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The jobs merry-go-round

April 25th, 2017 at 02:58 pm

In my last post, I described 2 job possibilities: the perm job at fertility healthcare company with the long drive, and the 6-month contract job that paid much better and was closer.

I mentioned also that the contract job employer wants to hire me, sight unseen.

Late last night, I got another email from that recruiter in which he explained he'd made a mistake: that it wasn't a 6-month contract but a 4 to 5 week contract!!

I was incredibly disappointed because I was leaning toward that job. No wonder they didn't feel it necessary to meet me for such a short-term job.

That recruiter knew I had the interview today with the faraway perm job and I touched based with him today after the interview. Basically, I explained I would now only take the contract job if the other job fell through. He perfectly understood though he upped the rate to $55/hr. The job is still there for me but he has to know by TOMORROW at the latest whether I want it or not.

I've passed this info on to the recruiter for the fertility job and asked as a courtesy that if they don't want me for whatever reason, that they let me know quickly so i can grab the contract job at least. I doubt that will happen and I'll probably wind up calling the contract job recruiter and telling him go ahead and re-advertise it.

So I could end up with neither job, which would be kind of a bummer despite my reservations about the fertility job. It was a heck of a long drive down, I think 65 minutes, although driving home in non-rush hour traffic I got back in 50 minutes.

They are 98% sure of moving in a month's time to a location a bit closer to me on the same highway which would shave off 10 minutes from the drive, so it could become a 50- or 55-minute job. Still long. It would really pile on the mileage on my car.

I met with 3 people there, including the 1 I knew from an old job 8 years ago. He gave me a writing assignment, an email he'd written. I discovered when doing research to rewrite the email that he'd totally plagiarized a particular website, so I guess it's a good thing I mostly rewrote it.

One of the people there said i could work at home on snow days in winter but that they otherwise want people in office to collaborate. I would still intend on asking for 1 or 2 workdays at home once I got settled in the job, maybe after 6 months or so. And I guess if i got the job i would continue my job search so that in case they say "no" to partial work at home schedule that I can look for something else.

I'm frankly sick of job hunting but that's the best I can come up with. I think I could live with the job working at home 2 days a week but if I can't, I don't think I'd want to stay there for long.

PS The cats killed a snake and left it for me in the basement!! They don't go outside, and Waldo has arthritic legs and doesn't jump on anything but the bed and upholstered furniture, so I'm sure it was Luther. The poor snake must have just emerged from hiberation, or perhaps it even hibernated in the space between sill and foundation.

I was shocked to find it, dead, on the floor. I had just done laundry yesterday, so it must've happened last night or today. Thank god they didn't carry it up...live...to main living quarters as they have done with mice!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Heard back from recruiter for perm job. They found a writer with 20 years of experience in the fertility industry so they want to hire that person. I'm a great writer but I can't compete with someone with that much targeted experience.

I'm a little perturbed because I put a lot of effort into the written assignment today when my current freelance assignment, which I planned on working on, is due tomorrow. And they probably knew about this other person when i came in to interview, so I'm not sure why they even had me come in.

At the same time, I'm also a little relieved as I won't have to deal with that commute.

But anyway, recruiter said they really liked my work and want to hire me to do contract writing.

As soon as I hung up from him, I called back the recruiter for the 4 to 5 week contract job, told him what happened and said I'd like to take his job now, with or without an interview. (He told me before they hadn't asked for an interview but I had, just becus i wanted to get more info about what I'd be doing.)

At this point I'd prefer a phone interview as my carpenter is coming on Thursday to start the bookcase and tomorrow is due date for my current freelance assignment. Once I turn it in, I will take a break from that work til things settle down next week and I know what's going on with the short-term contract job.

AY yi yi!!

Sunday stuff and am AMAZING college deal

April 23rd, 2017 at 04:37 pm

So I unwisely accepted this humongous 40-school assignment with a Wednesday due date, because I wasn't 100% sure I'd have a job interview to go to this week. I do, on Tuesday.

So (gulp) I had to go all out for the past 3 days so I could free up all day tomorrow to prep for the interview, and then a half day on Tuesday for the interview itself and one hour drive there and then back. (I did free up time to have dinner with dad at the Chinese place last night.)

So I wrote 10 school summaries each of the last 3 days, which really wasn't easy since most take me 50 or 60 minutes to write. I worked from 7:30 am to about 5 pm yesterday, and from 7:30 a.m. to 3 pm today. Got done what I needed to. Phew. I will never do THAT again but it's hard to turn down a paying job in my situation.

I sort of don't even want this job I'm interviewing for but one thing led to another and since my friend J. is the recruiter who's been leading the charge, I feel obligated to follow through as I don't want to disappoint him. Tho I may have to if I get an offer. At my age, I'm just not sure I have the stamina for a 2-hour commute (RT) every day and who knows how long they'll expect me to stay each night.

At the same time, I feel a need to consider it because I need affordable health insurance and have 8 months left on COBRA before s*** hits fan.

As usual, this is my conundrum. I feel like I've faced this dilemma a thousand times.

I could take the risk of passing on this job and not getting another perm job interview for a long time. The last perm job interview I had before this was shortly after I was laid off last summer, so yeah, the quality job interviews are few and far between.

I could try it for 6 months or so and then ask to work at home 1-2 days a week, which could change things mightily as far as my tolerance for the drive. Or they could say no, and then what?

I look in the mirror and feel I look so old, going in for a job interview, it makes things even harder. No spring chicken here.

In other news...

My sugar snap peas are FINALLY emerging. Took rather a long time. I intend to have them twine around the metal vertical poles of the shelving system they'res sitting on, out on the sunny, sunny driveway. All the parsley and some of the butterfly plants have also emerged.

I heard back from driveway guy about the weed poking through the new asphalt, as happened last year right after they paved. He agreed it shouldn't be happening and said he could try an extra thick coat of sealer. I asked if he would do the whole driveway or just that one spot and haven't heard back yet. Becus I have a feeling this is going to keep happening and how may times can I reasonably expect him to return.

I gave $500 to my carpenter so he can buy materials for my built-in bookshelves. Hooray. I had to delay his start on them due to my job interview cus I wasn't sure I could think straight with him hammering away downstairs, etc. So he's going to start this Thursday and while I can't wait to see them materialize, I'm not looking forward to probably 4 full days of no privacy and banging noise here. I'll have to make sure to pill Waldo his meds before he arrives or he'll never take them.

I am excited about getting them and the ability to design as we go along, as I'm not sure if, under the window, I should go with a window seat that opens from top, a cabinet or a cabinet with pull out drawer. He'll do whatever I want. Smile

I think I'll skip the window seat that opens from top as I don't want to have to clear whatever's on top of the window seat everytime I want to open it. Cabinet doors are kind of boring/predictable so I don't know.

He's also open to using matching fluted vertical trim with the little rosettes to match the trim on my double set of French doors in the living room/family room.

I'm glad he's looking forward to doing job nearly as much as I am but even though the job interview prep will be out of the way by the time he comes, will his work make it hard for me to work on another writing assignment? I'm turning in this assignment later on Wednesday. Carpenter starts work on Thursday; I don't know if he'd want to continue over the weekend, but if not, he might not finish up til Tues/Wed. I suppose I could afford to take a break from the writing, but maybe I should anyway because I'm kind of house-bound while he's working here so I'll need something to do anyway.

I took an hour walk today.

Tomorrow I'l take a break from my interview prep for an MS lunch in neighboring town. (I don't really need an entire day for it, but I do also need to assemble my portfolio, lay out an outfit to wear and write down directions.)

OK, so the very best deal I've come across after researching over 260 schools YTD for this freelance job of every kind is this: If you attend any CUNY or SUNY 2 or 4-year university in NY full time and if your family income is less than $100K, you get FREE tuition.

The only catch is, you have to have lived in NY for at least once year before applying for the program, and you also have to agree to reside in NY for at least as long as it took you to earn your degree. So if you went for a bachelor's degree, you'd have to agree to live in NY for 4 years following graduation. You could defer this requirement if you were planning to continue with grad school, but you would still have to meet the requirement after that or risk having to pay back the money. The program is called the Excelsior Scholarship and it starts this fall. It's the first program of its kind in the nation. The idea is to help make a college education affordable for middle-income families. In the next few years, the income cap will increase to $125K.

Wow, I wish I could have taken advantage of this program.

Interview lined up for Tuesday

April 20th, 2017 at 12:47 pm

This is the f/t perm job about an hour from here at an IVF fertility healthcare company. I used to work very closely with the recruiter when we both worked as writers for a certain employer about 8 years ago, and the person I would be reporting to is also someone who worked at that same place! I didn't know him well at the time.

So I'm putting together my portfolio and will be prepping this weekend. I think my biggest shortcoming as far as they're concerned is my relative lack of healthcare copywriting experience.

In other news...

Dad asked me to order him a second magnifying glass as he lost the first one. I got it from Amazon and he came over to get it. We had lunch at the German restaurant nearby.

A recruiter called me about a contract job I'd applied for yesterday: a 6-month contract for an agency about 35 minutes away. My client would be a national bank. This job could pay much better than the one described above ($85-$90K) and it's a reasonable drive, but of course it's just for 6 months. He said there's a possibility it could go longer, but who really knows. I'm not crazy about working for agencies but I would do it for 6 months.

The seeds I planted are finally coming up: parsley (for the butterflies), assorted flowers like Mexican sunflower (for the butterflies) and snap peas for me.

One of the tiny cacti that I bought a few weeks back at the cacti and succulent show is sending forth what looks like a flower bud. So exciting!

I had my driveway paved last spring. I thought he laid the asphalt very thin, and several times I had him return because WEEDS were growing THRU the asphalt. Now it's happening again and I'm sure since it's been a year he will be less inclined to come up. I can spray weed killer, but I shouldn't have to!

Kiva doings

April 19th, 2017 at 06:22 pm

I was notified by Kiva that I've received some repayments on my loans and have enough to make another $25 loan.

As you may remember, I started with $100 and made 4 $25 loans, and then 1 more, for a total of 5 loans. The five loans were made to women in Armenia, Pakistan, Uganda, and Moldova. Of these, one loan is currently delinquent.

I am searching now for the 6th recipient, and there are so many people I would like to loan to.

You can use filters to narrow your search, and I have narrowed mine to include only women. It is very hard to be a single woman in a third world country. Of course I don't know for sure that these women are all single, but you can sometimes tell from the description of the loan request.

I also favor those who want money for basic necessities, like sanitary toilets, an education or to start a business, like farming or for any green enterprise. I've noticed there are a lot of women who want to buy a sewing machine.

I won't loan money to pay for a wedding or for someone's husband's business, or for pesticides/insecticides or for someone trying to raise cattle in a desert environment.

I am trying to loan to as many different countries as I can, so I decided to make the loan to a married woman living in the Gaza strip with her husband and daughter. She wants to buy solar panels to deal with chronic power outages.

It may be a while til I get another chance to make a Kiva loan, since the loan terms can be a year or more, but today I pledge that if I get a full-time perm job with benefits, making another $200 in Kiva loans will be something I do after I get my first paycheck. That way, I'll have 8 outstanding loans and they will be repaid at more frequent intervals.

Easter and now it's back to my normal routine

April 18th, 2017 at 05:38 pm

So my Easter was fairly nice but fairly uneventful. I did have fun shopping to create some Easter baskets, one for my friend's 2 young nieces, 1 for his sister, who was hosting the dinner, and 1 for the mother of the 2 nieces. I only spent about $24 on everything.

The 2 little girls are spoiled and quite chubby at such a young age, around 5 and 7. They were pulling stuff from the baskets out of my hands as soon as I walked in and had to be coached to say "thank you." They also walked right by me when I was leaving because they were more interested in their ice cream. Oh well.

Yesterday and today I settled into my normal routine: working all morning on my freelance work, breaking for lunch and then going out for a longish walk. My afternoons are free to run errands, although I didn't have any today but I did enjoy lounging in my sun room.

Called my cousin M. on Easter and caught up with her. She fell on her outdoor stairs when there was black ice in March and bruised her ribs, which laid her up for 3 weeks out of work! She lost another cat due to kidney failure.

I'm passing on the 2nd p/t job

April 17th, 2017 at 09:48 am

I had my scheduled 2nd phone interview regarding that part-time proposal writer job. This job has all the trapping of a full-time job without the pay or benefits.

There are various regularly scheduled weekly calls, training in Denver and mandatory attendance at the national sales conference each year and yes, that 10-2 pm daily availability even though I wouldn't be paid for that.

I think it would be very difficult to do this AND my current p/t job as the learning curve for this new position would be fairly intense. It amazes me they plan on paying just $15-20 an hour.

I was honest with her about my concerns regarding time and travel, so I doubt she'll call me back. She said she would know by week's end who she'd be calling back for a 3rd meeting with the other proposal writers.

Given that these p/t jobs are not my ultimate destination and I still need a perm job with health insurance, I don't want to get entangled in another commitment. Much easier to work on increasing my billable hours at my current job which has unlimited work and I'm getting fairly good at doing it. I had applied for it hoping the pay would be better than what I'm doing now and when I learned in the first interview that it would not be, I just decided to keep mum and see where it would lead. Now I know: a dead end.

Easter plans

April 14th, 2017 at 04:42 pm

Another major holiday is approaching. Not really being religious, I never really thought of Easter as a major holiday, but truth be told, it was one of 3 major holidays, not including Mother's Day and our respective birthdays, when we all got together.

Now that mom is gone and I still have no relationship with my sister, the approaching holiday has been causing some stress. I know if I did nothing on Sunday and stayed home alone I would be depressed and sad after 55 years of always having someplace to go.

I thought about past Easters when I would buy some flowers or sometimes bring even a homemade Easter basket for my mother and sister. I think about how some years, when Easter was warm and sunny, how both me and my sister, I think, shared a secret longing to not have to show up for Easter because we both just wanted to stay home and plant stuff in the yard and otherwise enjoy the weather outdoors instead of being holed up in my mother's condo where she never opened the windows (due to her allergies). Now i would give anything to have another Easter with mom.

So I asked my friend R. if he was going to his niece's home for Easter, knowing full well that he would be, and hoping he would invite me to come. That's what he did, and so I am feeling weepy and grateful to have a family to spend Easter with.

This past week when I was in various stores I would see the aisles with all the Easter bunny chocolates and lilies, and it all reminded me of Easters past, and it was terribly depressing to think I had no one to buy little Easter treats for.

Now I have my friend's niece's 2 daughters to buy for, plus his sister and niece. I feel so relieved. I am waiting to hear back whether there's a dish I can bring. It's almost like having my adopted 2nd family.

R. and I are like fire and ice. (I'm a Leo, He's Aires.) When I fell in love with him about 30 years ago, we fought a lot, and that hasn't changed all that much over the years. But we are both mature enough to get over our quarrels and enjoy the good things about our friendship.

He is one person who perfectly understands how I feel about my mother's loss, as he was very close to both his parents and still grieves for them. In fact I might say he taught me things about family I never really knew coming from a divorced family and a sibling I wasn't close to.

Another possibility

April 14th, 2017 at 09:24 am

I had a preliminary phone interview for a perm job with a large, well-known educational company who need a p/t proposal writer.

Hours could be variable but average 15 hours a week, so I would plan to keep my current job doing the school write-ups.

They'd like someone to be "available" for phone call meetings from 10 am to 2 pm. They would provide me a laptop. On-site training in northern NJ would be a few days. It would be a an hour and a quarter drive.

HR person cited pay of $15 to $20/hr. I would only take this job if it paid $20/hr since my current job pays about the same range, depending on how much time I take to write things. I tend to be thorough when doing my research, so that pushes my hourly rate down rather than up.

The main advantage of the new position is that as a perm position they would deduct taxes from my paycheck and time spent on this job would make me eligible for future unemployment benefits, should I need it. (Since the amount of benefits is based on amount of earned prior income, any unemployment benefits I earned due to this p/t job would be pretty small. I THOUGHT that contract work could not be counted toward Social Security earnings, but I checked and it appears that it IS counted, so that's really one less reason to take the 2nd job. Hmm.

The new job is more involved than what I'm doing now. Right now I research and write independently, as very little contact with my liaison at the company is required. I've been working there since last November so I know what they want and the overall parameters of each job doesn't vary that much.

What I like about my current job is that I have lots of flexibility in when I do the work, so I can juggle things around if I have something to do during the day. I can and often do write nights or weekends. I am still working on maximizing my income with them and have been tracking gross income depending on differing word counts. They do a direct deposit of my pay into my checking account within about 5 days, which is very convenient. No invoicing or time tracking required since pay is based on the assignment regardless of time spent.

The new job would require phone meetings and I'd need to interview internal subject matter experts to write the proposals. I'm not crazy about having to be at home from 10-2 every weekday becus that really reduces the flexibility I was just talking about above. I can do the phone interviews, but is it worth it to learn a new protocol, system, style, etc for just $20 an hour part-time?

It might just be easier to work for one employee at a time and focus on increasing my hours with the one I have now rather than trying to juggle two different jobs.

I'm not sure.

New Home Improvement Project!

April 13th, 2017 at 04:25 pm

As you may know, I just had central air installed here. It was a long time coming. I've suffered in the dog days of summer for 20 years!

Even though I am under-employed, I decided to proceed with one more major home improvement project for this year, partly because if I DO find a f/t job, it will suddenly make my time very limited and I don't feel comfortable having workmen in my home when I'm not here.

(A similar situation developed 8 years ago when i was having my screened porch converted to a sun room. The work had already started and then i lost my job, but i just proceeded according to plan and everything worked out fine.)

So my new home improvement is this. For years, I longed for a wall of built-in bookshelves in my dining room on either side of a double hung window.

I love built-ins in general and I grew up in a house in New Jersey where the bedrooms had built in dresser drawers! Very cool.

In my dining room, there's a bump-out at one end of the wall that covers heating ductwork, and it come out about 14" from the wall. I think the bookshelves will work well running along the rest of that wall and be flush with the 14" deep bump-out. I will also put a loveseat under the window with some kind of cabinet underneath for added storage. However, cabinets are sort of predictable.

After my mother passed, I gained a ton of art but also various knick-knacks which I am fond of but which I can't display now due to lack of space. And I'm overflowing with books.

So several months ago, I called Billy, the guy i use as a handyman and who lives here in town, and left a message. He never called back and I assumed he was too busy with his regular work to fit me in. I called him becus carpentry is his specialty and he is very affordable, charging just $200 for a full day of work.

I went to Angie's List and identified 3 companies that could probably do a good job, but I was worried about cost. As I read the reviews, I couldn't find a single job that was under $10,000 and I really wasn't prepared to spend that much on this.

So right before I planned to call these other outfits to come out for an estimate, I called Billy again, and this time he called me back and said he could do it.

He came over today and spent an hour and a half talking with me about the job; I showed him photos of what I had in mind, we discussed different details, prices, materials and he showed me his album which includes bookshelves very similar to what I want, plus I noticed instead of a cabinet below the window, he had done a pull-out drawer for another customer which looked very good and is a little different.

He thinks he can start last week of April. He estimates 4-5 days of work plus materials, so we're looking at about $1,000 for labor and maybe another $800 for materials. All told, I would consider this pretty affordable and I suspect this is FAR cheaper than what I'd pay elsewhere, even though I didn't get a chance to call another place for a quote.

He works a bit slowly but is fairly methodical and knows what he's doing. This will be the biggest project he's done for me yet. I'm excited!!

The shelves will look something like this:

Except that instead of going around a doorway, the shelving will be on either side of a window, with the bench/cabinet below.

Here's the wall as it looks now:

At the left end of wall is the bump out I mentioned that encloses ductwork going to the second floor. So the shelves would be flush with the edge of that bump out and be about 14" deep. The length of the shelves on either side of the window will not be the same, so it won't be perfectly symmetrical, which I'd prefer, but it will still look good. There will be 2 vertical lengths of shelves on the left and 3 on the right of the window, which is a bit wider space.

I have to clear out space in my garage so he can store the materials and also clear out my dining room. It's mainly a lot of art and 3 pieces of furniture to move: the dining room table, a lightweight credenza and my mother's sewing machine. I will need to find a new location for the sewing machine, possibly just keeping it in the dining room but moving it slightly right to the adjacent wall. Might be a bit crowded. Will have to see.

Oh boy. I LOVE built-in shelves and will have no trouble filling them up. I will paint the whole thing white since all the trim around here is already painted.

I'm excited. Smile

You may think it a bit premature for me to be moving forward with this when I'm not earning a regular income, but my main reason again is that I don't expect it to be super expensive and now is when I have time to hang around and be here when the work is being done. If I waited until I was fully employed again, I'd have to wait til I had some vacation time. Billy may not always be available as his new employer is keeping him pretty busy, so I'm glad he's willing to fit me into his busy schedule.

I turned in a $600 writing assignment this past Sunday and just got the next one tonight, so will have to put my bookshelf plans aside for now and focus on the job. I'll have it done by next weekend.

Social Security Calculator

April 13th, 2017 at 05:30 am

Here's an interesting calculator that analyzes the best time for you to start collecting Social Security:

Here are my results:

Recommended Solution
Based on the data above, the following plan of action is recommended:
PatientSaver will file for her own benefit to start on 8/1/2029, the month after she turns 70 and receive 125.33% of her full retirement age benefit.
The optimal filing solution results in a net-present-value of $748,337

In contrast, if the client filed at 62 the net-present-value of their benefit would be $583,267


April 12th, 2017 at 02:16 pm

I had an interview today with a small company specializing in IVF treatments in need of a copywriter.

I'm positioned fairly well to get the job even though I don't have a healthcare background because the recruiter is someone who knows me very well; we were both writers at a former job 8 years ago and worked side by side. The director of marketing at this new company is also someone who worked in the same former company with me, although I didn't really have a work relationship with him.

The job sounds interesting, the pay is decent, but the commute is longish, 50 minutes without traffic. The HR person told me during the interview they will be moving soon to larger quarters, and it could be to Greenwich, which would be even further away from my location and which was a hellish commute in winter when I once did it for 4 years.

I was looking for something no more than 40 minutes, but after 8 months of underemployment and expensive health insurance, I've been reluctantly broadening my search.

Recruiter agreed I could pitch the idea of working at home 1 or 2 days a week after working there 6 mths to a year. I remember so well how drained and fatigued I felt with that Greenwich commute, and how I didn't want to go anywhere on the weekends. So a partial work at home arrangement would really be essential in the long term, as far as I'm concerned.

I guess I'll take it step by step and see what happens, keeping my options open but having mixed feelings about it.

family reunion, take II

April 8th, 2017 at 03:32 pm

Today was our drive out to Philadelphia for our little family reunion. So this time I saw my newfound first cousins J., K. and R. again, who I met for the first time last December, and for the first time today I met my great-uncle P. and his 3 daughters, C., T., and S. He also has a son who wasn't there.

I had asked K. if she could pick up a birthday cake from a bakery since my dad's birthday was just 2 days ago and she brought one, so after we were done with our meal, the waitress came out with the cake and we all sang happy birthday to my dad, who was totally surprised. He's 84.

My great uncle is 89, in a wheelchair and living in a VA home but me seemed pretty mentally sharp to me. He and my dad had a lot of catching up to do. We were all sitting at one enormous round table and so while I kept hearing interesting snippets of conversation round the table, wanting to sit in on them all, I really couldn't talk to everyone the way I would have liked as it was a larger group than last time.

It was also a much shorter visit. We had a 2.5 hour lunch but then they had to bring uncle P. back to the VA home. So it was about 2.75 hours drive down there and then the same back. We hit one large traffic jam going down; going back seemed easier and otherwise non-eventful.

I regret having renewed my ancestry membership so quickly after it expired becus i haven't really used it since. I need to earn money to pay bills, etc., so not much free time for browsing online.

I have a little bit of freelance writing to do tomorrow and then I can turn in my current assignment. Other than that, I plan on enjoying the weather (in the 60s) and maybe washing my car.

A pointed conversation

April 4th, 2017 at 02:42 pm

I enjoyed my trip to the annual CT Cacti & Succulent Show over the weekend. I bought some goodies, probably about $35.

Most of them are little enough to fit on my double-hung window ledge.

Yes, they're on top of the toilet tank...the upstairs bath is the sunniest room in the house!

Things were getting a little crowded in there, so I had a brainstorm and hauled the "greenhouse shelves" in the garage I recently bought at Aldi's for $19.99, for my OUTDOOR plants and brought it up to the bathroom so I could have more vertical space for all the plants.

It fits, but it is a little bulky so I don't think this will stay here forever. Maybe until I'm able to put some of the houseplants outside for the summer season.

I spent several hours today, in fact, researching specific care requirements for the now dozen or so cacti and succulents I have and creating an easy-reference chart. You might assume they all like full sun and little water, and in fact you would be incorrect.

I've already discovered that some of my plants, like the aloe, jade, alocasia, drunkard's dream and peperoma, will do much better staying indoors. I nearly scorched the peperoma last summer; same thing with the aloe.

The ones that will go outside include the African Milk Tree, Lemon Bean Bush, Echeveria, Copper Spoon and Panda Plant in full sun, and the Mistletoe and Haworthia in shade.

Oh, and it appears both the pencil cactus and the similar-looking candelila may do okay in the sunroom, which gets excessively hot.

Anyway, I love these plants and would have expanded my collection a long time if it weren't for the cats. My step-father had a large cacti collection when I was growing up and I think somehow that stuck with me, no pun intended. Well, Waldo is not a concern becus he won't jump on anything but the bed, but Luther likes to chew on things so I have to be careful.

In other news...

Not long after I complained here about having to wait 5 days for my next assignment, I got a big one...6,000 words for 40 school write-ups, for $600. If I were able to do 4 of these a month, it would actually EXCEED my bare minimum monthly expenses. Of course that's before taxes, but now being in the lowest tax bracket I would still net around $2,000.

The pay is still low on a per-hour basis but we're not going to think about that. I work about a 35-hour week doing one assignment of this size, and since I work weekends too, I find I can work 5 hours a day, usually around 8 am to noon, and then I've met my quota for the day and can move on to personal chores or continue working on the assignment so I can lighten my load on another day or finish up early.

I never realized in past years when I had to freelance that finding just a single steady writing gig could be so helpful. In the past I relied on my past real estate contacts and mainly freelanced for two brokerages, but the work was often very random and unpredictable.

The website I'm writing for now hires about 30 freelance writers, so that certainly tells you they have plenty of ongoing work.

I need to do my estimated quarterly taxes this week and then transfer some taxable savings into my SEP IRA based on my gross for the first quarter. It won't be much, but not having a 401k, it's better than nothing. Um, hmm, I assume I can do this after having contributed to my Roth IRA for this year. I think I can.

My friend R. with the prostate cancer is finally going to see a naturopath-type doctor. He invited me to come along next week, and since I can, and it's fairly local, I think I will. I will be curious to see what they recommend for someone who is overweight and eats terribly.

This weekend is the one-day family reunion in Philly where I'll be meeting 8 cousins, 5 of them for the first time! This includes the youngest and last surviving brother of my grandmother, and his 4 kids. I don't know much about them and we haven't communicated much even while I've set this up. We're meeting at a restaurant near the VA nursing home where he resides. I believe his kids are around my age or maybe a bit younger. I hope they are nice.

Blah humbug

March 31st, 2017 at 10:50 am

These hyacinths haven't bloomed yet; they are from another year.

It's another cold, dreary, rainy day here on the East Coast and it looks like a walk will be out of the question.

So many job opportunities come and gone. Waiting for my next freelance writing assignment. I turned in my last assignment on Monday and here it is 5 days later and I still don't have something new! Not good, but my goal is 4 a month, and we're not even into the month of April yet.

I spent the morning reviewing my grocery price list, which is incomplete at best, but there was enough data in it to make a new list indicating which foods that i buy regularity are best to buy at which stores.

So not surprisingly, Aldi's is the leader, with the cheapest:

Whole pineapple ($1.29)
Salad greens ($3.59 for a large clamshell)
Grapefruit (.69 ea)
sweet potatoes (.89 for a bag!)
Almond and soymilk ($2.19)
Organic jarred preserves ($2.19-$2.39)
Old-fashioned oats (42 oz, $2.39)
Steel cut oats (24 oz $2.29)
They also had frozen baby brussels sprouts which I really wanted to stock up on when i saw them for $1 a lb but they were sold out when i got there.

Shop Rite has the cheapest whole watermelons ($3.88, at certain times)/

BJs has cheap fresh organic strawberries ($2.99, 1 lb), frozen, nonorganic wild blueberries and walnuts ($3.33 a lb)

Trader Joe's has the cheapest Amy's roasted veggie pizza at $4.29 ($8 elsewhere!!)

And Amy's frozen bean burritos, which i like in a pinch, seem so far to be cheapest ($2.69 ea) at Stop & Shop, which I find hard to believe. Surely i can get them cheaper elsewhere.

Blah, humbug. I should plant the parsley seed i soaked overnight but don't feel like going in the chilly garage to get the topsoil and peat pots. Maybe tomorrow.

I watched a PBS show on the Bronte sisters last night. Very interesting.

Can't wait to go to the cacti and succulent show/sale tomorrow. I won't be coming home empty-handed, let's put it that way.

Yesterday I got my NEW CENTRAL AC installed! They have to come back around late April/May to test the system becus it's too cold to do so now, but I assume and expect it will be fine. He didn't tell me about that until he arrived, so I decided to withhold $250 in payment to make sure he comes back for the system test.

If I paid him in full, there's be no pressing reason for him to come back here when he gets really busy. He seems professional in every way, but still, i would feel better having this small $250 bit of leverage. Total cost was $4650 and that includes the cover for it and a new programmable thermostat much like the old one.

He cut down a small dead mountain laurel stump that was in the way. My only regret is that i didn't have them position the outdoor unit a foot or so further toward house corner, becus now if you sit in one of my 2 kitchen chairs at the small table i have in there, you see a large compressor, which looks even larger becus i asked them to put it extra high up on cinder blocks becus in past years with heavy spring rains there was a real torrent of water in that area. (My neighbor put in some drainage at no cost to me, since the water was coming from top of his driveway, so maybe it wouldn't happen again anyway, but better safe than sorry.)

It's a Lennox and has a one-year warranty on labor and 10 year on parts. Servicing it annually will cost $118 but I may skip the first few years since it's less likely to have issues when it's brand new. It will be interesting to see how well it cools the house.

One question mark is how comfortable my family room will be. It was an addition built after the original house, and it's the only house that doesn't have the oil furnace duct work providing heat; it has electric heat. I am hoping that my leaving my 2 French doors open in summer, which i do anyway, and having a large box fan blowing the air-conditioned air from my regular living room into it, will be enough. I also have a portable AC i can put in there if needed as well. Which I may have to do as the family room gets a tremendous amount of heat coming in from the adjacent sun room, which is all windows on 2 sides and facings south and west. Even when i close the doors to sun room and have the windows open or closed.

I know the cats are going to want to go into the sun room becus they love it in there. So I don't know if I'll let them in and out all day long and lose the cool air or enforce a No Sun Room policy during the dog days of summer in July/August when it's often unbearable during heat of the day.

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.


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!


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.


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