Recession Mama











{August 28, 2009}   The Reinvention Continues…
–by Carla

As Heather embarks on her new, fabulash career as an interior designer and Katy gets ready to start working on her latest Hollywood hit TV show, I’m here in suburban Dallas, trying not to eff up dinner each night. And so, the reinvention of Carla the Career Radio News Anchor continues…

Yay, the stove's right behind me....mocking me...can you hear it?

Yay, the stove's right behind me....mocking me...can you hear it?

I have made a little headway in the kitchen, but not as much as I’d hoped by now. I mean, I was laid off 9 months ago. You’d think I’d have gotten the hang of being a SAHM (stay-at-home-mom) by now. But I was “baptized by fire” for this venture, so I try to cut myself a little slack every now and then. It’s not like I started out as a SAHM with my firstborn, then eased into baby #2. I woke up one day and was all of a sudden a SAHM of 2 baby boys…with zero experience.

This week, I did manage to cook a few dishes that didn’t end up crossed out on my “Can Cook This Again” list. I whipped up a chicken and rice casserole Sunday that was inspired by the one and only Campbell’s soup can. Yup, I got me some inspiration at the grocery store last week. I thought, “This looks pretty easy…even *I* can’t screw this one up”. And it was pretty ok. My next bit of inspiration came at the checkout line and one of those little books about “fun cooking for kids” or something. You know the ones…food that looks cute and fun and MAYbe, just maybe, your picky, doesn’t-want-to- ever-eat-anything-at-all, toddler will actually want to eat this stuff. So I then cooked up some chicken strips breaded in crushed corn chips and some other stuff. The breading didn’t even smell appealing to me, but whatever, if Toddler Boy eats it…then fine. I also made some Italian breading-coated chicken strips to go with the giant batch of pasta and sauce I’d made earlier (bc I’m up to HERE with chicken most days). If you’re following along (and I am not), that’s roughly 4 semi-successful meals in about 3 days. I also whipped up my always enjoyable Mexican Casserole which is a lot like what ya get at Chipotle…and even *I* can’t screw up that dish. I’ve made baby Dean several home-cooked meals in the Magic Bullet (bless you, PopPop and Granny for THAT Christmas gift)..and last night I cranked out perhaps the greatest banana bread I have ever cranked out. (For the record, baking does not freak me out like cooking does, for some weird reason)

Success!

…Not really. See, my palate is accustomed to a certain level of yum that my current culinary skills simply cannot deliver. That is a terrible feeling. Talk about champagne taste on a beer budget. It stinks when you’ve eaten at some of the tastiest places on earth, yet you are serving up stuff that a 3rd grader could cook.

It is nice, though, to cook things that my family will actually eat. My very favorite morning this week was when Donald ate my banana bread for breakfast and Dean had a few bites as well, along with his standard baby grub. My heart was huge with joy. Still is.

And lastly this week, in an attempt to save a little money …since I was accidentally poking the boys with my crazy, out of control nails…I hacked them off myself. A good old-fashioned “Recession Manicure”…

Wow, practical AND sexy

Wow, practical AND sexy

…and the tips of my fingers are STILL numb. TOO SHORT. Plus I sliced open the ring finger on my right hand the other day opening the knife drawer. In all, I had 1 bum thumb and 2 bum fingers on the same hand…all while trying to do all of this cooking …just this week. Not to mention the vacuuming, dusting, laundry, laundry, laundry, baby care (all of it), play dates, time-outs, and the who-knows-whats.

Most days I feel like all the other moms are doing a waaaay better job than me…and that I should be waaaay better in the kitchen that I am, that my house should be cleaner, that I should get out more often and host play dates more often and try to meet other moms more often and lose more of this baby weight …and so on, but I also know that I am doing the absolute best that I possibly can.

I also know that I am having the time of my life. A lot of people really don’t understand that, though. I mean, how can you be happy about having lost your nearly six figure income? Easy…

1624a

…I feel like pinching myself because I am living my dream. So what if my cooking stinks right now and money is tight. I’ll learn to cook. In fact, one of my awesome girlfriends …who is very awesome in the kitchen…is organizing cooking classes at her  home coming up soon. I can’t WAIT! (I’m sure I’m not alone on that one…)

…and yes, I do know that there are about 14 different fonts on here. My eyeballs are glazing over. I need a font czar.

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{June 12, 2009}   It’s Been HOW Long?

—by Carla

Six months ago today, I was laid off from my job as a Dallas radio news anchor.

I may have actually looked a little cuter and way more pissed when I was let go.

I may have actually looked a little cuter and way more pissed when I was let go.

No “Debbie Downer” drama here. Just a few thoughts about how my life has changed in that time. 

The new catchphrase these days seems to be “New Normal”. “What’s your new normal? How are you living your life now since the economy went south?” In fact, ABC News is hitting this theme pretty hard right now and Recession Mama has been talking “New Normal” since we got our cute, little feet off the ground. 

I can say with 100% certainty that being laid off was the absolute best thing that could have ever happened to me. I’m not saying that to snub my former employer or anyone else in the world, I really mean it. I had two smiling faces here at home who needed me. At the time of my layoff, my oldest son was 20 months old and the baby was just 5 weeks old. And although I had never wanted to be a working mom, I had resigned myself to the fact that it was the way it had to be. In fact, I had started writing a book about my experiences, entitled, “…But I Don’t WANT It All: Confessions of a Reluctant Career Woman Who JUST Wanted to be a Mom.”

Here, I describe the moment when everything changed three years ago…

“When I found out we were pregnant (with son #1), I was so SO happy and so nervous and so everything…just like any first-time mom-to-be. And I knew one thing for sure: I’d be quitting my job and stepping back from my career for a few years until the little one(s) went off to school, then I’d make my way back into the workforce. I had it all planned out in my head, how it would go down with the husband, when I told him about my plans. We were on a “babymoon” cruise…I was 3 months pregnant…we were in our stateroom, looking out the porthole when I started talking. I told him that since my contract was almost up, it would make sense to tell the bosses that I would not be coming back because I was going to stay home to raise my child. But things didn’t go as I had imagined in my head all this time. See, in my head, we’d embrace and he’d have tears in his eyes, and I’d wipe them away, and he’d tell me that he couldn’t be luckier than to be with a woman who was willing to give up her successful career…one she has worked so hard for…for so many years, to raise his child…and we’d embrace more, and cry together, then we’d hit the buffet. What ACTUALLY happened was much, much different.” 

I’ll stop there. Needless to say, I became a working mom.

(And for the record, I would never dream of passing judgement on working moms. Remember, I was one. These are my personal thoughts I’m sharing with you now.)

As much as I had tormented myself about going back to work with baby #1, I had completely reprogrammed my brain to BE that working mom with baby #2. Then the universe said, “Naaaaaah…change of plans again” on December 12, 2008.

In the last 6 months, I’ve gone from being a working mom (who was home at 11:30 every morning to spend the rest of the day with her baby boy) to being a stay-at-home mom with 2 kids. BAM…just like that. Talk about on the job training. I went from having a twice-a-month housekeeper…to doing it myself. I went from ordering out and bringing in food and eating out…to learning to cook (and I mean learning everything). No more buying whatever I wanted to buy because I could buy it (not that we racked up credit card debt..it was all cash, but that meant no savings). 

This transition has not been all about money, either. It’s been a deeper life lesson.

bitch-slap

I was basically bitch-slapped back into reality. And you know what? I have loved every minute of it. That is not to say I’ve been running around screaming, “Yippee, I was laid off! This doesn’t suck at all!” But there is something about this “new normal” that I have been able to accept rather easily. I am glad this happened. It has put everything back into perspective for me…and it feels great.

Happy Friday !



{April 22, 2009}   Old Dog, Meet New Trick

By Carla

dogdrawingage4When you’ve done the same thing over and over for nearly a dozen years, you get comfy. You get used to things being a certain way. You’re set. Or so you think.

Just like millions of other hard working, dedicated Americans, I am having to reprogram myself and learn new tricks…and you know what? I LOVE it!

I started at my previous place of employment (a radio station with a news/talk format in Dallas) when I was 24 years old. I started working part time hours and working any shift available. I was a nobody. For the next (almost) 12 years, I worked my way up the ladder doing everything there was to do on the news side of the operation. Learning new aspects of the business was thrilling to me. I loved being associate editor, even though it meant no one respected me because I was the new kid on the block. But I was learning and I loved it. I also loved street reporting because it was a huge challenge and it forced me to think on my feet at all times. I won several awards as a reporter, in fact. I then became editor of a drive-time news program and thrived in that position…winning awards in that capacity as well. And finally, having made it to the anchor chair in the 5th largest market in the U-S at the age of 29…well I felt that the dues I had paid all those years…had finally paid off for me. I anchored for the next six glorious years. (My dear friends who are good at math, there’s your bone) I was set. I had a contract. I was there to stay. Then the layoff four months ago.

I realized right away that I wasn’t trained to do anything other than news…and more specifically, radio news. Sure I could edit (produce) newscasts, I could report and I could anchor, but my business is hurting and no one is hiring right now. Then this wonderful opportunity came along. Be a back-up anchor at what used to be “the competition”, anchoring whenever they need someone to fill-in. It doesn’t pay much and I probably won’t be there very often, but it keeps my name out there and it keeps my brain from fizzling. Not to mention the fact that it’s a wonderful opportunity to work with some extraordinary people.

I went in for training this week. It was the first time in nearly 12 years that I had trained at any place other than my previous employer. I’m laughing at myself now, but here I was….a grown woman…married mother of two…nervously chugging my mocha and shaking and giggling in the car on the way to the new station. “What if I don’t understand their computer system?”, “What if I get lost?”, “Did I pick the right outfit?!” (I’m a girl…what do you expect) All of those questions and a million others were racing through my head on the drive in. After all, I hadn’t worked in SEVEN MONTHS. I couldn’t believe it myself, but it’s true. I went on maternity leave last September and was laid off while still on leave….so I haven’t actually worked in seven months. That’s a first for me. So having to go in for training was a very scary prospect for this old dog. I mean, I wasn’t supposed to be learning new tricks at this point in my career, right? I was supposed to be set…and moving up, up, up, right?

Naaaaah.

Training was exhilarating and I loved every minute of it. I’m serious. I loved it. I was “getting it”. It wasn’t as painful as I thought it would be.

Not only did it go far better than I expected, it was a huge boost to this mama’s self esteem. Not to be a Debbie Downer, but hey…it is a little tough on the feelings when you get laid off…and knowing that you’re “wanted” somewhere else, even in a fill-in capacity, well it just plain feels good. And those good feelings seemed to spill over into the rest of my day. This stinky economy needs more good feeling spillage, don’t you think? I’ve made up my mind, I’m hiring my housekeeper back so she can feel good again. KIDDING. It’s a joke. Those are free.  

I go back for more torture training today and a I’ll go back a few more times in the coming weeks to make sure I “get it” and am ready for when they do need me to come in and do the “real deal”.

Whew…! Just another challenge. I love those…but y’all know that.

Move over ego. There’s no room for you here. It’s a new day.



{April 13, 2009}   Recession Re-invention
The view from the roof of my loft

The view from the roof of my loft

Since Heather, Carla, and I launched this blog, officially, a week ago, I’ve gotten some questions and concerns about my work status. (Even my own mother has said she didn’t realize how many times I’ve been laid off and how incredibly depressing it is!) Well, let me assure everyone that I am working on a show, and I am not here to depress anyone. In fact, the opposite is true. I’m hoping to help and get help with living WELL in this recession.

I want to first explain that I have only been laid off (fo realz) once (the news job in D.C). But I’ve had to look for a new job about 11 times in the last five years. That’s because TV shows end. If I’m lucky, I’ll work on a show for an entire season or two because that show is doing well and has gotten picked up for an extra season . If I’m not lucky, or if I’m just working on a pilot, that show will end in a month or two. Believe it or not, even though I’ve had to look for work 11 times, I’ve only been out of work for only 3 or 4 months in the last five years.

Here’s what I’ve learned from constantly changing jobs:

  • I really enjoy it, and it’s not for everyone. I used to be commitment-phobic. Now, when other people (usually guys) say they’re commitment-phobic, they’re usually telling a girl that they’re not that into them. For me, from the ages of 22-30, I couldn’t commit to cities, jobs, OR boyfriends. During those eight years, I moved NINE times, lived in 8 different cities, and had maybe 8 boyfriends (well… I don’t know if I’d quite call them boyfriends but there I go again with not really committing to them). Well, you get the point. Being a freelance producer fits my personality to a tee. I am a super hard worker, but I do get bored easily. As a TV producer, I am never bored. I’m doing something different every single day. TV is perfect for the A.D.D. personality. And… since I am freelance, I always have the option of moving on to the next show. Now, Fiance, if you’re reading this… I am not commitment-phobic anymore. I have lived in Los Angeles for six years now, and I actually do want stability. That’s why I bought a loft a year ago. Having a mortgage is a BIG responsibility and makes me want to have more of a full-time job… but this is also why I’ve saved up a year’s worth of expenses and why I’m thinking of postponing the wedding. It’s also why I’ve paid off my credit card debts awhile ago, which takes me to the second thing I’ve learned…

  • You do need an emergency savings and not rely on credit cards. It’s too difficult to pay off those cards once you’re working again. And c’mon, when you’re working… don’t you want every penny to belong to you and not to some credit card company? The interest on those cards add up pretty quickly. If you charged a burger on a credit card and didn’t pay off that card for a year…you’ll end up paying something like $100 for that burger! Better be the BEST burger in the world, huh? (If you’re trying to get rid of c.c. debt, read my last post or check out Suze Orman’s site. She has a great system that helped me too.)

  • Network. It may seem like an easy thing to say, but since I’ve started working in entertainment, I have never gotten a job without being recommended by someone else. I’ve never just applied for a position and gotten it. I’ve landed a couple of interviews without knowing anyone, but eventually, they seem to just go with someone they know. And just in case you were wondering, networking goes both ways. If someone helps me, I’m more than likely to help them. I also love having mentors, and I love mentoring. But I don’t always know when someone needs a job so it’s important to put it out there. It’s really no shame to be out of work. Work is work. It shouldn’t be who you are. And if you think you’re not good at networking, take another look at how you network. It’s about establishing relationships, not perfecting small talk or winning a popularity contest. I like to network with good people whom I’d like to be friends with anyway, which makes it easy to ask if they want to go to lunch, have a drink, or send a resume to their boss.

  • Re-invention. This recession, for me, is all about re-invention. Madonna is the mother of re-invention, and it’s really the reason why she still sells out stadiums. With my first lay-off as a national radio news anchor, I had to figure out what I really wanted to do. Within the last five years and a dozen jobs later, I’ve had to learn and adapt to new technology and ways of thinking. I am learning all of the time, and reinventing ways of becoming a better, more efficient producer/writer. Now, I have also never understood people who complain about their jobs. I’ve always thought that if you really hated your job, you should quit. If you were laid off from a job you hated anyway, I think this is the perfect opportunity to find what you truly love and what you are truly meant to do with your life. It’s such a cliche by now that it’s always the most fulfilling to have a job that you would do for free…but it’s so true. Think of this lay-off as a blessing. If you have kids, you can now spend more time with them. If you’ve always wanted to be a stained-glass maker, you can learn how! I have a friend who went to massage school when she thought she was getting laid off because it’s something she’d always wanted to do. Several friends applied to law school, and another friend is starting her own business. Think about what you’ve always wanted to do. What do other people tell you you’re really good at? Write down your thoughts, dreams, fears, and goals. Put together a game plan, a business proposal, or just go for it. I’m trying it out, and I believe my dream and yours will all come true.



et cetera