Decorative Flower
Her Realm, Personal website and blog of Cole
Oct 05

In Which Cole Writes about Minimum Wage, Fast Food and Military Benefits

Every time I see this ridiculous meme floating around on Facebook in the response that we might possibly consider raising the minimum to $15 per hour for fast food workers or, you know, anyone who works hard, I just seethe. Here is it in all its glory:

Okay, rant – For those fast food employees striking for $15 an hour, let’s do some math. At $15 an hour Johnny Fry-Boy would make $31,200 annually. An E1 in the military makes $18,378. An E5 with 8 years of service only makes $35,067 annually. Hmmmmmm….. So you’re telling me, Sally McBurgerflipper, that you deserve as much as those kids getting shot at, deploying for months in hostile environments, and putting their collective asses on the line every day protecting your unskilled butt!

I spent a few years as a military wife, and while the base pay might not compare at first glance with the annual salary that, but there are a lot of perks that are awarded to service members and, by extension, their families. Here’s just a short list of perks I experienced as a military wife. Military.com has a whole list of benefits, too.

military benefits

This list doesn’t included bonuses for signing up, hazard pay during deployments and tons of other perks that I personally didn’t experience or am not familiar with.

What does this mean? That the $18,000 per year made by an E3 in any branch of the military is basically for non-essentials. There will never be a case in which a military member/family living on base will be without a home or utilities. Every public building on base has a phone for public use, which means you may not even need your own phone!

The salary will certainly go to some bills, including a vehicle, gas and insurance (which service members will likely get a discount on as a thanks for service). You’ll pay out of pocket for clothing and household items, which you can purchase on base without sales tax, but this comes nowhere near $18,000 per year. You could send your child to private school, waste hundreds on video games – Gamestop should consider building stores directly outside base gates! – or always purchase a brand-new vehicle.

Am I saying that military members shouldn’t make more than someone who works at McDonalds? Not really. The problem with the type of thinking that has motivated this post is the idea that fast food workers shouldn’t make $15 an hour because that’s the type of pay someone who works harder earns. The “harder” job might be military or factory work or something such as being a doctor, which required years of expensive schooling. These things might all require more diligence or risk or education or experience. I’m not arguing that.

But if you’re only making $15 hourly at a risky or difficult job, you should also be paid more!

You are being fucked over just as much as the person flipping your burgers or delivering your pizzas. You are also suffering at the hands of a system that hasn’t ensured the minimum wage, and by extension, all other wages keep up with the cost of living. You’re just being fucked over a little less, which makes it manageable.

It might suddenly become more obvious if you’re making the same — or even less — as someone whom you deem has an easier job. But you should be fighting along with people who want to raise the minimum wage. It’s the right thing to do as a compassionate human being, and it will only help you in the long run, too.

There’s only one reason to oppose fair wages: because it hurts those who are wealthy and powerful. Those people are wealthy and powerful enough. Chances are, you’re not one of those people if you’re reading this. So stop acting like one of them. You have nothing in common. They will do nothing for you while continuing to take from you. You are better than that.


Sep 21

Homeless Family Trying to Build Life in Southern Utah

I am writing this on behalf of a fellow blogger, Victoria of Mom Does Reviews. She recently shared her experience running a family of seven people — and two dogs — who have been homeless for most of this year. Victoria has a GoFundMe campaign that fill finally enable the family to have a place to call home. 

Donate Now!

Homeless2[1]

Since January of this year, Victoria Johnny, her husband and her five children have been traveling the country. It might seem like a dream vacation or an alternative lifestyle, but the truth is more heartbreaking than that. The family of seven is homeless, a word that doesn’t come easy to the matriarch. But things could get much worse. A sixth child is on the way.

Fate seemed to conspire against the family, who originally lived in Florida. The Johnnys decided to live out their dreams of starting a home business. Victoria writes at a popular blog, Mom Does Reviews, and her husband tried his has as a handyman. However, while Victoria was able to bring in income  through blogging, it wasn’t enough to support their family of seven when her husband’s business didn’t pan out.

Since then, the family has stayed with friends on a family farm, spent some nights at hotels, camped out in parks and, when there was no other option, slept in the family car. It wasn’t easy, Victoria describes. When the weather was bad and they were forced to sleep in their SUV, they would move all their belongings to a tent. Their homelessness strained friendships when people weren’t able to put up five children, their parents and two dogs. Potential job leads fell through when the family was unable to establish a residence close enough.

And being homeless isn’t cheap. Victoria estimates that it costs at least $1,800 monthly to feed her family of five and two family pets. She works six to eight hours every day whenever there is a wireless connection around, but that’s not always an option when the family is forced to camp.

Things are finally starting to look up for the Johnnys, however. An accidental job lead in Southern Utah has led the family to a place where they could finally put down roots. Low crime rates, beautiful weather and affordable housing are among the reasons why Southern Utah just makes sense for the growing family.

Before they can finally breathe a sigh of relief, they will have to come up with the money for rental, security, pet and utility deposits — at least $2500. The family is without much of their possessions, including furniture and homeschooling materials, which are stored elsewhere. Victoria has set up a GoFundMe page that outlines stretch goals that include transporting those items to their new home.

The family doesn’t just want to take, however. After they get their feet back on the ground, they plan to give back to the community, friends and family and even strangers when they can. But this will only come together if they can finally have a home to come home to.

If you’d like to contribute to the campaign, visit the GoFundMe page here: http://www.gofundme.com/efhxfg

You can also read about the family’s plight in Victoria’s own words at Mom Does Reviews:  http://momdoesreviews.com/2014/09/17/homeless-look-like-help-gofundme/


Sep 13

Blogging Comes with Hard Lessons

No, really. I’ve learned some awesome things about myself and my community and computers and the Internet and the world at large from being an active blogger. I’ve also learned some things that are frustrating, disheartening and just plain shocking. For example.

Pictofigo Frustration

This is pretty much me on a daily basis!

People Don’t Understand the Internet

Every week, I get at least one comment on Reviews by Cole from someone who thinks I am the company. Not just that I am somehow affiliated but that I can send them products or perform an exchange or send them a manual or what-have-you. Now, this just perplexes me. Chances are, they performed a search for a specific product and wound up on my site because the manufacturer doesn’t offer information about the specific product. I understand how people get to my site.

What I don’t understand is how they could possibly think that they are anywhere else than a product review blog where I talk about my personal experiences. My site looks like a blog. It reads like a blog. It quacks like a blog. It’s a blog, folks!

Language Is Important

I don’t just mean representing yourself in a professional way. I mean that almost any time I’ve worked with a company whose representative’s first language wasn’t English, it turned out terrible. My not-politically-correct opinion is that a lot of companies that cheaply manufacture items overseas view bloggers as a quick way to get some links with minimal cost on their end because they’re making crap.

It doesn’t matter if these are quality posts or long-term relationships. It sure as hell doesn’t matter if the product works or not. And sometimes I am not better than them. I don’t say “No” even when every sign indicates this is going to be painful from beginning to end or that it’s just not worth it.

Giveaways Are a Chance to Win

..and even if you’re the winner, you shouldn’t count your chickens before your eggs hatch. I recently posted on Facebook on how I had been contacted by a winner of my DX Mall giveaway. Sadly, this company fell into the last category. They’re a bottom-feeder type, and not only were my communications with them downright painful because of the language barrier, but it took them over a week to consider crediting my winner’s accounts. One winner went back and forth with them before weeks before she was finally told that the site shut down.

That’s all folks. I’m a middle man. There’s nothing I can do short of paying for those prizes out of my own pocket, which I just can’t do. I’ve been using a disclaimed about how I am not responsible for prize fulfillment for some time. Basically, this means I can send off your information to my contact and nag them a couple times, but you’re not actually the winner until the prize is in your hands.

It’s a Numbers Game

This might be the lesson that’s been the most difficult for me to come to terms with. While things like user engagement and comments mean a lot to me, it’s stuff like visits and Facebook “Likes” that turn the heads of PR folks and businesses who consider working with me. I know this isn’t always the case, but unless you don’t have the masses visiting your site, you’re likely going to miss out on opportunities that might otherwise be perfect for you.

Another thing is that someone who takes good (or sometimes numerous!) pictures will get more opportunities than I do because I tend to focus on text. I’ve literally left reviews not knowing what items were or how well they worked. I’ve seen bloggers highlighted on social media and forums because of their great photos that literally did nothing to convince me that the brand or product was worth thinking about twice.

I’ve seen this time and again, and it’s tempting to feel anger, but I know it’s not use it. I’ll keep building and getting better. I’ll be grateful for what I qualify for, and that’s included some awesome stuff. But I won’t be quiet when you write a terrible review because you’re hurting more than just yourself.

Also, when it comes to those giveaways? Another numbers game. Consider the amount of work you’re putting in and how much you really need or want that item because I can guarantee a lot of entrants are wasting their time and effort!

I sound more jaded than I feel on a daily basis in this post, but nothing everything about blogging is pretty.


Aug 22

3 Ways You’re Doing the ALS #icebucketchallenge Wrong

Donate to the ALS Association!

If you don’t live under a rock, you’ve seen plenty of people getting splashed with ice water over the last few weeks. Celebrities, friends and family and people you’ve never heard of make the list. Often it’s funny. Sometimes it’s creative. It’s always supposed to raise awareness and money for the ALS Association, which helps provide services and research for ALS, a disease that I’ll talk more about later.

You may even have participated in many of these videos, but from completely missing the point to forgetting key points, not all the challengers are following the guidelines or even being helpful. I’m not just talking about teens who do it for fun, either. The glaring omission of “ALS” in a number of video is terrible.  Don’t make these same mistakes.

1. You don’t say “ALS”

“Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis” is a mouthful. ALS will do in most situation’s. It might clear up confusion to call it Lou Gehrig’s disease. Humans, after all, do like to associate things with people. I’ll admit that even hearing that name didn’t provide me with any more answers, and judging from the comments on YouTube videos, I’m not alone.

I may be slightly more alone because I actually Googled ALS. The results of my search were revealing, particularly that Stephen Hawking is often labeled as one of the people with this condition. Hawking’s condition is a specific form of ALS.

This disease attacks the body, essentially causing victims to become prisoners in their own body because they are no longer able to control their body as is breaks down. Hand shaking/spasms are an early symptom.

Hawking also stands out as a perfect example because he has survived so long with the disease — over 50 years. Most people can count on no more than a few years after diagnosis, which is pretty scary. Most die from respiratory failure.

But perhaps the reason most people with ALS don’t stand out is that their numbers are small: around 30,000 in the United States. Smaller than my hometown. That’s why it’s great to get people talking.

2. You don’t link to the ALS Association or anyplace where you can donate.

You’re trying to raise money or awareness, so why aren’t you sending people to ALSA.org? This website originated the ice bucket challenge, and you can donate through a variety of methods here.

Again, most of the people who I saw kvetching about videos were obviously too lazy to search themselves. Add a link in your video description. Annotate your video obnoxiously. If it helps one more person click or donate, isn’t it worth the effort?

There have been a few more sites listed in videos. For example, your state may have a local chapter. ALS TDI is a company focused on cures through medication if you prefer your money to go to a cure than to go to “overhead.” When it comes to overhead, though, much of that is by providing help and services to ALS patients and their families.

3. You don’t donate.

The challenge isn’t about getting out of paying money by doing it. The challenge is actually that you only donate $10 while anyone who doesn’t accept donates $100. Many people have done both and more, which is great. Whether you dunk in 24 hours or not, donating is the right thing to do!

Donations have already topped $41 million, which is leaps and bounds greater than the same period for last year. Like I mentioned, some money goes to research. Other money goes for care and services. It all goes to a worthy cause.

Also? If filming this video is the only good deed you do this year because you think it’s enough? It’s not.

Bonus: You film in portrait.

Come on, guys. Video is intended to be filmed in landscape mode, so turn that phone!

Donate to the ALS Association.

Check out the ALS ice bucket challenge on:

One of the most-viewed videos that has helped raise awareness is below. It may very well make you cry.


Aug 09

Little Victories

Today was a day full of things that made me laugh, smile and sing. And, perhaps more importantly, it was a day when I was able to look back and see those things, to recognize and appreciate and be happy.

I will breathe deeply and happily as I go to sleep tonight. And while that won’t be for a little bit despite being 4 in the morning, that’s okay!

A very nice cashier at CVS commented on how pretty I looked/nicely I was dressed. I stocked up on all the delicious food, replaced my shorted-out headphones and scored some neat-looking nail polish.

A quick trip to the mall filled my belly and my bag with free VS panties.

Several hours of Cards Against Humanity and laughter later, I felt less alone, more connected and lighter-hearted than I have in days. Weeks. A month?

I signed on to facebook to see Reviews by Cole had finally hit 4800. Then enjoyed a delicious dinner, perhaps a bit too late. Oops!

I finally am making some money on Izea.

And have you checked out my Sverve score?!

I made plans to see Guardians of the Galaxy again! Because it is awesome!

I feel more clear about the things I need to do for me, but now I am sure that these are things I can do. What’s more, I’ve realized that I do have more goals than I realize and more time in which to complete them.

I’ve turned helpless frustration and anger into a plan on which I can act. I’ve let go of anger and replaced it with love.

I will now enjoy some Parks and Recreation while playing on my phone.

Score!