Tuesday, July 20, 2010

I Know it's been awhile

As life would have it, I have not been true to the blog, but I hope that is all over now. I wanted to write every day, but sometimes life intervenes with our hopes and dreams: as they say "Life Happens" and it can be quite eventful. So let's catch up.

The biggest problem facing us all is the current economy. Ted and I were out of work and on unemployment which meant keeping in touch with the Union Hall and trying to wait out the crunch, and since Ted is a foreman there was an additional hope that he would get called back to work as a supervisor.

Of course, as life happens, neither of us got called to work. Now Ted is really smart about getting through the rough times. People are always trying to "keep up their standard of living" but when that entails two cars, or higher rates for cell phones etc. that are no longer required due to your circumstances, now is a good time to trim excess baggage.

For me the trim was easy. I got rid of all the cable that I pay for, and replaced that with Netflix for 8.99 per month on my PC. How does this work? My TV was costing more to run than my PC plus my cable bill was about 4 times the netflix charge.

I cut $80. off my electric bill and $40.00 off the cable, then I cut about 25.00 off my insurance by letting them know I wasn't driving to work.

Ted, on the other hand, went to Carmax and sold a car that he still had to make payments on. This also lowered his insurance, rid him of a car payment, and gave him back some of the money he has used out of his savings to get by until he could find work.

So, today they voted on extending the unemployment and while the extension has passed that first hurdle ( finally) there are more hurdles to come.

First of all, the state I live in, has not ratified legislation that would allow the unemployed here to qualify for any extensions. Since the extensions were expiring, they never voted to keep them in many states. Only 15 states currently still have extended benefits.

Another major hurdle, according to John Fritze "The measure now faces a final vote in the Senate and must also clear the House of Representatives."

So, what  does this mean to you and me? Time will tell. The problem is not with extending unemployment so much as with creating jobs. It has gotten to the point in the US that we think too close to home, and not for the big picture. Extending unemployment does not create jobs, nor does it mend a floundering economy. This is just a band-aid, much like a cap on a leaking oil-well.

Their major hurdle is how will the extensions be paid. If our government does not start making the hard choices soon, there will not be any US to worry about. Deficit spending is not an answer.

Tax breaks to the wealthiest companies was supposed to have far reaching impact by virtue of job creation. The idea was simple, I will give you a break, if you will create  a certain number of jobs. The problem is that the jobs either did not last, or were eventually sent over seas. The bail out of the finance companies was also supposed to trickle down, in effect giving us lower mortgage payments and debt forgiveness for those who qualified. 

Unfortunately that meant that you would have to pay taxes on the break you were given, but they didn't tell you that. They also didn't tell you it would affect your credit rating, nor did they tell you that the new deal (according to the applications I read) would only entitle you to a lower payment for a portion of your mortgage, (ie. 6 months with one of the banks I checked).

So, here's what it means to us. We have to forget about what we think we are worth, and go back to working for what we can afford to live on. Then we have to cut back on our expenses, get rid of some of those credit cards that are not a life saver, but rather an anchor that continues to drag us down.

The point is, America has to stop living for today, and go back to living for Tomorrow! You cannot expect to retire on Social Security if you cannot live on what you make, but have to supplement your income with loans and credit.

In order to stop our country's deficit spending, we have to learn to stop it at home.

Friday, June 18, 2010

What shall We Call This One?

The Exxon -Valdez oil spill was named after the tanker that was transporting the oil, not the Captain who allegedly made the mistake of running the tanker onto a reef. This spill was caused by an "error in judgment" on behalf of agencies who allegedly turned a blind eye when it came to short cuts and safety regulations. Shall we call it "The BP-Black Gulf " "The New Black Sea" or the "New Dead Sea"? How about "The Drill to end all Drills" ?

The tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico needs to go from a name game to a solution game. People are so busy juggling names, trying to shift blame, and working on ratings, that the realities are getting lost in the shuffle.

Face facts: As long as there is a disaster for us to debate,  then there is a reason to watch the news. Thinking back, we had some problems on television a few months ago when Conan O'Brien and Jay Leno were fighting over who deserved the Tonight Show... The debate boiled down to who got the news better ratings, and Leno before the news did not cut the ice...

Something Ted said gave me pause for thought here: During the early days of President Obama's term of office, Sarah Palin was constantly in the news. She seemed to have something to say about any issue that concerned the country, and she couldn't wait to tell everyone that she would be campaigning for President next election. Sarah Palin has always said that her time in office as Governor of Alaska gave her special knowledge and skills for dealing with the "Big Oil Companies"... So where is Sarah? Wouldn't you think that this would be the perfect time for her to show everyone how good she is at dealing with oil companies, wildlife preservation, and disaster? Isn't it her duty to step up to the plate and use her skills as a negotiator? Wouldn't that seal her destiny, if she did in fact believe that she would make a better President of the United States?

Ted says that while he is a card carrying democrat, and a member in good standing of the local union, he was not a supporter of Barack Obama (who Ted refers to as good ole Barack). "I didn't vote for him, but he is our President," Ted says "and I can't see how he could really do a better job in this particular case." Ted went on to say that as a group, the American people have criticized President Obama for every thing he has done. In the early portion of his term everyone said they didn't want him to bail out big companies because "government should not be involved in corporate business" and yet everyone seems to want President Obama to take over BP.

So what do you think about all of this? What should President Obama do? What would you do? Oh, and about Sarah... If she isn't doing anything right now, when it counts, why should she get America's vote in the future. What would you do, if you were Sarah Palin? Why is it that Hollywood moguls such as Kevin Costner and James Cameron have a plan to help, but our politicians just point fingers at each other and debate? 

Where is Sarah anyway, Ted's kinda got me worried about her now. He watches the news, and I don't... Anyone know where Sarah Palin is?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

What are we teaching our kids?

Ted's latest call was about how our kids have grown up. When I was a kid the neighborhood kids had chores, but when Ted was a kid, most kids actually went out and did jobs for neighbors. I remember one family who charged their kids board, so that the kids would understand that they had to pay their own way when they grew up.

I am sure that many of you have seen a paper boy or remember that newspapers used to be delivered by kids. When it became an adult with a pick-up truck delivering your daily news is when the world changed.

Now it is the computer that delivers your daily news, and some of the newspapers you find on line aren't even really newspapers at all! I have to say the Associated Press should be having a field day! Everyone is a reporter now!

Even I am a reporter and so are you. We see the news in our feeds, and the news is heard round the world in dozens of languages, almost as quickly as it happens.

Ted talked about how as kids we would play a game in school, it was called "Party Line" or "Telephone" and probably had other names as well. The teacher would whisper something in the ear of the first student at one end of the class, and each student would repeat to the next. By the time the story reached the last student, it no longer resembled what the teacher had said. Raising our kids has somehow started to look like that. We had parents who taught us the value of honest hard work, and then we forgot how to teach our kids.

When your children leave home, are they as prepared as you were? Have your children been taught the value of a dollar by hard work? Or have they been given everything they got? When your child graduates from High School, will that child get a job and rent an apartment that is within their means? Or will they take out loans to go to college and then never repay the loans, filing bankruptcy on them because they thought they could pay... 

The economy is bad enough as it is, but how much of that "bad economy" is due to the fact that people lived way beyond their means. The only thing that keeps the economy going is if people are spending money. Well, if the people don't have money to spend, what then? The banks decided to extend people credit that would have been unheard of twenty years ago! Who in their right mind would think that a family of four with a gross income of $80,000.00 per year for two incomes, could afford a $500,000.00 home?

Who in their right mind would ever think that a 2 BR 1 Bath home was worth $225,000.00? But that is what happened a few years ago down here in Florida. It got so bad that working class families could not afford to rent or buy, and were going to leave the state en masse.

The banking institutions offered all sorts of deals so that the working class could afford to live here. I personally told people not to buy, but who is going to listen? They thought people were getting rich off of house flipping and they would do it too. My landlord raised my rent so high I had to take roommates, and eventually so high I had to move...

The bottom has fallen out of that and now everyone points a finger here or there... Really? Think about it... What was the problem with that picture? Just because the tag on the house was $225,000.00, did not mean that was what the house was worth.

The house you live in is worth what you are willing to pay for it, end of story, and not one penny more. Is it worth losing everything for? We all know people who got destroyed by these banks, but were those people educated? Did they know you don't get something for nothing? I have to admit, from my end, it looked like younger people getting caught up in the problem for the most part, and some few who were my age that thought their ship finally came in.

Many who were affected by this crunch were not taught the value of hard work, because they saw easy money being made all around them. Many of the people who lost money in the stock market over the last fifteen years lost it because they didn't know they could lose.

Make sure that you teach your children that nothing comes easy, and that people sometimes lose through no fault of their own. It is not a crime to fail or to lose. You must know that you are not alone, and teach your children so that it doesn't happen to them. There have been plenty of boom times, and they are always followed by recessions. Teach your children the history of the economy, teach them that the dollar has never been stable, and teach them that what you own is not a mark of your worth.

So, what do you think? What can you add to our debate? What are we teaching our kids, and what should we be teaching them?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Ted has a habit of telling me about the News.

It seems like every time you turn on the television there is more bad news. I am not talking about the oil spill, although that is a national disaster. I am talking about people who do something drastic because they can't cope with their life. Because of this, I rarely watch the news.

Ted can't help but tell me what is going on in the world. 

Most of the time when you turn on the television, the news will be based on bad choices, and wrong courses of action. This is not about freedom and civil liberty, what makes those choices wrong, is that they did nothing to make the situation better.

Back when Ted was growing up the news would have been a much different variety. If there was someone on the television they would generally be made famous by trying to make other people's lives better. There were people who became famous for singing or acting, but also those who wanted to change the world for the  better, or the worse.

When we turned on our televisions, if there was someone famous for a terrible action, such as an assassination, it was because they shot someone who was fighting for civil rights. Now people are getting famous for killing their children, or their friends, girlfriends, wives and lovers, some get famous for killing themselves in the process.  

What happened? Why are people killing each other and their children, their teachers, even complete strangers... What world did we wake up in?

This is a terrible subject and one that must be addressed in order to fix it. The reason it is in the news, however, does not seem to be so that we can fix it. More often than not, it seems the commercials for the broadcast are to entice us to watch the news. Sometimes it seems the issues are put up to us so that we can debate them the next day. 

If we are busy debating the actions of others, are we taking the time to better our own lives?

I want you to ask yourself what you can do to make your life better, but I want you to remember that violence and death are not ever the solution. Never let yourself get so upset that you think violence is the only solution. What kind of world would it be if violence was the only solution?

When life gets so upsetting, when the bills mount up, or the responsibilities seem too heavy to bear, have a back-up plan. 

For some the back-up plan is as simple as a glass of wine or a special song on the radio. For others it is a good friend you can call. 

Obviously, for me, I have Ted, among others, who I can call for good advice. So, that's what this is all about.

Ted wanted to open up a Q and A. If there ever comes a time when you want to ask a question, the comments section is open for you. If you need a friend like Ted, who will help you find your own answers, without "telling you what to do" but rather telling you what he did in a similar situation, just ask. 

In the meantime, a tool that will serve you throughout your life, is a notebook or journal. If you make a list of the things you want out of life, you are more likely to get them. I am talking about specifics here, not just generalities. "I want to be Rich" is not a goal.
"I want a home of my own" is. Make your list of concrete goals. My personal goal is to get rid of my credit cards! I worked so hard to build up my credit, and now I realize it is easier to get than to control. 

So, make your list. Make sure that you are focusing on concrete needs. What do you really want? Most of the time, people have a vague idea of what they want, without ever defining the fact that they just want to be happy, and safe.

I wanted a home (roof, four walls, furniture... Not a mansion) and a family. I have that. My needs are met, and I am happy. Many people think they need a big house, a fancy car, and a platinum credit card to make them happy. Your income bracket is not in any way an estimate of your worth. 

Your worth is about what you think of yourself, not how much you make, or what you own.

So, what do you think? What do you really need? What do you really want out of life?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Ted called Last Night

Even on his birthday, Ted wanted to make sure everything was going to go right. He had read my posts, not an easy task if you do know Ted, he can barely find his e-mail. Ted wanted to make sure that today I add a few things to the blog.

First, he wanted me to tell you that I make it sound as if he made me change my life, or that he helped me to change it. In reality, he told me what he would do in my shoes. He says that he is proud of me, but that the changes made were mine alone. I guess that's true.

His words for today are these: "Don't do as I say, or do what I do, unless you believe it applies to your situation." 

Kind of powerful. Often times in life we think that doing what others say or do is right for us. In reality that may be far from the truth. Case in point, a pilot has been trained to fly and land the plane. You would not try to do either of these things as that does not apply to you.

I have said that I was sharing a house with other people. Now I have a home of my own. I needed to have a home of my own. You may not have that same need, perhaps you need to have room mates.

Now back to what Ted did do for me. He asked me what I really wanted to do with my life. Every time I tried to say that what I wanted wasn't even possible, he would tell me, "You can't say that, I asked you what you want. What do you want? Forget about whether or not it's possible."

You see, you can't get what you want or need in this life if you won't even define it for yourself, because you have already decided that it isn't possible. You have given up without even deciding what you really want.

Now you might say:"Well I tried and I didn't get it..." Yeah, I have been there too. Or "I had everything I wanted and I lost it all!" Yeah, I did that too. That's why I was living with other people.

So what Ted did for me is give me the confidence to try. What is the worst that could happen if I really sat down and decided what I want. I don't get it? Really, is that the worst? Because I already didn't have it anyway, so saying what I want isn't going to make my life any worse.

I got what I wanted. I learned to take a chance on myself. Are you ready to take a chance on yourself? Ted thought that it was high time I learned to take a chance on myself, and he was right. It was the best choice I ever made. Is it time for you to take a chance on yourself, to decide what you really want out of life? They say as you think, so you are...

Ted wants me to start ending each day with these questions. 

What do you think? How do you feel? What do you need?

Please feel free to leave us a comment or a question in the comments box.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ted's Birthday Today

So the day started with a whimper from me, I hate getting out of bed now that I am not working and not sleeping well at night. Ted gets up bright and early, he tells me. His daughter made him breakfast and took him out to lunch. 

We talked after that, and he said what he wants to accomplish with this blog. I told him to make some talking points and write them down, but that today is his Birthday and should be enjoyed.

Ted's message today is to not stay in denial. We all have problems and things we would like to change about ourselves and our lives. Sometimes we look back over our lives and wish we'd done things differently. We talk ourselves into believing that we could fix now, if we could change the past. That is a lie, and we need to face it. If we want to make a change in our life today, then we have to start today.
If you want your life to be different, to change it for the better, you need to decide what you want to change, and then start doing it.

I wanted to quit smoking, but I kept trying to cut down first. The change I was making was a lie to myself. It was not quitting, or even trying to quit, it was cutting down. If you want to lose weight, you do not go on a diet, you change your habits. Going on a diet, is not going to work, because when the diet is over you go back to the old way of eating.
If you want to change your finances, so that you have more security, then you have to start by not spending more than you make. So look at your budget and figure out what you really need. Maybe you have more than one credit card and can transfer all of your balances to a single card. Perhaps you have a DVR and the shows you record are available on demand anyway. Maybe you have the A/C going when you are not even home, or you leave the TV on to keep the dog company while you're at work. Do not complain about your electric bill if you are not trying to conserve energy. Do something about it!

Ted's words for today are: "Quit denying the fact that you have the power to change your life for the better."

You can do it, and only you. No President or government or guide or doctor can do it for you. Your mom can't do it for you, and neither can your friends. Dwelling on what was and wishing for what might have been is not going to fix it either. 

In construction, and in the union, it's called woulda, shoulda, coulda thinking. The way we get things done is with Will Do, Shall Do, and Can Do thinking. 

Don't tell yourself what you would have, should have, or could have done by today. Decide what you will do, and do it. You can do it, if you quit telling yourself that you can't. Make your today count toward your better life tomorrow.

You have a right to be happy and prosper, do not deny yourself that right any longer. 

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

My Best Friend Ted

Ted and I started the new year with a new mission. The economy has changed and that has put us both out of work. Ted will probably return to work before I will, because he has been in the construction field a lot longer, and the companies in play know his name and reputation. Ted gets jobs done. 

The workers he manages may not like the way he talks to them and may say this is a cause for concern. Some have tried to bring him up on charges with the union or report him to the Supervisor as verbally abusive. They just don't know Ted. The difference is Ted is being sharp or blunt, Ted always tells it like it is. Sometimes it takes a sharp command to get a message across or a job done, or to keep you safe.

If you want to get something done right the first time, you will want to talk to Ted. He is a very smart man. Do not let him fool you with his good ole boy southern drawl. Yes he is good, that's why he has lasted so long. People know to call Ted.

That's why it may come as little surprise that Ted called me when I got laid off, he wanted to make sure I knew what to do with my time. He wanted to make sure I would use my time wisely. As he had helped me get all I have now with his solid advice, he wanted to make sure I wasn't going to lose everything I had worked 5 years for.

Yes, I know it doesn't sound like Ted, but all of us have more than just one side, including Ted.

I think my favorite image of Ted will always be his smile. When we were on the road crew and our lives were in danger at every moment, those smiles were rare. At the end of the day, he was just happy we were done and safe. On those days when he screamed at us and called us names to keep us moving forward, the end of the day was welcome and we couldn't wait to be free of him... and then he would smile and say "Thank you, you did a great job out there today! I am really proud of you. Get some rest, we gotta do this again tomorrow." It was the sweetest feeling... Seeing his smile at the end of the day. If you didn't see that, then you don't know Ted.

May 27th is Ted's birthday. I wanted to get this blog started sooner but time constraints and just where to start and how... Well lets just close this with a big Happy Birthday shout out to My Best Friend Ted! I can't wait for all of you to get to know both sides of Ted. He will change your life for the better, and maybe between his calls to me, my writing, and your reading, we can change the world.