Sunday, May 6, 2012

I didn't know what going to college would mean

So it goes....

Things get better, then they get worse again. Life gives and takes away.  But lately I've been thinking about how much was taken away without my knowledge, I'm learning just how much I'll lose out on.

A college degree is supposed to provide a better life.  Who doesn't want a better life?  I mean, a college degree is supposed to nearly double annual income, right?  Or at least that's what they say.  Recent graduates (and by recent I mean those that graduated in the past 5 years) may disagree.  Granted my degree program was never one that was supposed to assure a large salary, we all know teachers don't make much money.  But still I should  have been able to make roughly the same as I did before (about 25,000 - 30,000) a year.  Sadly, that did not happen.  For the past 2 years I have made less than minimum wage annually.

Just as I was working my way to accepting the lower income to be able to work in a field that I love, I have had to accept a job in retail in the hopes that I'll at least be able to pay 1/3 of my monthly bills.

Unfortunately, what may end up happening is I lose an important chunk of that income to garnishment should I get behind on my student loans.  Sure, they're limited in how much they can take, but does that really help when you're already deciding whether to pay on your loan or keep your power on?  There are forms that can be filled out to challenge the decision, and declare hardship, but how much better does that really make anyone feel when they can take the money without a court judgement to start with?  And sure, it may take months of non-payment before garnishment steps are taken, but when there is no real hope of a raise in a lousy economy, months of non-payment is what you're looking at, and deferments only last so long.

So struggling with poverty until the economy improves is a definite.  Struggling with poverty for the rest of my days is a possibility.  After all, the longer I am working in a field which does not require a college degree, the less likely I will be able to get into a field which does.  Who wants to hire someone in a field that they have not worked in in over 5 years?

Another loss that I didn't know would occur is my health insurance.  My premium for an individual policy covering myself and my spouse (unfortunately I don't have a job that offers group coverage) was $279/mo.  After the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act my premium jumped to $348/mo.  June 1st it will increase to $418/mo. Affordable, indeed.  I can no longer pay for my health insurance because of something that was supposed to help people afford health insurance.

Which brings me to my next point, I may never be able to plan for and afford a family.  My current health insurance plan includes maternity coverage (being a responsible woman of childbearing years, this has always been very important to me).  My current health insurance plan is no longer offered, to try to keep the premium lower I can increase my deductible but the premium will still increase beyond my means.  Or I can apply for a new plan, but none of my insurance company's current plans in my state offer maternity coverage.  I can change to a  different company - currently the only company that offers maternity coverage in my area is Blue Cross and Blue Shield.  Their lowest plans with maternity coverage still range $373 - 419.  That's not gonna work.

Granted I'm not ready to start a family at this time.  I would like to be somewhat financially stable first, ya know, back in the $30,000 a year income range first.  But I'll be older then and would have to pay more than $500/mo for health insurance, assuming BC/BS would still offer maternity coverage at that time.  And if I'm back in somewhat financially stable land, I'd likely be ineligible for state assistance with maternity care - $30,264/hr for a family of 2.  It'd be cutting it pretty close at any rate.

And let's face it - $30,000/yr might be back in financially stable land, but it's not enough to put back several thousand dollars in savings to pay for maternity care out of pocket.

So my spouse and I going back to college and finishing our degrees in hopes of achieving a better life?  Yeah, we're about $100,000 in debt.  My husband is currently unemployed despite having 3 degrees.  I'm about to start a retail job that will not be enough to keep us afloat.  We'll soon lose our health insurance.  Oh, and we've pretty much lost any chance of owning a home or having a family.  So while we've planned very carefully and are able to pay our bills for a few months more, the crash seems inevitable.

In theory, you can't put a price on knowledge and education.  In reality?  It cost me much more than I ever expected.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas, Everybody!

What a day, what a week, really.  I don't really have a lot to say, but as I haven't posted in months, thought this would be the time.  Hope everyone had a safe and happy holiday.

I'd like to point out that while I hope everyone had a good holiday, I still hate Christmas.  It's too stressful, too chaotic, there are too many places to be in too little time.  I wish it could be spread out over the year instead of all at once.  I wish I didn't have to pick who to see or speak to and who has to get pushed back to mid January.  But, you know, "If wishes were horses, beggars would ride".  Overall, I had more good than bad this year.  I was actually able to purchase some gifts and make others.  The gifts I made I was able to put more thought in to, and really I was able to put more thought into the ones I purchased too.  There wasn't much time to do either, but working alone as a production artist gives nothing if not time to think.

And I want to list some things about my Christmas weekend, if only for me to review later when I ask myself, did that really happen?  Really?

The good (in no particular order):
     Made Gingerbread cookies for the first time
     Finished making/purchasing/wrapping gifts for people BEFORE rushing out the door to deliver them and didn't have to finish up anything in the car or stop to pick up last minute things.  
     Sang a duet on SingStar with my sister and got exactly the same score - to the point
     Listened to/watched two of my aunts rock out to "Material Girl"
     Even got my step-mom to sing with me
     Got some really awesome presents, phone calls, and messages from people I care deeply about
     Ate really terrific food
     Got all teary eyed when told about a really beautiful and much needed gift that was delivered anonymously to a friend of mine
     My sister-in-law got into town just in time for Christmas morning coffee and presents

The bad:
     Ate so much that I couldn't sleep Christmas Eve due to extreme belly ache
     Arrived Christmas Day at my mom's house and no sooner had she opened the door than her oldest and most favorite fish went into pre-death spasms
     Ate lunch late and experienced return of the extreme belly ache
     Went to my friend's grandmother's house and had a REALLY uncomfortable experience

But overall, the good was much more plentiful than the bad, even if the bad was really bad this year*, and the tasty scotch I got for my birthday should help to wash some of it away.  So while I may never learn to truly love and embrace the holiday season, I do love my family and friends very much and am thankful for time spent with them.  Who knows, a few more years with this much good and maybe it'll chip the hate away.

*I know it doesn't sound like much, but - that belly ache was serious business, and no one wants to hear mom struggling to say "Merry Christmas" while wracked by full body sobs** - and that REALLY uncomfortable experience? Just take my word for it.
**She's very attached to her fish and takes exceptional care of them - this one was several years old.

Monday, June 20, 2011

On the Move

I really dislike moving.

That's a bit of an understatement, really.  I hate moving.  The packing, the scrubbing, the boxes full of books that are heavy and awkward to hold and carry.  Then the lugging of the boxes just to do more scrubbing and unpacking.  It just isn't fun at all.

It doesn't help that I have problems packing things up.  My husband can pack 3 boxes in the time it takes me to fill half of one.  I get distracted by all of the interesting things I have, stopping to inspect them, flip through comics and notebooks and examining scraps of paper I have saved.  Then once I have stopped examining them I'm torn between just dumping everything into the box and arranging the inside of the box so that everything fits neatly with as little empty space as possible (to save on having to buy more boxes-despite the fact that this often adds to their weight and awkwardness).

However, moving has its benefits as well.

In the case of the current move?  I am moving from an apartment into a house!  I'll have a yard, with a big back porch, a fire pit and grass and dirt to play in.  In the back yard is possibly the most magnificent and monstrous gardenia I have ever seen - the thing is huge and smells like happiness.

But the best part - the absolutely best thing ever is that for the first time I will have my own studio space!  Yes, that's right - 'Reta's getting a studio!  The basement of the house will be my domain, my sanctum, my own work area where I can escape reality and create art all over the place.

No more heat exhaustion in mom's garage making glass beads all day.  No more drawings rolled up into bundles because there's no room for them to be out.  No more beads and bits of wire all over the living room floor.  No more dismantling my easel that Khris's Grampy made for me.  No more searching through an overcrowded apartment looking for that tube of superglue that could be in one of four rooms I have things scattered in.  No more fear of reconstituting clay because of the crap that will get blown into it by the lawn maintenance crew.  All of my projects and supplies will be in one cool, comfortable, tile floored room!

It's gonna be crazy hectic for the next 10 days (longer, really because my life always is crazy and hectic), but totally worth it.  I can't wait.  :)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Whoo Boy!

So it's been awhile... life is still crazy and makes no sense.  Or maybe, it's not that it makes no sense, it just doesn't make the kind of good organized sense that appeals to me.  Life has some kind of weird backward logic of it's own that I am incapable of following.

I have begun to realize I have an unhealthy relationship with time.  Thankfully, it's not the terrible curse of bad timing that my dear Reverend Doctor Jones is afflicted with, but I'm gonna complain about it anyway.  You see, I think time hates me.  For months now, I have been really busy.  I have felt like I had no time.  No time to myself, no time to do things I wanted to do, just a big whopping, "I'm too busy, I have no time."

The reason for this lack of time was that I could find no single source of employment and had to create my own.  As a skilled, capable overachiever this was okay.  I didn't make very much money (or even enough to pay my bills), but I was building a business.  I filled my days with applying for jobs, making jewelry and pottery, experimenting and learning to make paper mache masks, researching steampunk things for ideas for paintings and whatnots, and shopping for low cost art supplies.

I had some money making work during this time, I did a makeup job that may lead to some work for a movie, I had a sale, my pottery classes were about to start up again, things weren't quite as bleak as they had been in my mind, but they still weren't good in the "how am I going to maintain my pesky food habit?" kind of way.

And then, lo and behold, I landed an art job.  A production art job.   Getting paid to make art - everything I have always wanted in a job.  I was super happy about it.  Still am, really.  But this brings me back to the relationship with time thing. 

I'm in training 5 days a week for my super cool new job.  I'm teaching pottery classes on Saturdays.  When my training is over, I'll be able to work from home and set my own schedule again.  Everything is great.  Except for time.  I don't have enough time.

I have a couple of really great art opportunities on my plate that I worked really hard to get (all that "I'm too busy creating my own job, so I have no time" stuff I've been doing).  Some of these opportunities have deadlines, others are just an ASAP thing.  I need to submit work for a show by April 1st, I need to prep for a movie makeup opportunity, I need to prep for a photoshoot makeup thing next week, I have mostly finished paper mache masks that are watching me with their hollow eyes saying "please finish me".  I haven't updated my websites in months, despite the fact that I wrote it in my calendar to do so.

However, my current work schedule, including my commute (which I think if it's over 30 minutes should be calculated into your work week, after all, it's time spent that you aren't doing something else because you're stuck in traffic).  I'm putting in 68+ hours per week just in training for my new job and teaching pottery classes.  Today is my only day off for the next 14 days.  I desperately need to respond to emails and facebook messages to maintain my contacts in the art scene.  If I don't get more time soon, I may lose the things I spent all that time working to get!  However, I'll still have the art job that I wanted so badly, I'll just inadvertently sacrifice these new awesome opportunities.

So my relationship with time goes like:

Me:   I'm so busy trying to establish myself as an artist who can make money, I wish I could just get an art job, then I'd have more time.

Time:  Oh, I'll show you, stupid woman.

Me:  I got an art job, and I'm establishing myself as an artist who can make money!  Oh, holy crap, how am I gonna keep up with both?  I don't have more time, I had more time before!  What happened?

Time: You're stupid.

Me:  How do I get more time?!?  Can I quit the useless sleep thing?

Time: Only if you're trying for an epic fail.

Me:  Curse you, time!  Where do you go when I need you most?!

Time:   Away-- because I don't like you.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Insult to Injury

I think I may have found an explanation for my recent lack of creativity (or at least extreme struggle with being creative).

This little chart here of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (thank you wiki!) seems to break it down pretty well.  Creativity is at the top of the pyramid, to be reached when there are supports underneath it.  My supports under the top level have been playing a high stakes game of Jenga for too long.

I was moving along pretty well for a while there, things were looking up, and then they weren't again.  Still, even path, no biggie, keep walking.  Keep working.  Keep trying.

It's been a bad week.  I can take a lot of bad news and disappointment.  But this week it's just seemed like too much.  I can't seem to be productive and get any reasonable amount of work done.  It's hard to focus or organize my thoughts.  Old wounds that I thought had finally healed feel ripped open again.  Old fears and unhealthy thought patterns that I believed defeated are rising up.  And I can't talk to the people that I think it would be most helpful to talk to, because this REALLY isn't the time.

I think if it weren't for all the empty holes on the lower levels of the pyramid, this week would not have prompted such a response, it would have still been upsetting, but not to this degree of feeling crazy.  And I feel crazy, and it's not in the "oh, how funny, isn't she crazy?" kind of way.  It's more in the paranoid, in need of a padded room kind of crazy. 

But here's the really unfortunate thing:  I depend on the things in the top level (creativity, problem solving, acceptance of the facts) to secure the things at the lower levels (employment, resources, property, food, water...).  The current crazy is just scrambling the esteem and love/belonging sections entirely.  It's like juggling chainsaws at the best of times, but right now at least one has been dropped and is spinning around slicing up what remains.  And I can't do anything to fix it because you can't fix it from the top down.

I feel betrayed by my own life.

Boo hiss!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Sleep? Where are you tonight?

     I wish I was a better storyteller.  I'm sure that I must have some amusing stories to share with people, I have stories that I find amusing.  However, when sharing entertaining stories with others I always seem to fall flat.

     I can write stories.  Or perhaps, I should say, I can start writing stories.  Fiction, that is.  I'm not too good at finishing them.  Somehow I always get stuck, not knowing how to get from point A (which is an awesome premise) to point B (which is a great ending).  Everything I can come up with for the middle is crap.

     But I digress.  What I was referring to is my inability to tell a good story about an event that I witnessed, participated in or heard about.  I can't even properly convey someone else's awesome story.

     I had hoped that this blog would be entertaining in some way, although all I really wanted was a place to get some of the crap out of my head, it was a hope that it would be enjoyable.  I will endeavor to make it more enjoyable in the future (note - expect failure at first).

     Maybe I'll start putting sections of fiction I have written on here.  Not tonight, obviously, as the title of this post should indicate my current state of mind, but soon.  Don't expect the fiction to be particularly amusing, as I'm not really funny, and tend toward dark melodrama in my writing, but I hope you'll be entertained at least.  Maybe it'll even push me toward completing a story.  Or maybe I'll create something new, and use this as a testing ground for my attempts to learn to write humor.

     I'd like to learn to write humor.  I even tried it a couple of times, but vampires, ghosties and corpses kept trying to fall out of the shadows.  My imagination is a creepy place.

     So, yes.  In the future expect creepy segments of short stories, and lame attempts at funny stories regarding my rather boring life.  We'll see how it goes.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Work Like You Don't Need the Money

     So I think I've mentioned before that I'm a geek.  As part of that, I play D&D with a group of close friends on a fairly regular basis.  The schedule is twice a month barring catastrophe that is all too common for us.  We're scheduled to play this Saturday, and I realized today that I have not prepared.

     Without going into all the geeky details, I'll say that a couple of weeks ago I agreed to type up my campaign notes before our next gaming session.  Needless to say, they are not yet completed and are on my screen even now calling out "Finish me, please!"

     I treat things like this as work.  The reason I am behind is that I have had so much work of late.  I've been working on some oil paintings that have to be finished and delivered no later than a week before Christmas.  I've been working on new ceramic projects at the ceramic center I belong to.  I've been working on creating some new jewelry for an upcoming sale next week, as well as some commissioned requests.  And in the evening when I've used up adequate daylight for painting and suchlike, I knit, working on some scarves that I'd like to have completed before the holiday.  I take breaks throughout the day, read some blogs and some webcomics, occasionally even writing a blog or two, I run errands and schedule in social time, I search for and apply for jobs, but on most days I work in some form or another from the time I get up until I go to bed.  And I don't have a "job".

     So I got a phone call from my friend Tracy earlier today while I was furiously typing away, and she mentioned that I'm a workaholic and posed the question, "how can someone without a job be a workaholic?"
I dunno.  I can't deny the accusation, reflecting on it she seems correct.  I work all the time.  And I don't have a "job". When faced with an absence of work, I create more work to do.  I take on extra projects, labeling things in my mind as work to do and then do my best to complete it.  I don't know how not to.  I like to feel productive, like I've accomplished something.  Perhaps the absence of a regular paycheck simply means that I must do even more work in order to feel that I've accomplished something.

     I think that's it, really.  Since I don't have a "job" with a regular work schedule, there is no set time for the work day to end.  So if I haven't scheduled in other activities, my natural state remains "at work."

Huh.  I learned something new today.