with the flat that is sitting in their drive way and hoping we can get them to clean up their backyard peacefully as they are probably illegal both in having the business in the backyard and in living in this country!)
Monday: breathe and perhaps clean house and maybe just maybe get into an exercise routine once again(?)
Tuesday:  start the yardwork volunteer schedule all over again!  Looking forward to future long empty days of retirement somewhere/somehow.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

A Bigger Deal

I have been trying to breathe in and breathe out and find something worthwhile to write about.  I either have to tell something about what is happening to me or something uplifting to share.  Well, I just cannot.  I just plain cannot!  I have a friend who has a daughter that is seriously ill and facing some very big challenges.  I have a friend who just discovered that someone they love has cancer and it has a difficult prognosis.  I have a friend who recently lost a spouse.  And to add to all this big deal the kind minister that married my son and daughter-in-law has just been admitted to the hospital for some lengthy tests.

In addition, I will not go into the sad and unfortunate news that a number of bloggers have shared so bravely recently from their lives.

I believe in the power of prayer but am not sure who I should pray to.  I know, you wonder about my thinking, but that is the way I am.  Anyway, if prayer works for you, please ask for peace for all these souls who are facing such big challenges these days.  Please pray for light and peace so that their days are golden.  I am going to listen to some music and watch some birds live their challenging lives.

Friday, August 16, 2013

A Big Deal

We have lived for several years with three large tulip poplars on the side of the house where the storms arrive.  Most of the trees in the ravine that die fall in the direction of the house.  During hurricanes we go down into the basement and hope that they will not fall against our bedroom wall.

I took the photo above to show the permit office, because you need to get permission to cut any trees, and I call these 'hazard' trees which makes it easier to get permission.  The permit costs $180.00...our lives and the lives of those we love...priceless.

This photo is from behind the house and there are actually three trees we had to remove.  Two are very close on the right side of the photo.  The third is the one that appears to be leaning right beside it.

We asked our neighbor for a good company and he sent us these good old boys.  I use this term with the greatest of endearment...because they really are!

They use a slingshot with a weighted bag to shoot through the branches of the tree they wish to down.  It was not going to be topped or cut up for firewood.  We just wanted a safe 'drop', which is cheaper and safer for all when you have lots of room as we do.  They then feed a heavy-duty rope through the path of the slingshot and pull taught after the cutter cuts the wedge and the other side of the trunk directing the fall.

The fellow above who weighed about 90 pounds was in charge.  He was in his 50's and had been dropping trees for decades, one of the few with the skill in the county.  He had been working with some Naval group in his youth and kept apologizing for the four letter words that the crew was using.  He said they were somewhat new and he was trying to train them.  I just smiled.  All I cared about was that they were being careful and concentrating and if that meant they had to be it.  The trees were tulip poplars which are considered shallow rooted and easy to rot.

As you can hear in this video above (not taken with a fancy movie camera), I was quite impressed and just a little terrified!!  I feel so sad about the great gap that we left in the ravine and the death of these old ones, but I feel so much safer sleeping at night after the ground has been soaked for days and before the arrival of a nasty storm.

Getting Permission

Several bloggers commented on the fact that I had to purchase a permit to bring down those trees which were on property I owned.  First, the ravine, while owned by me, is considered an environmental easement and I am not allowed to do anything there without asking.  While I agree that it seems too much government in my life, I have seen properties where they cut down every single tree along the river so that they get a perfect open view and so that others can see their perfect open house and so that their lawn fertilizer and broad leaf herbicide can flow freely into the river!  Yes, they get fined.  BUT they are rich and the $10K seems a small price to pay for a full water view so they can show off and screw the environment.  I wish the county would make them also plant trees as part of restoration.  Other counties in this liberal state do that.

Why do we care if people cut down trees willy nilly?  Well, our river goes back and forth on being clean and then polluted and then clean again.  Run-off is a big deal and trees drink lots of that water and keep the rest of the run=off purer.  They stop erosion and provide important shade and habitat for animals and clean the air.  I could go on and on about living in balance with everything else.

Our county is so restrictive because I live within 100 feet of the water.  That 100 foot buffer I am not allowed to, cut, or clear!  My neighbor who owns a landscape company ignored this on his many acres and cleared his land under the trees and then paid the fine for clearing away too much brush.  They are rich and he just accepted the fine as the cost for what he wanted to do.  I feel strongly about trying to keep the environment protected and my footprint small and so I do follow the rules.  I am an environmentalist as well and terrified at what we are doing to the air, water and land.  I have seen more animals and birds in my yard each year.

Our county also can ask you to plant up to 3 trees for every tree you cut under a permit!  But as the "good ole boy" tree cutter clarified, you can plant a seedling and if a deer eats it, it is not your fault and no one comes to check. 

I will pay the permit, get permission and now that the county office knows we have planted lots of trees on our own and are not pushing our limits, they do not ask us to plant trees to replace those we bring down.  I can live with it.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Monday Meanderings


The 8-year-old is up at 6:45, but knows he must be quiet and he heads down to the basement to play Angry Birds.
Hubby did not sleep well last night and is still in a deep snore mode until 8:00 A.M.
The 5-year-old...birthday next week...comes down the stair sleepy-eyed at 7:30...early for her!
Breakfast and taking some sliced green apples to the friendly box turtle at the edge of the lawn.
This is followed by an early morning tour of the fairy houses at the art museum, 56 this year (!) lucky I live in a nice area for kids.
Lunch is homemade quesadillas and sliced fresh apples with cinnamon...both a big hit.
Then "we" watch the first of the Narnia trilogy while I clean up the kitchen, catch-up with photos and shower and dress.
I quickly run out to the local T++++t, to purchase socks for the boy which mother forgot to pack.
This is followed by a trip to the local county pool which has lots of things for them to do until we leave at 5:00 P.M. for showers, a sliced pear and chocolate cream cheese snack and watching the second in the Narnia series.
I sit here blogging and while waiting to start dinner, I get all the kids laundry done so that they can start with clean clothes this week.  One has already run out of underware!
Dinner will be easy hamburgers on the grill, sweet potato fries and edamame for something green in the diet.
Then it is "free" time until bed and story.
I am still upright, so have no complaints.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Feet Still Not Up #2

I have the two oldest grandchildren through Tuesday of this week.  I think blogging will not be a priority, much less the luxury of putting my feet up.

I sat down just before the youngest dropped his milk and it drip,drip, dripped onto the wooden floor.
I sat down just before the middle child tripped over her own feet and needed an ice pack for her toe.
I sat down just before the oldest needed me to create a scavenger hunt, which is a tradition upon the first days visit which must not be broken.

I sat down just before we decided it was time to harvest crabs.
I sat down just before we decided it was time to take a trip to the playground.
I sat down just before we decided to check out X-Box and DVD sales at Best Buy.

I sat down just before it was time to cook dinner
I sat down just before it was time to get everyone bathed.
I sat down just before it was story time.

One of  these days soon I will be able to put me feet up...!

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Put Your Feet Up, I Dare You!!

This past week was a non-stop round of taking vegetables to the food pantry, processing vegetables for the freezer, creating a brochure for the museum, packing for a trip to the mountains planned by my daughter for hubby's 70th, hiking in the mountains, watching little ones and breathing whenever the time allowed.

Hubby dressed much nicer for this hike than he usually does!!

What follows below are the "energy" photos...see if you can keep up.

My new daughter-in-law was complaining discussing mosquitos and how they always loved her.  She said she had sat down at home and put her feet up on a table and a mosquito bit the bottom of her foot.  My daughter (mother of three all below the age of 9 and middle-management consultant who works 50 hour weeks) let her jaw drop before she said, "You put your feet up??  I cannot remember the last time I could do that.  I do NOT want to hear about your tiny mosquito bite."  She did say this with good humor.

This is my new DIL seeing if she can still do a cartwheel.  (Another energy photo.)

This is me looking like I am lost in thought or making a Greta Garbo pose.  I am actually panting and leaning against that rock for support!  I stayed there until a jogger ran by me and shamed me.  (No comments on the color combo and the dangly earrings.  I was barely holding it together this weekend!)

I have not been able to put my feet up until yesterday.  But tomorrow I get the grandchildren again for four days.   So today I have to plan menus and food shop.  I love these kids more than anything in the world, but I do so want to be in the moment with each of them, and that requires lots of energy!

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

The Liberal Media...wherefore art thou?

Pretty lazy or busy or whatevah...but encourage you to read and see if you agree with this argument about the liberal media.