Sunday, October 22, 2023

Sunday Stealing

Stolen from League of  Extraordinary PenPals

1. October reading & writing goals and plans: I don't have any such goals, which is a good thing since October has just a week to go and I'd be unlikely to hit them now.

2. Something I did that totally paid off: I sent a personal letter to a prospective employer (see post below).

3. I want to see this make a comeback: Cash. I feel so sorry for the server when I dine out with friends and everyone wants a separate check. That's why I bring cash (including singles) and wish my friends did the same.

4. Generational traits I really value: Having worked in a multi-generational workplace and (hopefully) doing so again, I know that attitudes toward the job are different. I'm generalizing, of course, but Boomers compete over who can do it faster so we can do more, while Millennials want to do an effective, efficient job so we can get outta here. I just interviewed for a job and prospective employer said her first requirement of me is that I "be kind." Trust me, that was never a Boomer top priority. For bosses of my generation, it would be: How well do you handle stress? How eager are you to take on more responsibility? I can see that both approaches have benefits, but I value the work-life balance and humanity Millennials espouse.

5. Changes I’d like to see in my daily environment: I'd like more structure to my days. When I first retired, taking impromptu afternoon naps felt delightful. Now they feel rather indulgent. I want to look back on my day and feel like I've accomplished more. (But alas, I am undisciplined.)

6. Favorite soup dishes: I like basic soups, like chicken noodle and clam chowder.

7. Start with the best part, or save the best for last: What are we talking about here? If it's a book or movie, I think the most effective structure is to have the climax near the end but not the very last. If it's a meal, I guess it's how you define the best part. I'm not sure dessert is always the best part.

8. The most chaotic part of my daily life: Breakfast with these two. No cats have ever been as hungry as they are in the morning.

9. If I could only eat 10 things, I’d pick: Thin crust pizza, cheeseburgers, breaded shrimp, oatmeal, yogurt, cinnamon applesauce, mashed potatoes, coffee cake, chocolate chip cookies, ham and cheese omelette.

10. What Autumn feels like where I live: Cool, crisp, happy

11. The teacher who would be most proud of me: Mrs. Rath. Junior high. She worried that I was pretending to have a smaller vocabulary and less knowledge of current affairs than I did so that I'd more easily fit in with the other girls. She was right, of course.

12. My go to Halloween snacks & treats: If Trick or Treaters come to the door, they're getting a fistful of individually wrapped Life Savers. If they don't, said Life Savers will go into my purse and jacket pockets.

13. 10 ways my life is great right now: I'm so proud (and relieved) Joe Biden is President right now, A Hard Day's Night is on TCM, my cats are healthy and happy, I likely have a part-time job, but I don't need a part-time job, my buddy John has evolved into a more sensitive friend, I've got a nice little road trip with Elaine this week to look forward to, I'm pretty healthy, it's sunny today, I think our new minister is going to work out just fine.

14. A perfect day indoors looks like… A long shower with good tunes on the shower radio, a good movie or ballgame on the telly, a chapter or two of a good book, time with a friend 

15. Pumpkin spice… is a welcome addition to my oatmeal.

Fortune favors the bold

That's former Cub manager Joe Maddon's philosophy. He believes in bunting, base-stealing, and letting opposing batters see his pitchers the third time through the order. He does these things precisely because other managers don't. He has nearly 1,400 career major league wins. And so this past week I decided to make him my role model.

I've been retired a year now. I've been living off the funds I set aside decades ago, just in case I found myself between jobs. That cushion was supposed to carry me for six months and it's stretched nicely. But it's almost gone.

I just made the first withdrawal from one of my retirement accounts. I know that's what the money is for and since it's only earning 3%, it's really not doing me a lot of good where it is. It makes good fiscal sense to withdraw these funds first. But they have been growing tax deferred and with this withdrawal, the government gets the cut they've been waiting for. Plus, I opened this particular account back in 1992. More than 30 years ago. The woman I was then never really thought I'd be the woman I am now. 

Touching this money has left me surprisingly anxious and emotional. To the point where I discussed it with my shrink. I mean, this is nuts. This is what the money is for! I probably have at least a decade of life ahead of me, perhaps more. If I freak out every time I make a withdrawal, I can look forward to a lot of out-freaking.

So what can I do? I can begin collecting Social Security. I began paying into it when I was 17. It's mine. That will go a long way. And there's something else I can do. I can get a job.

Why not? I'm healthier right now than I've been in years, and am certainly healthier than I will be when I'm 75. And it would give my days the structure they have been lacking. I over think everything, and if I had a job I'd have something to occupy me beyond worrying. 

There's a stationery store around the corner from my home. They sell cards, gift wrap, journals, and calendars. And candles, so it smells good in there. I think it's over-priced so I don't shop often there, but I do browse. It's never terribly busy. It reminds me of the card shop in the office complex where I used to work. When things got super stressful at my advertising job, I'd say, "Fuck this. I want to work in the Hallmark card shop." 

So when I saw a "Help Wanted" sign in the window of my local stationery store, I thought, "This is meant to be." I went to the web site and saw that it is part time for the holiday season. "No retail experience required." Which is good, since I worked in an office setting for 46 years. I filled out the online form, clicked "submit," and waited for them to call me.

No one called me. This hurt my feelings. I was very good at my chosen profession. I won awards working on high-profile campaigns for Fortune 50 companies. I'm used to being wanted. Now, all of a sudden, no one wants me? Ouch.

So I got thinking, WWJD. What would Joe do? Joe Maddon would think outside the box and do something bold ...

Maybe the manager of the stationery store never saw my application. After all, it went to the corporate website, headquartered in NYC. Maybe the corporate software buried me in the queue under applicants who have retail experience. 

So how do I get the manager of the local store to see me? I could just drop in, but how do I know the manager would be there when I happen to show up? What if the manager is busy? I wouldn't be exhibiting much respect for his/her time, would I?

So I did what I do best: I wrote a letter. I began with the sentence: I love your store. I explained that while I have no relevant work experience (zip, zilch, none) I do have something to offer. Over my career I've learned how to work as part of a team, I'm reliable, and I'm comfortable discussing good/services. 

I knew it would make me stand out because no one gets letters delivered by USPS anymore.

"I received your letter and I am enamored." That's what the store manager said on my voicemail. We had a phone interview on Friday and Saturday, I went on my first job interview since George W. Bush was in office.

She liked me! She said there are 65+ applicants in the queue but she hadn't even opened them because she isn't sure how many new people she will need. Because she is bringing back people who worked holiday last year,* she told me she can "only" give me 8 hours/week.

That's OK with me. Two four-hour shifts will be a good way to get my feet wet in the retail world. If I like it, then maybe I can continue, at this store or another.

The important thing for me isn't the paycheck anyway. The reality is, I'm working for the tax withholding. Taxes that I pay on these wages will help mitigate what I owe on my tax-deferred withdrawals and stretch my retirement funds further.

Corporate still has to approve me. My references still have to be checked. But Cecelia, the manager, did say, "You're hired." She told me my letter left her feeling "cartwheels on fireworks happy."

Lesson: Employers don't expect applicants to send personal letters, just like infielders don't expect a hitter to bunt. That's why I should do it. Thanks, Joe.

*I like that she's loyal to her team from last year.

Photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash