Can Americans live on the current minimum wage?

I just read that a Republican candidate for the Senate in Iowa is opposed to any increase to the Federal Minimum Wage – thinking that states should handle the issue. Well… let’s look at the current minimum wage & what it buys in my neck of the woods. Oh – we’ll assume you can get a job at minimum wage – note: restaurant staff in Indiana aren’t paid minimum wage. A waiter in Indiana is paid $2.13/hour plus tips (which are usually shared with other staff.)

Minimum wage – $7.25 an hour – $15,080 year for 1 person working 40 hours a week. Deduct necessary taxes of $1.154 http://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R43409.pdf and you are left with $13,926 a year, which comes out to $1160 a month.

Like to eat? How much is that going to cost? http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/sites/default/files/CostofFoodAug2014.pdf

Thrifty plan for males aged 19-50 – $187.70 – low cost plan is $242
Thrifty plan for females aged 19-50 – $166.80 – low cost plan is $210

These figures are the lowest possible on the chart, follow the USDA guidelines for what a body needs, & expect that food will be prepared in the home. In other words – beans & rice & just the basics. This does NOT include toothpaste, toilet paper, shampoo, soap, etc. – just food. (oh – and the IRS figures allowable living expense of $315/mo for food for 1 person – but you won’t get there on minimum wage.)

Need a place to live? http://www.areavibes.com/bloomington-in/cost-of-living/ (Take into account that my town’s cost of living is 87% lower than the national average)

Lowest found listing for 1 bedroom apartment $431(and you have to have transportation of some kind to get anywhere from here – no grocery stores, etc. within walking distance & it’s kind of rough) (also – you have to come up with security deposit and usually 1st & last month’s rent – hope you have some savings!)
average of electric/gas/water for comparable apartment $178 (although that seems mighty low to me)
transportation – if you have a car figure gas costs, maintenance, insurance, parking, etc.
if you don’t have a car payment, maybe $150/month (spreading out costs like oil changes & repairs over the year & this is really low)
annual bus pass is $300 (but buses do not run 24 hours – more like 6 a.m. to midnight) http://bloomingtontransit.com/fares-and-passes/
renter’s insurance – State Farm says less than $1/day – so figure $30/month to be on the safe side. (not necessary – but you could change this to life insurance)
phone – cheapest plan – AT&T for $45 bucks (no frills, period) – It’s probably cheaper to have a phone you can load with minutes
cable/internet – we’re going with $74 http://thebillfold.com/2013/06/how-much-do-you-spend-on-cableinternet-each-month/

I’m up to $1095 here (using the food amount for a male) and haven’t even taken into account Medical Insurance, optical, dental, or anything even remotely like savings. And, yes – I realize that a phone and cable/internet are not necessities. But, take those out and add in clothing, toiletries, cleaning supplies – those are not included in the above grocery costs.

So – let’s take out that $119 for phone & cable internet and add in what the government (IRS) feels are reasonable amounts for housekeeping supplies, apparel, personal care products – $152/month for 1 person.

Medical care? Maybe…

Healthy Indiana Plan http://www.in.gov/fssa/hip/2445.htm (because Gov. Pence chose not to up Medicaid enrollment so the ACA isn’t available to low income Indiana families) – near as I can tell would cost this hypothetical person at least $25 month (it might be more.)

So – we are up to $1128 out of the $1160 a month that this person is bringing in. That means you have $32 a month to cover any deductibles on medical costs, any emergencies (car repairs that haven’t been saved for yet), additional food costs (in case you run out), raises of any of these costs (car insurance, phone, cable, etc.), medicines… you can probably come up with other possible emergency events on your own.

Your monthly disposable income (no phone or TV/internet) is $32 – which can disappear in a heartbeat with any kind of emergency.)

So – you say that a single person can do this? Sure – they can. It’s doable. It’s hard. It’s spartan. But, it can be done.

Now – let me ask you this… would YOU do it? Or are you already doing it?

If you tally up your monthly grocery bill – is it less than $189 month?
Do you have a pet? You wouldn’t if you lived in an apartment – and had to spend money on pet food, vaccinations, spay/neuter, medical emergencies, etc.
What about utilities? Are you willing to turn the thermostat down to 65 or less during a Polar Vortex? Can you do without A/C in the humid Midwest summers?

I’d challenge any member of the Senate or House of Representatives to live in these exact conditions for a year, or even a month. But, like in the song Common People by Pulp they know they have an out – it’s something done on a lark, or on a bet, or to “show” that it can be done – they can always yell “Uncle” and go home to their $174,000 a year job/lifestyle.

But, is this now the American Dream? Just to be able to live in your own place, and have enough food to eat, and medical assistance if you get sick or are hurt, and a bit of relief via maybe a pet, a TV, to be able to go to a movie once in a while – yeah… some dream, eh? What do you think? Are we living in an Oligarchy now? Is that what the United States of America is all about?

(Feel free to check my figures  - I added & subtracted a lot! – and note that all links are the most reliable figures I could find.)

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XVI Series Swag winners

Since there were only 4 commenters on the Sal or Chris question – I am happy to be able to send swag to all 4 people! YAY!

Please contact me so I can get that out to you! (I’ve emailed you all. :) )

Watch this space for more exciting news on Book III!

 

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Question to fans of XVI Series

Hi all!

I’m hard at work on Book III in the XVI Series.

And – yes – all your favorite characters are back! Nina, Dee, Wei, Sal, and Chris – and others – the girls of the Sisterhood, Mike and Derek, Martin & Percy, Miss Maldovar, the Jenkins’ family, etc.

Of course, there will be new characters, too. Some will be good, some will be evil – and some may not be so easily pigeon-holed.

I know some of you have strong feelings about who Nina should be with – Sal or Chris. If you are one of those people, I’d love to know who you champion and why! Please leave a comment with your thoughts!

Next Thursday I’ll randomly pick a commenter and send you a bit of XVI swag.

Back to writing!

 

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Radio interview

Recently I sat down and talked with Michael Glab (correspondent, blogger, author, bookseller, and friend) for WFHB radio’s Big Talk. We discussed writing, the XVI series (and a third book), and maybe mentioned cats. Hungry cats.

Michael (almost daily) sends out the informative, entertaining, and opinionated newsletter, The Electron Pencil, that I love. Be sure to click on the “follow” button on his blog and sign up to receive the Pencil via email.

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Rekindling the love of writing

I never thought it would happen to me. I was a writer. Right? I loved putting words on the page. I loved when they flowed out of my fingertips like I was taking dictation. I loved the thrill of a completed first draft, the digging in of revisions. And then. . .I didn’t.

It’s no secret that the business of publishing can be soul-sucking. Wide-eyed and naive, I was caught off-guard by the downs of the business. I retreated into my cave to lick my wounds and regroup.

Except, regrouping isn’t what happened. Instead, Writing Paralysis set in.

Writing Paralysis is ugly, left untreated it is chronic and eventually fatal. I felt lucky to get my usual morning journaling done. Every document I opened to work on seemed like an exercise in futility. Ideas were examined and tossed aside as worthless, trite, or too complex. Works in progress were deemed unworkable. And even worse, no new ideas bubbled forth from my dried-up creative fountain.

Even my wonderful fans (and I sincerely love you all!) asking about a third book in the XVI series weren’t enough to pull me out of the writing abyss in which I found myself.

But then… some things happened. Some planned and some serendipitous.

  1. I searched my soul and then recommitted to writing because I love to write.
  2. While attending a regional SCBWI workshop, I felt a slight fanning of the writing embers laying dormant inside me.
  3. I had my first critique of my WIP from my new critique group. Their thoughtful, pointed, and sometimes really funny comments were gratefully accepted.
  4. I tucked those ideas into my creative psyche and trusted that good results would rise to the surface and end up on the page.
  5. I began plotting out a home-grown course of study using information from my library of books on creative writing.
  6. Out of the proverbial blue, a friend offered me a scholarship to the Indiana University Writers’ Conference.

The first day of the IUWC, I felt a mental shift. I’ve never been to an academic-type conference–and for me the focus on writing and creativity (as opposed to writing & publishing) was profound. I found myself falling back in love with poetry (as a child I wanted to be a poet) and–most importantly–I fell back in love with Writing.

It may be cliched, but getting outside of my comfort zone and looking at writing from a different angle (perhaps an angle closer to how my child-self saw it) has made all the difference in my world. My dreams have become more bizarre & colorful. I wake in the middle of the night with a phrase or idea stuck in my head that needs to be written down before I can get back to sleep. And, I can’t wait to start writing when I get up in the morning. My characters are now alive – I think about them all the time. (Yay!)

The combination of all these things have rocked my writing self in the best of ways.

I truly believe that if you trust your dreams to the Universe, and then take baby steps in the direction of those dreams, paths will be shown, doors and windows will be flung open, and you’ll find that the journey is the fulfilling of your heart’s desire.

Happy writing! (Yes! Really Happy Writing!)

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TBT – Reduce/Reuse/Recycle – the way Gram d. . .

I was raised by my grandmother. That’s me (the baby), my big sister, & Gram on our front porch.

I learned a lot growing up with someone who survived the Great Depression. Things were not wasted in our house & common sense prevailed when it came to what was needed and what was a luxury. Sure – the occasional luxury was a welcome gift (usually on a birthday or Christmas), but day-to-day meant being practical and using one’s head & what one had on hand.

First off – something was only thrown out if it was ruined beyond repair or reuse. One example: t-shirts and worn out towels were cut up into rags. Larger pieces of fabric might be  torn into strips, sewn end-to-end, and rolled into balls to be crocheted or braided into rag rugs. (Some women used old nylons for this same purpose – but who wears nylon stockings anymore! :) ) Also, Gram was a fabulous seamstress & reworked hand-me-down clothes so that everything got it maximum usage!

Secondly – meals were planned with left-overs in mind. Not just reheating last night’s dinner, but making something new out of it. A beef roast became hash (when I was a meat eater I loved hash!), leftover chicken became Southern chicken hash (a chicken and rice casserole), the ham bone became ham & bean soup (love, love, loved it!), meatloaf was sandwiches the following day, even spaghetti & meatballs (& my Gram, who was Sicilian could make spaghetti sauce to die for!) ended up as a casserole the next day. I love casseroles to this day & find ways to make the old standards with veggies & meat substitutes!

Thirdly – When it came to laundry – Gram was an ace! And – she did not waste water! We had an old wringer washer & double rinse tubs. The clothes agitated in the washer, went through the ringer into rinse # 1, then through the wringer again to rinse #2, then into the laundry basket & out to the line. If it was a rainy day, or too cold in winter, they were hung in the basement.

Fourth – Empty jars were reused for storage, newspapers were saved for paper drives, paper bags from the grocery store were used as trash bags & burned along with the combustible trash in the incinerator. Milk cartons held food waste that was then put in the trash cans for pick up. Empty bottles were returned to the store for refunds. Meat was wrapped by the butcher – not prepackaged. Some jams & jellies came in glass jars that were meant to be juice glasses when they were empty. Not only was my grandmother savvy, but manufacturers were more conscious of what they were giving to the public (at least it seems that way!)

Fifth – We took care of what we had. Shoes were polished every Saturday. Socks were darned. Tears were repaired. Envelopes and other paper scraps were used for lists and notes. String was saved (surely many of you remember string balls?!) Rubber bands were saved. We washed our bikes on a regular basis. The sidewalk was swept every day. Dishes didn’t sit in the drainer. When you were done using something, you’d put it away.

There was no throw-away mentality in our house. If something didn’t have staying power – it wasn’t purchased. Often that meant saving up to buy an item that was a little more expensive, but better quality.

Just writing this shows me that there are some areas I’ve slacked on. . . and ways I want to re-incorporate into my life. It needn’t take another depression for people to start valuing the earth, our resources, and what we already have. A little more awareness & gratitude would go a long way, methinks!

 

 

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Giving some blog love to Kristen Lamb

I’m not an advocate of government interference in education. Our children deserve the best from their teachers, not the worst from teachers who are forced to cram little round mind pegs into square holes. Most teachers I am acquainted with are unhappy to the extreme with politicians meddling in what should be a time in a child’s life when they can explore, find their learning style, and be filled with awe & wonder at the world.

Kristen Lamb (an extraordinary woman by any standards!) penned a fabulous blog post today about this very thing. Thank you, Kristen! Please take the time to read it – it even has zombies! (vegan ones, no less!)

What is your take on the current mess of an education system we’re struggling with in the U.S.?

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Some thoughts on clutter & creativity.

On the surface, I am not the neatest person. Clutter seems to follow in my wake. Scenario –come in with the mail, set a magazine on the coffee table, meaning to look at it later. Bills go on the stairs to make their way to my office next time I go upstairs. I have every good intention of tossing the remaining circulars and junk mail in the recycle bin on the back porch – but then I get interrupted between here & there & the pile ends up on the dining room table. Sound familiar?

My office, kitchen, etc. (pics will NOT be provided!) can accumulate piles that grow like I’m fertilizing them! I’m sure you can imagine a messy house. Heck! You might have one yourself! Thank God I’m not a candidate for Hoarders!

You might be wondering what the heck my “messy” confession has to do with creativity. A lot, I believe. A whole lot!

Everyone has their quirks when it comes to creating. Some people need music, some don’t – some need icons or touchstones before their creative period – some like the bustle of a coffeehouse for writing – some need complete quiet – and all of these are subject to change at any time.

But, one given for me is. . .a cluttered space leaves me with a cluttered mind.

I cannot write if I can’t think straight, or if my brain is full of to-do lists (like taking care of all that clutter!)

A successful creative session (for me) consists of working in a clean, clear space where my imagination can take over. Ideas can spill onto desktops, swirl around in the sunlight, dance unimpeded on the floor boards, and eventually find their way into my work-in-progress. Without “clearity” – there is no “clarity” for me.

What about you? Can you create in a cluttered space? Or do you need the beauty of clean desks, floors, counters, and table tops? I’d love to know!

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J. S. Bach & novels

I was listening to a recording of Johann Sebastian Bach’s

violin concertos nos. 1&2 with Isaac Stern & Itzhak Perlman this morning.

Listen to a sample! Bach

Beautiful, right?

Complete? Even righter!

What struck me as I was listening to a particularly poignant section was how Bach made a complete “story” with his music. As the tension builds, the listener has to hear what’s coming next. They have to have the payoff. And, Bach doesn’t disappoint! All tension and emotional build-ups are satisfied.

Same in writing – the tension has to build. The reader must long to turn the page. And, the author must not disappoint.

Are you building tension in your scenes? Do you then provide a satisfying payoff for the reader’s sticking with you? It’s a challenge – but to be a master (as was Bach) – you have to do it!

And – even M.A.S.H. agreed that Bach was a master!

 

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A little blog hoppy-ness about writing process

A little blog-hopping on the day after Easter
Thanks to Shannon Alexander for getting me out of my rabbit hole & back onto the blog! First – a bit about Shannon!
Writing a bio makes Shannon Alexander cringe more than writing a synopsis, and believe her, she’s one big whiny baby about synopses. She’s a wife, mother of two, and furry dog owner. She’s also a former middle school language arts teacher, book addict, and late bloomer. She only just figured out what she wants to be when she grows up.  In 2009, Shannon lost a dear friend to ovarian cancer. Watching her brave her treatments and stay hopeful in the face of this stupid disease was life altering for her. Losing her was devastating. Shannon writes because her friend gave her the courage and hope to do so.  Shannon is represented by the wonderful Jessica Sinsheimer of the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency. Currently, Shannon is working with Heather Howland at Entangled Publishing to publish Shannon’s debut young adult novel to be released fall 2014, LOVE AND OTHER UNKNOWN VARIABLES.  Learn more at http://wanderthewords.blogspot.com.
Head over to Shannon’s to see how this blog hop got started!
There are four questions I am answering about my writing & processes. Here goes. . .
1. What am I working on right now?
        Well, it is something completely different for me. A fairy tale with a twist. Can’t talk too much about it, because that seems to scatter the writing magic when I do. . .
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
        Of course, everyone’s writing is different because we’re all coming from different backgrounds. That said – if you’ve ever been in a writing workshop or done writing exercises, it is fascinating to me to see that given the same writing prompt, everyone who’s participating has their own unique take on the subject. I love that!
3. Why do I write what I do?
        Since the thing I am working on now is so different. . . well, hold on a sec – maybe the biggest difference is that what I’ve published so far is dystopia and what I’m working on is fantasy/fairy tales. Because when I think of some of the themes running through both – they are similar – strong females, integrity, bucking the norm. I suppose then, the reason I write what I do, is because these things are important to me and I can’t escape them!
4. How does my writing process work?
        I generally start with a character who has popped into my head. Granted, many characters pop in, but only a few stick around! When one sticks around, I start listening & jotting down notes. Getting into the thick of the story requires (for me) writing every day. I try to stop in the middle of a thought, so when I come back the next day, I can more easily get into the flow of the story.
        Recently I’ve started outlining after I have general information about my characters(s) – that way I can get a broad idea of where the story is headed. The worst thing is to be tooling along in your story & then run out of steam because you don’t know where you’re going! It’s much better to be headed somewhere specific & then find a side road that takes you through better territory!
        So – that’s a little bit about my writing process. Thanks for stopping by & don’t forget to visit Shannon’s website!
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