Friday, April 8, 2011

J is for Justice

Lots to tell, you might want to get a snack….

I believe I’ve mentioned that I’ve been depressed lately. It was getting hard to breathe. I got a job and that eased up a bit but then it got as bad if not worse. I’d wake up and look at that desk and that chair and think about my job and how I talk to Xtards 40 hours a week and I’d think, “Is this my life for the rest of my life??” And after I take the kids to school, I’d go back to bed until I had to sign in to my computer for work at 2:30p. I’d stay in bed and sleep or watch movies and try to breathe.

I’ve had some bad times in my life. I’ve had some really Very Bad Things happen when I was a kid and I’ve had times that were just really difficult. Through the bad times, I always had a spark of optimism because I always knew it couldn’t last. I knew that something would change or I would change and it couldn’t be like that always. I think that’s the biggest difference between my brother and me. I don’t think when he was in the pitch black tunnel he ever realized that no matter what, eventually there would be light again when you came to the end of it. I think that’s why he had so much trouble with addiction all his life. He sees the here and now and needs an escape. I always waited for (or sought out) the light.

For the first time in my life, I had no hope. I couldn’t see an end to where we are now. No way out. I owe $50K to my in-laws for the business that failed and I sit at a desk in my bedroom and make $9 an hour. At 40, I find myself with no marketable skills. The massage market here is so flooded that even with my 10 years experience, I can’t get a job.

I looked around to see what was out there and thought seriously about going back to school. Dave kept telling me we can’t afford it and he’s absolutely right but I can’t sit around doing nothing either. Since the economy tanked my business and I have my current job now, I realize that making $9/an hour is never going to do anything to get us out of debt.

I have about $5K in credit card debt from trying to keep my business afloat and Dave has about $200K in debt from buying the landscaping business he has. His business is doing so-so. We make our bills and that’s it. With the economy, many people are choosing to take care of their own yards and there are tons of fly-by-night operations that will charge 1/3 of what we charge. (Doing front and back yard for $15?! There’s no way they are making money off that.)

If something doesn’t change, we will never be able to let the kids play sports or have music lessons or summer camp or a backyard in a real house.

I’m going back to school. Not real school. I signed up at the court reporting school in Denver. I know that may seem out of the blue but I have actually been interested in it since before I got out of the Army. I looked in to an at-home course right before I got out of the Army (waaaaaaay back in 1995-96, not everyone had computers and most online courses were scams) but using your GI Bill before you get out of the Army eats it up twice as fast as using it after.

When I got out of the Army I dicked around the Community College for two years, trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up (I know, I know, still waiting), then I started thinking about the court reporting again and I was also looking into massage school.

I flipped a coin.

Just kidding, I didn’t flip a coin. There was no court reporting school in Tucson and there was an excellent massage school, so…… touching strangers it was.

Back to the present….

I was looking into online court reporting courses and Denver Academy of Court Reporting came up. I called and got information. I started making small hints and comments in Dave’s direction. I had a webinar with the school. I had a long talk with Dave. I went to take a tour of the school and Dave came with me. (We thought it was going to be about a half hour tops but we ended up being there for 2 hours!!). I called the agencies that hire out the court reporters. I emailed a lawyer and a paralegal that I know with my questions. (My main question being, in this age of technology, is this even a viable thing anymore? Apparently, all around is a resounding yes, so that’s good news!)

Dave and I went back and forth with it. There was quite a few of frustrated arguments but, as usual, I got my way (at least that’s what he said). His biggest fear is about the cost of school. I know it’s another big debt to be adding but in the long run, I’ll be making much better money and hopefully I can get a job with some benefits. His other, entirely valid, concern is the commute. The school is on the other side of Denver and the commute is going to cost $15 a day just in gas money.

One of the biggest frustrations I had in our discussions was the fact that he kept saying, “It’s not going to be easy. You complain that you don’t get enough sleep as it is and with school, you’ll be getting less.” “It’s not going to be easy….this.” “It’s not going to be easy….that.”

Finally I yelled at him, “I’m not looking for EASY. Stop saying that!! I am looking for something I think I would be good at and that wouldn’t make me want to kill myself rather than go to work!”

Dave: How do you know you’ll like it? Everything you’ve ever done, you end up hating!! Massage, your recruiting business, Target, the job you have now.

Me: What are you talking about?!? I didn’t hate massage or the recruiting.

Dave: You always bitched about every job you’ve ever had. Me: So do you!! When have you EVER had a job you even remotely liked, Dave? At least I enjoyed the massage and the recruiting. People bitch about their jobs , even if they love them! That’s why it’s called “work” and not fucking “Disneyland”. I liked massage and the recruiting but it wasn’t viable out here and I have to find something else. As for Target and my current job, we needed money so I found a job. It’s not something I want to do for the rest of my life!

Dave: What should we tell my parents?

Me: [trying not to explode into red mist, I say quietly….deadly…]They are NOT in charge of our lives. We’ll tell them I’m going back to school.

Dave: Are we going to tell them we shut down your business?

Me: [yelling again, screaming it actually] YES!! I wanted to tell them a year ago when we did it. Every time we see them [at least twice a week, btw], I get all nauseous and nervous wondering if they are going to ask me about the business and what the hell am I going to say? I’ll remind them of when your brother got laid off and he had to go back to school to update his resume/learning/life and get another/better job. This is no different!

Dave: Fine. We’ll just be like America owing China. We’ll just keep on borrowing money until we are owned by China.

Me: The difference is that this is actually a step to stop having to borrow money and to have a better life.

The next day I dropped the kids at school and went to the in-laws place to talk with them. By myself. Without telling/asking Dave. I know he would’ve wanted to come with me but I felt that this was my failure so it was my responsibility to deal with this. Like a big stupid-head, I started crying the minute I walked in the door but I laid it all out. I told them we had to shut down my business because it was costing money without making any money. I told them we were still going to do our best to pay them back and Dave’s mom said, “No. We’re going to rip up the papers [we did a promissory note] and don’t worry about that.” I said that was ridiculous and we are going to pay it back, it was just going to take longer. I told them about going back to school and that it was a commute and expensive but that I didn’t see any other way to have a better life for all of us.

Anyway, we had a long talk and I apologized profusely for not being able to make the business fly and explained that with the economy tanking, it just wasn’t viable anymore.

They were very kind about it all and Dave’s mom’s only concern was that the children didn’t “suffer” because of it. The only change the boys will see is that they have to walk to and from school now. It kind of freaks the MIL out but they are almost 8 and 10 and it’s not that long a walk (part of it is by a major road though and that makes me nervous too but so far, they’re fine).

I’m enrolled and writing this during a break on my fourth day of school. Everything I’ve heard about this program, the key is practice until your fingers bleed. One can get through the program as fast as one can pick up the speeds. After first quarter, one should be able to write (they call it writing instead of typing) at 40 words per minute (WPM) and upon graduation, one should be at 225 WPM. Every day I come home, Dave asks, “Do you have it down yet?” He’s only half-joking. It’s a 2 year program but you can progress through the speeds and the fastest anyone’s finished is 18 months. That’s my goal. The program has a 75% drop-out rate. That’s not my goal. That’s not even an option. I really like it so far and I am already getting it down. Dave also likes to tease me about my lack of tact/poker face. He’s all, “You’ll either start crying if things are sad or you’ll stand up in court and point to the accused and yell ‘GUILTY’ .” Hah, hah.

So here’s my day now…..

I work from 2:30-11p and go to bed. In the morning I wake at 6:45a to make the commute to school, I get there at 8a and set up to practice; I have class from 8:30a-1:30p. I haul ass home to sign into my computer for work by 2:30p. That’s M-W, I have class on Thurs also but that’s one of my days off, so I’ll be staying after class to practice.

I figured out how I can practice while working but I need another outlet so I’ll be adding to the 10 octopi already under my work desk. I also figured out that I can work an extra 6 hours a week to make up the gas money. Dave’s all, “You are NOT going to want to work another 6 hours a week!” and I countered with, “Well, you don’t’ want to mow anymore but we can’t afford to hire the employees we had last year. We all have to make sacrifices, you more than any of us, Dave. I’ll be fine.”

Another sacrifice is my Sunday knitting group. We meet every Sunday morning for about 4 hours or so. We switch off, one week in HR, where I live, the next in Parker, where I used to live. I won’t be making the Parker ones anymore. The cost of gas alone, combined with my weekly commute gas bill…. I have to cut the Parker meets. Sucks but it will give me more time to practice or to jump on for a few extra hours at work.

There is another student making the same commute and I’ve approached her about car-pooling but she’s all skittish about it and while she’s said yes, I’m having a difficult time pinning her down to it. I don’t know if it’ll work anyway since I have to leave so fast after work. I’m afraid I’ll have to change my schedule from 2:30-11p to 3-11:30p which is going to be less sleep and suck more.

I’m adding a donation box to my blog. I know some people object to those but they don’t have to use it and it’s my blog so I’ll do as I please here, right? Hah! If you like what I write and you feel like you wanna.... it's on the bar of stuff on the left. If anyone wants to buy about $30K in debt (at 10%, $250 a month payments) let me know. (Riiiiiight.) Or if anyone has a tiny car that sips gas or a motorcycle (and a few lessons) that I can borrow for a couple of years, let me know (riiiiiiiight). I’m going to start doing some other things to up my Stitch Saver business and any other (legal) thing I can think of to add income to our little debt the size of China.

Somewhere in all that, I’ve got to schedule time to practice, practice, practice to get through the speeds (and therefore, school) as quickly as possible to get out in the work force. Oh yea, and see the boys a few minutes per day.

I’ll miss my little guys most, Ruth!


ccr in MA said...

It's a scary thing, life, but good for you for trying to climb upward. Good luck!

Kristyn said...

Best of luck to you.

Heide said...

Ruth, you made me cry. Not because I think you can't do it, but because I know from following you for several years just how hard you work and I hate to see someone killing themself to make things work and having things fall apart because of something beyond their control. Your conversations with your DH sound suspiciously like those I've had with mine (are you evesdropping?). Just today he printed out a job application for me so I could apply for a "better" job. I won't go into details, because this is about you. I will be sending you karmic "speed reporting" vibes each day in hopes that you blow that 18 month record out of the water. Heck, if you could brow beat unruly with clients at a strip club with nothing more than an stilhetto heel and a razor-sharp word, then this will be a piece of cake. Your boys (all three of them) are lucky to have you.

Yvette said...

Funny that I read this after just registering online for the next night course working toward a certificate that I hope will get me a job. My credit card is stretched! It's not like in our parent's day when you got a job and stayed there for life. Layoffs are the order of the day and companies leave you high and dry. It's true that no one wants middle aged women with no skills. I can't even get work in a store and I have a degree! But doing something is always better than doing nothing. We just have to keep trying. Best of luck to you.

Kathy S. said...

Hi Ruth! I'm a former court reporter, so I thought I'd give you my two cents worth. Practice is good. Putting pressure on yourself because you want to finish fast is not. Steno is going to become so embedded in your motor skills that you won't be able to forget it. I still steno license plates all the time. Try it! It's a good way to just work on random letter and number practice.) In fact, I couldn't tell you which keys on a computer keyboard are which, but I can still tell you which ones they are on a steno board.
That being said, that training of your subconcious motor skills will happen when it happens. Yes, practice practice, but the more you get anxious about finishing quickly, the less likely you are to reach your speed milestones. So just accept your body's progress.
I know nothing about the school in Denver, so this may not apply. I just know that, at least when I was in school, the private CR schools had a reputation for getting you almost there and then creating some reason why you needed to stay in school longer (meaning they get more money), so make sure you understand all the requirements and get them in writing. Make sure the fine print doesn't say they can change the requirements at any time, etc.
I left court reporting about 10 years ago. It is a stressful job -- going into a new environment every day, dealing with the pressure of getting every word down and with sometimes contentious lawyers (it's usually just an act, though.) Also, you're self-employed, and you know the stresses of that. Most people think you work in court, but you probably know a vast majority of the work is in depositions. So if you aren't sure of your business skills, now is the time to brush up. At least it's easier than having an inventory and cost of sales, etc.
I say it's stressful to be in a new environment every day, with unexpected events sometimes, but you sound like you like a challenge. As long as you're able to be professional and not be a "shrinking violet," you'll be okay. You learn to separate yourself from the stuff you're hearing.
I'll send you my e-mail via e-mail, in case you have any questions about all this. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Best of luck! It seems to me you are so determined that it is impossible for you to fail. Do you read Norma Knits? She is a former court reporter who now does CART, Computer Access Real-Time Translation, for hearing-impaired college and graduate school students. She also had a stint doing closed captioning at the BBC. She is a blogger who tells it like it is; although she doesn't talk a lot about court reporting any more, you can browse her archives. (Yeah, right, like during your *spare time*...)

I knew another person who was a court reporter; she had to give it up after 10-15 years because the position and physical strain caused her such back and neck pain. With your background in massage, I know you will recognize any early symptoms and deal with them.

You rock, Ruth!