When the lights went out…

McGregor Library, closed library facility in H...

Closed Library in Highland Park

Question? “Where were you when the lights went out?”

Answer: “In the dark.”

Yes, the joke was funny when you were 8 or 9, but not so funny for the folks in Highland Park, Michigan.

Unable to pay bill, Mich. city turns off lights

By Corey Williams,
November 3, 2011

HIGHLAND PARK, Mich.   – As the sun dips below the rooftops each evening, parts of the Detroit enclave of Highland Park turn to pitch black. The only illumination comes from a few streetlights at the end of the block or from glowing yellow yard globes.

It wasn’t always this way. But when the debt-ridden community could no longer afford its monthly electric bill, elected officials not only turned off 1,000 streetlights. They had them ripped out – bulbs, poles and all. Now nightfall cloaks most neighborhoods in inky darkness.

We had a great laugh at the expense of our friends and relatives back in the early 1980s as people left Michigan, headed for Texas. We left in droves, the joke we shared as we drove away…

“Would the last one to leave, please turn out the lights?”

This was something we could never have foreseen from an 80’s perspective. The people stayed but the lights died out. I just wonder how many families in that community sit in the dark as well? More and more Americans are finding it tougher and tougher to keep the heat and lights on.


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Working From Home…

A location at the Savi Ranch Center in Yorba L...

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With the economy in the toilet, inflation going strong and the poor job outlook — thank you, Obama —  many people are scrambling to make some “extra” money, so they can keep the lights on and food on the table. Many people have discovered that their home computer and printer will allow them to work from home to earn a few bucks.

Sure, it looks easy enough. Since we are already plugged into the World Wide Web, anyone can work from home. And yes, this is true — but — once you have drummed up enough work to make it a worthwhile endeavor, you soon realize the cost of working from home — on the body.

Sitting in an office chair —  or worse —  a kitchen chair for several hours every day puts a tremendous amount of strain on the back and  the neck for starters.

Ergonomics is a huge issue. At the very least you will need an adjustable height office chair, one that fits you well. I love shopping for office chairs at Office Max because, unlike Staples, they actually rate every single chair in their showroom in “hours.” I normally sit at least 8-hours a day but out of ignorance, I was buying chairs that were  rated for only 3-5 hours.

Did you know a chair will last longer and perform better if you switch it out frequently — just like your shoes? I’ve found that buying two pairs of shoes and swapping them out daily will make my shoes last not twice as long as you would suspect but actually for at least four times as long. (Barring any unforseen mishaps, of course.)

Having a comfortable chair, one that is rated for the amount of time you actually plan to sit in it, will make a big difference in your overall comfort level.

If you are starting out on a “shoestring” budget, don’t fret. Most areas have used furniture stores, flea markets, freecycle, etc… You can get a nice one  free if you ask around and let people know you are in the market. I found a perfectly good fully adjustable chair at a local junk dealer for $49 — the chair was originally sold for well over $300. This chair has held up for years, much better than the 9 new chairs I have bought at prices ranging from $49 to $299, plus warranty.

I don’t normally  purchase extended warranties but when purchasing a chair, or a printer, I always buy the extended warranty. We shop a great deal at Staples because we live in a rural area with few shopping options. Staples has a terrific extended warranty, if it breaks within the warranty period (usually between 1 and 3 years), they will replace it, no questions asked. They actually give you the full purchase price that can be used toward any item at the store. You can’t beat that. Rarely does an office chair or printer last longer than 3 years.

I’ve known many men and women who work from home over the years. The most common complaint from those who are new  at it is how hard it is  to sit for hours on end. The other most common complaint is eye strain from staring at a screen for the same period (or more!).

I’d like to offer up a few tips for those who are new to working from home and those who are struggling or considering a work-at-home career move.

Additional Work from home tips:

  • Invest in a telephone headset and use it. – I can’t believe how many people I speak to on the telephone, daily, who I am positive have neck problems. I can tell they are struggling to hold the phone against their ear, while trying to type at the same time. It simply doesn’t work. (Cost  $20.00+)
  • Take time for yourself. – Computers have gotten more complicated over the years. They add as much pleasure as they do frustration to our lives. I’ve put up a few bird feeders out back, where I can enjoy what I like to call a “mental health moment.” It’s a good idea to set up an area in your home (or outside your home) that makes you feel good and helps to calm you. It’s amazing how much a even a 10-minute break can help calm the nerves.
  • See your Chiropractor. – Regular chiropractic care helps to keep our spine in  alignment, helping our bodies to evenly distribute our weight and assist our organs in functioning properly. Chiropractic care is an inexpensive way to stay healthy. Our family goes weekly, but even monthly maintenance visits can provide a tremendous boost to your system and quality of life.
  • Do what you love. – This is probably the most important tip. Working at something you hate will take a physical and emotional toll on the body. Find something that you truly love and make it work for you. If you do what you love, people will love you for it.
  • Don’t make money your focus. – If you are only working for a paycheck, you aren’t a very happy person  (of course being able to pay the bills is nice, so don’t just up and quit). We all have money issues but try not to get distracted by them. It takes a lot of hard work and effort to make any business venture work. You must stay focused on the business, not on your growing stack of bills. Worrying won’t help a thing but diverting your attention from the work at hand could cripple your ability to function productively. Stay focused on working your business.
  • Keep a positive mindset. – One of the hardest things for me is to maintain a  positive attitude  during these rough economic times. I have  enlisted my  spouses help. I tend to be a chronic worrier, so when I ask him how we are doing, he always tells me, “we are doing fine,” and we always are. It helps to have his feedback and support. When things get tight, we pull together to fix the issue. Staying in a positive mindset is essential to work-at-home families. (Otherwise, it’s like living in a war zone — no good for anyone.)
  • Make space for work. – One of the most common reasons for for a work-at-home business to fail is neglecting to provide a distinct workspace. Not just a computer and desk to sit at when you’re working, but a dedicated space that won’t be infringed upon by personal bills, homework, meals, and entertainment. Dedicating even  just a few square feet of space to the business will help you focus while you’re working, which will help enable you to enjoy more time when you’re not working. This method prevents the business from consuming every aspect of your life.

You might take the stance that  “hey, you don’t have my bills,” or “you haven’t walked in my shoes.” But I can tell you honestly, I’ve been homeless more times in my life than I care to recall, so I won’t. I’ve pulled myself out of the depths of poverty many times — and often with help from unexpected places.

I’ve been through recessions, depressions — heck, I’m from Michigan.  The economy in Michigan hasn’t been good since the early 70’s. I remember in the early 80’s the most common  Michigan quote was, “Would the last person to leave, please turn out the lights.” This was during the mass exodus that took place in  80-84, when everyone in Michigan (or so it seemed) moved to Texas because of their huge construction boom.

My late husband and I moved to Houston in August of 1983, three days before hurricane Alicia hit the Galveston/Houston area. I was terrified. It’s one of the worst  storms I’ve ever experienced.

I guess I’ve gotten a little off track now but my point is that no matter the economy, those who are prepared and willing to work hard, will find a way to make it work.

Just remember to: Always use the right tool for the job

Employment Resources:


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Children in Prison

Commentary on ‘A Murder Before Homecoming’, which aired on American Justice this week.

A Murder Before Homecoming

A&E aired the story A Murder Before Homecoming on American Justice this week. The good ‘ole boys in Texas have got to be the meanest, most ignorant men alive. I’m certain District Attorney Tim Cole was congratulated all-around for his convictions in this case. Did any of these men’s mothers have children who lived?

I could never be accused of being a liberal or someone who’s soft on crime but one certainly has to seriously question the logic of putting children in prison for life. Children, yes, I’m calling them exactly what they are. I mean come on people.

American Justice made a big deal out of the victim’s age — "she was only 16-years-old" — was a phrase repeated often. It took over half-an-hour to locate the ages of the boys involved in the murder. Well it’s tragic that a girl so young could be viciously gunned down. It made me sick when I was finally able to verify my suspicions. Two of the boys, the ones who did not pull the trigger, they were both only 17-years-old. One-year older than the girl, who was out drinking and partying, in the middle of the night, without her parent’s permission!

Did she deserve to die for being irresponsible? No. Do the boys deserve life in prison for watching someone else shoot an innocent girl in cold blood, then dumping the body and keeping silent? Well let’s see…

  • By law, the boys must attend school, until they are 18-years-old.
  • By law, these boys can’t be treated medically, without their parent’s permission.
  • By law, the boys can’t buy or consume alcohol.
  • By law, they can’t smoke cigarettes.
  • By law, the boys can’t drive without a license and their parent’s permission.
  • By law, they can’t work without a work permit from their school.

It is a well-known fact that girls mature at a younger age than boys do. All their lives they have been treated like children. The law prevents children from making important decisions for themselves, some – like drinking – until they are 21-years-old.

Anyone who has ever had children can tell you how long it can take for some children to grow up. Most children – especially boys, don’t really begin to mature until they are around 30 years-old.

Back in the 1800s & early 1900s, children were getting married at the tender of age of 12 or 13. There is a reason the laws have been changed. These two boys should be housed in a youth facility and given intense counseling, to help them cope with what they have been through. I can’t begin to imagine just how much a life in prison will change these young people, and how impossible it will be for them to adjust to living in society, onces they are released from prison, to return to their communities at the age of 50, having never lived on the outside.

The lawmakers have decided to pick and choose when they believe a child becomes an adult. It is unfair to them to be held accountable for a terrible mistake, when they weren’t old enough to cope with the situation they were in. For most accounts the older boy probably belongs in prison, he still wasn’t old enough to drink but presumably he could vote and make most other decisions for himself. Randy and Josh should be given the help they need, not thrown away like yesterday’s garbage.

If you agree – especially if you live in Texas, call your legislator, write a letter, and express your outrage. I don’t know any of the parties involved, but I do know what it’s like to be young, to do something stupid and to be forced to live with the consequences of those actions.

Prison Statistics

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