A MinD in MoTown

Snip snip here. Snip snip there.

Embarrassment. That’s the best word to describe how I felt as a child when my mother would whip out a coupon as we dined out or went through the grocery line. I’d feel nearly humiliated that we were forced into needing those money-saving sheets of paper each week, almost as if my mom was claiming defeat and acknowledging that we were, indeed, “poor.” This attitude of mine carried into my teen years as well, feeling nearly mortified that we couldn’t affordably enjoy an Olive Garden supper without saving $4 on our meals.

But now, at 24 years old, living free from my parents with my own set of bills and household concerns, clipping coupons simply makes sense. Today I’m the one stuffing dozens of coupons into my wallet, ready for the next shopping excursion, eager to save a dollar here and there (especially at Kohl’s). After all, who doesn’t prefer a few extra bucks in the billfold sometimes? And with the economy barely improving over the last several months, everyone could benefit from saving some cash, including myself.

Yet that wasn’t something I could see in my youth when it was my mom with the coupons in hand. Now I look back on that slight resentment I once experienced with regret, wishing I better understood the reasoning behind my mother’s Sunday mornings with the scissors and newspaper ads.

It’s far from shocking that things change as we age — everything from our perspective on the world to political affiliations and more sometimes sway a different direction as we progress into adulthood. However, it’s somewhat mind-boggling to realize how much variation can occur.

As I sit here now, contemplating this evening’s shopping trip to Harris Teeter – where I plan to take major advantage of triple-coupon week – I’m almost embarrassed to have once been that snotty, snobby, bratty girl who couldn’t grasp the importance of savings a few dollars at times. I get it all now, for sure, but I certainly wish I did quite a bit sooner.


Who needs money anyway?

When my company implemented furloughs – required unpaid days off work – it came as no surprise. Most media outlets were already jumping on that bandwagon, forcing full-time workers into 32-hour weeks to save a few million dollars. But I never realized how grateful I’d be for the free time and the lost wages.

Unlike many others who work in this environment, I have a supplementary income from the restaurant I serve at on weekends. So when the furloughs were announced – one per month through September – I figured an extra shift or two each month would even out the monetary loss. And with just as much cash in hand, I took advantage of the work-free days by relaxing at home, conducting massive cleanups of my entire house or heading out of town to enjoy a long weekend*.

September arrived and I scheduled the last of my furloughs – used, along with paid vacation time, for a trip to the Outer Banks of NC. And then, shortly after returning, the news came: More furloughs would be necessary.

At first I was disappointed. Talk of wage raises was swirling prior to this announcement, but that quickly faded as six additional work-free eight-hour days were planned before 2010. 

Less than a day later though, my anger and agitation turned to relief as I remembered how much these furloughs allowed me to do so far this year that was previously beyond my reach when I worked six or seven days each week.

Not only did I visit Scranton on a non-holiday weekend in August, but I traveled to the Outer Banks this month, Virginia Beach in July, Penn State in April, Carowinds in June and so much more. (And thanks to the newly implemented furloughs, I’m heading back to Penn State in two weeks for a four-day weekend.)

These furloughs have strangely provided me with an amazing year of adventures and fun. So perhaps I won’t get a raise – bummer! – and maybe I’ll have to grit my teeth through a few more waitressing shifts, but with so little paid time off, these furloughs have helped me attain a happiness that was slightly missing in 2008 because all I seemed to do was work.

I guess this somewhat defines “turning lemons into lemonade.” I have seriously made the absolute best I could out of a very crappy situation, and what more could I have asked for? My wallet might struggle here and there, but I’m genuinely happy and that’s worth eating Ramen noodles for an entire week on occasion, for sure.

So, have you been in a similar situation where you’ve been able to “turn lemons into lemonade”? I’d love to hear about it. And if you’re in the media business, how have furloughs impacted your lives? I’m curious to find out.

* I suppose it should be noted that I can afford and often schedule one weekend off at the restaurant each month as well.

Too close for comfort.
August 24, 2009, 6:01 pm
Filed under: My rose-colored glasses, RIP

My parents often joke that I live my life through “rose-colored glasses,” and I suppose that’s at least partially true. I’m not entirely sure if I’d classify myself as an optimist, but if given the choice between half-empty or half-full, I’d likely choose the latter.

I guess it’s these “rose-colored glasses” that are making the recent death of a high school classmate a little difficult to grasp.

T* and I were not the best of friends, nor were we really friends at all, but we were without a doubt friendly acquaintances, to say the least. For four years, we shared a homeroom and had a few classes together throughout our high school careers. Actually, T was the very first person at my alma matar to extend a friendly gesture my direction when I was starting at a completely new school, filled with nearly 1,200 students, but only a half-dozen familiar faces. Her game of “tiddly winks” during freshman orientation made me feel more welcome than I thought I would.

And here I sit, almost 10 years later to the day, in shock that this former classmate’s life ended following a lethal dose of heroin**.

Today was T’s funeral, back in Scranton. Tears were shed and hearts broke as loved ones said their final goodbyes to a girl who spent less than a quarter-century on this earth. It’s an absolute shame that her life had to cease so soon because of something entirely reckless and rash.

Heroin is something most people never know outside of movies, TV and other fiction, and that is how it’s always been for me. I’ve never encountered or been near the substance, nor have I known anyone – to my knowledge – who even dabbled in this deadly drug. But T’s death brings its usage a little closer to home, even if the two of us never cultivated a close relationship.

This is a girl who I can vividly picture in my mind, who I can still hear laugh, whose sarcasm could easily fill a room. A person who was an honors student and a future social worker. Yet her life stopped at the age of 24 due to addiction. And while I wish I could say it was a complete and utter surprise, I can’t. Unfortunately, despite T’s ability to make anyone smile, her reputation also carried a history of drug use and at least one stint in rehab that the entire 2003 graduating class likely heard about. I just thought, or perhaps assumed, she had more sense than to push that substance problem too far, toward her own demise.

I don’t often think about issues like drug and alcohol abuse. They seem so foreign to me, so outside my own life, that they aren’t something I seriously consider on even an irregular basis. But it takes something tragic like this to bring a variety of questions – What’s the allure of drugs, even pot? Why make it a habit? Why do it if you know its potential consequences? Why, why, why? Etc. – to the forefront of my mind. And sadly, I know I’ll never find the answers I truly seek.

If anything at all comes from T’s death, I hope it’s a lesson for those of us who knew her – or who knew of her – to think a bit more, to appreciate life a bit more, to take this one existence we have as seriously as possible. My heart absolutely breaks when I imagine what her family is going through during this difficult time. To be honest, I’m not even sure I could adequately visualize the sorrow and pain they must feel. And to think that it was heroin, of all things, that caused it? It simply leaves me bewildered and baffled.

I hope T rests in peace and that some sort of lesson arises from her death. It’s incredibly unfortunate that it takes moments like these for people like myself to stop and consider drug use and its effects, but maybe this is the kind of wakeup call we need.

* For some reason, I hesitate to use her name. Sorry folks.
** Her obituary didn’t state a cause of death, nor was a news article written. However, all indications and word of mouth indicate a heroin overdose.