Wednesday, December 02, 2009

I'm well aware Tiny Tim had a tougher row to hoe and a better attitude. What of it?

OK, seriously. December already? Could someone tell me how exactly that happened? Pipe down, smartasses; you don't actually need to explain the intricacies of the Gregorian calendar to me. Rhetorical questions are still valid ones sometimes, I say.

So it's December, and I'm supposed to be all glowy with the warmth of the damn holiday spirit, but alas, December is stressing me out. Yes, on only the second day. The whole month stretches ahead of me, and yet, all I can think about are the hand-knit gifts that I was going to start IN JULY but that remain only half finished three weeks before Christmas. Or the salted chocolate truffles that I made recently, thinking that they'd be lovely little tokens for my friends and family, but that for some reason have already grown ugly, mottled light spots like year-old Halloween candy. (Not that anyone would know what that looks like, I assume.) So at the moment, my half-finished and failure-ridden home-made gift efforts seem most well suited to the Island of Misfit Toys (and, er, Candy and Scarves). Woe is me and my dashed hopes of from-the-heart thriftiness.

So I have Christmas shopping to do, and in an instance of excellent timing, I was recently told that my company is maybe not doing quite as well as we've been told all year (read: apparently nowhere NEAR as well as we've been told all year), and instead of getting a raise on what was, awesomely coincidentally, my 12-year employment anniversary, I got a 10% pay cut. Hurrah. Mind you, it was not just a "Happy anniversary" prize for me alone. Word is we all got pay cuts. Or, all of us who were lucky enough to keep our jobs (for now). An undisclosed number were actually laid off or had their hours cut instead. Happy holidays!

[Side note/Disclaimer of sorts:  I do realize that the previous paragraph falls squarely and solidly in the category of "Things I should not blog about" (i.e., "Things I could get fired for"). At the moment and for the record, I sort of feel it's a fair breech. This is my blog, about my life, which I write on my own time, and this is what's going on in my life right now. I will never, ever mention my company's name in this space, nor give any details identifying enough to reveal said name. So I'm sorry to anyone who someday finds this blog and shouldn't, but at the moment, with all due respect, I say kindly suck it.]

On top of that, I still cannot be trusted with a damn checkbook, and one measly little error has caused me TWO HUNDRED AND EIGHTY DOLLARS in NSF fees. Good grief. As some of you may have seen me complain on Facebook this evening, I am well aware that banks need to find ways to turn a profit, but I would much prefer that TCF Bank find a way to do so without coldly bleeding me dry. Yes, that's right, I said TCF. I have few qualms stating that particular company by name. Because seriously, if you are going to punish me EIGHT TIMES for what was quite obviously one single mistake, I am going to tell the Internet (or at least, my tiny corner of it) how disgruntled I am. I am not the sort of societal and financial delinquent you might see on the likes of the Judge Judy or Jerry Springer show. I am a smart, almost wearyingly responsible girl with her head screwed on nearly entirely straight. Would I keep using my check card if I knew there was actually no money in my account? Of course not. But if my unfortunately erroneous checkbook balance indicates all clear, all systems go, I'm going to carry on as usual, and penalizing me charge by charge while your old school paper notices make their way by Pony Express to my house really does me no good at all.Gah.

Sigh. It's time to stop this futile rant, I realize. Times are lean for all of us. Or, times are lean for most of us. I suspect the president of TCF is still doing just fine. In any case, moving on.

I should note that is it not all tears over banking injustices and tight purse strings around here. I did have a lovely Thanksgiving with some lovely friends. More than two people in attendance confidently proclaimed it the Best Thanksgiving Ever, and I dare say I must agree with them. I mean, no eleven hours on the road round-trip back home, no tense conversation with family members who I love but drive me batty, and no day-old KFC biscuits or year-old apple pie! It was a win-win-win, I say. Seriously, people. Look at this spread! Tell me you don't want to have Thanksgiving with my urban family next year.

The spread. The beautiful spread.

Note: Those are prosciutto-wrapped sweet potatoes in the lower-left there, people. Essentially, sweet potatoes wrapped in bacon. I know how much the Internet likes bacon. If you're not sufficiently excited about this buffet line, it's only because I failed to photograph the desserts. Apple pie and pumpkin cheesecake (courtesy of me, and both delicious, if I do say so myself). Mmmm.

On a loosely related note, not that my Thanksgiving Day wardrobe should be of any interest to you, but since I am bragging about things I made, how about I return momentarily to those skirts I mentioned making a few posts back? Shana Who Lacks a Link requested pictures, and while I still have no photos of the skirts in action (or at least, in use), I do have some flat, static, "wowsa, are my hips really that wide?" pics for you...

This is the first skirt I made, which is a lovely albeit a bit cumbersome little wrap dealie-o...

And here is the one I made in the Intermediate/Advanced skirt class, which features both a lining and an invisible (or, nearly invisible) back zipper. In other words, I rock.

That second skirt I decided should be my Thanksgiving skirt, so I actually do have a picture of it in use, albeit a not very helpful and showcasey picture at that. Still. Are you up for a game of "Where's Waldo"? Minus the Waldo and plus a skirt? All right. Here you go then.

Do you see it? If so, good work.

By the way, also in that picture? The Ghost of Thanksgiving Past. Or possibly my pal Carrie's mom's arm, at low shutter speed. You decide.

So then. How was your Thanksgiving? I know it was nearly a full week ago at this point, but dwelling on the past is what I do, folks. Timeliness is not always how I roll. So do tell. Any high points or low points for me?


nancypearlwannabe said...

My Thanksgiving was lovely, thank you for asking. There were no homemade skirts, but there was wine and friends and family!

3carnations said...

I made a skirt once. Unfortunately, I have letting my sewing skills lapse in such a fashion that there is probably no chance of THAT happening again.

Also? Your Thanksgiving SKIRT? How fancy. I wore my Thanksgiving jeans. :-)

Shelly said...

Could not sew a skirt if my life depended on it.

I think the scariest thing about your company is that they led everyone to believe that things were going well for most of the year, and now in DECEMBER are handing out pay out and lay-offs. That does not speak well for them at all.

I followed the link to the Thansgiving dinner from KFC and year-old pie and that is just WRONG. Glad that was not the case this year! The prosciutto-wrapped sweet potatoes look wonderful!

badger reader said...

I am so jealous of your skirt sewing! I have a machine, but currently possess a "straight lines only" skillset to go with it.
Sorry to hear about the spots on your truffles - have you tasted them? I doubt it is mold. Most likely there was just a temperature problem with the chocolate which makes the sugar (or fat? I can't remember) separate. They are usually still very tasty, though their unattractive state may make them non-gift worthy in your opinion. Glady your turkey day rocked. Mine was great - as one of the oldest "children" I got dibs on one of the turkey legs.

Jess said...

Have you tried calling the bank to ask them to refund some or all of the fees? I did that once when someone cashed a large check I had thought they'd already cashed, and the bank was nice about it. It's worth trying. I also got a credit card company to waive a late fee when I didn't realize I had a (tiny) balance on a card one month and therefore didn't pay it off on time.

I think talking about layoffs and pay cuts is fair game. You aren't talking about your actual work, or anyone you work with. You're talking about your personal financial situation. Not the same thing.

NGS said...

Let's talk about bitterness over TCF, shall we? As a graduate student at the University of Minnesota when they decided to donate a bunch of money to build an unnecessary new stadium, but not quite enough money to pay for the whole thing, I watched my student fees skyrocket over $200 a year for the sole purpose of a stadium I will never use. If TCF hadn't fronted the money, there would be no new unnecessary stadium, no new student fees, and I wouldn't loathe TCF with every ounce of my being. So. There's that.

lizgwiz said...

NSF fees are the biggest banking racket there is.

I haven't had to deal with it, though, since I stopped relying on an actual written check register (though I do scrupulously keep my check card receipts until they clear), and more or less stopped writing checks. Online, baby!

Heather said...

1. Those skirts are cute!

2. 10% pay cut? OUCH!! I'm so sorry.

3. Bacon-wrapped prosciutto, OMG. That dinner looks amazing!

4. I was dinged by my bank last week in overdraft charges. Long story, and it was my fault, but it all boils down to, "Hey, if my checking account has a $0 balance, could you maybe just, you know, DENY it when I try to use it instead of using it as an opportunity for a money grab?" Luckily, I got a nice guy on the phone who refunded me, so yay.

Scott said...

As a TCF user, I've had success in calling customer service and getting them to waive service related charges. Usually the front line customer service reps will try to stonewall you, but if you ask to speak to a manager you can usually make some progress.

Good luck.

Stefanie said...

NPW--Were there mashed potatoes and pumpkin cheesecake, too? I hope so, because I'm pretty sure those are key ingredients to an excellent Thanksgiving as well.

3Cs--Eh, I like skirts. If I had gone home, I would have felt silly in that outfit, but among friends in the city, wardrobe is pretty flexible. :-)

Shelly--That's the worst part from my perspective, too. And I keep thinking about the company trip to Mexico earlier this year. If we hadn't done that, I bet we'd all still have our full salary. :-(

Badger Reader--Yes, they still taste fine, and I think you're right that it's a temperature change thing (or possibly that I used a poor quality chocolate for the coating). I'm hoping I can salvage enough non-discolored ones and not make another batch.

Jess--I did call the bank, and they would refund only a third of it, which still leaves me with $187 in fees for what was, again, ONE mistake. What's particularly maddening is I don't understand the time line. The day I got the paper snail mail notice about the first NSF fee, I immediately transferred money from savings to remedy the problem (and cover the fee). Later that day, AFTER that transfer, they charged me two more NSF fees (for transactions that supposedly hadn't cleared the day before, but that didn't show up as problematic when I viewed my account online). That put my balance back below zero again (since I didn't transfer enough to cover another two fees!), which means they charged me a fee AGAIN! And the last of the fees was applied AFTER my paycheck was direct deposited, at which point there was more than enough money in there to cover ALL the damn fees. I'm sure from their perspective it's justifiable somehow, but it just seems ridiculous and unfair to me. Argh.

NGS--A friend of mine told me there was just an article about that in City Pages. I should dig it up and seethe some more. ;-)

Liz--I write checks only for bills and to reimburse people for things when I don't have the right cash on hand, and while I do manage my account online, I really don't understand how people can operate without keeping their own register as well. I'm just about the only person left who still does it that way, so it must be possible, but I still don't understand.

Heather--If they denied the charge, it would probably be worse, because the company you bounced the payment to would probably penalize you. What I would like is for them to at least send me a damn EMAIL, which I could receive instantly as soon as there's a problem, rather than sending me a letter via paper mail that I don't get until three days later! I talked to three customer service reps and still can't figure out how (or if) I can request that!

Scott--See my [ridiculously lengthy] comment back to Jess. I tried that, and she insisted she could refund only a third of it. So I'm still peeved. :-(

Aaron said...

Oh man, I was mentally logging so many comments as I was reading this post, and then I hit "prosciutto-wrapped sweet potatoes" and I lost them. I think I'm hungry.

Aaron said...

Oh, but rock on with the homemade skirts. Was one of them. Comments, I mean. Oh and: that's shite re: your job. Also, prosciutto-wrapped sweet potatoes. I should seriously go eat.

flurrious said...

So sorry to hear about your job. 10% is just not right.

I love the skirts! I often think I should start sewing (usually after a fruitless shopping trip), but I have a feeling I have no talent at it, and everything would be obviously homemade-looking and not in a good way.

And ... olives! (Or maybe grapes. But I'm going to ignore that possibility.) Yay for olives!

Sauntering Soul said...

My firm has given 10% pay cuts to the paralegals and the associates after laying off approximately 80 or 90 people. Luckily, I'm just a peon in the form of a legal assistant and we haven't gotten hit with pay cuts. Yet. I'm kind of waiting for that to happen though.

Glad you had a great turkey day! Mine was mixed - great food with lots of family drama thrown in.

Whiskeymarie said...

My Mother-in-law cooked, so your T-day spread looks WAY better than ours was. I did make the pies (pumpkin & sour cream apple), so that part was good, at least.

Layoffs and pay cuts suck hard. Lately I go semester to semester wondering how long I'll have a job- it's totally stressful. My Mr. had pay freezes at his job a while ago, and I anticipate further cuts eventually. Good times.

The chocolate is probably a temperature issue, either in how you melted the coating chocolate (don't skimp here- buy very good-quality. Also google "tempering chocolate"- it makes a huge difference how the chocolate is melted), or how you're storing them.

courtney said...

If I had not just drooled all over my keyboard at the sight of your prosciutto-wrapped sweet potatoes (BACON! and SWEET POTATO! In the SAME PlACE!) I would tell you that I love the green skirt, and that you are a rockin' seamstress. And that your bank can suck it.

Allie said...

Great skirts! I am super impressed!

So sorry to hear about the pay cut -that seriously sucks!

Mickey said...

Though apparently incomplete and/or not up to your expectations, your attempts at DIY gift-making are an inspiration. Or they would be, were I not so lazy.

But seriously- baking, knitting, skirt-making? What's next- barrel-making and blacksmithing?

Rock on.