A Layoff's Unexpected Bonus

Welcome to the "On Balance" guest blog. Every Tuesday, "On Balance" features the views of a guest writer. It could be your neighbor, your boss, your most loved or hated poster from the blog, or you! Send me your original, unpublished entry (300 words or fewer) for consideration. Obviously, the topic should be something related to balancing your life.

By Rodney McKenzie

My summer started early this year with one of the realities of corporate life -- layoffs. While my family and friends welcomed spring, my staff and I said our "goodbyes." Even though my employer's decision to outsource didn't come as a total surprise, it was still somewhat traumatic to face maintaining a part-time single parent household with a child in private school on...well...no income. But that's it for the sad stuff; here is where the fun begins.

My 10- year-old son, for whom I have joint custody with my ex-wife, saw this as an opportunity. He was excited at the prospect of being picked up right after school every day: This meant no aftercare! I could see his brain calculating more hang-out time with Dad and, like most boys his age, more time at the Playstation. Initially, I was too busy worrying about finding the next career opportunity to see what he saw. I would spend all day looking for that "right" move; then, I'd rush to get him from school, hoping on the way home that something had happened in the hour I was away from the computer.

Then, boom it happened. I started sitting with him while he did his homework rather than just reviewing what was completed in aftercare. We started going to the school gym in the afternoon to practice basketball -- his favorite sport in all the world. I even talked him into a few trips to the golf driving range -- Dad's favorite sport in all the world. When school ended, things got even better -- a trip to Chicago to visit friends, my coaching his summer league basketball team, and going on the team's trip to Florida. However, the best part was just hanging out and really getting to know each other. He watched me play video games so he could copy my strategy. He caught on that my discipline really gets tougher each year and that compliance is the ONLY option. I never figured out why he wears socks to bed...every night.

When school started a few weeks ago, I couldn't help reflect that what first seemed a major challenge turned into a major opportunity. It is ironic that this coincided with my 40th birthday, which I celebrated this summer; I am sure that it was all in the plan. I treasure these past few months, and I know without a doubt that the time we spent together has made me a better parent. I never thought I would look at six months off without pay as being the best summer ever. However, I am having a hard time finding anything else that compares.

Rodney McKenzie lives with his son in Silver Spring, Md. After six months off, he recently accepted a new position at Methodware, a New Zealand-based software developer.

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  September 25, 2007; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Guest Blogs
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Comments

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Rodney - great story! I'm sure this summer will also be one that your son remembers for a long time.

Posted by: londonmom | September 25, 2007 7:14 AM

Awe! Ain't Rodney a sweetie?

Posted by: DandyLion | September 25, 2007 7:36 AM

Sometimes what you want isn't what you need and only in retrospect can you see that things do so often work out for the best! Glad you were able to find the reward in the challenge and I'm glad not to be Mrs. Shaun Cassidy.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | September 25, 2007 7:37 AM

Rodney sounds like he could have gotten some interesting career direction from yesterday's posters...what a sweet and positive story to read in the morning.

And I thought of an opportunity myself...I'll call myself The Un-Coronator (because I'm teaching your little darling that he/she is NOT a prince/princess). $20/hr for each year of the child's age up to 11, a flat $5000/hr from ages 12 to 14 (and ANYONE who has raised them at that age will consider it a bargain) and $1000/hr from ages 15 to 17. Because, folks, if your kid is over 18 and still acting like le roi du soleil, it's time to move and leave no forwarding address.

Posted by: educmom_615 | September 25, 2007 7:40 AM

Great story, Rodney. However, if you're reading, can you give us a little more on the financial planning you did BEFORE the layoff? Without invading anyone's privacy, we have here a man who

- went six months without pay
- is divorced, and most people I know of in that situation say it consumes massive amounts of financial resources
- sends his son to private school
- went to Chicago to visit friends
- went to Florida with the basketball team
- and indulged in many other hobbies (golf driving range, playstation) - in other words, there's nothing in this blog about ever having to cut back!

Quite frankly, I'm impressed by that. Okay, I'm doing fine financially, but put in Rodney's situation I'm not sure I wouldn't have said sorry, no trips to Chicago or Florida right now; etc.

So, again without invading anybody's privacy, Rodney, do you have any tips for us on financial planning ahead of time?

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 25, 2007 8:03 AM

Here's a suggestion for a guest blog I'd love to read: the MacArthur Foundation "genius awards" were announced yesterday. One of the winners is Dr. Ruth DeFries, a geographer at the University of Maryland.

I'd love to read a guest blog from her because in it's story today, the Baltimore Sun had the following:

"DeFries earned a bachelor's degree from Washington University in St. Louis in 1976 and a doctorate from the Johns Hopkins University in 1980. She worked as a research scientist at the India Institute of Technology in Bombay from 1980 to 1983 and then as a senior project officer at the National Research Council from 1987 to 1991.

Earlier this year she received a Fulbright award and last year she was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, an elite group of 2,100 leading American researchers.

Townshend (Chair of the Department of Geography) said DeFries worked part time for several years so that she could spend more time with her two children. "She's a very good example of how a woman can combine having a family and an extremely successful career."

(FWIW, in its story the WaPo didn't mention anything about this aspect of Dr. DeFries' work.)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 25, 2007 8:11 AM

I second ArmyBrat's suggestion about Dr. DeFries. I would love to hear from her.

Well done, Rodney. It's no fun being laid off but it sounds like you made the best of it. Serendipity, my friend.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | September 25, 2007 8:23 AM

This is a very nice story. I like the overall message of making an opportunity out of a set back.

I can only assume that Rodney had plenty of savings. When I was laid off and out of work for 6 months, we had to scrimp and save. We didn't even eat out. And we were living in an apartment. If one of us were laid off now, with a mortage, we certainly wouldn't be taking trips anywhere. But we're just starting out, and our savings aren't that impressive yet.

Posted by: Meesh | September 25, 2007 8:24 AM

ArmyBrat, I think Rodney may just be smarter than you.

A trip to Chicago and Florida (in the summer -- pretty cheap fares) for one child and one adult may not have cost that much. And it wouldn't have been fair to stop his son from attending a basketball tournament that had probably been planned long before the layoff. I can't imagine that playing basketball at his son's school cost anything -- but time. Which seems to be the point of the Guest Blog (and yesterday's). Time with your kids is priceless.

But Rodney's financial acumen does bring up a good point: you can hope for the best, but you always need to plan for the worst. Thankfully for Rodney and his son, he had saved enough to cover a six month layoff.

Posted by: lpsteiner | September 25, 2007 8:25 AM

Great story.

Probably, Rodney got some sort of severance package - when i was laid off, I got a bunch of money, and I was one of the low on the totem pole people. Some people got an exhorbitant amount of money. And then, after it was calculated to be fine, I got unemployment ins. So, if one has a bit of savings (and maybe he worked something out with the ex - she might have been working too), it's not horrible (the only 'horrible' thing would be that you don't know when it's going to end).

Anyway, it was a very inspiring story.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | September 25, 2007 8:46 AM

Also, I'm pretty sure that if you are involuntarily laid off, you usually do not have to pay child support or pay at a reduced rate. This has been the case for several people I know, at any rate.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | September 25, 2007 8:58 AM

I don't know if I could relax enough to enjoy time laid off and I admire Rodney for being able to make the most of it. I had a job fade out (hours cut back) and I had money in the bank. But the prospect of unemployment threw me into such a panic, I actually found a new job before the old one ended! So I had overlapping jobs right around the holidays -- great for the kids. I really kick myself for not figuring out how to take a break between jobs. But on the upside I had the money to replace my car without taking on a car loan.

Posted by: anne.saunders | September 25, 2007 9:05 AM

It is definitely not easy to figure out how to get a little more relaxed and actually take the time OFF.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | September 25, 2007 9:09 AM


Yesterday was such a good day (today's post, while really sweet, isn't going to generate much more than affirmation for Rodney). So, some double OT:

Okay, Fred, educ_mom and others with kids old enough: how many would not have missed out on the experience of teaching your kids to drive? :-)

You asked...

...well, it seems that the gods thought it was unfair that I looked like I was young enough to have been a teenage mom, even though I was not, and the gods noticed it was time for the sons to learn to drive. Our state required 40 hours behind the wheel with a parent or other responsible adult (I think it's more now). Dad works many hours, including those all-important summer vacation daylight hours, so my name was down for about 30 of those hours for each son.

Son #1 was not a big fan of the speed limit; he has trouble reconciling the relationship of those numbers on the signs to the notches on his speedometer. I kept trying to get the huge block of lead off his foot, but no luck. In 3 years of driving, he has had 5 speeding tickets (and twice as many warnings). He's also unlucky: three days after we provided him with a 9-year-old car for his own use, he was hit from behind with enough force to buckle the frame. He was fine. We fixed the car well enough for him to drive it. I thought, well when he hits a pole, a mailbox, a deer and a guardrail, all at once, I won't mind so much.

Son #2 disliked stop signs. I suppose that's because he never liked being told what to do. He also drove so close to the car in front of him that he didn't need his contacts to read the license plate number. Oh, and he thought it was great fun to drift over the line when I was with him, and let me think he was going to have a head-on with every farm vehicle coming our way. It seems I scream funny. Had a minor accident (driving brother's POS) on the VERY FIRST day he drove into school with his license.

I know the gods are happy now, because absolutely no one tells me I look too young to have sons my age anymore.

I think making a bed is the dumbest thing around. Taking the effort to make a bed that no one will see that will be instantly messed up as soon as some one lays in it is the height of folly IMO.
Posted by: pATRICK | September 24, 2007 04:41 PM

Oh my goodness, there's nothing better at night than turning down the bed and getting between sheets that have been pulled smooth all day. And the BEST sheets are linen that were hung out to dry after they were washed. I am a bit of a princess when it comes to my sleeping environment. And it's not unhealthy to make the bed altogether; just to make it immediately. I wait till I'm out of the shower.

Posted by: educmom_615 | September 25, 2007 9:23 AM

This was a great guest blog - my hat is off to Rodney for balancing his son's expectations and his responsibility to himself to conduct a solid job search. Like ArmyBrat, I noticed the continued expenditures on discretionary items like travel and leisure and realized that DH and I have never had a layoff where these sorts of activities were possible. I am glad Rodney had the money tree in the backyard from which he could pluck adventures with his son. Leslie's "those tickets aren't that expensive" response is as frivolous as ever - just because something is a good deal doesn't mean we can afford to take advantage of it.

Posted by: MN | September 25, 2007 9:24 AM

educmom: great stories. But you are so nice. After one speeding ticket, my kids will have to go get their own car and pay their own insurance. Or take the bus.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | September 25, 2007 9:31 AM

Great story, but I'm also interested in how he swung this financially. My husband has been laid off twice in the past few years and while there was some savings from no longer having to pay for childcare, just meeting our usual financial needs used up all of the income we had (my FT income and his unemployment checks) and required us to dig into our savings as well. Without knowing how long the layoff might last, we cut out all extras--magazine subscriptions, meals out, planned vacations,

Posted by: sarahfran | September 25, 2007 9:32 AM

Actually, a friend of mine was laid off many years ago. He was looking for a job while the kids were in full time daycare (they didn't want to lose their spot). So at some point, the couple said: This is silly. Why don't you just stay home with the kids - we'll save on daycare...etc.

So, he is now a SAHD (and loving it) and the wife works full time. The older one is in school now, he's home with the younger one (who's in a few hours a week of preschool now). It's working out really well for them...

Posted by: atlmom1234 | September 25, 2007 9:36 AM

educmom,
based on your last post, I've decided my kids will never learn to drive! Gaaaa.

Posted by: anne.saunders | September 25, 2007 9:37 AM

Whoops! Hit that "submit" button accidentally!

To continue--to make it through the layoffs, we cut out all extras, and that was with only a 50% reduction of our family income. How does someone with a near 100% income reduction manage a layoff financially and still be able to do fun stuff like trips to Chicago and Florida?

Posted by: sarahfran | September 25, 2007 9:38 AM

MN< I think some of the earlier posters are right -- Rodney must have received a very nice severance package. Many years ago, my father was laid off. He was an executive, so I don't know exactly how his situation comapres with Rodney's, but he was given a lump-sum payment, he was paid his salary for six months, and he was given the services of an executive-placement firm. He ended up using the time to build his accounting practice so that he could live (quite well) on that alone. Nonetheless, we still cut back considerably on luxuries for a while. I paid about 60% of my college tuition, which had not been plan A in his mind (or mine, but I was a dumb kid). It was the early 1980's and who knew what the job market was going to do?

Posted by: educmom_615 | September 25, 2007 9:38 AM

atlmom, I was tempted to take the car away, but I settled for getting him to pay me for his share of the insurance. If I had taken the car, then I would have been the one to take him to school. They went to a private school 35 minutes from home -- I could not WAIT for at least one to drive!!

Posted by: educmom_615 | September 25, 2007 9:43 AM

Skip this post if you don't want to hear about driving.

Daughter #1 could not get used to the idea that cars (including ours), telephone poles, etc. did real long-lasting damage. We practiced in empty parking lots, and in cemeteries.

Daughter #2 totaled my (13 year old) car one week after receiving her license. Now she has received 3 tickets, a couple of warnings, and been involved in another fender bender. She likes to drive, but has not gotten used to the idea that she has a limited amount of spending money,which can go for entertainment, or this kind of stuff.

Both are on their own policies (to protect my financial assets), and pay for *everything* with their vehicles.

Posted by: chemguy1157 | September 25, 2007 9:46 AM

Well, educmom: I can be smug now, as my oldest is only five. Who knows what will happen in 10/11 years!

But, we live in the city (at least today, as I said, who knows what will happen in a few years!), so there *are* buses to take - and we're planning on public schools all the way, so nothing's more than a couple of miles away.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | September 25, 2007 9:46 AM

As I said: some execs where I was laid off got a bunch of money - one of my former coworkers JUST NOW went back to work with a startup (so I don't know if he's part owner and is working for peanuts) - we were all laid off in 2002.

I know some execs negotiated for larger severance packages than we were offered - and they weren't offering peanuts (that was the first round, after they went to bankruptcy, I think they weren't so generous)

Posted by: atlmom1234 | September 25, 2007 9:47 AM

Off topic: a great mommy blog site, Today's Mama, is featuring some excerpts from Mommy Wars. The first is up now at http://www.todaysmama.com/expand-articles.php?view=174.

The site also has really good blogs about moms with disabilities, twins, being a military mom, and more nutty motherhood stuff. Worth checking out.

Posted by: lpsteiner | September 25, 2007 9:49 AM

Count me with the "how did he do it?" crew. We've been through layoffs, and my husband has even gotten decent severance packages, but even with that and my salary, I just wasn't comfortable spending money on things like vacations before we knew when and where he'd be employed again.

"It is definitely not easy to figure out how to get a little more relaxed and actually take the time OFF."

I second that. My big case settled late last week; I was happy to take Friday off, and have an easy morning yesterday putzing in the office, but by lunchtime I was antsy to get going again. And that's with a regular job and paycheck! It definitely feels weird having literally nothing to do -- especially after you've been in go-go-go mode for so long.

Posted by: laura33 | September 25, 2007 9:57 AM

Speaking of driving, my favorite phrase for my husband is "the car is not a toy." I think he thinks of the car as a real-life video game and all the other cars and people as obstacles to get around.

I took driving very seriously when I was learning, and I still do. I've never wrecked a car. The consequences for me were losing the car and paying for increases in insurance (which I understand are astronomical for teens), so I was incredibly careful.

But my brother was a holy terror on wheels and got into lots of accidents. We were both taught by our mom (who has also never wrecked a car), so I'm not sure why we have such different driving styles.

Posted by: Meesh | September 25, 2007 10:01 AM

laura: glad to hear that you settled (right?) - or - hope that it worked out well for your clients. But I guess there's always another case on the horizon...

Posted by: atlmom1234 | September 25, 2007 10:02 AM

Actually, I don't know if child support can be amended if a person is laid off--I think it would take months in court to plead the case, by which time hopefully the person would have a new job.

I could definitely be wrong, though.

Not to be a hater, but I had to chuckle at the comment that it "wouldn't have been fair" to have the kid have to miss out on the basketball tournament. Was Rodney losing his job fair? Is life fair? If he couldn't have afforded it, he couldn't have afforded it and I guess the kid would have had to cope.

Posted by: maggielmcg | September 25, 2007 10:11 AM

"ArmyBrat, I think Rodney may just be smarter than you."

You may be right, Leslie. You may very well be. On the other hand, he may not be. When a previous employer outsourced programming to India, I saw it coming and made sure I was one of those not laid off. (Sorry if that sounds snarky; I realize that sometimes it's not possible to not be laid off. But in the software business at a minimum you'd better be ready for the possibility.)

"A trip to Chicago and Florida (in the summer -- pretty cheap fares) for one child and one adult may not have cost that much."

I think that MN already covered that one. At a minimum, it's several hundred dollars for the two of them, even if they had relatives/friends to stay with in Chicago and doubled/tripled up in Florida. For a guy with zero income, that's a luxury that needs to be considered.

"And it wouldn't have been fair to stop his son from attending a basketball tournament that had probably been planned long before the layoff."

Yes, the tournament was planned months earlier. I've been involved with youth sports programs for the last 11 years or so. I know all too well how they work. But in terms of whether or not it would be "fair" - it depended on the money. On the other hand, since Mom has joint custody, on this one I would have thought to ask her to pay HIS expenses, if not Rodney's.

"I can't imagine that playing basketball at his son's school cost anything -- but time."

Read it again, Leslie. It wasn't school basketball, it was summer league basketball. And the kinds of teams that play schedules that take them to Florida for tournaments tend to run about $1,000 or more, NOT including travel costs. (I'm basing that on what our softball teams that went to Orlando charged for the season.)

There are other issues as well, like health insurance (who was responsible for the son's medical bills, Rodney or his ex-wife? Yes, there's COBRA, but it still gets very expensive.)

Those who pointed out that he probably got a good severance package make a good point.

I've been lucky (and smart!) enough to never have been laid off. But I'm watching my brother right now. His plant in NC is closing - the large multi-national company is moving all industrial production to China. He's number two at the plant; it closes December 31 2007 and his layoff date is 31 March 2008 (he has to stay around to do a lot of close-out paperwork). He's getting a good enough severance package to make him not leave before the layoff, but there are still issues. He's got custody of his two daughters; he's responsible for their health insurance; he pays the private school tuition for the younger and college tuition for the older; etc. And he's very worried about how things will go. He's already looking for a job that starts April 1; he's told the girls that there are no luxuries until there's another good job lined up. He's even gone so far as to ask the ex-wife if she and her current husband can pick up the girls on their health insurance (that was met with a laugh).

So, I'm trying to match my brother's experience with Rodney's, and all I can say is, "wow". Rodney's experience sure sounds better - unless he burned through all of his savings, his retirement, etc. etc. to fund that summer.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 25, 2007 10:18 AM

But, when DH was laid off, he was told 90 days in advance. Since he hadn't been there a year, his severance was not going to be so nice. He started looking for a job the minute he found out (and, while it was nice to have, if he had found a job earlier than the 90 days, he probably wouldn't have stayed for the severance).
I was a SAHM at the time - and started to look for a job too. We knew it would be difficult if we didn't have an income at that time, but we had enough savings/investments to tide us over, and if we really had to, we would have sold the house (i.e., it took more than 9 mos to find a job).

It turned out that he got a job and started a week or so after the old one ended. When we went to buy some furniture in that time, it was funny cause we wanted the '90 days, same as cash' option, but then they asked where we worked, and we said: um, neither of us is employed. We got it anyway.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | September 25, 2007 10:24 AM

ArmyBrat, Your post prompted me to disclose additional info. We are 8 weeks into a period of unemployment now (layoff unrelated to off-shoring - we didn't see it coming and we are quite paranoid, umm, realistic), and we also suffered through a 6-month period of unemployment in '04. We haven't yet gotten back on track from that earlier layoff. Severance was 4 weeks this time and, at a certain point in a tech career, that's insufficient to land anywhere. COBRA breaks the bank and has to get paid out of something. Frankly, it doesn't sound as though Rodney NEEDED to work at all, based on his expenditures during his unemployment. I'll borrow a phrase from a friend and ask, is Rodney of the trustafarian persuasion?

You don't dig into savings designed to tide you over for trips, tournaments and anything but the essentials because you don't know how long you will need to live on those saved funds. Fairness hasn't squat to do with teaching your kids how to responsibly cope with financial downturns.

Posted by: MN | September 25, 2007 10:32 AM

btw, ArmyBrat, enough about me - I am sorry to hear about your brother and can only imagine the stress he's under. If he wants any assistance in getting his resume out there, feel free to contact fred at the e-mail he's posted here a couple of times. he can get a resume to me and I can distribute it through the North Carolina offices of the firm. I won't retain your e-mail or any other info.

Posted by: MN | September 25, 2007 10:38 AM

Great driving stories! Oldest DD has had her license for about two years now; no tickets (that we know about) and the only wreck happened while she had her permit and Mom was in the front seat. DS has had his license for two weeks today - and his first "accident" was last week, backing the van out of the garage - he got too close to the side and snapped the mirror off the car. (Those "fold-in mirrors" only fold so far and then if you keep mashing them against the house they snap off. I guess it was cheaper having the mirror snap off than it would have been if the garage door frame had given way.)

Next DD starts driver's ed in October. I thought college tuition was expensive until I looked at car insurance payments!

But all kids have the same rule - one reportable accident that's their fault while driving and they don't drive our cars again. We haven't set a specific number of tickets that are permissible, but we did set a generic rule that we have the right to revoke their driving privileges for any harsh and arbitrary reason we choose, so I think we're covered. (DS is paying for the mirror he broke and it's not reported to the insurance company, so that one doesn't count. But he's on notice.)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 25, 2007 10:38 AM

Perhaps Rodney lives with his mommy?

Posted by: DandyLion | September 25, 2007 11:03 AM

Thanks, MN, I'll talk to him and see what he's up to. (We're trying to rig up something for our Mother for tonight. It would have been our parents' 50th wedding anniversary today. Dad died in 1985, but we figure we need to do something to make the day special for Mom since if they hadn't gotten married that day none of us would be here! I sent flowers and cards from the grand-kids; I think my brother and his daughters are taking her out to dinner. She keeps telling us not to make any fuss but methinks she doth protest too much. Particularly when my in-laws celebrated their 50th in August and my Mother saw the fuss kicked up over that.)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 25, 2007 11:06 AM

ArmyBrat, I think Rodney may just be smarter than you.

Posted by: lpsteiner | September 25, 2007 08:25 AM

Leslie, ArmyBrat is the only one here with a brain. I'm amazed he is still here. Probably doing charity work providing a voice of reason to a bunch of mentally unstable characters (including you). It's a shame that his organization csn't use his talents more appropriately so he doesn't have to kill time on this blog.

Posted by: NoNeedForAName | September 25, 2007 11:10 AM

Hey guys, quit being so hard on Rodney!

He apparently was as fortunate as me when I was laid off. I was given 1 yr of severance.

I knew that this layoff would cause me to work until I was 65 or maybe 165. So I took a year sabbatical. Did watch the expenditures a bit more but I traveled some, spent time with late father and painted the house.

Paying for health care under COBRA is a witch though.

Posted by: Fred | September 25, 2007 11:13 AM

Yeah, it was great when I was laid off and company had given me equivalent of 6 mos of cobra payments, I just went on DH's plan, so that was money saved. Of course, I was 8 months pregnant, then went to the hospital (but was still in the month I was laid off, so I was still covered by my insurance). So then the baby was born, and I was released during said month - so we didn't have to change insurances while I was in the hospital (we had been at the same company, so the same insurance company would have covered me, just under different policies or whatever).

My DH wanted to sue company saying stress of layoff made me have DS so early (water broke with more than 6 wks left, was in hospital about 10 days before DS was born) - but it would have been too much. I was able to go, after the baby was born, to sign the paperwork to get my check - plan had been to do it BEFORE DS was born, though...

It was actually funny, but not so at the time.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | September 25, 2007 11:20 AM

MN, really sorry to hear about the layoff. Having followed the tech crash around the country myself, I understand completely. The 13 mos. we spent carrying two houses, because the real estate market seemed plenty hot when we moved, will never be forgotten, and the money we lost probably delayed retirement by several years. And we were the "lucky" ones -- he has friends who are still delivering pizza. I've certainly learned never to believe anything is permanent.

Anyway, let me return back to you your offer to ArmyBrat -- if you're interested in relocating back up to this area, we have some contacts in the tech field. (Yeah, I know, you're laughing hysterically at the mere thought of living near DC.)

Posted by: laura33 | September 25, 2007 11:21 AM

Leslie, ArmyBrat is the only one here with a brain. I'm amazed he is still here. Probably doing charity work providing a voice of reason to a bunch of mentally unstable characters (including you). It's a shame that his organization csn't use his talents more appropriately so he doesn't have to kill time on this blog.

ARMYBRAT, I think your mother just wrote a lovely post, please tell her hello................;)haha

Posted by: pATRICK | September 25, 2007 11:22 AM

Sorry to hear about the struggles, MN. It can't be easy.

But, as you can see, we've all been there - it's the uncertainty more than anything else that is so frustrating, when will this end? Cause if you knew exactly when the job was coming, it would be quite a bit easier to dig into savings, etc...

Posted by: atlmom1234 | September 25, 2007 11:25 AM

oh, i meant to say:

You can see we've all been there *not that that's any consolation for you *

Posted by: atlmom1234 | September 25, 2007 11:32 AM

"Hey guys, quit being so hard on Rodney!"

Fred, it's a well established tradition to trash the guest writer on this blog... or did I miss the memo, again?

Posted by: DandyLion | September 25, 2007 11:35 AM

pATRICK, that wasn't my mother (she's more of a luddite than Frieda, I suspect) (I kid, Mom, I kid!)

Don't know who that was, honestly. No, really, it wasn't just me using another account! Honest! (Seriously - *blush*)

Laura, my brother's an Industrial Engineer; not so much work around the DC area because he's into heavy manufacturing. And I don't think he'd like it too much around here. Plus he told me that moving's an issue because of the divorce, even though he's got custody. The company offered to move him to another plant in Illinois that's not closing until 2011; he'd get another three years of employment out of it. But taking the younger daughter out of NC without the mother's permission would be difficult, he seems to think. (The older one's legally an adult; she can move where she wants.)


Getting back to my earliest post - I really am curious as to how Rodney handled it. As many people have posted, there are a lot of issues when you're laid off, particularly when you're out of work for sixth months. I'm really happy that he got to spend so much time with his son, and develop that relationship - I think his son will have very fond memories of that time, and I hope that it will be a strong positive influence on the son's life. But we've seen by a lot of the posts on this blog today that not many other people could have done what Rodney did, in terms of the activities/travel over that six month period.

More power to Rodney that he was able to pull it off; I think it's great.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 25, 2007 11:37 AM

(the memo that you missed said that Frieda was not to be trashed!)(how she would find out anyway is a subject of speculation!)

Posted by: Fred | September 25, 2007 11:42 AM

I'm with Army Brat and MN - not critizing Rodney, just curious how he pulled it off. I think it's awesome that he did, and that the time was so valuable to him.

When we relocated, neither my husband nor I had jobs lined up, and we had about 2.5 months where both of us were unemployed. We did not have the savings to splurge on the things like Rodney did, but it was a fantastic time being home together as a family. Even though we were both stressed about finding jobs and so on, we were also able to enjoy it and get out and do things together. We're still recovering from that time and the move financially, but I still cherish it.

Posted by: LizaBean | September 25, 2007 11:48 AM

Could it be that Rodney is just a more relaxed person who tends to worry less about the future. Some nervous people, and I include myself in this group, can get worked up for nothing. Most things in life do work themselves out in time. I imagine Rodney got a great severance package, had some savings, and was an optimistic sort of person. BIL just got laid off last month. He is a mortgage broker for the subprime market. Try finding a job with those qualifications. Anyway, he got six months severance and is going about his merry way. He just believes things will work out. Who knows. I hope it does for him. While I, on the other hand, would be stop all forms of luxuries. Start buying generic products, cut all forms of entertainment. But that is not necessarily the right reaction. Congratulations to Rodney for making the best of a bad situation. And maybe if he has some time, he will tell us how he made the $$ work out. BTW, the people asking Rodney are not necessarily criticizing him. They just want to know how it happened.

Posted by: foamgnome | September 25, 2007 11:49 AM

wow, DandyLion, since when is asking a question or two, or raising concerns trashing someone? Are you getting a little sensitive since you changed species?

ArmyBrat - I'm glad you're doing something for your mom and your instincts about her appreciating the efforts to celebrate what would have been her 50th ring true, LOL.

foamgnome, whether or not you worry about the future, it comes nonetheless, LOL. If you splurge today and guess wrong, who will pay the electric bill 6 months from now and feed your children?


Laura - thanks, LOL! (We have an office there if I ever get homesick.) We love(d) DC but the Triangle affords DH at least as many good job opportunities - sans the hell commute - as Northern Virginia and without the fun of competing with all those AOL techies blowing the dust off their resumes.

Posted by: MN | September 25, 2007 11:58 AM

DandyLion, thank you. Needed a good laugh. Do you live with your mommy?

Posted by: lpsteiner | September 25, 2007 11:59 AM

ARMYBRAT, I think your mother just wrote a lovely post, please tell her hello................;)haha

Posted by: pATRICK | September 25, 2007 11:22 AM

OMG, pATRICK - you are so right. That's exactly what that earlier post sounded like. I imagined the voice of Darrin's mother from Bewitched as I read it.

Posted by: MN | September 25, 2007 12:06 PM

Foamgnome, thanks for being a voice of reason. I've asked Rodney to weigh in and explain how he pulled it all off.

pATRICK, I'm not taking the bait!!!!

Posted by: lpsteiner | September 25, 2007 12:21 PM

"Do you live with your mommy?"

Right now, I have a wife that buys my underwear and daughters to do the laundry. LOL!

But back in the day, after the birth of my 3rd child, I was sponging off Mommy when I got laid off.

But instead of visiting the driving range while I was looking for a job, I went out in the backyard to dig up worms with my own bare hands to use for fishing bait just so I could say I was doing everything I could to put meat on the table for my family.

Now the question is: does fish qualify as meat?

Posted by: DandyLion | September 25, 2007 12:33 PM

Foamgnome - I am with you. Even if I had a great severence, and good savings, I don't think I could just keep going along as if everything was all right. I don't think I'd feel "all right" until I got another permanent job.

Funny story about my husband. He works in IT and was working for a somewhat unstable company that he knew to be having financial problems, so he'd started looking for a job. We took a planned week and a half vacation to Hawaii with my in-laws (room paid for by them or we couldn't have done it) and one of the companies he interviewed with called him and offered him a job while we were on vacation. He accepted and called his boss at his last company to ask what he needed to do to give notice (was going to be two weeks from then). Boss said not to worry about it, and give one week notice officially when he came back. Well he came back, and was going to put in his notice, boss told him to wait a couple hours...company laid him off right there. Boss convinced the company he needed him until the end of the week, and he got 2 weeks severence pay. So was like nothing happened, but two weeks pay! Not bad, eh? We both still owe one to that boss who was nice enough to look out for his best interests at the time.

Posted by: _Miles | September 25, 2007 12:41 PM

Fred - darn, I always miss the important memos! Like the one that said last Wednesday was NOT "dress like a pirate day."

Convey my apologies. Never mind, she probably already knows. :-)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 25, 2007 12:49 PM

And the Marie Antoinette "Let them eat cake" ("Qu'ils mangent de la brioche," for MattInAberdeen) Award goes to Leslie, for: "ArmyBrat, I think Rodney may just be smarter than you. ¶ A trip to Chicago and Florida (in the summer -- pretty cheap fares) for one child and one adult may not have cost that much."

My father was laid off for a full year during a recession when I was in JHS, i.e., I was old enough to understand all the ramifications of what was going on. Like Rodney, my dad worked hard searching for a new job that whole time, and the rejections were one of the most personally devastating experiences he ever suffered. And like Rodney, my dad took advantage of the opportunity to spend more time with me, including helping me with sports, since I was such a geek in PE!

Unlike Rodney, however, my family was blue-collar

Posted by: mehitabel | September 25, 2007 12:50 PM

"Now the question is: does fish qualify as meat?"

To vegetarians (some,anyway), yes. To Catholics, no.

To vegetarian Catholics, I haven't got a clue.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 25, 2007 12:51 PM

At the co. where I was laid off, my coworker was laid off quite early in the process. Then I came to find out that he got another job offer and told his boss and she quietly just put him in the pile to get severance and all. Pretty nice of her, and he got a nice fat check, in addition to a job at a co. that wasn't on its way to bankruptcy.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | September 25, 2007 12:57 PM

LOL, ArmyBrat!

Posted by: LizaBean | September 25, 2007 12:57 PM

And the Marie Antoinette "Let them eat cake" ("Qu'ils mangent de la brioche," for MattInAberdeen) Award goes to Leslie, for: "ArmyBrat, I think Rodney may just be smarter than you. ¶ A trip to Chicago and Florida (in the summer -- pretty cheap fares) for one child and one adult may not have cost that much."

Leslie, I am so disappointed in your lack of empathy for the unemployed working person.

When his employer moved to a cheaper, non-union part of the country during a recession, my father was laid off for a full year when I was in JHS, i.e., I was old enough to understand all the ramifications of what was going on. Like Rodney, my dad worked hard searching for a new job that whole time, and the rejections were one of the most personally devastating experiences he ever suffered. And like Rodney, my dad took advantage of the opportunity to spend more time with me, including helping me with sports, since I was such a geek in PE!

Unlike Rodney, however, my family was blue-collar so there was no severance package beyond a couple weeks of pay. Luckily, we owned our little house and old car so didn't have to deal with mortgage/rent and time payments (many of my dad's co-workers weren't in such good shape financially, couldn't even remotely begin to get by just on uneployment insurance, so lost a lot). But we squeezed every penny, did without every luxury, bought no new clothes whatsoever that year (thank goodness I didn't grow much, so all my mother had to do was lower the hems on my dresses and skirts). But when you don't know how long it's going to be till you get your next job, and you don't have a money-pile, you don't spend a cent you don't absolutely have to.

(Sorry the WaPo posted this message before I was done writing it)

Posted by: mehitabel | September 25, 2007 12:57 PM

Miles and Atlmom, it's so nice to hear about bosses doing good things like that!

Posted by: LizaBean | September 25, 2007 12:58 PM

This vegetarian Catholic says fish are just fast vegetables!

Posted by: sarahfran | September 25, 2007 1:14 PM

MN:No doubt the electric bill will still need to be paid. I am just saying that most people make it through periods of unemployment and economic down turn. Some people just have a different attitude about it then others. Neither is right, it is just different. I have a friend that borrowed 100K to get a PHD in educational linguistic. Starting salary was around 40K/year. I would have been panicked about the student loan payments. She just grinned and beared it. She said she felt strongly that things will work out and they did. All I am saying is attitude has a lot to do with how you handle a crisis. Rodney took a bad situation and made the best of it (in his mind and his sons). He may have months and months of debt accumulation based on his unemployment. Who knows. I am just saying that financial debt doesn't affect the same people in the same way. Again, I am not saying either way is right. I would be in a state of total PANIC and I will probably die before 65 of an ulcer.

Posted by: foamgnome | September 25, 2007 1:16 PM

foamgnome, I hear you, I just respectfully disagree. I am not panic-oriented, but facts is facts. I am not sure what the basis is for saying that "most people make it through periods of unemployment and economic down turn." Ask the steelworkers laid off a couple of decades ago whether and to what extent they made it through. I can tell you from personal experience that we came out the other side of our last layoff experience with credit card debt in five figures.

We've had to charge health insurance premiums and brake pads before. We have struggled to purchase heart worm meds for our pets. The money is either there to pay your bills or it is not, and to act as though fun trips with the kids are just a matter of positive thinking strikes me as naive. Digging into retirement savings for the same thing seems immature -- to me. YMMV.

Posted by: MN | September 25, 2007 1:23 PM

MN: Your making a big jump to assume that he can't pay his bills just because he is unemployed. Seriously, I know a guy who was the sole supporter of his family that was laid off for two full years. The whole time his 3 kids were in private school. He did not go back to work till his severance and his general savings were used up. I am just saying you don't know what situation he is in. And to be honest, some people just don't worry about debt. My Aunt lived comfortably for a year and half unemployed. Look at our own lesson of fo4. He told us he had around 20K on cc. That would drive me crazy. He doesn't even flinch.

Posted by: foamgnome | September 25, 2007 1:28 PM

Oh my experience in most people make it through economic down turn was studying income surveys. A large percentage of people experience at least one lay off in a 30 year career. The number of people applying for bankruptcy or other economic indicators of food shortage or severe economic distress is relatively low compared to the number of people experiencing a 3-6 month lay off. But that is an academic way of viewing "making" it through.

Posted by: foamgnome | September 25, 2007 1:33 PM

MN, it really does depend on the situation. Since Rodney didn't tell us, we have to assume (and you know what that does). I'm assuming he got a good severance package, and hoping he didn't go crazy with the credit cards.

Posted by: educmom__615 | September 25, 2007 1:33 PM

Foamgnome, Not all of the "What me worry?" types land on their feet after a while. Some wind up in bankruptcy (especially if there's a medical emergency in the family), or homeless, or in even more dire straits. Like you and MN, I could of course never be so sanguine about spending money I don't have, especially while unemployed, due in part to my family's experience during my childhood, as well as my basic nature (like you, Foamy!). But please don't assume that everyone winds up OK in the long run, either. Some people's lives could easily get ruined if they didn't scrimp their way through a jobless period.

Posted by: mehitabel | September 25, 2007 1:36 PM

"This vegetarian Catholic says fish are just fast vegetables!"

Dad-rat it! Another keyboard spewed upon. That's two this week. Sooner or later tech support's going to stop believing that the gremlins are sneaking in here and sabotaging my system.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 25, 2007 1:38 PM

MN: Your making a big jump to assume that he can't pay his bills just because he is unemployed.

Geez. I'm not assuming anything about Rodney at all. Like, ArmyBrat, I'm simply asking for more information what resources made these choices possible? Without that key piece of the puzzle, it's difficult to make any statements about whether his choices were prudent or not, good life lessons for his child or not. the resources that made this possible. I don't equate responsible concern with worry or panic, though.

Posted by: MN | September 25, 2007 1:38 PM

OK...this is Rodney and here is the money story

Severance was only one month and the vacation payout was another month.... but early in the Spring we sold the family house which, despite the current market, saved me from depleting my savings. Also, I am a CPA so I managed to attract a client that helped a little (more would be welcomed).

I wouldn't say that life continued as normal but I took the sacrifice more than my son. He knew the circumstances and he was very supportive by asking about interviews and how things were going. But ultimately it was my responsibility. I also have very supportive friends and family that I want to thank.

My shopping habits were curtailed but I did manage a little golf towards the end of the summer.

As one of the comments pointed out, it is very difficult to relax and enjoy as long as you are living with the uncertainty. Since April I have had one interested company professing their interest but every few weeks there was one more hurdle. So all summer I felt like somethings was close. But until it happens I never felt comfortable. I still haven't heard definitively about that position but now I can move on.

Posted by: bigdaddycpa | September 25, 2007 1:43 PM

mehitabel-I never said everyone makes it out OK. I said the vast majority make it according to the governments definition. The only way the government will view it as you did not make it through was one of the following: bankruptcy, foreclosure, or severe food shortage. Obviously some people don't land on their feet. (Think the great depression). But as a country, we have not experienced wide spread poverty due to unemployement since then. Not even the recessions of the 70s brought a large number of people to bread lines. Again, I am not at all saying people should not worry about their financial situation. I am just stating that he may not be in a dire straights and he may just have a more optomistic attitude. Also if having 5 figure cc debt was the essential definition of not making it, then a huge # of working Americans wouldn't be making it. I don't carry any cc debt and never intend to. It isn't my standard. I am simply saying if your not in bread lines, not on the streets, not in bankruptcy, the goverment says you made it through. No one said making it was easy or without it's long term consequneces. It means you survived and lived to tell about it. Again, I don't mean to sound like I don't care about the unemployed. I already said my BIL is currently unemployed. And he doesn't seem the least bit worried either.

Posted by: foamgnome | September 25, 2007 1:43 PM

"Like, ArmyBrat, I'm simply asking for more information what resources made these choices possible? Without that key piece of the puzzle, it's difficult to make any statements about whether his choices were prudent or not, good life lessons for his child or not. "


Perhaps Rodney doesn't give a rat's a$s what you think of his choices...

Posted by: chittybangbang | September 25, 2007 1:44 PM

MN wrote: "I don't equate responsible concern with worry or panic"

I'd add that part of a parent's responsibility during unemployment (or other major family income reduction) is to make the child(ren) feel extra-secure and loved, while simultaneously not candy-coating the seriousness of the situation, as age-appropriate. Talk about balance...

Posted by: mehitabel | September 25, 2007 1:45 PM

so, Leslie? Once again we have a guest columnist who has written a great column, but about whom legitimate questions have been raised. Did you tell Rodney the column would run today? Is he available? This actually is a new topic, and from non-author and non-blogger. The discussion could have gotten more traction, however, if the author was at least around once in the morning or once in the afternoon to respond.

Posted by: MN | September 25, 2007 1:46 PM

MN: this was Rodney:
Posted by: bigdaddycpa | September 25, 2007 01:43 PM REad above.

Posted by: foamgnome | September 25, 2007 1:48 PM

Rodney, thanks for posting. Your financial choices are certainly up to you, and knowing that you had some cash from selling the family house (one would presume as part of the divorce settlement) must have made it easier to get through.

I'm impressed that you spent so much time with your son during your interregnum. I hope it means a lot to him as he grows.

As has been discussed in this thread, I don't think a lot of us - me definitely included - could have tolerated the situation as well as you seem to have. (That's not a criticism of anybody, just a statement that people are different.)

Best of luck to you with the jobs in the future.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 25, 2007 1:51 PM

Foamy, I suspect that Rodney's and MN's posts crossed in the Internet ether.

Posted by: mehitabel | September 25, 2007 1:53 PM

PS.....Rodney again

Lots of Prayer !!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: bigdaddycpa | September 25, 2007 1:55 PM

Rodney - you said you sold a house. Did that mean you were renting with your son? Or was that *snicker* an extra house? Just curious...

Posted by: _Miles | September 25, 2007 1:59 PM

No, it was a "starter" house to go with his "starter" marriage!

Posted by: anonthistime | September 25, 2007 2:04 PM

MN - unless i'm on vacation or cross wires with my editor, i tell guest bloggers when their stuff will run. but some, understandably, cannot or don't chose to read all the comments or choose not to post. i like it when they do participate, but it's not a hard and fast requirement.

and i DO have sympathy for working people. i just happen to have sympathy for people at all income levels, even for those who plan for layoffs!

Posted by: lpsteiner | September 25, 2007 2:04 PM

Why Rodney is getting these venemous comments is beyond me today. Sounds like jealousy. He is talking about an unexpected benefit to a bad situation.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 25, 2007 2:07 PM

Rodney, thanks for posting, it's good know more. I second ArmyBrat's comments on your impressive approach.

I think foamgnome's point about attitude is valid - we all know the bills have to be paid and we all will face the spectre of credit card debt etc when we go through periods of unemployment, but for some people that just doesn't stress them out that much. I think the point isn't that the person with the positive attitidue will be able to avoid getting into debt, but that they won't be as stressed out by it when they do.

I also don't think that the level of stress a person feels correlates to the ability to take responsible action - some people who are really stressed become paralyzed and make terrible decisions; some people who are less prone to stress cut back on their spending and go on; a lot of us are somewhere in the middle.

By the way, MN, this isn't at all directed towards your comment or an assessment of your attitude about debt (and I agree that concern is not equated with panic and worry). I just think that cc debt is a good example because so many of us have it and among the people I know the way we deal with it varies enormously.

Posted by: LizaBean | September 25, 2007 2:09 PM

Leslie, don't give us that cr*p. You haven't a clue, and you know it.

Posted by: mehitabel | September 25, 2007 2:11 PM

Why Rodney is getting these venemous comments is beyond me today. Sounds like jealousy. He is talking about an unexpected benefit to a bad situation.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 25, 2007 02:07 PM

Maybe we all wish we had a house lying around to sell to fund 6 months+ of unemployment. I am prepared for a layoff like anyone is. We have an emergency fund (but no way could it cover 6 months or more INCLUDING several out of state trips) and my resume is always up to date. As soon as I knew I was being laid off I'd probably immediately start looking for a job and I'd be willing to take a job I didn't want if it meant similar pay (I'm already pretty entry-level) or going back to my last career for more pay. Sounds like Rodney is having some bad luck finding a job, don't know if it's the market or that he's being picky. I've never known CPAs not to be in demand.

Posted by: _Miles | September 25, 2007 2:14 PM

Miles, we all make the choices we make, and we live them. That Rodney was able to use equity from a home he owned was great for him. Mabye he is being picky in his job search, and maybe his choices will come crashing down around him. Or maybe they won't, and he'll find a really good situation and make it through this relatively unscathed. I don't see why that should be a source of resentment.

We all have to choose what risks we'll take and why, and see what happens.

Posted by: LizaBean | September 25, 2007 2:27 PM

I'd be willing to take a job I didn't want if it meant similar pay (I'm already pretty entry-level) or going back to my last career for more pay. Sounds like Rodney is having some bad luck finding a job, don't know if it's the market or that he's being picky. I've never known CPAs not to be in demand.

The problem with this attitude is that you lose what you have gained and now you will be seen as less than what you were to a new employer after that interim job. I hate to sound like one Leslie's elitist let them eat cake friends but not all people are living hand to mouth.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 25, 2007 2:27 PM

LOL, Mehitabel. It takes a tough chicken to not have a clue, AND to know it!

Posted by: lpsteiner | September 25, 2007 2:30 PM

Re: Shifting focus and paying attention,
but only when it comes with a lay-off...
I do wish that most folks could get a
summer sabbatical/summer vacation every
so many years. It's big in high tech
(although it often is attached to volunteer work) or among the tenured in
academe. I'm a staffer at a university,
but there is no sabbatical for us. And my boss looks askance at the idea of anyone being off for more than two consecutive weeks except for death and dire disease. I would dearly LOVE to have 3 consecutive PAID months off when it's warm outside and the livin' is easy. The time is in the vacation "bank" here at work, but the mechanism doesn't exist to have it.

Posted by: micheleh7 | September 25, 2007 2:33 PM

*Now* people are making rude comments about Rodney--starter marriages and extra houses. Asking about the financial situation that made a comfortable layoff possible isn't rude--it's curious, especially coming from people who had been in similar situations in the past and couldn't imagine being able to take a vacation while unemployed.

Divorce, unfortunately, tends to lead to family homes being sold. Sounds to me as if Rodney really did make the best of a bad situation.

Posted by: sarahfran | September 25, 2007 2:38 PM

"and i DO have sympathy for working people. i just happen to have sympathy for people at all income levels, even for those who plan for layoffs!"

Leslie, have you no tact or empathy? This remark is so inappropriate and wrong on so many levels, I don't even know where to begin. The fact that you would twist a knife like this into a longtime regular, and at the same time can't be bothered to make sure baba's offensive and threatening posts are removed (and even "welcomed" it back to the blog at one point) illustrates the cluelessness highlighted by mehitabel. I suggest you come down from your ivory tower and observe life in the real world with the rest of us some day.

Posted by: vegasmom89109 | September 25, 2007 2:39 PM

The problem with this attitude is that you lose what you have gained and now you will be seen as less than what you were to a new employer after that interim job. I hate to sound like one Leslie's elitist let them eat cake friends but not all people are living hand to mouth.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 25, 2007 02:27 PM

Perhaps, but then I'd just leave the job off my resume if I thought it would look bad. Otherwise it's what, a 6-month block of unemployment? 6 months of not contributing to retirement and wondering how I'd pay the rent on time? 6 months going into debt? Yeah, I'd take the crappy job (or job with less 'prestige' ) and then just leave it off my resume while I keep looking for better jobs in line with my career path. And what's this about cake, I thought it was all about flan...what kind of cake do Leslie's elitist friends eat?

Posted by: _Miles | September 25, 2007 2:40 PM

Leslie, If you think there was anything humorous in what I said, then you are laughing AT me in disrespect -- only proving further my point as to your utter cluelessness better than anyone else ever could.

There's nothing funny about a family trying to survive economically by scrimping its way through a protracted period of un- or under-employment in a state of near (if not full) poverty. Although Rodney was fortunate to have better financial resources than my family did during the year my father was out of work, he nonetheless grasped the point that TIME spent with family is the greatest gift of all (which he both gave and received).

Posted by: mehitabel | September 25, 2007 2:41 PM

No not a spare house.....it was the family house before the divorce and we just sold it.

But it is a "spare" CPA. Although I am i a slightly different field, I'm glad I had something to...fall back on

Posted by: bigdaddycpa | September 25, 2007 2:42 PM

I have a friend who has not worked for over 5 years - maybe longer? He had a consulting gig for about a year or so before that, and was off for a couple of years before that.

He never spent money on anything (except his current condo - and he's renting the other BR to someone who pays his condo fee) and made a FORTUNE in software dev. He got laid off, then hired, then laid off, and is really not so motivated to look for a job. I think for a while he was thinking: hey, I don't need the money. And now it's been so long, that he might be a little distressed (dunno).

But people do it all the time (granted, he only has himself to support, but his condo is not cheap).

Posted by: atlmom1234 | September 25, 2007 2:44 PM

"Sounds to me as if Rodney really did make the best of a bad situation."

Ditto, Sarahfran.

Posted by: LizaBean | September 25, 2007 2:44 PM

After years in a dead end job, my wife went back to school to finish her degree. We lived on my salary and our savings for the two years she devoted full-time to school, with the understanding that she'd then work full-time after that (which was what she wanted).

However, after six months with her new job, they restructured and laid off nearly everyone in her office, her included. This was in 2002 when a downturn in the economy made finding a job in her specialty nearly impossible.

With no savings (used while she was in school) we scrimped by on my salary plus any part time/temp work she could find for the next two years, by cutting out all unnecessary spending, restructuring debt and even defaulting on some cc bills, until she was hired by the firm she works with now.

We're only now getting out from under the debt we accumulated back then, and my wife now monitors her firm's stability very carefully, to spot any warning signs they are looking shaky financially. Neither one of us wants to go back to those days where we had neither disposable income nor even enough money to pay all our bills at the same time, but many are not even as fortunate as we are in that aspect.

Posted by: johnl | September 25, 2007 2:54 PM

And what's this about cake, I thought it was all about flan...what kind of cake do Leslie's elitist friends eat?


Umm., A quote attributed to marie antoinette during the french revolution perhaps? Although there is some doubt whether she said it or not.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 25, 2007 3:00 PM

"I'd be willing to take a job I didn't want..."

I hear what you are saying, pATRICK. I'm not above being a software wh0re. After I got laid off, I was even willing to accept a job programming in Cobol. How embarrasing. At least my children appreciate the sacrifice I made for them.

Posted by: DandyLion | September 25, 2007 3:02 PM

pATRICK, When you're poor you don't eat flan. Instead you make cornstrach pudding (Blanc Mange) from scratch, with non-fat dry milk. I speak from experience.

Posted by: mehitabel | September 25, 2007 3:02 PM

Ah, but see, therein lies the thing. My DH and I save and save and save all the time, and we are constantly monitoring our expenses. We are very careful about living within our means (after contributing every penny we can to retirement, then having savings on top of that). Then, we live on what we have, whenever we have it. And we have rental properties.

MY DH has figured out that while he does great and earns well and all, he HATES corporate america. But he's not quitting his job any time soon. He's working on business plans, and trying out ideas, and we may get more rental properties (and in the meantime, take that money, pay off the house). We have both decided, long ago, that neither of us wants to be dependent on our jobs. We are both lucky that we have both been good savers since college (very lucky we had no college debt, lucky neither of us ran up credit cards) and that we have similar ideas on how to live our lives financially. We want to pay off the house as soon as possible (still got a while to go, it was expensive, but even in a fire sale, I can sell it for 2-3 times what I owe on it). And we want to be free to do as we please, which means starting our own businesses. But these are calculated plans, and we doing things step by step, and we've both been through some layoffs, and neither of us, as I said: wants anyone else to be in charge.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | September 25, 2007 3:02 PM

pATRICK, When you're poor you don't eat flan. Instead you make cornstrach pudding (Blanc Mange) from scratch, with non-fat dry milk. I speak from experience.

The Horror! The Horror!(shaking in fear)

Posted by: pATRICK | September 25, 2007 3:05 PM

Rodney is a CPA. So, he probably had money socked away. Most accountants are, um, frugal (or, as I have said to my Dad many times, cheap) and can make a 2-month severance stretch into four. I know whereof I speak (thanks, Dad). Plus, having sold a jointly-owned house, he didn't even have to tap into savings.

If he's like most accountants I know, that summer was probably the first time he did anything at all remotely frivolous financially (and make no mistake, vacation with no income is frivolous) but he was wise enough to know you can never buy time with your child.

Posted by: educmom__615 | September 25, 2007 3:09 PM

Perhaps that's why I treasure getting the opportunity every so often to order flan in a restaurant -- I know what a treat it is to be able to afford a small luxury, compared to the impecunity of my youth.

Posted by: mehitabel | September 25, 2007 3:09 PM

Completely OT: how much homework is typical for a 1st/2nd grader? I knew my daughter's school was starting homework, but I expected the occasional worksheet (ie, "get used to having homework" homework). She came home last night with three separate assignments, which took 1.5 hrs total (and I was right there the whole time, so it really was 1.5 hrs of working). Some of that time was because it was stuff she hadn't done before (like looking up words in the dictionary), so that will get easier as she gets used to it. But it still seemed like a lot for first grade. It just seems wrong that we will likely have to push back bedtime just to give her time to get her homework done.

Posted by: laura33 | September 25, 2007 3:11 PM

The fact that you would twist a knife like this into a longtime regular, and at the same time can't be bothered to make sure baba's offensive and threatening posts are removed (and even "welcomed" it back to the blog at one point) illustrates the cluelessness highlighted by mehitabel. I suggest you come down from your ivory tower and observe life in the real world with the rest of us some day.


Well that's like grandma's nightshirt-It covers everything..............

Posted by: pATRICK | September 25, 2007 3:12 PM

I suspect Leslie thinks that by making what she thinks is a little joke (see her 2:30 post) she can patronize people into backing off, and that it'll defang their legitimate criticisms. This tactic is not unlike the yahoo who tells racist or sexist jokes then, when the listener expresses an objection or doesn't laugh, attacks him/her for lacking a sense of humor.

Posted by: mehitabel | September 25, 2007 3:18 PM

Clarification re cake: According to lore, Marie Antoinette, when told that starving French peasants didn't even have any bread to eat, retorted "Qu'ils mangent de la brioche" -- literally, "Let them eat brioche" (brioche being a sweet, egg-rich yeast-bread bun). Marie Antoinette supposedly assumed that the poor were merely out of bread, so could just substitute another, more expensive bread product in their daily diet. She failed to grasp reality, that the poor were in danger of starving to death.

The "cake" version of the quote is not a precise translation, but more effectively conveys the meaning in English-speaking societies. (Perhaps a resident Francophone, e.g. Matt, can elaborate on the origins and background more fully).

Posted by: mehitabel | September 25, 2007 3:27 PM

"Like, ArmyBrat, I'm simply asking for more information what resources made these choices possible? Without that key piece of the puzzle, it's difficult to make any statements about whether his choices were prudent or not, good life lessons for his child or not. "


Perhaps Rodney doesn't give a rat's a$s what you think of his choices...

Posted by: chittybangbang | September 25, 2007 01:44 PM

Wow, that was constructive, chitty.

Rodney - thanks for explaining. It's quite helpful and I wish you well.

foamgnome, I'm not sure why the federal government's definition of poverty or destitution would be relevant to this or any conversation. If "making it through" means "we didn't file for bankruptcy or qualify for foodstamps" that's about as helpful to understanding financial struggle as the DOD's definition of sectarian violence in understanding the current security situation in Iraq.

Posted by: MN | September 25, 2007 3:28 PM

"Completely OT: how much homework is typical for a 1st/2nd grader?"

Laura, I've read that most studies show that homework at that age has no academic benefit at all. Not even in the "get used to working/develop study habits" area. I think there are couple of recent books on the topic, maybe you can take them to her teachers, I'm sure she'd love that :)

Posted by: LizaBean | September 25, 2007 3:29 PM

Laura:
On the homework question. 1.5 hours is excessive for a first grader. My son has had homework every night since kindergarten, but never that much. In kindergarten, and first grade, it usually took less than 15 minutes per night. He is in 2nd grade now and it generally takes about half an hour, at the most to complete. Usually he has something for reading every night, and sometimes, a math work sheet to do as well. But nothing as arduous as 3 items that take 1.5 hours. I would complain.

Posted by: Emily | September 25, 2007 3:35 PM

"Marie Antoinette supposedly assumed that the poor were merely out of bread, so could just substitute another, more expensive bread product in their daily diet. She failed to grasp reality, that the poor were in danger of starving to death."


True, but the haughtiness and uncaring of those less fotunate is the thrust of the line. Right Leslie?

Posted by: pATRICK | September 25, 2007 3:35 PM

Laura,

Our first-grade experience this year is matching yours - although the difficulty is in predicting how much time will be required on a given night. One day, homework will take our daughter 10 minutes and will require virtually no parental assistance. The next day, homework will take us 1.5 hours of constant parent supervision, glue, scissors, finding magazines, etc. Last week we had to arrange for her to interview a community worker, with a parent writing the interview answers for her. The next day she had to dress up as the community worker and do a presentation to the class. Some parents clearly put a lot of effort into the dress-up part. It was a great project, but, wow. Simply, wow.

LizaBean, I have read the results of those studies, but have not looked at the sample size or actual structure of each one to determine validity. I see value in a certain amount of repetition of important concepts, like phonics worksheets and simple math worksheets, as well as more creative assignments emphasizing public speaking and creativity. I do, however, think they should be fewer and far between, certainly not 4 nights a week.

Posted by: MN | September 25, 2007 3:35 PM

Actually, as yummy as flan is, it is pretty cheap to make, in terms of ingredients. Milk, eggs, and sugar, basically. The vanilla can be a little expensive, but you only use a tiny bit.

But I have found, from experience, that the best things in life cost little money.

Posted by: Emily | September 25, 2007 3:38 PM

Haughtiness and uncaring toward the less fortunate must be a topic of great hilarity at Leslie's country club. Oh, to be a fly on the wall there...

Posted by: mehitabel | September 25, 2007 3:39 PM

Emily, cornstarch pudding is much cheaper than flan, especially at the times of year when eggs are more expensive. And non-fat dry milk is cheaper than whole milk or cream.

Posted by: mehitabel | September 25, 2007 3:41 PM

I also think 1.5 hours for a first grader's homework is excessive. We found that 10-20 minutes each day (exclusive of reading) was about right. Long enough to reinforce some of the concepts covered in class, not too long so as to frustrate them or keep them up too late.

Posted by: kate07 | September 25, 2007 3:46 PM

Haughtiness and uncaring toward the less fortunate must be a topic of great hilarity at Leslie's country club. Oh, to be a fly on the wall there...

Posted by: mehitabel | September 25, 2007 03:39 PM

That reminds me of a scene in CHEERS. Woody is telling his rich girlfriend that he does not have the money to do something and no matter how he says it, she stares back with incomprehension and then finally she say's 'Oh, like the time Daddy couldn't buy SHELL OIL?" ;)

Posted by: pATRICK | September 25, 2007 3:48 PM

MN: I think Liza Bean sums up my original point:
Rodney, thanks for posting, it's good know more. I second ArmyBrat's comments on your impressive approach.

I think foamgnome's point about attitude is valid - we all know the bills have to be paid and we all will face the spectre of credit card debt etc when we go through periods of unemployment, but for some people that just doesn't stress them out that much. I think the point isn't that the person with the positive attitidue will be able to avoid getting into debt, but that they won't be as stressed out by it when they do.

I also don't think that the level of stress a person feels correlates to the ability to take responsible action - some people who are really stressed become paralyzed and make terrible decisions; some people who are less prone to stress cut back on their spending and go on; a lot of us are somewhere in the middle.

By the way, MN, this isn't at all directed towards your comment or an assessment of your attitude about debt (and I agree that concern is not equated with panic and worry). I just think that cc debt is a good example because so many of us have it and among the people I know the way we deal with it varies enormously.

Posted by: LizaBean | September 25, 2007 02:09 PM

I wasn't saying that people don't accumlate debt or being optimistic makes money appear in thin air. I simply said how you feel about debt can drive how you handle debt.

I only brought up the governments definition of economic hardship because you asked what I meant when I said the # of people experiencing a lay off is relatively high to the number of people experiencing severe economic hardship due to unemployment. So we obviously disagree and it is all not relevant now because Rodney explained how he made it. Let's just agree to disagree.

Posted by: foamgnome | September 25, 2007 3:49 PM

MN:I also want to say (personally) I am sorry you are unemployed right now and I hope you find something soon.

Posted by: foamgnome | September 25, 2007 3:52 PM

Foamgnome, I'm not unemployed. DH is. Thanks. I much prefer being in a stable industry.

Posted by: MN | September 25, 2007 3:57 PM

Hey MN are you Megan's Neighbor? I don't know who every one is anymore. I think mehitabel is Catlady but sometimes she doesn't sound like Catlady.

OT: Guys do you really think Leslie wrote that post that slammed on mehitabel? Because I noticed it didn't use capitals and that doesn't sound like Leslie.

Posted by: foamgnome | September 25, 2007 4:00 PM

I don't know why these discussions have to turn into hostilities between the haves and the have nots. People live their lives according to their means. For some people, that means that a lay-off can be surmountable, even with some luxuries. For others, it is a time of greater discipline and stress, but even then, people seem to pull through. And yes, for others, it is catastrophic. Acknowledging that different people have different levels of income, different reserves, and different outcomes does not mean that those who happen to be in a better financial situation are somehow less sympathetic or caring about those in less fortunate positions by default. Leslie was a little flip with Army Brat, but Army Brat does not strike me as being destitute or even a little strapped for money. So her comment to him was not off the mark. I did not take it as a direct insult to everyone who has had to scrounge for money in an emergency. I took it as a response to Army Brat. If she had said the same thing to someone who was obviously struggling, it would have been a different thing. But that's not what happened. Secondly, just because she is Leslie, and because she is obviously well off financially, people think it is okay to speak with her disrespectfully instead of minding their manners (sorry mehitabel) and keeping the discourse civil. And then they get upset when she won't take their bait and simply brushes them off. Seriously, I probably would not respond seriously either, not because the comment does not have substance, but because it was delivered rudely.

Posted by: Emily | September 25, 2007 4:02 PM

Foamgnome, You tangentially hit upon an important issue re unemployment, namely the NOT KNOWING when a job will be offered (assuming the person even wants to take it, although s/he may have little economic choice in the matter).

My father went to so many factories even just to see if they were accepting applications for future consideration, let alone hiring any time soon. If he was given an application form and filed it, then there was all the waiting, because of course there were inevitably other job applicants. After months of such experiences weekly, this causes a nearly unbearable feeling of lack of control in one's life. It breeds the polar opposite of smugness like Leslie's.

BTW, it's also the reason some people are seek jobs in government, because civil service procedures afford a degree of job security not available in the at-will work force. Likewise for teaching positions where tenure can be earned, or partnerships at law firms. For some families, the sense of security outweighs the potential for higher earnings in the more volatile at-will private sector.

Posted by: mehitabel | September 25, 2007 4:04 PM

Yes, I'm Catlady. Today's blog topic is an area on which my family and family friends and I all have much experience.

Posted by: mehitabel | September 25, 2007 4:06 PM

Haughtiness and uncaring toward the less fortunate must be a topic of great hilarity at Leslie's country club. Oh, to be a fly on the wall there...

Posted by: mehitabel | September 25, 2007 03:39 PM

Your post made me think of "The Invisible Man" by Graham a short piece about a black, Ivy league lawyer who goes under cover as waitstaff for the Greenwich, CT country club. It was in 1992 but the blantant racism is shocking. Pretty much lets you know that james Spader wasn't making up those "rich guy/country club" persons on film. They actually exist. Fascinating.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | September 25, 2007 4:08 PM

To quote a great thinker: Bite me, Emily.

Posted by: mehitabel | September 25, 2007 4:08 PM

Laura re: homework,
I had a terrible time last year on this issue with younger DD but it seemed to stem from having a very inexperienced young teacher (who probably felt her kids test scores would determine her future). An exchange of letters didn't get me anywhere so I resorted to passive resistance. I had DD do what I thought was appropriate and helpful academically and blew off the rest. Got notes home periodically but she did advance to the next grade and we're in much better shape this year with an experienced teacher! Not sure what DD learned from this experience, however. I was conflicted all year but honestly, I was not going to sacrifice her sleep!

Posted by: anne.saunders | September 25, 2007 4:09 PM

Rodney, I liked your column and the follow-up posts as well (I was one of the "How'd he do that?" folks). Then when you revealed you were a CPA, the light-bulb came on. But...I also appreciate you ability to find a silver lining in the dark cloud. I try to do the same.

But your post highlighted one of my gravest fears--losing my job. I have no safety net. My parents are both terminally ill, so no "living with mommy" (that was funny). My ex-husband is on the other side of the world and pays no child support. I have a retirement account, deferred savings and money in the state pension plan. If I cashed out everything, I could make it perhaps one year. Your column today has brought this to my attention...I really need to do a better job. I am awful with financial planning...always said I need to marry an accountant.

And yes, I have definitely opened myself up to plenty of hits today...but this is definitely my area of weakness. Mea culpa.

One more thing...MoxieMom, what's the reference to Mrs. Shaun Cassidy?

Posted by: pepperjade | September 25, 2007 4:10 PM

Bite yourself, mehitabel. I prefer flan.

Posted by: Emily | September 25, 2007 4:13 PM

Emily, you're in no position to criticize others when you have a history of saying "Bite me" to people with whom you disagree on this blog.

Leslie had every single word of what I had to say coming to her, and more. It's not rudeness, just a major wake-up call to our "On Balance" princess.

Posted by: mehitabel | September 25, 2007 4:16 PM

Emily, I somewhat agree with the first part of your post. The second, nope. Leslie is probably a nice person but a lazy blog moderator. I will be civil in all things when SHE stops letting unnamed crazy people blatantly violate any civility and then WELCOMES them back.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 25, 2007 4:16 PM

BTW, I agree with you Catlady. Wake up time.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 25, 2007 4:18 PM

"LizaBean, I have read the results of those studies, but have not looked at the sample size or actual structure of each one to determine validity."

MN, my memory of this isn't that good, but I do remember reading one of Slate.com's columns that usually does a pretty good job at looking at the design/substance of such studies and finding it pretty persuasive, maybe I'll look and see if I can find it. For whatever reason though I have a strong gut reaction about homework earlier than fourth or fifth grade, so probably I just like them because I agree with them, LOL!

Posted by: LizaBean | September 25, 2007 4:20 PM

Nope. I have a history of saying "bite me" to people who are rude without provocation. I can disagree with others on the substance of an argument without resorting to rudeness (although I will defend myself if provoked).

And you if think you weren't rude to Leslie, then you must be from New York.

Posted by: Emily | September 25, 2007 4:21 PM

oh, moxiemom, they definitely do exist. I went to high school with many of them.

You really thought they were made up? Really? I never in a million years thought that. Interesting what i learn on this blog!

Posted by: atlmom1234 | September 25, 2007 4:29 PM

oh, moxiemom, they definitely do exist. I went to high school with many of them.

You really thought they were made up? Really? I never in a million years thought that. Interesting what i learn on this blog!

Posted by: atlmom1234 | September 25, 2007 4:29 PM

Emily, It was Leslie who was being rude, displaying her dismissive attitude toward economic hardship and making jokes earlier. She totally deserved to be called-out on her inappropriate behavior, and doing so is not inherently rude. Leslie brought it on herself.

Posted by: mehitabel | September 25, 2007 4:29 PM

One more thing...MoxieMom, what's the reference to Mrs. Shaun Cassidy?

Posted by: pepperjade | September 25, 2007 04:10 PM

It was my lame attempt at a funny way to show how something we dearly want at a given time, may not turn out to have been what's best for us. There was a time, a long, long time ago that I wanted nothing more in this world to be Mrs. Shaun Cassidy. Retrospectively, I am exceedingly glad I did not get my wish. Thanks for asking. Now.........about that Mrs. Patrick Dempsey thing - hmmmmmmmm.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | September 25, 2007 4:29 PM

Hey! There's no need to attack New York without provocation!!!

Posted by: atlmom1234 | September 25, 2007 4:31 PM

Yikes, you guys are being harsh to Leslie. I don't believe Leslie is unsympathetic toward those who do not belong to her socio-economic status--she simply doesn't know this first-hand. There is a degree of relativity here.

There are several of us who frequent this blog who have managed to "move up" in socio-economic terms, and more who have revealed today that they have faced fiscal crises because of unexpected layoffs. Unless you actually live these things, you cannot fully understand the experience...but it doesn't mean she is unsympathetic.

And I hope that's true for most of us--while we may not have first-hand experience about the difficulties others have faced (i.e., fiscal, medical, domestic violence, etc.), hopefully we can sympathize with those who have and offer words of encouragement.

Posted by: pepperjade | September 25, 2007 4:32 PM

oh, moxiemom, they definitely do exist. I went to high school with many of them.

Yawn, white people can be racist, black people can be racist, asian people can be racist, wow what a discovery....

Posted by: pATRICK | September 25, 2007 4:32 PM

MN, because I really don't want to do the work I should be doing, I did go look it up, and as suspected, I was remembering the evidence in a light much more favorable to my gut instinct than was justified! What a suprise, LOL.

Anyway, here's a link to a review by Emily Bazelon (not the columnist I had been thinking of) of three books about homework, it's still a good read:

http://www.slate.com/id/2149593/

Posted by: LizaBean | September 25, 2007 4:33 PM

giggle..

I wanted to be Mrs. Rock Hudson at one time, but then again I also wanted to be Mrs. David Cassidy

Now I would want them to be Mr. dotted_1 (meaning I'd be the one with power, money, whatever...double giggle)

Posted by: dotted_1 | September 25, 2007 4:34 PM

Of course, my apologies to all New Yorkers!!

Mehitabel, we will just have to agree to disagree. I reread Leslie's posts and saw nothing offensive in them.

Posted by: Emily | September 25, 2007 4:36 PM

I'm going to be brutally honest right now. And, this will be hard for many of you to hear:

I don't like flan.

There. I said it. Let loose the dogs of way-too-rich desserts.

Posted by: ProudPapa15 | September 25, 2007 4:37 PM

Thanks, LB. I'll check it out. I'm not disagreeing with your recollection, btw. I think that the education guy here at the Post as touted those studies from time to time. Much more thought should go into homework and what it should be accomplishing. Too much is either busywork or requires too much parental involvement (reading directions, setting up a spot to work which is glue appropriate, etc.).

Without getting in the middle of two ladies who could certainly deck me, ahem, might I also stick up for that great State of New York, Emily? No need for collateral damage.

Posted by: MN | September 25, 2007 4:39 PM

ProudPapa: More flan for me!!!

Posted by: mehitabel | September 25, 2007 4:39 PM

It was a joke!!
(I saw Terms of Endearment" over the weekend.

Posted by: Emily | September 25, 2007 4:40 PM

Emily, my original post re: how Rodney managed financially was meant honestly - most of the people I know who've been without a job for months don't go to Chicago to visit friends, or to Florida for a youth basketball tournament, or to the driving range, or...

I appreciate the fact that Rodney came on and explained how he did it - largely, by using money from the equity he had built in his house while he was married. It's not what I would do, but it's his money and his choice, and I commended (and still do) him for using the time/money to get close to his son rather than waste it some way.

Leslie's flippant response to my posting was that perhaps Rodney is just smarter than me. No, that doesn't bother me at all - I'm pretty smart. And heck, Rodney seems like a pretty sharp guy. Maybe he IS smarter than me; it wouldn't bother me to admit that.

And yes, I do well financially - I'm not in Leslie and Perry's tax bracket, but I do better than most other people.

But the rest of Leslie's original response to me, and her response to some of the other people on this blog - to mehitabel, MN and others - just reinforce something that a lot of us have noticed - specifically, Leslie's privileged but doesn't seem to understand that.

Let me make it clear that I respect a number of the things Leslie has accomplished. She has significant talents. When she wants to be, she's a very good writer. She's had a successful book published and is, to hear her tell it, working on another. She graduated from good schools, and was successful in business. She deserves credit for those things.

On the other hand - from information that can be publicly gleaned, Leslie and Perry are in the wealthiest fraction-of-a-percent of the population. They have the money to take the family to Positano for a vacation; and to jet out to California, donate money to a political candidate and go to a party at Oprah's place because of it.

Furthermore, Leslie's ALWAYS been in that social strata. Her father was a successful partner in a large law firm.

None of that is intended to be derogatory; this is America and successful people are to be admired, not scorned.

The problem is that Leslie is sometimes lazy and makes no effort to understand that not all people are like her. Today happened to be one of those days.

Look at the rest of her response to me - flying to Chicago and to Florida in the summer isn't that expensive. Well, it's likely cheaper than a trip to Italy for the family, but it's still going to be several hundred dollars for each trip, even if you bunk with friends or double up with teammates on the basketball trip. Furthermore, playing on that kind of a travel basketball team isn't cheap - it's not playing on a school team, as Leslie alluded.

And this isn't the first time that's happened. Go back to the two-part guest blog from Joan Weintrob, who started her own business. Leslie seemed not to understand that many, many women of Joan Weintrob's generation worked productively all of their adult lives, without the benefit of nannies, house cleaners, or other support. Nobody from Leslie's social circle did that, so it seemed to her that nobody did that.

I read and comment on this blog because in general I think that Leslie is a skilled writer with a lot to say, and I really enjoy the give and take with a lot of the participants. I don't mind being told that somebody is smarter, richer, happier, or just plain more successful than me - I think that's a good thing. But it just really does seem that Leslie doesn't understand and doesn't want to understand that, socio-economically, she's in the top fraction of a percent and most people aren't like that. Today was one of those days, and several people called her on it.

If some of those people were a little rude, I don't have a problem with that. Nothing crossed the line (certainly not like BB* the other day, or many of the things Hillary has written, or abu, or others), and sometimes a point just has to be made.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 25, 2007 4:42 PM

MoxieMom....I wanted to be Mrs. Jimmy Page when I was 13...

Posted by: pepperjade | September 25, 2007 4:42 PM

"I'm going to be brutally honest right now. And, this will be hard for many of you to hear:

I don't like flan."

You know I can take your che guevara politics but this is off the scale.........

Posted by: pATRICK | September 25, 2007 4:44 PM

About homework:

We have been fortunate that at our school, the homework is less busy work and more emphasis of concepts in reading and math that they have been learning at school. So not a lot of coloring, cutting, pasting or that sort of thing. Basically, they write some sentences and short paragraphs using their weekly words, and also go over math concepts. It really does not take a long time. I like the daily (4 days a week) homework routine because I can see where my son has not gotten something when he needs help completing an assignment or cannot do it at all. That way, I can get him help, alert his teacher, or often just explain it to him so that he gets it, and does not fall behind. It keeps me informed of his progress, which I really like.

Posted by: Emily | September 25, 2007 4:44 PM

pATRICK:

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | September 25, 2007 4:45 PM

OOPS - wanted to say pATRICK has his priorities straight but...the new gremlin jumped on the keyboard and hit submit on me. I may have to let him go.

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | September 25, 2007 4:47 PM

Army Brat: *clap* *clap* *clap*

Posted by: mehitabel | September 25, 2007 4:47 PM

And polite applause to ArmyBrat.

When I got out of the military I had a job waiting for me. As luck would have it the government initiated a hiring freeze for three months. I did some temp work but if I wasn't living with a friend who let me slide on the rent as long as I cooked I would have been in trouble.
I also learned that you couldn't get away with sending the elec bill to the gas co and vice versa as they cash whatever they get :-)

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | September 25, 2007 4:49 PM

KLB, the same thing happened to me earlier today. I know what you mean. I think they must be related to this untrustworthy laundry and housework faeries.

Posted by: mehitabel | September 25, 2007 4:49 PM

"Flying to Chicago and to Florida in the summer isn't that expensive. Well, it's likely cheaper than a trip to Italy for the family, but it's still going to be several hundred dollars for each trip, even if you bunk with friends or double up with teammates on the basketball trip."

ArmyBrat--that's exactly what I meant by a degree of relativity here. I'm on a tight budget, so a two-hour drive to spend the day in Sedona is the limit of my travel expenditures for the time being. But hey, Sedona is beautiful, the views are free and I get great gas mileage in my Toyota : )

Posted by: pepperjade | September 25, 2007 4:49 PM

Ack!

KLB, the same thing happened to me earlier today. I know what you mean. I think they must be related to those untrustworthy laundry and housework faeries.

Posted by: mehitabel | September 25, 2007 4:50 PM

Hey, Emily, how are you feeling?

Posted by: atlmom1234 | September 25, 2007 4:50 PM

Well done ARMYBRAT, well done. Having lived that kind of life her whole life, she simply cannot grasp somethings. Bad times means Perry only nets 700k for a bonus instead of 1mm. Hardly comparable to real people laid off and desperate.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 25, 2007 4:50 PM

mehitabel,
No more faeries in my house. Trying out the gremlins but if today is any indication then I may have to move on to the imps.

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | September 25, 2007 4:51 PM

Pepperjade - whew, looks like you dodged a bullet there. I did flirt with Mrs. Baryshinikov for awhile which is the one that I'm actually still thinking would have been a good decision - have you seen him recently? Amazing.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | September 25, 2007 4:51 PM

to those with cats: today marks one whole month of no cat *mistakes*...hallelujah and thanks to 'cat attract'

Posted by: dotted_1 | September 25, 2007 4:52 PM

Mark Harmon isn't half shabby still.

Posted by: mehitabel | September 25, 2007 4:54 PM

But when Leslie was talking about Rodney going to Florida, etc. she was not talking about a person in dire straits. So in relative terms, it probably was not that expensive for HIM. Obviously, he could afford it. So what if not everyone is in that kind of financial situation? Some people are. It is all relative, and Leslie was talking about Rodney, not others. To insist that all peoples' ability to do this or that be measured against one yardstick which only reflects the struggles of the blue collar or working poor is ridiculous. By those standards, when compared to the rest of the world, all Americans are smug, clueless, insensitive, and uncaring. Because frankly, as a nation, we are much better off than most of the rest of the world.

Posted by: Emily | September 25, 2007 4:54 PM

Hey pATRICK, I can't decide which shirt to wear to the office tomorrow - either the che guevara head shot or the "free mumia". ;-)

Hey, I think I've been staying off the socio/political stuff lately. I didn't even take the bait above where you essentially brushed off moxiemom's reference to "The Invisible Man", which in this reference seems to be a short text similar to Ralph Ellison's undeniably great work of the same name. (Well, YOU might deny it.) And then you seem to equate racism suffered by blacks with that suffered by whites and asians.

See, that didn't bother me at all. Apparently, I'm growing. :-|

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invisible_Man

Posted by: ProudPapa15 | September 25, 2007 4:55 PM

"And then you seem to equate racism suffered by blacks with that suffered by whites and asians."


No, I would not say that. I think blacks have suffered more racism. My point is that discovering racism in any people and then acting surprised is ridiculous.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 25, 2007 5:00 PM

Oh my god, moxiemom, Baryshinikov really is amazing, and I am not prone to being smitten by celebrities.

Army Brat, well said.

Posted by: LizaBean | September 25, 2007 5:00 PM

Ha, MoxieMom, Baryshinikov definitely has aged much better than Jimmy Page! Only Keith Richards looks worse for wear than Jimmy Page (confession, I spent a bit of my youth writing and shooting for several rock music magazines...and it paid for college).

And good reminder, Emily...as Americans, we are so very fortunate, as are most who live in the western developed world.

Posted by: pepperjade | September 25, 2007 5:02 PM

"Hey, Emily, how are you feeling?"

Atlmom1234 - I'm feeling great. Thanks for asking. Baby is kicking up a storm right now. Kinda cool.

Posted by: Emily | September 25, 2007 5:04 PM

Spot on, ArmyBrat.

Posted by: _Miles | September 25, 2007 5:05 PM

BTW PROUD PAPA, You already have the "free mumia" tshirt? Now what am i supposed to get you for Christmas/Kwanzaa/Hanukkah?

Posted by: pATRICK | September 25, 2007 5:05 PM

Emily, I think the reaction to Leslie's comment came from the fact that she seemed to assume that it is inherently reasonable to spend money the way Rodney did when unemployed, and that questions about how it was made possible were unjustified.

Posted by: LizaBean | September 25, 2007 5:06 PM

PP,I guess the 'LESBIANS AGAINST BUSH" shirt wouldn't work................

Posted by: pATRICK | September 25, 2007 5:07 PM

Army Brat - I'm in awe. Great summary of the tension here when Leslie speaks of financial stress.

Posted by: MN | September 25, 2007 5:08 PM

Emily --

With all due respect, Leslie did not say that trips to FL/Chicago were not that expensive for Rodney. She said this:

"A trip to Chicago and Florida (in the summer -- pretty cheap fares) for one child and one adult may not have cost that much."

Um, yes, they DO cost "that much" for most people.

There were a multitude of ways for Leslie to non-offensively comment on Rodney's spending choices while he was unemployed. If she'd meant that the travel expenses he mentioned are "not so much for Rodney," then she should have said that. But she didn't. And to summarily brush off those expenses as "not so much" reveals the bubble in which she lives.

And to tell an intelligent, thoughtful, regular poster who has recently revealed her own family's lay-off situation that she has sympathy "for those who plan for layoffs" is just plain insensitive.

AND to equate baba's insane rantings with freedom of speech or responsible, intelligent discourse is just, well, clueless.

And thank you Army Brat for your recent contribution to this discussion. I am in my cube, wishing that I could give you the loud, whistling, standing ovation you richly deserve.

Posted by: vegasmom89109 | September 25, 2007 5:11 PM

Patrick, thanks for being so dismissive. I think being ho hum about something as destructive as racism is what allows it to fester. Call me ridiculous, but I am still surprised at how hateful people can be to one another. In the article mentioned, I found it surprising that people of supposed good breeding could be so overtly hateful which is suppose is better than the ones who hide it, at least you know who they are. I still am amazed to hear that people shout things out of cars at people of color or people who are overweight since it is simply unthinkable for me. I think it is dangerous to blow it off becuause that is like accepting it. We are so accustomed to children being killed by guns in the inner city that it isn't even news any more, let alone front page news. It should be front page news. We should be suprised and we should expect more of each other!

Posted by: moxiemom1 | September 25, 2007 5:11 PM

pepperjade, ohhhh, but I bet you have stories to tell. Could I use you as a consultant in my class for parents who were goody two shoes program I'll be starting (see yesterday, end of day)?

Posted by: moxiemom1 | September 25, 2007 5:14 PM

C'mon Emily, Leslie wrote: "ArmyBrat, I think Rodney may just be smarter than you." Then she opined that "[a] trip to Chicago and Florida (in the summer -- pretty cheap fares) for one child and one adult may not have cost that much."

Leslie's saying that she thought Army Brat was not as smart as someone with more money is just plain rude. Adding insult to injury by then opining that the cost of those airfares was not a significant amount of money is also monumentally insensitive.

Intentionally or not, Leslie set herself up for all the responses she got to her cluelessness. Then she thought she could get out from under just by making a joke about it -- maybe this works in Leslie-world, but in the real world she was just being even more offensive.

And with no disrespect intended toward Rodney (who, I believe, did his best under the circumstances), I doubt Army Brat is one iota less intelligent.

Posted by: mehitabel | September 25, 2007 5:14 PM

I found it surprising that people of supposed good breeding could be so overtly hateful which is suppose is better than the ones who hide it, at least you know who they are.


First -good breeding? Having money does NOT equate to good character.

Second, racism is found in all cultures in some form.

Third, I was dismissive of your naivete. Rich snotty country club people might think minorities are inferior? Who would have thunk it?

Posted by: pATRICK | September 25, 2007 5:18 PM

"Emily, I think the reaction to Leslie's comment came from the fact that she seemed to assume that it is inherently reasonable to spend money the way Rodney did when unemployed, and that questions about how it was made possible were unjustified."

Lizabean, Leslie did ask Rodney to come and explain how he pulled it off. She wrote:

"Foamgnome, thanks for being a voice of reason. I've asked Rodney to weigh in and explain how he pulled it all off.

pATRICK, I'm not taking the bait!!!!

Posted by: lpsteiner | September 25, 2007 12:21 PM"

So assuming that she thinks the questions about this are unjustified is wrong. She made an effort to get those questions answered.

I think the tension comes from the income gap that exists between people in her income bracket and people in other, less affluent, income brackets. Those of us who have less money (and I am certainly in that group) tend to think that affluent people should understand us better, sympathize with us, etc., but we make no effort to see things through their eyes and perhaps understand them. There is something about being at a disadvantage that makes people feel a little morally superior over those who are better off. I remember, in college, in poli sci class, the professor once spoke about how all Americans claim to be middle class, even when they are obviously pretty wealthy, as if it is somehow unamerican to admit that you are rich.

Posted by: Emily | September 25, 2007 5:19 PM

Rich snotty country club people might think minorities are inferior? Who would have thunk it?

Posted by: pATRICK | September 25, 2007 05:18 PM

Pushy, obnoxious, evangelical Republicans who don't act one bit Christian - who would have thunk it?

Posted by: moxiemom1 | September 25, 2007 5:25 PM

"There is something about being at a disadvantage that makes people feel a little morally superior over those who are better off."

That is because rich people tend to be the greediest people on earth. I can attest to that, working in the finance field.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 25, 2007 5:25 PM

Emily wrote re wealthy people: "...we make no effort to see things through their eyes and perhaps understand them..."

Yes, my heart is breaking right now.

Posted by: mehitabel | September 25, 2007 5:27 PM

I remember, in college, in poli sci class, the professor once spoke about how all Americans claim to be middle class, even when they are obviously pretty wealthy, as if it is somehow unamerican to admit that you are rich.

Posted by: Emily | September 25, 2007 05:19 PM

This also goes in the reverse where many people considered "lower class" by governmental/economic standards call themselves middle class, or perhaps lower middle class at worse. There was a really fascinating story about all of this on PBS many years ago, I'll try to find it. Some idea that we don't want to be either too poor or too rich to fit in with our colleagues.

Posted by: _Miles | September 25, 2007 5:28 PM

Pushy, obnoxious, evangelical Republicans who don't act one bit Christian - who would have thunk it?

I actually found this funny.

Pushy? hmm maybe
obnoxious? certainly at times
evangelical? nope
Republican? yes
Christian- yes, with a gracious Lord who loves me even when I am all of the above

Posted by: pATRICK | September 25, 2007 5:28 PM

Rich snotty country club people might think the poor are inferior? Who would have thunk it?

Posted by: mehitabel | September 25, 2007 5:29 PM

This might be it, "People Like Us"
http://www.pbs.org/peoplelikeus/film/index.html

And here's the book moxiemom was referring to earlier about the undercover Ivy League lawyer posing as busboy, just a few excerpts on his webpage here but interesting:
http://www.harpercollins.ca/global_scripts/product_catalog/book_xml.asp?isbn=0060984309&tc=cx

Posted by: _Miles | September 25, 2007 5:31 PM

"Lizabean, Leslie did ask Rodney to come and explain how he pulled it off. "

Yes, after she opined about how cheap it is to fly to Chicago and Army Brat's relative lack of smarts; possibly also after she got a negative reaction to her initial remark. I'm glad she did get in touch with Rodney, I'm glad he was part of the discussion and I have no problem with the choices he made, as I've said already.

But I do think Leslie's initial response to the questions were based in a lack of understanding of the choices most people face when they are laid off.

Posted by: LizaBean | September 25, 2007 5:33 PM

Wasn't there also a recent experiment by a couple members of Congress who tried to eat for a week or two only on the food-stamp level? Did they even make it?

Posted by: mehitabel | September 25, 2007 5:33 PM

Ha, MoxieMom, I took a look at your proposed class--very funny. Subtitle: "For the parents who are in denial." I would be a good consultant on two fronts--I grew up in the rock 'n roll world in Ft. Lauderdale-Miami during the 1980s, and now I work with law enforcement. I have seen both sides of the equation.

And yes, I definitely have some tales. I have a scrapbook that is a window into that world, filled with photos, VIP passes, etc. If you have ever seen the movie "Almost Famous," one of my favorites, I was three parts William Miller and one part Penny Lane.

Posted by: pepperjade | September 25, 2007 5:33 PM

mehitabel, I think you are thinking of the Governor of Oregon who spent a week on food stamps in April 2007. I think he actually did make it because he had help from people to advise him what to buy.

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/04/23/politics/main2715513.shtml?source=RSSattr=HOME_2715513

Posted by: teaspoon2007 | September 25, 2007 5:39 PM

Teaspoon, I think you may be right.

Or maybe the experiment's been tried more than once. I bet Leslie couldn't hack it (though I could -- but I'm not saying I'd enjoy it!).

Posted by: mehitabel | September 25, 2007 5:43 PM

$3 a day. Really puts things in perspective. And we expect people can consistently live off of this. We also apparently expect them to better themselves and improve their situation. Political frustrations aside, I think this might be the new fad diet...

Posted by: _Miles | September 25, 2007 5:49 PM

$15 a day for Leslie's family? I'd like to see her try it.

Posted by: mehitabel | September 25, 2007 5:52 PM

"$3 a day. Really puts things in perspective. And we expect people can consistently live off of this. We also apparently expect them to better themselves and improve their situation. Political frustrations aside, I think this might be the new fad diet..."

It seems to be a very hard problem to tackle. Years ago, for the better part of a year, I worked on Saturdays doing intake at a free legal clinic at a homeless shelter where my firm volunteered. So we saw the really indigent. Frankly, I found the work to be very disheartening. I don't remember a single person that seemed to have any hope for the future. And it seemed to me, from my vantage point, that most of the people who came were looking either for a handout or a way to take advantage of somebody else. I realize that this attitude comes from living in complete poverty for a long time, and that it is a result of circumstance rather than inherent character, but it seems to be such a vicious circle. In the end, I gave up that volunteer job because I did not think that I was doing anybody any good by keeping it. My respect to social workers who spend their lives dealing with these issues. I don't know how they do it, or what keeps them motivated.

Posted by: Emily | September 25, 2007 5:56 PM

There used to be a bridge over a body of water where I live. Many people would fish from it daily. The highway department decided one day that it was unsafe for people to fish off the bridge so fishing was prohibited.

Many people went hungry that night.

Posted by: Fred | September 25, 2007 5:59 PM

Miles, thanks for the extra info. I heard his story on NPR recently.

Pepperjade, better hide the scrapbook from the kiddos! I'd love to hear your tales - sounds exciting and like you earned or enjoyed every line on your face!

Posted by: moxiemom1 | September 25, 2007 7:52 PM

Thanks for the compliments. * blush *

Pepperjade, love, love, love Sedona. When I was a Fed one of my contractors was in Scottsdale. For about a two-year period I was out there once a month. Used to love to take a day of leave at the end of a trip and head up to Sedona, or the Mogollon Rim. I'm not so much a fan of all the new-age tripe, but you just can't beat the natural beauty of the place. (On occasion, I'd take two days of leave and hit the Grand Canyon. Wow, just wow!)

And if you keep it up with the stories about your past, we're going to be pushing you to write a book. Worked your way through college writing for rock magazines? Shot photos, etc? Come on, there's gotta be an audience for that.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 25, 2007 8:02 PM

Fred's Quote of the Day

"And what's this about cake, I thought it was all about flan...what kind of cake do Leslie's elitist friends eat?"

Posted by: _Miles | September 25, 2007 02:40 PM

Sorry, Miles, the Creepy Van (tm) is still broken but the Hula Girl is quite a character! Come visit her!

Posted by: Fred | September 25, 2007 8:06 PM

Wasn't there also a recent experiment by a couple members of Congress who tried to eat for a week or two only on the food-stamp level? Did they even make it?

Posted by: mehitabel | September 25, 2007 05:33 PM

mehitabel, I think that's Keith Ellison, the congressman from my district. It is Ramadan, and he was doing it as part of his observation and to bring light onto the issue. He has a partner in his cause, a rabbi whom I don't believe is a congressman. Some people have been disparaging, saying it is Ramadan, you don't eat during the day anyway, but I think he is doing a good job with connecting with his constituents.

Posted by: mlsm01 | September 25, 2007 8:06 PM

I was watching that new show on the discovery channel - called something like: my dozens of kids and me (or whatever - about families with more than 12 kids).

One couple had 13 kids and said that they only spent $150 per week on food. I thought - we're only 5 (3 adults (one au pair), two kids) and I spend more than that each week on food.

I didn't know how she spent that little - and it looked like they ate well.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | September 25, 2007 8:10 PM

Fred's Commentary

Much criticism has been leveled at Leslie, some deserved, some a bit egregious. Leslie has said in the past that she has listened and changed her attitudes based on what has been written here. Today is one of those days that I hope Leslie will take most of what has been written to heart.

Many people continue to be one check away from financial breakdown despite their best efforts. Some of us are in much better circumstances now but could still be back in financial straights despite our best preparations. We all should extend a little understanding and sympathy if not overtly, at least in our hearts and minds.

Posted by: Fred | September 25, 2007 8:20 PM

Hi anyone who is still reading, just want to weigh in that I've read everything and tried to absorb all the criticism.

Without being too defensive, I just want to explain that I was trying to defend Rodney from the early attacks about his decisions to go to Chicago and Florida with his son.

I really, really did not mean to belittle or dismiss the millions of people who could not do the same if they were laid off (or even when they had jobs).

I am definitely "elite" by financial measures. But by many other measures, I face a lot of struggles that no amount of money can take away. And in so many ways, this makes me far, far from "elite."

No offense intended to Army Brat (I was just teasing and he can dish it out too!), Mehitabel or anyone else.

Posted by: lpsteiner | September 25, 2007 9:05 PM

Leslie, that was a thoughtful response in the face of a lot of criticism, much of which was harsh. All of us are blinded to some extent by our own experiences, but not many of us have our blinders examined so closely by so many people in a forum like this. I think you must be a tough chicken after all, LOL.

Posted by: LizaBean | September 25, 2007 10:12 PM

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