Saturday, September 11, 2010


This post was not scheduled to run on September 11th. I was very surprised to see it up this morning. It must have been some technical glitch; all indicators tell me it is to run 9/12/10 at 1AM. Maybe it was a cosmic thump. Regardless, I do not wish to diminish the profound significance of this date.

So I write this intro in response to the people who lost their lives and their families on this date. I believe that all the victims and their families of the tragedies want us to feel love and compassion on this day. I’m certain that if they could, those who lost their lives would tell us to love, to reconcile differences, seek commonalities and work for peace.

So on this day, please do something kind for a stranger. For in these times many of us need assurance that we are valued and people care. If you wish, please write what you chose to do in the comments. If you continually give to those in need, please share what you do in the comments.

This post is about hard times.

See that house? That’s Dorothy’s blowing into Oz.

Well, the Golighty’s happened to be in Oz that day engaging compassionate listening tactics with Wicked Witch of the East to figure what made her so red-eyed mean. Just when she was about to pounce on her personal, “Aha!” moment, that house, also called The Great Recession, landed on all of us.

Tis a shame. Oz was about to one up their population of good witches. The Witch of the East was going to mend her ways. Then a house landed on her. At least she died a better woman.

Two years later we’re still stuck under the darn thing. No matter which way we dig, we don’t see light. We are lucky we didn’t meet the same fate as Witch of the East.

Now I know for a fact, other houses sailed across the skies of Oz that day and every day since more continue to fall upon unsuspecting families. We are not the only ones stuck under the weight of this economic crisis. There are a couple, oh, million other people with us – all suffering on many levels.

What is carrying us through this crisis? Thrift before this mess and thrift during it.

Hope helps too, but some days that hope hides under the bed and doesn’t want to come out.

I try hard to fight off the encroaching bitterness when Congress hems and haws on critical things like COBRA assistance or unemployment benefit extensions. Send ANY legislator my way that says the paltry unemployment insurance makes people lazy and I’ll serve up a hearty “what for” to that person. What the Feds and the State seem to think a family of four can live on without aid is a joke. Maybe by 1950 standards.

I’d like to see a politician try and live like that. Maybe it could be like that reality show, “Undercover Boss”. I think we’re all laughing at the thought of the “Undercover Senator” waiting six hours for his/her number to be called so he/she can simply SUBMIT the one-inch-thick application for Food Stamp Assistance and go back to waiting the waiting to receive the appointment date to meet with a caseworker which could be two weeks out and will, require another number to be taken to wait to be called. Or how about waiting six months for a doctor’s appointment?

See, a few years back, we thought we were living right and smart.

We paid off our credit card bill each month.

We maxed out our 401(K) contributions.

We forwent cable TV. Not only do we have more active lives but also we are not subjected to the pounding of commercials designed to create Want.

We bought a home within well within our limits. I fired the first realtor. He kept thinking he could bump up the price by showing me a suite with a fiberglass monstrosity with seven jets that shot water into the bath. He even thought I’d drool over a three-car garage. How wrong he was.

We lived as a one-car family for the first seven years of our marriage. Had to buy the commuter car when Mr. Golightly took a job 20 miles north. We’re a mile south of downtown Denver and Mr. Golightly used take the light rail or jump the bus. He arrived at his office in 20 minutes, door to door, with no traffic worries or parking concerns. This was the first time Mr. Golightly used public transportation and he quickly grew to like it, a lot.

Not only is a car a heavy thing to carry around but it’s a heavy expense. Few realize it but a car can be likened to a child; it needs healthcare, life insurance, day care (parking fees), sustenance and some people even put a roof over its roof. That commuter car is being donated in about three weeks for we can no longer afford it’s insurance and it’s become a money pit. I’ll be glad to see it go and keep my sights on possible a job opening downtown so we don’t need another economic addition to our family. Maybe we can go back to the life we loved so many years ago. Maybe. Something’s gotta give.

Most of our vacations were spent resourcefully exploring our beautiful state of Colorado. With the exception of the northwest corner, we’ve been all over on old mining roads and have seen amazing sites with such beauty you gain every bit of confidence in a higher power, no matter what you wish to call it.

We felt we lived a rich life and paid little for it. We don't care what The Jone's are doing. They can have a plasma TV, I don't want it.

I come by the name Golightly honestly. My childhood can be labeled a wandering one. I went to many schools, had many addresses. So, possessions weighed few. This continued into my twenties when I moved every year, mostly to explore new neighborhoods. In Chicago I lived in Hyde Park, several locations in Lakeview and Old Town. In Boston, I lived in Allston and The Fenway. I never had a car and loved public transportation. The company I worked for in Boston subsidized my monthly T-Pass. I paid $11 a month for transportation. When I wanted to get out of town on the weekend, I rented a car for the price of one city parking ticket.

However, we have not always been so wise and things were not always so economically painful.

I confess when we married in 1995; I was a Mighty Consumer, as was Mr. Golightly.

And even worse, I was in Mighty Consumer in Denial. I shopped the sales. Shopping sales is great if you don’t focus on how much money you’re saving, thinking it means you can buy more. We’ve all heard it, it’s a well-marketed mantra for many, “Save more, spend more”. Sale used to be my favorite word. I laugh at it now.

Until I married Mr. Golightly, I’d forever lived in rented apartments and was not aware of a behavior home ownership and staying put can quietly engage. That’d be accruing Stuff because you have a place to chuck it, whether it’s a garage or a basement.

Stack having children on top of home ownership and, wow, do have we a situation for the collection of Stuff. Mounds of it either tossed with out care or neatly organized in plastic bins.

Wait. Let’s toss in one more factor to my collection of Stuff. Thrift shopping. Yup. When you’re a born again thrift shopper or a newbie, it’s easy to fall into a trap. The barrage of fantastic items for such fantastic prices is overwhelming. So happened to me about seven years ago and I remained in that condition for a year or two.

Without the seasoned wisdom of thrift, there is no awareness there will be more cashmere for $4.99 than imaginable flowing through the thrift store. The idea that you can be really picky about purchasing a cashmere sweater or Cole Hann shoes for $4.99 just doesn’t seem natural, so the born again/newbie often buys with a joyful abandon and unknowingly falls into a trap of Stuff.

Take all the new thrift back to the house and if it doesn’t make the closet, chuck it in the basement or garage. It’s worth $100 more than you paid for it, you can’t toss that!

Well, you can.

Fall is coming on and I’m about to swap out the closets and purge the clothes that no longer fit Little Pie and any clothes that just aren’t being worn. My overarching goal is to purge less each season, which would mean that I’m shopping wisely. Last April I posted, "The path to fashion enlightenment" about my spring purge. It felt great! I was basically ready for spring and summer with beautiful clothes I love and had no need for more. My seasonal donations to the thrift store are shrinking. Our clothes closets are efficient, tidy and the clothes are all worn, not left hanging unused for months or in some people’s cases, years. Below is a recent photo of Little Pie and I in Georgetown, CO in fall attire pulled early from the bins under our beds. The total cost of BOTH our ensembles is $30 - not including panties and socks. I've a good feeling my family won't be wanting clothes for fall or winter and this is a very good thing.

Now, I confess there’s been a sleeping demon in my life. It recently awoken and reared its ugly head.

After receiving another bill in the mail that I’m borrowing money to pay, I think I might of hit some sort of rock bottom or maybe I short circuited. We need money. In a state of total frustration and a need to be cleansed, I emptied the kitchen cabinets not of food but of implements.

I confess that there are items in my kitchen that haven’t seen the light of day in over 10 years. How could that be? What else is in my house that has been of no use? Served no purpose?

I feel a fraud. I feel I’ve been dishonest. I feel angry that I’d fallen prey to accruing this Stuff. Or I feel sad that people spent their hard-earned money on gifts they felt obligated to give for a birthday or holiday, and it sat unused. How I wish I had that money that was wasted in my fist right now. But simply put, that ain’t gonna happen.

So I donated more items to the thrift stores. I feel an obligation to donate to maintain the healthy cycle of reuse. You know, the give when you take concept? Hmm. I think many Americans need a lesson in that simple concept. We cannot take and take and take and take and expect there to be something left. Duh! No matter how it’s done, we ALL have something we can give. Problem is we seem to be running short on those people these days. Why is that?

I’d been so focused on the bedrooms; I had forgotten a whole first floor and a whole basement. Yeah, the books are prominent. But, they’re used and every Golightly values them. Oh yeah, there’s a garage in the alley too. Well, the garage isn’t too much of a mess considering it holds our camping gear in bins, ready to roll for an impromptu get-a-way. Mr. Golightly’s workshop is there too. It’s a mess. That’s because we’ve not put the items we’ve been using for projects back in their proper place. We’re using the items in the garage. That makes me feel a little better.

Mr. Golightly and I’ve been talking about this inventory of Stuff and we’re thinking, due to our economic situation, we need to break with Golightly tradition for just one day. We’re still talking. I’ll fill you in with our conclusion.

Oh, it’s also a little known fact The Wicked Witch of the West has a big beef with me. She knew about her sister’s intention to mend her ways. It’s been cropped out of this photo, but there was a PS to this message in the sky reading, “You too Golightly!” In the words of my family’s matriarch, I answer back, “Like Hell I will!” I’m carrying my bucket of water with me wherever I go and I am not afraid to use it.


Anonymous said...

So sorry your family is going through this. My husband lost his job at 57, but was able to land another (we had to move!) and are starting over... but we feel blessed he found one at his age. Oh, and we have STUFF! We are donating alot to SVDP as we unpack..Please don't get discouraged as you are a true inspiration to so many , and so very talented. Brighter days are ahead....

Shopping Golightly said...

Thank you for those words of encouragement. I'm sorry to learn of your situation but are glad that you've found employment.

There is a part of me that has been purging thanks to the fight or flight reaction. If we must leave, best to go lightly.

Anonymous said...

Over the last few years I've developed a growing sideline of writing resumes. "Sideline" isn't really the best word for it because I don't take money. I do it as a community service for people I or my friends and colleagues know. I used to volunteer for charity causes contributing my money, time, talents, etc. but have opted for resume writing as a truly direct way of helping others. It's a one-person-at-a time effort and it's certainly not going to change the world. Still, it's helped a good number of people get back on their feet, change careers, etc. Long term I think these efforts will have been one of the small, but key things that will have helped some of these families weather the bad times,stay together, and secure their futures. A number of my friends have gotten involved and are sending people my way who need the help I can provide. And together we're linking our networks to open doors for leads, interviews, and job opportunities. All we ask is that the people we work with 'move it forward' by turning around to help someone else. While not everyone will want to help with a resume or cover letter, EVERYONE has a network. (Remember the Kevin Bacon game?) If you need a job, don't overlook anyone who might be able to connect you with someone who can help in some way. And if you know anyone looking for a job, DON'T be shy about extending yourself to lend a hand. The smallest effort can make a huge difference.

Shopping Golightly said...


What a great contribution you are making! Think of how many lives you have helped. How much self-esteem you have contributed to this world.

I salute your resume writing efforts! No doubt THAT is something many need help with in such times.

Anonymous said...

I hear you sister Amy. Great article and very inspirational. Chantal and I are dipping our toes back into the reuse arena. In the past, we would troll the furniture stores looking for just the right piece only to be disappointed. We were young and found pleasure in going to the local reuse. Chantal and I would bring home items. And with her crafty eye and artistic skills (much like yours) she would refurbish a lovely piece for our house. I think we still have some pieces sitting around that date back 20 years. So we are right there with you. My challenge today is to just de-clutter. I hate having a lot of stuff around that we are not using. So, next week, I will be packing up the family wagon for at least 2 or 3 trips down to the local reuse warehouse. Thanks for the article. And hang in there.

All the best – Eric

Anonymous said...

(Anonymous #2) One of the interesting things that didn't fully come across in my previous post is that a TEAM is evolving. I'm the writer, but others serve as reviewers on the resumes and cover letters. And we're all keeping our ears to the ground (and asking others to do the same) for potential opportunities. Most importantly, we've gotten bolder about making THE ASK for others. Sometimes we simply connect our candidate with the contact. After this informational interview he/she is able to take the contact's name and parlay it into an intro for another informational interview, and so on. With this post we hope to encourage others to see if they, their significant others, friends, and colleagues can coordinate to lend a hand to job seekers they may know or even know of second hand. No meetings are involved. No award dinners will eat up your schedules, patience, or pocketbooks. Yet you can have powerful, far-reaching results that will make a difference in your communities with what amounts to very little effort. Members of my team have had to re-invent themselves again and again in their careers. We've been fired, downsized, folded, spindled, and mutilated. If you and yours have been more fortunate--good for you. But remember, 'there but for the grace of God go I.'

Jill said...

I am fortunate enough to have had my lay off notice from my local school district rescinded, but in many ways I feel that this is a year of grace. I saw something yesterday that made me think - I went to one of our local Goodwills to get some pants for work, and the parking lot was packed. I drove around until someone came out and I was able to snag a spot. On my way home I went past a local mall, with many empty spaces in the parking lot. Many are learning the value of thrift right now, and hopefully those lessons will stick during better times.

geogrrl said...

I'm sorry to hear that things have become difficult for you and your family. I hope that you find the job/income you need to help you keep going.

Sometimes you can do everything right and circumstances still turn your life upside down.

It stinks when that happens. But sometimes, looking back, you find life was giving you a kick in the butt. Forcing you to change things in your life for some as-yet-unknown reason. At least, that's been my experience.

Melody said...

I too am sorry to hear of your troubles. But, as you know you are not alone. Many including myself have struggled right along with you. I too have stopped visiting the local Goodwill so much and have held a few yard sales to implement the lack of funds in my home. Cleaning up and cleaning out is my mantra during this time. I have always been a coupon clipper/ thrift store shopper/ pretty much a minimalist so I have been sharing this knowledge with others. Recently I took 2 unemployed friends to the grocery store and helped them get so many free/greatly reduced price groceries they were astounded. So that is but one way recently I have been helping give back. I also scored 20 free boxes of crackers, 20 boxes of free cookies, and multiple boxes of cereal at Giant food stores and we dontated those to the Food Bank locally. Things will get better, and in everything in life the good and bad I have found such valuable lessons in them both.

Melody said...

I too am sorry to hear of your troubles. But, as you know you are not alone. Many including myself have struggled right along with you. I too have stopped visiting the local Goodwill so much and have held a few yard sales to implement the lack of funds in my home. Cleaning up and cleaning out is my mantra during this time. I have always been a coupon clipper/ thrift store shopper/ pretty much a minimalist so I have been sharing this knowledge with others. Recently I took 2 unemployed friends to the grocery store and helped them get so many free/greatly reduced price groceries they were astounded. So that is but one way recently I have been helping give back. I also scored 20 free boxes of crackers, 20 boxes of free cookies, and multiple boxes of cereal at Giant food stores and we dontated those to the Food Bank locally. Things will get better, and in everything in life the good and bad I have found such valuable lessons in them both.

Anonymous said...

Try not to regret too much - compared to others in our culture, your STUFF is probably not as bad as your panic makes them seem. My husband, age 57, was out of work 15 months and now has a job at 1/3 of that old salary. Still we feel so fortunate - all credit cards had been paid off, no car payment so we only had the mortgage so we just made it. We could never have managed without our history of living frugally. I love your blog - your family will make it too!

Theresa said...

I am sorry to hear that you are going through difficult times. I am in Canada, where the economic downturn has not been nearly as bad as in the U.S, that being said I just finished reading an article that said 59% of Canadians are living paycheck to paycheck. Although we save for retirement and have pensions, we are in that 59%. My husband works at a Honda plant, which stopped COL increases when the bottom fell out. Thankfully my husband has been there 21 years, and the industry is rebounding(though one wonders for how long?)

I think it can only get worse. I see children being raised with such attitudes of entitlement. This cannot be sustained. I am doing my best to teach my children to be content. It is only through God that I can find any sense of hope or contentment. And, I need only turn on the news and see that most of the world lives in abject poverty, and then I know I have MUCH to be thankful for.

You are very much an inspiration, and I hope that things turn around soon for your family.

Anonymous said...

Following on Ms. Theresa's comment on contentment...I agree, we can't buy it no more than we can buy self-esteem. Still, I detect a confidence in many of these comments based on an almost spiritual trust that those of us mired in current economic woes will be the better for it and that eventually things will turn around. While I appreciate that adopting a Zen-like way of getting perspective on things is valuable, the passivity of it also strikes me as a tad short-sighted. Sure, turning off the "Buy Buy Buy!" messages and getting back to basics, etc. certainly does help one manage household resources. But is it going to help you or yours navigate the vagaries of the marketplace? This blog is mostly about the former, which is one of the things I enjoy most about it. But it's author is telling us that there's a point at which even if you've done all the right things, the economy can dismantle everything you've built. We all need to pay attention.

geogrrl said...

I don't know about the others, but I'm not recommending "adopting a zen attitude".

What I was saying was:

1. You can do everything right and circumstances turn your life upside down. That's life. It's happened to many before us, it will happen to many after us.

2. Speaking from my own experience, events like this in my life were an impetus to make a much needed change in my life. It seemed like a tragedy at the time.

In short, I don't recommend that one sit on one's arse and wait for good things to come. One proverb I've always liked is "A man has to stand on a hillside a long time with his mouth open before a roast duck flies in." Yes, good things can happen, but they need energy and input from us.

My other favourite proverb is, "When prosperity comes, do not use all of it."

Shopping Golightly said...


I believe there is some mis-communication. I believe what anon was noting that, even embracing a zen-like, simple, frugal lifestyle does not even save one in a crisis as such. This crisis was largely created by a few people who simply wanted to make a lot of money and they were allowed to do this. As a result, the market crashed.

Now if we were experiencing some kind of natural disaster I could understand how maxing out your 401(k) donations or forgoing a second car and buying a home within your means would NOT matter.

But, alas millions are suffering left from the destruction of a few people who had greed at their core.

In no way do I believe a zen attitude translates to just sitting on the arse. I think it means to have little possessions and have a deeper meaning and value in life itself, to defer from mass consumerism.

When will corporate America learn that screwing over the middle class by taking jobs over seas, demanding we use our credit cards like it's money in the bank, lay off thousands of people while execs still pull bonuses and DON'T take salary cuts for their poor decisions is simply not sustainable?

Tis a sad thing that the middle class is diminishing and the working poor are not moving up any ladders but merely working more hours.

If you do everything right, and things still turn you over. One needs to reflect on two major points, 1) How to get out of the hole. 2) If you were playing by the rules, why were you cast out? Is there something wrong with the game? Is someone cheating?

In this case, Wall Street cheated and Americans paid.

Anonymous said...

Mrs. Golightly,
Your compassion and insight always touches me. I feel for you - we have been in your situation. We still have not gone back to where we used to be, financially speaking. It is discouraging to watch others around us go merrily through life with excellent health care benefits, vacations, money to spend on entertainment, etc. while we work just to get by. Not to be nosy, but perhaps you'd consider selling the comuter car rather than donate it? Maybe you'll get a better tax break by donating. Hang in there.

Mr. Golightly said...

Mr. Golightly here. I rarely comment, and feel privileged to contribute to this conversation.

I am pleased to see so much spirited discussion and honest sharing on this post. And I appreciate the good wishes bestowed upon our family. Thank you.

Yes, we played by the rules, not just by deed, but in spirit. We lost - big time. We can't look back, only forward, but I have one thing to say about trickle-down greed, and another to say about consumerism.

Our "system" allowed some pretty shady things to happen. Think of a room of 5 people (I'll use men). The first guy has a blank sheet of paper. He draws a tic-tac-toe board (octothorpe) upon it, and sells it to the next guy, claiming his actions are a value-add - all at hefty profit. The next guy adds an "x", and so on, passing it along until someone is stuck with a completed game, which has no more value than it did at the beginning (arguably it didn't have any real value at any point along the way). It wasn't worth the value of the paper it was written on.

In this game, all that was done ise pushing paper, with no real work achieved. And in this particular game, lying is allowed, and goes unchecked, so the game isn't above board. In the end, someone got stuck with a lousy worthless piece of paper they weren't weren't even accountable for - we were, and now we have The Great Recession. Oversight is not a four letter word. If the EPA's oversight could clean up Lake Erie, regulation of clear "investment" misrepresentation is more than worth a shot. Just ask 90% of us, especially the 18% of us that are either unemployed or underemployed.

And now, we're expected to "patriotically" bail out our own system by engaging in consumerism! Hogwash. It's not happening, because people are now becoming more aware of their prior excesses.

There is nothing wrong with capitalism per se, it's how innovation and competition help us get better goods and services. Honest incentives are good for our system. But there is something vastly wrong with consumerism, the culture of pervasive excess. I'm glad my lovely bride Shopping is championing the cause against harmful excess.

Things may finally be looking up for the Golighty's, but my pride prevents me from mentioning how long we've been, how shall we say "less than fully gainful".

I don't view this time as necessarily humbling or anger-filled, rather I feel weary and choose to concentrate on re-tapping into our potential.

As for our 2nd car (Shopping is indeed correct that half of our 15 years of marriage featured 1-car-ness), it's a 1991 with almost no book value, and the pain and expense of fixing and selling it is not a good use of our time.

By donating it to public radio, it will definitely be repurposed, and the tax advantages will almost assuredly outweigh selling it. That might make a difference should we have made enough to actually pay taxes this year. We won't owe any taxes - we made too little.

Thank you for reading my comment.
Sincerely, Mr. Golightly

Shopping Golightly said...

Thank you Mr. Golightly.

It should be noted that Mr. Golightly cut my hair for the photo and Little Pie pulled the strands of hair from the cap for the highlights. The family that thrifts together plays salon together.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2. Yet again.
GoLightlys: Thank You! There was mis-communication. And, I guess, I do have an agenda. I am sharing a strategy that any pedestrian and his/her friends can use to really help people in this stinko economy. Owing to the team efforts I described, three people have won jobs in the last six weeks. Two of the jobs were professional ones (both individuals hadn't had full-time employment for 2.5 years) and one was for a 75-year old who needed an additional part-time gig to pay off credit card bills. None of these were easy fixes ... Personal skills and networks were tapped into in each case to give these people the extra boost they needed to get noticed and get hired. Wishing for the best didn't do it; editing, coaching, and phone calls did. Of course, employment isn't always the issue. Nor is overspending. Growing up in the 50s, I saw catastrophic health problems and bills break my own family. I truly appreciate the many comments in which readers have opened their hearts with support. I'm just gently suggesting that they can do even more by putting their creativity, ingenuity, detective skills, and networks to work for others. Even if it's just to promote your Denver yard sale.

Shopping Golightly said...

Anon 2,

You are correct. Many people seem to forget that there are other ways to help than just giving money. Offering your talents to help people or somehow lighten the load off the planet is a good way to start.

I too fear this encroaching self entitlement that many people in my generation and certainly the younger generation are revealing.

Again, if you take, you give. There must be some balance.

You may become an extraordinarily wealthy person. You may have worked very hard. BUT, this country provided the playing field, and to that you must give. Hard work does not assure wealth. There are the hard working poor.