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.