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!


Bezzie said...

Uhg--well 09 is around the corner. I predict sunnier times for you & yours!

Cute newsboy hat!!

Christina said...

Ice freaks me out too! Since I have really bad ankles, I can literally imagine myself fallin and getting hurt. It makes me sick to my stomach.

I love how almost all the girls were wearing Santa dresses. So cute! The newsboy cap looks adorable on your neice. I love the shade of her hair.

What an awesome package from Katrina! She is so talented and sweet.

I hope 2009 treats you better than 2008 has. You surely deserve a better year. Big hugs to you and yours!

Katrina said...

My daughter saw your son Dominic and asked what his name was. She said, 'He looks like a cute little boy. I want to meet him some day'. Hey, you never know! ;-)

I didn't realize the 26th was your birthday. Happy Belated B'day. I pray that 2009 is going to be your year and things begin to look up!

I love the multi color hat you made. CUTE! I really must get back to crocheting.

That dog is HUGE!!!!!

I am so thrilled that the kids like their gifts. I love seeing the pictures and actually seeing something that I made is somewhere else and has found a home.

That pink scarf and yarn you got is so nice. It looks really soft.

naida said...

hi laura (((hugs)))
the caps you crocheted are very cute.
i've heard of golden-doodles, but not

awwww....your neice and daughter look so cute all dressed up for Christmas.

happy belated birthday. and I hope 2009 brings you lots of good health, success and happiness.

Lesalicious said...

It looks like you all had a great Christmas loving all those hats cute. Happy New Year. Keep up all the great work this year as well as last year.:)

Launi said...

I love the swirls cap. Thanks for posting it. You do beautiful work.

Anonymous said...

I love it ! Very creative ! That's actually really cool Thanks.