Category Archives: Money

Working Sick: Where’s the Line?

​Recently (meaning a couple months ago), NPR did a report featuring workers who go to work sick. For the majority, it was mainly older employees who tended to stay home when I’ll while the younger workers were more apt to push through their illness to not miss work. The major difference between these two groups were the ones who tended to stay home were those who had tenure and got paid sick time off or would otherwise not be punished for taking time off. This was the older set. Of those interviewed in the younger set, they told the reporter they almost always went to work sick because they did not have paid (or even unpaid) sick time that they were allowed to use. Illnesses ranged from painful migraines to colds, flu, and other contagious illnesses that involved vomiting and diarrhea at work. Those who went to work sick said they did so because they could not afford to lose the pay or their jobs.
I was reminded of this radio spot as I forced myself to go to work sick today out of the same fear. I’d called out the past two days with severe bronchitis but could not afford a write-up for missing any more time, so I stuck it out. I ended up getting worse throughout the day because I wasn’t able to rest or take the medications that I have been at work – they put me to sleep. Upon returning to work today, I also heard from several others that they’d had to call out sick this week too for the same thing and I know where it came from. One person who came in sick 2 weeks ago coughing up a storm and even bragging about having the flu and still working.
The question is: where does someone who lives paycheck to paycheck draw the line between going in sick and staying home for their own health and others? Is it worth losing money or even your job to keep others safe? How do you handle it? Comments are welcome.

Daily Prompt Writing: The Nomadic Life

From the Daily Prompt: Rolling Stone

If you could live a nomadic life, would you? Where would you go? How would you decide? What would life be like without a “home base”?”

This has always been a bit of a dream of mine, to live just to live, to enjoy experiences in life that aren’t possible within the constraints of a lease, a day job, shared custody and other limiting factors.  For a 40 year old who treasures new sights and experiences, meeting different people, photographing different areas and being immersed in different cultures, it must be said that I have gotten very few opportunities in life to do any of this.  The extent of my travels has been through the Carolinas, The Bahamas and Mexico.  All instances were limited by time and money and only left me wanting more.  To live as a nomad would still require some sort of stability – ironic, I know.  This means I would not want to live as a beggar but rather be able to earn a little money no matter where I went in order to remain self-sufficient (and fed!).  More than likely, I would take on some kind of art or craft and sell my talents at various events and festivals across the country, throughout the year. Part of those crafts could be hand-penned original inspirational poetry on parchment, ready to frame in someone’s study or bedroom.  Ideally, I would have a small RV in which I could keep my scant belongings and a bicycle to use for travel throughout the area of the moment.  I would of course need to remain tech savvy – Internet access would be vital as it is to nearly everyone today.  I would likely gather information on upcoming events and places to go from the web in order to keep short-term plans in order.  This would allow me to remain a wanderlust but one who would not be caught off guard by not having a place to park, sleep or sell crafts.  I wouldn’t say that there would be no “home base.”  I would have my RV – wherever it took me would be home.  The whole of the continental USA would be my home!  The beautiful thing about the Internet is that it brings people together no matter where they are, so losing touch with family and friends would not be an issue.  It would be a simple life, free of undue clutter, free of the feeling of being cooped up and held captive by societal constraints.  As a Sagittarius, this sort of nomadic life would be what my soul has always craved.  I am determined to one day see this to fruition.

That Kitten Sprawl (Perblog 5-27-13)

Four gruesome months of unemployment finally came to a close in May when I started a job as a Paralegal.  It pays very little (net has been about half what I need to meet my bills, which have already been trimmed down to the bare minimum) and it’s practically out of town for me, but it’s work.  I’m only hoping that I do well enough for the promised raises to come through as indicated when I started otherwise I don’t know how I’m going to make it.  Well, the truth is, I’m not.  So hopefully those raises come through!

I’ve started a 9-part pre-RCIA line of coursework with the Catholic Home Study Service in preparation for my RCIA classes starting in October.  William has been a wonderful guide to me in my studies though I quietly wish he’d give me a little more crap when I don’t go to mass.  No nun-pun intended, but I’ve got to work harder on getting into the habit.  It would be easier if my church had services on Sunday nights, but there’s really no excuse for me to miss the 10AM mass.  I’ve slept in the past two Sundays though.  Shame on me.

A couple weeks ago, a new kitten came into my life, a very friendly little long-haired silver kitty.  We named her Bellamina – the name is bigger than she is, but not bigger than the ball of energy that she brings into the house.  She’s a bit codependent which is fine by me as she lays sprawled across my lap as I type, hugging my leg and just purring away.  The big silver and white pouf of a tail reminds me of a squirrel, all fluff that constantly looks as if it’d been rubbed by a balloon and static took over.  The cutest thing about her is when she’s being petted, she blows kisses.  It’s not a post-weaning suckling kind of thing, she literally just smacks her lips and blows kisses as a person does when calling a cat.  It’s more of a mimicry, and I’ve never seen another cat to do that.  She’s also got enormous paws which give her a comical lope during play, like a puppy who hasn’t grown into his feet yet.  She truly is a treasure.

This Memorial Day, I’m not sure I’m doing anything.  It would be nice to have a cookout or something but I don’t have anyone to invite or join at one.  Going to the beach would be a full on nightmare with the traffic.  I tried in vain yesterday, couldn’t even get close.  Actually had to back my car out of a parking lot because there wasn’t even enough room to turn around where all the spots were full and people had parked in non-spots essentially gridlocking the entire lot so that no one could pass through or out.

We’ll see how this day pans out.  I’d hate to spend it just doing housework!

Unexpected Recognition

This news won’t come as any surprise to my Facebook followers (where this blog has an autofeed) but it is still worth sharing here. A couple weeks ago, motivated by some friends on Twitter, I decided to chase a dream to get involved in social work – officially.

In the past, I used to counsel and mentor runaway youths, then moved on to working with parent-child dynamics and on to battered women. I had gone through the ordination process to become a non-denominational minister to back the services I was providing.  Years of doing this however had left me emotionally drained. It became very hard to remain compassionate while staying emotionally detached from the cases and I had to step away.

In speaking with a friend recently, he pointed out a link to two things I enjoyed: helping others and doing research on just about everything. This led me to start a project called Helping Hands Community Research. The propose of this project is to assist people in finding local resources when they are in need – things like food pantries, clothing, financial assistance, etc. – as these sources are often difficult to locate. Since the inception of HHCR, I’ve gotten numerous requests through the website thanks to friends helping spread the word of it via social media.

What has me excited today is that I got a call from CASTLE, a local family services non-profit, who heard about my project and asked that I meet with them in person to give them more information on it. They said it sounded like something that was in line with what they do and would like to try to fit it in as a part of their family services programs.

This… has blown me away. Never before have I been this recognized for anything I’ve done and this presents a huge opportunity for me to really get involved in community service with other local organizations supporting my cause. I’m just amazed! I meet with CASTLE Friday afternoon and am so excited to be able to discuss the project at length and drum up some support.

In the short run, I do hope this becomes a networking opportunity toward actual paid work as I remain unemployed and looking daily, but in the end, just knowing I have done some good here, created something worth being supported – that just makes me so happy. As always, I am here to serve.

Working For Free – Oyster Reef Volunteer

Having been out of work for some time now, the cabin fever was setting in pretty hard.  Between having no income yet still spending gas to get to job interviews, there was no gas to just get away for pleasure, a break from the monotony and certainly no funds for entertainment.  I needed to feel useful again, productive.  That is when I came across a request in the local paper for volunteers to help that coming weekend on a project to build an artificial reef in the area.  I’m a nature lover and have always been interested in (and often active in) conservation efforts – how cool was that?

After e-mailing the listed contact for details, I was excited to get to work – even if it was for free.  I let a friend of mine know about the project and he was on board as well.  That Saturday, he picked me up early and we went out to Harbour Pointe on the inlet where several tons of oyster shells were ready in large barrels and on sheets of plywood in huge piles.

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About 20 other volunteers showed up and we were given a brief primer on the task at hand.    We organized ourselves into each area – shoveling, bagging and tying off.  I shoveled shells into smaller buckets while my friend bagged and tied them.  They were then loaded onto a truck to be moved to their final resting place in Wildcat Cove.  

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During a break in which bottled water and other drinks were provided, the leader of the operation and a colleague commended us all on our efforts which far exceeded their expectations.  In just about 2 hours, we’d already assembled about 400 20-pound oyster bags for deployment.  My friend and I stayed for a 20-minute informational lecture about oyster reefs, their local benefits, lots of statistics and zoological info as well.  We broke for lunch then and would meet up at low tide a few miles up the coast at Wildcat Cove.

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Upon arrival at Wildcat Cove, we found the oyster bags in a neat pile in front of the canoe launch.  Another 100 bags had been assembled and brought up in two deliveries.  It took a little brainstorming as to how we were going to get the bags to the reef area, but one adventurous girl with her own kayak said she could pull floating tubs of about 30 bags per load out to the location.  There was some interesting trial-and-error in getting the system going, including one thankfully good-humored man getting impossibly stuck in the thick muck at the bottom of the river.  It took more than ten minutes to get the river to release his legs and he lost a shoe, but we got him back safely!  Note to self: Don’t go into the water without a boat here!

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Once we got the production line going, the rest was – pardon the pun – smooth sailing.  Bags were floated out to a mangrove area where a 4-foot high oyster “wall” was built staggered around the mangroves.  Once settled and cemented, these artificial reefs will provide settling places for new oyster spawns, as well as providing habitat for young fish and feeding grounds for birds such as herons, ibis, loons, cormorants, anhingas and more.

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I remain in contact with the organizer of this effort who works for the county in coastal restoration and he is helping me network with other people in the field so that I may actually find work in conservation or a related field.  Even if it is a desk job, it would be a great opportunity (and has been) to do something productive in a field I really enjoy.  Another reef build is coming up in two days.  This time my daughter will also be involved, getting her hands dirty and having a positive impact on our local, unique and delicate ecosystem.

Pardon Me While I Go Postal

Disclaimer: If you’re one of those sensitive types who get all uppity about people who bitch about their government benefits (likely because you’ve never been in the position to need them yourself) then turn back now because this is about to get ugly.

As a statistical introduction, I will say that I am a single mother with shared custody of my child.  Due to 5 years of swindling and dishonesty on the other side, I am the one who ended up having to pay child support to my ex (who enjoys a new house, two new vehicles and all the home amenities one could want).  I lost my job of almost 7 years when my boss passed away on December 28th, 2012 and the company subsequently closed as of January 1st, 2013.  Before this time, I had only required assistance for about 4 months out of my life when I first relocated to this area and was looking for work.  When I lost my job this year, I immediately applied for unemployment and food stamps and started looking for a new job.  My unemployment and food stamps were approved and even though it is hard to feed myself plus a growing pre-teen on $200 a month, I was making it work.  

Once my unemployment benefits kicked in (roughly 50% of my usual salary), Child Support decided they were going to take an additional 40% of that.  Pardon my cadence, but that is fucking criminal.  I was already struggling on a normal salary, but to cut my half salary further in almost half?  Bullshit.  My food stamps for February were late and I was out of food.  Upon calling 72 hours after they were supposed to hit, I get a message that due to “increased income,” my benefits will be cut from $200 to $16 effective March 1, 2013.  WTF? Increased income?  Try decreased!  I look on my card this morning expecting to see $200 on there and they’ve only deposited $16.   What… the fuck.  To add insult to injury today I get a letter in the mail confirming that my benefits will be cut from $200/month to $16/month – again – in writing – EFFECTIVE MARCH 1, 2013.  *looks at calendar* Gee, this is still February.  Where the %^&* are my food stamps that I need to feed a frikken pre-teen 4 days a week until I find work again??

The State of Florida is trying to fuck me sideways and I am NOT going to stand for it.  Tomorrow morning warrants a very nasty call to these “ACCESS” people to get this crap straightened out immediately.  $84 over the course of a month for food is nothing to most people but when you’re in my situation, it’s the difference between a family going hungry or not.  Try to cheat me?  You WILL get bitchslapped.  Screw Florida.  Time to take action.

 

 

An Open Letter To Debt Collectors

Prior to writing this post, I had already chastised myself knowing I would end up using at least once the most over-used phrase of the past few years:  “In this economy…”  It simply has to be said because the situation has affected nearly everyone in every social class in America.  I did however resign myself to only using it once to spare the reader the groans and eye-rolling the phrase garners from even me.  You see, I too am a debt collector.

Unfortunately, just because I work in the field does not mean I am immune to the phone calls day and night, often far in excess of the number of calls allowed by the FDCPA for consumer collections.  As a commercial debt collector, I too have been hit hard by the fallout of failing businesses across the country, layoffs, bankruptcies – these all affect my net income.  Most commercial debt collectors do their work on a commission basis.  When a debtor doesn’t get paid by their customers, a client doesn’t get paid, therefore the collector can’t get paid.  This puts the collector in a situation of less money coming in which of course means less money available to go out to their own bills.  These economic failings we have been enduring for the past several years have had a ripple effect all the way out to the edges of the American picture.

This brings me to the heart of this post: What I want to tell every bill collector out there who continues to ring my phone from 8:00 in the morning until 9:00 at night sometimes with only minutes between phone calls.  First realize that no, I am not going to answer your call.  Calling me from a number that identifies you as one of my creditors or a collector only to turn around, block your number and redial me as an unidentified caller does not work.  I still know who you are and what you want.  The simple fact of the matter is the more you call, the less likely you are to get even a call back from me.  I don’t want to talk to someone who just keeps harassing me.  Your bill will be paid using any means that does not require I speak to your under-educated and typically rude representative and it will get paid as soon as I have the money to do so.   I know who I owe and I know what I owe.  I know when the bill was due.  Your repeated phone calls (as well as texts, e-mails and form letters) will NOT make my paycheck get into my bank any faster.  You’ve heard it before, you’ll hear again:  You’ll get paid when I get paid.

How bad are the calls?  Out of approximately 30 calls a day, one or two may be personal.  Those personal calls often get missed because your collection departments call so many times a day that I am pushed to the point of having to turn off my phone.  If I leave it on, the battery is dead inside of two hours due to the sheer volume of phone calls from collectors.

Collectors:  Do you think I want to be in this situation?  Do you think I am simply not paying you because I don’t want to?  Or can you for just a moment stop and ask yourselves what might be going on that is causing this situation?  I am a single mother with no support system who has taken a 35% pay cut this year, down from an income that I was just barely scraping by on last year.  I have had to make major sacrifices just to keep a roof.  It is hard for me right now.  Much more so than you ever cared to ask.  When it comes down to putting gas in the car to get to work and being able to feed my child today, those needs are going to come well before your medical billings from 2009 when I broke my leg.  That certainly was not something I planned to do or asked for.  When the water bill gets raised from $16 a month to $45 a month for the same usage without any warning or reason, it’s going to take someone on a very limited income a bit longer to find a way to pay it.

The auto lender that is also a part of the problem will start calling the day before the payment is due then continue relentlessly even after it has been paid, likely due to one of their databases not being updated with another.  Regardless, you of all people DO get paid every month.  It may not always be on time, but you get your money.  Don’t start calling me until I am 30 days past due.  By then I would expect you to start to worry.  Just back off a bit.  Please.  Believe me when I say that my car is my lifeline.  If there is a problem that will put my payment past 30 days, I will call you and ask for an extension or other help.  Your hounding me does not help either of us – and that goes for all of you.

A couple years ago, I received a letter from a person I had been collecting from on my own job.  I’d worked with him over a year and because I would work with him, he did end up paying off his debt in full.  It just took a little longer than anyone would have liked it to, including the customer.  In his letter, he mentioned a documentary he watched that portrayed bill collectors as people who stop at nothing to get the money in, going as far as to make threats on the debtors, corner them into making promises they could not keep then holding that against them, and pushing some people to the point of suicide with the unending demands that could not be met due to a wide variety of personal situations.  His letter was full of accolades giving examples of how I had changed her perception of the “typical” debt collector, how appreciative he was of my willingness to work with him and not harass him while still working the account.  Even slow progress is progress after all and more often than not working with a debtor will get an account paid more fully than would happen if they are beaten into just ignoring the calls.

Collectors:  If you were on the other end of the phone, who would you be more likely to work with – the person who rings your phone at all hours 3, 5, 7 times a day and won’t work with you – or the person who lets you breathe long enough to find a way out of the predicament, the one who offers you solutions over threats, support over arrogance?  Take some advice from these examples.  Back off – just a bit.

Be a part of the solution – NOT the PROBLEM!