Saturday, August 20, 2011

Top Five Career Choices in Today’s Market

There’s no doubt, these are challenging economic times. The stock market is taking more dips than the Coney Island roller coaster, and my retirement account is taking the ride along with it. I feel like I am in the dreaded last car, ready to fly off the back of the ride at any moment.

Making a living as a combination freelancer/granny nanny also comes with its challenges, though the pros are still outweighing the cons. But like most of us, I am keeping my eye on the situation and formulating a few backup plans in the event the bottom falls out. I try to stay abreast of the current job trends – what’s hot, what’s not. I am also an avid newspaper reader and television news watcher. Based on some recurring themes in the news, I think I have figured out the most lucrative careers to consider. This is not based on any published salary figures, government data or economic indicators. It is simply based on the fact that if I am seeing it in the news every day, there must be something to it. If these careers were not money producers, why would so many people be choosing them?
So I am about to let you in on my secret discovery of the Top Five Career Choices in Today’s Market. But hey, keep the info to yourself so we don’t have a glut in the job market.

Copper Poaching – Apparently there is big money in stealing copper from a variety of sources and selling it for cash. Qualifications for the job include being handy with tools, namely wire cutters, having reliable transportation, namely a getaway car, and the ability to carry heavy loads – think of the weight of jars of pennies. Applicants should enjoy working late at night and with little overhead lighting. You should also have knowledge of electrical systems as it appears several electrocution deaths have occurred in this field. (I wonder if OSHA has weighed in on this).

Meth Lab Operation – This is a great career for the chemistry major, or anyone who simply enjoys the thrill of mixing dangerous chemicals. The labs can be easily constructed in small spaces such as apartments and single-wide mobile homes, so overhead is low. For those who prefer to be on the road, you can set up a mobile meth lab in the back of your vehicle. I believe you are then able to claim the standard mileage reimbursement on your taxes.

Breaking and Entering – This age-old career is currently in resurgence. Though a good set of tools is required, apparently they are not always needed as car owners simply leave doors unlocked, windows open and keys in the ignition. A good night’s work translates to wallets, jewelry and a bevy of electronic devices. Form a relationship with a good pawn broker for top commissions.
Bank Robbery – Best-suited for masters of disguise. Successful robbers with unique disguises can actually develop a cult following in the media. A colorful career for the adventurous – especially when the dye packs go off. No equipment required, but you need manual dexterity to point your finger under clothing to give the appearance of a gun.

Counterfeiting – Initial investment necessary – high quality copy machine. Also need acting skills to be able to purchase a 99 cent pack of gum with a hundred dollar bill and keep a straight face.

It’s nice to know these opportunities are available, but I realize there is a drawback that might keep me from pursuing them – I’m allergic to jail cells.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Game On!

It’s Wednesday night – I’m playing the lottery game. I don’t just mean that I purchased a ticket, I mean I am playing my version of the lottery game. I play it every week, usually on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.  I alternate the playing pieces depending on the day of the week. It’s either a Mega Millions ticket or a Powerball ticket.  And the game is called “What Am I Gonna Do When I Win?”
People always like to dream about what they would do if they won the lottery. I love the ones who say they would keep their job. Yeah, right! I would hang up my hard hat in a heartbeat. How is that for alliteration from a freelance writer? Seriously though, discontinuing working for a living would be the first item on my post-lottery winning checklist.
The initial part of my plan is quite practical. Let’s say I win $50 million. Wow, I like saying that. I like writing that. It has a nice ring. Anyway, the state would take about half, so now I am down to $25 million. Whew, I think I can manage on that reduced amount. And I would feel good knowing the other half was paying for scholarships for South Carolina students to attend college. Go Tigers!
So first I would take maybe three to four million off the top to set myself up for life. Why such a small percentage? Come on, just how many millions does one person need to live the rest of their life? At 57, we are not talking a hundred years. I don’t need luxury, I just want some comforts.

Next comes family members. I would pay off one daughter’s mortgage and buy a home for the other. That’s one way to keep her close by. Trust funds would be set up for each of them, as well as grandchildren. I remember years ago when my daughters were still students. I told them if I ever won the lottery, I would set up a fund that paid them each week but only if they were working full time. My younger requested partial payment for working part time. Always thinking, that one.
When all the family members are taken care of, it’s time to start having fun with friends. I picture myself going to the bank and paying off mortgages, but not telling them. Then I want to wait for the day the bank calls and says, “Um, Mrs. Jones, we received your mortgage payment but that loan has been satisfied by an anonymous donor.”  Yeah, I just want to be there when I see the look on their face! It doesn’t get better than that.

I have some specific plans. I am buying myself and my good friend Molly matching condos downtown. We will either be overlooking the Reedy River or Greenville Drive Stadium – or maybe both. We will never need to decide again who is going to be the designated driver when we party downtown. We will just catch the trolley home. Nirvana.

I know it’s a silly game. But sometimes it gets me through the night. I know the odds are like a billion to one, but hey, somebody’s got to win it. Why not me? Game on!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Wearing My Scars Out on My Sleeve

My 57-year-old body bears some scars. There is a large round one on the back of my left leg. My college boyfriend went through his motorcycle phase. I didn’t know much about riding motorcycles, including the fact that you should wear long pants to protect your skin from exhaust pipes that reach extreme temperatures. I can still remember how my skin actually seared to the pipe as it tore away from my left leg.

I also have a scar on the inside of my right forearm. Unfortunately, the location makes it look like an attempt at slitting my wrist. But it is actually what I call a love scar. The night before my daughter’s wedding, I offered to iron my future son-in-law’s shirt for the rehearsal dinner. A combination of excitement, exhaustion and trying to do a thousand things at once resulted in a nasty burn from the iron. As ugly as it appears, it always reminds me of my daughter’s wedding and how ironing Eric’s shirt was sort of a rite of passage. Silly, but to me it means something.
My most unfortunate scarring incident was caused by me, but left its mark on my daughter. She was about four years old and we were living in Salt Lake City. I noticed a spec of dirt in her eyebrow and unconsciously picked at it to clear her face. When she erupted into full-blown chicken pox two days later, I realized it wasn’t dirt after all. My daughter relishes telling the story whenever someone questions the still noticeable scar. It has become one of our family jokes.

My mother bore many scars on her arms and hands, some from her days working with hot solder at her electronics job. But most of them were oven burns. My mother loved to cook and bake, but somehow she never mastered the art of pulling pans in and out of the oven.
Scars are permanent and we are reminded of them each time we scan our bodies. But there are also internal scars and although we can’t see them, we shouldn’t forget how we got them, how we healed them and the lessons we learned. These scars are usually the result of a loss – a friend, a family member a lover. The injury that causes them is usually much more painful than that of a physical scar and it endures for a longer time. The most frustrating thing about internal scars is that they are so much more difficult to treat. You can’t apply aloe and a bandage and hope for the best. There is no steadfast treatment that works like a charm. You simply wade through the pain, one day at a time, waiting for it to subside.

As painful as the internal scars may be, we learn a lot about ourselves from them. Since they are inside, often on the heart, we do a lot of self-reflection as we attend to them. We grieve, we vow not to make the same mistakes in the future, we usually come out stronger on the other end. And as ugly as they may be, we become a better person because of them.
We sometimes forget about our internal scars, until a life event rattles our cage and the painful memories come flooding back. The trick to healing is to focus on the positive things you learned from the experience, rather than the pain itself.  We need those reminders to nurture our relationships, to keep them healthy and scar free. I am planning to wear mine on my sleeve as a reminder to avoid pitfalls and focus on positive energy. I just have to figure out how to do it on sleeveless shirts.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Life Becomes Art

Building a turkey sandwich is an art. First you have to pick the perfect bread for the base. It might be fresh-baked whole wheat sprinkled with grains, or it could be marble rye with seeds. I am old enough and wise enough to not settle anymore for plain white.

Condiments go on the bread next, usually mayo, but sometimes I add a little spicy mustard for some kick. Next come the layers of thinly sliced turkey carved from the roast, covered with a slice of Swiss or Vermont cheddar cheese. I gingerly add tomato slices and then gently drape a piece of crisp lettuce on top. For a special treat, a few slices of freshly fried, extra crispy bacon are the finishing touch.
When we construct a turkey sandwich, we take our time to layer every ingredient just so, and then the top slice of bread is applied nestling all the ingredients together so the flavors can blend. Ever so gently, we slide our fingers under the sandwich and slowly pull the entire creation toward our waiting lips and mouth. And just like that, the insides begin falling out – onto the plate, onto the floor, flinging themselves while splattering mayo everywhere. The whole damn sandwich falls apart right before our eyes.

Isn’t this the way of life? We plan, we maneuver, we work hard, we follow directions, we set goals and we build dreams. We take our time, carefully choosing our friends and our partners and building solid relationships. And sometimes, just like a house of cards, it crumbles. It happens to the best of us, it happens when we least expect it. It’s a wakeup call about shifting priorities, shoring up relationships and making smarter decisions.
When our turkey sandwich falls apart, we curse, we whine, we bitch and moan. And then we pick up the pieces and we start over. When your life is like a turkey sandwich, you have to have the fortitude to accept the stumbles. Learn from them, choose an alternate plan and start to rebuild. Sometimes we just want to throw the whole damn sandwich in the garbage and go hungry, but let’s face it – you know you really want that sandwich and it’s not going to make itself.