Weathering the Storms of Life

Weathering the storms of life

by David “Sumoflam” Kravetz

 

The last couple of months have made life interesting, challenging, frustrating and fun….all in one giant ball.

It all started near the beginning of December when the Japanese work I was doing for Consulting Solutions in Georgetown fizzled out. I basically found myself unemployed for the second time in a little under a year.  So, I was back to looking for work and delivering pizzas for Papa John’s…déjà vu from December 2007.  I wrote somewhat about this in my last blog entry.  As it turned out, I had very little work from the beginning of December until I began at ACS a couple of weeks ago. 

Mid-December rolled in and Julianne and I were soon enjoying a brand new grandchild.  Landen Joseph Noe was born on December 16 in Lexington.  Grandchild number 5.  I would have never imagined that I would be a grandfather by age 52 let alone have 5 by that time.  These grandchildren are such a joy and a blessing to our lives. Today I got to participate in Landen’s blessing in church.

  

Landen and his sister Joselyn with me on March 1.  Little red-headed Landen just before his blessing in church.

Soon after, it was Christmas.  I already wrote a blog entry about our adventures of shopping at the end of November, but Christmas was kind of quiet around the household.  Our kids spent a good deal of time at their in-laws and only came over for breakfast and opening of presents.  It was fun to share, as always.

New Year’s Eve was kind of boring as well.  I had to work for Papa John’s and so Julianne was home alone. But the storms of change were brewing as the new yearunfolded.

By mid-January I was in the preparatory stages of beginning my new $10/hour job at ACS.  In fact, in today’s Lexington Herald-Leader I saw an article which really hit home for me, especially after I too left a fairly high paying position at the end of November 2007, was on again/off again with work, went to Canada for 8 months and by mid-December,  I was out of work again.

Here is the article, which is copyrighted, but I am including the credits and the link below. 

Going from $70,000 salary to $12 hourly wage

By Michael Luo

New York Times News Service

March 1, 2009

 

TEMPEAriz. — Mark Cooper started his work day on a recent morning cleaning the door handles of an office building with a rag, vigorously shaking out a rug at a back entrance and pushing a dust mop down a long hallway.  Nine months ago he lost his job as the security manager for the western United States for a Fortune 500 company, overseeing a budget of $1.2 million and earning about $70,000 a year. Now he is grateful for the $12 an hour he makes in what is known in unemployment circles as a “survival job” at a friend’s janitorial-services company. But that does not make the work any easier.

 

“You’re fighting despair, discouragement, depression every day,” Cooper said. Working five days a week, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Cooper is not counted by traditional measures as among the recession’s casualties at this point. But his tumble down the economic ladder is among the more disquieting and often hidden aspects of the downturn.

 

It is not clear how many professionals like Cooper have taken on these types of lower-paying jobs, which are themselves in short supply. Many are doing their best to hold out as long as possible on unemployment benefits and savings while still looking for work in their fields. However, about 1.7 million people were working part-time in January because they could not find full-time work, a 40 percent jump from December 2007, when the recession began, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And experts agree that as the economic downturn continues and as more people begin to exhaust their jobless benefits and other options, the situation Cooper is in will inevitably become more common.

 

Interviews with more than two dozen laid-off professionals across the country, including architects, former sales managers and executives who have taken on lower-paying, stopgap jobs to help make ends meet, found that they were working for places like UPS, a Verizon Wireless call center and a liquor store. For many of the workers, the psychological adjustment was just as difficult as the financial one, with their sense of identity and self-worth upended.

 

“It has been like peeling back the layers of a bad onion,” said Ame Arlt, 53, who recently accepted a position as a customer-service representative at an online insurance-leads referral service in FranklinTenn., after 20 years of working in executive jobs. “With every layer you peel back, you discover something else about yourself. You have to make an adjustment.”

 

Some people had exhausted their jobless benefits, or were ineligible; others said it was impossible for them to live on their unemployment checks alone, or said it was a matter of pride, or sanity, that drove them to find a job, any job. In just one illustration of the demand for low-wage work, a spokesman for UPS said the company saw the number of applicants this last holiday season for jobs sorting and delivering packages almost triple to 1.4 million from the 500,000 it normally receives. When Arlt applied for the job, she sent in a stripped-down résumé that hid her 20-year career at national media companies, during which she ascended to vice president of brand development at the On Command Video Corp. and was making $165,000 a year. She decided in 2001 to start her own business, opening an equestrian store and then founding a magazine devoted to the sport. But with the economy slowing, she was forced to shutter both businesses by June of last year. After applying for more than 100 jobs, mostly director-level and above in marketing and branding, and getting just two interviews, Arlt said she realized last fall that she had to do something to “close the monthly financial hemorrhage.” Her new job at HometownQuotes pays $10 to $15 an hour and has mostly entailed data entry. But even though she has parted ways with some friends because she is no longer in their social stratum, Arlt said she was glad she was no longer sitting at home, “thinking, ‘Who have I not heard from today?'”

 

Her new paycheck covers her mortgage but not her other living expenses. Recently, she cashed out what was left of her retirement portfolio, about $17,000. “It has been the hardest thing in my life,” she said. “It has been harder than my divorce from my husband. It has really been even worse than the death of my mother.”

So, here I am, like the folks I the article above, in a very low-paying job, no unemployment benefits, high COBRA insurance payments and a pretty much depleted IRA. Really frustrating and at times even depressing.

Then, as I get started at ACS, Julianne is told that her contract was ending at Lexmark after five years. It seemed like the beginning of a perfect storm…mass destruction of our life as we knew it.

After hearing this news, more devastation arrived.  The recent couple of days had been bitter cold. We had some snow and ice and Solomon had gone down to the garage to get the snow shovel.  But, he had neglected to close the garage door and we were not aware it had been open.  So, much to my shock…my second shock for the day…I had looked out the back window form the kitchen to see a flood pouring out of the garage.  I went down and sure enough, our pipe had burst and was flooding water into the garage, the drywall was falling from the ceiling.  All I could think of was “what is next?” No decent job for me, no job for Julianne and a flooded garage.

Fortunately, the damage was kept to the garage.  We got the pipe fixed and insurance covered a good part of it.  So, there were some blessings despite the challenges.

As we tried to weather the Lexmark storm, another storm had hit Lexington.  A majorly destructive ice storm hit the entire state of Kentucky, wreaking havoc to over a million people and leaving more than half a million without electricity.  Hundreds of thousands of trees were destroyed by the heavy weight of the ice on the trees.  At the same time, the crystalline nature of the ice left a spooky beauty everywhere.  I was awestruck at how something so beautiful could also be so destructive.  I took hundreds of photos, which are all posted at the following links:

http://public.fotki.com/Sumoflam/lexington-ice-storm/

http://public.fotki.com/Sumoflam/lexington-ice-storm-ptii/

http://public.fotki.com/Sumoflam/lexington-ice-storm-1/

Here are just a couple of sample shots of photos I took during the storm:

   

 

 

Our family was not immune from the wiles of the storm.  Chelsea’s power was out for almost 4 days and she ended up staying with us for a couple of days. Many of my friends also were debilitated by the ice.  Some had major damage.

So, we are cleaning up from the storm, weathering the new Juli job storm and I was getting ready to start my new job at ACS as a call center agent. This proved to force some major challenges upon me.  First of all, I had been told I was being interviewed as a tech support person for the iPhones.  This was exciting to me, despite the immense cut in pay to what I have been used to receiving.  A week after filling out all of the paperwork I was called and told that this was being dropped and that I might have to seek other options…perhaps working the Sprint call center.  Then, on Tuesday morning I was called again…back on.  Woohoo… Then, later that afternoon, back off.  What a roller coaster ride.  Bottom line…I took the Sprint position as I could not afford to wait another three weeks to start something else.  Then, last Friday, Feb. 27, my entire group was called into the training lab and told that we were being transitioned to yet another area…the Boost team (Boost is a subsidiary of Sprint and is a pay-per-use cell phone program).  I guess that is why ACS employees say that ACS means “Always Changing Something”.

Though at first I struggled with the Boost change, I was delighted to learn that they are so busy that currently there is unlimited overtime work so there is the opportunity to make as much as $15 to $16/hour if I am willing to work all of the extra hours.  So, If I don’t get some side work doing web design or Japanese translations, at least I will have another money making option.

With the loss of Julianne’s position, we had become very concerned about how we would make it. But, when one door closes, another opens.  On February 10 she was called by Adecco about a new position she will be doing.  It will only be a temporary position but will be a lot of fun for her. She is going to be a Google StreetView Driver at least for the next couple of months.  Last week she flew out to Mountain ViewCA, the home of Google, where she spent a day of training.  Then, on Tuesday, she and about 15 others left on their return trips home with the cars they will use.  As I write this she is on the last hour or two of her long trip which took her from Mountain View, thru Los Angeles, to Barstow, CA for night one.  Day two she went from Barstow to Phoenix (and Mesa for a brief hello stop to her family) and then Tucson thru southern New Mexico to El Paso On Thursday she drove from El Paso to Ft. Worth and then had car problems so she ended up spending two nights in Ft. Worth, but was able to visit with my sister Sherry.  Yesterday she drove from Ft. Worth thru Little RockArkansas and to Memphis and on to JacksonTN.  It was a grueling day as she spent most of the time from Arkansas to Jackson driving through snow and ice and low visibility, with many stops and crawling 10 mph traffic.  She finally did make it though.

So, in closing, here we are, both experiencing some major changes in our lives.  We are learning to cutback: reduced phone and cell phone services, reduced satellite TV packages, elimination of newspapers, gym memberships, ancestry.com memberships, tighter budgets, MUCH less eating out.  As those interviewed in the article above, we too are having to peel each layer of our emotional and financial onions and discovering new things about ourselves.

Bottom line: We will be positive and push through this.  We have so much to be grateful for and so many wonderful blessings in our lives. We have led rich and fulfilling lives thus far and have so much more to look forward to, even if it means major adjustments in our lifestyles. We will weather the storms of life and still manage to ENJOY THE RIDE!

All photos and commentary expressed are copyright of Sumoflam Productions and David Kravetz. All rights reserved.

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