Sometimes The Best Move Is No Move At All

I’ve forever been talking about selling our home here and moving to a cooler climate, with better schools and where we can afford the kind of house we’d like.   I’ve been longing to move for years, especially  after I got pregnant.

I want Son to grow up in a place where there’s a change of seasons.  I think the seasons give a nice framework to mark the passing of time, and they add color to my own memories.

I want Son to grow up in a place where he has a yard to play in, where there are lots of other children, where we can take off on a weekend trip to the mountains.  I want him to pick pumpkins straight from a real pumpkin patch,  not a parking lot.  I want him to sled down a hill and run with glee in his shorts on the first warm day after a long and cold winter.

We’ve been so close to going so many times.  The MLS listing is written, the photos are taken.  I’ve spent many a night browsing listings looking for the perfect new house for us.

My readers and friends must be sick of the subject, as am I.  I’m tired of talking about it – I just want to DO IT.

But, like so many others, we’ve been hit by the lousy economy.  Husband got a pay cut last week,  and our home is worth only 60 percent of what it was worth three years  ago.  The  job market in Atlanta is so flooded that the odds of getting a job even for local applicants is a longshot, and if I were a hiring manager I’d toss any out-of-town applicants directly into the circular file.  We just can’t risk it, at least until things turn around.

The good news is that you’ll not have to hear me talk about it, at least for this year.  The bad news is that we’ve decided that our best move is no move at all.

It’s not about risk-taking.  It’s about not making a bad decisions because we don’t want to let go of our dream.

On the other hand,  Husband still has a job.  We’re living in a home we could afford even if Husband had to work at McDonald’s.  We have no debt other than the mortgage.  We have a healthy savings account.  We have lots of family and friends here, and it’s been a nice, chilly-for-Florida winter.

So, I’ll make our too-small house work.  I’ll find a school for Son.  I’ll continue to scavenge clearance racks to find things to re-sell.  I’ll continue my de-cluttering battle, and hopefully gain some ground. We’ll go to the beach.

I’ll count my blessings that we still have a home, that Husband is still working, that we can put food on the table. I’ll pray for those who aren’t as lucky.

But I’ve not really let go of the dream.  We’re just delayed.  I can live with that.

I’m going to make the most of today.  But I’m still going to think about that house.

Pay Cut Hits Home

It really isn’t a surprise.  After all, Husband’s company has been laying off people like crazy, and is hemorrhaging money every month.

The company is doing better than it was, and once they move to their smaller digs next month they’ll be hemorrhaging a little  less.  Still, it’s not enough to keep the company viable, to keep Large Conglomerate from pulling out  the rug.

So, when Husband and the rest of the staff received a memo yesterday announcing the lease on the new office and mentioning that each staff member will be met with to “discuss your role as we move forward into this year,” we all knew what was coming:  PAY CUT.

Husband and I talked about it, and we figure we can take a 20% cut and still keep me at home.  It would be tough, we’d have to cut every ounce of fat out of our budget, but we could do it.  Sure, I could go back to work, but we truly believe Son is better off, and our family is better off, with me at home.

~

Well, Husband just called and it’s not as bad as we feared.  The pay cut is about 7.5%, which is definitely easier to bear  than 20%.  It’s not permanent; three months in the black and pay will be reinstated (though not retroactive to today).  They also told him how much he is valued, and that he gets the job done.  Which he all true, even if telling him today was a blatantly manipulative effort to lessen the blow.

And we’re lucky he still has a job.  Darn lucky.

So, we’re going to trim the budget as if the pay cut was 15% and put more money into savings.  We still need to be out of here before August, and  there’s lots of work to do.

Recession?  What recession?   Gee, I hope GWB is enjoying his.

Square Peg in a Round Hole

I’m not a minute-detail-oriented person. I’d love to knit and have tried to do so many times, but that type of close work drives me insane. Following in my father’s footsteps and becoming an accountant? The stuff of nightmares. I’m not the type that is a secretary. I’m the type that needs a secretary.

As an example: I can’t type. Well, I can a little. I actually took a typing class in ninth grade, but moved to a school district offering fewer class periods per day so abandoned typing after learning only asdfghjkl;. My own weird hunt and peck method results in some occasionally hilarious and all-too-frequent typos, as my online friends can certainly attest.

Why, then, did I take a job that involved minute attention to detail, almost exclusively?

It was a great opportunity, working with a someone I really like and admire. Then there’s the money, which isn’t too bad. Also, I thought I’d pick it up fairly easily; after all, I’m a quick study. Then there’s the money.

It’s perfect! The only problem is I absolutely hate it.

I’m no good at it. I admit it.

I knew I’d need a working knowledge of Word, which I thought I had. And I do, as long as I don’t have to take into account that I must edit very complicated embedded tables set to other computers’ specifications, and try one of three thousand eight-hundred and sixty seven possible fixes, none of which work.

But even more telling, I must first see the error I’d never ever, ever EVER notice on my own. See, this line should span three spaces and not four, and that line should be underlined twice, not once. Or something equally trivial but of utmost importance to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

This is important work. A mistake on my part could be big trouble for the client, and many mistakes put the account in jeopardy, as it should.

I don’t want that kind of pressure in a part-time gig. I don’t want to have to sit around, like I am today, waiting for others to look at a file and make sure they don’t want to make any changes. I don’t want the pressure that comes with filing deadlines and client peccadilloes.

I just don’t want it.

Why haven’t I quit?

Well, there are parts I’m good at. There was no learning curve for me with dealing with the clients and coordinating jobs with sub-contractors. I’m pretty darn good at it. Most of them have no idea how brand-spanking- new this is for me. I have a great ability to sound like I know exactly what I’m talking about when I do not, and I’m savvy enough to know exactly how far out on a limb I can safely go.

And yeah, I’m pretty smart. I learn quickly, but I wasn’t learning this quickly. So out of my frustration and pride grew an intense desire to tame the beast. To be good at it just because I wanted to be good at it. To conquer it.

Now, after two months of struggling and working around things and arranging to take a Word class (which won’t teach me these complicated fixes anyway) and trying to find a way to make it work I had the same epiphany I had after the last time I tried to learn knitting:

It’s okay not to be good at everything. There’s some things that while valuable, and easy for others, are just not worth the effort it would take me.

I’m wonderful with people, a superb marketer, a great project coordinator, a terrific delegator. I’m creative and innovative and dependable and trustworthy.

No matter how hard we try we just can’t make me fit into this work. I’m okay with that, and truth be told I think she’ll be a little bit relieved. She trusts me, and in this unique circumstance she has to have someone she trusts. But she also needs someone who can see all of the grooves in these very complex holes.

And that ain’t me. Thank you, G-d.

I Don’t Wanna Work

I got a job, even though I wasn’t looking for one.

A friend called to ask if I would help her in her business. The girl who had been helping her decided to get a full-time position, so she offered me the opportunity.

There’s a lot of great news about this job:

I can work from home, or anywhere there’s an internet connection. That gives me fairly good flexibility. If a job comes in and I’m not at home I can just skedaddle over to the nearest place with wifi and get to work, or I can tell my friend that I can’t take that particular assignment.

The money is good. I’ll get paid either per page or per report, and it’s much more than I’d make working retail.

We don’t need the income for our day to day expenses. That means that we’ll be able to accumulate more money for our next house, our next car and our retirement.

It’s something new. Having been home with Son for nearly four years there’s not been much to challenge me. I’ll have to learn something new, which is always a good thing.

It’s deadline oriented. The work is time-sensitive. I’ve not been too disciplined lately, and this will force me to stay on task.

Really, it’s very nearly a dream position.

Then why am I so NOT excited?

I just don’t wanna.

I love my lifestyle.

I love that I don’t have to answer to anyone.

I love that I can leave the house without a plan and let the day unfold.

I love that I can pull into the train station on a whim and sit with Son watching trains go by.

I love that I can go see Husband’s grandmother and play cards with her all afternoon.

I love that I can go to three grocery stores and not have to rush.

I love that I can nap when Son does.

But I am a part of the team that is this family. And given that this is a near-perfect opportunity, I feel that it’s my responsibility to take the job.

It’s going to be an adjustment, but I’ll adjust.

I just don’t wanna.

Husband Had a Date With Another Woman, And I’m Worried

But not about the date.

Tonight Husband had a date. Her name is J, and she was just laid off from the company where Husband works. She’s a nice girl, and Husband is very concerned about her (going through a divorce with two young kids) and the company he works for.

Husband’s company has laid off about a third of its workforce in the past eight months. That would be surprising, but not when we’re in the middle of a real estate slowdown of epic proportions and you happen to be an advertising agency whose specialty is real estate. Management is swimming upstream in floaties trying to secure new, more diverse accounts, and throwing off baggage left and right, including baggage they need to keep afloat.

So, I’m worried about the viability of this company.

I’m worried because Husband makes 25% more working for this agency, who is well aware of his special qualifications, than he would be for a new company not used to paying his current salary to someone in his position.

I’m worried because Husband has Diabetes and Son has asthma and we’ll be paying thousands a month in COBRA until he gets past his probation period with any new company.

I’m worried because we want to move but can’t sell our house.

I’m worried that he’ll get a job in another state and we’ll be separated until the house sells.

I’m worried that he’ll have to take a job at too-low pay doing something that will leave him unfulfilled and frustrated.

I’m worried he won’t find a job at all.

I’m worried that I’ll have to go back to work.

I’m worried about depleting our very comforting and healthy savings balance.

What I’m not worried about is Husband spending time with another woman.

What I know is that we’ll make the best of whatever comes our way, even as I’m worrying.

The Check Is In the Mail. Trust Me.

I’m a skeptic realist. My husband is…not.

Husband has been hired to do freelance design work via Craigslist ads before. Most of his work is from referrals, but we keep the Craigslist ad going when there’s a lull. We’ve actually turned down most of the Craigslist jobs we’ve been offered; they more often than not seem to be more trouble than they’re worth. Perhaps that’s where my skepticism realism comes from.

Last month he got a call from a company wanting to hire him to do a 3D animation for a product presentation. They had seen his Craigslist ad, checked out the demo reel on his website and after chatting with him and a short in-person meeting, hired him.

This has the potential to be a lucrative deal for us. Not only would he receive a nice fee for the product presentation, it could also result in semi-regular work producing more animations for their website.

We sent off a contract and a request for a 50% deposit to their New York office. In the meantime Husband started working on the piece. And worked. And worked. Meanwhile, we have no contract and no check. I can’t really complain, though, because all that’s been spent is Husband’s time. And he’s been enjoying the challenge.

But.

There’s a photo shoot scheduled for tomorrow. We have to pay the videographer and the actress, then bill the client.

Except we still have no check. No contract. They sent it on Monday from New York, they say. Well, I mailed a birthday card to my sister in Connecticut on Monday and she got it on Wednesday…

Thankfully, Husband himself offered that if we didn’t have the check by today there’s not going to be a shoot, even though the client is on a tight deadline to get the animation and delaying the shoot would be a big problem. I really did not want to bring it up, but I would have if he hadn’t.

For me, though, I’m not really comfortable doing the shoot until the check clears. I think that makes me realistic. Husband thinks it makes me unreasonable.

Well, the check did show up in the mail today, and I immediately deposited it. I tried to call their bank to verify the check, but they want me to call a 900 number and pay $2.50 for the privelege. Which would only guarantee that the check was good today; it could still bounce or have a stop payment placed on it before it hits their bank.

So I passed.

And now I will watch Husband pay money to the videographer and the actress, and I’ll pray that the check clears. I’d rather be wrong, and I’d rather not burst Husband’s bubble.

But I’m going to be really nervous about this until we know unequivocally that the check has cleared.

And if it doesn’t you may just see me on Judge Judy. At least I have it in writing.

Counting Chickens and Eggs and Christmas Bonuses

Husband works for an advertising agency that specializes in real estate. Not surprisingly, business is bad. With all of the foreclosures in our market and everywhere, no one can afford the million dollar homes that are this agency’s specialty.

Business is reeeeeeeally bad.

So bad that they have laid off about 25% of their workforce, and are scrambling to increase their presence in other industries (something Husband and I have many times discussed is oh, about five years overdue). Really not a great idea to put all one’s eggs in one basket, is it?

Christmas Bonus time comes around. Because Husband is very good at what he does, is very reliable and has an excellent work ethic, his bonuses have always been…commensurate with his contribution. Last year spectacularly so.

As a result, when I was pondering the viability of buying Husband the new Apple MacPro computer he wanted as his Christmas gift, I factored in the probability of a nice bonus again this year. I shrewdly did not expect it to be as abundant as last year, but in my consideration hoped for it to be even half. Even if it wasn’t, I reasoned, we do have the money in savings, and he will get more freelance projects to replace what we use within a few months.

When Husband told me in mid-December that bonuses weren’t going to be paid until the mid-January pay period, I wasn’t upset at all. In fact, it is better for our tax bottom line in 2007 to defer that income until 2008. Rock on.

I went ahead and bought the new computer, and all is right with the world.

Then, today, Husband calls and tells me he got his bonus. It is 1/10th of what it was last year.

I was completely flabbergasted. There must be a mistake! No? The injustice!!!!

Then I was embarrassed. Given the state of the company, we’re lucky he got a bonus at all. Many people don’t.

Given the state of the company, we’re lucky he has a job at all.

Mea culpa.

No more counting my chickens before they hatch, even if I leverage them.

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