Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A New Perspective

Since this whole job loss thing has begun, I've had a big change in perspective - maybe even a change in my world view. I've realized just how easy it is for people's lives to take a sudden and dramatic turn for the worse. I used to think that people were where they were in life largely as a result of their own choices - which is true to a degree; but to a greater degree, it's not totally true. Sometimes life just happens - and situations beyond your control put you in places you never thought you'd find yourself.

Take Jim losing his job. He did nothing to merit losing his job. It was strictly the result of poor decision making within the company at the very upper levels. Jim worked hard and strove to surpass expectations; he was aiming for a raise when the whole company shut down. Despite the atrocity of it all, we've found ourselves to be in a very fortunate situation. We have family that lives nearby and is very supportive and capable of helping us, and we've had the ability to accumulate a small savings for just such a rainy day. While we'd rather not be in this situation period, it's a wonderful thing to know that we're okay - fine really.

But what has struck me over the last five weeks has been the thought of what happens to the people who don't have the support we have been privileged to have. While unemployment compensation is a great idea, it would by no means cover the cost of standard living expenses. And it's pretty much a complete waste of time to even try to reach them via phone as all their lines are always full due to an exceptionally high call volume (I sent them an email suggesting they go ahead and relieve some of Florida's unemployed by hiring a few more people to answer phones). It was one full month almost to the day before we received the compensation that we had applied for immediately upon receiving word of TBW's closing. If we didn't have the support we have, we would have been in the food pantries of local charities humbly asking for a hand out. And what about health insurance? Forget about health insurance for the adults - what about just insuring the kids? We're still waiting to see if the state will approve our kids for KidCare, so we're hoping nobody falls severely ill or breaks anything. Some people aren't so lucky though and their kids do get really sick or injured at just the wrong time. Many people today here in Ocala find themselves in just these precise precarious situations - by no fault of their own.

Ocala has always had it's fair share of homeless people, but lately there's a lot more. They're not just at that one intersection I always saw them at before; no, now it seems like they're everywhere. And yes, I'm aware that they all may not be fully homeless, but they're obviously struggling to get by in a time when jobs are scarce. And what happens to the people who are out of work and out of health insurance who medically need high cost prescription drugs on a regular basis to function? Surely they should just come up with $1,000 or so every month so they can become insured independently with all of their *pre-existing conditions* (as a side note, I think the state of our nations health care is shameful. . the cost is absurd, and the coverage for people who need it most is even more so). And lest we forget, approximately 25% of the nations homeless people suffer from some sort of severe and persistent mental illness. They didn't choose that, but it's obviously affected their lives to the point where they now sadly find themselves at the mercies of another's discretion and hopefully their generosity too.

It would be fair to say that I have a lot more empathy or understanding for people who find themselves on hard times. It's sad that it's taken me this long to realize how cruel life can be even to nice people or people who work hard or who have families to support. So from someone who finally sees both sides of this coin, I'd suggest generosity, empathy and a lack of passing judgement on those who find themselves in unkind places in life.

It's too easy to slip through the cracks

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Fun with Homemade Clay

A friend of mine who is going to be a kindergarten teacher this year was preparing for her upcoming year when she found a recipe for homemade play-dough online. She made it at home, and her kids loved it. Now normally, I wouldn't consider myself to be the type of mother capable of such an amazing feat, but somehow I was inspired by her blog about the whole thing. The next day I was taking little Jimmy to school in the van when he commented sullenly that there was no 'spearmint station' in his new first grade classroom. Of course I immediately thought of the play-dough recipe and promised him that we'd do some fun experiments at home even if there weren't any at school this year. Curious as to what type of experiments we would do, I had to explain to him just what we would be making. Obviously a light bulb went on in his head when I mentioned homemade play-dough, because he then asked if there was any way to make clay at home too - for permanent artwork. Well, after searching around online, I found you actually can make homemade clay! Crazy the stuff you can do with roughly $3 worth of standard pantry items.

This whole thing was a lot of fun and I highly recommend it. For the mom's out there leery of such undertakings, it's really quite simple (trust me - I'm usually the leery one). And the mess isn't bad either - though I would suggest anyone who attempts to make and especially PAINT the clay, put down an old vinyl shower curtain or tablecloth to help with the ease of clean up. In the end, the kids were really proud of their creations, and Jim and I had some fun with it too.

1 cup salt
2 cups flour
1 cup water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
water-based paints

Place dry ingredients in a bowl, add the water and oil, then stir until blended. Once the dough holds together, it's ready to be shaped!

Bake at 250 degrees until hard (for one to two hours).

Once cooled, paint with water-based paints if desired, or glue on glitter using white household glue.