Recession Mama











{September 4, 2009}   The Anti-Recession Mama

–by Carla

I’m not sure if was the alignment of the moon and the stars or of the tide and the Big Dipper or what, but this past week was about the best week I’ve had in a very long time. My husband and I celebrated 6 years of marriage on August 30th. (For the record, I normally leave “the husband” out of all of this because he thinks I’m a nutbag for writing about this stuff…or he just things I’m a nutbag in general…I’m not sure which) Anyway, six isn’t even that big of a deal, really. Well it IS, but it’s not 10 or 15, you know what I mean? I think the common gift for 6 is iron and candy or something random like that.

 six!

We each thought the other was going to forget the date, so we hid the cards that our relatives had sent to the house. How very dorky of us. But we didn’t forget. I’d saved up my pennies and bought him a gift certificate for a round of golf since he’s always saying how much he enjoys playing but never gets a chance. I also got him his favorite dark chocolate snacks. See? Iron and candy? But what he did for me was so above and beyond anything I had dreamed up, it really blew me away. He took me to Wolfgang Puck’s “Five Sixty”, high above downtown Dallas.

This tiny little cone (a signature WP dish, I'm told) cost as much as my shoes. This better be tasty!

This tiny little cone (a signature WP dish, I'm told) cost as much as my shoes. This better be tasty!

The swanky, revolving restaurant was so very much out of the norm for our new lifestyle that I was literally giddy with excitement the entire night. He forced me to forget about how much this was costing us, assuring me that he had worked a ton of hours at his part time job to make it happen. 

...see how happy he is about that?

...see how happy he is about that?

Just kidding, he actually seemed to be having a good time, honest…

"At least I don't have to eat Carla's cooking tonight..cheers!"

"At least I don't have to eat Carla's cooking tonight..cheers!"

To be back in this wonderfully familiar atmosphere for the night, and with our two baby boys safely asleep at home with grandma Nina making sure the house didn’t burn down, we could focus on each other for the first time in a very long time. No worries about money or bills and certainly no worries about tantrums or poopie diapers. See, the layoff was tough on our marriage, I won’t lie, and I’m sure the husband won’t mind me outing us like that. I mean, good grief, I’d just had a baby 5-weeks earlier, we had an older child…a 20-month-old at the time…and those things alone can put a lot of strain on a marriage. Not to mention the fact that news people and cops are pretty stressed out folks at times. But this one night almost seemed to erase all of that.

It’s certainly an anti-RM theme for me to talk about going out for a swanky, super expensive dinner (oh and he bought me a spa treatment at a phenomenal spa that I love), but I think I learned some sort of lesson from it all. 

Honestly, I don’t know exactly what that is, but I think it had to do with letting go, not being so uptight and stepping out of my financial comfort zone if even briefly….and just enjoying life.

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{August 14, 2009}   Oh Happy Weekend!

–by Carla

It’s been alooooong week. Toddler Boy is smack dab in the middle of the Terrible Two’s. I’m this close to throwing in the towel. You win, sweet boy. Watch as much TV as you wish, eat whatever (or how little) you want, sit in your dirty diaper all day and never nap again. You win. And now they BOTH have tiny, little, not-very-cute, matching colds.  

Anyhoooooooooooooooo, like I said, it’s been a long week.

It’s also been just over one week since the most shocking round of layoffs in Dallas/Fort Worth media I can personally recall, with Brad Barton and Mark Watkins being let go from CBS news/talk radio station KRLD 1080AM (from where I was let go back in December).

As you know from my previous posts, I’m close with Mark and Brad (I had the great honor to have anchored alongside both), and Brad and his family are close personal friends of mine and my family. In fact, we’re getting together tonight for coffee and dessert…our first real chance to sit down and talk since his layoff. Brad and Brenda were here at the house within a week of my layoff….something for which I am eternally grateful.

The upside of being laid off: You have heaps of time to get together with friends and family and reconnect with people. I’ve met more of my neighbors in the past 8 months than I had in the almost 6 years we’ve been here. And most of THEM have been laid off, too.

How crazy is that!?



–by Carla Marion

It’s been a few days now, but word continues to spread about Brad Barton’s shocking layoff from Dallas/Fort Worth News/Talk CBS radio station KRLD (1080AM).

brad

The longtime meteorologist/news anchor/morning news host is among the most trusted names in Dallas/Fort Worth media and his unceremonious termination is still sending shock waves across North Texas, as you can read in the comment section of the previous post. Brad and I have been in touch quite a bit these past few days. I worry about him and Brenda more than he knows and having just been through the “your position has been eliminated” axing myself, I can bet I know exactly what he’s going through right now. But he is a man of extraordinarily strong faith with a family equally as strong and those two things matter more to him than any job could have ever mattered.

Here, once again, Brad gives us an update on what life has been like the past few days, seeing all of the comments on not only this blog, but the various others in the area:

“Wow.  I feel like Jimmy Stewart at the end of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ “the richest man in town.” 
I can’t thank Carla enough for setting a match to this little firestorm as only she can.  I never realized I had so many friends and not just listeners, of course, with friends like Carla and Don, you don’t need many others. ;}
 
The public comments here and in the media blogs have been kind beyond measure and almost all positive.  One negative was a former radio announcer who liked “my predecessor” better.  My most recent predecessor (several years ago) was Mark Watkins who co-anchored mornings with none other than Carla Marion.  As a former radio announcer myself, I can say Mark’s combination of voice, script delivery and recall puts him among the elite talents in broadcasting.  If I were in charge of finding network talent for a new national network, Mark Watkins would be the first one I called.  Compare him to any of the current radio network anchors and he’s already in the top ten percent.  I’ve been Mark’s supervisor, trainer and co-worker but I’m happiest just to be his friend.  I hope we can get together next week.   If the former radio announcer was referring to “my predecessor” in the KRLD Weather Center, there was none.  I started it from scratch on a borrowed desk with an HP 386 in the “wire room” of KRLD.  Maybe I’ll write a book. 
 
And to hear from David Conner and remember his great family was an extraordinary treat.  I hope we can meet again soon.  I finally broke down and put up a Facebook page to keep from sponging off Carla, but I warn you, I’m just a neophyte.”

Keep those comments coming, I know it means the world to Brad and Brenda.



{July 3, 2009}   I Don’t Get These Guys…

—by Carla

 

The past week has been full of news about the death of a legend and also about the sentencing of a scam artist. But Michael Jackson and Bernie Madoff will go down in history for very different reasons. One was motivated by money and greed, the other (and I can only guess) by a deep desire to be loved and accepted.

Not many of us will ever be able to relate to either one, that’s pretty obvious. I don’t just mean MJ’s talent, either. I will never know what it must have felt like to get a check for $200,000 as a 12-year-old and being told I could spend it on whatever I wanted. But beyond that, I don’t know that I will ever understand how MJ ended up with anything less than a hundred gazillion dollars in the bank. We keep hearing over and over these past few days that he was nearly half a billion dollars in debt when he died. How in the world does that happen? Earning that much money over the course of your entire life must really do something to a person. I’m not sure what that is, but it does something. Because once you have it all, what else can you buy? There seems to have been a deep emptiness inside of Micheal Jackson that money could never fill.

Madoff, on the other hand, seems to have had no soul. Ripping people off solely for his own gain seemed perfectly fine to him. Just another day at the office. And for what? More stuff, I guess. A fancier car, a swankier pad, a yacht maybe. Who knows. But neither man had a happy ending.

As for me, I can’t say I’ve ever been that chick who was motivated by money. I do like nice things, but I’ve never been motivated by money. And that mindset may have helped me when I was laid off since I could see beyond the absent paycheck…and life wasn’t going to be so bad. Hopefully the nearly half a million people who lost their jobs just last month feel the same way.



{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 29, 2009}   …Are We There Yet?

–by Carla

pool-0011

I’m looking out the window right now and I’m actually really enjoying this rainy weather. Seriously. It’s probably a Texas thing. “Will it just rain or will a tornado come out of the sky and force me into my closet?” Always keepin’ you on your toes, Texas weather. Then a thought hit me. Well a few thoughts, really. First I thought, “Our backyard looks really beautiful”. Everything is green and things are starting to warm up out there which means pool season is just about here. My next thought was “Ok, I’m tired of the rain…bring on the sun”. Call it a short attention span, call it my totally undiagnosed ADD, but I am over this rain (which is supposed to stick around all week. Lovely). And with that short attention span…how can I possibly weather the financial storm we’re in right now? It’s been 4 and 1/2 months since I was laid off and my attitude about our new, trimmed down lifestyle is still pretty upbeat, but how long is that going to last? I actually worried about that today…because I’m a woman and we worry…it’s what we do…while doing everything else. So I started looking around for answers as to when the recession will end and more to the point, when I will be able to re-hire my housekeeper.  Well….

Hmmmm, that’s not so upbeat. But I can deal with that. Then news of the swine flu starts spreading like, well, swine flu and things just got a little worse:

D’oh!

All I need is a little information on when this is all going to wrap up. That way I can program my little brain like an alarm clock, suffer through get through the next few/several months as best as I can with a giant smile on my face…counting down the days to when I can call Suzanne up and say “So, can you make it on Thursday just like old times?” I keep putting off mopping the floor because in the back of my mind I’m thinking, “It’ll end soon. Don’t mop now, Suzanne will be here to help you any day now.” Pathetic. I know. Yet there’s the mop, mocking me 24 hours a day…

mop

This all feels a little familiar to me. I’m going to make a confession that will no doubt make me sound spoiled AND rotten. Here goes: This feels a little like being grounded. Remember that feeling? Mom and Dad wouldn’t let you watch TV for a week, or they’d snatch the car keys from you for 2 weeks. You made due for the time being…you stayed inside, didn’t go anywhere…maybe you read a few more books or thumbed through a few magazines…but you killed time. You told your little brain that “this will end…you’ll be getting the car back in 6 days, 20 hours and 7 minutes”…and it felt really good knowing that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Oh and you learned a lesson and stopped doing whatever it was that you were doing that got you grounded in the first place. Then one day ..BOOM…you got your keys back…hopped in the car and you were off like a prom dress.

And yes, I do realize that my current economic reality is directly linked to my actions of a spender versus a saver. I get it. I’m grounded. Thankfully, I can come and go as I please and don’t have to check in with Mom and Dad. But I’m starting to think that the recession isn’t going to end “just like that”….in the snap of a finger. I’m guessing that this new, trimmed down lifestyle will just become my actual lifestyle. That’s perfectly fine, too. I would just like to know which way to program the old brain here.

The great news is that there are ways to stay happy in tough economic times. We get it straight from a few happiness researchers.

And knowing that there are happiness researchers out there working hard to figure out how to make us happy at a time like this, well that right there just plain makes me happy. At least they’re not studying up on the bad habits of the ho-fish…



Hey mamas and papas it’s Heather B. We’ve all lost a job at one time or another so we know EXACTLY what it’s like to be in the weeds. My friend Liz is no different. She’s stuck in some serious bamboo and can’t find her way out. She’s a hardworking, fabulous gal! But so far employers haven’t noticed that yet (jerks) She’s lost out on another job. This is where we pick up her story (after the jump). Read the rest of this entry »



{April 17, 2009}   Save Green, Go Green

–By Carla

Let me make something perfectly clear: I am not a tree hugger.

not-a-tree-hugger

Ok so I did hug this ONE tree. Fine. But there was a perfectly good reason for it. It was a really beautiful day in downtown Dallas and my sweet Grandmother and I wanted to give this tree a great big hug, so we did. I mean seriously, look at that thing…it’s a monster. Gorgeous. Just to be clear here, actually wrapping your arms around a tree does not make one a radical “tree hugger”. I don’t go around keying Hummers and burning down new home developments like those crazed ding dongs. I’ve just always felt I had a duty to do my part, small as it may be, to not junk up my little patch of Earth.

Oh and happy Day!

My big brother and I were raised to “think green” even before being “green” was anything other than a queasy physical state. Best example: Mom made us bring our lunch bags home from school each day (do kids even use those anymore?)…and it really drove the nuns  at St. Pius crazy. After lunch in the school cafeteria, the nuns would go around to make sure we all threw our trash away properly but noooooooo, Carla had to neatly fold up her little brown bag and bring it back home. Drove the nuns insane. But that’s how Mom wanted it. And to this day I still cannot see Mom as an environmentalist. She’s not, I don’t think… I don’t really know what possessed her. But anyway, the seeds were planted years ago.

Using canvas bags at the grocery store is second nature for me these days. And because of  the loss of my income, I’m at the grocery store more than ever…picking out things that I actually cook now (and occasionally torch by mistake).

We used to buy packages of everything. If we wanted mashed potatoes, we picked up those plastic tubs of potatoes you stick in the microwave. (SO wrong on SO many levels, but that’s another story) If we wanted lemon or lime juice, we snagged those cute little plastic bottles of juice. Our orange juice came in gigantic plastic jugs. Soap Shower gel bottles clogged up our shower. We bought bagged lettuce and so on and so forth. We both worked crazy hours and figured this was the only way to go.  

Talk about change. Since my layoff…we do things quite differently when it comes to our groceries, mainly out of a need to save money. Then I started noticing the environmental impact of those changes. For instance,  if I’m going to whip up mashed potatoes, I now actually MASH potatoes. What a concept! That means no more plastic tub. We try to buy fewer of those shower gel products. A couple of bars of soap do just fine. That means no more plastic bottles. We now buy cans of frozen orange juice. Again, no more gigantic plastic bottles. And sure, most of those plastics CAN be recycled, but I think about it like this:  it took petroleum to make (some of) the plastics in the first place and it will take energy to recycle that jug or bottle into whatever it’s going to turn into. So we just skip it now, when possible.

Even though we are trying to save money, we do still buy quite a few organic products mainly for the boys, since they’re so little now. But you don’t have to buy EVERYthing organic…and that’s where you can cut corners.

As for beef and poultry, I actually buy raw beef and poultry now and (attempt to) cook it myself. Again, what a concept, right!? We used to buy meats that were prepared and packaged in their plastic tubs…the ones that you toss into the microwave. We’d also buy chicken that was pre-marinated. Now, mama’s doing all the marinating. I’m a marinating fool and I love it. I won’t lie, it was a HUGE adjustment for me to start cooking beef and chicken on my own. For the record, I honestly do not know one other girl my age who knows as little about cooking as me. No one. (I’m rollin’ out the bus…here we go) Up until just a few months ago, I, RecessionMama Carla, had a totally irrational fear of raw chicken. Just couldn’t bring myself to touch it. Not unless I was fully protected against our evil friends, Sal, Moe and Nella….

hazmat2

…but since buying a Hazmat suit was totally not in the trimmed down budget, I had to put on my big girl britches, ask Mom to step aside (yes, she was helping me cook chicken for a few weeks..I’ll admit it. Thanks Ma!) and just grope that chicken while trying to keep from fainting. But it got easier. Now I’m an old pro at it. I was tested recently however, when…covered in chicken juice…I discovered hundreds of millions of ants had invaded my pantry. The old me would have passed out, come to, then called 911, but RecessionMama stood firm, rinsed off, grabbed some ammo and opened a can on those pantry ants.  

Who knew that cutting corners would actually lead to 1) good things for our planet and 2) repeated examples of britch hitchin’.  

(Maybe I am a tree hugger after all…..)

–Carla



Most of our junk is neatly packed away. It makes us feel better like that. All I see, though, are dollar signs waiting to be cashed in.

Most of our junk is neatly packed away. It makes us feel better like that. All I see, though, are dollar signs waiting to be cashed in.

–By Carla

 

After 11 years as a broadcast journalist at a legendary station in my hometown of Dallas, Texas, I had nothing to show for it, financially speaking. Not a dime in the bank. Ok we had a few dimes, but nothing considerable. I was making very good money as a radio news anchor, as was (and is) the husband, but we spent it as fast as we made it. And then the layoff. Just like that. Game over. And talk about a bittersweet experience. The layoff came just 5 weeks after the birth of my second son. So here we were with an almost two-year-old and a 5 week old.

How would we pay for everything? How would we make it on the husband’s salary alone when all along we thought our lives depended on me working?  I knew that the financial aspect of this nightmare was going to be topic number one at home, above any other feelings related to the actual layoff.

I married a sheriff’s deputy with almost 30 years law enforcement experience. We view money differently. It’s not good or bad, just different. There was never any urgency to save money. He’d say he could work a part time job and earn enough money to pay for whatever it was we wanted. And we usually wanted stuff. I set aside my desire to stash a giant pile of money in the bank because the flow seemed so endless. Plus, we really liked all our stuff.

I have one of those cool back-up cameras in my new mommy SUV. My sweet, amazing, perfect baby boys look very stylish in it. I have a remote-controlled XM radio in there, too. Top of the line, my husband says. A flashy Christmas present. He also picked up the latest GPS thingy for me. I hate technology and have no need for this but he lives for new technology and really wanted me to have it. We live in a very pretty, new, three bedroom home with wood floors, a pool, jacuzzi and a 2 car garage. We can barely squeeze my SUV into that garage because of all the junk crammed in there. Stuff we’ll never use. Like the upside down hangy-thingy my husband bought. Turns out, humans don’t regularly hang upside down like bats for a reason. But it was just $100, so he figured he’d try it. We have one of those super easy coffee makers…just pop in the pod and you’re done (I do love it).  We also have a top-of-the-line grind and brew coffee maker and we have the latest commercial, industrial, juice-anything, up-to-and-quite-possibly-including-tree-bark, juicer. We have two refrigerators. Oh and we have three artificial Christmas trees. Three. (By the way, that looks even worse on paper than it sounds in my head!)

Yet more stuff crammed neatly into yet more boxes. And yes that's a fridge. Doesn't everyone have two?

Yet more stuff crammed neatly into yet more boxes. And yes that's a fridge. Doesn't everyone have two?

We used to shop and spend and eat out all the time. And a few times a week I’d be forced to transfer funds from savings into checking because I had just received one of those lovely “low balance” emails from the bank.

We had spent ourselves silly. And all the while, we thought that if we lost my income we would lose it all. Now it was becoming all too real. So far, however, we have managed to keep the house thanks to my unemployment check.

So for me, for now, this new life means I can’t just have whatever I want whenever I want it. That is a very humbling feeling. It means, for example, having to cook at home. I know, it sounds pathetic. I get it. But it’s true. We ate out a LOT. Plus the hubby isn’t home for dinner 4 nights out of the week. It also means having to clean my own home. Again, I know how pathetic this sounds. The housekeeper came only every other week, but my GOODNESS what a difference it makes not having her around. It also means the hubby has to mow the lawn. It means no more trips to stores to just kill time and shop for the sake of shopping because we couldn’t figure out how else to spend our time together. The list goes on and on…and I’m still adding things to it. And don’t even get me started on my trips to the salon. The horrific do-it-yourself stories are coming up…and maybe even some pics. Oh they’re bad, honey! But you’ve got to laugh at this stuff. I HAVE to laugh every time I torch something in the kitchen, or get frazzled with the housework, or accidentally color my hair orange. It’s funny stuff.

I’m learning that it is possible to live a different lifestyle, it just takes a whole lot of soul searching to get there. And do you know what? I actually like it. It’s just another challenge…and I’m up for a good challenge these days…what with all this free time on my hands and all. (Kidding. The free time thing. I have a 2-year-old and a baby. And now we have a sandbox. Lovely!)



{April 6, 2009}   Meet Carla

Picture 6

I was supposed to have my hair done at my fancy Dallas salon just before Christmas, 2008. In fact, my appointment was for 10:30 the morning of December 12, 2008. Cut, color, style, the whole mess. I would drop about $200 including tip that morning. But the universe had other plans for me that day. I was called into the office (a major radio chain) for a 10:00am meeting on the last day of my maternity leave with Dean, my 2nd son. My highlights would have to wait. My “position had been eliminated”. I had just been laid off. And just like that, in the snap of a finger, my life was sent spinning. Everything was up in the air. And since no one is exactly handing out radio news anchor jobs right now, for the first time in my life, I’ve joined the ranks of the unemployed, just like millions of other hard-working Americans.

I’m Carla Marion, wife and mom to 2 super cool baby boys. I’ve never had to budget or save money a day in my life. Until now, that is. And boy what a learning experience this has been so far! (Coupons, seriously…? And I have to cook my own meals now? Lovely)

I will, at times, be brutally honest about this new journey … but most times I try to laugh about it all. So join me on my penny pinching adventure as my family and I learn how to make do with the money we do have.



et cetera