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The freelance lifestyle

March 22nd, 2017 at 03:37 pm

Not having a full-time income with job stinks.

However, as I continue freelancing while I search for a real job, I do enjoy the freelance lifestyle. This is what I imagine my early retirement will feel like, absent the nagging worry about income and expenses.

To me, the freelance lifestyle means every day is refreshingly different.

This morning I eked out 1 of the 4 write-ups I assigned myself for today in my current writing gig before heading out for a 10:20 am gyno appointment. This particular assignment has 25 schools to write about, so i divide up the summaries among the 6 days I have to complete the assignment.

The exam was painful! My old gyno retired and already I miss her. She was much more gentle. As a result, I may not stay with this new one.

My dad came over for lunch...and one of my new experimental vegan recipes..... and we had a green salad with a turmeric-ginger peanut butter chickpea stew over rice-quinoa blend. I think I had the heat on too high and the peanut butter-spice blend was a little dry.

Dessert was easy and very good. I just threw the following into the blender: frozen cherries, a tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa, a few pitted dates and some soy milk. It tasted like a chocolate cherry ice cream. If I'd added more soy milk, it would be more like a smoothie.

After dad left, I wrote the remaining 3 school summaries I needed to write.

Tonight I decided to go alone to a movie dad wasn't interested in going to see becus it has sub-titles. It's a movie called "Kedi" about stray cats in Istanbul and the people who love them. I have a feeling it's going to be good.

Tomorrow I'll be writing another 4 school summaries but in between that I'll be traveling a short distance to meet someone who is buying a piece of my mother's art. So happy to have another sale, especially when it's commission-free!

On Friday I have a mid-afternoon MS lecture program to attend and will continue working on my freelance project every day, through the weekend and then wrap up on Monday.

I am feeling more upbeat about this work, which I've complained about in the past due to the low rate of pay of $15 to $20/hr. I'm feeling better about it for a number of reasons:
1. I'm settling into a certain rhythm writing these where it all flows easier, even though some still likely take me a full hour to write due to my own thorough research habits.
2. After realizing I couldn't prod my contact to send me new assignments immediately after I turn in a prior one (she typically takes a day or two to send me the next assignment), I decided to take a different tack and ask for lengthier writing assignments, which result in more money. And I now like the 1 or 2 day break in between assignments becus I can then squeeze in my grocery shopping and other errands so they don't interfere with my writing later.

My gross income for March will be much better than my February gross, and with the increased word counts, I think my total monthly income will be within shooting range of the minimum needed to cover ongoing expenses: $2,000 a month. I'm thinking I should be able to do $1600 monthly. Shooting range.

3. I think I also under-estimated the value of having regular, ongoing work, even if it is low paying. In the past, when I've had to freelance between jobs, I mostly relied on my real estate contacts and a few other random clients for work, but the work flow was never within my control. I had to wait for someone to give me a project.

The website I'm working for has about 30 other writers besides me, telling me they have plenty of work on an ongoing basis. And I already see the results of that in my March income.

I'm saving both time and money I might otherwise use getting to a local part-time job, and there's no place I'd rather be (home) in the middle of a snowstorm.

And my gross income will be so low this year (so far, anyway), that I'll be in the lowest tax bracket, whatever that is.

Blizzard status report

March 14th, 2017 at 01:03 pm

It was snowing when I woke up around 7 am and it's been snowing ever since. Technically it's a blizzard with fairly strong winds.

So far, I still have power and I think it will be okay in that regard.

My Snow Shoveling Strategy was to bundle up and go outside around 10 a.m. to shovel, my thinking being to try to lighten my load when the snow finally stops. I had also heard of a possible changeover to partial rain/sleet later in the day which would make shoveling very heavy.

There was already about 10 inches on the ground, so good thing I did that. I cleared the front stairs and the paver/upper level of driveway but didn't touch the lower half. Spent about 45 minutes doing that til my arms ached.

Curiously, Waldo's allergies have not really abated at all, even with a blizzard going on. He's on his twice a day meds and was doing okay, but about a week ago his allergies got much worse, almost as if he wasn't on the meds at all. Apparently pollen had already started, but i mean with a blizzard and a foot on the ground, there can't be pollen around right now.

So I don't know what to do about that. I'm very reluctant to increase his meds dosage becus vet had told me it could over time, cause him to have diabetes, and that basically, would be the end of the road becus I don't think either one of us could handle injections.

I filled the 2 teeny bird feeders outside the front door when I was outside, and also put more suet out.

One of my freelance clients called me unexpectedly. He got a 2nd interview for a job he wanted. I had helped with his resume and cover letter when he applied, and I also helped him with more writing when he got the 1st interview. Today I helped him write a mission statement.

I hope he gets the job. He had once said to me that if he were in a position to do so, he would definitely hire me. I doubt an IT director could justify hiring a writer, but maybe for contract work, who knows.

Here comes the big one

March 13th, 2017 at 05:18 am

Blizzard, that is...we're expecting 2 feet tomorrow and heavy winds. I just pray I keep my power on.

I was scheduled for a heating oil tank fill-up today. I usually tell the woman on the phone to tell the driver not to drive up the driveway on my new pavers. I forgot, but had jotted down in my daily Things to Do list that I should move my car to block that portion of the upper driveway.

Except that the tanker truck arrived at 7:15 am, shortly after I got up.

He was already backing in as I rushed to throw on some clothes. I got him to move the truck and luckily no damage was done to the pavers. It was the mason who suggested I keep heavy trucks off it.

Now I see I'm running low on cat meds, with about 6 days left. I should really go down there today to pick up another 1.5 month supply.

Sunday thoughts, in no particular order

March 12th, 2017 at 01:27 pm

Today's accomplishments (so far):

1. Finished up current freelance assignment a full 2.5 days early. I wrote about the 25 best online master's degrees in instructional technology.

I have to keep pushing her to give me longer (aka higher paying) assignments, as I still managed to get this one done with time to spare.

2. Waldo's allergies have taken a turn for the worse, inexplicably, even tho he's on the same meds he's been on for a while now. Could pollen be in the air already, with snow still on the ground?

So I vacuumed the upstairs and have the air purifier running on medium in the bedroom, where he spends most of his time. I'm so glad that when I bought it, I bought a highly energy-efficient model.

3. I made another batch of my yummy oil-free salad dressing (blended walnuts, garlic, vinegar, thyme and raisins). I eat salads daily and use a fair amount of dressing, so it makes sense to do this.

Yesterday....

I picked up my dad for dinner last night and went to our usual haunt. I brought home half the massive lasagna and had that with my salad today for lunch after picking off the mozzarella.

Last week....

I got a great buy at Aldi's. It is a "miniature greenhouse" that i easily assembled with no tools. It consists of 4 metal shelves about 2.5 feet wide and it stands about 65" high. It's lightweight and easy to move. It has a plastic cover that snugly fits around the shelves to form the "greenhouse." It has 2 zippers in front so you can access what's inside and leave it open if you want. Each shelf can take up to 21 pounds of weight.

And get this: it only cost me $19.99.



It would be perfect for someone who's big into starting veggie plants from seed, which I don't do much, but I do plan to try using it for regular container veggies in my driveway.

The directions say to remove the plastic cover once temps get to 60 degrees, I think, or it could melt! But once I have that off, I could easily use my plastic fencing to wrap around the bottom of shelves to keep marauding critters off it.

That was my problem last summer. I gave up a regular veggie garden due to voles, and while I did ok with container veggies in the sun-baked driveway, a raccoon or something went on a rampage with my string beans just days before I was going to pick them. I had the plastic fencing around pots but the critter just clambered over it and ate the plant from the top. I think wrapping the fencing around something with a sturdy metal frame would work better.

The space between shelves is maybe a foot-and-a-half, so the shelves wouldn't work for certain plants that grow tall, but I suppose I could use it for unlimited numbers of smaller pots of herbs, like the parsley I want to grow to attract more black swallowtail butterfly worms. Or for basil for pesto and mint. Or for lettuce.

A viney veggie plant would work well, like a cucumber, becus I could keep the vines off the ground better that way, which is again desirable due to critters.

I also bought a bag of purple potatoes at WalMart for planting. I've decided to try growing them in a small galvanized garbage can which now has a small amount of birdseed in it.

I've wanted to try this for a while and i might even try planting some carrots in with the potatoes since they'd both be protected from voles in the can, in the driveway. I would just need to drill some drainage holes in the bottom.

I'm getting heating oil delivered tomorrow at a pretty good price of $1.90 a gallon. That'll see me through next December.

So last week I went to a total of THREE MS programs, 2 lunches and 1 dinner, all at very good restaurants. The choice of entrees at the one place was wild salmon or filet mignon. Smile

This was a record, 3 in one week. There's another one next week and another one later in March. I must admit to taking advantage of these for free meals, but I'm certainly not alone in doing so. I see all the same faces at most of these events. I once questioned one of the organizers at one of these when a whole bunch of people didn't show up (as evidenced by empty place settings). I asked her if her company had to pay for each plate whether or not someone showed up, and she said yes. She was very nonchalant about it, saying they had a budget for it and no big deal. This is a pharma company, so I guess that explains it.

So you might call this a fringe benefit of having a serious disease. One of the regulars I've been seeing is the only MS guy who has a dog with him, like you see with visually impaired people. I asked him how the dog helps with his MS and he told me that he also has type 1 diabetes and recently diagnosed lung cancer in addition to the MS.

But the dog is really there for the diabetes and is trained to "alert" when it senses his blood sugar is too low. He does this by thoroughly licking him on his hands or face, and will do this in the middle of the night when he is asleep and unaware of the danger.

The dog will also go to the refrigerator, open it, and grab orange juice, which is high sugar and thus a preferred food choice to normalize blood sugar.

I got to experience the dog's licking abilities myself and what a soft tongue! I'm used to cats' sandpaper-like tongues, I guess.

Nothing financial here...sorry.

Pending possibilities

March 10th, 2017 at 06:43 am

I've made an effort to apply to more jobs, not just those I feel I'm very well qualified for. And it seems to have borne fruit.

Everyone's been telling me to lower my compensation expectations, but I'm really not finding I need to.

Spoke to a recruiter yesterday about a contract job at a well-known health insurer up in the Hartford area. It's a hike, but it's a short-term contract position with the possibility of sporadic ongoing work if they like me. It pays $50/hr.

I would grab it, for numerous reasons, one being that getting that healthcare experience under my belt could make it easier to get into healthcare copywriting in the future. (They usually want someone with experience in that field.)

Today I got a call from a recruiter in India (I wonder what time it was over there when he called) about an IBM 14-month contract job. It would start in a town 15 minutes away from me, but just for one month, after which I'd have to work out of a different location about 50 minutes from me. This one is a bit of a stretch as it's more technical writing than marketing, but nothing I couldn't handle. It pays $45/hour.

My preference is a full-time perm job with benefits, but after that the next best thing would be a contract job found through a recruiter. That's becus most big headhunter agencies now offer full benefits including health insurance and a 401(k). Some don't offer the health plan unless the contract is for at least 6 months, so it can still be a challenge to get on a health plan if you have a shorter term contract.

That's what happened with the recruiter who found me the bank job in 2013. The recruiter had a 6-month wait before you could get on their health plan, but luckily for me, the contract with the bank was for 8 months, so I got on the recruiter plan at month 6 becus it would lock in my ability to stay on that plan for 18 months (albeit at a much higher price) when the contract ended 2 months later. As it turned out, the bank then hired me as a perm employee.

If I were to get one of the 2 contract jobs mentioned above, my strategy would be to MAX out my 401k contributions in just a few months (or for as long as my contract was for) so my monthly net would be quite small, likely under $1,000. I have plenty of taxable money in a money market I could draw on if I needed it to pay the bills, but if I knew my contract job was finite, I would plow a huge amount into tax-deferred status while I could.

Why would I do this? Because aside from the fairly limited amount you can put into an IRA each year, there's no other ways to put your money in tax-deferred status, which is so valuable for growing assets. I don't make enough as a freelancer to put much $$ into a SIMPLE IRA.

There are huge advantages to having more money in Roth and/or traditional IRAs (ideally, you want some of both for greater flexibility when withdrawing in retirement so you can minimize your taxes) than in taxable accounts. Right now I have roughly $166,000 in taxable accounts, which hurts me at tax time. The more I can shift into tax-deferred status, the better off I am.

Also, most contract jobs deduct your taxes for you and issue a W2, which is advantageous when it comes to becoming eligible for future unemployment benefits. I can't recall specifics now, but working at least 3 months f/t would, I believe, make me eligible for a new round of unemployment, giving me more breathing room until I found a perm position.

If I was able to hop onto a health plan offered by the recruiter, then I would dump the COBRA plan I'm on now becus when the contract ended, I would then get on COBRA again, but the 18-month clock would be reset at the beginning, giving me another 18 months of at least some kind of health coverage, instead of the 8 or 9 months I have left now.

Now I'm "overqualified"

March 8th, 2017 at 11:57 am

I heard from a recruiter about a contract proofreading job that would last for the month of March, mostly f/t and paid very well for proofreading at $30 to 33/hr.

I told her I'd be very happy to do it but she just heard back from the recruiter that I'm "overqualified" for the position and for that reason alone, they don't want me.

Can you feel my F-R-U-S-T-R-A-T-I-O-N?

I just accepted another assignment from higher education gig so that will keep my busy for 4 or 5 days but just $375 pay for this assignment.

Last night was another excellent lunch program in Derby and the food was surprisingly good and such huge portions I took half home as leftovers. I am meeting some very nice people at these MS talks which I never used to in all the prior years I've attended these periodic sessions, on and off over the years.

Tonight there's a dinner I will probably go to. It'll be the 3rd such program I've attended this week, which is certainly a record.

Job outlook ruminations

March 4th, 2017 at 05:28 am

o I've been thinking a lot about my job prospects.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm at the end of the road and will never succeed in getting another quality full-time perm job with benefits. I've said this before, and then I got the bank job, but each year, I get a little older.

Will I end up stumbling toward retirement for the next 8 years (til Medicare eligibility and Social Security) with low-paying, erratic work and the stress that goes with that, never really feeling free to actually "enjoy" these years because I can't tell if I'm actually retired or not?

Contrast that with earlier plans to "sprint" to an early retirement (from f/t work, anyway) in just a few years?

What I've noticed more and more on the job boards is that employers are combining two jobs into one, trying to find a writer, for instance, who also does web development work, knows HTML coding or can deftly maneuver through Photoshop.

I have to admit that I am not the perfect job candidate. All I've ever wanted to do was write, kind of like in my mother's case, all she ever wanted to do was create art. It may sound admirable to know your career goals, but in truth it's a little narrow-minded.

I've worked for over 30 years now and I've always earned a living as a writer. I tell employers it's what I do best and enjoy the most. And employers seem to respect that single-minded focus. But during all that time, I haven't expanded my repertoire or sought to improve my skill set much.

What I DID do was this: When I was working in financial services, I did study for and obtain my Series 6 Limited Investment Securities license and my Series 63 Uniform Securities Agent license. Not to sell mutual funds but just for the knowledge. I did it because my manager was prodding me to do so, plus for each exam I took, the company paid me $500.

When I worked as a real estate copywriter, I took Real Estate Principles and Practice, Connecticut real estate salesperson’s exam, and scored highest in class. I got a 99! I think I did this one of my own accord.

I still remember being surprised when the instructor decided to announce to the whole class who scored the highest. I was sitting in the back of the room and there were two women who were constantly talking and goofing around. When the teacher announced the high score, they just turned around and looked at me without smiling.

My certificate is up in the attic somewhere. Again, I never paid for the license as I didn't intend to sell real estate; it was just meant to help me do my job better.

Right now, I am enrolled in a free online grammar refresher course, with EdX.com with University of Queensland. If you're not familiar with them, you should check it out. These are real, college-level courses put on by professors at hundreds of leading schools. You can take the course for free but you have to pay $50 or $100 if you want a certificate.

But aside from those 3 things, and my stint in law school aborted after one year, I haven't done much to improve my career prospects. I started thinking about what I could do.

One thing I am often conscious of is that my familiarity with technology is somewhat limited. As a writer, all you need to know is MS Word. I have also used Powerpoint and Excel, and occasionally edited PDFs with Adobe Acrobat.

In a previous job I used a content management system called Vignette daily, as well as WordPress. Many years ago I also used PageMaker to create a newsletter for my employer. But that's about it. Partly due to laziness, partly to disinterest. Most of the time, I learned software because I was already in a job and I had to.

I often see jobs posted where they want you to know specific programs, like Adobe Photoshop, or HTML stuff, or Google Analytics, or something else. They don't want to pay for someone to take a course or wait til they gear up; they want an employee who can hit the ground running.

I got a free, 7-day trial of Photoshop thinking, how hard could it be? But I can see now I would definitely need a class to be able to use it. It's fairly sophisticated.

I would consider taking a course so I could put it on my resume and say that I "know" it, but there isn't any one course that employers mention, there's probably seven or eight. I think I know some of the basics of HTML coding, just stuff I picked up when I was loading stories I'd written onto a website using a CMS. But obviously there's still more to learn. Maybe that's what I should think about.

Maybe I should ditch the volunteer job editing for NutritionFacts.org and spend that time instead on an online HTML class?

I started today building a list of all the software programs writer job postings contain. Already, the list includes the following: Excel, Viso, Sprinklr CRM, Instagram, WordPress, Adobe Creative Suite, Sketchr, Flash, Squarespace, Hubspot, Adobe InDesign, Dreamweaver and Publisher.

Right now, my only source of income is the higher education website. I had hoped I could gross $1,000 a month from them, but my best month to date (last month) was just $540.

Aside from that, I still have a client I picked up about 4 or 5 years ago from Craigslist, believe it or not. He's an IT director who wanted someone to edit his emails in as close to real time as possible.

That's morphed into other things. Now he's job hunting and he landed an interview with a cover letter and resume I helped him write. Today, unexpectedly, he called and wants me to help him write out Q&As he's using to prep for the interview this weekend. Which is exactly what I do for every interview.

So I'm glad I cleared my plate yesterday with my last higher education assignment so I have time to do this.

Blah Friday

March 3rd, 2017 at 12:48 pm

I wish I could sound more upbeat, but I doubt I will.

Today was my mother's birthday...she would have been 83 today. I brought some flowers to her grave and afterwards took a brief, 30-minute walk in the frigid air.

I finished my current writing assignment this morning. My goal was to try to finish these things up faster becus she often lets 2 or 3 days go by before giving me another assignment, and I want/NEED to make more money.

However, my effort this time won't make a difference since she is off today...sigh.

I quit the 2nd writing gig after doing just the 2 stories for them. There were too many issues, including very poor communication generally, poor instructions so I had to keep asking for basic details, and having to wait 45 days to get paid for a freelancer is ridiculous. (My main client direct deposits to my checking account within a week.) Plus I didn't feel the pay was worth it.

Ironically, when I brought this up, they managed to pay me for both stories that day; the CFO who paid me via Paypal sympathized with me, saying that the behavior I described in an email to them was "unacceptable." They were super disorganized. I hope I didn't make a mistake doing that, but so be it. I'm not destitute.

Got a phone call for another gig writing a couple of blogs weekly for doctor/dentist blogs. It all sounded great until she told me the pay: $15 per 400-word blog. Not worth my time.

I backed out of what I'd discussed with my neighbor about letting him graze his sheep on my land. I hadn't realized he intended to cut down trees and plant vegetation on what I consider a too-steep slope. I don't want erosion issues. And I wondered if sheep bleating would start to bother me when they were in my own backyard. If it did, it would be hard to undo my neighbor's efforts and could cause hard feelings if I asked him to undo the fence.

He was okay with it. He called me becus the document I wrote describing his nonprofit farm foundation got about 20 responses from various groups and now he needs help, I guess, responding. But I declined there too. He can't afford to pay me anything as they're just getting by. And I can't afford to keep spending my time on projects that don't pay.

The local perm writing job for which I had a pre-screening interview for and for which i was led to believe would lead to a real interview, hasn't come about. I checked with recruiter twice. I feel glum.

So I guess it feels like a lot of things unraveling, or just not getting off the ground the way I'd like.

I went to an interesting (free) program at the library about what childhood was like in Colonial America. Suffice it to say, it was not fun, especially if you were a slave child. The cure for hiccups was to have the kid urinate on a gravestone of an ancestor. A pregnant slave got no time off and worked right up til the time she gave birth.

I bought some more tapioca so I can make more of my tapioca/chia seed fruit puddings. There's tomatoes thawing so I can make a chili tonight.

The foolish cashier

February 27th, 2017 at 06:05 am

You would think that when using a cash register, mistakes are not possible, but they are, surprisingly.

I was at the grocery store the other day and I bought some Sabra hummus. A few months back some Sabra hummus I had purchased was subject to a recall, so the company mailed me 2 coupons for more hummus.

The coupon was good for up to $4.99, so after rummaging around in the refrigerated bin, I found the larger tubs of hummus that sold for $5.

At checkout, I expected to pay one penny, since there is no sales tax on groceries. The cashier insisted I pay her one penny and then she gave me $1. She was very firm this was correct, so I shrugged my shoulders and took the money. There was a line behind me, so I just left.

In other news...
I did my February expenses early and was really proud that my efforts to minimize expenses during under-employment paid off: I only spent $1,674 in February. (That includes nearly $500 in pro-rated property taxes, which I actually only pay twice a year. Minus that, my monthly expenses would only be $1,182!)

Amazingly, I wound up in the black this month with $1,467,but I'm worried about March and beyond.

I was helped out quite a bit this month with my $1234 IRS refund, plus I got another $1,040 for the final 2 unemployment checks.

I made far less in freelance income than I'd hoped for, at $645; there are gaps of 3 or 4 days between assignments, and they seem to operate at their own speed.

I netted $87 for a small art sale, sold the final mohair/roving of my mother's for $46 and made $88 in class action suits.

My monthly grocery spending was still stubbornly high at $244, even though I'm shopping every week at Aldi's, but supplementing elsewhere becus they don't have a lot of stuff.

In other news...

It was a great month for the stock market. My portfolio is up by over $15,000 and if we have another good month, it's possible I will exceed $900K in total investable assets. Unbelievable.

Importantly, with just another $734, I will exceed my "Countdown to Retirement" goal (see bottom of my profile at left) I wanted to reach in November of this year. Now all I have to do is hold onto it!

Baaa.....

February 26th, 2017 at 04:54 am

I'm sitting here sipping my morning tea. Neighbor is coming over in less than hour to discuss having his sheep graze on my property.

He would need to put up some wire fencing. I would welcome having the sheep graze to hopefully get rid of a lot of overgrowth and brambles that makes for attractive deer habitat. Just yesterday there were 4 deer munching my rhododendrons during daylight hours.

My neighbor has 7 acres, but much of it is wooded and while he has cleared some, he still has a shortage of pasture.

The sheep (about 10 in all) would be rotated to avoid overgrazing (he also has a mobile chicken house), as the property we're talking about is actually a fairly steep slope. My only concern would be possible erosion issues if all the vegetation was mowed down close that could degrade that slope and cause more water coming down the hill. The neighbor did, at his own expense, install some drainage pipes to divert water coming into my yard when he paved his driveway a few years ago. So he's been a pretty good neighbor, and I'd like to try out this arrangement and see how it goes. I'm just not familiar with how closely sheep will eat vegetation, or even what they'll eat or not eat. He said he wants to plant some ground covers for them to eat.

These are hairless sheep which don't require sheering. He said there's no money in the wool and that's why he got this variety.

I think it would be quite lovely to see sheep peacefully grazing in my backyard. Smile

In return for this favor, and for my writing up the statement of mission document to form his nonprofit foundation, which by the way he sent to the governor), I had asked him to take down a tree but it appears he's not comfortable doing that, which I understand.

He may be bringing his tree guy this morning, who does take down trees. I'm now thinking of just asking them to do some pruning of fairly large limbs of an apple tree that were brought down in a storm a couple years ago but are still hanging on the tree.

He had offered to give me lamb meat in exchange for letting them graze here, but I am really trying to be vegan and already my sister has started giving me eggs from her chickens, which I haven't been able to pass up. We have not spoken since my mother's funeral except for once or twice saying hello when I was picking my dad up. So while I do love lamb, I don't think I'd want to cook it. My dad and sister would probably love fresh lamb though. Maybe I could ask for some for him. Smile

I brought my dad up there yesterday so he could meet my neighbor and to show him the neighbor's animals in the barn, which includes cows and chickens as well as the sheep. One of his sheep is due to have a baby any day now. His sheep seemed a little skittish. One of them was stomping its foot on the ground when i reached toward it; I think it was nervous.

Dad needed birdseed so I took him to Agway and then we had Chinese for lunch. He also needs new shoes so Monday I'll take him to a shoe store....maybe DSW?

I see Great Clips is having an $8 haircut sale; maybe I can squeeze that in today.

Happy Friday!

February 24th, 2017 at 03:58 pm

Even though I'm home all week, I love the surge of happiness I feel on a Friday. Smile

Today I had a phone "pre-screening interview" with a recruiter about a perm job a half hour from home. It's a fairly large French company but there were a lot of comments on Glassdoor that they don't pay well, although the benefits are good and they pay 50% match of 401k up to 8%, which is higher than usual.

She told me the salary range was $55 to $70, which is on the low side, but since I know I would still take a job if offered, I adjusted my desired range down to $65 to $75; that way, part of my range is within their range, but it leaves some upside potential too.

The recruiter, from Texas, did an unusual thing: she emailed me her summary of me as a candidate that she was giving the hiring manager, and she told me I could make changes if I liked. I did make lots of changes and basically rewrite it becus otherwise it was a very poor summary of our conversation and she got some things wrong. She said she thinks I will get an interview and that everything about me sounds greatt except that I'm lacking in certain technological areas. They want someone who knows Adobe Photoshop (how hard can that be?) and HTML stuff. Actually, they said they preferred an MBA as well

I brought my butterfly aquarium from outside the toolshed to under my front door overhang. That way, I can keep an eye on the pupae in case they hatch early but they are somewhat protected from rain.

I also did one of my favorite chores, blowing leaves off the driveway with my blower. Went for a walk around the block (25 minutes around and back). It was so balmy today. Actually started clipping some old dried-up blooms on my sedums but didn't feel like finishing the task.

Looks like I will have grossed $840 for the month of February from my 2 freelance jobs. Less than I hoped for, but it's a start. If I end up not getting the perm job mentioned above, I should be able to ramp up the writing a bit. I'm going to have to start making quarterly estimated IRS payments again. Frown

If I got that job (or ANY perm job) I would immediately contribute the max allowed to the 401k.

I found the most delicious thing at Trader Joe's this past week. They are selling dried orange slices which are really, REALLY GOOD. I like dried fruit in general, with dried California (NOT Turkish) apricots and apple rings being my favorites, but the orange was heavenly.

Living and learning

February 23rd, 2017 at 11:24 am

Today is warm, sunny and in the 60s!

I've been applying for a lot of jobs lately, including those not near me but where I'm hoping they may be open to making the position remote for the right candidate.

I just scheduled a pre-screening interview with a recruiter for a job I could drive to. It's for a content writer and it includes lots of long-from writing, which is what I prefer, for doing white papers, case studies, etc, all targeted to a B2B small business audience. The product, though, seems very boring to me: the mailing and shipping market.

It also involves some skills sets i really don't have, like knowing HTML and having direct sales experience. So we'll have to see.

After never hearing from the other recruiter who scheduled a meeting with me for 1.5 hours after she sent me the meeting invite but was a no-show and didn't return my calls/emails, I decided to call her home office and I explained in detail to a very nice person who put me on hold and then came back and told me the woman would call me back after her meeting.

Instead, I got an email from her saying she'd decided I wasn't the right fit. I knew she didn't want to talk to me because she failed to inform me of that and so I spent a lot of time prepping for the call and then waiting around for it. So I wrote back a rather pointed email, copying some other person whose name was also on the email.....I'm living and learning....upward and onward.

Bought a bunch of catfood at Walmart today and then about $40 well spent at Aldi's. I was proud of myself, looking at all my purchases at the checkout. There was no packaged or processed food at all, just fruits and veggies, and once again, got some pretty decent deals.

Last night i went to another MS talk/dinner; only 5 people showed up although there were place settings for about 20. (People RSVP for these things.) The (free) meal was excellent. They served us 3 different appetizers (colamari, eggplant rollatinis and my favorite, a garlicky wilted greens salad with sausage.

Since there were 3 appetizers and there seemed to be no other food coming, we all filled up on those appetizers while the slide presentation began. Toward the end of the slide show, the waiters came out with the main course (!), lamb shanks, oh my! Cooked to perfection. Dessert was Italian pastries and we all took a lot of food home as leftovers.

What a treat!

I walked 50 minutes yesterday and plan to go out today in a little bit.

Two days ago I picked about 7 small pieces of art from a gallery gift shop where nothing had sold in a while. She mentioned if i had anything else I thought might work to let her know. I wasn't going to bother, but I decided to send her a photo of one of my mother's Ghiordes knot wall hangings. These ancient knots were used by Turkish rugmakers.





What you see are small rectangular strips of painted canvas interspersed with a variety of other fibers and netting. It's a totally abstract and one of a kind look. The piece is way above her price point at the store, but this could be a show stopper on her walls that could attract attention. It only takes one interested buyer.

Unfortunately, I didn't store these right and I found when I retrieved them from basement that a lot of those little strips were all bent out of shape, so I was using unopened cans of catfood to press down on all the little strips on my dining room table. I need to work a bit more on the top part of the weaving just under the wood frame because they all should lie mostly flat.

Spring thaw doings

February 18th, 2017 at 10:27 am

It feels positively GREAT, sunny and in the warm 40s. Tomorrow will be in the 50s!

I accomplished the following:

1. Washed my car (badly needed)
2. Vacuumed my car
3. Swept out the garage

I had 4 large pots of daffodils in the back of the garage and they are all coming up, about a month-and-a-half too early. Some are about 4 inches high already.

I thought about putting them in a protected corner that gets full morning sun in my driveway, but it will still get down to upper 30s overnight and this unusual warmth will not last forever, so I put them in front of a large sunny window in garage instead. They will probably end up blooming in the garage where I can't enjoy them.

I had a salmon burger for lunch (still using up non-vegan foods).

Because it will be warm for all of next week, I also released a bunch of ladybugss which hatched in my sunny bathroom. I don't know how they get in there, but they do.

Can't believe we only have another week-and-a-half to go in February, and then it will be March.

I have slightly less than a half tank of heating oil left, which should last at least 2 weeks, maybe a bit more. Meteorologist said we're in for a snowy start to March.

Wasted my whole day....waiting

February 17th, 2017 at 12:22 pm

I applied for a copywriter job through an agency in Texas. It is for a contract job with a digital bank. I'm well qualified for the job.

It didn't say anything about the job being remote or not, but I figured I'd submit my resume anyway.

The recruiter emailed me this morning, wanting to schedule a time to talk today, so we agreed on 10 am. Shortly after that she called me and said she needed to move things around and could we do it at 1:15 pm EST, and I agreed.

After that, she never called me back or responded to my email or phone message, but I mean, really? How unprofessional. It only takes a minute to send an email to let someone know you won't make it.

Strangely, the recruiter sent me their 25-page info book on their benefits for contract workers. We haven't even discussed the job yet, so I thought this was strange, but I must admit that the benefits look very good and I would love to take advantage of them, namely the health insurance. The recruiting company chips in a fair amount of the premium, provided you are working 40 hours, so I'd be paying about $165 a month for a Cigna plan (3 choices, this one's the cheapest), plus the dental looks very affordable as well. They use a sliding scale so if you work less 40 hours, the recruiter still kicks in something for your health premiums, but it's less. The insurance will lapse if you work less than 20 hours a week.

They also have a flex spending account and a 401k thru Fidelity. I would skip the dental benefit becus while it's cheap while you're working, once i went on COBRA it would be rather pricey at $45/month, and I usually only get 2 annual cleanings. I would also skip the FSA account becus their minimum contribution is $1,000 a year, and I don't even spend that much on co-payments.

I WOULD definitely go for the 401k since I'd want to sock away oodles of money in a Roth 401k if they have one.

The booklet she sent is for 2015 benefits; I assume rates have risen since then; i don't have any idea why she didn't send me 2017 booklet.

I'd like to get on the plan because not only would it save me $200+ a month on health insurance, but it would allow me to re-start the clock on COBRA whenever I left that job. So I'd have another 18 months of coverage compared to the 11 I have left now with my last employer.

However, I'm left to wonder if this woman noticed I live in CT. She read my resume so I guess she knows. But we haven't even talked about the job yet. Kind of mixed up. Cart before horse.

So I've wasted my whole day waiting around. I wanted to go food shopping today but I won't be anymore and will have to wait til Tuesday since i like to avoid the weekend crowds and Monday may be a holiday for some.

I'll be working this weekend on the 2nd story for the personal finance website. Want to finish it before I get the next school assignment. Perhaps it would be possible to juggle both jobs; I'm not sure I'll stick with the personal finance one yet. Not enough $$. Subject of this one, which I've committed to: Growing trend of HR of larger companies offering financial education as an employee benefit. Not just 401k/retirement advice, but everything: paying for college tuition, everyday money management and so on. This one will be easy compared to the first one.

Writing adventures

February 14th, 2017 at 05:04 pm

It's been an interesting couple of days...

My neighbors invited me up for dinner last night but since I hadn't had time to shovel the bottom end of my driveway, I decided to walk thru my backyard and up their driveway. But neighbor said no, it's too icy, I'll come and get you so that's what the husband did.

His wife very kindly made a vegetarian dinner though I told them not to worry about it.

The purpose of the dinner invite, other than to catch up mid-winter, which is always nice, was that neighbor husband has cooked up a scheme and needed help writing a statement of purpose which would be used to register a nonprofit he wants to create.

The nonprofit would seek out and acquire donated farm or fallow land for farming and rely on various community groups that work with at-risk teens or troubled youth to raise the crops and learn sustainable production methods to raise sheep, cattle, chickens and so on.

The food generated by the farm(s) would be made available to low-income families for sale at deeply discounted prices, to provide fresh, wholesome food to counter what you mostly see at food pantries: low quality canned, processed and packaged foods.

It all sounds great except I don't think it would be easy to obtain donated land, especially when conservation easements confer upon the landowner the ability to get tax benefits.

Husband's wife was mostly rolling her eyes, indulgingly, becus husband tends to come up with lots of great ideas that never quite take off.

Anyway, we had an interesting evening talking about that and this morning I dedicated 3 or 4 hours to writing up the document he wanted, which would also be used to introduce his idea to the local farm bureau and enlist their support.

He was very happy with what I wrote, as I was, and as a kind of barter arrangement, he agreed to chainsaw a tree or two here I wouldn't mind taking down.

So yesterday, mid-way thru my higher education writing assignment, I had to stop and ask my manager whether I should proceed with something. She still hasn't gotten back to me, so in the meantime, I decided to start researching and writing a story for the 2nd website that needs a copywriter that I've connected with.

They told me to go ahead and start but I didn't have anything in writing about what they would pay me, so i told them i couldn't work without a contract. She said she'd have a contract to me by end of day but i decided not to wait and to forge ahead with the writing since they want it in a few days and it's a very complicated story: the DOL fiduciary rule, its history and the recent Texas court ruling in its favor and the Trump directive to DOL to revisit it (with the aim, most likely, of dismantling it).

So I was JUST wrapping up the tail end of the story, congratulating myself on my work, when I get another email from this outfit saying, ok, scratch that story, here are 2 different ones.

I immediately wrote back and said I'd just finished that story, and could they still use it.

They wrote back and said yes, tho they thought I wasn't going to write anything until i got the contract, and I replied that once i got the woman's response saying i'd have the contract by end of day, i felt comfortable in starting the job.

I sent my signed copy back to them and as soon as they send me a copy THEY'VE signed, I will send them the draft story. I will be curious to get their feedback.

Truth be told, I'm having second thoughts about writing a relatively large number of stories for them at the rate of pay they quoted me. I've already invested more time and effort into this 1st story than the money they've said they'll pay me. I'm feeling inclined now to wait and see if they like my story, which I'm hoping they will, becus I would then tell them the money promised is not really enough given the time and effort i put into it, and if their rate of pay is cast in stone, I may have to reconsider working with them.

Are you experiencing bugs here?

February 11th, 2017 at 07:23 am

The good news is the administrators of this site fixed the kink that wouldn't allow you to insert and/or change images in your profile.

If you are still experiencing problems when you write up a post and then click "Publish," when your post disappears, please indicate that here.

I mentioned this to them and they say when they tried it, it worked fine. I know that personally for me, this problem has existed for years.

Please indicate if you have experienced this.

thanks.

Shoveling out

February 11th, 2017 at 05:30 am

We got a foot of snow here on Thursday. Now I know how long it takes one small but determined woman to shovel a foot off my 90-foot driveway: 2.5 hours.

It may not sound like much time but it was pretty intense "hard labor" and I had to break it up into 3 separate times: first on Thursday morning, then again Thursday afternoon and finally once more yesterday.

The car's still in the garage, but I have to get out today for some groceries as there will be a few more inches and very messy weather tomorrow, and then again Sunday into Monday.

I got a new assignment for the higher education website: the best schools in Utah. Brigham Young University has quite impressive facilities. I've already done the best online schools in Alabama, Montana and Indiana.

I also had a talk with another website, one that needs a personal finance writer to write 10 to 20 short stories a month. I will likely do a test writing assignment next week. They pay better than the education website but still not great.

I don't think I could do both jobs, but I am feeling cautious about dropping the education job til I'm sure I'll be comfortable with the personal finance job. So I was the one to suggest I do one or two writing assignments to see how it feels, and make sure they're happy with my work.

If I wrote the 10 or 20 a month, the income would mostly or wholly cover all my monthly expenses. I'd only be grossing $36K a year, compared to a similar job I had back in 2008-2009 where I was writing 3 stories a week and 2 blog posts, roughly comparable to what this job calls for (5 stories a week max).

In 2009 I was grossing $70K with benefits, so you can clearly see how desirable it is for me to find a perm job with benefits. This job would just help tide me by.

This new job for a NYC content generation firm, would actually require a lot more brainpower than the education job. The stories would be along the lines of what you see in Money or Kiplingers, and the 1st story they suggested was on the recent TX court ruling on the fiduciary DOL rule. They would provide some talking points but I think I would still need to do independent research.

The education job is pretty straightforward and just requires hunting for specific types of information on a given school's website, making sure to hit on certain things and insert various keywords, etc. But given what they pay, it's quite a bit of work. I DO appreciate they pay fairly quickly, in about 5 days time after you hand in the assignment.

PS The little image you can insert in your profile is now working! I've been in touch with Nate and James. It took a few tries but I see they've fixed it as I have one of my mother's weavings in my profile.

Blizzard

February 9th, 2017 at 10:52 am

We're in the middle of a major snow event. They've forecast 18 to 20 inches by the time it's done toward end of day.

It looks deep. Shovel time is coming.

Luther is bored, and slamming the kitchen cabinets. He's figured out how to pry open the doors (and drawers), but not all the way, so they slam shut again if his paw isn't there.

Ah, Luther, you're so clever, and handsome, too. The perfect catch for any feline except for the fact you're shooting blanks, if you know what I mean.

I got a response back on one of the freelance writing jobs I applied for yesterday. It's in NYC and she asked me for my rate, a question I REALLY hate, becus of course it puts you in an impossible situation, not wanting to lose the job by quoting too high a price, but not wanting to shortchange yourself, either. So I avoided answering and said in as friendly a way as possible that since I was relatively new to freelancing (not true), I found rates to be all over the place (true), and then flipped her question back by asking if she could tell me what they typically would pay for a story like such and such.

This is personal finance writing and includes interviews, so should pay higher. I'll keep the $1 per word rate in back of my mind, which someone here mentioned, but even tho it's NYC, I kind of doubt they'd pay $500-$750 for a 500- to 750-word story when they want 10 to 20 a month.

I spent all morning trying to get Waldo to eat his food, which contains his 2 meds. I finally succeeded by 12:30 pm. If I were working outside the home, doing this would not be possible.

He's on steroids for his asthma, 1 pill every other day. He does ok on the days he gets that pill, but on the alternate day he's usually completely stuffed up, can't breath and can't smell his food so he won't eat, which means he also isn't getting his thyroid medication.

I try using the pill pockets first, as this is easiest and ensures he's getting the whole pill, but about half the time he turns his nose up at the pill pockets and especially so when he's stuffed up cus they have no smell. So that's when I crush the pills and mix it in a small amount of food, maybe a teaspoon, but still, if you know cats, he will eat one or two tiny bites, and then walk away. I have to keep coaxing him.

The only other option my vet had offered for the asthma was an inhaler-like mask I'd have to put on him daily, and I ruled that out since Waldo would freak and probably hide from me after a few times of doing that.

I have an air purifier running in the bedroom, and I bought a new vacuum with HEPA filter, and changed to a no-dust cat litter, but none of those things seems to have helped at all.

So I have one remaining option which I'm going to call the vet about tomorrow: giving him the steroids once daily, instead of once every other day. He had told me that over time the steroids can cause him to develop diabetes, and this is why I resisted doing this since seeing the vet 2 months ago. Becus that would pretty much be the end of the road for Waldo. Injections on top of 2 meds neither one of us could handle.

I am hoping that with the daily steroids he will do better and continue eating. He is 16 now so am hoping he will live out his natural lifespan more comfortably, before he develops diabetes. The vet said he'd never had that happen to a cat but it would be very upsetting to know I brought that on if it happens.

Productive day at home

February 7th, 2017 at 05:06 pm

I knew today was going to be a freezing rain, sleety kind of day, so I planned to hunker indoors, not go anywhere and focus on my current freelance assignment. I'm glad I was able to gt in an hour long walk yesterday.

I was able to finish my assignment today, 2 days ahead of schedule and turn it in. I should have at least a few days before she gives me the next one, and now this frees me for tomorrow, when I'll be heading to one of my galleries, 35 minutes south, to bring new art, to pick up some jpgs from a photo shop created from my mother's old wedding slides (can't wait to see them, just 18 slides encased in plastic that went with a viewer), to BJs and Shop Rite. And then the dump, if there's time.

I applied for at least 5 jobs today, many found on Craig's List, believe it or not. Most are more freelance/contract jobs. While the gig I have going on right now is good (low pay but reliable), I will only gross $800 monthly at best, so I need another similar ongoing thing writing for some other website. If I find it, the 2 jobs could be enough to cover most of my monthly expenses.

Today I noticed (happily) that the IRS had deposited $1234 refund in my checking account. I was in a little too much of a hurry when I filed and wound up having to file an amended return becus I overlooked 2 things, one of which will result in an additional $45 refund.

With that and my last full unemployment check, my checking balance stands at $6800, the most I'm going to have for a long time or until I find another f/t job. It's going to start slowly shrinking, I'm afraid, as bills I have to pay dwarf the dwindling incoming income. Long sigh.

I was planning on going to see that new movie with Meryl Streep, just $3 here in town, but I only remembered it a half hour after it started. Darn. It's one of the few little treats I allow myself being under-employed.

Waldo and I enjoyed some sockeye salmon for dinner tonight.

I scheduled installation of my new Lennox central air unit for March 31. I'm happy this is in the works. I've already started dreaming about a longed for wall of shelves in my dining room. My carpenter did not return my call, an indication he's too busy to do it. He's really cheap. Somebody finally caught onto that, a company that manages several properties, and now they're keeping him busy nonstop, which he really needed so I'm happy for him.

Sunday stuff

February 5th, 2017 at 04:14 pm

Let's see, here's what I did today:

1. I walked 85 minutes...excellent! It was fairly mild out, for February, at about 37 degrees.


I walked in an area that has one main trail going straight but then there are multiple side trails you can take into and around open meadows, like this one.


It really wasn't as desolate as this barn photo makes it seem. There were a fair number of dog walkers and hikers about.


I tend to seek out out-of-the-way trails; this one was new to me and meandered along a river until I decided to turn around due to mud.

2. I continued working on my newest higher education assignment (online schools in Montana).

That's about it!

In other news, I was very disappointed at what I got from Safeco for spending 3 long months driving like a granny.

I earned a 17% discount, which I thought was off the entire premium of $900, or $150. No, I got just $57. I have to call them tomorrow to see how they calculated that. I think I'll just drop my collision at the same time to achieve an instant $211 savings, especially since, not working, I'm also driving very little. The discount is for every year, moving forward, so that's something. I hope that my dropping the collision that doesn't affect my discount.

More AC details...help me decide

February 3rd, 2017 at 01:59 pm

I now have quotes from 2 guys to install the central air, and I'm unsure whom to hire. I don't think I need more quotes as the 2 I got are solid.

#1 guy is with what appears to be a well-established company with 3 locations. They have an average A rating on Angie's List.

He's recommending a Carrier Model 24ABC636AON3, which is a 3 ton model, not budget model but not top of the line either.

Comes with a new Honeywell programmable thermostat, 1 year labor warranty and 10 year manufacturer warranty on compressor and covered parts.

SEER (energy efficiency) rating is 16, which is again not the most energy efficient, which would mean a higher price tag, but not the very lowest, either. I decided I didn't need the best here because I don't plan to use it nonstop, just enough to dehumidify the rooms and keep it comfortable.

They would also include the 1st year's maintenance, which would cost me about $175 for every year thereafter.

He told me the unit would not be eligible for any state or federal rebates/credits becus I'm pairing it with an existing oil furnace, which compared to natural gas, is not very energy efficient.

Price: $5400. If I pay in cash or check, the price would be $5200. (Note to self: ALWAYS ask for this discount.) They also had a $300 coupon on their website for new AC installs; I forgot to ask him about that, but if I applied that coupon and paid cash, total cost would be $4900.

He wants 50% down with 50% upon completion.

#2 guy: He recommends installing a Lennox Xc14, also a 3 ton unit. SEER rating is also 16.

Warranties are manufacturer 10 years and he told me if anything went wrong with the unit the 1st year, he would take care of it, so i guess that sounds like a 1-year labor warranty.

He did not offer the 1st year free maintenance but did offer $200 off for cash only (not checks), so with the cash discount, his price would be $4650, or $250 less than #1 guy. Also, he said their annual maintenance costs about $118, quite a bit less than #1 guy.

#2 guy is a young guy who bought the business with a partner 5 years ago when the former owner wanted to retire.

He wants 1/3 down and 2/3 upon completion. He also got an average A rating on Angie's List.

What do you think? I'm honestly feeling like I don't want to say no to either one of them becus they both were very nice. Typical girl reaction, I guess.

At this point, I'm thinking of going with #2 becus I have faith either one could do the job, so #2 is not only $250 cheaper but his annual maintenance is, at least now, substantially cheaper than the larger, more established company. #2 guy also even offered to cut down a partly dead foundation shrub that would need to go to make way for the outdoor compressor, which #1 guy didn't offer to do. #2 guy also said he'd throw in the cover for the outdoor unit. They both will give me a new thermostat.

I hope that some of you who commented on my earlier post on this will weigh in again. Any feelings about whether either Carrier or Lennox makes a better AC? Any other thoughts?

I'm thinking maybe I'll approach #2, tell them that the 2 quotes are very close in price, and that if he threw in the first year free maintenance like #1 guy did that I would give him the job.

What do you think?

Cooling thoughts...

February 2nd, 2017 at 11:20 am

I was very pleasantly surprised by the first estimate I got on central air. It wasn't nearly as much as the single quote I got over a decade ago which scared me off from seriously considering it...until now.

The extreme humidity is not good for my mother's art, and that's what truly spurred me to move forward with central air, even though I'm not working much.

So he spent over an hour here, answering my questions, measuring and looking outside to determine where the compressor would go.

I ruled out the new ductless units because while they are more energy efficient, it would require more wiring to all go to the single outdoor unit, and my ceilings are not at all high so the units would kind of dominate the rooms and be more noticeable, I think. I would need 4 of them, 2 on each floor.

So going with a conventional Carrier system and 16 SEER, which I think is pretty good efficiency, it would cost just $5,200 and they throw in the first year's maintenance, which runs about $175, for free.

I would feel confident they could do a good job but I do have one other place coming out tomorrow, so I can compare at least the two. I might also like to get a third estimate.

I'm excited. The thought of living in air conditioned comfort and not sweltering during the worst parts of July/August. It gets so humid in this house that i have gotten mildew on wood and leather furniture. I would not run it often as I dislike super cold indoor temps anyway, but I would run it just enough to dry out the indoor air and be comfortable.

The one remaining issue would be how to deal with my family room, which was a later addition over the garage that is not served by the existing oil furnace duct work.

So I might have to keep using my current portable AC just for that room, I guess. He said while it's really hard to say how much the AC would add to my electric bills, he said it would be at least $100 a month if I ran the system continuously (which I wouldn't). Maybe it would be more, who knows. But if it was an extra $200 for the months of July and August, I think that would be decent and cover most of the bad summer heat.

Back to square one, it seems

January 31st, 2017 at 01:59 pm

Nothing seems to have panned out, job-wise, of several promising contract positions. So, I'm continuing to web-write the school stuff and volunteer writing/editing for another site. (I just wrapped up editing three of them today, which is my weekly quota I've set for myself. I don't want to commit to more in case I get busy with paid writing.)

It's snowing steadily now and there are probably 2 or 3 inches on the ground. Nothing too serious, weather forecasters tell us.

I went this morning to pick up about a dozen pieces I had dropped off a month ago at my favorite art gallery and learned that one small piece ($125) of my mother's sold, and the check will be forthcoming. After some discussion, I only took home about 6 pieces and left the gallery owner with 14 remaining pieces.

I was glad to get home before the snow began flying.

Once I was home, I promptly emailed another gallery representing mom's work with jpgs of 2 of the items I brought home from the first gallery as they are small in size (space is limited), which is what the second gallery likes. Sure enough, she indicated interest in 2 of the 3, so we'll have to schedule my visit and discuss pricing.

Dad and I had another great dinner at an Italian place in town that has mostly flown under my radar. Meaning, I hadn't realized just how good their food is. Dad expressed an interest in having me take him to Aldi's, and possibly BJs, so I was hoping possibly tomorrow if the snow gets melted; if not then, we can do it Thursday.

I did my January expenses and see my net worth continued to grow. That probably won't last long since I haven't contributed anything to savings and with my benefits running out in a week, I will likely have to begin digging into savings to cover monthly expenses. Big bummer. It will be painful.

I finally got around to changing the filter on my furnace humidifier. When a friend of mine helped me change it a year ago, I carefully wrote down instructions for myself because I know from prior experiences that simple things stump me. I procrastinated a while, simply because I don't like spending time in my cold, dark and cobwebby basement. Anyway, it's good for another heating season now. Smile

I cooked up a big eggplant last night and made baba ganousch, an eggplant spread/dip with lemon, tahini, sesame seeds, garlic and a touch of olive oil. So good slathered on crusty toasted bread. Tonight will be a hearty salad with beans, raw onion, mushroom and a sliced, hard-boiled egg (not vegan, me bad).

Hooray, I did my taxes

January 28th, 2017 at 01:18 pm

Yesterday I started the federal return and made much better progress than I anticipated, since I knew there'd be a few extra forms or schedules this year.

I finished the return today and filed the federal one, which has been "accepted" by the IRS. I did realize, belatedly, that I forgot to record $20 of interest I paid on some bank accounts but it's too late now...maybe they'll catch it; if not, not a huge thing.

I also did the state return and will file that tomorrow.

I will get a refund on the federal and owe money on the state return, so my net refund will be about $500.

I was NOT looking forward to doing that at all. SO relieved this is almost behind me for another year, and next year's will be simpler.

Met a friend at Starbucks last night; meeting dad for dinner at our favorite Italian place tonight.

Thursday things

January 26th, 2017 at 11:12 am

I ran to the library and faxed a letter to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan telling him I don't appreciate them dismantling ACA without something else in place. Thanks to Dido for bringing this to my attention on Facebook. It's all happening very quickly.

Yet another job possibility....a perm, f/t job working as a financial writer for a consulting group where I once worked in 2001; it turned out to be just a 9-month stint, since once 9/11 happened, all their business (financial services companies, many in the Twin Towers) dried up. My recruiter friend is presenting me to them today.

I checked on Linked In and found that only 3 people who were there when I was there still remain: 2 partners and the HR person! So it's a whole new crew. It would be very good money, a 40-minute commute and longish hours, also pretty challenging.

I've been trying to step away from financial jobs, but oh well.

The job at Ivy League is still up in air as the planned meeting yesterday was rescheduled.

Spent just $16 at Aldi's and they would not refund me (just $1.50) for the canned organic black beans that were marked down to .49/can and they charged me .79/can for. They said I was looking at the sign for mixed vegetables below the black beans, but I know what I saw.

When I discovered this last week, I TRIED to call my local Aldi's store but was unpleasantly surprised to see they DO NOT list their phone number anywhere. Neither does their website; I tried sending a message to corporate aldi's and they directed me back to the local store.

I guess not the end of the world; still a good price for those beans. Today's deals included .79 pink grapefruits, .79 carton of white mushrooms (the brown mushrooms were higher priced, for no reason at all except that they look more healthy) and $1.29 eggplant, plus the organic, non-GMO soymilk at $2.19 is a great price. And blackberries, $1.69 per small plastic carton, another great price.

Over 80% of the soybeans grown in US are Monsanto GMO soybeans, which means the pesticides are in the genetic material now, and studies have found these soybeans have much higher pesticide residue than organic or non-GMO soybeans. So non-GMO soymilk is very much appreciated.

I'm mostly limited to buying fresh produce there but given that's largely what I'm eating these days, it covers a lot of my dietary needs. I'll have to go elsewhere to get my 4% (not 6%) concentration of balsamic vinegar for some oil-free salad dressings I'm going to try.

Left to do today: Long walk and hopefully start my taxes, which I'm not positive I can do myself this year due to some complicated looking Form 8949 stuff related to inheritance. Doing my taxes is probably first on my list of Things I Hate Doing.

Health coverage that encourages non-use

January 25th, 2017 at 11:57 am

Health coverage that encourages non-use is really nothing new, but this is a good example of how even deductibles that would be considered modest by most people can discourage people from getting proper healthcare.

I decided yesterday I should see my neurologist as I've been experiencing some low level sensory symptoms related to my MS, and since it's been over 10 years since my last MRI, I was thinking it wouldn't be a bad idea to have another one now, to see whether this is just a flare-up of old symptoms or possibly new disease activity, which might mean reassessing my current medication.

I was able to get an appointment to see the doc today and while he didn't say it was absolutely necessary, he agreed it wouldn't be a bad idea to get the MRI, which would be of both brain and spine. He said sometimes significant changes in your sleeping patterns or stress could bring on flare-ups. I sleep pretty well and I don't feel stressed, although the job situation is a concern.

He went to the trouble of calling the imaging center where I had my last MRI done; we weren't sure they'd have the film since legally they're only required to keep the records for 7 years. Luckily, they did, so I stopped over to pick them up on CD on my way home from doctor's; I would bring this to the imaging place so the radiologist there could compare the old and new films.

When I got home I called insurance company to double-check on the copay, which I was guessing would be about $200. Alas, because I have a $500 deductible which I'd forgotten about, my cost for the 2 MRIs would be about $625.

I don't want to spend that kind of money, especially when I'm not working. Getting the MRIs could have given me some peace of mind if they showed, as they did over 10 years ago, very little change, although they could also trigger further discussion with doc if it indicated a big change for the worse. None of the MS drugs are 100%, so you can't expect no issues at all.

So the question is, are my symptoms a flare-up of old disease activity, or something new? I'm guessing it's the former, since I've always been affected on the right side of my body and these symptoms similar to what I've had before. Plus, my symptoms are on and off and don't last 24 hours, which is what technically constitutes a relapse.

Unless they suddenly worsen, I'll just watch and monitor. If at some point I have another need to pay for the $500 annual deductible, then I could more easily consider going back and getting the MRI done in the same year.

So I did waste the $40 copay for seeing the doctor today, because seeing if he'd agree with me about the MRI and telling him about my symptoms was the sole reason for my visit.

Another one bites the dust?

January 24th, 2017 at 02:44 pm

Honestly, sometimes it seems like you just can't win.

The recruiter who submitted me for a contract job with Ivy League school to do editing and writing called me tonight and said preliminary feedback from the school was they wanted someone who did more "editorial writing, not advertising."

I've done relativity little advertising copywriting. But I know sometimes when people aren't in the marketing business, they muddle the words and think marketing is advertising. And I think what the woman really meant was marketing. Yes, I've done a ton of marketing, but I've also done a ton of journalism-type writing where you're not trying to sell anything, aka "editorial."

I tried to relay this to the recruiter, reviewing with her in great detail examples of this. I learned she submitted 4 other candidates to the school besides me and will be talking to the school tomorrow morning.

After I got off the phone with her, I followed up with a lengthy email just summarizing everything for her in case she missed some points taking notes while I was talking.

It's the best I can do.

I'm so frustrated.

Stingy employers

January 24th, 2017 at 07:42 am

This morning i had a phone interview with the home remodeling company.

The woman who interviewed me has only been in her job for about 6 months and the marketing department referenced in the ad consists of her and a designer they just hired.

I could tell she was inexperienced because at one point she asked me when I graduated from college, which is basically like asking how old I was. I avoided answering.

She wanted me to write 2 unpaid 500-word articles on 2 different topics and turn them in within a day or two as she wants to decide who to call in for interviews, based on the writing samples, by end of this week.

It's a full time job that would require me to be there on site but they will pay based on an hourly rate of $12 to $14 an hour, which is less than what I'm making now freelancing for the higher education website where I don't have to drive anywhere. Of course, I don't work a full 40 hours weekly for the higher education website.

This new job would be a 65-minute drive one way and benefits that include medical coverage and paid vacation would not start til AFTER 1 YEAR.

Ridiculous.

I told her I'd think about it but I already sent her an email declining to pursue it, and I laid out all the reasons above.

The classier companies that ask writers to do unpaid work as a "test" will pay for their time (like the company I interviewed with last week) and to ask for more than one free piece of writing is a bit much, let alone they need it in a day or two.

Having to wait a year for medical coverage just wouldn't work since my COBRA would run out before I was eligible to get medical coverage at the new company.

Just like when you're dating, you have to weed through a lot of crappy jobs to find a good one.

Job search activity

January 23rd, 2017 at 12:04 pm

Job activity seems to have picked up a bit lately. Learned of a few dead-ends today but something new also that I'm excited about.

First, the dead-ends....

There was one contract job I applied for thru a recruiter with a toolmaker here in Connecticut, but I was told today they passed on me because they wanted more "creative" writing samples. I had sent more technical writing samples given its manufacturing. Go figure. I have a ton of creative samples online on my Coroflot page, which is shown at top of my resume, but I guess they didn't bother to look. I decided to let it lie.

There was another contract job through a different recruiter with an in vitro/fertility company, but I learned today they had a problem with funding, which was based on some sort of grant, for the position so for now it's a no-go. Not a huge loss since they were only paying $20/hr.

The perm job I had an interview for last Monday is still up in the air as he is traveling.

But today one of the recruiters came back to me with another contract job with Yale School of Management, writing and editing for a few months. This sounds most interesting to me of all of them. Pay is $30/hr.

I often see writing jobs at Yale but have never gotten a response when I sent a resume; maybe having done some contract work for a few months would be enough to break the ice and pave the way for more. It also would look nice to have an Ivy League on my resume.

New Haven is a lengthier drive, probably an hour with traffic, but it would only be for about 3 months so I think I could deal with it.

If I got that job and assuming I'd start around Feb. 1, it would be just in the nick of time since my benefits run out about 3 benefit checks from now.

UPDATE: Ok, there's one more possibility...I applied for a writer job for a remodeling and renovation company in NY state. This job would be easy for me becus I've done so much real estate writing about construction and design trends and so on. I assumed it was some big company. I got a reply back from the company saying thanks, but we were looking for someone local. I replied back that while I'm in CT, it's a commutable distance (well, barely, at 65 minutes, more than I've said in the past I wanted to drive) and she said ok, i'll let you know and I assumed I wouldn't hear back from them becus maybe they meant more local than 50 minutes.

Later in the day she asked me via email if i could be available for a phone interview tomorrow and I said yes, so I think we're good for 10 a.m.

However, I took some time to review their website and it looks like just one guy with a fairly blah website. So I'm wondering, how in the world could he afford to pay a full-time writer? Granted, they're only looking for someone with 1 year of experience so I am way over-qualified, but even then, my check of salary.com tells me that an entry-level writer in that part of NY should pay about $50K, which would be enough for my needs. I just can't imagine this guy could afford to pay that though, plus benefits. Maybe that's not what he has in mind. The ad specified "full time" and referenced a "growing marketing department."

So I'll be real curious to find out.

In the meantime, I turned in my latest assignment to the higher education website a day early because a nor'easter has arrived, the winds are picking up and we may lose power later today or tonight with strong wind gusts. So I wanted to make sure she got the project on time.

Update on the SafeTrack program. My 3-month tracking period finally ends Jan. 26, 3 days from now. Seems like it was forever. Right now I'm held steady at a 17% discount, which should be applied to my account with 24 to 48 hours, and a refund check will be issued! So that would a savings of $153.

Sunday things

January 22nd, 2017 at 04:13 pm

It's been wonderful to see the turnout of the Million Women (and men) March in cities around the world. As I sit here at home writing letter after letter to my Congresspeople, it sometimes feels like a lost cause, but the marches this weekend of so many like-minded people told me otherwise.

We have only just begun.

Not much news to report...I am now more steadily writing for the higher education website; I have about 3 weeks left of unemployment benefits. I still need something more though.

I'm going to be more exclusively shopping at Aldis since they beat Walmart, BJs, Shop Rite and Trader Joe prices. They don't have everything I buy but they have a fair amount of stuff I buy regularly like old-fashioned oatmeal, almond or soymilk and some fresh produce.

I walked 50 minutes today and filled all 24 boxes of the Daily Dozen, not an easy feat.

Did anyone see the first episode of "Victoria" on PBS? I thought it was very good and can't wait to see the next showing. People just can't seem to get enough of made for TV movies on British royalty, but about all the other royalty in other countries?


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