Friday, November 27, 2009

Buy Handmade Items

Shopping online is a great way to avoid the crowds this season. Besides, some of the best artisans in the world sell their wares on Etsy.com! I am a big fan of hand-made and one of a kind gifts, but don't always have the time or the talent to do justice for the occasion. Some of the vendors in the Etsy community will even create custom orders, so you can get exactly what you want! And the variety is amazing. You can find anything there from soap, jewelry, hand bags, toys, home d├ęcor and original oil paintings to lavish costumes, furniture, even medieval armour reproductions! You avoid the retail markups because you're buying direct from the manufacturer. If you haven't taken a look, please do so!

When you join as a seller or buyer, please use "luvoutrage" as your referral.

It is important to preserve the value of working with our hands and using our imagination to create the unique and beautiful. Etsy.com celebrates this like no other place on the internet. Various sample items will now appear as a regular feature on the front page of this blog (on the right-hand side ------->).

Monday, November 2, 2009

43 Things, Track Your Goals

We usually associate goals with ambitious people, but they are useful to everyone. Goals keep content and happy people from stagnating.

I found a wonderful website for tracking your personal goals called 43Things. The website allows you to state your goals in a list, update what steps you've taken to reach them. In addition, it allows you to cheer on and to receive encouragement from others. Putting goals in writing and getting support really helps with motivation. Try it out!

An Odd Alcoholism

Many people limit their definitions of alcoholism to exclude their own behavior or the behavior of a loved one. They may say that people who drink to excess only on social occasions, who are able to function at work the following day, who don’t react violently, who don’t drink hard liquor, and those whose livers’ haven’t failed are excluded. This is not the case.

My father began experimenting with tobacco and alcohol as a very young teenager. Out of fear of her husband’s militant unreasonableness, my grandmother blindly ignored whatever she discovered about her children’s vices and even aided them in covering up the truth about their addictions. I say "their" since my aunts and uncles have addiction issues as well.

My mother discovered the tobacco and alcohol dependence after they had wed, just as the first child was conceived. At 18 years of age, she had a dilemma. How would she protect her children from the influence of chemical dependency? Having an uncommonly strong will, she simply set boundaries for her household and Dad was expected to fall in line out of respect for his wife and love for his children. These boundaries were firmly established and consistently policed. Chewing tobacco was allowed if disposed of in proper receptacles, but smoking was too dangerous to little lungs to be tolerated. Staggering, puking, and slurring was unacceptable; hard liquor was strictly forbidden. So, my father spent each night of his life secluded in an easy chair nursing beer after beer until it was bedtime. In every happy childhood memory I have, Dad was not a participant, but an object in the room. When we reached our teens, he would occasionally indulge in hard liquor at a local bar, but he dared not come home until the household was sound asleep. On one or two occasions, I heard my father getting sick in the restroom. Once, when Mom was away from home, Dad recklessly pulled into the driveway, nearly missing our dog, parked very crookedly, exited his vehicle, and immediately threw up. By that time, my parents were fighting frequently over the escalating alcohol consumption, so it became common knowledge that we had been living with an alcoholic. It was a fairly new idea. My mother had protected us from the man with whom we had lived under the same roof for years. Once my siblings and I left the house, his alcoholism spun out of control.

He was struggling to keep up with the younger men on his construction crew, so he took a retail job at a sporting goods store. It was easier work and suited his interests in hunting and camping and fishing. Unfortunately, the first day, he was sent home after he returned from his lunch break smelling of beer. The manager was understanding, realizing that one beer with a slice of pizza did not constitute drunkenness, but could not allow his employee working the gun counter to smell of beer. He did not fire him, merely sent him home for the day with a warning. Dad resigned on the spot, knowing he could not make it through an 8-hour day without a single beer. Of course, he blamed the manager for presuming to run his life and monitor his off-the-clock activities.

Eventually, he left my mother. His reason was that he no longer saw any advantage in curbing his habits and wanted to be free to drink without her enforcing restraint. He insisted that he was no alcoholic. His justification: he had never been violent when drunk, he held down a job, his liver was healthy. So, he left his wife and home for a beverage. A few months later, he showed up on my mother’s doorstep, quite a broken man, asking for some equipment the family used for camping. She suspected that he was living out of his vehicle, so she let him take the items. She reminded him that he would be welcomed home if he gave up the beer. No.
Left to his own devices, without my mother’s restraint, he is no longer able to hold down jobs for long. He bounces around from construction crew to construction crew, living with one relative after another; and I am sure that his health cannot be good.

Alcoholism is alcoholism long before it ruins anyone’s life.

Working the System

I worked for a non-profit business where we saw many atrocities during the holiday season. Our company gave toys to needy local children. We were shocked at how many tried to get more than their share during the event. We wanted to offer iPods to teenagers, but previous years had taught us that parents of small children were choosing the iPods for themselves instead of choosing age-appropriate toys and books for their children. Also, mothers, fathers, and grandfathers were registering the same child to get three times the amount of gifts. Or people were driving to the event in brand new Hummers with custom rims, doubtless bought by illegal means while collecting food stamps and taking full advantage of housing.
One of my coworkers commented, "If people would work half as hard at finding a job as they do jumping through government hoops for assistance, they’d be rich."
I knew one woman who was trying to get custody of an 8 year old girl that her husband had fathered in his youth. I wondered why they would pursue this so seriously since they had 2 children of their own and relied heavily on government assistance, so I asked about the girl’s situation. She apparently had had no significant contact with her father and was being raised by two loving grandparents. Well, why would they take her from a comfortable lifestyle to live in their cramped apartment in the projects amid constant domestic drama? The answer was appalling: "Because if we have 3 or 4 children, the housing authority will put us in a home outside of the projects, and since my last miscarriage, we’ve given up on having more children of our own. That is why we have to get custody of his daughter." That may be the most selfish thing ever uttered from a human’s mouth, but she said it as if it were the most natural thing in the world. She even wondered how my husband and I are able to afford to live and pay our taxes without the earned income credit. My answer was that we could never afford to raise children on our income, but she insisted that if you know how to work the system, you can have everything. So, food stamps and the projects are the American Dream, huh?
When I was in the fourth grade, my father was laid off. He was very proud and had made a good living (although he drank enough to make us poor). He did not want to accept help, but my mother helped him to see that providing for his family now meant that he must apply for LEAP and food stamps, etc. As children, it was no shame to us to get government cheese and butter. We were glad to have it, but when we no longer needed a handout, we did not seek ways to prolong the mercy that had been extended to us. There’s no sense in watching your family starve because you are too proud to stand in a line. But the truly grateful will move on allowing those with a current need their turn for relief.
I knew a woman in very poor health who did not like to use the motorized shopping cart at Walmart because she might see someone with an even more pressing need for a motorized cart struggling to shop. I wish everyone could be as considerate of others.

Repossession

I work at a car auction, so we do not repossess vehicles, they are simply brought to our facility for resale. Occasionally, people finally come up with the money to get their car back, just days or hours before their car is sold. I am sometimes privy to conversations regarding vehicle redemption. The encounters range from comical to ludicrous to civil to hostile and beyond. The one thing that they all have in common is that people are very "put out" when their vehicle is repossessed for non-payment. They seem to blame everyone but themselves and are always dissatisfied at how complicated it is to redeem their debt. Now, the bank is not interested in getting the vehicle back; they prefer having their money. Therefore, the bank extends every possible chance for the buyer to make their payments. Repossession is a last resort. One woman had to take a weekday of f of work without pay (since we are closed on the weekends, but the daily fines accumulate). She had to convince a friend to drive her to our facility (a 2 hour drive, one-way). When she got there, she hadn’t brought enough money and had to borrow $10 from her teen daughter. Then she learned that her plates were gone (we remove them prior to reselling the vehicle), and claimed that valuable items missing from her vehicle. Now, if you’ve been getting collection calls for two months and repossession is eminent, your car--the bank’s property--is probably not the best place to be storing your valuables.

One woman’s young son told the redemption lady, "Yeah, these two jerks stole my mom’s car." This child actually thought that his mother had been the victim of a crime. I wanted to say, "Really? Is that what you want to teach him?" Doesn’t anyone take responsibility for their own inaction anymore?

It surprises me how much money these people appear to be wearing on their bodies. They haven’t had money enough to pay their car bill, but they have their hair and nails done and sport high-end shoes and coats. No wonder people have trouble sympathizing with the poor.

What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

I have recently secured a job after several months of agonizing job hunting. The job is not glamorous, but it is one of the few jobs I have ever had where I was valued for my performance itself. That brings the most fulfilling sense of satisfaction that I have ever experienced regarding secular employment. I have very little responsibility and endless busy-work that requires quickness and accuracy. I am very good at it and have quickly gained the trust of my supervisor. I am terribly over-qualified, but am well-paid for what I do. I remarked to a coworker what a relief it is not to be the go-to person in charge of everything for the first time in 6 years. She remarked that it would not be long before my talents would be discovered and I would be moved up the ladder. Then, she decided to take it upon herself to probe into what my talents might be. Her condescending question came, "what do you want to be when you grow up?"

Her question revealed that she felt my position was indeed menial, and that I was indeed capable of better. I was strangely flattered and insulted in the same instant. The idea of contentment is wholly foreign to the ambitious. In her view, it is quite impossible that I could be truly happy in my current situation—even though that was precisely what I had expressed. Her question was one you ask of a child who has no accomplishments. My accomplishments and my identity are not closely tied with my profession as it is with hers. My work is not my life, it is merely what makes my life affordable. I suppose that makes me a minority. If I was the CEO of a fortune five hundred company, my job would not define me.

I finally hazarded an answer to the effect that my life’s passion is to live a simple, happy life for me and my husband. I have this year seen my marriage reach the 15 year mark. She agreed that was an accomplishment, but dismissed it as unfulfilling since we have no children. She has made it a project of hers to subtly impose on me a need for continued education or promotion or child bearing.

I have not done anything to curb her because she is well-meaning and quite likely in a position to negotiate a promotion for me. I would not object to a promotion, but neither is it my reason for living. I wonder at the presumptuousness of one who gives themselves license to advise someone in his pursuit of happiness when they have not first achieved it for themselves.