Frugal Finery

I love fall. I never knew what a real “fall” was when I was very young because I lived in Florida until I was 10. I got a small taste of what fall could be like once we moved to the coasts of North Carolina. But now that I am in the mountains, I have formed a life-long love affair with the season. Summer is hot and crowded. It has it’s own magic, as do all the seasons. There is just something gorgeous and beautiful and graceful about fall.

What’s sad to me is that I have very few autumn decorations. I have a fair number of Halloween decorations, but I refuse to put those up until October. And of course I don’t have an income so I can’t buy any.

So, I’ve started looking into easy and cheap homemade decoration ideas. Some of them still sound kind of expensive. But some are really cute and look really easy. I would have to make some of them year after year, unless I came up with a way to preserve them. In a way, though, that would give me something fun to do every year. A tradition of sorts. So here are some of the things that I have come across.

I’m definitely doing those three. If you google homemade fall decorations you’ll come up with a lot of neat stuff.

Anyone out there have any good tips? I want to use stuff I can either get for practically nothing, that I can recycle, I may already have, or anything I can find outside.

I’m excited. And hopefully this can keep my mind off of not actually working.


Writing Work

What’s this?  There is literally a job posting on my Alma Mater’s Career site for blogging. Yep. And another one for copywriting. I’m jumping up and down (inside, lol) with the idea that I could get a job or internship doing something fun like writing. Of course I am hardly a professional blogger. And I have limited experience with copywriting. But, I do know how to write and I love to write.

There’s another posting for a local medical magazine. They need someone to interview doctors and such and write articles to the editor’s specifications. I would have to provide a writing sample to prove my abilities. But, I have no idea what I would submit. I’ve never really written an article. So I have to figure out whether an essay or a critical analysis would be appropriate.

What this really does for me, even if I don’t get a job, is give me hope that I could have a future job that I actually really enjoy. It makes me feel that, even though most people label my degree as useless, I can actually do something with what I learned in college.

And in turn, this relieves my sense of hopelessness. It sort of appeases the feeling that I am doing nothing more than drifting through this life.

And that, that is just a fabulous thing.

Excel Excellency

My class started today!

Well…I guess I can hardly call it a class, really. There are lessons that you read through and take notes on. There are quizzes at the end of each lesson, that don’t count for anything. There are assignments, that you don’t turn in. All in all I’m sort of wondering what it is that I paid $70 for.

Granted, there is a final exam that you have to pass in order to get your letter of completion. And in order to pass the exam it is likely that you’d have to have a good understanding of the program and have completed the lessons. I just sort of wish that the quizzes and such were taken into account. It would make me feel like I’m not wasting my time and money on this…

There are other classes I want to take, though. And I think for those you actually have to turn things in and all that. I’ll see how this goes. I’ve never taken an online class before. It’s nice to be able to get up whenever and log in on the day that the lesson comes out and slowly peruse the notes. Rather than waking up 10 minutes before class when you live 20 minutes away and running half naked to your car so you can can get in a fight with someone about parking because there is simply never anywhere to park on college campuses…

There is even a discussion area, so that’s kind of cool. Although most of the people in the course seem like they were lucky to even turn the computer on, I’m sure they’re very nice.

The first lesson in computer courses always makes me laugh.

To open Microsoft Excel 2010 click on your start tab in the bottom right corner. Choose All Programs and go to the Office Suite. Choose Excel.

Once you open Excel you will need to maximize the worksheet window to fill the screen. Click the maximize button in the top right corner.

I mean come ooooon.

It’s better than the Intro to Computers class I took in college, though.

To turn on your computer push the start button. If nothing happens, make sure it is plugged in…

Really? I know that this definitely would have been useful to adults when I was a kid. Because when I was a kid MSDOS made it’s major debut. Of course the computer class would have been more like:

To start the program, insert the floppy disk into the giant-ass tower. Then enter a whole bunch of code to open it. Now you can play Oregon Trail.

But I feel like most adults, regardless of age, at least know what a keyboard is and how to use a mouse. They probably know how to minimize and maximize windows. My 89 year old grandfather is perfectly capable of emailing, Facebooking, and so on. Of course he sort of helped to invent the computer at IBM all those years ago when they were the size of a house and the idea that you could ever have a computer in your house was entirely ludicrous.

Still. If he can figure it out, anyone else younger than him should be able to get a handle on it pretty quickly.

This will certainly be an experience. And at the end of it all at least I will have an actual piece of paper telling employers that I know how to use Excel. It’s one thing to say it, but a nice shiny piece of paper makes all the difference in the world to people.

iNsane iCare

So, when I start volunteering with the YWCA I will be working with their newly implemented database system, called iCare. Katherine, the program director, told me she wanted me to go through the tutorials offered by the company and learn a bit about the software.

And, frankly, I can’t decide whether the program is really complicated. Or if the Indian man explaining everything in the tutorials makes it seem complicated. I have the urge to write them an email outlining how they need to go about using these tutorial videos.

For instance:

  • One of the most important things a company looks for in an employee who interacts with the public is the ability to speak clearly. This man can barely pronounce the simplest of words and tends to run everything together.
  • His explanations are completely disjointed. Instead of starting at the beginning he jumps around the program, hardly ever explaining what it is that he is doing.
  • He moves way too quickly. He never spends more than a few seconds on a topic. And when he actually does show you what to do on the screen, he moves through it like crazy.
  • He stops in the middle of sentences frequently. And when he starts back up it tends to be in a different place all together.
  • I left each tutorial completely unsure of whether or not I actually knew what I had learned.

The program itself looks like a combination of Excel and the program I used to use at work called SMB Pro. So nothing too alien to me. I just really hope that it’s as user friendly as they claim that it is.

Judging by the videos and the man they chose to be their representative…I’m not overly positive of the outcome.

But! The key here is to stay confident and positive. I’m sure that I can learn everything pretty quickly.

This should be a good starter “job” for me. One of the main things that kept me at my previous job for so long, aside from the money, was the fact that I knew what I was doing. I was familiar with my surroundings, my employees, my expectations, my daily activities. I had the same schedule every week, for the most part. It got boring, yes. But there was a level of comfort that was nice to have.

Starting all over is a little scary. A little stressful. A little nerve-racking.

I’m hoping that starting off with something like a volunteer position will help me get used to the idea of having to learn new things and start at the bottom of the work food chain.

So, here’s to all that. And..,I might just write that email up now…iCare clearly needs someone to tell them they’re doing it wrong.

Failure Frenzy

We just went grocery shopping. And even though we saved a total of $32 ($10 of that was coupons! Oh yeah!), I’m still having a minor panic attack about spending money. Granted, food is kind of a necessity. It isn’t like I went out and spent almost $200 on shoes or home decor or something. But swiping that card and knowing I have a little less money is painful.

As a result, I start struggling with the idea of being a failure. I mean, it’s been 2 whole weeks and I don’t have a new job! In fact, I lost the other job! I must suck.

While my release from my prior job was considerably unjust and an attempt by my former employer to cut some costs, I can’t help feeling like if I had been better he would have kept me on. Of course it doesn’t help that I was literally the most expensive employee he had out of 2 stores, next to the manager above me. And he would have to be completely insane to let that manager go. Chris has been there 6 years. He lived in Georgia for 2 months and opened a store that isn’t even in his region. All because our boss asked him to. He does all of the catering and is perfectly okay with working upwards of 70 – 80 hours in one week. Like I said, Chris is not going anywhere.

I, on the other hand, was an hourly employee and not on salary like Chris. I couldn’t work more that 45 hours a week. There’s no way in hell I would move to Georgia for 2 months and live in hotel to open a new store. And I’ve never catered a single thing. I already have my degree and have been praying to the job gods for years that I would stumble on a better opportunity. In short, I was a flight risk. An expensive flight risk.

Doesn’t mean I don’t need the money. Doesn’t mean that the job market isn’t non-existent. Especially for those of us specializing in things like Literature. Doesn’t mean that I didn’t work my butt off for 4 years and do way more than was ever expected of me or of normal food service managers. And it definitely doesn’t mean that I should be cut off with no warning.

But enough whining. I have to cope with the fact that things happened the way that they did.

So, how do I go about that?

  • Write a blog about it [X]
  • Find a friend to listen [X]
  • Hold my Bachelor’s degree and cry [X]
  • Apply to everything that is even sort of related to my skills [X]
  • Remind myself that I am not a failure [X]
  • Write angry things about my prior job in a private journal [X]
  • Realize that 2 weeks is hardly enough time to find another job in this job climate. [X]
  • Try as hard as I can to remember that I am awesome and better than that job and the people that I worked for and see this as the best opportunity I have to make something of myself. [X]

It gets difficult sometimes. One of the biggest struggles I’ve had in my life is realizing that I AM good enough. I AM capable. And that the only person that can keep me back from being amazing, is myself and my own insecurities. Well that and the bosses who don’t want to hire more people because their business is hemorrhaging money.

So. Time to take a big breath, put on my big girl pants, and kick the world (and myself) in the ass.

Coupon Craziness

I’ve put off attempting to “coupon” for years now. Generally I thought women who were hard core couponers were…well hard core crazy. I know people who literally spent hours cutting coupons and then spent hours more in the store searching out the deals. I’ve never had the time to dedicate to doing that. Nor did I want to have the time.

The problem I always had is that most of the time the coupons they come out with are either for things people never buy on a regular basis or they’re only good if you purchase 600 pounds of food to get 0.75 off.

But, because I am between jobs at the moment I thought I would check out the various coupon sites.

These sites bother me for a few reasons

  • You have to give them your email so you end up being bombarded with emails you don’t want or need.
  • You usually have to download some kind of software and/or tool bar to use the site. The last thing we need cluttering up our computer is more tool bar crap.
  • Even though there are 500 different sites, they all have the same coupons available, for groceries anyways.
  • A lot of the coupons are for stores I don’t have in my area, Publix and Meijers, or places I don’t really need to save money, like Walgreens and CVS, because I shop there rather infrequently.

I did manage to find some pretty decent deals. Some of them are for things I actually buy regularly. Some of for things I need for recipes I want to make this week. And the rest are just things I figure we might as well try if we can save money on them for now.

I suppose this may be easier if I got the Sunday paper, but they don’t deliver to apartments and I’m not about to go out and try to find a newspaper box to buy it. Especially if all I want are the coupons.

I’m tempted to try contacting the manufacturers directly, I just need to figure out what brands I eat and go from there. Has anyone had any luck with this approach?

In any case, I’m going to use what I have and keep an eye out for more deals. My boyfriend is rather skeptical and uninterested, but as a he is a man I don’t blame him in the least. 🙂

Lesson Planning Problems

In my attempt to start up a side business tutoring high schoolers, I’ve realized that I need a good lesson plan to get started. All people learn differently. Some are good with just reading the material and taking notes. Some need a more active approach actually working on problems themselves. Some need visual aids. And some people need a combination of all those things.
I have a plan in place for teaching SAT students. It’s mostly a matter of them getting a practice book. I have the student take a test and write a timed essay before we meet. Then I go over it and pinpoint the places they need the most work. From there I can implement lectures, practice problems, and physical examples to make my lesson clear. If they can’t get their own practice book I know the internet is teeming with SAT prep materials.
But when students need help with more basic things, like grammar, it becomes a little more difficult. I’ve tried to find some templates online, but it’s a little dry from what I can tell.
I guess I can use their homework. Probably find worksheets online. Vocabulary shouldn’t be too difficult. We can make flash cards. Word Finds and crossword puzzles are always fun. Maybe I can come up with vocabulary games or something. I want to make learning as interesting as possible. I realize that a lot of the problem that people have with English is that they think it is boring. People tend to feel that other people will understand them, regardless of whether they use proper English or not so why bother. And that’s…just sad to me. I love words and have minor break downs any time a person uses our language incorrectly. It seriously grates on my nerves. I just really want to show kids that words are fun and interesting and can provide a wealth of opportunity if you use them properly.
I think I may just have to cross that bridge when I get to it. Granted, I haven’t even gotten any jobs. So it seems a little silly to worry too much about it now. I would just prefer to be prepared for whatever may come my way.
If any readers out there happen to have any teaching resources they are willing to share, I would appreciate the help!