When Stores Close, Where Do People Go?

Back before the Christmas holidays, I remember hearing news about the toy store company, Toys R Us, closing some of its stores. I didn’t take a serious note of it; first, because I don’t have kids, and my youngest nephew is 16 years old. So it’s been quite a while since I’ve shopped in any of their stores. Second, news of the closing of “some” of their stores was not unlike the reoccurring news of Kmart, Sears, Macy’s, even Sam’s Club. It had become an all too real part of the news cycle. Another month, another retail store filing bankruptcy, mostly to reorganize, and in the process, closing several of their stores.

But then earlier this month, that news changed. It was no longer just some stores closing, but rather, news broke that the company planned to sell or close all 800 stores in the US. The part that jumped out to me in the articles I read was that as many as 33,000 employees would be affected!


From what I understand, Toys R Us had declared bankruptcy back in Fall 2017 because of an almost EIGHT BILLION DOLLAR debt it was struggling to pay. Let that sink in… Other than the position we’ve allowed ourselves to get into as a country, where else do you hear about a business continuing to operate for so long with that kind of outstanding debt?

One of the things that came to mind was wondering how many employees took any action upon originally hearing about the company’s bankruptcy? How many people in upper and middle management pulled out their resumes and started working on updating their information? Or who of the hourly employees started looking for other places hiring in their community? How many even knew or gave thought about the financial instability of their company — even though the information was readily available and reported on?

Perhaps it’s hard to say with certainty what any one of us would do, given the same scenario. Or maybe you DO know, because you have already been in this situation. But I ask these questions because I’m curious as to why people stay in a place, making little effort to seek alternative employment, when they know the clock has already started ticking down towards the day when they will lose their job. An announcement that a company you work for is closing should signal that it’s time to get serious about making a change; preparing for reality — the new normal that’s about to fall up you. 

One article I read talked about the gap between the time when some people can apply for unemployment, and the timing it takes to actually start receiving an unemployment check. And while that money is there for such a time as this, it won’t be the same amount as what most soon-to-be former employees have become accustomed to living on. By its design, it’s suppose to just tie people over until they find that next job. For some, they’ll have one the day their store closes. For others, it may take weeks or months.

So my question for you is, how prepared are you if you were to find out today that you will no longer have your job by the end of the year? Or by the end of the month? Maybe even by the end of the week?


In a list posted by Clark, a retail and consumer news site, some of the other stores scheduled to close at least some, if not all of their stores this year, include: Abercrombie & Fitch, Foot Locker, Best Buy cell phone stores, J.C. Penney, Bon-Ton, Sam’s Club, Macy’s, J. Crew, Gap and Banana Republic, Teavana, and Michael Kor’s. Additionally, Ascena Retail Group, which is the women’s clothing retailer that operates the brands Ann Taylor, Loft, Dress Barn, Lane Bryant, Justice and several others. (https://clark.com/shopping-retail/major-retailers-closing-2018/)


The Most Important Woman in the World

It’s Women’s History Month; a time when we celebrate the progress, influence, and contributions women have made and continue to make in society. It’s kinda funny to me that we have to set a month aside each year in order to pause and recognize what women do and what they have done in history, rather than celebrating those accomplishments every day. I mean, just look around and it’s amazing all of the incredible things women are able to do, to share, to teach, and to create.

But I never realized just how much I learned from the most important woman in my life — my mom. And how much she did, how much she shared, how much she taught me growing up…until she was gone; and I couldn’t tell her.

People talk about hearing their mother’s voice in the words they find themselves repeating. Funny phrases. Directives to their kids. A discussion with their spouse. They laugh upon realizing that some of their vocal tone, actions, body language, and even reactions are things they saw or heard from their mother, and that they swore they would never say or do. There are so many things I find myself doing, and at times, stop and realize I’m doing them a certain way because it was the way my mama taught me. Or it was something I observed her doing.

Being one of six kids, I often shake my head in amazement that mom had the time, the energy, and the mental stability to raise all of us; and to do a pretty good job of it, I must say. Of course she had challenges, and I’m sure if she was still here she would talk about the things she might have said or done differently. But as I look back at the woman who married young, had two kids more than she and my dad had intended, and was twice forced to become a single parent for a year while my dad served two tours of duty in Vietnam, it is a wonder how she managed to keep it all together; to keep us all together.

One of the things that impressed me about my mom was how she was able to take care of her family on the low pay soldier’s salary my dad made. Even today, there’s much that can be said about the low salaries of our military, but back in the 1960s and 70s, it was even worst; especially for enlisted members. So retirement wasn’t much better. But in spite of that, we never went to bed hungry; never spent a night on the streets; and when it came down to it, we never went without the things we needed.

We shopped at Sears and other discount stores; always had shoes on her feet; wore clothes that were handed down; and while we may not have been the most fashionable bunch, mom often found a way to splurge on us for special events, like attending a concert or the middle and junior high school dance.

She had a way with making money work for her.

Growing up, I didn’t just watch my mom clip coupons. She made us cut them from all of the coupon fliers in the Sunday newspaper each week, and the numerous Army base magazines she picked up from the Commissary. I may have been too young to fully understand the value of a dollar back then, but I will never forget the value of the savings and her ability to stretch the dollars in order to regularly provide for our family. It’s a practice that I have replicated to keep me afloat during some financially challenging times.

Having been raised to live within my means; to not be embarrassed to shop at discount stores; and not worry about not making fashion statements; or to let pride keep me from making wise decisions about purchases and savings, it was an easier transition for me to re-adjust my lifestyle in my adult years, when after years of upward financial mobility, I was dealt an unexpected change in my job and financial stability. It was the lessons I learned from my mother that helped me to get through that time in my life.

My mom had such wisdom about her, even in her younger years. The youngest in her own family, with sisters who were much older, it is a wonder how she picked up on so much. I used to ask her about things, like where she learned about keeping a budget. She would say, “some things you’re just forced into learning how to do.” I guess that’s part of what made her generation so much different than ours. They worked hard for the things they needed; and put off many of the things they wanted, if it didn’t fit into the budget. We, on the other hand, work hard to surround ourselves with things we just want, seldom allowing patience and planning to direct our steps towards having them; even if it means going into debt.

So when I think about the purpose of celebrating women’s history month, and as I’m thinking about the woman who had the biggest influence on my life, I can say without hesitation that it was definitely my mom.

How Are You Using Your Water Buckets?

You’ve heard us talk about “water buckets.” It’s even in the name of the website. But have you ever wondered what we’re talking about when we refer to them? Do you know what your water buckets are and how are you using them?

Your water buckets are those things you use to catch the “rain” of blessings that you’ll need to sustain you, not today, and maybe not even tomorrow, but at some point in the future.  Preparation is one of the keys to success. While you can’t know every possible bad scenario that could happen in your life, you can have a plan to better prepare yourself for how to deal with those circumstances as they come.

Everyone should keep water buckets around. Maybe it’s maintaining your own savings account after you get married; or learning how to turn your hobby into an income stream for your family. Perhaps as a single adult, you decide to take in a roommate so that you put the extra funds away for that emergency. Or as a family you purchase a house with the purpose of turning part of it into income property to help you pay your mortgage off early. Water buckets are ways to save money and resources today so that you have them to use later when you unexpectedly need it.

If you’ve been through a divorce, and suddenly found yourself dealing with the shock of returning to just one income; or your spouse carried you on their insurance, and now you’re having to pay for your own, along with the mortgage, and that new car that at the time seemed like a good idea — then you understand the concept of having the advantage of having something in those buckets to help with your transition.

Maybe you’re single, just lost your job, and now there’s no second income to fall back on; no one else to help pay those bills or provide some of the health benefits that you just lost. Or you and your spouse figured you’d “get around” to getting life insurance when you got older, only now they’re gone and you’ve had to use all of your savings to pay funeral costs.

Perhaps you still have your job, but with the cost of everything increasing, you’re just barely making enough to cover your monthly expenses, with no room for anything else. But then the brakes go out in your car, and there’s no coworker or bus line within 10 miles of where you live, offering no alternative but to some how get the car fixed.

If any of these scenarios sound familiar in your life or with someone you know, then you understand that life is full of unexpected surprises and unplanned stops in the middle of places you never imagined. And while we can’t control some of the circumstances that may happen to us, we can control how well we’re prepared to take on those events when they happen.

Being prepared for life’s unexpected turns means being willing to create and then implement a plan now, so that you are where you need to be, have what you need to have, or are on your way to accomplishing steps to help you if or when a crisis hits.

So when it’s raining outside, the grass is looking green, the flowers are colorful and all the trees are thick with foliage, don’t worry about your neighbors or friends looking at you strangely because you’ve placed your water buckets around the house to fill up. Maybe they haven’t checked the forecast to know that there’s a drought coming. Be thankful that you’re going to be ready for it.

Adjusting Your Life to Your New Normal

Why the name Catching Raindrops?

The verb Adjusting means “to change (something) so that it fits, corresponds, or conforms; adapt; accommodate.” Adjustment is defined as “adaptation to a particular condition, position, or purpose.”

Interestingly, the dictionary gives an example of “adjusting,” by this sentence use: “to adjust expenses to income.”

That definition lines up so perfectly with the actions that lead to the name. As I’ve shared before, I spent about a year looking at ways to make adjustments in my lifestyle to accommodate my new life. One of those changes included figuring out ways to cut back not just on expenses outside the home, but things that impacted my money inside the home. There was nothing I could do about the fixed mortgage, because I already had a good rate, so I zoned in on adjusting the other things that were variables – my utilities, groceries, clothes, and related items.

With that, I kept my heat at 66 and my air conditioner turned to 78. For most of my friends, they thought I was crazy, and actually had their own heat and AC settings exactly the opposite of mine. But then, I was trying to save money, and to understand that being comfortable didn’t have to mean ending up with hundreds of dollars in utility charges.

I forced myself to wear the clothes that were already in my closet; not that I was a fashionista to begin with. And limited purchasing new items only for special events, and with retail coupons. I did likewise with my groceries; using reward cards, coupons, and waiting for certain sales before shopping, still trying to stay with only buying the things I needed and not what I wanted. I think sometimes it’s harder to deny yourself from those things you want, than even the things you need! But I knew I had to do it.

I started cutting my own grass again and stopped watering the lawn and floor gardens, allowing nature to take its course. If it rained, they got water. If it didn’t, I just prayed the lawn and flowers wouldn’t all die. Fortunately, that never happened. And since I’d started a patio garden with vegetables and herbs, I took advantage of any opportunity that the skies would deliver water for FREE. I caught as much water as I could by placing water buckets around the deck in my backyard. Southern summers demand a regular watering of container plants if they are to survive. So the water-filled buckets I caught when it rained served to refresh plants later to avoid the summer’s hot sun from drying them out. And it didn’t cost me anything!

It was equating that literal process I was engaged in – taking advantage of free resources today to save and use when the need occurs later – that the name Catching Raindrops in Water Buckets, grew. Whether that was saving herb plants on the deck, cutting and using coupons at the store, joining loyalty programs for discounts on gas and other items; or even in the downgrade of things such as cable TV and my house alarm system — all of it was for the purpose of making adjustments in how I was living to survive these new times.

I was adjusting my life to my new normal!

What is Catching Raindrops in Water Buckets?

As we approach the sixth year anniversary of the start of Catching Raindrops in Water Buckets, I want to revisit its beginning. It’s interesting how things seem to work in a cycle. Once again, we’re watching the stock market, as it plunges one day and then regains points one or two days later. While the unemployment numbers look good, people are still underemployed, working jobs for less money today than they were 10 years ago. The rising cost of housing and the new mortgage laws have kept some people from attaining that American Dream, while struggling to find reasonable cost of rent in many markets.  And while the interest rates are rising, and the cost of living is higher, most people haven’t seen a significant increase in their paycheck since before the economic crash a decade ago.

I started Catching Raindrops in Water Buckets first as a writing assignment for myself. I used journaling as a way to process the massive changes that were happening in my life, particularly the time period following my change in jobs. Change, itself, was new to me. I had many other jobs before, having started working part-time as a young teenager, and full-time right out of college. But all of my positions were “upwardly mobile.” They weren’t all financially mobile, but each one prepared and positioned me for something that built upon the next level – until reaching that level where the financial rewards started paying off.

I was brought up to always live within whatever means I was in at any particular time in my life. Whether I was saving money for high school band trips; or to pay my own college tuition; or buying my first car after only a year at my first job, I learned how to practice discipline, patience, and planning in order to take care of the things I needed to take care of. And while I wasn’t perfect at it, I worked hard to be smart with my finances. I opted to live at home during college. I had three roommates when I finally got into my first rental house after Graduate school. And my first car was safe, boring, and inexpensive!

But in December, 2008, things changed. And those changes didn’t line up with my plans. They were a shift away from my otherwise, upwardly mobile status in life. And it was playing out in a non-temporary way.

There I was, along with hundreds of thousands of other people around the country, trying to deal with the impact of a Recession that few people saw coming, and most people had no idea how much it would personally impact them. I woke up one morning, and realized that the “normal” life I’d built for myself had been uprooted. So the only sanity I could hold on to was through writing. It was my means of processing the entire episode. Through that, I realized I was going to have to change some things; not just for this moment, but forever.

book with coffee cupAs I was going through my own world of “adjustments,” I watched others trying to make it through theirs. Not every life adjustment had to do with a job loss – but all of them impacted financial stability in some way. Friends going through divorces; neighbors impacted by a spouse’s inability to work; loss of income after the loss of a spouse; people dealing with unexpected medical diagnosis amidst inadequate medical insurance; unexpected legal issues that were emptying bank accounts; and a host of other issues, including people working fewer hours, or dealing with a cut in pay to prevent layoffs.

There were people around me who were trying to just “deal” with the things happening to them. Not all of them seem to understand that part of dealing would need to include an adjusted mindset. It was what I learned through journaling. I realized I couldn’t continue to focus on what was “normal” in my life prior to the major changes that had just happened. That normal didn’t exist anymore. I couldn’t keep doing the same things; at least not in the same way. I had to adjust to the new situation I found myself in. And I wanted to help other people; namely women, to do the same.

That’s why I took Catching Raindrops in Water Buckets off the pages of my personal journal and onto the Internet with this blog site and Facebook group page to share information and to encourage peer-to-peer participation. Women helping women work through issues and situations that they may not be ready for, or could use an extra perspective in dealing with.

Catching Raindrops in Water Buckets focuses on teaching, sharing, and learning how to use what you have today to help plan for what may not be there tomorrow. I hope there are some of you willing to share your story too!

Adjusting Your Life to Your New Normal.

Do You Care about the Stock Market?

The stock market crash of 2008 occurred on September 29, 2008. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 777.68 points in intra-day trading. Until 2018, it was the largest point drop in history.

For the average American, like myself, the reason for the crash wasn’t nearly as important as the “what to do?” and “how will this effect me,” that came after.

Ten years ago, at the start of 2008, when the housing market, and everything else felt like they were trying to keep their balance on a large patch of quicksand, the one thing almost every Financial Counselor and radio and television station’s “Talking Head,” continued to say to anyone with investments, was “don’t panic,” “stay in the the game.” Numerous so-called experts advised people to keep their money in their 401Ks. “If you take it out, you won’t be able to earn it all back,” I remember someone saying.

The Fall of 2008 came, and thousands of people like myself saw the huge financial impact of the “crash of 2008,” on our 401Ks. And by the end of the year, thousands of people, like myself, were no longer employed at the same companies who were contributing to their 401K. What did that mean? It meant there was no “earning it all back.” My $40,000 loss was a permanent one.

As small businesses fought to keep their employees, and many big business continued to let go of theirs; people scrambled to find other jobs in the middle of what turned into not just a stock market crash, but a job crisis for America.

Suddenly, two-income households were down to one; one income earners struggled to keep the lights on and mortgages paid, even as they watched the value of their homes decline, and foreclosures and short-sales were on the rise. People walked away from the homes they had invested five, 10 even 15 years into, taking the hit on their credit report rather than continue to pay on mortgages that were underwater.

Finger pointing oftentimes claimed people were living above their means, as if everyone had purchased homes twice the price their monthly income could afford. But hardly anyone talked about those living well within the means they had created prior to the mudslide of a housing, jobs, and stock market rollercoaster ride!

Now, 10 years later, as some applaud the recent decline in the unemployment rate, few have continued the conversation about those who are still underemployed; those who never recovered financially from where they were prior to 2008, 2009, 2010 — to where they are now.

According to a survey by PayScale, “as many as 22 million U.S. workers can be considered “underemployed” — that is, they have a job that doesn’t put their education, experience or training to work, or they are working part-time when they’d rather have a full-time job.”

As I watched the stock market take a familiar ride this week (February 5-9), I shuttered at the thought of returning to life 10 years ago, even as I heard those same familiar warnings: “don’t panic,” “leave your money in your 401K,”  “you’ll earn it back.”

There was a new twist this time. Everyone keeps saying that the market is “correcting itself.” Thursday’s CNN Money‘s headline exclaims: Dow plunges 1,033 points and sinks into correction.  The article went on to say:

Fears about the bond market, inflation and interest rates seized investors again Thursday and drove the Dow, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq all into the red for the year.

The Dow finished with a decline of 1,033 points, the second-worst point drop in history, eclipsed only by Monday’s 1,175-point nosedive.

I’m no financial expert; not even close! I have never individually played the market, or even bought stocks or bonds for myself; trusting financial people who went to school to understand all of the ups and downs of investing and the markets.

What I can speak to is being a survivor of the Recession of 2008-2009, having not only gone through it, but walking right alongside so many friends and peers who walked through it as well. There was a long-lasting effect on us, not just on our finances, but on life as a whole.


That’s my word of the day, the month, the year! Proceed with caution.

Get your financial house in order. Stop spending on things you don’t need, and practice more discipline to save and plan for those things you want. If you’re living off of three credit cards, reduce it down to just one. If you’re thinking about buying another car, when there’s nothing wrong with the one you have, don’t. Instead, put the money you would be spending on your monthly payment, away. Make sure your savings account has enough money in it to cover all of your bills for two or three months should something unfortunate happen and you lose your job, have unexpected medical expenses that your insurance won’t cover, or need to help a family member out of an emergency.

Trust is hard to rebuild. So when things seem to be building up to look the same as they did before, it’s kinda hard to believe that they’ll turn out much different. The experts say so. But my survival instincts tell me to be prepared for the “just in case” either way.

The way I see it, if they could see 2008 coming, they would have put measures in place in 2006 and 2007 to avoid it. The future isn’t ours to see; but it can be ours to prepare for.

The Benefits of Aging

I can’t remember which birthday it was. But I do remember that I was still pretty “young.” Not elementary or high school young; but you know, young; probably in my 20s. I must have been dreading another birthday, and vocalizing it within ear shot of my mother. She reminded me of how young I really was, and that the time would come when I truly would be considered “old.” But for that day, that time period in my life, I was no where near that place.

Then she said something profound; something I’ve heard myself repeat to more than just a few friends over the years. To paraphrase, “If you’re not getting older, you’re dead.

Leave it to my mom to be so blunt. But she was right. Aging was one of those things we could use to measure living by. We’re still here, turning another year older. Yah!

I remember when a friend of mine turned 50. In the age of social media, everyone shares everything. So she posted a photo of her AARP packet, and a disapproving look on her face, captioned: REALLY?

I understand exactly where she’s coming from. I mean, the very nature of the AARP organization was designed for retired people (American Association of Retired Persons). Who retires at 50; except maybe a career military person who joined right out of high school or college. Or perhaps someone lucky enough to have built a company that a larger corporation came bought up!

And let’s face it. When we were in our 20s and 30s, people who were in their 50s were the “older people” — teachers, relatives, and friends of our parents.  Now, we’re “those people.”

Sometimes, I do sit back and wonder where all the time has gone. I mean, how did I become a card caring AARP member? One moment, you can’t wait to get out of high school. The next moment you’re counting the years out of college in terms of decades! But there are certainly some benefits to getting older, besides just being wiser.

And AARP has plenty of those! If you’re a member, you probably already know. But if you’re not, check out all of the advantages there are to turning 50!


I knew about some of the discounts they offered, from discounted movie tickets, to savings on hotel reservations and rental cars. But I was surprised to learn just how many restaurants and retail outlets also participated in the program. I eat at Outback a few times a year, and had been eating at Bonefish Grill on a bi-monthly basis over last year, and had no idea I could have been saving ten percent on my bill each time! And while I knew I could be getting discount tickets for Regal Crown theaters, I just found out that you can also get three dollars off a popcorn/soda combo!

And for someone like me, who works in the live entertainment industry, you think I would have known that the AARP membership benefits also include discounts on some live events, including 15-20 percent off tickets for Cirque du Soleil shows!

Well, I guess it’s my fault for not checking it out before now. But now that you know, you won’t have an excuse. Getting rewarded for getting older? Not so bad after all!