Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Finished Deck PIctures

As I sit here staring out at the white snowy mess behind my house, I'm reminded again that I never posted my FINISHED deck pics. Oh how I wish it was warm and pretty out like in these pics!

BEFORE:
Deck - Ugly Red Solid Stain
Deck

IN PROCESS:
IMG_0099

FINISHED:
IMG_0172
IMG_0168

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2009 In Review and a Look ahead to 2010.

What a year I faced this year...

March 6 is when I found out I was going on layoff.

March 20 was my last day before burning my three weeks of vacation.

March 26 I headed to Nashville where my BFF Mandy and her husband took good care of a super depressed me.

April 9 is when I found out I was going back in temporarily to cover someone's maternity leave.

April 13 is when I started temp assignment.

May 19 was when I finished my MBA.

May 29 was my official last day before layoff.

June 1 I filed for unemployment.

The month of June saw me refinish the deck, clean out the garage, painting the kitchen, knitting furiously on Decimal for The Alpaca Yarn Co (wonder what ever happened to that....... )

June 24 I headed off to Pennsylvania for a reunion with all my dear friends there.

July 9 I started teaching the first of what has now become several knitting classes.

July 20 I found out that I was being brought in to interview for a couple of jobs I applied for at my company that were in the local area.

July 28 I found out that my old counterpart in Hartford, CT had quit the company. And my old boss called to see if I was interested in coming back to work for him to fill that spot.

August 12 I interviewed for the local jobs, and got a call to post for the Hartford job.

August 14 I headed off to California for the first time since moving away, for BFF Michelle's bachelorette/bridal shower weekend.

August 20 I interviewed for Hartford job, and got offers for both the Hartford job, and two of the local jobs. After much deliberation that day, I accepted the Hartford job.

August 31 I went back to work!

September 1 I was on a plane out to Hartford to start the new job.

September 15 I was on a plane to Seattle for BFF Michelle's wedding. This was also my first trip back to Seattle since leaving the West Coast.

The rest of September thru year end has pretty much been a blur since I spend every other week in Hartford doing the new job.

December 23 I received the first notification from the relocation company to start working on my relocation from Illinois to Connecticut.

Things I learned this year:
-Be prepared for anything, no job is safe, do everything you can to make yourself indespensible
-SAVE SAVE SAVE money! I can live without the finer things in life if it means being able to feed myself and my animals.
-Who my real friends are, the ones that stood by me and supported me thru a very difficult time in my life. Many people were uncomfortable at how to deal with me upon finding out I was out of work. The ones who were just there to listen and not tell me how this was a sign that I was meant to do something else.
-Did I mention save save save?
-Knit from stash, don't add to it! I'm only buying yarn that has a specific project need (for someone else) that I can't fulfill from my stash. Any other knitting I do will need to be from stash. Sadly this probably also means not visiting many yarn shops this year aside from stitch night. Fortunately, many of the local stitch and bitch groups around Hartford meet at local coffee spots rather than LYS's so I won't be tempted!

Going into 2010 will be a strange year. I'm still super worried about money. I burned through my savings JUST in time for me to go back to work. Because of things I'd put off spending money on while unemployed I haven't built them back up. I must also admit my debt level is far too high for my preference. The good thing is, it didn't go up much this year, just didn't go down. As I head into my relocation I know I won't be making much money on my house, and buying a much more expensive one. But its critical I work at spending less and getting out of debt.

Contrary to what it might sound like based on the last paragraph, 2010 will also show some travel for me. Mom and I are talking about taking a trip on the Disney Wonder sometime to use up her DVC points, and say we've been on the Wonder before since we've been on the Magic 3 times, and will be on the Dream in 2011 (got a FANTASTIC deal on a 4 night cruise with the WDW Radio Show group). More exciting than that, in November 2010 the whole family is heading down to Mexico for my baby brothers wedding. Originally mom and I had hoped to get to Walt Disney World to see the 2010 Christmas decorations, but between my concerns about money, and the cost of the trips planned in 2010 and 2011 this probably just won't happen this year. Perhaps in December of 2011.

Oh..and maybe I'll try to stay a little better at this blogging thing in 2010.... :)

How would you sum up 2009?

And Happy New Year to you!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Goodies

Before this goes into a indulgent post where I gloat over all my goodies...I must say...for me a big part of Christmas is the fun of getting other people JUST the right gift.

My brother, sister and I all went in together on a Kindle for mom this year. Mom knew..and after MONTHS of research and debate finally decided on the Kindle versus the Nook. I've NEVER seen her so excited about a gift we got her...and we've gotten her some pretty awesome stuff in recent years. Not only did she play with it for 2 hours after present opening on Christmas Eve, but she got up early when I did on Christmas morning to ask me more questions (I already have a Kindle) before I left for my dad's house.

I also think I did really well with my dad and stepmom this year. I made a hat for my stepmom this year, the Star Crossed Slouchy Beret, using less than a full skein of Berroco Lustra. She put it on right away when she opened it and kept it on for the next hour or so til she was too hot.

IMG_0516

For dad I made a simple scarf. I cast on a multiple of 4 stitches and do a Knit 3, Purl 1 repeat across every row. Creates kind of a garter rib stitch pattern. I used Mission Falls superwash wool, in the worsted weight. I double stranded black with dark grey. I figured it would be warm, but washable, in case he wanted to use it up in Eagle River, WI when he's up there. But figured the colors were also dressy enough to go with his nice black overcoat.

IMG_0517

Now onto ME! Here's some of my Christmas haul this year...

From Dad and Stepmom I received a Tiffany Somerset bracelet and matching earrings. I'm told Dad went shopping and picked these out himself, I'm highly impressed! They are quite lovely.

Mom got several Disney related things off my list, including Luxury Guide to Walt Disney World, a Mickey Mouse hoodie, The Little Mermaid - Oceans of Love for You Precious Moment, and the book about bringing the Little Mermaid to broadway.

I also got...a SECOND Disney cross stitch from my mom's best friend and her husband. For my birthday they gave me "Past, Present, Forever". Now for Christmas I got "Puppy Love". I'm soooooo excited..not only for more Disney stitching..but because Puppy Love is a little SMALLER than Past, Present, Forever...which is HUMONGEOUS! I had no idea how big either of them were when I first saw them..but wow...they are BIG projects. I've been working on Past, Present, Forever off and on for a month (when I'm actually HOME since its too bit to travel with) and have about 3 by 4 inches done so far. The suggested frame size is 18 by 24 inches. So you get the magnitude of the project I'm working on!

Anyway, that was a sampling of my Christmas goodies...what about everyone else?

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Does GPS go bad?????

So....as all my readers probably know...I drive a lot for work...like... a LOT. I think back to my early years as a rep (pre-GPS) and wonder how I'm still alive today sometimes. I mean...the number of times I was looking at printed directions or a map while driving.... I get chills when I think about it now!

3 or 4 years ago I decided I wanted GPS finally. I asked for Christmas, but Santa didn't grant my wish that year. Someone in my office mentioned that for about $100 I could buy a software program for my laptop, that came with a little USB GPS adapter. When working, it would allow my laptop to give me turn by turn directions. I liked how affordable this option was and jumped at it. And it worked okay most of the time. But occasionally the GPS would lose signal, or the computer would lose it, and it would take a while and some rebooting to get it working. Not exactly convenient or safe while driving. I'd had a few incidents that were frustrating but not critical. Then one day when driving between Philly and Baltimore it cut out at a critical part of my drive..and got me seriously seriously lost. I decided that was it. I got home that night and promptly logged onto Newegg.com and ordered my beloved Garmin c340. It was the same model the others in the office had been getting in recent months, and the cheapest Garmin you could buy that would actually tell you the name of the street rather than just saying to turn in so many feet.

Thus began my LOVE of the GPS. If you've been in my car you've probably noticed its on most of the time. Not only does it help me find my way to locations I've not been to before, but I also like it when going places I have been - as it predicts arrival time. This means I know if I have time for that extra bathroom break or starbucks stop. And allows me to let the person I'm meeting know if I'm going to be late due to traffic issues.

Now...for around the past 12 months or so I'd been getting the friendly reminder from my Garmin periodically that my maps needed to be updated. At the time I wasn't doing my driving job, and didn't feel like I really needed to fork over the $$ for the map updates. But when I went back to work, and to a job that was going to require LOTS of driving to new places, I got my update and applied it the Garmin. I decided the Garmin would live in the car in Hartford permanently since its not like I really need it in the car in Ilinois, and if I did, we could just take mom's care that now has GPS. Plus I've got the iPhone when in a pinch.

So now to my question....Does GPS go bad??? I've noticed since applying my map update ... some funny things happening on my Garmin. For instance, its stopped showing me bodies of water or parks for the most part. There used to be blue spots for water and green spots for parks. Pretty much don't see those anymore, even when driving across rather large rivers. It did pick up the water between CT and Long Island the day I took the ferry down to the island..but that was the first time its shown me a body of water since my update.

Its also giving me odd directions. For instance, yesterday I stopped at starbucks in Farmington, CT. I knew that I typically pulled out of the parking lot and turned left to easily get back on I-84 - I've done it several times. Yesterday my trusty Garmin was telling me to turn right. I didn't look at the follow up directions and just assumed for my ultimate destination garmin was taking me on a more direct route. Turns out, it was taking me 1 mile down the road to turn around and go back, passing starbucks, and get on the interstate where I normally did. Basically taking me out of my way by 2 miles altogether for no reason. I've seen several instances like this over the past few months.

Another problem....today I'm heading to a new place. I'm going to get on I-84, and I know I am going to want CT 9 eventually. As I'm approaching the I-84 exit, I see a sign on the sign of the road that says "To CT 9" and has an arrow, but my GPS is telling me to go straight onto I-84. I follow the GPS, and then it tells me to take the exit to CT 9. Problem is....the onramp doesn't actually end before the exit ramp to CT 9. And the on ramp is coming in on the left while the exit is on the right. There's no way to MAKE the exit its telling me to make. Again...I've had several instances like this of late.

So now I'm thinking...something has just gone terribly terribly wrong with my GPS. I'm wondering if they have a short lifespan and its just time for me to get a new one. I suppose thats not a horrible thing as prices have come down dramatically from when I first got my Garmin...but it still seems weird. I remember a news story a while ago about satellites starting to fail, with no places to replace them so directions might get slightly less accurate...but I don't see why that would make the GPS send me on the wrong roads or in the wrong directions on a road just to make me back track.....

Monday, November 30, 2009

Observations from traveling the monday after thanksgiving

Well...maybe they aren't necessarily related to that...but years ago I promised myself I'd never fly the Monday after thanksgiving again...it was the year that my friend Mandy and I had spent the previous week on a cruise in Hawaii. We flew from Hawaii back to LAX on a red eye Sunday night on United. Landed around 5am I think on Monday. I had a 7:30am flight from LAX to Oakland then on Southwest. I claimed my bags from United, hugged Mandy goodbye, and wandered off to find Southwest Check in. For those of you who know LAX, if member serves its kind of a big U shape, United is at one end of the U and Southwest at the other. I didn't know this at the time, or I would have just walked through parking lot to get to southwest. Instead, I dragged my heavy bags (pre-samsonite spinners days) ALL the way around the U. When I arrived at Southwest, the line was so long it stretched not only through the inside, but outside, and down past the next airlines's terminal. And this was the SECURITY checkline..... I remember a long check in line too... but nothing like the crazy security line. I remember local news was there reporting on the craziness of all the holiday travelers trying to go home. I promised myself that day I'd never fly the Monday after thanksgiving again...

Flash forward...whats probably 5 or 6 years to today. I live in IL for now, so I didn't have to travel to spend the holiday with my family. I did however, need to be in Hartford this week for work....and my regular travel schedule for work is the 6am ish flight out of Bloomington on Mondays (usually getting to Hartford between 12-1pm depending on my airline that day) and traveling back on Fridays (now always leaving at 5:55am going through Atlanta and getting home by noon). So not only did I have to fly today, but I was a rare business traveler in airports full of leisure travlers.

I arrived at Bloomington at 5am, my usual arrival time for my 5:45am departure (small 8 gate airport, easy to arrive late usually). The security line was the longest I'd ever seen for that airport. That said, one smart thing I saw was that the airport had both baggage screeners running, rather than the typical one. That said, the mens basketball team from Norfolk State University was in front of me in line. And one of their players didn't have any ID for some reason (and for some reason didn't seem to think he needed it) and that held up the line considerably.

By the time I arrived at my gate the plane was already starting to board, a first for me. As she called zone's 1 and 2 the mens basketball team lined up...they were on my flight to ATL. She looked at all of them in pity and kept calling for others to give up their exit row and bulkhead seats so the players could stretch their legs. She spent so much time chatting with the guys trying to find them other seats, that she somehow failed to account for 7 other passengers who boarded the plane. Ever been on a plane when they come on and call out someone's name and ask them to ring their flight attendent call button? Thats them checking to see if you got on the plane and somehow they just missed you. Yes, our gate agent this morning was spending so much time chatting with the ball players...she missed 7. Wonder if people could have boarded without a valid ticket and she'd even have noticed?

Finally get on the plane and the two flight attendents prompty start talking about how bad they feel for all the ball players stuck in the tiny seats. Then they go to do their safety checks, which take forever, and come back up front to gossip. Apparently the Norfolk State Men's basketball team don't like to follow instructions. Based on the gossip I overheard from the flight attendants, no one wanted to turn off their phones, didn't understnad what electronic devices were, didn't want to put their seat belts on, didn't want to stow their bags, you name it, they didn't do it. The flight attendants discussion quickly went from pitying the "poor dears" to wishing they'd never boarded the plane. I can sympathize with their frustrations of course....but I'm pretty sure everyone in the first 5 rows could hear every word...not exactly putting them in a positive light.

Get to Atlanta early (I've decided they are building lots of cushion into flight times these days so that even if you take off late you might arrive early because this seems to be happening a lot). Head from terminal C to terminal B (one of these days I'll have both flights in the same terminal...right????). Score...starbucks is RIGHT next to my gate. I'm in line at Starbucks and hear a voice I recognize behind me, but can't place. Turn around briefly...and its a Real World Brooklyn castmate (couldn't remember his name all day, but just googled it and it was Chet - and just to confirm, his twitter does talk about flying home today so I'm sure it definitely was him. After starbucks he headed to the gate next to mine - headed towards NYC - and his twitter mentions traveling home to NYC this morning).

Anyway, we're late boarding the flight to Hartford, and once they start it seems to be taking FOREVER. I'm zone 4 this time, and of course worried there's no overhead room left. Finally get most of the way down the jet bridge and see what the hold up is...they are forcing us to gate check our bags. Now mind you...I don't mind gate checking..I'm a big fan of the planeside valet. However...I like getting my bags BACK plane side. With the forced gate check, you have to claim them at baggage (You'll see why this is a problem soon). Get to my seat...and happy happy joy joy...its a middle seat for the 2.5 hour Hartford flight...okay....2 hour...those padded schedules again! Dude on the left not only hogged the arm rest the entire flight, but somehow managed to spill his arms into MY space the entire time too. Take off took forever...I got nearly 70 pages into "The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World" book that Michelle sent for my birthday. Finally take off, and I break out the laptop to do some much needed work. But of course, dude in front of me wanted to recline is seat. Anyone notice how hard it is to use a laptop on a plane this day. If the person in front of you reclines, there's just not enough room. At least not if you actually want to TYPE anything on your laptop. Gave up on this after just 15 minutes and switched to knitting. Thank goodness I learned how to do that continental style which requires less movement since I couldn't move thanks to mister seat hog on the left.

We land in hartford only about 15 minutes late despite the long taxi time on the ground in ATL. Now I'm off to baggage claim, where I kid you not, it takes 30 minutes to get our bags. Now I get that the Hartford airport is a bit bigger than Bloomington. But its not THAT big. And I've never seen a baggage claim so crowded. I was sure I'd miss my bag because of how everyone was pushing and shoving to get in front to see if their bag was coming. Finally claim my bag and then have to call the parking shuttle.... the place I park at advertising being 5 minutes away from the airport. They have at least 4 shuttles, and are usually running 2 at a time...so explain to me if you can, why it takes 20 minutes or more every time I call?

So that was my day...long...long day. Up early...brain fried (so much I locked myself out of my hotel room within 10 minutes of getting checked in). But I've been wanting to get better about my blogging again...and I figured today's tale would fill up a blog nicely!

Oh..and yes....this really is my home away from home...even though I haven't been here in 2 weeks was greated by name at check in again...and they loaned me an umbrella (which I also forgot when leaving my room) when they ran me a new key to get back into my room.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

How did you??????

So during my last week in Hartford I finally had dinner with my new (old) boss. Its the first time I've seen him since he was in IL traveling for work back in like February. He asked me an interesting question at dinner "How did you keep yourself busy while on layoff". He went on right away to say that he knew how much I needed to keep myself busy, and talked about his struggles when he was just on his rolling lay off weeks. See, my boss, does NOT know the meaning of work life balance. He said that the first couple of weeks he was on rolling layoff he went home to Brazil, so that was easy, but his second two weeks were at home. He did some honey do activities the first couple of days into that first week..but after that he was going crazy not being able to look at his laptop or blackberry. Mind you, my boss normally DOES check his blackberry from the beach, in fact, he's been emailing me from his vacation THIS week. I answered, which I'll share below, but we came to the conclusion that he really need some hobbies before he retired or else he'd drive himself (and I think his wife) crazy in his retirement!

So...what did I do on my layoff this summer....

Stuff around the house:
-Refinishing the deck
-Painting the kitchen
-Cleaning out the garage
-Cleaning out / organizing the basement
-Organizing (as best as one can) the craft room

Crafty stuff:
-Taught 2 sock classes and a sweater class (therefore also knitting 2 pairs of socks and sweater along with students)
-Knit the Decimal sweater from knitty as a sample for a friend to use at this year's TNNA trade show (wonder when I'm getting that back???)
-Knit a shawl for BFF's wedding in Seattle
-Cast on a handful of other projects still in process
-Photographed lots of my stash to update Ravelry
-Photographed and loaded several of mom's knitted items to our Etsy store
-Brought out the sewing machine and made Elphaba several new harnesses in an effort to perfect my design and possible sell some on our Etsy store

Travel:
-Lots of weekends in Naperville with mom
-Trip to Nashville to stay with one BFF and hubby
-Trip to PA to visit all my dear friends there
-Trip to CA for other BFF's bridal shower/bachelorette weekend (thanks dad for the plane ticket!)
-Trip to WA for BFF's wedding (guess technically I was working again by then but it was on a rolling layoff week!)

Misc:
-Watched the entire series of the West Wing from start to finish (thanks to Bravo reruns)
-Watched the entire series of Las Vegas from start to finish (thanks to TNT reruns)
-Started watching entire ER series again (this one is still ongoing since it only airs once a day unlike the other two that aired 2-3 times a day, also thanks to TNT reruns)
-Caught up on misc premium cable shows thanks to netflix instant watch on my tivo
-Walking and bike riding, 1 1/2 hours or so a day

So in general, I found LOTS of things to do to keep myself busy. In fact, if I didn't work, and didn't have to worry about money, then I think I would enjoy my time immensly without a job. The problem is the money. Despite what it might sound like, my fears about money and how long it would last me kept me from doing much. I agonized over going to see a movie or stopping at the redbox even to pick up a $1 DVD rental. I was horrified when I needed to replace all four tires on the CR-V and how that cost more than a single car payment.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Back again...

Well 2009 has turned out to be a strange and interesting year for me.

Looks like the last time I posted was in June, mid-deck refinishing...will have to dig up some "finished" pics to show off in a future post. But it looks amazing, and Elphaba and I have enjoyed spending time on the deck knitting, reading, eating, and just enjoying the summer weather.

Other summer projects included painting the kitchen finally to match the rest of my house, cleaning out the garage, cleaning out the basement, lots of knitting, a little sewing, loading up stuff on our etsy store (Like Mother Like Daughter), and spending a GREAT deal of time outside walking. Our average daily walk is between 4 and 5 miles. I also started teaching some knitting classes at my LYS, Village Stitches. I've taught 2 sock classes, both DPN and magic loop, and a tulip sweater class. Just started another sock class last night. Jennifer, the owner, has been great about working around my crazy schedule.... speaking of which....

So I spent the summer posting for jobs. I knew I could get to around October on my savings, before having to go to my dad for some help. In mid-late July I got a call that I was being brought in to interview for a job in as different part of my company than I'd ever been in before. Apparently they had 3 open jobs and were only interviewing like 4 people, so my odds were pretty good. He said it might be a few weeks before I actually got the call and got to come in, but that the call was coming. Fast forward another couple of weeks, and I woke up one morning to several calls that the person who did my OLD job, but based in our Hartford, CT office, had left the company. Within a few hours of my phone ringing, my old boss from PA (who also covered the Hartford office) was calling to see if I was interested. I told him I was, but remained skeptical that anything would materialize. More time passes, finally get interview for job number 1 set up. Don't hear anything back on job number 2. Go in for my interview on job 1, nail it. Get out to the car to a call from my old boss that job number 2 has been posted and to go apply for it. From there...everything happened pretty quickly. I got offers for 3 jobs total (2 from job 1, and 1 from job 2). In what is somewhat rare in my company, I got advance warning that multiple offers were coming, allowing me to actually CHOOSE what job I wanted to go back to work in after my summer being laid off. Job(s) number 1 would have meant staying in IL, but changing my career path and lots of uncertainty. Job number 2 means leaving IL to relocate to CT, but doing a job I have loads of experience with, working with people I love, and having a boss I know will be looking out for me. I wasn't prepared to be leaving home again so quickly so it really was a hard decision, but after some long talks with some of my old bosses and my parents, I decided to go with job number 2.

So, I went back to work on Aug 31. Immediately the next day I was on an airplane out to CT for the week. Things have been a whirlwind since then. The company is still being very conservative spending wise, so we haven't started the relocation process yet. Which means since I went back to work I've been spending half my time in CT and half my time in IL. The nice thing is my boss is cool with me working from home on the weeks I'm in IL. I do go into the office occasionally, but most of the week I stay home because it saves me on the time, gas money, daycare money, and I get to see my animals. The travel is getting a little tiring, but I'm building up those frequent flier miles again, along with hotel reward points, so its not all bad. Plus, we don't normally get to spend much time in the areas we move to before moving, so its allowed me to do some research on where I might want to live, and I think I've narrowed my preference down to West Hartford.

Anyway, so life is good. Still worried about money, since my savings are basically gone and I need to buy another house next year when I move, but I've also gotten smarter about where/how I spend my money after my experience this summer so that helps put things in persepective for me.

Thats about it for now...really will try to get better at this regular posting.... :)

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Deck refinishing....

So.....when I moved into my house I had a beautiful deck out back - compete with a gate so Miss E could enjoy the deck with me and I wouldn't worry about her running off. Only ONE small problem with my beautiful deck...the hideous red stain. In itself the red might not have been so awful (other then why on earth they would have chosen red is completely beyond me)...but it also was in desperate need of refinishing. The stain was peeling in many places. So....the first on my to do list of activities during layoff....refinish the deck!

To set the mood...here is a before picture.


So last week...can't remember which day...I set to work. First I got out my power sander and started sanding away some of the obvious peels. Then I headed to home depot to get paint and stain stripper. Since then I've been working 2-4 hours per day painting on the stripper, wetting everything down, and scraping it with a wire brush. Good times for sure! Slowly but surely though I'm starting to make progress. And despite how bad the stained deck looked, the wood underneath is in near perfect condition still!

Here's the same point of view as above, missing stain:


I think I have one more day of stripping to finish it up. Not sure when that will be since I think its going to rain the rest of this week and I'm going to head up to mom's this weekend. Once that is finally done then I'll clean the entire thing and decide on how I want to complete the project. Ideally, I'd just put sealer on it and let it stay natural. Unfortunately, there are some spots that I just can't seem to get all the red off of. Which leads me to believe another solid stain will be necessary (though at least I could pic a more neutral color than RED). Though I'm hopeful that if I do a good enough job with the red maybe I could do a semi transparent. Did you guys know how many options there are to choose from? Check this out:



And some additional progress pictures for you all:


Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Long overdue...

Well I've been a horrible blogger these days! Sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Plurk make it so easy to post little updates that it seems I abandoned my blog.

For my readers who haven't seen/heard already....I'm unemployed as of Monday. I was notified on March 6 that I was being affected by the first round of layoffs for my division of the company. March 20 was my last day. They were generous and let us take our vacation, so the next three weeks I was on "vacation". My last day of vacation I received a call, someone doing my old job had just had a baby, and they wanted me to come in and cover her maternity leave. Fortunately for me, she covered the local area, so it was an ideal situation to prolong my layoff. As everyone around me expressed their hopes that she would not return from maternity leave after all, I was just grateful to have a job for a bit longer and an opportunity to put a little more money away. My savings have been .... well....tiny...since moving because I wanted to be able to put more into my house than I did on the first one. Between that and buying stuff for said house...I just haven't really built back up any kind of emergency fund. Anyway....on May 26 the girl came back to work. My temporary boss got permission for me to work through Friday, but May 29 was my last day.

Yesterday marked a milestone I had hoped never to have to see when I hired on with my company - my first trip to the unemployment office. People often ask how/why I ended up where I work.....I saw my mom get laid off from too many jobs and liked the idea of how special my training program at work was, how much money the company was going to invest in my development, and the level of (now false) security it gave me. This same sense of false security also probably kept me from cutting back on things last fall when business started to turn south...because I honestly never in a million years imagined I'd be included in the group of people that were laid off. The only solace I have, is that everyone else I've talked to both within my company and at the companies I worked with, is just as shocked and horrified that the company would waste my talents. Unfortuantely...that doesn't pay the bills. So anyway.....

I got up bright and early to be at the unemployment office when the opened. I remembered horrendous lines back when my mom went when I was in high school. Unfortunately for me, although the state of Illinois lets you file online in most cases, because I lived in two states in the past 2 years, I had to go file in person so I could fill out some extra paperwork. I looked up the address for the local IDES office, checked it on the map, and hopped in the car. I circled the block it was supposedly on four times with no luck. At that point I started trying to actually look at the building numbers..and there were NO numbers even close to the address I was looking for. I dug out the GPS (in a bag in the backseat since my St. Louis trip the previous week) and plugged it in. It sent me directions to a TOTALLY different place. Drove up and down the street four times there....building numbers were impossible to read on any of the buildings. Finally I noticed a rather cryptic sign on one of the buildings and upon looking closer it turned out that was the right place (I then heard two different people inside talk about how impossible it was to find the place so I felt a little better). I headed towards the "start here" sign and looked at all the forms. One bunch said "worked in multiple states" with smaller print saying if you'd worked in 2 or more states in the last 18 months (yup..not the 2 years I saw online) to fill out those special forms. I sat down...and didn't have a CLUE how to fill out the top, multistate form. From what I could tell this was how Illinois was going to get Pennsylvania to help pay my benefits since I was there thru July of last year. I filled out all the paperwork to the best of my ability and then got in what was already a growing line...with only ONE person working. As I was next in line, someone came over to see if any of us had any quick questions to ask. I indicated I was filing a new claim, but wasn't sure about the out of state paperwork. She indicated a couple of things on the form I needed to fill out and moved on. I unfortunately had to get OUT of line, make the corrections, and get back in...now 5 people back again. Finally my time came and I got up to the counter. The man put my social security number into his computer, and said that because of how high my Illinois wages are, we don't need to worry about the multistate paperwork, and tore the paper up and tossed it. So glad I spent all the time on that one..... Anyway....it was less than 4 minutes at the counter and I was done. I get the maximum benefit for the state...not that its much. Little things one doesn't know (or maybe people but me know?)...unemployment in Illinois is no more than 47% of your previous income..but there's a cap..and sadly I'm WAY above that cap...so in my case..its like 21% of my previous income. OUCH. When I add up my necessary expenses (and I've already cut out a ton of the fat since March) there still is a gap in my income versus outgoing expenses about equal to my mortgage payment. Lucky me. Thanks to the extra few weeks working..I think I should be able to get through 4-5 months using my savings to subsidize the difference. Now my goal is to find a job..and sooner rather than later.

This brings me to a challenging situation. I know I'll get a call back from my company. I'm on what they call "temporary indefinite layoff". Meaning they can't say when I'll get called back, but I will. In the meantime, I can look for and apply for other jobs within the company - which I am doing. But there is no guarantee on when I'll go back. My company is trying to help a little (health insurance and a SMALL amount of supplemental unemployment for 12 months) but the gap between my income and expenses is still to high to wait. Of course, this has to happen when the economy is in the tank and unemployment in Illinois is over 9%. Fortunately I finished my MBA a couple of weeks back - so I'm hoping that helps...but jobs where I live are especially slim. If I don't go back to my company, I'd probably most prefer to move back home. So I'm applying for stuff up there. Unfortunately I'm not getting any bites..possible because of my address which is not local. So I may start using my mom's address on my applications for jobs up there. If I got a job up there, I'd probably be living at mom's for the foreseeable future anyway. With the economy the way it is, it doesn't really make sense to sell my house. I'd probably lose a boatload of money. Plus, I figure until I know for SURE I don't WANT to go back to my company...its better to hang onto the house. Then if I go back I don't have to start over buying something down here.

In the meantime...I'm working on my short term plans...but I've blogged enough for tonight. So...I'll leave you with that..and post again tomorrow or the next day about my plans. You know...since I have all this extra non-work, non-school free time.

But my parting thought....if you don't have one yet...PUT TOGETHER YOUR EMERGENCY FUND! This experience has taught me that it could happen to ANYONE..and anyone who doesn't think so is a fool.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Well I've been a busy girl this week....

I decided to tackle some of the decorating around the house since I'm off both work and school this week.

Basement Before: (Before you ask - the before pics are from the previous owners taken when I was househunting).




Basement Now:




Tomorrow I'll start hanging the assorted Disney artwork I've purhased to turn this into my Disney themed basement. The paint colors are both from Disney's Behr paint collection. The black is "Cinema Star" and the grey is "Mickey's Shadow". I've got a black slipcover for the sofa, a gigantic black beanbag, with plans for a red one as well, Disney pillows for the couch, and whatever else I can come up with without going over the top. The nice thing about using the black and grey as the paint colors - it will be SUPER easy to restage this into a more elegant look when the time comes to move again.

In addition to the basement itself, I've been working on the basement powder room.
Before:


After:


This paint color is "Ariel's Song" also from the Behr Disney line. The towel and trash can I got at Meijer this week at 30% off. Glad I didn't buy it 2 months ago when mom and I first spotted it! I do have some Little Mermaid art that would work in here, but I am going to do a little more searching. I think I saw some paintings on Disney.com that would be perfect!

So..tomorrow will be straightening up down there, hanging stuff on the walls, and then perhaps enjoying my new room! Hopefully my bonus is a nice one this spring and then I can get a nice big tv to fill up that giant entertainment area in the wall (doesn't my little tv look funny there?). The only question is...with the rest of my days off before going back to work Monday, and school Wednesday..will I attempt my bedroom or finish the kitchen? I'm kinda tired of painting at the moment...but both desperately need it. Not to mention the main floor powder room I still haven't gotten around too.....