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Archive for February, 2011

Job Pursuit: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

February 25th, 2011 at 04:31 pm

OK, things have been percolating, a bit.

The most fun thing I have to talk about is that I have a job editing....a book!

It's a first-time author who has written a historical romance type book and who has already gotten books 2, 3 and 4 halfway written in her head. And she lives right in my hometown.

A friend of mine told the author, who was looking for a copy editor, about me, and while we talked on the phone a month or so ago, she wasn't quite ready to show me the book. Her publisher had told her she needed to cut the length substantially in order that they could sell it at a certain price point.

When we first talked, I wasn't sure how serious she was. After all, doesn't everyone know at least one person who wants to write a book?

So after we spoke, I sort of lost track of it and wasn't very aggressive in pursuing it. Then earlier this week, I had a free moment and I zipped her an email asking how things were going with the book. She replied back with a pleasant, long-running reply and mentioned that a friend had referred her to another editor who had already told her she'd do it for $1,000 to $1,200!

I was so upset at the prospect of having yet another potential job fall through my fingers. It seems like it's been happening a lot lately. (More on that later.) So I wrote back and said I was disappointed, and would she allow me to compete for her business, and that I would match the other editor's price. The other editor had said she'd edit a few pages for free to show her what she could do. I think I had offered to do the same. So I suggested that she send us both the same pages and then she could do a side-by-side comparison and may the best editor win.

She didn't respond to that directly, which surprised me. Of course, i didn't really know whether she had already committed herself to the other editor. But she did say, let's meet for coffee.

We did. We ended up at the coffee shop (sans coffee until the end) talking for 2 hours. Or should I say, she did most of the talking. She is very bubbly, upbeat, cheerful, funny and entertaining and of course, full of stories.

You might say she's my opposite, as I tend to be rather quiet and serious, more cerebral. But I think this meeting was exactly what she needed to do becus she wanted to KNOW her editor and have a good working relationship with them and she had already been turned off in her search for a publisher when a bunch of them were located in India and seemingly hired high school kids to do much of the work.

So after coffee, she agreed to send me a few pages for me to edit. She sent them, I spent about 3 hours editing 9 pages. That's a lot of time, isn't it? While she has a vivid imagination, she's not too good about things like punctuation and spelling and her sentence structure is, umm, interesting.

I spent some time trying to calculate how much $ I'd make on an hourly basis if i spent that much time on the rest of the book, and I don't think it'd be that much if i looked at it that way. I'm not going to worry about it too much; if there's one thing i have plenty of, it's time. I need to convert that into money and not worry about hourly rates becus the fact is, i'm not working full-time, so any $ helps.

Anyway, I did my thing, trying not to take too heavy a hand with it. She loved it. She was so effusive in expressing her appreciation and said it was exactly what she needed, that she had meditated on finding the right person to do this and here i was, meant to be, etc. She really seemed to appreciate my comments and markup.

So, we start for real in about 2 weeks, after she clears away some other projects from her interior design business.

I'm psyched becus she's such an interesting person, I find the work extremely easy, fun and I'll make some money, too. And there's the prospect of a longer term relationship if her first book does well.

I have an interview next week with a startup news website. I have somewhat mixed feelings about it but we'll see. It's a p/t contract job; I need a "real" job with health insurance but for the time being, who knows.

I also started a relationship with another new website that is for and about women in the NY and DC areas, mostly arts and entertainment (www.womanaroundtown.com). And they want to expand into my area of CT. They really liked my first story and already published it.

One problem: they don't pay! I'm not making this the sole focus of my attention, but it's a very good way to add published pieces I can embed as writing samples in my resume. Like for instance, i've always wanted to write professionally about health-related stuff, but the places i've applied to always want someone with prior experience....in that field. I am heavy in experience writing about personal finance stuff and real estate. So writing for free for this particular site is one way to accumulate some health/wellness-related articles I can point to with prospective employers. I had created my own health/wellness blog ages ago, but apparently, that's not that impressive.

They've already OK'd my next assignment...it's a story about my mother and her art! With lots of photos. My mom's thrilled. Great exposure for her and the topic is a perfect fit for the website, especially since some of my mother's art is very spring-oriented, and those are the pieces I want to focus on in the story.

Here's one of her pieces, from my own collection:



Maybe things are picking up. I applied for 4 jobs today which i feel well qualified for, which is very unusual. There's one at a well-known travel website that I'm extremely interested in, so crossing my fingers on that one.

There have been several instances of recruiters contacting me about a specific job, I respond almost immediately and then I never hear from them again.

Yesterday I got another assignment, a press release about a new condo development, from one of my regular clients. It's the kind of thing where, whenever I'm deep down in the dumps and not getting any work, I get an email from him out of the blue asking me "if I'm available to do such and such." Am I available? Ha!

Unless I get my federal tax refund, it looks like I will be in the red for February as I was in January,thanks to a $500 bill for filling up the oil tank one last time. I had only allowed for 2 fillups this winter. Maybe next month will be better.

I'm meeting my old friend Ron at a coffee shop tomorrow. I have 2 focus groups lined up for March. I'm going to help my elderly neighbor Sunday by crawling in her attic and checking for wet insulation. And mom is waiting for me to interview her.

I was feeling very down and dispirited the last few weeks, but activity is picking up, thank God.

Worst Case Scenario Analysis/Hope is Not a Strategy

February 19th, 2011 at 07:32 am

I continue to umm, "educate" contractors who call me about the vinyl siding I want on why it's not nice to ask a female, would-be customer if there's a "Mr." in the household.

Seems like every single one of them lately is asking that question very pointedly. They insist that they do it so that one spouse won't sign a contract and commit them to the job without the other one's knowledge or consent. C'mon. I find it hard to imagine a spouse signing up to do a $10,000 project unless the other spouse already agreed it was ok to do so.

I explain that as a single female, I don't feel I should have to divulge my marital status to someone (a contractor) I don't even know. It's a question of security. It's really none of their business.

So after initially agreeing to have this guy come out, I changed my mind after he asked that question and didn't back down. We ended the conversation. Two minutes later, the phone rings again and it's the owner on the phone, attempting to resuscitate the visit out here.

Anyway, he was super polite and nice about it, and we thoroughly discussed why he does it and why I don't like it. He seemed so reasonable I relented and said ok, let's keep the appointment. He admitted that I wasn't the first woman to object to the question, and he even said he would bring it up at their marketing meeting next week. But I keep imagining that as soon as these guys hang up from me they're saying, "What a b****! What a pain in the a**!"

As for the worst case scenarios referenced in my headline: I woke up around midnight, unable to sleep. Actually high winds forecast for today were already ferociously banging one loose wood shutter on the house, and that's what woke me up. So i got up, opened the window and leaned out to take the screen out so I could secure the shutter.

But I had a kind of bad dream, one i think was caused by general anxiety about my future. I went through all of last year just hoping I'd get a phone call about one of many jobs I'd applied for. All I got was that temporary 3-month job and the Census Bureau stuff i did from spring through summer.

I'm fortunate to still have unemployment benefits and expensive COBRA, but this will run out by the end of the year, roughly. What happens if ANOTHER year goes by, just like last year? From a job-seeker's point of view, the economy hasn't moved much.

As I firmly believe, hope is not a strategy. I always feel more in control of things when I've planned ahead for various contingencies, and continued unemployment is certainly one of them. Heck, it's frightening to think about, but what if I never get another f/t job again?

What exactly will I do? Umm, I'm not sure, and that's what is making me so anxious. If I can't control my income, then I have to look for more ways to lower expenses. And I don't mean by clipping coupons. It needs to be in a big way to have any real impact.

Take in a roommate? Ugh, that would be a total sacrifice of privacy and I know, from having one or two boyfriends live here, that I'm very particular about how things are kept and that caused issues with others living here. Don't really see this happening.

But I've been thinking more that one option would be to sell my house and downsize into a less expensive condo sooner rather than later. Meaning, I always knew I'd want to move into a condo some day, but I had no specific schedule for doing so. Perhaps in 9 more years, at the latest.

But now I'm looking at a more immediate condo move not just for lifestyle reasons to free myself of time-consuming maintenance responsibilities, but increasingly, as a money-saving move.

Assuming I moved to a condo outside of this town into my current condo of choice, I'd save $3,000 a year in taxes right off the bat. (My preference would be to stay in this very lovely town, but taxes are higher and there aren't any condos I really like...they're either too expensive or not nice enough.)

I'd also be paying for the condo in full with cash and walk away with an extra $50 to $75K in my pocket,conservatively, depending on the sale and purchase price of both properties. There could be a smaller savings in heating due to smaller square footage, but I'm not counting on that to be as significant.

There are 2 problems: 1) My condo of choice requires you to be at least 55 years old. I'm 3.5 years away from that. I'm going to call them Monday and see if that's a real hard and fast rule. 2) There's a LOT of stuff I'd have to do to this house to make it market-ready. This includes dealing with the exterior siding, which is why i want to get vinyl, also paneling 2 closets and repairing all the damage caused by this winter's ice dams, repairing a leaky pipe (think plumber bill), restaining a small part of wood floor that I sanded down to bare wood after cat urine stained it black...disgusting) and maybe a few other things. Since I'm not working steadily, this would all come from personal savings which are basically earmarked for retirement (not in IRAs, though) so of course I want to minimize expenses.

Prepping and selling a house is so much work. But doing it now would be good in that since I'm not working, i wouldn't be totally stressed out by trying to work a f/t job AND prepping the house and doing all this stuff at the same time. Keeping it perfectly spotless would be easier if i wasn't working.

Another reason to do try to sell now rather than wait is that there's a really good selection of units at this condo complex that i like; once the market returns to more or less normal, I imagine other buyers will be active and I'll have less to choose from.

So, that's where my head is at right now. The only other good thing is that, in the absence of further mortgage prepayments, I'll have the house paid off in 4 more years, so that would lower my monthly expenses, though not by as much as you think, since when i bought this place i put down 45% cash. My principal is only about $750 a month.

I've also been wondering about the heating at these condos. It's all electric baseboard units. I know that heating oil is very expensive. This year it was high, and i don't see it getting any cheaper, since it's a finite resource and for a whole host of reasons, not to mention recent unrest in the Middle East. But I've heard many times that electrical rates in CT are among the highest in the nation. I don't heat with electric now, but my electric bill is typically $65 a month, and that's being very frugal. I shudder to think what it would be it I were heating with it.

There's one other thing I thought of...talking to my dad this weekend, he told me my sister is just getting by, financially. She lives in the nearby town where my favorite condo complex is. We have never been close (not my choice) and she never says much about her personal life when we get together, which is not that often.

She has a house about the same size as mine, with a separate barn/garage with a rentable apartment above it. She's had to have a few tenants leave after they lost their jobs and couldn't pay rent. One scenario I thought about was what if I sold my place now and moved into her rental apartment for a few yeas, until i turned age 55 and could move into the condo i want. I don't remember exactly what she charges for rent...I'm thinking it's $900/month. It's got a very large living room with a smaller bedroom and kitchen. It's not ideal as it has a long flight of outside stairs to access the apartment. On the plus side, she might have space on her 3 acres to let me continue to have small vegetable garden. Plus, she is my sister and she'd never do something really rotten, however, she is very prickly and short-tempered and hard to get along with at times, hence our current relationship. Well, in any event, she has a tenant in there now but i think she lost her job. My sister would probably like the idea if having me there becus she knows she can count on me to pay the rent on time.

I can't really think of any other options that would result in significant lowering of expenses. The best case scenario would be finding a new job. It wouldn't even have to be a great paying job, because I've already calculated that even with no further contributions to my retirement savings (assuming no big withdrawals, either) I'd end up with enough to retire on. (I haven't done my February investment statement yet, but I know the market's been up and I'm hoping i hit the half million mark.)

So a new job would only need to cover my current living expenses and provide me with reasonably priced health insurance. If I got another job, maybe instead of contributing to a 401(k) I'd start a new savings account for a new car, something I'll need in a few years. Or maybe contribute the minimum needed to get the employer match on the 401k...i don't know, just a thought. I'm eligible now for the catch-up contributions, so would hate to give that up.

Unexpected visitor and a rant about employment agencies

February 18th, 2011 at 04:32 pm

My dad came up for an unexpected visit yesterday. He called from my sister's house and wanted to know if i wanted to go out to dinner. Of course!

He came over in the afternoon and we hung out and chit-chatted for quite a while, then my sister joined us and we headed to my dad's favorite Connecticut restaurant, the German place.

I wasn't in the mood for schnitzel so I got the only chicken dish on the menu, something with a red pepper sauce, along with some red cabbage and spaetzel. We also split an appetizer of German pancakes. Dessert was some sort of cake/pudding thing with almonds and whipped cream.

So it was a nice way to break up my week. He spent a 2nd night at my sister's last night and headed back home today.

Also yesterday i got an email that got me very excited. A recruiter from a creative agency emailed me about a contract job, rewriting website copy for a non-profit group that would be worth 40 to 60 hours worth of work. Although I'd never dealt with this particular person before, she was quite friendly in the email, addressed me by name and even apologetic that the rate was just $20/hr (because it was a non-profit). She said if I was interested, to send my current resume and writing samples, and that the job could start as early as this Monday with a phone interview that day.

So I immediately began crafting a great reply, hand-picked some wrting samples, etc and sent it back about an hour and a half after she sent it. I sent a 2nd email with a few more writing samples I'd dug up. Then I called.

I called again this a.m., asking her to call me back and let me know the status of this job.

No responses to my emails or phone calls. Which really, really, ticks me off. If she sends me an email to me and me alone, it would just be common courtesy to let me know if i didn't get the job, since she approached me.

But i thought it was weird from the start that a recruiter would go to the trouble of emailing someone when they could more quickly and easily pick up the phone. That's why I suspect she mass-distributed this email to a bunch of people. And I have to assume someone else got to it before I did. Even though no one else's name appeared on the email, there are programs that let you mass mail something and it appears as if it's gone to just you.

I am desperate for work, would be thrilled to do this for $20 an hour and responded almost immediately. For a stupid recruiter to dangle a job in front of you and then just ignore you is just cruel.

I noticed the receptionist at the place always asks for your name before transferring you, so when I called this afternoon, I gave a fake name to see if she'd then take my call. It didn't work; I got dropped into her voice mail again. I am so tempted to tell her off on either the phone or email, but of course that would ensure this agency would blacklist me but good, and they are one of the few agencies in my state that specializes in finding jobs for creative types.

Hey, I know they get their paycheck from the employers, but they also need the cooperation of job candidates to get their job done. I don't care how many job candidates are out there now, the surplus doesn't mean they should feel free to just treat them like disposable goods. What a jerk!!

Umm, I don't think so (Thank You, BBB)

February 14th, 2011 at 04:20 pm

So one of the contractors I'd talked to at last weekend's Home Show called me today wanting to come over and give me an estimate for vinyl siding. We scheduled an appointment for tomorrow, but not before he totally annoyed me by inquiring whether there was another homeowner, ie, a husband, and if so, could he be present when they arrive as well.

Why did this annoy me? 1. Becus i got the idea that if I happened to be a man, they would not be so insistent on finding out if I was married; in fact, they could probably care less, and 2. I got the idea that they didn't want a situation where they were trying to close the deal and then I say, oh, I need to talk to my husband about it. They want to close the deal on the spot.

Anyway, I argued the point with them and they finally gave up trying to find out whether or not I have a husband. My personal situation is none of their business,and men just don't seem to get it that asking anything having to do with your marital status makes me, as a single woman living alone, feel a little vulnerable dealing with people I don't know. So I prefer to reveal as little info as possible. I am the homeowner and I'll be paying the bill, I told them.

So anyway, after we set the appointment and I hung up from them, I decided to check them out on BBB. Turns out they have 84 complaints lodged against them by dissatisfied customers, and some of them were not resolved to the customers' satisfaction.

84 complaints? Ridiculous! Based on that alone, I decided to cancel the appointment I'd just made; there are tons of contractors out there. I don't need to take a chance with a company that apparently leaves customers hanging when the job is done. I got their answering machine, so I left a calm, but detailed message explaining why I was canceling.

The scary thing is that if a company like this realizes it's losing too much business due to the sheer number of BBB complaints, all they have to do to get around that is change their company name and re-register with the state. Unless you as a customer know the names of the principals, you'd never know it was the same outfit.

I dropped off some clothes and boots at my mothers' and she loved them all. I also spent quite a bit of time there trying to help her learn how to post photos of her art on a blog I helped her create....a year ago. My mother's been using email for years, but it amazes me how doing the simplest things online, like a cut-and-paste or just basic commands, gets her so frustrated.

Of course, she hadn't tried posting photos to her blog in the entire year since I set it up for her, so of course she forgot everything.

While I was out, I also stopped at Wal-Mart and did a call-in survey with Toluna while shopping for hand lotion. It was a 3-minute survey and netted me a lot of points, which I so laboriously work for doing tons of online surveys all month long. This was a different type of survey that doesn't come along often, but as I said, it was a chance to earn big points. I also participated in an online interactive survey at a scheduled time last week. It was 90 minutes long, and that one just by itself also netted me oodles of points, the equivalent of about $30.

In freelance news, I got a message today from a Realtor inquiring about my price for a press release. We haven't connected yet, but i hope to talk to her tomorrow. Last week, I had sent out my email flyer about my freelance services to several hundred agents at the one firm i know best (they have about 1500 agents mostly in CT)and when i didn't get much of any response (1 price inquiry, to be exact), I gave up and figured the market is too slow, there's no activity and hence no freelance work. But this call came from the marketing manager of a very prominent top producer in an elite, affluent town. Maybe the bread and butter Realtors aren't doing much business, but this tells me the top notch ones are.

So that will be a bit more work for me, although i already decided to lower my price for a press release from $135 to $99, just to ensure I get the business, becus business builds on itself; if they're happy with one thing you do, it's much more likely they'll call you again, plus refer you to others in the company. The $99 includes my interview of the new agent joining the team, where I ask them a little about their background. I write the draft press release, get both the agent and the group hiring me to sign off on it, and then i distribute it (via email) to their local papers. Pretty straightforward.

I think I'll maintain my $135 price for press releases when i do work for the corporate entity. With a Realtor, it's coming out of their pocket, meaning they have to pay me and they can't bill it to corporate, so the price really needs to be reasonable. Given this economy, especially.

In anticipation of a contractor showing up here tomorrow a.m., I was able to finish shoveling out my front stairs and front stoop, so he can actually get to the front door.

Condo Dreamin'

February 13th, 2011 at 06:33 am

On Saturday morning I woke up dreaming about real estate, and that's how i ended up spending all morning browsing online condos for sale. I keep coming back to this one particular complex for people ages 55+. (I'm just 51 now, so would have to wait a few years.)

I discovered that you can buy a perfectly nice 2 bedroom condo in this complex for $225 to $250K, and that's with a completely remodeled kitchen. I do believe I could sell my house for $325K or so and would do very well to go for one of these units. What I liked about them was they were just the right size, 1400 square feet.

I want a small size so my heating, cooling costs and property taxes are lower. Plus, my environmental leanings and minimalist bent make me feel that's the right thing to do, especially considering that in my current 1650 sf home, I use the dining room as a pass-through only, use the 3rd bedroom for storage and have not one, but two living rooms. So there's a LOT of wasted space here.

Also, nearly every unit in this complex has a very generously-sized deck or patio, extremely private with woodsy views. That's the main reason i like this condo complex so much: it's very private with more outdoor privacy than most condos around here. Having to adjust coming from a very private 1.5 acres, that's important to me, plus I can still do a bit of gardening and feed the birds. The 2-bedrooms come with garage, fireplace, all wood floors and as i said new kitchen and new baths. these particular units were built in 1969, I believe, though most of them elsewhere in the complex were built in the 80s. All the units are one level, which i also like; who knows if the MS could be an issue later in life.

What I don't like about them is that the garages are all detached and not super close, so I could see it being a hassle in rain or snow. And the heat is electric, and rates are rather high in my state. Also, becus this condo complex is like a small village (close to 2600 units on a lot of land) and very woodsy, there's monthly condo charges plus a separate District quarterly tax.

Then I figured, what the heck, I know I'd be fine in a 1400 sf 2 bedroom, so let's see what the highest priced one-bedroom unit in the complex looks like. Well, that one also went for $225K and was the former residence of some well-known designer. It was quite interesting to look at: the fireplace had a dramatic copper hood that reached the ceiling, all the ceilings throughout the unit were done in wood beadboard, the kichen is great and everything was peachy keen. It was just 910 sf in size, but I would seriously consider it if it were not for the very stingy sized deck, barely enough room to stand on.


Very unassuming from the outside...


The Living Room


Another view


The kitchen

I love this unit, but truth be told, I think it'd be a very tight fit. Becus here in my current home, I also have a basement and full, walk-up attic I use for storage; most of these units don't have a basement, so the only storage outside of closets would be the 1-car garage which probably wouldn't hold much. Ah, well, it's fun to dream.

No Fee, 10-Yr Mortgage Refinance at 3.74%

February 7th, 2011 at 07:00 am

I considered it, but ultimately decided to pass.

An area credit union is offering this great deal: a no-fee refinance for 10 years at 3.74% with 1 point, or 4.74% with 0 points.

As you may know, I'm anxious to pay off my mortgage, or at least make it as inexpensive as possible for the duration of payments. But I long ago concluded it didn't make sense to pay $3,000 or $4,000 in closing costs on a $31,000 balance. I've aggressively pre-paid it down these past 15 years, and ramped that up in the past 3 years or so.

But the credit union deal caught my eye. I spoke to the director of refinances there and told her of my situation, namely, that while i have ample liquid assets and could pay the whole thing off now if I wanted, I do happen to be unemployed right now.

She said that would "be a concern." I told her my credit's great, over 800 last i checked. She said the unemployment situation would still be "a concern." But with no fees, I had nothing to lose, so i went online to pursue this a little further.

To be eligible for membership, you have to live or work in certain counties, which I do not. However, belonging to a church in those counties will also be enough to grant you membership. I could become a member of a nearby church in said county very quickly.

But then I saw you can't just become a member and then go for the refinance. You have to open some sort of checking or savings account, which is just a $25 minimum, but i really don't like to complicate my financial life unnecessarily, since i would never have any intention of further funding such an account as their rates aren't as good as my online money market.

I'm sort of on the fence about it, but mostly, I guess, I lost my enthusiasm about doing it. Because even with no further pre-payments, I'll have my existing mortgage paid off in 4 more years, and as soon as i do get a job, you can bet I will be prepaying my little heart out, and i plan to pay the whole thing off in 3 years once it gets down to about $9,000.

Going for such a juicy refinance would save me about $5,400 in interest payments, but i figure that once i get over the unemployment hump (a big if) my frugal habits of prepaying at least $100 or $200 a month will shave off some of those interest payments anyway.

In other news, Patient Saver was shocked at the still rising cost of heating oil this winter. Normally, Patient Saver would only need 2 fill-ups to get through the season: once in the summer, when prices are lowest, and once again in January/February.

But because Patient Saver decided to live in a tolerably warm home this winter (66/64)she did her 2nd refill Christmas week and now, with a quarter tank left, needs to do one more refill to get through to spring.

Today's price, after calling a half dozen discount heating oil places, was $3.36 a gallon. With a 150 gallon minimum at most places, that's $504 for my final fill-up. Shocking and OUCH that hurts!

Snow Rake for Eggs Barter

February 6th, 2011 at 08:04 am

My neighbors in back asked me if they could borrow my snow rake. Seems they're hard to find and completely sold out in the stores.

Every day this week the TV news has shown multiple examples of roofs caving in, mostly commercial buildings, old barns and apartment or condo buildings with flat or nearly flat roofs.

I said sure, and she said they'd give me more eggs in exchange. That's great with me!

There's something that just tickles me about neighbors sharing resources and trading stuff that avoids the need to go out and spend money. And I love having friendly neighbors. Seems so quaint and old-fashioned, but it shouldn't be.

Perhaps today I'll try to clear my front walkway and stairs, buried in snow for weeks now. It's already 32 and climbing.

Taxes are done, muscles sore

February 4th, 2011 at 01:28 pm

Yesterday I did my taxes, both federal and state. I feel a sense of accomplishment. I was able to file the state online for free and will get a $39 refund. I was intent on filing the federal online as well, but for whatever reason they don't have the Schedule A ready to go, so I reverted to doing what I've always done, manually filling out the forms, which seem to increase every year.

I will get a $1,100 refund on my federal return, which I'm grateful for, but it's not nearly as much as I got last year, thanks to some tax rebates on my sunroom windows. And, I noticed that for whatever reason, my old employer took out way more in taxes than they needed to but perhaps I needed to increase the number of my exemptions.

So I have a federal tax return ready to mail but I can't get out my driveway. The last storm 2 days ago deposited a thick coating of ice on everything. I spent some time chipping away at the ice on the slope of my driveway, just 2 tire tracks, so getting up the hill shouldn't be a problem. But there's still a mound of mostly ice at the bottom of the driveway by the road. I was just too exhausted to tackle that today.

I guess mailing my tax return can wait. And maybe by the time I get it mailed (Monday?), Schedule A will be available online.

In other news, it was a productive day for the job search. I have 3 leads today that I didn't have yesterday:

1. a copywriter job for a luxury brand at an agency in nearby small city. I was excited becus I never find jobs in my field this close by.

2. A corporate writer job in same small city working for a real estate/relocation company bought out several times, now under a new company.

I feel very well qualified for both jobs and applied for both first thing this a.m.

Then I got a call from a recruiter telling me about a job in a city an hour's drive from here (or more) for a long-term contract job (6 mths to a year) for a financial services firm.

Not so crazy about that job, but i told her to go for it and send my resume on to the employer, just to see if they call. It's a really long drive and their stuff is way over my head i think. What i really need to find is a perm job becus COBRA won't last forever and the monthly cost is killing me.

Another snowstorm is coming through tomorrow. There have been a lot of roof collapses all over the state, but mostly commercial buildings with flat roofs. The roof over the main part of my house is pretty steep, but i have what's called a shed roof over my garage and family room with a fairly shallow pitch. However, after paying someone to clear all the snow off several snowstorms ago, I'd say i have an inch or two of solid ice, which is heavy, but just an inch or two.

I advised my friend who lives nearby to look into having the landscaper she does the books for to see if he can get some of the snow off her roof. She's never done that before on her ranch with shallow roof, and she estimates she's got a foot and a half of snow up there which in my opinion is way too much, especially since the topping will be ice.

Spring, and a job, CAN'T COME FAST ENOUGH.

Doing pretty well with the online surveys...

February 2nd, 2011 at 04:41 pm

Since becoming unemployed again, I decided to step up my online surveys. Last year, I averaged just $35 a month, but that's just an average. A more realistic figure was between $20 and $50 a month. I stopped doing them entirely when I was working.

My goal was to really ramp up my monthly income from these things. If they can pay for something like my electric bill...wonderful.

So I'm happy to report that since early January, roughly a month's time, I've earned $100. That could cover my monthly electric AND cable bill combined with a little left over.

It would be great if I could keep that up the entire year, but I don't know, it is very time-consuming and tedious. I once figured it to be about $1 an hour. But time is one thing I have these days, and since I seem to end up sitting at the computer anyway, I might as well do something for a little cash.

Other than that, my life this past week has been wholly dominated by the crazy weather. Last night and today we had a major ice storm. Shoveling the driveway, shoveling the roof, chipping away at the ice dam in the gutters. Really ridiculous. I hope we get a warm-up soon but they're talking more snow possibly on Saturday and something after that as well.

I've also been sticking pretty close to home, as another informal money goal I've set for myself is just one gas tank fill-up a month. I don't see why I should need more since I'm not working.

So when I had to return a book to the library and get a few key groceries for meals I was making, I walked there. It was about an hour round-trip, and I must say, a rather cold day, so I feel proud that I did that.

Still waiting for 2 more tax-related forms from a bank and a brokerage before starting my taxes.

Bad weather always has me cooking, so I recently made a turkey chili with tomatoes from last summer's garden, plus frizzled cabbage, which is basically shredded green cabbage and onion sauteed tiil soft with olive oil with egg noodles mixed in; you can also add peas if you wish.

I started researching portable generators. I never knew that I could keep my furnace running during a power outage using one. Duh. But I probably won't do anything for the time period; they're rather expensive. I'd want to go for a 3 or 4,000 watt generator for just my furnace and refrigerator. I'd also have to spend extra to have an electrician install a transfer switch, so all in all, too expensive for me right now.

I always worry bigtime during storms about downed trees and power outages and possible frozen pipes, but in the 15 years i've lived here, there was just one power outage that lasted about 24 hours, and the house got down to a very chilly 50 degrees.

I hate to be at the mercy of the power company and their repair crews; you always hear of people being without power for days at a time, and if that happened to me in winter, I'd be sunk.

But as it happened, the tree trimming crew was out here trimming the trees in front of my house on the day just before the snow/ice storm. They had actually been at it several days. Initially they passed my house and I knew, since I called to find out when they'd be coming, that they only come once every 5 years, so i didn't want them to pass by my house. The guy said the trees were growing right into the wires so much so that they'd have to do a "planned outage," in which they notify residents they'd be without power for at least a few hours.

In the dead of winter, with the kind of temps we've been having?? Well, I guess they thought better of it because they went ahead and did all the work without having to shut power down. They spent quite a bit of time here and I hope it reduces the many outages we seem to have here.

It actually was partly my fault becus once, years ago, when a workman came to the house for permission to trim the trees, nature nut that i am, I said "no" becus i'd seen the way they scalp the branches in a very unnatural looking way. The guy got annoyed with me and said he could go to town hall and override me anyway, which just annoyed me and made me dig in my heels, so they left and never trimmed.

I regretted it in later years when tree branches fell on the wires, caught on fire and shorted out the transformer. Mea culpa.

Now my feeling is, they can trim all they want.