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Friday, January 30, 2009

Passed The Rough-In Inspection! & New Ideas for Landscaping..

Well the inspector came back yesterday after the electric company moved our box and our power was formally connected. We have passed the inspection and may now proceed to installing our insulation and duct work. Then we need a furnace and dry wall and except for some detail things we'll be able to move in. This I think will all be done by summer. Very exciting!

I have been straining my brain trying to think of something to use for stepping stones for paths in the yard and garden. I don't really want to plant grass--I guess I see it as something that is OK if you have a flat area you want to use for things like kids' to play football in, but for us, with grown kids--we really would rather have plants and paths and maybe a patio area or two. I'd love to be able to have brick or stone paths but I can't see that as being something we could as cheaply as I want to. Yesterday my new Birds & Blooms magazine came and the idea I needed was in it! Cut logs! There was a section in the magazine that held photos of the winners of a Backyard Budget Challenge. There were quite a few really good ideas but my two favorites were the folks who used recycled materials to create paths. One person had sliced tree trunks and branches into steps and created a path using those and filling in with gravel around them. Another person's boss had gotten a new driveway, so she took his old concrete, sledge-hammered it and created paths using the broken slab--it looks very similar to rock. I preferred the log look. We already have at least two downed trees on our land that we need to cut up and dispose of--burn probably--but now I showed the photo to my husband and we decided to give making them into stepping stones a try. If we don't like it we can always burn it later. I think I will find out what sort of an oil I can coat them with to deter termites. I'm very excited by this idea--its like one of those little light bulb moments.

It appears we may have more help with the next phases than we expected. Our three adult kids know of some other young people who are out of work and willing to come give us a hand. I also have a co-worker whose young son is out of work and would like to come help in some of the spare time he has now. Between them we will have 5 or 6 unemployed young adults helping us. I do wonder how these kids will all find jobs right now--it sure is not looking good.

Our county has a big budget deficit I guess, so now it appears my job may be threatened. I had lunch with our branch manager and another co-worker yesterday, he thinks it will be July before any cuts may be made. Well I know that it is the part time folks who don't have benefits that will be let go first--if there are lay offs. So that would be me. He thinks they will cut other areas first, like books. My husband's raise was postponed until June and he was told no raises next year. We have also counted on the large bonus he used to get in December--which is part of why were able to buy our house--it helped tremendously. We simply pretended we didn't have it. Well, next December it won't be hard to pretend--as we probably won't have it. This is kind of like taking a 25+% pay cut. Ouch.

Well--we have jobs. Right now we both have jobs. We also own a house, though it is not finished yet. If we can get it to the point where we can move in--then there is a home that we won't have to worry about losing for all of us. Perhaps our kids will have to live at home a long while--don't know. Perhaps more small businesses will begin to be started--on a smaller scale without using credit. The world of Main Street and Mom & Pops might just be making a comeback--- could that be possible?

I had a talk with my mom-in-law. They own a Dairy Queen. It is very hard to do business now. Besides the rising costs involved there are franchise rules that constantly add expenses and laws, etc. A very big problem for folks who own fast food type places is that employees steal from them. The kids who work for them literally will take money but also give away a great deal of their product. The profit margins on these businesses are not as big as people think. The pressure to pay higher wages or supply benefits really is going to undo many places.

In our discussion, she and I agreed that the thing that is needed most in hard times is excellent, friendly customer service. You must value every customer or you will have none. We think it is the places that don't have that which will go first. I base that on my retail experience and also on 'hunches' I know its not a scientific sampling but I did notice that Food Lion is the first grocery chain in recent time to announce lay offs in our area. Well-- frankly it is my least favorite place to shop and the customer service is the number one reason. I dislike poor attitudes most--but also policies that keep a store from having enough staff to open extra check out lines. If there is anything worse than being waited on by someone with a bad attitude or who is not smart enough to know what type of produce is in your cart--it would be waiting in a long line to get this sort of service, as well as being held up at the register while they check a price for 5 minutes, or wait for a manager to OK something they did wrong. :( Yuk! Food Lion I am afraid needs to step up a few more notches.

In my conversation we thought of something that might happen with the economy now as it is-- there may well be a better pool of people available to hire for jobs like cashier. I think in the private sector folks better start working as hard as they can to impress bosses and customers --as they may begin job cuts with that bad attitude folks.

Of course in my job--as a government employee-- kicking it up a notch is meaningless. Decisions to hire and fire folks like me come down from someplace on high and have nothing to do with who does or doesn't do a good job. I think there is something wrong with that, it seems only natural in the 'real world' that those who work hardest would be around the longest. Not so in unions or government jobs. Makes me wonder. I think the only thing that makes a person do a good job in such situations is personal ethics and character. I think where I work, happily everyone works hard at their job and has a great attitude--of course if/when jobs are lost-- that won't matter.

Well, the economy has begun to hit home for us. I am so glad we jumped in and bought our house when we did. Things are not going to be easy I know that, but we know what we need to do--push to get this house done and then we will have assurance of a roof over the heads of our family. This house is big enough too--we could expand if needed, if a really dire situation happens there is some room for more.

I am also glad I do know how to save money and garden and have skills that might help me get a job if I need one. I hope our kids will be able to get some education in this mess, we shall see. South Carolina has an education lottery that helps tremendously with tuition costs-but they still need to come up with some $$ to start. So far our son who is a student has paid for all his classes from his own pocket. His savings is about tapped out now though, so a job will be needed soon. Our sons are also reconsidering what kind of education to pursue. We are thinking tech school for things that HAVE to be done in America seems smart. Health care, plumbing, electrician, that sort of work is a must have locally. We don't see much value at the moment in big degrees--the kids can't afford that much education and frankly none of them are that studious. They are all smart and have skills-- I think they need to look at this with an eye toward what skills will really be needed no matter what happens in the world? All topics we talk and think about.

Well, today is the big day! I have some errands and chores to do and early this evening Hubby and I are flying out to meet our little granddaughter! God-willing we will see her again in reasonable intervals, but who knows? I plan to get the most out of this little trip I can. I really don't know when we can afford it again.

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