Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Coping in a troubled world

I spend most of Friday through Monday offline. That is now my work week and I get 40 hours in 4 days, 2 – 8 hour shifts and 2 – 12 hour shifts. I work as an advocate at a group home and it is all pretty much direct care. I never know from day to day what challenges I will face. This past weekend I was cleaning up projectile vomiting in one bathroom while also caring for the person who was sick. Later, a coworker was fixing a broken handle on a toilet which somehow morphed into a fountain, spurting water up. The night ended with another incident requiring an additional half hour of paperwork. But I was glad for the ordinary distractions. They grounded me and focused my attention on something other than what was happening in the world.

I was rather distressed after finally reading the “Fridays List” from Judy Clement Wall on her blog, Zebra Sounds. I had been too busy to read it until now. It was such a treat to read when I worked overnights. It was usually posted around 2am central time. It gave me something to look forward to on those long nights. Last Friday Judy posted this update:

I wrote most of this post yesterday before the earthquake and tsunamis hit Japan, but after what happened in Wisconsin and Texas and Libya. On Facebook, I posted a happy status this morning, the morning after giving birth to the story I’ve carried inside me for years (and some other good news I got yesterday). Within a few seconds, someone jumped on to remind me of the tsunamis and I felt unbelievably chastised. Unbelievably insensitive. I deleted my original comment, cried a little, and then put up this status, which is more thoughtful and more ambivalent (because my commenter was right… and wrong):

In this big world, on the same day, a baby gets born, an earthquake strikes, people fall in love, a government cheats, a book gets written, a revolution takes hold, funding finally comes… it’s hard to feel them all at once.

I was a little angry for her and if I had seen the comment I would have had her back and would most certainly had said something. We live in confusing times. There is so much turmoil, sorrow and pain. I think we need a little joy too, if only for balance. Judy had a right to her joy and damn the person who took that away from her.

I think we all need to find ways to cope with the increasingly stressful events that are occurring now. The internet is a blessing and a curse. Information is instantaneous and immediate. I was grateful to be at work over the weekend. If I had not, I would probably spent most of the day (and night) on the computer chasing the story. Instead, I cooked and cleaned and cared for the residents at the group home. Ordinary life still goes on no matter what is happening elsewhere in the world. And it is important to focus on it, sometimes even more so.

I was aware what was happening, but I could not read nor look at the videos that were saturating the internet. I usually get on Twitter after my shift to wind down from the stress of caregiving. But I knew that would not be wise. So instead, I played music. It was mainly to distract me from the stress at work and from the events in the world. I also hoped that it might be an alternative for some of my friends and might also provide distraction for them as well. I have seen tweets from several who are adversely affected by the catastrophic events in Japan.

I realize that some may criticize me as well for playing music. Some might think it is frivolous in light of all that is going on. But, it is my way of coping. I think it is healthy to look for the positive and good when things are looking so bad.

To my friends, and to anyone who might read this, life still goes on. In times of great stress sometimes it is best to focus on the ordinary things of life. The events of the world can be overwhelming. Focus on your routine and even on the distractions of those things that will give you pleasure. There are things that can be done to help those in need. If you are financially able, give. If not, just help to raise awareness.

I don't believe all hope is lost. I have to believe and have faith. I have also been praying a lot these past few days, but that is a comfort too. We cannot let this bring us down and overwhelm us. There is too much to do. We have to believe in the best of all of us to get through these troubled times.

As for me, I will continue to play music. If you care to listen I am Azsky13 on Twitter. You are welcome to come play with me.

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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

How much is enough?

Today I took all of my coins to the bank to cash them in. It is something I do occasionally when the drawer I put them in gets full, usually around once a year. But today I did it because I had to cover my rent check. When I wrote it there was enough money in the account, but not by much. I wasn’t concerned as I had no pressing needs and I would be getting paid this week. But, I checked the account this morning and discovered a debit had been posted that I hadn’t anticipated. When the rent check hit the bank, there would not be enough to cover it.

So I gathered up all of my silver change and headed for the bank this afternoon. I had over $80.00 in change which was more than enough to cover the check and provide a small cushion until Thursday when I get paid. But it got me thinking about all of the protests in Wisconsin over the unions and collective bargaining. I work 40 hours a week and am barely getting by. I have seen the cost of everything go up, everything that is except my wages. You see, I work in the human services field as a caregiver and advocate for some very special people. It is a job that I love. Unfortunately, it does not pay well. It is also always one of the top targets for politicians who are looking to cut the budget.

One might think that I would be anti-union, that I might be jealous of what those in the public unions have in the way of benefits and salary. However that is not the case. I think we should all share in those benefits. I think we should all be paid a “living wage” and have the health care promised by the democrats in the 2008 election.

Yesterday I found the video of Michael Moore speaking to the protestors in Madison, WI. I started to watch it, but didn’t finish as it was almost a half hour long and I needed to leave for work. So I took the time to watch it again today. In it, Moore made the statement that 400 U.S. individuals were worth more than half of all American households combined. I found that to be obscene.

I checked Moore’s website and found that he posted proof of the statement here: The Forbes 400 vs. Everybody Else | Why should 400 individuals be worth so much more than the rest of us? And it is actually turned out to be worse that Moore had stated in the speech, it is actually 400 of the richest are worth more than 60% according to the article. With this in mind, it really begs the question. Why are the rich getting the tax breaks? Why don’t they pay more instead?

I highly recommend that you watch the video of the speech that Moore gave in Madison last Saturday. He states the case much better than I possibly could.

I do take ownership of my financial situation. I am short now not because of what I am spending, but because I decided to sign up for health insurance this year. Trust me, this is no Cadillac plan, it is down-right sucky! The premiums are high and it pays so little that I seriously considered not taking it again. I figured that if I stayed healthy I could at least save the money from the premiums. Because if I got really sick and needed it, I would still probably go bankrupt because it pays so little. But, I had been without health insurance for 2 years and in the end, I decided not to chance it another year.

So, once again I am looking at my budget to see if there is anything I can cut. A raise would be nice, but I know that won’t be happening. I really don’t need a lot. I would need just enough to be able to put some away so I would have a little cushion. I would like to have just enough to not have to turn in my change so I don’t bounce a check.

However, I am curious and would like to ask just one of the elite top 400 on the Forbes list, just how much is enough for you? Will you be satisfied with having more than 60% of those in the U.S or will you not be satisfied until you have it all? Really, I want to know. How much is enough?

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