Monday, March 29, 2010

Home Sweet Home








Do you see what's happening here? There goes my shower. The contractors built a chute to send down the tiles and the rest of the debris. I appreciate them waiting until after my ladies weekend. I wish it was still the weekend. It just dawned on me how much I have to do before Saturday, when we're leaving for a family vaca after my classes. Holy Mother. This is the busiest I've been in a while. Let's see . . . I need to . . . prep for two parent presentations on Saturday, generate report cards for my Saturday classes, finish 6 months of spreadsheets for my eBay business from last year, work with my husband to design our new bathroom and purchase everything we need. I have $34 in my checking account today, so all I have to offer to the project are my tasteful ideas and high-caliber opinions. Money really does talk. You can talk when you don't have money, but it must sound different . . . kind of hollow and weak.



There's more on my plate but I'd rather not go into the details. I still haven't cleaned up much from the weekend. I was going to do that now but the contractors broke one of the pipe part things so the water is turned off, making cleaning too complicated. Might as well update the blog. Can't do my accounting and grading and so forth until after the kids go to bed anyway.



My left eye has been twitching since this morning. I feel like going to Daisy's school office and asking if I can lay down on the cot. Tell the health clerk and office manager my eye's twitching because they took out one of our bathrooms and the hammering and the this-and-that are getting to me. Probably run into Daisy while I'm there.



So guess how I'm spending the rest of my afternoon? I'm driving my kids an hour to meet my mom at Chuck E. Cheese. She wouldn't let me get out of our weekly visit and I'm going to have to blame my middle brother for that. He moved to Berlin a few days ago. My mom's sadness is manifesting in some wild comments I would put in the I-can-say-anything-I-want-because-I'm-a-senior-citizen category. I need to talk her down and give her some time with the grandkids. Maybe a little Chuck E. Cheese is just what we need.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

So Much Earth Hour




























There were a variety of attitudes towards Earth Hour last night. The four kids were pretty into it, although the three-year-olds seemed confused. As far as the adults . . . Quinn was supportive but disappeared for periods of time. Bindy was skeptical . . . she wondered if lighting 50 candles was really better than using electricity. Tabitha was straight up hostile when we started seven minutes early . . . she panicked when I clicked off the TV and demanded to watch something until 8:30. I refused . . . what was she going to watch for seven minutes? Then she kept insisting our Earth Hour ended at 9:23. Hello . . . that’s not how it works.



But it was all worth it . . . and everyone had such a good time. How do I know? Because I saw them all smiling . . . even Tabitha, when she looked up from the game she was playing on her cell phone. The source of our entertainment was a freestyle game of something like charades. We took turns acting like whatever we felt like in the middle of the candlelit room. The three-year-olds were guaranteed to be a ballerina, princess, kitty or doggy. No one could figure out what Bindy was trying to be but we cheered her on anyway. The rest of us were animals, TV characters, flowers, people in the room. And everyone was laughing . . . for about a half hour. Then the three-year-olds had meltdowns and the older kids went upstairs and took showers . . . with the lights on. Bindy put her youngest to bed and Quinn disappeared again. Tabitha and I sat and talked in the darkness for the second half hour while Violet fell asleep in my lap. Didn’t know Earth Hour was going to be a test of endurance. We’ll try again next year.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Locate Your Candles

Earth Hour is he-yah. It might seem silly to turn your lights off for an hour . . . like that's going to do ANYTHING to slow down global warming. But here's why I like it . . . the event increases awareness of just how many things we all have plugged in. It's a political act. This movement came out of a grassroots effort that went global. Also, candlelight can enhance any kind of situation - in my opinion - so might as well embrace the opportunity.



I'm a sucker for a good ad campaign or maybe I'm just saying that because I probably won't have time for writing this weekend. If you don't have much time, watch the first one.



Have a lovely weekend.























Never Drama at My House


Daisy has been making an impressive effort to get out of school recently. The stress-induced stomachaches continue. Not too long ago, there was the heart attack scare. I took her to the doctor for an ear infection on Monday. I made her go back to school on Tuesday but she kept showing up at the school office. Sheryl, the office manager, and Marie, the health clerk, kept me well informed of Daisy's shenanigans. I went ahead and picked her up from school early on Tuesday. I kept her home again on Wednesday because she said her ears still hurt. Yesterday, I told her she HAD to go to school. But sure enough, after a couple hours, she was back in the office. I went to school and gave Daisy pain meds before walking her back to class. At that point, Daisy told me it was actually her stomach that was bothering her.



Daisy wants to leave class because her regular teacher, who might just be the best first grade teacher in the world, went on maternity leave. The sub is inexperienced and the class is suddenly more chaotic. I told Daisy she has to find a way to deal. Maybe take a few minutes to color to calm herself down . . . but she has to stay at school or I will cancel our girls’ weekend with Quinn, Tabitha, Bindy and Bindy’s two daughters. To my daughter, Bindy’s older daughter Nicole is the Mayor of Everything That Matters. She’s a walking, living miracle. Last night, Daisy said she needed to take a bath because she didn’t want Nicole to think her bottom was stinky. Good plan. This morning, Daisy told her little sister not to worry because “Nicole loves to play with all the children. She will play with you too. I just can’t stop thinking about her! She's coming today!” Violet didn’t like all the hoopla and yelled, “Me no like Rinole!”



Anyway, about an hour after I walked Daisy back to class yesterday, I got another detailed message from Sheryl, the very thorough voice of Daisy’s school.
Hi, this is Sheryl from school. No need to call back. I just want to give you an update on Daisy. she came into the . . . It’s about to five to 1:00 p.m. and about 15 minutes ago, she came back in and . . . um . . . um, she said she was having a hard time breathing but she looked fine to me and Marie came in and so we just had her rest for about 15 minutes. And she seemed like, you know, she wasn’t having problems breathing. So we told her not to run around out there. We knew you had just given her Tylenol earlier and so . . . but it was interesting because another little girl came in and asked me how my house was cause I’ve been remodeling and stuff. And then when she left, Daisy said that’s why she was so stressed . . . that’s why she needs to lay down . . . because you guys are remodeling or something. And you’re all using one bathroom and the hammering and the this-and-that. So anyway, I don’t know. It might be a combination. She said that’s why she was coughing . . . because of the dust and everything. She might be stressed out about remodeling just like I was. It’s not an easy thing to go through. So I just thought I’d give you that info and ah, I sent her back to class. She seemed fine, ah, so . . . talk to you later. Bye!


I love how Daisy told her we are only using one bathroom. We have three bathrooms and next week the four of us will be down to two. It’s going to be like an episode of Survivor, I’m sure. She’s such a little exaggerator. No idea where she gets it.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sleepless Again


So tired. Four nights of sleep deprivation. Daisy not sleeping. Violet not sleeping.



This is my fourth writing attempt today. I decided I wasn’t articulate enough to continue the eBay saga. The post about gossip would only be interesting if I gossiped about the people who are gossiping about me. Too snarky.



What was the other attempt? Oh yeah, it was how I appreciate the contractors noticing how busy I am. Sounds like a winner, doesn’t it? Finally, there are people who get a good look at my frequent comings and goings . . . dealing with the children . . . job searching on the laptop . . . earnest efforts at housework. My part stay-at-home-mom, part playing teacher, part get-a-freaking-job-or-make-something-work-before-you-start-ordering-from-the-senior-menu lifestyle.



I need coffee.



OK. Now, where was I? I’ll tell you about my day. This morning, I got Daisy off to school after her absence yesterday. I supervised a before school playdate for Violet and her friend Wowo (Violet really calls her that, which isn’t close to her actual name, so there’s her alias). I took Violet and Wowo to preschool. It was my turn to work there. I played with little kids. Cleaned up after them. Gave them a lot of advice on how to act. Pushed swings for a half hour.



During lunch with the little guys, Daisy’s school called. She was still having a hard time because of her ear infection and needed to be picked up. I wiggled out of my duties and raced to Daisy’s school so I could get back to preschool on time for carpool.



When I arrived to Daisy’s school, her class was missing. I walked around until I found them. I wanted to grab Daisy’s schoolwork, which required a walk-run back to the classroom. Then I rushed Daisy to the car and headed back to preschool. On the way, I realized I had forgotten to give Wowo’s share bag to the preschool teachers. Wowo missed her last share day because of me. I hit the gas. Must get to preschool so Wowo can talk about her favorite Barbie princess and stuffed animal . . . I made it with a few minutes to spare.



We ran errands after dropping off Wowo. The most pressing errand was replacing my child-trampled sunglasses. I appreciate an oversized strip mall these days. I can take care of five errands without getting the kids in and out of the car five times, an insanely slow process. I would also call it a slow process to insanity. That coffee is kicking in now.



I scored a $160 pair of sunglasses for $19.99 at Ross. Decided to go ahead and grab some Easter dresses for the kids while we were there. Wanted something nice for our trip to visit my grandma in Bakersfield on Easter weekend (jealous much?). The folks in the retirement home appreciate a good Easter dress and we got to do something to liven it up in there. We found dresses for $9.99 a piece.



A middle-aged man in the checkout line was very impressed. He kept saying, “Those are nice dresses. I wish we had Ross when I was raising my daughter.” I asked him about the age of his daughter. “Nineteen. Now you can’t even buy one shoe for 9.99!” Um, Ross did exist when you were raising your daughter and you can buy a pair of shoes for $20. They have them here. Then I said out loud, “Have a nice day!”



From Ross, we went to Petco for a kitty brush and hairball remedy. I argued with the kids about getting a hamster until I screamed my head off. We already have 20 million pets and it's a miracle we keep them all alive . . . and occasionally we don't. I blame the hamster fad on the zhu zhu pets Grandma gave the kids recently.



We went to Office Max for printer paper.



We finished at Cost Plus to fulfill the candy and toy bribes. You know I’m tired when there’s a bribe involved. Two bribes mean I've been tired for days.



I wish this was a brilliant post about the health care reform bill. If you'd prefer health care reform to a detailed account of my errands, I direct you to Alana and Dooce. If you read my blog comments (doesn’t everybody?), you might have noticed that Alana introduced me to Dooce, my new writing crush, the other day.


picture: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lancesh/2585773646/

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Safari

We went on an extended family trip to Safari West last weekend. It's in Santa Rosa, north of Napa. I had never been there before but had heard about it for years. The trip was a Christmas gift from my in-laws . . . it included a jeep tour, dinner and an overnight stay in a luxury tent cabin.



When I was a kid, not much older than Daisy, my family went on safari in Kenya. It was the first trip we took when we moved overseas, and the memories are still in brilliant technicolor. I don't think there's a trip to Africa in my kids' near future, but I like to keep an open mind. In the meantime, Safari West is pretty good.



The kids were not sure what to think when we arrived.




The first part of the tour was on foot.




The guide told us what these small deer-like animals are but I can't remember what she said . . . I was distracted because I ran into Madison's parents when we were waiting for our tour to begin. Madison is my bff from childhood. We lost touch for a while then reconnected a few years ago. I've been meaning to see her parents, and it was surreal to run into them here.




The cheetahs were tense, pacing nervously, like they were dying to take off in a sprint. Seeing a real cheetah is a dream fulfilled for Daisy, my 6-year-old. She stood transfixed in front of them for a long time. She wore a cheetah costume for about a year. I even kept it in the car, so she could put it on whenever she felt her cheetah side coming out.




We got in a modified jeep from the Korean War, purchased on eBay for $1, and drove through the giraffe area. You can see the tent cabins in the background.




Here's the old pimp daddy giraffe who fathered many of the babies around here. One of his baby mamas was kissing on him but he didn't seem that into it.




Violet came for the zebras but fell in love with the rhinos. Every other sentence had rhino in it for the rest of the trip. I woke up the next morning to her about an inch from my face, calmly repeating "I like rhinos outside" about 30 times. It sounded like that Number 9 Beatles song.




Masai cows from East Africa. I was going to say they're well-endowed horn-wise but I try to avoid making lame comments like that.




Here's what I was looking at for most of the jeep tour.






Then there was this ostrich. There was one ostrich roaming at the time of the tour. It seemed like she was around every corner.




She stopped this jeep by throwing herself in front of it.




We were told to watch out because she can peck at you, and she got too damn close. There was something not right about her. Later from the safety of our tents, we could see her peering at us from the other side of the fence. I guess I really don't like ostriches that much. Or maybe it's just this one.





Dinner was like a good barbecue at a friend's, but at something like $30 a head, BYOB. There was a magic show after dinner. Violet who's usually quiet in large groups of people became a full-on heckler during the show. She repeatedly bellowed, "Mommy, when is it my urn?" from the front row.  I was sitting a few rows back. Finally, the magician asked, "You know magic?" Violet nodded then said "I need to go peepee." She got a good laugh from the audience and once she got a taste of that, she was on fire. She kept turning around for a thumb's up . . . first one thumb, then two, then doing the wave with her thumbs, then doing some kind of disco move, shouting, "Mommy look! Look over here!" She wouldn't stop until I did the same thing back. She was the uninvited comic relief. I don't think the magician was loving it. I eventually swooped her up and left.



It was cold when we got back to the tent from dinner, so the kids got into bed to play barbies. I got into bed with a glass of chardonnay and about 50 magazines. It was my best electric blanket experience ever.

Friday, March 19, 2010

You Crazy EDD


When EDD responds to a question by email, the subject line is always "EDD Responds." When I see that confident pronouncement, my heart always beats a little faster. Being involved with the EDD is actually very exciting. There are ups and downs . . . misunderstandings. I can never predict what they're going to do next, yet they've come to my rescue again and again. You're so funny, EDD! You really had me worried there. I should have known everything was going to be OK.



Here's what the email said . . . you can skip the red text and I'll explain what it all means. You don't get EDD the way I do anyway.


You wrote us the following:



I will probably be receiving my last check on my current extension this week. Do I qualify for an additional extension? I can't tell where I stand with the four federal extensions and FED-ED extension. Thank you!


Here is our reply:


Ms. Star Mama: The one week claim for from the EUY extension has been mailed to you. As soon as we get this claim form back, the EUW (third federal extension) for 13 additional weeks will be filed. Please read the following: On Friday, November 6, 2009, President Obama signed new federal legislation making further unemployment extension benefits available. The first eligible week for the new benefits is the week starting Sunday, November 8, 2009. This new extension is not retroactive, it does not apply to any weeks of unemployment prior to the enactment date of November 8. The new extensions add a total of up to 20 more weeks of benefits available to those who have run out of all available benefits. The new extension benefits include up to one week added to the second federal extension, a new third federal extension for up to 13 weeks, and a new fourth federal extension for up to 6 weeks. Please refer to the EDD website for further updates." http://www.edd.ca.gov/



Translation: First, thank you for your charming inquiry. We always enjoy hearing from you and we hope you weren't too worried. As far as unemployment extensions go, you have just finished your second federal unemployment extension, or have you? You see, one week has been added to the second extension. Then, we'll be rocking your world with 13 weeks. But that's not all! There's a fourth extension of 6 weeks! We haven't even talked about FED-ED and really, it's best to leave a little mystery. None of it is guaranteed anyway. EDD can't be tied down like that. Until your next meltdown . . . you know where to find me.



picture: http://www.flickr.com/photos/30802789@N02/2885259374/

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Lucky Day

Spring emerged from the dusty, chaotic, nail-littered construction zone I call home yesterday. I never thought about how invincible spring really is.




It was Daycare Day, the one pocket of sanity remaining in my week. I savored every minute.




The construction is coming along. It's starting to look fresh.




These leprechauns were up at the crack of dawn to prepare for St. Paddy's.




7 a.m. aka 6 a.m. (Daylight Savings Time sucks. If you're not sure about that, search "daylight savings time sucks" for a thorough schooling of why and how much it sucks.)

Daisy: My teacher asked for head-to-toe green. This isn't head-to-toe green! There's only some green on my skirt and a little green on my sandals. I can't go to school like this. This is the worst holiday ever!

Me: Um (in bed trying to figure out where the voice is coming from) . . . brush your teeth (finding Daisy standing by the bed) . . . and brush your hair too!

I turn over to go  back to sleep but find myself face-to-face with a wide-eyed Violet.

Violet: Mommy, are you onna et inched?

Me: What? No pinching! Go get dressed!

Violet: The lebreban is unna un ast. Him ive me olet.

Me: No more chocolate! Go get dressed.




We're fully aware that Violet really does look like a leprechaun (you should see her in a top hat with a green buckle . . . dead ringer). So last year, Daisy gave Violet a stick because all leprechauns carry sticks. I wasn't familiar with that part of the lore but it sounded kind of right. Violet used the stick to beat her big sister over the head. Yeah, Daisy didn't really think that one through.




Violet's preschool staged a leprechaun sighting on Tuesday - chocolate gold coins and all. Violet came home from school that day with melted chocolate on her face and hands. I told her to go wash up in the bathroom. She came out seemingly clean. Later, I found smears of chocolate across the toilet seat . . . Daisy explained that she had seen her sister scrape the chocolate off her hands by rubbing them on the inside edge of the toilet seat. It's the bathroom our contractors use. I'm sure they didn't know it was chocolate. That was my first thought. My second thought was . . . your sister uses the toilet seat to clean her hands?




The kids came home from daycare looking for a chocolate-wielding leprechaun. Sorry, St. Paddy's Day isn't really a kid's holiday. It's more about eating corned beef and cabbage . . . and drinking Heineken. We're not adding another candy-fueled holiday to the rotation. I could tell by their smiles that they thought I was only pretending. That silly leprechaun would be jumping out with the chocolate any minute now. I wish schools didn't push the whole leprechaun thing. I don't remember leprechauns running through schools when I was a kid.




The leprechaun at Daisy's school handed out golden nuggets. We have a yearly argument about whether the gold she gets from the leprechaun is real. She thinks I have no idea what I'm talking about. I worry she faces a lifetime of getting fooled.



Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Blogging Mamas


I crowded people out of coffee shops for years before I realized I was a Stroller Mom. I felt like the same freaky person on the inside and just happened to be pushing a 6-foot long double stroller; what a lot of other people saw was yet another uncool member of the kid-centered, space-hogging demographic. As my middle brother once said, “No one likes stroller moms.” (What he said wasn’t even mean if you heard it in context.) I didn’t realize that after I reproduced, no matter what I was doing, I was a Mom doing it.



An article about blogs titled, “Honey, Don’t Bother Mommy. I’m Too Busy Building My Brand” was in the New York Times last week. The reporter, Jennifer Mendelsohn, who is herself a blogging mom, wrote about attending a women’s blogging conference and the trend of “mommy bloggers.” I thought the article was fair, although she really riled up those Secret in the Sauce girls, the enthusiastic conference hosts.



SITS is a blog community for women, mostly mom women. I’ve been checking them out. From my limited understanding, being an active member involves reading lots of blogs, showering those blogs with upbeat comments, and promoting your blog while giving good compliment to SITS. As a SITS member, it’s all about getting and giving support. There are even SITS graphics for your blog to proclaim your allegiance to the SITSters. It’s not only awesome, it’s well-organized.



I'm not going to do it. There is something about it that is a little too forced. Don’t get me wrong . . . there are obviously many talented writers who participate in SITS. I just don't think it's a good match for me. I also wasn’t sure about the SITS brand. I don’t know what my brand would be, or even if I’d ever promote one, but I’m not likely to choose the you-go-girl! vibe.



I should have cut this part because I’m about to be an ass. You know what really bugs me about SITS? Bubbly enthusiasm and talking about how nice everything is all the time. SITS has a touch of that artificial sweetness that runs rampant in women’s groups. With respect . . . I don’t want to hear about how you and your hubby are living a real-life fairy tale or how adorable and sweet your children are (I do, of course, reserve the right to tell you how adorable and sweet my children are. . . no one’s perfect). I don’t want to constantly hear about your faith and/or what a good Christian you are. What I am interested in is . . . what do you really think when you’re not focused on serving others? Where are your edges? What are your shortcomings and what makes you laugh? When’s the last time you acted like an ass?



In my opinion, the Times writer didn’t really criticize SITS or mom bloggers. I think her tone was light and even self-deprecating. She described one of the hosts as “a summer-camp director from Los Angeles [who] steered the proceedings with the good-natured sass of a sorority social chairwoman and the enthusiasm of a, well, summer-camp director. (She went barefoot for much of the day and said “You guys!” a lot.).” That is my vision of SITS in a nutshell.



The SITS girls rallied in blogland and here are their responses to the Times article:

Honey, I Just Want to Connect Women

It’s Heather-speak, for “I’m a little miffed.”

Don’t Bother Mommy, She’s Rabid Right Now.

Honey, Don’t Bother Mommy, I am writing a Mildly Annoyed Letter to the NY Times.

Newspaper Bias Against Mom Bloggers

Honey, Don’t Bother with the NY Times. They Are Too Busy Slamming Your Mommy.

Blogging and Motherhood- Success is Not Limited to One or the Other.

And Then There Was the Time I Sounded Like an Ass in the New York Times.



There’s also a facebook page that takes up the cause. Never underestimate the power of socially-networked mothers. It's really best not to get them started.



I actually love the idea of moms with blogs. If there’s ever a time a person is in need of a voice and community, it’s while living with small children. Motherhood is all about service, compromise, invasion. You know what happens when a mom takes a shower? It’s like opening a Family Help Desk in the bathroom. So, I think it’s great that moms spend time on something that is all their own. You go girl! (Hmm . . . maybe I can deal with that vibe).



pic: http://www.flickr.com/photos/goddessofchocolate/4038233451/

Monday, March 15, 2010

Unemployment Extensions


I just looked at the EDD website again because I'm trying to figure out what's going to happen after I get my last check this week from my current extension. To do that, I need to figure out which extension I’m just finishing now as well as my filing date.



It’s all a bunch of red tape. I’ve been on and off unemployment since February 2008. I think my most recent filing date might be a September 2009 date because I taught summer school and didn’t qualify for unemployment for two months. From what I can tell, there are different rules for people filing before and after September 20, 2009. I’m not sure where I stand on this. I haven’t yet found all my paperwork, but the paperwork I do have isn’t very illuminating.



The deadline to file for unemployment extensions was just extended to March 28, 2010. (This is a Sunday, so the actual deadline is March 27, 2010.) It appears that this deadline will be further extended to December 2010. However, there are no new extensions.



There are currently four federal extensions plus an extra FED-ED extension for states with higher unemployment rates, like California. I think I just finished my third extension but I don’t know for sure. I don’t think I’ve used the FED-ED extension but I might have. I’ve read through the info provided by EDD, such as the announcement below. I took a break and went back to it. I used to read government docs for work, so I’m familiar with the patience required by them. I have to admit I’m stumped. Reading announcements from EDD must be what senility feels like.



EDD is automatically mailing out forms to those who qualify for extensions. I am free to sit back and wait. I tried this technique before but the check never came and two months later, when I finally got someone from EDD on the phone, it was explained that it was a mistake that could not be explained (kind of like a Sunday deadline to mail the extension claim forms).



I’m going to email EDD for more info.



Federal Unemployment Insurance Extensions



(Updated March 12, 2010)


President Barack Obama signed legislation approved by the U.S. Congress that extends the filing deadlines for a month on the four different federal extensions of Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits currently available. This legislation did not add more weeks of unemployment benefits to the federal extensions. It only extended the deadlines for filing the federal extensions.


EDD estimates that 200,000 to 250,000 people are running out of their current benefits and need additional assistance while they continue to look for a new job. Any new extension or next level of extension will be automatically filed for customers whose regular claim or extension has recently ended. Claim forms are being sent throughout the week of March 7, 2010, within the two-week time period covered by the forms so no interruption in payments is expected for eligible claimants.


The current legislation also extends the additional $25 stimulus payments on each week of UI benefits currently being paid by the federal government. The impact on an individual’s eligibility to collect further UI benefits depends on when they started their regular UI claim and when they are set to exhaust their current benefits.


On March 10, 2010, the U.S. Senate approved new legislation that would extend the federal extension filing deadlines even further, through the end of December 2010. The legislation would only extend the deadlines for filing the federal extensions. It would not add more weeks of unemployment benefits to the federal extensions. This legislation still has to be approved by the U.S. House of Representatives and signed by President Obama before it can take effect. Our Web site will be updated if further action is taken on this bill. Please closely monitor our Web site for developments.


For the More Recently Unemployed


For now, the current legislation makes Sunday, March 28, 2010, the deadline for filing a first federal extension of benefits, once a regular UI claim runs out. So once someone runs out of their state UI benefits (up to 26 weeks) they may then become eligible for up to 20 additional weeks of benefits in the first federal extension. Collecting any further extension benefits after that, if they remain unemployed and otherwise eligible, all depends on if Congress will once again push back the extension filing deadlines beyond Sunday, April 4, 2010.

If Congress does not further extend the deadlines, anyone exhausting their regular UI claim after Saturday, March 27, 2010, will not be eligible to collect on any of the four federal extensions currently in place. Such a situation would apply to someone who started a typical 26-week regular claim any time after September 20, 2009.


However, a separate extension of benefits may be available for those who exhaust their regular UI claim after March 27, 2010. California currently meets the threshold for a separate extension of benefits known as FED-ED. If California continues to meet the unemployment rate required to file FED-ED extensions after March 27, 2010, additional benefits are potentially available for eligible claimants once they run out of their original maximum of 26 weeks of benefits and remain unemployed. Learn more about the FED-ED extension program.


For Those Already on a Federal Extension


The current legislation pushed back the filing deadline for a second, third, or fourth federal extension to April 4, 2010. Anyone just completing one level of the extensions and needs to continue on to another level will be able to do so by this deadline. Those who exhaust any level of extension after Saturday, April 3, 2010, will not be eligible for any further levels of extensions unless Congress once again revises the filing deadlines.


If someone may not be eligible for any further extension after April 4, 2010, it is possible the individual could become eligible for the separate FED-ED extension. Learn more about the FED-ED extension program.


If the individual has already collected on a FED-ED extension based on his or her most recent regular claim, he or she is not eligible to file for another FED-ED extension. Therefore, the federal extension collected on or after April 4, 2010, will be the last one available unless Congress again decides to extend the current filing deadlines on federal extensions.


For Those Currently on a FED-ED Extension


If Congress does not take action to extend the current version of the FED-ED extension law, and California continues to meet the threshold for FED-ED benefits, a FED-ED extension may be reduced to a maximum of up to 13 weeks of benefits beginning Sunday, April 11, 2010. If this happens and a claimant is affected by this change, he or she will be notified by mail.


Once a claimant has collected all available benefits on their regular claim or extension, EDD will notify the claimant on their UI check stub if further extended benefits may be available based on the current federal filing deadlines.


In addition, since Congress could take further action to extend the current filing deadlines on federal extensions, you are encouraged to watch this Web site for further developments. You can also sign up for our Twitter messages so you are alerted as soon as any new information is posted on our Web site.



picture: http://www.flickr.com/photos/roland/539492919/

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Earth Hour Is Coming!


Earth Hour is Saturday, March 27th at 8:30 p.m. (your local time). Do you get it? An hour of darkness circles the globe for 24 hours. I'll be hosting a ladies weekend, and they don't even know I'll be turning off all the lights and appliances. My kids are purists when it comes to Earth Hour . . . everything has to be unplugged. Might even extend it to Earth Evening. Eat raw food. Play board games by candlelight. Enjoy the unplugged hot tub . . . what the kids call the cold tub. It's going to be SO MUCH FUN.


If you believe in . . . um, SAVING THE EARTH, or at least life as we know it, sign up here.



Here's a litte more from http://www.earthour.org/.
Earth Hour started in 2007 in Sydney, Australia when 2.2 million homes and businesses turned their lights off for one hour to make their stand against climate change. Only a year later and Earth Hour had become a global sustainability movement with more than 50 million people across 35 countries participating. Global landmarks such as the, Sydney Harbour Bridge, The CN Tower in Toronto, The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and Rome’s Colosseum, all stood in darkness, as symbols of hope for a cause that grows more urgent by the hour.
In March 2009, hundreds of millions of people took part in the third Earth Hour. Over 4000 cities in 88 countries officially switched off to pledge their support for the planet, making Earth Hour 2009 the world’s largest global climate change initiative.

Earth Hour 2010 takes place on Saturday 27 March at 8.30pm (local time) and is a global call to action to every individual, every business and every community throughout the world. It is a call to stand up, to take responsibility, to get involved and lead the way towards a sustainable future. Iconic buildings and landmarks from Europe to Asia to the Americas will stand in darkness. People across the world from all walks of life will turn off their lights and join together in celebration and contemplation of the one thing we all have in common – our planet. So sign up now and let’s make 2010 the biggest Earth Hour yet!.

It’s Showtime! Show the world what can be done.

Earth Hour is organized by WWF. With almost 5 million supporters and a global network in over 100 countries, it’s one of the world's largest and most respected independent conservation organizations. WWF’s mission is to stop the degradation of the Earth's natural environment and build a future where people live in harmony with nature.

Why get involved?

Put simply, because our future depends on it!

Earth Hour has done a lot to raise awareness of climate change issues. But there’s more to it than switching off lights for one hour once a year. It’s all about giving people a voice on the future of our planet and working together to create a sustainable low carbon future for our planet.

The future can be bright.

New economic modelling indicates the world has just five years to initiate a low carbon industrial revolution before runaway climate change becomes almost inevitable. But it can be done, and the long term benefits will be enormous.

So now's the time to take a stand and give world leaders the mandate they need to make the right climate deal.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

World of Worldwide Brands ~ eBay, Part 7



In December 2007, I was still searching for suppliers for my eBay store. Around this time, I felt like I was always peering into stores, staring longingly at the shiny merchandise. I had a list of products that did well from the Via Trading pallets and a list of customer requests. I just needed to locate sources that would sell to me at prices I could profit from. I put a solid effort into searching for these magical sources. I was two months in and had about four months to go before I either needed to show some real progress on the eBay business or get a job. I wasn’t collecting unemployment at the time and had no other source of income, so time was limited.



After trying Salehoo, I vowed to never again throw money at another cheesy scam. Salehoo had promised a database of wholesalers and dropshippers who do business with eBayers. In reality, I found a limited number of unimpressive wholesalers with prices that had to be retail. I got exactly nothing for my $67 Salehoo membership.



I came across Worldwide Brands and there was no way I was going to pay the $299 lifetime membership fee. NO WAY. Worldwide Brands promised the same thing as Salehoo but with a much higher price tag. What’s up with these guys anyway? I did a little research. It was one rave review after another. Damn, I really wanted to join. Still, there was no way I was charging it to my credit card. I signed up for the free newsletter instead. A week or so later, an unexpected and generous birthday check arrived in the mail. I bee lined for my laptop and never regretted my membership.



I was turned off by the world of Worldwide Brands. I didn’t take advantage of the seminars, although I meant to. I read an article here and there. It felt cultish to me . . . a sparkly infomercial for the founder and leader, Chris Malta. It wasn’t just that he knew about doing business on eBay, he truly cared about helping others. (If you watched the nifty video at the beginning of this post, I feel the need to say . . . I'm smarter than Chris Malta thinks I am. He comes off as the Mr. Rogers of online retail cults.) Did you know he INVENTED the term “light bulk wholesaler?” He did so with a passion for finding trustworthy suppliers who would do business with small business owners like me. See? I‘ve been programmed by Worldwide Brands and really, I’m OK with that. It’s all because of their awesome database. It's something special. Since then, I’ve tried eBay Marketplace Research, which no longer exists, and Terapeak. Neither came close.



Worldwide Brands, which was briefly known as One Source, delivers its service through a customizable dashboard. You can search for products available from various types of wholesalers: light bulk, dropship, large volume and liquidator. I was all about the light bulk as the profit margin for the dropshippers never seemed worthy. I wasn’t ready for large volume and didn’t want to start over with another liquidator after the trial and error of getting to know Via Trading.



Not only did Worldwide Brands provide an impressive database of companies that had already agreed to sell to me . . . it forecasted the potential success of any product I could think of according to recent demand and existing competition. I could look up what the product was selling for and where, the number of recent internet searches for the product, and the search words used to find the product. How was it doing on eBay? How was it doing on Amazon? Were there any Google ads for that type of product?



I was entertained for hours. Another feature of Worldwide Brands that I loved was a form email system. If I found a supplier I was interested in, all I had to do was click a button, and BAM a new account request was sent out with my information automatically included. The inquiries and responses were all saved to my dashboard. I had a much better response rate to Worldwide Brand’s form emails than my own inquiries.



One big downside to a market research company like Worldwide Brands is that you’re getting the same info as every other member. For this reason, I was hesitant when I first found a promising lingerie supplier on the East Coast. I found several eBay sellers using the same stock pics from that company. It wasn’t exactly a secret yet this turned out to be my best product source. The supplier specialized in overstock and discontinued brand name lingerie, as well as offering its own in-house line. Bras from this company sold better for me by far than anything else I listed on eBay. I could sell bras for three times what I paid for them. Shipping costs weren’t an issue. With my buy-three-for-free-shipping promo, my standard sale was three bras. I had several repeat customers, and many of them needed attention because their favorite bras had been discontinued. That meant that they often bought as many as I had in the old style, sometimes in more than one size. Then, we stayed in touch as I continued to look for a replacement style. I really thought I was on to something.



Products that forecasted well on Worldwide Brands did not necessarily do well for me. There was the stuff from the bed linen company and the bamboo importer. For the most part, I was happy with the quality of what I ordered from these companies as well as the prices. I got good customer feedback. The problem was the sell-through rate was sluggish. Even if something sells the first time it is listed on eBay, roughly 20% of the selling price goes to eBay and Paypal fees. (At least, that was the case at the time . . . eBay has changed its fee system more than once since then.) The more I had to relist, the less money I made.



One of my favorite sources I found through Worldwide Brands was an organic cotton sock company in California. The owner still does not have an email address. She operates her business through one landline and a relative with a Paypal account. Her socks sold well for me. I shipped them all over the world. She would occasionally offer other organic cotton products. When I tried to reorder washcloths, I was told that the person who made them stopped for the winter because her hands were tired. I was tempted to ask why she couldn’t take a little break and get back to it.



I paid for the socks upfront through Paypal and the rest went on my credit card. I watched my credit card balance grow even though my sales were also increasing. I tracked the money accurately, but was a little too casual about it and didn’t make enough progress on my debt. I often used the money that was coming in to purchase supplies and pay bills. There were a ton of expenses – cell phone for example – that could be treated as a business expense but my business couldn’t really afford to cover it. When I explain it now, I’m fully aware of how dumb it sounds to be so careless. All I can say was that money was tight .period. and I felt the need to be a little creative about things. I do know for sure that I am better at managing other people’s money than my own.



I spent a lot of time on Worldwide Brands looking for suppliers of organic products as it was obvious that the demand for green products was growing. I found a supplier of organic cotton underwear. All they carried was a thong in black or natural, but it was the only organic cotton underwear I could find anywhere. It was a discontinued style, so I worked out a discount with the company and bought them out. The markup wasn’t as high as the bras but it was another item that sold well for me. Once a customer bought one of these, s/he would come back for more. Large orders came in for a wedding, a movie set, a college student who was moving out of the family home for the first time (it’s important to leave home with a healthy supply of underwear).



Everything seemed to be moving in a positive direction but there were some misses, evident by the full bins of hemp purses and handcrafted quilts stacked in my garage. I found that sales were better when my selection was wider. The bigger variety increased traffic to my store and based on eBay’s reports, visitors spent a good amount of time looking through my inventory, probably because of the shipping promo. I was constantly searching for new products but wasn’t willing to charge anything more to my credit card until I got rid of some of the stuff that wasn’t moving. This led me to a good supplier with unbelievably low prices practically in my own backyard.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Bad Behavior


I often look at my children and wonder about their lives. What will their strengths be? What careers will they pursue? Where will they live? Yesterday, I stared at the pair of them intently and wondered . . . am I raising criminals?



I would describe Daisy and Violet as spirited. They can be so sweet at times that I could just eat them up. Today was Daisy’s first grade teacher’s baby shower. My daughter made a card for her with shooting stars and flowers. Inside she wrote: “I am glad you are having a baby. I like you. I love you so much. I hope you’re OK.” It brought tears to my eyes when the teacher read it to the class.



But my daughters are defiant, angry, loud and straight up NAUGHTY too much of the time for my taste. My middle brother made a comment to my mom about the wild behavior he witnessed on the last night of his visit . . . he said he never acted that way as a kid. The girls were really wild that night. My parents and brothers watched as I unraveled in the face of the worst of it. As they walked me and the kids to the car at the end of the evening, my youngest brother gently reassured me that I was a good mother. His obvious concern and the number of times he repeated himself was not very reassuring at all.



And by the way, Middle Brother. When Mom told me what you said . . . I thought of you at the doctor’s office when you were about Violet’s age, screaming at the top of your lungs with your mouth open wide and your big teeth sticking out, kicking at the nurse who was trying to give you a shot, hiding under the examination table and refusing to come out. I think there was even some defiant urination. And I, as always, watched calmly, probably shaking my head or rolling my eyes. In control of my own self. So yeah, you did act that way. But I didn’t. And that’s partially what’s so challenging for me as a parent. I was never one to lose control the way my daughters do.



And don’t get me wrong, I did break the rules. I was just stealthy about it. I used to tell my students who felt like they couldn’t turn around without getting in trouble . . . you know how to make things better for yourself? Take care of your business . . . do your homework, remember your chores, play nice . . . and you’ll be surprised by how much more leeway you'll get. I’m not saying it’s all about whether or not you get caught, but being able to handle yourself in such a way as to make your life easier is huge.



When Daisy is really angry, she spirals out of control. She deliberately and aggressively does the opposite of what I’m telling her to do. She hurls insults, yells, throws personal belongings in the trash. She wishes she was never born to me. I am The Meanest Mom in the World. And it always concludes with her yelling at the top of her lungs, “IT’S ALL MY FAULT!” So smart . . . feeling miserable about yourself is the surest way to get back at your mother. I still remember the first time she was truly defiant as a two-year-old. She crawled up on her bed, turned around and stared at me as she dropped her pants and peed on her mattress (she takes after my middle brother in more than one way).



Violet’s rage is expressed in an even more physical manner. Things fly through the air. Furniture is pushed over. Although she doesn’t say much, she always screams, “Me no ike you Sis!” It doesn’t matter if her sister has anything to do with it or is even home. Her tantrum usually ends with a self-inflicted bump or bruise. However, her bad behavior is more typically under the radar.



I ran some errands yesterday, which I prepared for by packing four boxes to be shipped while shards of glass shot out of a nearby wall of glass blocks our contractors were taking out. Not feeling exactly calm after managing the kids in the danger zone and throwing stuff into boxes without thinking the shipping costs through, I weakly bribed the kids with a treat if they behaved for the errands. They did OK, so we stopped by a corner market when we were done. On our walk back to the car, I noticed that Violet had her hand under her shirt. I figured she had taken something but wanted to observe her a little. It’s useful to become familiar with what your children look like when they're hiding something. On our way home, I questioned her. She initially denied shoplifting with a look of fear. Eventually, a roll of stolen lifesavers was produced.



My 3-year-old stole with intent. We need to be nipping this one in the bud IMMEDIATELY. I took her back to the store today. She wouldn’t get out of the car, so I picked her up and carried her in. I explained to the owner what happened while Violet hid her face. The guy felt so sorry for her that he offered her a free candy bar. Are you kidding me? SHE’S IN TROUBLE. We won’t be taking any free candy today but thanks anyway.



The word criminal is a loaded term for me. I felt a calling to work with high school students who were sometimes criminalized. Some teenagers got into “the system” at a young age and couldn’t seem to make it through a weekend without an incident that resulted in another police report. I’m not talking about violent crime. Most of the offenses were fairly minor and related to standard teenage behavior. I’m talking about a person who doesn’t have the sense to stay out of trouble, and even worse, is like a moth to a trouble flame. That is what I am concerned about when I consider my daughters’ futures.



What I learned from my students is fair and consistent consequences make all the difference. It can be easy to forget consequences when kids are little because they’re so darned cute or you’re tired or the consequences punish the parents as much as the kids. It can also be easy to overreact and give kids the idea that something really important happened when they broke the rules, creating a fascination with the power of bad behavior.



Even though I know what I need to do, I still struggle every day with the right approach to disciplining my kids. I get frustrated, caught up in the drama, and sometimes say things that I can’t believe I’m saying even as I’m saying it. Daisy reflected this when she warned her sister in the car after the shoplifting incident, “Mom will call the police on you and SHE WON’T EVEN BE SORRY. Right, Mom? YOU WILL GO TO JAIL.” Is that what I sound like? Um, probably should tone it down a tad.

 
 
picture: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sc-axman/2327963033/

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Unemployment Benefits Extended


I just received an unemployment check and noticed there was about one additional check left on this extension. I’ve been meaning to figure out my exact status but assumed another extension would kick in after this one. I’ve heard of at least a couple new fed ed extensions since my most recent claim began. I looked at California’s EDD website. As far as I can tell, EDD aims to promote confusion and delay claims with their website. There has got to be a clearer and better way to deliver information . . . and there are people with mad skills who could use really use the work right now. It’s a no brainer.




Wait . . . my advice is to skip the rest of this post unless:

1) You’ve been naughty and need to be punished.

2) You’re a personal friend or relative and feel obligated (you can always nod and smile politely when I ask you if you saw this, and I’ll never know the difference).

3) You’re unemployed/underemployed and just as confused as I am.




Here’s what EDD had to say about unemployment extensions yesterday:

Filing deadlines for federal unemployment extension benefits are fast approaching. Unless the U.S. Congress takes action to extend the current filing deadlines, Sunday, February 21, 2010, is the deadline for filing a first federal extension of benefits once a regular Unemployment Insurance (UI) claim runs out. In addition, the current deadline for filing for a second, third, or fourth federal extension is Sunday, February 28, 2010. The impact on claimants depends on when they started their regular UI claim and when they are set to exhaust their current benefits.


More Recently Unemployed


Unless there is further federal legislative action, anyone exhausting their regular UI claim after February 21, 2010, will not be eligible to collect on any of the four federal extensions currently in place. Such a situation would apply to someone who started a typical 26-week regular claim any time after August 16, 2009.


However, California currently meets the threshold for a separate extension of benefits known as FED-ED. Additional benefits are potentially available for eligible claimants once they run out of their original maximum of 26 weeks of benefits and remain unemployed. Learn more about the FED-ED extension program.


Unemployed for a Longer Period


For those on a federal extension: The current deadlines does allow claimants to continue to collect on whatever extension they are currently on until benefits run out, or they are eligible to file a regular new UI claim, or the federal payment deadline of July 31, 2010 (which ever happens first). Claimants would not be able to move into any next level of the four federal extension benefits currently available.


• If a claimant has exhausted his or her current level of extension and remains unemployed, it is possible that he or she could become eligible for the separate FED-ED extension. Learn more about the FED-ED extension program.


• If a claimant has already collected on a FED-ED extension based on his or her most recent regular claim (initiated before the end of 2009), he or she is not eligible to file for another FED-ED extension. Therefore, the federal extension collected on after February 28, 2010, will be the last one available unless Congress again decides to extend the current filing deadlines on federal extensions.


For those currently on a FED-ED extension: If Congress does not take action to extend the current version of the FED-ED extension law, and California continues to meet the threshold for FED-ED benefits, a FED-ED extension may be reduced to a maximum of up to 13 weeks of benefits beginning March 7, 2010. If this happens and a claimant is affected by this change, he or she will be notified by mail.


Once a claimant has collected all available benefits on their regular claim or extension, EDD will notify the claimant on their UI check stub if further extended benefits may be available based on the current federal filing deadlines.


In addition, since Congress could take action to extend the current filing deadlines on federal extensions, you are encouraged to watch this Web site for further developments. You can also sign up for our Twitter messages so you are alerted as soon as any new information is posted on our Web site.




EDD is as unclear as ever. Here's the main point: the deadline to file for any of the four federal unemployment extensions just passed. I wish I could come up with a creative string of profanity to represent what that means to me. One issue is that I work about 10 hours weekly and more when the hours are available. I claim my earnings, which are then deducted from my monthly unemployment benefits, even though the lump sum of the claim remains the same. A claim that might last six months if I wasn’t working might instead last up to 12 months. So, if I wasn’t working, I would have met the deadline to file for another extension and then some.




I would prefer to NOT be collecting unemployment. I would rather NOT struggle to decipher governmentese while breaking into prickly hot sweats and humming nervously to blot out my panicked thoughts. In my quest to NOT be in this position, I apply to jobs religiously and look diligently for opportunities that could lead to financial independence. Independence being key, as my goal is to never again be financially dependent . . . on a person or assistance program.




There is good news this Tuesday evening . . . Congress passed a bill tonight that temporarily extends unemployment benefits for one month, buying time for a yearlong solution to be worked out. What a relief! It was just a couple days ago that I became acquainted with the name Jim Bunning. The Republican senator from Kentucky has taken a national beating for attempting to block the federal extension of unemployment benefits, among other things. Even Unemployed Brooklyn, who is normally exceptionally polite, called Bunning a douche. Jon Stewart’s assessment of the situation is definitely worth watching if you’ve been in a financially uncertain position due to Bunning.



pic 1: http://www.flickr.com/photos/fleur-design/768402165/
pic 2: http://www.flickr.com/photos/emeryjl/506966918/
pic 3: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dalbera/3600301569/
pic 4: http://www.flickr.com/photos/thefuturistics/247783902/
pic 5: http://www.flickr.com/photos/brighton/2153602543/
pic 6: http://www.flickr.com/photos/fleur-design/768402165/