Sunday, December 28, 2008

Belated Merry Christmas

I hope all my blog readers and fellow crafters had a good Christmas! Mine was OK. To be honest, my job situation has had me pretty distracted lately, and really put a damper on Christmas for me. I went back to work about two weeks ago. The first week back, there was a big water main break downtown a few blocks from the BOE, and the BOE had no water service, so we ended up being sent home at 9:30 in the morning. We had to work on Saturday to make up the time, but Saturday was only a partial day, so between that and the time I missed from work when I took the Census test, I was short a few hours for the week.

This week I stayed home on Monday and Wednesday because the weather was so bad. I've lived in the Cleveland area my whole life, so I've dealt with some pretty nasty weather conditions traveling to and from work. I can deal with snow and cold, but after falling on a patch of ice downtown last year, and breaking my right wrist, I'm paranoid when it comes to ice. Now that I have no medical insurance, the possibility of breaking something else really worries me more than it would normally.

We had freezing rain Sunday night, and by Monday morning, the roads and sidewalks were completely ice covered. My husband had an awful time getting home from work, and said the sidewalks looked even worse than the streets, and he doubted I'd be able to make it to the bus stop OK. A lot of the ice had melted by Tuesday, so I went to work, and then we got hit with even more freezing rain on Tuesday night. When I looked outside on Wednesday, the sidewalks just looked rainy, and not icy, so I got dressed, left the house, and didn't even make it halfway down the street without nearly falling a few times, because everything was completely ice covered. I couldn't even walk in the street, because the street wasn't salted. Things were so bad, many freeways were even shut down overnight, because of the high number of car accidents.

The suburb I live in used to be pretty good about getting the streets, including the side streets salted, but this year they really seem to be lax. I haven't seen a single side street salted (including mine), and the main streets don't seem to get salted until after the morning rush, which is useless. I read in the newspaper a few months ago that the state of Ohio is expected to have a road salt shortage this year (there's endless amounts of salt underneath Lake Erie, but apparently the mining companies can't mine it quickly enough to keep up with demand), so I'm going to be generous and assume that's why the roads aren't getting salted on time.

I felt terrible having to miss those two days of work, when I already haven't had a full paycheck in a month. The BOE kept changing their mind about which days they were going to close for Christmas, and finally they decided to close through Monday, which is great for regular employees, who have paid time off, but not so great for temps, who get nothing. On top of that, we're just about finished with the voter history, and from what one of the other temps told me, based on what she heard on Christmas Eve, next Tuesday might be our last day of work. The BOE had been pushing us to finish up the voter history by December 31st, presumably to get us off the payroll before the beginning of the year, so I'm anticipating being permanently laid off next week.

I knew this was a temp job, so I guess I shouldn't be upset, but at the same time, I had expected to find another job before this one ended. I applied for unemployment pay when I was laid off the first time, but my claim was denied because I hadn't been at the BOE for at least 20 weeks (I've only been there about 16 weeks). Normally they'd take into account my prior employment as well, but my last job was with the national offices of a church, and churches are not required to pay into the state unemployment fund, so the 3 years I spent at the church don't count as "covered employment". In my opinion, just because an employer doesn't have to pay into the unemployment fund, doesn't mean they shouldn't.

I'm just really scared about how my husband and I are going to manage once I'm laid off again. We're already struggling as it is, and I can't stand the thought of having a repeat of this summer, where we had to choose between paying the rent and buying food. The selection of jobs out there has been pretty slim lately, and I haven't even been able to get any interviews for the ones I've applied for. Things have gotten so bad here in the Cleveland area that one of the major hospitals, the Cleveland Clinic, has a hiring and raise freeze. I ran into a friend of mine who works for the other major hospital system in the area, University Hospitals, and he said they cut all of his overtime. My landlord has a tenant who works for Lincoln Electric, another major employer here in Cleveland, and his tenant told him Lincoln laid off a ton of employees, basically anyone who has been there less than 3 years. This is the first layoff Lincoln has had since 1948 - 60 years! If that doesn't show how bad things are with the economy, I don't know what does.

Needless to say, Christmas was pretty lean for us this year. I spent about $250 on presents for both of the kids, and wouldn't even have spent that much, if not for my mother and sister giving me $75 to use towards the kids' presents. My husband and I didn't buy each other gifts this year. Even though I didn't buy a whole lot, the kids were happy with what they got. On Christmas Eve we usually go to my older sister Desiree's house for dinner and a gift exchange among the kids. This year I didn't know anyone had organized a gift exchange, and no one told me about it until a week before Christmas, when I had already spent my extra money on my kids' gifts. My mom bought gifts for me to give to my niece and nephew (whose names I had for the gift exchange), which I really appreciated, because I was pretty much broke before Christmas.

Since I didn't buy anything personally for my niece and nephew, I wanted to crochet something for them. I raided my yarn stash and made hats for both. The first is a newsboy-style cap that I crocheted for my 11 year old niece, Alexis (Desiree's daughter).

I used some Red Heart Kids and Caron Simply Soft from my stash. I had barely a full skein of the Red Heart kids, and it ended up being the exact amount I needed for the hat. The pattern was a free one I found on Ravelry ("Swirls Cap"). I'm really happy with how it came out (although I think the swirls would show better in a solid color yarn), and I anticipate making a lot more of these. Everyone raved about it.

My kids had fun on Christmas Eve. My sister has a big house, so there's a lot of room for them to run around and play with their cousins. Here's the "three amigos" - my Bethany, her cousin Alexis (middle) and her cousin Rosie (right end). That's Alexis's dog, Tanner, in the photo. He's a Labradoodle (Labrador and Poodle mix). Alexis is allergic to dogs, but Labradoodles are hypoallergenic and don't shed (his fur feels just like a lamb's wool - I bet someone could even spin it into yarn!), so Alexis isn't allergic to him.
My kids had fun on Christmas Eve. My sister has a big house, so there's a lot of room for them to run around and play with their cousins. Here's the "three amigos" - my Bethany, her cousin Alexis (middle) and her cousin Rosie (right end). That's Alexis's dog, Tanner, in the photo. He's a Labradoodle (Labrador and Poodle mix). Alexis is allergic to dogs, but Labradoodles are hypoallergenic and don't shed (his fur feels just like a lamb's wool - I bet someone could even spin it into yarn!), so Alexis isn't allergic to him.
Here's my adorable little niece, Jenna with her dad: And Jenna with Bethany:
My birthday was December 26th, and my brother-in-law's was the 27th, so my youngest sister Shauna baked a Christmas tree shaped cake for us on Christmas Eve. I turned 35 on the 26th. Only 5 more years until I turn 40 - boy, does that sound depressing! I was feeling pretty lousy on Christmas, about my job situation. A temp coworker and I were joking around about how it's a good thing we can't see into the future, because if we had looked ahead to 2008, and saw ourselves at the BOE scanning signatures in poll books for $10 an hour, we'd have wanted to scream. I told her if I could have looked into the future to see what I'd be doing when I turned 35, I'd really be upset.

I get introspective around this time of year, and I can't help but feel disappointed in myself. I worked so hard to get an education and work experience - I dropped out of high school in the 11th grade and worked at a fast food restaurant, but I went on to get a GED, went to a trade school to learn some office skills, graduated from college after attending for 10 long years off and on, started graduate school, and got progressively better paying jobs. Now here am I am feeling like none of it mattered. I have a $10 an hour temp job (the last time I earned $10 an hour was in 1999), that is ending shortly, and no prospects for another job. I'm still renting. I have a mountain of bills I can't pay. I have no medical insurance. I can't sleep at night and have been getting stomach pains from the stress. I've taken my graduate education off my resume, thinking it probably makes me look overqualified for most jobs I've applied for, and now I'm at the point where I'm wondering if I shouldn't list my bachelor's degree either, which is a pretty depressing prospect.

I woke up on my birthday not even wanting to get out of bed. My husband tried hard to cheer me up, and I appreciated it. He bought me birthday cards from him and the kids, and bought me some slippers and a fleece blanket (since I'm always freezing). He had gone to Walmart, and wanted to buy me a sewing machine, but couldn't find one he could afford. I appreciated the thought though. My sister Shauna gave me a pair of (pink!) fleece pajamas, and the Doris Chan book, "Everyday Crochet" (crochet books are good!). My good friend Latanya, who lives in Dallas (and who makes me jealous with reports of the warm weather down there!) sent me two flannel nightgowns for Christmas and my birthday. My husband and I kids I went out to eat at Bob Evans for dinner. We don't eat out very often, and when we do, Bob Evans or Red Robin are about as expensive as we get. We're on such a tight budget right now, that I wouldn't have gone if not for having two coupons for free kids' meals and drinks (which the kids got from Bob Evans' free birthday club).

I also got a couple of surprises in the mail recently. Last week I got a box in the mail, and I had no idea who it was from. I opened it up and found a beautiful pink knitted scarf (interestingly the exact color of my winter coat), and some pretty pink yarn. I was racking my brain all day trying to figure out who it was from, until I realized it was probably a PIF gift. I was right - it was my PIF gift from Hayley of It wa a really nice surprise!

The second surprise was a package of gifts for my kids from
Katrina, which arrived on my birthday. Here's what she sent:

a Hannah Montana bag and notebook for Bethany:
a Disney Cars apron (great for arts and crafts!), and a Cars wallet (I didn't get a chance to take a photo) for Dominic:And yes, there's more - two beautiful Christmas stockings!

Katrina handmade the bag, the apron, and the stockings - aren't they awesome?! The kids love getting mail, and they were thrilled with everything Katrina sent. Bethany thought Katrina had bought the bag, because it looks so well made. The apron looks wonderful too! Thank you so much, Katrina! I am always amazed at how generous fellow crafters on the web can be. Katrina's package really made my day!

That's about all that's been going on lately. My husband's company is shut down until January 5th, so I've been enjoying having him home at night, and it helps that he'll be able to stay home with the kids for their Christmas vacation. Other than the hats I made for Christmas, I haven't crocheted anything else lately. When I'm worried about things, I can't concentrate on crocheting. I've been reading a lot lately though. I just finished a couple of books - "Something Like Beautiful: One Single Mother's Story" by asha bandele (no typo - she spells it lowercase), which I got free from through their Vine program, and "Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx" by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc. Something Like Beautiful was good, but Random Family was fantastic, definitely one of the best books I've read in a long time. I highly recommend it.

I still have no satellite TV service, so I've been checking a lot of DVD's out from the library lately. My husband and I watched Michael Moore's "Sicko" yesterday. It was excellent, and heartbreaking, too. One story particularly bothered me - a 30 something year old man, married with kids, who died from leukemia because his insurance company would not pay for a bone marrow transplant (his son was a marrow match) because they said the treatment was "experimental". The whole documentary is a real condemnation of the state of health care in this country.

Well, it's pretty late, so I need to finish this up and go to bed. Can you believe that after -20 degree (with wind chill) temperatures and freezing rain for the past couple of days, that it's actually 64 degrees and dry here in the Cleveland area right now??? I'm trying hard not to get my hopes up that it's going to stay that way!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Quick Update

Well, I started back at work at the BOE on Monday. Can you believe it??? They laid off 13 of us last Tuesday, then Thursday, the Secretary of State ordered them to lay off the remaining 10 temps, which they did, and told them not to expect to come back until around the first of the year. But then they called us on Friday afternoon they called all of the temps from my area, plus a lot of the laid off temps from the absentee ballot department, to start working on voter history for the November 4th election.

There's about 50 of us sitting in a big room working on poll books assembly-line style. When I was in my regular department, the supervisors didn't mind if temps talked, listed to I Pods, etc., were a couple of minutes late to work, etc. as long we got our work done, but now the supervisors are walking around staring at us all day, glaring at anyone who talks, coming down on anyone who's even a few minutes late to to work, and pushing us to work faster. Supposedly they have a deadline to get the voter history done, but I suspect they just want us to get done as quickly as possible so they can lay us off again (the head of HR keeps stopping by to find out how much work we've completed so far).

Unfortunately, I found out that I probably won't qualify for unemployment pay once I'm laid off for good, because I've only been at the BOE about 13 weeks so far (I would need 20 weeks of covered employment - i.e., working for an employer who pays into the state unemployment fund), and my previous employer was a church, which aren't required to pay into the state unemployment fund. I'm trying hard to find another job before this BOE one ends. I am glad to be back at work in the meantime.

I took an employment test for a temp job with the Census Bureau today. It was being held at my alma mater, Cleveland State (conveniently located a few blocks down the street from the BOE). One of my temp coworkers (another CSU graduate) and I walked down there today at lunch time to take the test.They have some thousands of jobs open, but most of them are "field" positions - going door to door surveying people, for $9.99 an hour (really! They pay $9.99 an hour!). No thanks - that sounds like too much stress and aggravation - being outside all day in bad weather, dealing with people who might be rude, nasty, crazy, or perverted, being sent into rough neighborhoods, working nights and weekends and holidays. They do have some office positions open, but not as many. Most people want the office jobs, so I don't know how much luck I'd have getting one, but I figure it doesn't hurt to try.

I don't have any crochet projects to show - I'm working on something for a coworker, and I'll post pictures when I'm done, but I do have something else crochet-related. I came across this on a fellow blogger's website and think it's important (not to mention pretty alarming) for any crafters who sell their work to read.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Well, I got laid off from the BOE yesterday. Sigh... We finished most of the work from the November 4th election and a small local election on November 18th, so it had been pretty slow the past two weeks. The head of the BOE wanted the director of my department to get rid of all 23 of the temps, but she only let 10 (including me) go instead. She kept apologizing to us, and said she feels terrible having to lay people off so close to Christmas, and with the economy here being so bad. The director is pushing for her to lay off more temps, if not all of them. We're supposed to be called back in a week to a week and a half to update voter history for the November 4th election (when we get the poll books back from the BOE warehouse where they're being used for an audit), but I can't see them calling us back before Christmas.

In the meantime, this leaves me in a real mess financially, especially coming after having a short check from being off for Thanksgiving. I applied for unemployment pay yesterday. I don't know if I'll get approved for it, but even if I do, it takes 3 weeks to get the first check. I felt nauseous last night worrying, could barely sleep, and woke up with a headache. God willing another, permanent job (or at least a better paying temp job) will turn up for me quickly. The Census Bureau is hiring for some temp jobs in Cleveland, to start in February, so I'm going to go take their employment test next Tuesday.

Well, I do have a couple more crochet projects to show. The first is a hat and blanket set my coworker, Lola, paid me to crochet for her daughter. I finished them about a month ago, but never got around to blogging about them.
The hat is from "Stitch N' Bitch: The Happy Hooker" (I added a flower and used half double crochet instead of double) and the blanket is just rows of striped half double crochet with a fancy border. Lola asked me to put flowers on the blanket too, so I sewed one to each corner. Here's a close up of the trim:
I used Red Heart Super Saver in Petal Pink and Soft White. I don't normally use Super Saver, because I think it's scratchy, but I was looking at Walmart for some yarn, and all they had in pink and white was the Super Saver, not to mention that I didn't have much money to spend on yarn at the time. I hadn't used Super Saver since I first learned how to crochet, and I was surprised to find that it doesn't feel nearly as scratchy as it used to. I guess Red Heart made some improvements to it. I washed the blanket and hat, soaked them in fabric softener, and dried them with a dryer sheet, and they came out pretty soft afterwards. Lola was really happy with them.

Lola's daughter turned one year old last month, so I crocheted a poncho for her, from a free pattern I found online (I added the flower and the picot trim at the bottom). The pattern used a "crossed bar stitch". I really like the stitch pattern. I used some white Vanna's Choice Baby yarn from my stash, so all I had to buy was the red for the trim. Not a bad gift for $3.00! Here's the poncho:And here's a picture of Lola's daughter, Heaven, wearing it:

Isn't she cute?!

Well, off to get the kids' clothes ready for school tomorrow, and watch an episode from one of the "Medium" DVD boxed sets I just got from the library.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Lots of Hats!

I enjoyed reading all of your comments about dressing vs. stuffing, LOL! I see I still can't find anyone to come to a consensus about what the difference is, if any!

It's been a depressing past week since I last posted. The three days off from work for Thanksgiving were nice, except that I won't get paid for any of them. I didn't take them off by choice - the BOE decided to close all three days, and they don't give temps holiday pay. If I had a choice between taking Wednesday and Friday off without pay, or working, I would have gone to work, because I need the money so badly.

I've been working a 9:30-5:30 schedule at the BOE since I started in September -not my choice - that was just the shift they had open. Well, the day before Thanksgiving, the supervisor in my area who's usually there until 5:30 decided she wanted to leave at 4:30, so she sent me and the one other temp who stays until 5:30, home early (without pay for the last hour, of course). At 4:00 this past Thursday, she informed us she couldn't stay until 5:30, because the BOE put a freeze on overtime. We had to leave at 4:30 again, leaving us another hour short. Friday morning, me and my coworker come in at our regular 9:30, and are informed that we would be leaving at 4:30 again. Naturally, we were upset. We're already going to be short 23 hours on our paycheck next week between Thanksgiving and the two hours we had to leave early, not to mention have to leave early on Friday.

My coworker and I asked the supervisor if we could just skip our lunch (we get an hour) but she said it would have to be approved by the head of the department, who wasn't in on Friday. After that, we decided to go to HR, and the head of HR approved us skipping lunch so we wouldn't be short an hour on Friday. He also told us that now that election season is over, everyone at the BOE would be going back to an 8:30-4:30 schedule. How nice of them to notify us at the last minute. Neither of us has a problem with coming in at 8:30; it just made us mad that they didn't give us any kind of advance notice, so that we ended up short those hours. Being short two or three hours might not seem like much to a supervisor who probably makes $50,000+ a year, but to an employee who makes a measly $10 an hour, it does matter.

I get paid next week, and I've just been feeling sick with worry over how I'm going to manage with my check being so short. I normally get about $600 after taxes (and that damn mandatory 10% Ohio Public Employees Retirement System deduction) every two weeks, but with all the hours I'm short, I'll be getting about $380 on my next check. My husband and I haven't been able to buy a single Christmas present for the kids yet. My husband also gets paid next week (our last checks before Christmas), so we were planning on going Christmas shopping next Saturday but with my check being short, by the time we pay a few bills and buy groceries, we'll be lucky if we even have $150-200 left to spend on both kids. I know that's better than nothing, but even at Walmart, that doesn't go far.

To make matters worse, it feels like everything around my house is falling apart or needs to be replaced all at once. My 6 year old washing machine is nearly completely shot. It won't spin at all (and it's beyond repairable), which means my clothes all come out sopping wet, and take multiple cycles in the dryer to dry. I put a load of jeans in the dryer today, and no, I'm not exaggerating, they're were still damp after 3 hours of drying. And then remember I mentioned that the picture tube blew on my TV back in August? When I started working for the BOE, we got a used 32 inch TV from a TV repair shop for $200. It worked fine until last week when the picture tube starting going on it, too. It shuts off and won't come back on for 10-15 minutes at a time. Even my artificial Christmas tree barely made it up this year - my husband had to tie the top together - how ironic is that?? My daughter and I are also both desperately in need of hair cuts (I got mine cut last in March, and hers in June). On top of that, I really need to get my cat to the vet, since it looks like she's developed some kind of skin infection, plus she's due for her shots. I can't even afford to take her, and I feel terrible about it.

Oh, and I almost forgot - remember last January I posted about a minor accident my husband had on the freeway coming home from work one morning (slid on some ice and hit a fence)? Well, the other day, he got a bill in the mail from ODOT (Ohio Department of Transportation), billing him $175 for the fence! How crazy is that??? First of all, he only had the accident because the roads were icy and NOT salted (he wasn't speeding or driving recklessly), and secondly, the fence was barely damaged (my husband pointed it out to me one day when we drove past)! And, they haven't even fixed the fence yet! Both of us have been paying taxes to the state of Ohio to years. Don't part of our tax dollars go towards road repair??? ODOT will just have to get in line behind all of the other places I owe money to.

My husband and I have cut back drastically on every expense we could since I lost my last job in April, and even after I started working for the BOE. Our satellite TV service is off (not a huge deal, since I wasn't a big TV watcher, but I miss watching "Medium" on Lifetime on Saturday nights). Our cell phones are off (which is a big deal, because I have no way to reach my husband at work at night, and it's extremely hard to reach me at the BOE, since although the temps have phones, we don't have direct numbers, or even extensions where we can be reached). We rarely go anywhere on weekends anymore, except for grocery shopping or the occasional relative's house. We rarely eat out anymore, and I pack lunches 99% of the time. But even so, we're just still scraping by.

I am thankful to have a job at all, but it's depressing going to work every day, and barely bringing home enough even for the essentials, let alone anything extra. I get totally depressed every winter, between the snow and cold, the early nightfall and missing my dad who died during the winter, and worrying about money on top of it just makes worse.

My Bethany went to Girl Scout camp this weekend though, so at least she had a fun weekend. Her troop went to a camp in Richfield, Ohio, a rural town about 45 minutes from Cleveland. We drove out there Friday evening to drop her off. They went camping there last winter, too, but we're not really familiar with the area, so between that, and it being dark, we totally missed the camp entrance, drove way out of our way. She had to be there at 6:45, so we left the house at 5:45, but with getting lost, we ended up not getting there until a little after 7. Luckily a few other parents were also late, and the troop leaders were still waiting for stragglers, so she didn't miss out on camping.

I was up until 2:30 in the morning on Thursday night, packing Bethany's stuff for camp (everytime I'd think I was done I realized I forgot something), cleaning up the house, taking care of paperwork for the kids for school (it seems there's always something to complete), etc, and ended up getting 4 hours of sleep before I had to get up for work on Friday. Me, my husband and Dominic all fell asleep about 8:30, after we got back from dropping off Bethany. I can't remember the last time I went to sleep that early. Bethany and Dominic usually drive me crazy on weekends with their squabbling and pestering each other, but when Bethany's at camp, the house feels lonely. I kind of missed it though when we picked her up at camp this morning, and she and Dominic started bickering in the car, LOL!

At least one good thing has happened lately. I got a call on Friday about a benefits assistant (HR) job I applied for with an iron ore mining company that has their headquarters in downtown Cleveland. I didn't get the message until I got home from work, so I'm going to call her tomorrow. Please wish me luck that a better job turns up for me soon.

Well, since I've probably bored you with all the non-crochet related stuff, I have some crochet projects to show. I've been on a hat making spree lately. I think hats are probably my favorite thing to crochet. They're quick, but have enough shaping to keep me from getting bored, and it's easy to adjust the sizing. The first two are a couple of hats I crocheted for The Ships Project - a group that sends hand knitted or crocheted hats to U.S. troops stationed overseas.
I used some Caron Simply Soft Shadows yarn from my stash for both. The pattern for the first was from Interweave Crochet. The hat was worked with front post double crochet stitches in the round. I really like the texture, but the bottom of the hat keeps curling up. I added a few rounds of single crochet at the end, but it still keeps curling. The second hat is just a basic beanie done in extended single crochet. I really love how that one came out!

Next are some chemo caps I crocheted for ladies who visit a local cancer support center here in the Cleveland area. My husband's mother died of breast cancer when he was a teenager (many years before I met him), so this was something meaningful for me. I used some Caron Simply Soft Brites from my stash, and a free pattern I found online. I've been working on these for a few months, but just now got around to taking a picture.
My youngest sister asked me to crochet her a hat to wear around her house, since she's freezing all the time, so I came up with this. It's a rolled-brim hat with a motif at the top. I used some green (her favorite color) TLC Cara Mia yarn from my stash. I love that yarn! I bought a ton of it on Ebay last year. The pattern is from a British crochet book, "Beautiful Crochet for Heads, Hands and Toes". Yes, I know the pictures are crappy, but I was trying to hurry up and take them on Thanksgiving, before I left for my brother's house, because I wanted to give the hat to my sister when I saw her there.

I usually crochet during my breaks at work, and so I've had a few coworkers offer to pay me to make them things (although only two actual orders so far). I made this hat, leg warmers, and fingerless gloves set by request from a coworker. The pattern is from the book "Easy as 1-2-3 Crochet". I used Bernat Softee Chunky (one of my favorite cheap yarns) in hot pink and white.
Are you tired of seeing hats yet? I promise I only have one more! The final hat is another one made from Caron Simply Soft Brites. It was a free pattern from the Caron website. I just made it to use up some of my stash yarn. I didn't have anyone in particular in mind for it.
For the past few months I've been thinking about opening an Etsy shop to try to make some extra money. I don't usually have much confidence in my crochet projects (I always feel like everyone else's projects look so much better than mine), so I didn't know if I could actually sell anything I make. After getting lots of compliments at work for things I've crocheted, and now starting to get requests to make people things, I've been thinking more seriously about opening the Etsy shop. I've been making a list of ideas of things to sell (I decided to save the black/bright hat for it), and looking at my stash (I don't want to spend a lot of money upfront in case I can't sell anything) to see what I can make from it. If any of my blog readers who are Etsy sellers have any tips on getting started, what sells well, etc., I'd really appreciate hearing them (I know I need a better way of displaying hats!).

My husband has been DJ'ing (don't know if that's how it's supposed to be spelled, and too tired to care!) parties for the past decade - not regularly, just here and there, but he decided he wants to start pursuing it more actively, since we really need some extra money. My plumber brother set up a website for his business through Yahoo Small Business, and their websites are free to set up, and only $8.95 a month to run, so I've been working on making one for my husband's DJ services. Even if he only did a few parties or weddings a year, that would still be a huge help to us financially.

Well, off to clean up the house and finish laundry and go to bed...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Happy (Belated) Thanksgiving!

Happy (belated) Thanksgiving! I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving!

My husband got up early and made (from scratch!) red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting (my favorite kind of cake!), and two sweet potato pies. I didn't try the pies - I'll let you in on a little secret (I don't like pie). I know, I must be the only person in the world who doesn't like pie. I love nearly any kind of chocolate dessert, but I don't even like chocolate pies (yes, I'm weird!). Here's what's left of the 32 cupcakes:
Maybe you, my blog readers, can help me with a debate my husband and I have had every Thanksgiving for years: I say that "stuffing" and "dressing" refer to the same exact food, and the two terms are just used in different cultures, that black people (my husband is black, as most of you already know) usually refer to it as dressing, but that white people refer to it as stuffing. My husband insists that's not the case, that stuffing is a dish made with white bread, and that dressing is a dish made with cornbread. I've asked numerous people their opinion, and get different answers. Any and all opinions would be appreciated (I know you'll side with me, right?!), ha, ha!

My husband and kids and I went to my oldest brother's house for dinner, and of course, I couldn't come over without bringing a crocheted gift for his daughter, my adorable 10 month old niece, Jenna. I crocheted her a pumpkin hat from Crochet Today magazine. I was looking at the pattern and realized I had all the yarn colors I needed in my stash (left over from another project). I used Vanna's Choice Baby yarn. I was afraid the hat might be too small, but it fits perfectly. Here's Jenna with her dad, my brother, Joe the Plumber, LOL! It's true! His name is Joe and he has his own plumbing business.
More pics of the hat:

I had a nice time at dinner. The men entertained themselves by passing around dirty emails on their cell phones, while the women had an intelligent conversation about socialism, the economy, and the state of health care in the U.S. Now, which gender is the smarter one?!

My kids had fun too, with their cousins. Here's my Bethany with her cousins, Rosie (with the brown hair), and Alexis (with the red).
Here's another of Bethany, with Jenna: And here's my Dominic playing with his cousin Kaitlyn:
Dominic was whiny because the older girls went in Rosie's room and closed the door, and wouldn't let him in because he's a boy. He didn't want to go play outside with his boy cousins, but he cheered up after Kaitlyn started playing with him. After we got home, he drew this picture for Kaitlyn (I scanned it and emailed it to my sister), LOL!

Well, back to work tomorrow. I had Wednesday, Thursday and Friday off this week. It was nice getting to stay home, but I won't get paid for any of the time off (temps at the BOE don't get holiday pay), so that presents a whole bunch of other problems. Sigh...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

We Have a Winner!

Thank you to everyone who entered my blogiversary contest - I appreciate all of your comments!

And now for the winner...

Denise of (a fellow crafty blogger and Ohioan too)! Denise picked 999, the closest number to 998, from the Random Number Generator:

Random Integer Generator
Here are your random numbers:998
Timestamp: 2008-11-17 04:15:19 UTC

© 1998-2008
Mads Haahr Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Valid CSSWeb Design by TSDA

Congratulations, Denise!

Sunday, November 9, 2008


Today is my one year blogiversary! Woohoo!

I started this blog mainly to keep track of my crochet projects. I didn't know if I would even get any readers, let alone any regular readers, or whether I would even have enough to write about to keep it going for a year. I'm thankful for all the great people who regularly read my blog, and I look forward to reading your comments. I also appreciate all the kindness you've shown me through the rough recent times in my life with my job situation and whatnot.

So, to thank all my lovely blog readers, I'm having a giveaway!

I'm giving away this "spa set", crocheted from Red Heart Eco-Cotton in the "Candy Marl" color. The yarn is actually made partly from recycled t-shirt scraps. There's a scrubby washcloth, back scrubby and soap sack. The pattern is from the book, "Easy as 1-2-3 Crochet".
To enter the giveway, just leave me a comment with any three-digit number from 100-999, by 11PM EST on Sunday, November 16th. I won't update my blog again before then. On the 16th, I'll use the handy-dandy Random Number Generator to generate a three-digit number, and the person who picked the closest number will win.

Good luck!

Monday, November 3, 2008

True Stories from the Board of Elections


I was just looking at my blog, and realized I haven't posted since November 4th. I didn't realize it had been that long. I've been meaning to post, but seven hours a day of answering phone calls from irate and/or confused voters, not to mention answering the same questions over and over and over, for the past month, has left me exhausted. Since Election Day is nigh (thank God - I am burned out hearing and talking about ballots!), here's a little sampling of some true phone calls we've received in the registration department at the Board:

Voter: "I am a Native American woman, and I read my Bible every day. My husband, God help his soul, is a Republican. I'm a Democrat, and I want to know why my husband received his absentee ballot in the mail, and I haven't received mine. Are you only sending out ballots to Republicans?"

Voter: "I received my absentee ballot, and I want to know why John McCain is at the bottom of the list of presidential candidates".
Me: "The candidates are printed in a random order. They are in a different order on every ballot".
Voter: "Why is that?"
Me: "To avoid the appearance of the Board favoring any one candidate".
Voter (sounding doubtful): "Is Barack Obama at the bottom of any ballots?"
Me: "I'm quite sure he is"
Voter: "I don't believe that. I want to speak to a supervisor".

Voter: "I'm filling out my absentee ballot. Should I use a black or a navy blue crayon to complete it?"

Voter: "I'd like to know how I can vote by absentee ballot".
Me: (Explaining the absentee ballot process)
Voter: "Oh, I thought I could just tell you my votes over the phone".

Voter (who starts screaming as soon as I answer the phone): "I received an absentee ballot, and voted for the president. I put it in the mail and just realized that my ballot only had the presidential candidates and judges listed. Where's all the other idiots I've been hearing about on TV, those congresspeople. I wanted to vote for them too!"
Me: "Ma'am, every ballot lists all of the presidential candidates, judges, congressional races, and local issues. There are four pages to the ballot (two double-sided pages marked "vote both sides" in bold lettering).
Voter (still screaming): " This is bullshit! My ballot only had two pages. I know I only received two pages because I'm a Republican. I'm tired of this Democratically controlled county, and I'd better receive a new ballot or I'm going to the media, and not the Fox 8 News (a local news station), I'm going to CNN and the national news.

Voter: "I'd like to know when I'm going to receive my asbentee ballot".
Me: (Gathering caller's name and address to see if we sent out the ballot). "Ma'am, I don't show that we've received an application for a ballot from you".
Voter (screaming): "I sent in applications twice, for both me and my mother."
Me: "I'm sorry, Ma'am, but we haven't received the applications".
Voter: "You're a liar (spewing obscenities at me)!" I sent in those applications and I know they're there! You probably threw them away because I'm a Republican! Those applications had better turn up by Wednesday, or I'm going to the media!"
Me: "Let me have you speak to my supervisor (because I don't get paid enough money to be cussed at).
Later my supervisor tells me the caller told her to "go to hell", and the supervisor told her, "Well, I wouldn't tell you something like that". Caller finally decides to just vote at the polls.

Voter: "There's a group home at the corner of my street, and someone came by to take the residents to vote. Are mentally retarded people allowed to vote?"
Employee (hilarious 75 year old temp employee): "Well, they're allowed to run for office (ha, ha!!)"

Voter: "I just sent in my ballot, and I realized that I forgot to vote for the vice president!"
Employee: "The vice president and president are elected together. If you vote for a presidential candidate, you automatically vote for their running mate as well. You can't mix and match presidents and vice presidents (ha, ha!)".

Voter: "I looked online to see if my absentee ballot was received by you guys, and it says it was challenged".
Me (looking up the information): "Yes sir, it says your ballot was challenged because you did not fully complete the identification envelope. You'll receive a letter from the Board giving you until November 14th to come in and fix the errors in person so your ballot will be counted".
Voter: "My ballot was just challenged because I'm a Republican".
Me: "No sir, we've had plenty of Democratic ballots challenged as well".
Voter: "Well, what if I can't come down to the Board to fix it? What if I'm incapacitated?".
Me: "Let me get your phone number, and I'll have someone from our absentee ballot department call you to see what else you can do".
Voter: "OK, I'll give you my work number, I'm at work right now" (hmmm, he's incapacitated, but he's still able to work???)

Voter: "I received a letter saying my absentee ballot was challenged because I did not put my ballot in the ID envelope".
Me (looks up voter's information: "Yes, that's correct. You'll need to come down to the board in person to correct it for your ballot to be counted".
Voter: "They're (Republicans) trying to keep my vote down, mmmm, hmmm, but no, sir, I'm not going to let them!".

Voter (male - speaking to my pretty, young, coworker, Lola): "Does my registration say whether I'm married or single?"
Coworker: "No, it doesn't".
Voter: "Well, I'm single. You sound pretty."
Coworker (laughing): "I am!" (and then proceeds to get asked out on a date by caller, ha, ha!)

You can imagine what a month this has been for me. If I hear one more conspiracy theory from a voter, I'm going to pull my hair out! Now, this doesn't even include the many voters who want to tell me in great detail their opinions of the election system, the wording of issues on ballots, and the voting process. I want to tell them I'm a measly $10 an hour temp; I have no control over the election system. I've been biting my tongue, being as pleasant and cheerful as I can manage, and counting down the days until this election is over.

Today I received 207 calls in 6.5 hours. Yep, that's approximately 31 calls an hour. I'm tired. As one of my (Republican) coworkers put, "I wish these people who are accusing us of things could just come down here to work for a day and see what really goes on". My thoughts exactly! We are absolutely, incredibly, nonstop busy. There's barely time to breathe let alone worry about people's poltical affliation.

The job isn't all bad though. For the most part I like my (well, most of them, anyway) coworkers. I've met some other temps who have been really great. One lady (who is also looking for a permanent job for after this one ends) and I have been exchanging job hunting tips, and news of job openings, and encouraging each other in the job search. Laughing about crazy calls from voters helps relieve the aggravation too. A few ladies from our absentee ballot department had me cracking up one day when they told me about how some voters (who are required to provide identification information when requesting an absentee ballot) in lieu of a driver's license number or photocopy, have sent photos of themselves. One lady sent a photo of her and her boyfriend on vacation at the beach, complete with herself circled. Another lady sent a photo of herself standing in her front lawn, holding an American flag, her house address visible in the background. Ha, ha!

I must say though that not every phone call I've gotten has been from someone rude or just plain dumb. I've gotten some really nice phone calls - people who have gone out of their way to be polite to me and people who have been genuinely appreciative of the help I've given them. One lady told me "Thank you for your service during this election season". Another told me, "You know, people always complain about the Board of Elections, but everyone I've spoken to there has been so nice and helpful".

And, I must admit, it makes me feel good to see so many people excited about the election. One young woman, just turned 18, voting for the first time, asked me when the election results would be shown on the news. She said when she was younger, she always liked watching the results come in state by state, and she's looking forward to voting and watching the results on TV. Another young woman, a college student, called about her absentee ballot. I told her it had been mailed, and to please be patient, because we had over 250,000 requests for ballots. She sounded nearly in tears when she told me how happy she is that so many people want to vote. I've gotten calls from people who haven't voted in 20+ years who want to vote now. Calls from felons fresh out of prison who are thrilled to hear they can still vote (in Ohio they can vote; they just have to re-register). Calls from people who are hospitalized with serious illnesses, but still want to vote (the Board has employees who go to the hospitals to help patients vote absentee).

I went to work this past Saturday to earn some overtime, and got recruited to help out the poll workers in the basement. We were only supposed to be open from 9-1 for voting on Saturday, but people started lining up at 8AM that morning. By 1PM, there was a line of people stretched from the poll workers tables, all through the room, down the hallway, up two flights of stairs, in the lobby, and all the way down the street three blocks away. The county sheriff had to go out and cut off the line at 1:30PM, but there were so many voters that the last one in line finished voting at 3PM. Apparently, we're the place to be these days, because we've gotten visits from a few celebrities (the rapper Lil' Bow Wow was there, and of course all the young ladies ran down to the lobby to gush over him), from the mayor of Cleveland, and from the secretary of state, among others. All of the local news stations have been in and around the building taping segments, and CNN even sent Anderson Cooper to visit the Board and do a story. CNN has had a news truck camped outside for days. I must admit, as aggravating as the job has been at times, it has also been pretty interesting getting a first-hand look at how the election process works.

In other news, I almost forgot to mention that I had a job interview today, for a position with my alma mater, Cleveland State University. OK, it's just a secretarial position with the law college, but hey, it pays better than the pitiful $10 an hour I'm making now, and I'm pretty sure it's a union position too, not to mention that I'd have some health insurance. Bringing home $600 every two weeks after taxes, with no medical insurance or vacation time, just isn't cutting it. The interview went pretty well, I think. They're supposed to make a hiring decision by Friday. Please keep your fingers crossed that I get the job. My husband is back to working 5 days a week, but his company is still planning on shutting down for two weeks unpaid at Christmastime, so I sure can't afford to be unemployed then (the job at the Board is expected to end around November 28th, if not sooner).

Well, I've got to get to bed so I'll have the energy to deal with another couple hundred phone calls tomorrow. At least I'm not scheduled to work tomorrow night. A lot of my coworkers have to work their regular shift, then head over to the Board's warehouse to open, sort, scan, and count ballots. They're (literally) going to be there all night, looking at about an 18-20 hour shift tomorrow.

A couple other temps have griped because I haven't been working 12+ hour days like many of them, but with 10 year old and 5 year old kids, and a husband who works nights, I just can't do it. I sure could use the extra money, but no way am I leaving my kids home alone early in the morning (before my husband gets home from work) so I can get to work at 7AM, not to mention that with an hour and a half, two bus commute, I'd have to leave the house at 5:30AM just to get there by 7. No thanks. I've been upfront with the supervisors in my department about my situation with the kids and my husband's work schedule, and they've been OK with it, so I don't give a &%$# what a few coworkers have to say about it. My kids, my family, and my safety are going to come first over this job.
Well, off to bed. Stay tuned for some crochet project photos in a couple of days!

Saturday, October 4, 2008


I know, I haven't updated my blog in a while. I have been doing some crocheting lately. I finished the front of my son's "D" pillow. I crocheted some chemo caps for a local cancer support center, and I started on a lacey wrap from some TLC Cara Mia from my stash. I planned to post some pictures, but honestly I just don't have the energy for it right now. The last few days have been a mess. I've had a terrible cold all week. My face is swollen, my head hurts, my nose is stuffed up and drippy, and I have a cough that keeps me up all night. I've been taking cold medicine, but it doesn't help. Both of my kids are sick too.

Then on Thursday my husband got some bad news at work. First the factory he works for cut out all the overtime (which we were really depending on). Next they let all of their temps go (some of which had been with the company over a year). Now they had a meeting with the employees and said they are going to start voluntary layoffs, cut the remaining employees down to a four day work week starting in mid-October, and shut down (unpaid) for two weeks between Christmas and the first week of January. I'm feeling sick just thinking about it. We're already scraping by what with the overtime being cut, me making so much less than I did at my last job, plus food, gas, and utilities constantly going up, and now this happens.

His company says they're struggling because of the economy, but my husband says the consensus among his coworkers is that the company was doing fine until they brought in a couple of new managers, who made a bunch of poor decisions that made the company lose a few major customers. But of course, nothing will happen to the managers. It seems like the higher up a person is on the "food chain" of a company, the fewer repercussions there are if they screw something up. The CEO of our largest bank here in the Cleveland area, National City Bank, ran the company into the ground, to the point where their stock is now going for less than the price of a hamburger, but he was still able to retire this year with a $46 million dollar retirement package. Just sickening.

My job at the board of elections is still going OK at least. Last week the head of the registration department stopped me and asked what my name is. I told her and she said she's been meaning to find me to tell me thank you. I was confused until she said the two supervisors (below her) had been telling what a good job I've been doing and that they're very happy with my "work output". I know that doesn't seem like a big deal, but it made me feel good because in the 3 years I spent at my last job, I'm hard pressed to recall a single time that my boss actually praised for anything I did well (yet she was always waiting to criticize me if I made a mistake).

Still though, the job is going to end either around the election or near the end of November, and I'm trying hard not to worry about the worst-case scenario of my husband being on shut down with no pay around Christmas and me not having found another job. I've still been looking for a permanent job, but the job market just seems to have really dried up around here. At least from talking to my fellow temp coworkers I see that I'm not the only one struggling to find a regular job. When I was first let go from my last job, I was hoping to find something at least using my degree, but now as pitiful as it sounds I'd be happy just to find a secretarial job as long as it's something permanent, and I can some health insurance. I'm way overdue to go to the doctor for my annual gynecological exam and I have a bunch of dental work I need done, but I can't do either. I'm also scared to death of getting sick with anything that requires a doctor's visit or prescriptions while I have no insurance.

I'm overwhelmed right now in every sense of the word. I'll try to post some pictures of my crochet projects when I feel better.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Contest Alert

Go over to and you can enter to win one of two $176.00 Jimmy Bean's Wool Eco Dishcloth sets. Hurry up though, because the contest ends September 24th.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Remember I said I had some small crochet projects to show?

Well, here's two of them:

The first is a pillow I crocheted for my 10 year old niece Rosie (my niece Jenna's older sister) to match her bedrooms. Her bedroom is lime green (yep, it's bright!) with a lime green, hot pink, and white floral bedding set. I think this pillow matches pretty good. I used a 14" pillow form, and sewed two pieces of gingham fabric (with my crappy hand sewing skills!) over it to make a cover.
Here are the stats:

Pattern: Afghan Reincarnation - Crochet Today, December 06/January 07 issue
Yarn: Bernat Softee Chunky in Hot Pink, Hot Green, and White

Hooks: J & K

I also have a picture of Rosie with my Bethany, when they had a sleepover a few weeks ago:
Aren't the matching dresses cute?! My mom bought them for the girls last year.

The other project I have to show is a pillow I crocheted for Bethany. I saw a pattern for crocheted letters in a book, and thought of making a monogram pillow.

Here's a photo and stats:

Pattern: Letter from the book "201 Crochet Motifs, Blocks, Projects, and Ideas"
Yarn: Vanna's Choice Baby in Lamb, Aqua, & Mint
Hooks: I & K

I used a single crochet square worked in rounds with an I hook for the base. For the letter I crocheted with a double strand of yarn and a K hook to make the letter B extra-big. I think it would probably have looked better done in a chunky weight yarn, but I couldn't find an inexpensive chunky weight in the colors Bethany wanted.

I'm going to crochet a D pillow for my Dominic soon. Poor kid never gets any thing crocheted for him. It's just so difficult finding crochet patterns for boys that are beyond the baby/toddler years. Dominic is crazy about pirates, and loves dressing up as one. He had a pirate hat from his Halloween costume last year, but it's been long since lost, so he gets dressed up in the remaining pieces from his costume, and then puts a pencil case (unzipped, and turned sideways) on his head for a hat, ha, ha! It's hilarious! I'm going to have to snap a picture of him the next time he does it, so I can embarass him with it when he gets older. The other day he asked me if I can "yarn him a pirate hat". He's going to have to settle for one from the store, because even if I did have a pattern, I think that's way beyond my level of expertise.

In other news, the new job is going good. The work is pretty boring, but it's easy, and the supervisors are nice. The only thing I really dislike is the commute. The board of elections is in downtown Cleveland, but on the edge of downtown, so I have to take two busses to get there. I live barely over 10 miles from downtown, a 20 minute commute by car, but between the bus rides and all the waiting around for them (since our local transit authority recently cut a bunch of busses from the routes) I have to leave a little after 8 in the morning just to get there by 9:30, and then I get off work at 5:30, and don't get home until nearly 7.

It's hard because I only have about two hours with the kids when I get home for baths, homework, etc. At least the position is only lasting about two months. Hopefully after that I'll be able to find a permanent job where I can get home earlier in the evening.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Baby Gifts

My husband found the USB cord for my camera, so I have some crochet project pictures to show.

First is a dress I crocheted for
Katrina for her new baby. The pattern is the Lacy Baby Frock from the July/August issue of Crochet Today. It's a 6-12 month size. I used a G hook, and some Red Heart Hula yarn from my stash. It's such pretty yarn, but so hard to crochet with because the colored strand comes loose easily, and the yarn tends to unravel. The pattern was really easy though - I finished the dress is a little over a day.
The second is a hat and poncho for my 8 month old niece, Jenna. I used some stash Cotton Ease in Candy Blue, an H hook for the hat, and a J for the poncho. The pattern is a free one from Luv to Crochet.

Here's Jenna with her mom, my sister-in-law, Gehan. Now, I know I'm probably naturally biased because I'm her aunt, but I think Jenna is just an adorable baby!

Well, I have to get going to bed, because I have to go work tomorrow. Wow, that feels weird to be writing that, after being out of work for so long!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Good News!

Guess what?! I got a job! I'm so excited! OK, it's only a temporary one - doing data entry for the local county board of elections, and it only pays $10 an hour, but it's a job nonetheless! I start on Monday. I'm really looking forward to getting out of the house, and bringing home a paycheck again, but I'm going to miss being home with my kids in the afternoons after school, and being able to go with my husband to pick them up everyday.

It's been pretty interesting watching the daily debacle of pickup time. The school has had so many problems with parents driving recklessly near the school, and in the parking lots, that they had to institute special driving lanes for parents, and designate certain doors for kids who are being picked up, and for kids who are walking home. It doesn't seem to matter though, because so many parents just blatantly ignore the rules.

The parents who drive have to circle around to the back of the school, and get in line to pull up to the side entrance to pick up their kids. The kids wait with their class and a teacher, who walks them to their parent's vehicle. Just today my husband nearly got sideswiped by a parent who decided they didn't want to wait, and pulled out, speeding through the parking lot. A couple of times, parents decided to park right in the path of the line of cars, blocking traffic.

And. in the school newsletter this week, the principal mentioned a mom who (dropping her kid off at the wrong entrance), let her kid out of the car, and while the kid had barely stepped onto the curb, sped off, and nearly hit him or her! Can you be in that much of a hurry to get to work or wherever that you would nearly hit your own kid??? I'm constantly amazed by the sense of entitlement some of the parents have, this rules- be-damned attitude.

I've been meaning to update my blog, but I've been busy with homework and school-elated things. My Dominic is still getting used to kindergarten. I didn't expect him to have much of a transition period, because he went through several years of full-time preschool, but the first few weeks of kindergarten have been tough for him. I guess it's because kindergarten is more structured - no naps, less playtime, and he has a new teacher and new classmates. He's also getting used to having homework (twice a week). My daughter actually had homework 5 days a week in kindergarten, but she went to a different Catholic school (which closed after she finished kindergarten). Dominic told me "kindergarten is a lot of hard work", ha, ha!

My Bethany likes her 5th grade teacher, and is happy that a lot of her friends are in her class, but her learning disabilities really complicate school for her. I'm working on getting all of the testing done to determine if she has ADD. As time goes on, I'm more and more convinced of it. She has little focus and concentration, even when it comes to actitivies she enjoys, and she is so disorganized and forgetful. She doesn't get her classwork done in time, and perpetually forgets to bring home books and papers she needs for homework, or forgets to write down assignments. She underwent a ton of testing as part of her learning disability diagnosis, and it showed that she has a normal IQ, and above average vocabulary and reading skills, but her grades are all over the place. She'll get an A on a test or assignment one week, and an F the next, and she's failed math the past few years, even with receiving one on one tutoring several times a week. It's frustrating, because she's a bright kid, but it doesn't show in her schoolwork.

Bethany's 4th grade homeroom teacher was fortunately very patient with her, but the other 4th grade teacher, who taught science to Bethany's class, just seemed in my conversations with her to completely disregard Bethany's learning disabilities, and seemed like she just thought Bethany was being lazy when she didn't do well in class. Her 3rd grade teacher was even worse. In my opinion, a teacher should expect that not every kid they ever teach is going to perform at a normal or exceptional level, and in Bethany's case, she can't help having learning disabilities. Learning disabilities don't equal lazy or dumb. We have an appointment coming up with a pediatric neurologist in October, and hopefully that will get us closer to determining if Bethany does indeed have ADD.

Oh well, I guess that's enough ranting for now.

I took Bethany to her pediatrician for a follow-up appointment for her infected hand on Tuesday. Unfortunately, even after a 10-day course of an antibiotic, a steroid, and an antihistamine, her hand is still infected. She's back on the antibiotic for another 10 days now, and has a cream for her hand. I feel so bad for her because the antibiotic leaves her tired, headachy and nauseous, and the cream stings her hand. I'll be glad when the infection is finally cleared up.

As far as crochet projects go, I've been working on a few small projects lately, but can't post the pictures. My computer at home (despite only being 5 years old) was on its "last leg" so my husband's best friend gave him a used computer he didn't need any more. The "new" computer runs a lot better, but I realized it doesn't have a slot for a camera memory card. I have to download pictures from the camera with a USB cable, which unfortunately I misplaced and can't find anywhere. I'll post the pictures when the cable turns up.

I also want to say thank you to Christina, who sent my kids a package of goodies last week! She sent puzzle books, little toys, hair accessories for Bethany, stickers, crayons, and cookie and brownie mixes. The kids love getting mail, so they were very happy to receive it. Thank you again, Christina!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Remember I said in my last blog post that it seems like everything something goes right for me; something else goes wrong right afterwards?
I was right.

Over the past two weeks, my Bethany developed patches of peeling, sore, bleeding skin on her right hand. I thought it was probably just her eczema flaring up, so we had trying to keep it moisturized, and putting hydrocortisone cream on it. It seemed to be getting worse over the past few days, and I was worried it was infected, so I took her to the pediatrician yesterday.

Yep, it’s infected. And worse, her doctor thinks Bethany has an MRSA staph infection (antibiotic-resistant). The thought had crossed my mind, and I was praying it wouldn’t be one. The MRSA is some scary stuff. Apparently it’s pretty bad too. I feel like the worst mom of the year for not realizing sooner how serious it is and not getting her to the doctor sooner. The doctor thinks it started out as eczema, and then got infected from Bethany scratching it. He said it’s been kept quiet, but there’s been an outbreak of community MRSA cases in the Cleveland area lately. Just my luck for my daughter to get it.

On top of that, her eczema went haywire, and now she has white blotches on her face and arms. She had some as a toddler, but they went away, and I don’t know what made them come back. We ended up with four prescriptions – two oral antibiotics, an oral anti-itch medication, an ointment, and a body shampoo. I’m going to have a make a chart to keep track of what she has to take when, because she’s already on three daily medications just for her asthma and allergies. Arrrggghh! I have to take her back to the doctor after Labor Day to make sure the infection is clearing up, because if it doesn’t, she might end up having to be hospitalized. I’m hoping and praying that won’t happen.

I’m also hoping and praying neither me nor my husband or son ends up contracting the staph either. I’ve been without medical insurance since April – my husband and kids are on his medical insurance through his job, but we couldn’t afford a full family plan – so the last thing I need is to end up needing to go to the doctor or need any prescription medications.

I’m still looking for another job, without much luck. Bezzie and Christina, it’s funny that you mentioned trying to find a law firm that would hire me without any legal experience, because when I was looking at the job ads in my Sunday newspaper, I saw a listing for a paralegal at a bankruptcy firm downtown, that said no experience necessary. I’ve been trying since Sunday to get my #$%@! printer to work so I can print out a cover letter and resume to fax to them before the job gets filled.

Financially, I desperately need to go back to work, but I’m also feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of going back to work full-time. Bethany’s learning disabilities made for a really difficult school year last year. She requires an inordinate amount of help with homework, and between not getting home from work until 6-6:30PM, and having to cram homework, baths, dinner, etc. into the 2 ½ hours before bedtime was so hard. And with Bethany’s learning disabilities, it seemed like there was always some kind of meeting or conference I had to take time off from work to attend, or a doctor’s appointment to take her to.

Now that Dominic is also in school, and having homework (although only two nights a week) the prospect of going back to work full-time again really overwhelms me. I worry not just about the lack of time, but also if I end up working somewhere where I have no flexibility with my schedule, and I can’t take time off for school conferences, etc. Before my husband started working nights, we both did a pretty much equal share of housework, but once he started on nights (he ends up sleeping most of the time when he’s at home), I ended up with most of the housework too, and top of all the other “child care” duties. I would love to be able to just work part-time, but financially it’s not an option for us, and that’s frustrating.

Anyway, I do have a finished crochet project to show. I was looking through some old crochet books this weekend, and came across a pattern for a purse crocheted with Moda Dea Ticker Tape and Cotton-Ease. I’ve had some Ticker Tape in my stash for over a year, that I bought on EBay, but ended up not using, and I couldn’t think of a project to make with it. When I saw the pattern for the purse, I realized it was just the thing. I crocheted one for my best friend for Christmas. I changed the colors, added a flower (can you tell how much I like crocheted flowers?!), and used pink plastic handles instead of bamboo ones.
The pattern was labeled “Intermediate” and I’ve so far only attempted “beginner” and “easy” patterns so I’m pretty proud of myself for managing to make it, especially since the pattern called for front post double crochets – those post stitches used to scare me, LOL! The top came out a little wonky though. I think I messed up the stitch county and didn’t decrease enough at the top. But, my friend doesn’t crochet, so I don’t think she’ll even notice. She loves pink, so I think she’ll be really happy with the purse. It’s nice to have a Christmas present finished months ahead of time. It was a quick project too – I started it on Saturday and finished it on Sunday.

Here are the stats for the bag:

Pattern: “Tropical Colors Purse” from Big Hook Crochet
Yarn: 2 skeins Moda Dea Ticker Tape in “Pink Passion” and 1 skein Lion Brand Cotton-Ease in “Bubblegum”
Hooks: Size K for the bag and size H for the flower

I have some pictures of the kids from their first day of school too (last Thursday). The first day of school is a “drop-in day” where the kids come to school with a parent, visit their classroom, meet their teacher, put away their supplies, pick up books, etc, and then go home. It’s a Catholic school, but the kids get to dress down the first day. Kindergarteners don’t wear uniforms at all, but the older kids wear uniforms after the 1st day. Bethany isn't too fond of the uniforms, but I like them. It’s nice not to have to coordinate outfits every day, plus there's no arguments about clothes, or competion among the kids at the about how they're dressed.

Well, I have to finish this up so I can go pick the kids up from school.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Rock Bottom

No, I’m not referring to the SpongeBob Rock Bottom episode (you can see I watch too many cartoons!). I feel like I’ve just hit rock bottom this month in every possible way. My job search. Financially. Stress-wise. Everything.

September 9th will make 5 months that I’ve been out of work. I can’t believe it. I’ve applied for dozens of jobs – nonprofit jobs, corporate jobs, government jobs, jobs requiring a college degree, jobs only requiring a high school diploma, but nothing. Other than the fingerprinting/processing session I went to for the IRS on the 6th, nothing.

Remember I said I’d even take a job at Wal-Mart just to have some income coming in? Well, I applied at Wal-Mart about a month ago. And K-Mart, and Sears, and J.C. Penney, and CVS, and Walgreens. and a bunch of local chain stores. And again, nothing. I don’t understand it. Is it because I appear overqualified to work in a store? Is it because I’m limited to the hours I can work with my kids, and my husband’s work schedule? I don’t know what more to do.

I got totally discouraged after going to the IRS processing sessions and finding out that they have 300 people being considered for 50 jobs. There were about 100 people just at the session I went to, and I sat there for 4 hours while they fingerprinted everyone, went over a mountain of forms we had to complete, and they checked everyone’s forms to make sure they were filled out correctly. They have to do federal, state, and local background checks on all 300 people, run the fingerprints through, and audit everyone’s past 3 years tax returns. They said it’ll take two to three weeks, and after that they’ll contact anyone who passes to take a telephone assessment test (mock customer service phone call). After that, based on the results of the test and scores from the online assessment everyone had to take when they first applied for the job, they’ll make hiring decisions.

I’m just getting discouraged now because it’s been a little over two weeks and I haven’t heard anything back yet. I don’t have any reason not to pass the background check. I’ve never committed any crimes, or cheated on my taxes, but I still can’t help but be anxious. I’m so unbelievably depressed over my job situation.

It’s been a horrible, horrible, month financially. My husband has been working 6 days a week and we still are barely managing financially. After he pays the rent, we have $500-$600 left to cover groceries, utility bills, auto insurance, auto loan, gas for my husband to get to work, and prescriptions. It just doesn’t work. We had to pay our rent out of my husband’s first check of the month in August, and it took his entire check. Every penny of it. We couldn’t even go grocery shopping. I ended up having to swallow my pride and go to hunger center to get food for the kids. We’re fortunate to have in the suburb where we live. As a parent, it was the absolute worst feeling in the world to have my kids hungry and worried about what they were going to eat, and not being able to go to the store just to buy some food. I’m praying we don’t ever have to go through that again.

I told my husband if I didn’t have any education or work experience, I wouldn’t feel so bad, because at least I could go back to school and get some skills to get a job, but what’s wrong with me that I have a college degree, that I have years of work experience, and I can’t even get a job as a secretary or a cashier, so I can feed my kids? The past few weeks were terrible trying to scrape together money to feed the kids. My family tried to help me out when they could, but everyone in my family is struggling financially with different things to, so they couldn’t do much. My husband’s best friend lent him some money, which helped a little. My husband used to DJ parties on the side, so he has some musical equipment. He ended up taking a $500 mixer to the pawn shop to get some money for groceries. They gave him $40. I felt so bad that he had to do that. My husband's birthday was on August 15th, and I couldn't afford to do anything for his birthday. No special dinner at home. No dinner out. No presents. I couldn't even afford a few bucks to buy a cake mix and frosting. I felt so bad about it.

On top of all that, I had no home phone or Internet service for 3 weeks. We just couldn’t afford to keep up with all of our bills, and so the phone and Internet had to go temporarily. We have cell phones (a necessity with my husband working nights – there’s no other way to contact him at work except by cell phone) so at least we had some phone service, but it was awful having no Internet service. I felt so cut off from the world. It’s next to impossible to look for work anymore or apply for jobs without Internet service. Even stores want you to apply online. I listed my cell phone along with my home phone on my resume, cover letters, and any applications I filled out prior to my home phone being off, but now I’m worried if anyone employers tried to call me, found my home phone off, and didn’t bother to call my cell phone.

My husband finally got his second paycheck for August this week, I got some a small refund of excess grant/loan funds from my graduate school program (I’m working on an MPA through an online program with the University of Texas at Arlington – their state university system), and some friends of my niece who are getting married gave my husband $350 to DJ their wedding. It was a huge relief to finally be able to go grocery shopping, and buy the kids their school supplies and uniforms and get their asthma and allergy prescriptions refilled. The kids started back to school on Thursday. My daughter started 5th grade, and my son started kindergarten. I was afraid we wouldn’t have any money in time to get the stuff they needed to school, but fortunately we did.

I was able to pay our home phone and Internet bill on Monday, but it took the phone company (I have Internet service through them) until Wednesday to turn the Internet back on, since they had to put it through as a new order. It seems like one thing goes right for us and two other things go wrong. I swear, not more than 5 minutes after my Internet service came back on, our TV in the living room broke. The circuit board blew, and the whole thing reeked like smoke. Granted it was a cheap TV - a small 19 inch that we paid about $120 for, but still, it was barely a year and half old! Our TV before that, a 32 inch GE, lasted for 12 years before the picture tube died. Our remaining TV (and it's going to be our remaining one until I get another job) is a tiny twenty-year old 14 inch TV in our bedr4oom that my husband found a few years ago. But hey, at least it still works.

I'm convinced, just absolutely convinced that everything is made cheaply anymore, and made with functional obsolescence built right in, so the consumer is forced to replace everything frequently - appliances, cars, houses, everything. As luck would have it, not only did our TV go, but our washing machine is nearly gone too. It's a 6 year old Kenmore up and down washer/dryer set (the kind that are made for apartments and condos). The set wasn't cheap - we paid $975 for it, and it's a pretty basic set, but it was all we could find that would fit in the condo we lived in when we bought it. We've had nothing but problems with it since we bought it. We've gone through multiple belts, a new washtub, on and on, and spent at least $500 in repairs on it over the years. Now it barely agitates, and won't spin at all, so I have to run clothes through 2-3 drying cycles to get them to dry, since they come out of the washer sopping wet. My husband took the washer apart, and found out that the ball bearings are shot. It would cost as much as a new set to get them replaced. So much for that. My youngest sister offered to give me her old washer from her apartment where she lived before getting married (her husband owns a house and already had all the appliances he needed). Thank God for that, or we'd be heading to the laundromat every day (a huge hassle with laundry for a family of 4), not to mention expensive. But, am I right? Is everything made cheaply anymore?

Now that the kids are in school, and I don’t need to pay for daycare for them if I find a job, I feel even more pressure to find a job. I don’t even know where to apply anymore. It feels like I’m either overqualified or underqualified for everything. There are tons of lower-paying secretarial/administrative jobs, but when I apply for those, I don’t even get so much as an interview.

I applied for a job requiring a degree with a local nonprofit organization a few weeks ago. It’s a job requiring a degree, and one very similar to what I was doing at my last job. I saw this particular job open months ago, applied, and never heard back from them. When it came open again, I reapplied, and they called my cell phone over a week ago for a phone interview. The asked me how much I was making at my last job, I told them, they said this job wouldn’t be paying as much (about a $5,000-$8,000 a year pay cut), and asked me if I would still be interested in it. I told them yes (at this point I can’t afford to be choosy about how much a job pays), they sounded surprised, and said they would call people for in-person interviews in a few days. Well, that was over a week ago, and I haven’t heard anything more from them.

I desperately need a job. Sure I’d love to have a job paying at least what I made at my old one, but I’ll take pretty much anything at this point, but it seems like all employers see is “overqualified” and won’t consider me. It seems like the only job growth here in the Cleveland area is lower-paying jobs no one will consider me for, or jobs in the legal or medical fields, that I won’t be considered for (I’ve tried) because I don’t have experience in those fields. It’s a great time to be a legal secretary or paralegal (I see tons of law offices hiring for paralegals with experience in debt collection or foreclosures – no surprise with Cleveland being one of the poorest cities in the country, and having among the highest foreclosure rate in the country), and a great time to have any skills in the medical field (because if we have nothing else, at least we have two major hospital systems here in Cleveland).

I spent 10 years (off and on) working on my bachelor’s degree (between working full-time, having kids, dealing with family health problems, etc) and sometimes I feel like I wasted my time, like I’d have been better off just going through some kind of technical training in the medical field or legal field or something. At least I’d be employed right now. It’s frustrating and depressing. Honestly if I didn’t have kids (because of not wanting to move them away from my family) I’d leave the state tomorrow. It seems like there’s nothing around here for college graduates.

About the only good thing that’s happened lately is my husband finished his welding class. It was a long 6 weeks. Between his work and school schedule, and lack of money, we’ve done nothing fun all summer. I’m not upset about not being able to take a vacation – even when we both were working, we could rarely afford vacations. But, I’m sad that summer is pretty much over and we haven’t been able to even do so much as take the kids to the zoo, or a drive-in movie or an amusement park. We couldn’t even do much of any free stuff, like go to the library, because I couldn’t even afford to scrape together a few dollars for bus fare to get there. My daughter was actually excited to go back to school this week, because she was so bored at home, and that made me feel terrible. I love my kids, but I got burned out being home with them everything single day too, with my husband not around to help, between his work and school schedules, and no time to myself at all.

Pretty much all the kids have done all summer is play with other kids on the street. Most of the bratty kids stopped coming around my house after I told them they’re not welcome here if they’re going to be rude to my kids and start fights with them, but that little brat “M” has really gotten on my nerves. Last weekend she rode her bike down to my house, and started harassing Bethany right in our backyard. When Bethany came in to tell me, she left before I could say anything to her. Bethany left to walk down to her a different friend’s house down the street. She has to pass M’s house on the way, and M and a bunch of other girls stood on the sidewalk, blocked Bethany’s way, and started threatening her, saying they were going to beat her up. Bethany came home crying and told me, and I walked back down there with her. Some of the kids had gone home, but a few, including M were standing in front of her house, and had the nerve to tell me and Bethany we couldn’t’ walk past. The hell with that. I told them it’s a public sidewalk, and we most certainly are allowed to walk past. I walked with Bethany to her friend’s house, and was talking to her friend’s mom for a while.

When we went home, M’s mom and dad were outside, and the mom told me I’m not allowed to speak to her daughter! Excuse me?! I told her your daughter has no right to tell me where I can and can’t walk. The mom had a nasty attitude and told I still can’t talk to her daughter, and to come to her if my daughter has a problem with hers! No, it’s not Bethany causing the problems; it’s her little brat of a kid who won’t leave Bethany alone. Maybe if the mother actually kept an eye on her daughter, she’d see how she actually acts. I told my husband if that kid comes back in our yard again harassing Bethany, I sure will have something to say to her, and if she or any of the other girls lays a hand on Bethany, I’m calling the police. I’ve had enough of these kids thinking they own the neighborhood and have to listen to any adults. My husband said M is lucky this isn’t the 1970’s, because back then, some old lady down the street would take her aside and spank her, and drag her back home to her mom. I think he’s right. When I was growing up back in the 70’s, adults didn’t hesitate to call kids out if they were doing something wrong.

Well, I guess that’s about it. I don’t really have any crochet projects to show. Between worrying about finding a job, being broke, and dealing with the food situation, I couldn’t concentrate on crocheting anything. I might have something to post soon though.