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Archive for October, 2012

Made it through the storm

October 31st, 2012 at 08:12 am

Hi, guys.

The storm is past, thank God. I lost power at 6:10 pm Monday (and still without, but I am here at my mom's). A few minutes after I lost power, the phone rang. I wondered who in the world would be calling me at the height of the storm. Of all people, it was the guy whose business ethics book I'd been editing. (I finished and sent it to him Sunday night.)

I'm not sure why exactly he called; I don't really know the guy and haven't actually met him. But we wound up talking for an hour and a half, at the peak of the storm. It was kind of surreal, actually. I was so totally distracted by what was happening outside that I barely remember what he was talking about. Every so often I would let out a small scream as I heard things crashing around outside. I was jumping out of my skin!

After I hung up from him, I was in my bedroom window looking out a southward-facing window. In the moonlight, all i could see was the sky. This was very strange, because the sky should have been completely obstructed by a 75-foot tall white pine. There was no sign of it. In the front yard (east), i could also make out something on the ground, but it was hard to see exactly what it was.

Yesterday morning, in the light of day, the full damage became apparent. I had two large white pines down in my yard; not branches or limbs, the whole tree. The one on the south side was one I'd been wanting to have taken down for years, as it was too close to the house. It was sheared off at the trunk about 8 feet high. By the grace of God, it did not strike the house; it fell into the back yard. The other white pine, along the road, fell in front, and there were large branches down elsewhere. There was also another white pine that fell on the road and they only cleared it yesterday afternoon.

Amazingly, I got a hold of an Ecuadorian guy who did tree work for me last year after Hurricane Irene. There were 3 of us working together. Best $100 I ever spent! I was lucky to get him out there becus he normally works a regular job 5 days a week, and also lucky he was able to get thru on the roads, cus lots of roads are still blocked by downed trees or wires. Took him a while to find gas for the chainsaw.

So the trees are mostly cleaned up already (!) but now I have a pile of debris in my driveway. He doesn't have the capacity to haul it away. Last year, the town allowed homeowners to pile tree debris along the curb and they picked it up at no charge; they have not yet decided whether they will do that again now. I sure hope so, becus my other option would be if my dad could eventually come up with his truck and we would load it and bring it to the landfill. Otherwise, I'll have to pay someone to take it away.

My phone is still working somehow, even though the wires ripped away from the house and are lying draped on my roof; conveniently, the 3 screws that had attached the wires to my house are also there on the roof nearby. Still no power though.

I heard that the 9/11 memorial in NYC was submerged under seawater and that the NY subways have taken on water. I have no idea what condition my dad's house is; i'm guessing there was major flooding. I don't know if he's still at my brother's or went back home yet. I suspect my brothers also lost power and are probably dealing with their own issues.

Yesterday I had a lovely hot stew dinner at my neighbors. They don't have power either but she used a camp stove and we ate by candlelight. Plus they had a fire going in the fireplace, which was really nice. I got there at 4 pm and went home at 8 pm and went straight to bed, cus my house is chilly.

Today I drove J. to work. He had told me before the storm hit that his office was closed Monday and he was taking Tuesday as a vacation day, but I figured he would call me when he was ready to go back to work and needed a ride. Apparently he HAD been trying to reach me, but since my answering machine needs power to work, the phone just rang and rang; must've been when i was doing the tree cleanup work.

Anyway, I drove him in to work this a.m. He was anxious to work cus he can't afford no pay. Driving him helped me feel some semblance of normalcy. I went out this a.m. earlier looking for ice but couldn't find any. But they have returned power to the main commercial area so you can get gas and groceries.

Am really hoping will have power by the weekend, as they're forecasting temps in the 20s.

I heard a terrible news report about two young boys in North Salem NY (hometown of an old boyfriend of mine) who were having a sleepover at home. A 200-year-old oak tree fell on the house and killed them, also injuring some other children. They were only 10 years old.

This was not a storm to mess around with. I would like to have a heart to heart talk with my father that he can't just be the Lone Ranger anymore.

I still have a season's worth of blanched tomatoes in the freezer that i lovingly nurtured all summer. Tonight will mark the 2 day mark at which point freezer food may not be good. What do you think about tomatoes? There's a lot of acidity in them. How long do you think they could last?

Another storm update - what would you do??

October 29th, 2012 at 01:10 pm

3:27 pm. After viewing alarming photos of flooding in Atlantic City, I called my dad again to see how he's doing and got his answering machine. So then I called my half-brother, who lives in Rutherford, NJ. I wanted to see if my dad had chosen to go there. My half-brother told me my dad, who I knew had planned on staying at home, was ordered to do a mandatory evacuation by the police, and he left about 2:30 pman hour ago to head to my brother's, which I believe is an hour and a half drive.

I'm feeling pretty angry at my dad right now for foolishly choosing to stay, and then having to leave at the height of the storm...with his macular degeneration! He can't see at night, I know that, and now he's got to drive in these conditions? Now I'm sick with worry something will happen on the road somewhere.

I am going to call the police down there. My dad probably neglected to mention his vision problems to them.

3:43 pm The police said all they can really do is send an officer by my dad's house to see if he actually left. I described the car, etc. I'm pretty sure he did since that's what my brother told me. The officer described the weather situation down there as being "out of control," and said the drive to my brother's would probably take 3 hours in this weather. I'm hoping my dad might have the good sense to find a restaurant (if there's one open?) and hunker down.

4:05 pm The Ocean Gate NJ police called me back and said he definitely left the house. They asked me if I wanted to put out a Silver Alert for my dad. I guess it's similar to an Amber Alert except its for seniors. I told them let me wait a while and see if he shows up at my brother's place. I say that because my dad would be absolutely furious with me if he found out I'd done that, or if he was pulled over by state police because of me! I guess it would be embarrassing for him, but given the circumstances....

What would you do?

4:10 pm OK UPDATE My brother called and said my dad reached my other brother's place. I asked for him to call me when he can. Thank God.

4:15 pm My dad called me back right away. I sensed a note of testiness in his voice when he asked what I wanted, and i explained I'd gotten worried after not being able to reach him at home. He didn't say anything about the mandatory evacuation, but said "I decided to leave" after he lost power. Hmph.

I feel a littel stupid now, maybe, for calling the police, but wouldn't you do the same thing? He thinks he can always handle everything, but the fact is, he's a 79-year-old man with poor vision and he's not so steady on his feet. I just hope he never learns what I did, or that the police mention macular degeneration to him, but at the same time, maybe they should know. They routinely check on seniors at times like this.

Storm Update

October 29th, 2012 at 05:13 am

So far, so good. But of course the storm hasn't reached us yet here in inland Connecticut.

I am worried, but I think it will be much worse along the Connecticut shoreline where they say there will be winds to 85 mph. Up where I am, just up to 55; still, that's enough to bring trees down around here. It's very wooded.

I'm more concerned for my father, who lives on the Jersey shore, just 2 short blocks of the Tom's River, which feeds into Barnegat Bay. I spoke with him last night. They are doing mandatory evacuations in Cape May, which is south of him, but he said he wanted to stay put and "keep an eye on things." Dad, dear dad, what could you do if things blew around or got flooded? Not much! At least the police know he's there. They called him already to check on him.. I actually wrote them a letter a few years ago to thank them becus that's what they do.

I've battened down the hatches here as best I can. I turned the heat up a few notches to a balmy 65 so there's a bit more heat inside if I lose power. The fridge/freezer are now at their coldest settings. Not much food left in the fridge, and last night I had a big bowl of ice cream since I rarely eat it and I would like to enjoy it!

The winds are picking up now but nothing serious. Sort of ominous portent of things to come. They say the rain will arrive around mid-day and the worst parts of the storm will be today, tonight and all day Tuesday. Worst flooding in 70 years, the governor warned. Be prepared to go at least 36 hours without power.

Although I have a sump pump and French drains in the basement, I decided it would be a good idea to protect the 10 44 lb boxes of cat litter I bought at Costco a year ago right before i cancelled my membership. So I found some pieces of wood, got some bricks and put all of the boxes on makeshift platforms about 2 or 3 inches up.

I didn't bother going out to get more groceries and perhaps wrongly figured I can go to Subway or somewhere if I need food, although the roads might not be passable. I just got caught up in all kinds of other storm prep stuff yesterday, and even managed to finish editing the Second Author's manuscript, since I'm under contract to finish that by a certain time and I didn't want lost power to be an issue.

I also heard from the proofreader job that their offices will be closed Monday for sure, maybe Tuesday and we'll regroup for my start day post-storm. I also told J. I didn't feel comfortable driving him and anyway, I'm sure they will close the schools in his town, if not his job. He was fine with that and made other arrangements to get to work (!) Monday and is taking Tuesday off.

Good. I don't have to go anywhere til Wednesday earliest.

I think there's at least a 50/50 chance I'll lose power, but I will post again later today; if you don't hear from me, you'll know what happened!

9:45 am update
Winds picking up but still not much rain. I decided to have an early lunch (yeah, I just had breakfast around 7:30) to try to use up food. So I had a full package of frozen Trader Joe's shrimp wontons, delicisous. Also a half an acorn squash that was already cooked, plus the rest of a jar of opened pickled beets. I'm stuffed.

10 am:
Cracked open 9 eggs in fridge and froze them. They'll last longer there and I could at least use them in baking/cooking.

1:12 pm
Light rain falling. Wind gusts picking up in intensity. My town's emergency sirens have been wailing throughout the day. Some bad s*** must be going on; I'm guessing tree limbs down.

I'm feeling tired and would like to nap; I think it's my anxiety. Every time I hear the wind gust, I feel myself physically bracing for it. They already ordered evacuations of certain low-lying portions of New York City, like the Wall Street area.

Trying not to look outside too much. There's something about seeing 75-foot tall white pines waving around like grass that gets me a little freaked out.

2:55 pm. They just closed all highways in the state. I'm surprised I still have power, but again expect to lose it at any time. I have actually lost power five times already, for just a second, then regained it and was able to reboot computer. Very strong wind gusts. Wind-driven rain pelting windows.

3:27 pm. After viewing alarming photos of flooding in Atlantic City, I called my dad to see how he's doing and got his answering machine. So then I called my half-brother, who lives in Rutherford, NJ. I wanted to see if my dad had chosen to go there. My half-brother told me my dad, who had planned on staying at home, was ordered to do a mandatory evacuation by the police, and he left about an hour ago to head to my brother's, which I believe is an hour and a half drive.

I'm feeling pretty angry at my dad right now for foolishly choosing to stay, and then having to leave at the height of the storm...with his macular degeneration! He can't see at night, I know that, and now he's got to drive in these conditions? Now I'm sick with worry something will happen on the road somewhere.

I am going to call the police down there. My dad probably neglected to mention his vision problems to them.

3:43 pm The police said all they can really do is send an officer by my dad's house to see if he actually left. I described the car, etc. I'm pretty sure he did since that's what my brother told me. The officer described the weather situation down there as being "out of control," and said the drive to my brother's would probably take 3 hours in this weather. I'm hoping my dad might have the good sense to find a restaurant (if there's one open?) and hunker down.

PatientSaver's Storm Prep Toolkit

October 27th, 2012 at 05:48 am

We're staring down the barrel of Hurricane Sandy here in the Northeast. They're predicting damaging high winds and power outages.

It was a year ago this month that most of Connecticut was in the dark for as long as a week, myself included.

Having learned a few lessons from that unpleasant ordeal, I'm preparing this weekend for the storm which is set to arrive Sunday into Monday.

1. Recharge batteries. This is a no-brainer. I have plenty of alkaline batteries on hand, but I also plan to recharge all my rechargeable batteries as a backup. I use these in a flashlight and a shortwave radio.

2. Make sure all dishes are washed leading right up to the storm. Maybe not the first think you might think of, but if there's an extended outage, I know I will gradually lose my hot water. Plus, while I can still run water, I don't think it's a good idea to use it indiscriminately, because without electricity to recharge/refill the hot water heater, the water will be drawn down further and further. As I remember, there's a heating element at the bottom of the tank which must always be submerged in water, or it will be damaged. (I learned this one year when I was investigating whether it made sense in a winter power outage, in order to keep pipes from freezing, to simply drain all the water from the my hot water tank. The answer is no, due to the damage I'd cause to the hot water heater.

3. Collect all emergency phone numbers, like CL&P, phone company, etc. It's a heck of a lot easier to reference these numbers on a single paper you've set aside rather than fumble around in the dark for the phone book.

4. Turn down the temperatures in both the fridge and freezer. Making the temps even colder in there than usual will make the food last longer.

5. Eat down the food in the fridge, which will spoil more quickly. Luckily, I don't have much in there; I should be able to finish up my cauliflower/cheddar soup, a small hunk of cheddar cheese and a few other things. Most of the rest is just condiments.

6. Put away loose stuff outside. I think I'll have to take down the bird feeder and its pole; the ground is still quite soft and it would probably come down in the storm.

7. Park the car in the garage.

8. Take a shower before the storm starts. You start feeling a little grungy after no shower for an extended period of time, plus I'm supposed to start my p/t proofreading job Monday.

9. Inventory/collect food and snacks that can be eaten without cooking. Based on what I already have on hand, this includes: cold cereal with the almond milk I'll be looking to use up, granola bars, fresh fruit and canned chicken.

10. If I lose power, or perhaps before I do, i will bring in some of the dozen or so outdoor solar lights, as i did last year. I think this is a brilliant idea; can't say it was mine. I have the kind of lights you just stick in the ground and are recharged by sunlight. They aren't bright enough to read by, but they are certainly bright enough to find your way around, when the house is otherwise pitch black.

A friend of mine said they're getting ice, but I don't think that makes sense, unless you have an extra freezer you can store the ice in. It's just going to start melting.

So I feel I have a bunch of stuff to do today. If you can think of anything else, let me know! (I can't afford a generator!)

The Second Author whose manuscript I'm editing has asked me to edit a proposal letter he wants to start sending out to publishers. I think he's hoping I wouldn't charge for it, but do you know how many people are always looking to get me to edit/write stuff for free? (And I often do.) In my circumstances, I can't afford to just give it away, so I quoted him a very nominal fee for doing the letter: $20. Hey, every little bit helps.

But anyway, since I am technically under contract to finish editing the book by November 7, I want to try to finish it THIS WEEKEND, before the storm starts. Also, so I can have it out of the way before I start the proofreading job. It may be a challenge with everything else I have to do with storm prep, plus The First Author wants me to stop by so she can make another installment payment on her book. (She is always scrounging for money, so I'm learning never to pass up an opportunity to accept money from her!)

Also, I want to return two half-used jars of peanut butter to Costco for a full refund due to their salmonella concerns.

Autumn photo essay, big payday

October 26th, 2012 at 01:42 pm

I took a good, long (1.75 hrs.) walk at a local state park today. Something I'd been wanting to do for a while now before the autumn foliage was completely gone. If you'd like to see the photos, you can join me here: http://owlhollownews.blogspot.com. There was hardly anyone there, though I did run into a young woman on the trail with three dogs; one of them was a pit bull puppy that I must say scored a "10" on the adorable scale.

Today's special highlight, aside from the foliage, was the $1400 check I finally got today from the PR agency. I am so thankful I don't have to hound them any further.

October is going down as the most successful month I've ever had with freelance work, earning $2600. If only every month could go that way!

While I plan to save nearly all of the check in my meager emergency fund, I would like to treat myself by buying a very attractive set of flatware (beech handles and stainless steel) from Ikea for just $30. I think it's time to retire the silver-plated flatware I inherited from my grandmother because the utensils are getting pitted and perhaps even flaking off, I'm not sure. So I want to call around and see if any of these places buying gold and silver would also buy silver-plated. Which would be really nice in defraying the cost of the new set. I won't go right away because there's only one Ikea in all of Connecticut, and it's an hour's drive. While gas prices have somewhat moderated in recent days (down as low as $3.95/gallon), I'd rather wait til I have reason to at least head in that direction.

In addition to starting the p/t proofreading job Monday, I did also successfully negotiate a fee with the Massachusetts social worker/psychotherapist. So now, instead of simply editing her court reports, I will conduct the interviews and write the reports myself. $190 for each report. I nearly lost out on this job, an ongoing one, due to a misunderstanding when we were trading emails negotiating the price. If I hadn't bothered to clarify what I meant and then correct myself when I realized I'd confirmed something different with her, I wouldn't have gotten the job.

I picked up some eggs at the farm on my way to my hike. I don't think I'll ever go back to store-bought eggs.

I got a postcard from Costco saying they decided to expand the peanut butter recall to include Kirkland organic peanut butters purchased between 2010 and 2012. Well, guess what? I have two mostly used up jars of it in the fridge! I will be bringing them back for a full refund.

We could be in for some nasty weather starting on Sunday, due to Hurricane Sandy, although the last thing I heard was that south Jersey, where my dad is, will be more a direct hit while CT and Cape Cod should escape the brunt of it.

I made some really good cauliflower/cheddar soup the other day and am still enjoying the leftovers.

Building multiple streams of income

October 25th, 2012 at 01:03 pm

After I had already written it off, the company where I interviewed for that little itty bitty p/t proofreading job paying an embarrassingly low hourly rate called today and offered me the job. I accepted.

It was not an easy thing to do. My pride keeps getting in the way. I routinely earn $50/hr with my freelance writing, but the thing is, I don't do freelance writing 40 hours a week; in fact, how much and when I get freelance writing is mostly beyond my control.

Hence my need for some sort of regular income to pay for my regular bills as the saga of PatientSaver's long bout of underemployment continues.

Normally, I wouldn't even be able to consider such a low-paying job, but since I have paid off my mortgage, I don't have to earn enormous sums of money to make ends meet.

Based on what I learned at the interview, I fear this job, which is 20 or 25 hours a week, may prove very tedious, and I hope I can do it!

My main concern, however, is if I'll be able to handle the driving. While the job is just 10 minutes down the road from where I live, I don't intend to stop driving J. to and from work. Since that driving job is under the table, I figure he's paying me the equivalent of $17 or $18 an hour. And it will end next May anyway when he gets his driver's license back.

But, back to the driving challenge. Once I start the new job next week, I'll have to drive in the a.m. from my house to Anytown, which is the same town where this employer is located. To fetch J. at his home is 20 minutes, then another 10 to drop his kids off at daycare where they catch the bus to school. Then I drive J. to his work, 30 minutes. Then from there I'll have to drive myself 30 minutes back to Anytown for the new job. In the afternoon, I'll have to repeat the whole process.

Thank goodness I don't drive J. every single day any more for a total of 10 trips (morning and end of day). It was costing him too much so he found someone to do a couple days, so I only drive him a total of 6 trips now a week, not 10. (That's 2 times Monday, 2 times Tuesday, Wed a.m. only and Thurs. evening only.)

I'm afraid to think how dicey it could get in bad weather, but I'm determined to try to power through it all til May. Cus tho the new proofreading job pays little, it would be mostly year-round except I would have summers off.

So my newly revised monthly income chart looks like this:
Driving J.: $520
Proofreading job: $1300/net $1093
Freelance writing: Let's say conservatively, $500/month gross
Unemployment benefits: Not sure how it'll be reduced by the proofreading job, but let's say it's reduced to: $400. (Benefits end for good 12/31/12)
Total monthly income: $2513
Total monthly income after unemployment goes away: $2113
Total monthly income after both unemployment and the driving job go away: $1593

My total minimum monthly expenses now are just $1800. So the piddling proofreading job, while easy to scoff at, actually would make survival possible, even without the unemployment benefits that act as a cushion when the freelance work doesn't materialize. Come next May, though, I'll have to find yet another supplemental source of income to make up for the loss of the driving job.

Are you dizzy yet? I am.

Still, I have found more breathing room in the proofreading job.

I don't know why, but I keep thinking of the story in the Bible where Jesus is telling his disciples not to worry so much about making ends meet because, he says, even the sparrows in the field survive without worrying about where their next meal is coming from. I'm not at all religious, so don't know where this is coming from, except my upbringing, but it does perfectly reflect how I feel about my 3-year odyssey as I attempt to outlive this recession.

It's like, I'm getting only EXACTLY what I need to survive, and no more. If I got just a normal, everyday job like the kind I used to hold, I'd be on Easy Street now, without the mortgage. But no, I'm still just eking out my existence with the puniest of jobs and other work I find.

Upward and onward.

A beautiful autumn day

October 21st, 2012 at 01:28 pm

There's a lot of color now in the foliage. My dogwoods are a rich red-and-orange and here and there are brilliants shots of yellow in the summersweet shrub while the burning bush, Japanese maples and autumn joy sedums are varying shades of magenta and burgundy.

To make sure that I follow through and do it, I have put a hike at Huntington State Park on my lists of Things to Do. Of course I'll bring the camera. We'll have a high of 65 tomorrow and it will be sunny, so it should be nice.

I've gotten a lot done this weekend.

For one, I am well ahead of schedule in editing the business ethics book and have already finished the first half (50 pages). Before I send him the edited version, I want to read through a version with my edits incorporated, just to catch the occasional thing I may have missed.

I already let him know I'd be sending it to him earlier than planned, and he said the magic words: "Great, let me know when to send the next check!" Ka ching. Smile

I'm also simultaneously editing The Author's second novel. She, too, has promised me another $100 this week, so we'll see if that happens. I'm about halfway through the 300-odd page paranormal romance.

I'm finding that I am constantly checking various rules of hyphenation or punctuation. It's difficult to remember everything. So the editing process is a great learning experience for me; I never actually took a college course on English that I can remember, aside from literature courses where you're reading, not writing. I would love to take a primer somewhere.

I finished mowing the front today and then mowed the back lawn as well, mulching the many fallen leaves as I went.

I also installed a pole-mounted bird feeder in a new location in the front yard. I was spurred to do so by the fact that between me and the cats, roughly 20 mice have been caught in the house, and it's only October! I have long had a triple tube feeder hanging from a dogwood in the backyard, and it is quite close to the house, and it has occurred to me that perhaps the availability of all that food (the sunflower seeds) was making it all seem a little too inviting to rodents that might want to take up residence.

I have not caught a mouse since stuffing steel wool underneath the vinyl siding, but I have not finished doing so all around the house, so I won't be surprised if I get more. Still, I am very hopeful that this could substantially reduce my indoor mouse population. I check the trap every day.

The new feeder is perfectly positioned to be viewed, with or without binoculars, from my upstairs office window, and instead of being about six feet from the house, it's maybe about 35 feet away.

I must say, the birds have been going nuts since they discovered it there. A large assortment of tufted titmice, black-capped chickadees, white-breasted nuthatches, (female) rose-breasted grosbeaks, goldfinches, downy and hairy woodpeckers, pine siskins and cardinals have been making steady progress on the seed and suet. I had gone to the trouble of purchasing a $20 squirrel baffle for the pole, but evidently, the squirrels are finding ample dropped seed on the ground so they haven't tried to shinny up the pole...yet.

For breakfast this morning I enjoyed a large bowl of steel-cut oatmeal with blue agave syrup, wineberries I picked last summer, walnuts and almond milk.

Lunch was more homemade chili, which turned out quite good this time.

I vaccuumed the downstairs yesterday; it really needed it.

I am thrilled to be saving substantial money on heat. I turned on the heat for the season around October 6, but while it kicked on for a few nights in a row (and we did have a few frosts), I've been able to turn the system off again as the past week or so has been warmer than usual for this time of year.

Mouse-proofing, bra-shopping, leaf-peeping

October 19th, 2012 at 01:15 pm

We're having an all-day rain event here in Connecticut. We're at peak color now, and i hope to get over to Huntington State Park sometime this weekend with the camera. They have nice, wide trails there so ticks shouldn't be a concern.

It's a good day for reading, writing and editing, all of which I've been doing! The cats enjoyed a catnip treat today and have finally settled down for a mid-afternoon snooze. I joined them, briefly.

My income for the month of October has already exceeded expected expenses, so I am grateful.

I was at Kohl's this past week with $125 worth of gift cards from a credit card reward redemption. They only had so many choices as to stores, and this probably wouldn't be my first choice again anytime soon. I finally decided I could use some new bras, so I spent the longest time...about an hour...browsing for them and trying them on. Oprah Winfrey once famously said that most women aren't wearing the right sized bra, and I figure I was one of those, so I'm trying to be careful to get the right size. I had finally winnowed down the choices to three finalists. Then, I figured, i would choose to buy 1 or 2 based on which cost the least. Turns out that all 3 cost in the neighborhood of $21 to $23, so I just chose 2 randomly. It's quite a lot of money for a single bra.

Then, as I was leaving the bra and panty section, I saw a rack of both marked "70% off!" I soon found that if I wasn't too choosy as to color or pattern, I could find any number of bras in my size for just $12 each! Happily, I wound up with three pairs. A very good buy.

I made some chili today for lunch with ground turkey. There are enough leftovers for at least five more servings. I'm also nibbling on some organic red grapes now.

Not much else going on today. I'm on page 24 of the business ethics manuscript I'm editing. I'm well ahead of schedule and should be able to turn in the first 50 pages sometime next week. I hope he will be pleased with my work!

I don't think the social worker will go for the price I quoted her $125 ea) for conducting the interviews and writing the reports for her child custody cases. At least, that is my take on it since she hasn't responded to my proposal of this past Wednesday.

A friend of mine brough up something I hadn't considered. He said it would be unethical and fraudulent of the social worker to have me do these interviews and reports since they will most likely contain her signature, not mine. If there was ever a question about what someone said in the report or something that was claimed, she'd be unable to verify or vouch for the report since she hadn't actually conducted the interview. So I don't know. I would think she would have thought this through, as it would affect her credibility, not mine.

You'd think this would have occurred to me after 17 years of living here, but I recently had a lightbulb moment when i was researching mouseproofing one's house online and someone was writing about how mice frequently gain access by crawling behind the vinyl siding, where it meets the foundation. Bingo. It kind of made sense to me, based on how Luther waits near a certain basement window and the crevices I had in fact noticed recently under the entire front foundation.

The author's solution online was to cut strips of wire lath, bend them in half and then squeeze it in place under the bottom of the vinyl siding. Bending it in half allows it to expand somewhat to fit the gap. Sounded easy. I happened to have a sheet of lath. So I spent considerable time cutting it with some household shears and them bending it in two by banging against the sharp lath with a hammer against a workbench in my garage. It's very difficult to work with, especially with no gloves. I got a small area maybe 5 or 6 feet long done, but I was thinking, there's got to be a better way. And then I remembered that Home Depot carries steel wool, and that this would be a good use of the product and probably a heck of a lot easier to cut. So I used some gift cards to buy 2 smallish wads of the stuff there. I'll be stuffing it under the vinyl this weekend. I haven't examined underneath the vinyl all the way around the house, but this would be somewhat costly to buy if I had to do all of it. We'll see....

Hope everyone has a nice weekend.

Two great movies, more possible work

October 17th, 2012 at 04:08 pm

The social worker for whom I edit court reports asked me today if I wanted to expand my involvement in her work. Meaning, instead of simply editing her reports, would I be interested in also handling the interviews of parties in child custody cases and then actually writing the reports myself.

She finds this part of her work boring, she said, and this part of the report needn't be written by a licensed GAL (guardian ad litem). We talked a bit about it and then she asked me to think about an hourly rate I thought was reasonable.

Unfortunately, when I first responded to her ad on Craig's list last spring, I gave her a very low price (which probably amounts to around $20/hr), mainly becus I wanted the job, and didn't realize the work would continue.

But it still would be more money.

I looked at recent jobs I'd done for her and see that my average charge for copy editing brief reports was only $70, so I used that as a starting point, since writing something from scratch would take a bit more time, plus I'd need to allow up to an hour for the phone interview.

So I suggested a flat fee (so I don't have to be bothered with always tracking my time) of $125. Her response was, is that for interviewing one party or two (meaning, the husband and wife).

Gosh, it sure wouldn't mean for two since if it did, I'd actually be making less money writing the reports and conducting the interviews than I am now simply copy editing her reports.

So after clarifying that it was just for one interview/report, I'll see what she says. It would be great to get more work out of this.

Tomorrow I start editing the business ethics manuscript for another local author.

I am very pleased that after several years of extremely sporadic freelance work, I have been fairly consistently busy these last few weeks. It's sort of like a giant snowball effect, except that it takes a very long time for that snowball to start rolling.

I have banana-walnut bread in the oven.

I got around to seeing The Kite Runner via Netflix, a very touching movie about two childhood friends which will really pull on your heartstrings. It's Iranian, with subtitles. I'd recommend it highly.

I also caught a matinee at the $2 movie theater called Moonrise Kingdom. A truly delightful movie perfect for kids in the 7-10 year age bracket, but the kind of movie that I greatly enjoyed as an adult, too. Maybe becus it makes you nostalgic. As an added treat, there were a few stars whose names you will recognize: Bruce Willis, Harvey Kietel, Bill Murray and the woman cop from Fargo! It was really a lot of fun.

After the movie yesterday, I met The Author at a coffee shop. NOT Starbucks.

Today I got a really nice plaid flannel duvet cover from Amazon, along with some other things, all for free through my online forums. I got the flannel partly becus I knew the cats would love it, although last night they caught a live mouse, which conveniently ran inside my sneaker to hide, and then I quickly grabbed the sneaker and dumped it outside.

Alas, now my one sneaker has "koodies" and I won't be able to wear it until it's sat in below freezing temperatures for at least two weeks. And I don't want to touch the cats much either, except to pat their heads, which puzzles them.

Some may call me heartless

October 16th, 2012 at 09:34 am

There's a guy from my distant past who periodically calls me on birthdays and holidays. We dated for a few years when I was in my 20s (30+ years ago) and living on Cape Cod. I haven't seen him since but somehow he got my phone number maybe 6 years ago and has kept calling ever since, despite my telling him I was engaged, married, had no interest, etc.

Each time he's called, I've told him I don't wish to maintain contact with him. Some here have called him a stalker.

He called today, randomly, and told me again that he has terminal emphysema, that the doctor said he has a year or so to live. I don't think he's making it up. His voice sounds different, and he was a smoker way back then, which we were both in our 20s. He said he's using inhalers.

If you've told someone you don't want them to call you and he continues to do so anyway, does it make a difference that he has a terminal illness? I feel sad for him, that there is apparently no one in his life right now that he can turn to, that he has to call an old girlfriend who repeatedly rebuffs him. But does that make him my responsibility?

I told him again anyway that I'd asked him not to call me, and kept the conversaton brief. Of course now I have a huge guilt trip for doing that to a lonely guy who might have emphysema and just wants someone to talk to.

I said Mike, I'm really sorry to hear about your illness, but I've asked you not to call here. He's like, I know, but I was just remembering all the good times we had... and I cut him off. He said, I thought it would be nice to keep in touch. I said but Mike, that's only if the other person wants to keep in touch too. He's like oh, that's too bad. I told him I'd moved on. Anyway, that's pretty much how the whole conversation went.

Am I heartless? I'd rather think not, but I don't like people trying to push a relationship on you when you'd really rather not. We had a violent breakup and it's all ancient history.

Maintaining the status quo

October 16th, 2012 at 06:19 am

My worklife is proceeding with a more or less balanced equilibrium.

When one income source seems near dried up, another pops up to takes its place.

For instance, I just got a new copy editing job, for someone local who wrote a hundred page manuscript on business ethics.

I am feeling very nervous about it. This one feels like a "real" job, despite the fact that I'm now editing the 2nd of another local author's books. But whereas I suspect she will never earn much money from her endeavors in the paranormal romance department, his seems much more intelligent. His writing is very, very good, so when I did the sample edit for him, I had to work much harder to justify my fee!

I should receive his deposit, and the manuscript, by today or tomorrow, and then I'll be on a deadline to complete it (3 weeks). He even asked me to draw up a contract, which I did.

I guess the reason behind my nervousness is that, while I'm a strong writer, I never actually majored in English, so I can't say I know every rule of grammar and punctuation. I learned all this on the fly, and by widely reading as a young person.

When we talked after he'd received my sample edits of a few of his pages, I could hear how the tone of his voice had changed. It sounded much more deferential, and he was asking some specific questions, like, should I do this, or, what is your opinion on.....?

That made me extremely uncomfortable as I don't purport to be an expert, especially when it comes to the world of publishing, so I tried to communicate that to him.

I am meeting The Author this afternoon so she can pay me another $100 installment. (It should actually be $150.) She has trouble scraping up the money and just pays me when she can. I know she will always come through with it and just pace my editing accordingly. Our arrangement has always been very informal, but it works.

I am anxious about getting paid for 2 really big jobs. I had to send an email to the NY PR agency asking when I could expect to get paid for the brochure I did. I invoiced them $1400 Oct. 1. She said she would look into it.

The 2nd big job is the real estate certification case study which I haven't invoiced yet becus it's still not done. I have to be patient and wait for John to do his part.

So there's a lot of money tied up that I have earned but not received yet. When I do get paid, I am anxious to put a small amount in my SEP IRA and other savings.

We've had some beautiful fall weather days here. Yesterday it reached 70 degrees.

The leaves are approaching peak color. I would like to get out to a local state park for another fall walk with the camera.

A story about over-extending yourself, financially

October 15th, 2012 at 01:14 pm

It's a sign of the times, to be sure. But it sure gets you thinking a lot about it when it happens to your own neighbors/friends.

The couple who live behind me bought their house 9 years ago. He makes roughly $150K; she made I'm guessing about $50K before she quit her job.

When they bought the house, it was 2,000 square feet. Although it was just the two of them, plus his teen daughter who moved in with them, they decided to put on an addition quite some time ago. A big one, measuring 3,000 square feet. That's DOUBLE the size of my entire house!!!

She didn't want it, but he talked her into it apparently, saying it was "an investment in their future." Umm, yeah, or a noose around your neck.

Although he makes good money, he's not very good at managing it. I don't know that they have much in retirement savings.

So anyway, a few months ago, when they wanted to cut her hours at work, and there was some politics involved, she balked. Her husband said, why don't you just quit? I guess he figured they could still live quite nicely on his salary. Mistake #1. I'm sensing there was a disconnect in making the decision to quit over such a relatively small thing, with a general disregard for the state of the economy and their own personal circumstances.

Now they've learned that he'll be losing his job in March. While he got 6 months notice, he's getting NO severance. According to the wife, they didn't even actually say why, but she did say he was overpaid and I assume the toy company, likely experiencing a business slowdown, did it as a cost-saving measure.

The addition is still not finished; although it's meant to have a kitchen, it doesn't have a complete one now, they decided it would be too much money to make it rent-ready, and she doesn't want to give up her privacy, either. Plus their driveway is extremely long (about 1,000 feet?) and steep and would likely cause problems for a tenant. (They sunk somewhere in the neighborhood of $50,000 to pave the driveway because in the winters the gravel driveway used to ice up so bad their 4-wheel drive couldn't make it up the hill, so they'd have to park halfway down and walk up. The walk itself was treacherous as well.) The driveway actually belongs to me; an easement exists on their deed granting them rights to use it.

He's not even looking for a new job. He's in a somewhat specialized field: toy designer.

Their plan is she is looking for full-time work now at Starbucks where she can get health insurance for the two of them, and also the job would help them pay to do the minimal needed to finish their renovation enough to be able to sell it.

Then they'll put the house on the market in March, hope for a quick sale (she wants to get $800K) and then they plan to move to Tennessee and pay cash for a smaller house.

They plan to move there knowing no one there and even with no jobs lined up. They simply won't be able to afford the house they're in now once the renovation is done because it will boost their $9,000 property taxes to about $14,000.

She is most unhappy. She doesn't want to move, but that's what they're going to do.

It astounds me that this has happened. They're very intelligent people. I've socialized with them from time to time. I think they'll have trouble selling the house due to the driveway, which as I said, is very steep.

It's interesting that if people are working full-time, they may very well believe they are somehow immune to the economic diasters that have befallen so many others. In this economy, I don't think I would have given up that job, even if my husband was earning that much. And I certainly would never have added that kind of addition to the house. If he had that much money burning a hole in his pocket, I would have socked more away for retirement and then taken several extravagant trips abroad.

Luther was a VERY BAD boy ...AGAIN

October 11th, 2012 at 11:55 am

OK, so what did he do this time? Well, I had just gotten in the door and was playing with Luther by hanging a strip of cardboard (what you pull off a FedEx cardboard envelope to open it) in his face and since he wanted to chew on the cardboard, he put his paw on my hand so as to hold it steady so he could chew it. Sadly, he chomped right down on my index finger instead. On the top part.

I have an appt. with the doc tomorrow. Luther last bit me (another accident) when I first adopted him 3 years ago and i was bringing him home in the cat carrier. He was freaking out and had chewed through the nylon mesh netting and had his head sticking out of the carrier and as I was driving the car, I didn't want him to get out so without thinking (duh, stupid move, in retospect) I put my hand across the torn mesh and he chomped on the fleshy part of my thumb.

As I recall, I delayed going to the doctor's then, not realizing how quickly a cat bite to the hand can get infected. Although it didn't "look" infected to me at all, I decided to have it checked out anyway and my doctor said I was a day away from being referred to a hand surgeon. Instead, I got antibiotics and all was fine.

So with that scary thought in mind, I decided not to mess around and will see doc tomorrow to get the meds, just to be sure. Also, I just finished up with 3 weeks of antibiotics for the lyme disease. That was this past Tuesday, and I must say i was feeling headachey today. So I don't know if I'm over it. I really hate to be on antibiotics becus I have to follow a strict regimen with acidopholous to ensure I don't get a yeast infection, which has happened before, and that proves as tough to get rid of as anything else.

I finalized the paperwork with the insurance agent today and he went ahead and charged me for my car and homeowners insurance. I'll get a partial refund from my current carrier since I'm switching over now instead of waiting til the renewal period is up.

So I'm paying $1005 for both auto and home, which I think is pretty darn good.

The Allstate guy I was going to go with before I got the Safeco quote was I guess not too happy. He asked me if i would send him a copy of the Safeco quote. i figured he wanted to see what the competition was doing. I figured, what the heck, so i emailed it to him. So then i saw that he was still trying to get my business, and he said he was contacting another underwriter to see if he could do better. Then he left a phone message saying he wanted to discuss some things. At this point, it's too late, so I haven't called him back, but I hadn't wanted to tell him no definitively until it was all finalized with the other guy, and now it is. Sorry, Allstate.

I'm feeling kind of wiped out. It was such a beautiful day today, bright and sunny, though brisk and in the 50s, that I just got in the car without really being sure where I was going, but i ended up doing an abbreviated walk in the woods. Which wasn't really brilliant since i still have lyme, and am out of Off and hadn't sprayed my boots. So when i got home i threw the boots, my socks and my pants in the dryer. Dry heat (not putting them thru a wash cycle) is what really will kill a tick.

Forget Allstate...I may have found 24% savings with Safeco

October 9th, 2012 at 03:20 pm

Update to my last post:

Just got quotes from Safeco for car insurance ($82 better than what I have now with MetLife) and homeowners ($246 better than what I have now with MetLife). A considerable improvement.

Still, I'm anxious to call the guy tomorrow to make sure this isn't too good to be true. All the coverage is comparable or better than what I have now, but I'm concerned he made that quote without having the full details on my old house and car, so....

But now I'm really excited! And I may have to call the Allstate guy to let him now i won't be coming in the afternoon to sign the papers and pay up. He will probably be annoyed as he said he would have all the paperwork ready for me. Frown But gosh, the savings with him would be just $82.

Anyone have any experience with Safeco? I guess there will always be happy and unhappy customers with any carrier, though. Just wondering if they'll give me a great rate to snag me this year and then hike it up next year. That would be a bummer.

Changed my homeowners and auto insurance carrier...finally

October 9th, 2012 at 10:19 am

For the 17 years I've owned my home, i've always had MetLife to cover both the house and car. Can't say i'm crazy about them. Not that I've had any dealings with them except to pay a consistently rising bill each year on both. From time to time, I would call to find out why, and they'd say, oh, there was an increase in claims filed in your area, so the rates go up for everybody.

This time, my homeowner's increased from $691 last year to $832 this year. That's a nearly 17% hike in one year. And that's with a $5,000 deductible. I've never made a claim.

Aside from being faced with bills that continue to spiral upward each year despite a claims-free record, I guess my dislike stems from having read something years ago saying that MetLife came in dead last when it came to honoring claims. In other words, a lot of unhappy customers, and that made me fairly uncomfortable. The last thing you need during some kind of catastropic home accident is to hassle with your insurer.

So from time to time I've checked prices elsewhere, but never found much better prices that would make me want to move. Until now.

I think I was on esurance.com, or one of those places where you supply the basic data on your home/car and a bunch of insurers will quote you a price.

I talked to Amica on the phone (my preferred carrier, since I've read very good things about them), but their combined quote for car/home was about the same as what I have now.

I got one phone call in response to the esurance.com visit from a very capable sounding guy with Allstate for auto, but who quotes from multiple carriers for the home. and I got one email from State Farm saying "call us if we can be of assistance." Talk about lazy. (And there was a typo in the word 'assistance' in the Subject Line.

So anyway. I already take advantage of all possible discounts I can, including taking a safe driving course for the car and deadbolt, smoke alarm and high deductible for the house with no fireplace or dogs with a bad rep. Plus I get the multi-policy discount.

Interestingly, both the Allstate guy and the woman from Amica came up with far lower replacement value estimates compared to MetLife after asking a lot of in-depth questions about the house. Metlife says replacement value is $339,600, while Allstate said just $250,000 and Amica said $245,000. This is the most important number since everything else is calculated as a percentage of that. So while I don't want to be under-insured, it kind of appears that MetLife overestimaed my replacement value, perhaps intentionally so, in order to bill me more for my insurance.

I'm going with Allstate now. Not that I like that company much more, but I did like the guy I spoke with. Straightforward, intelligent, local to me. I will see him tomorrow for the paperwork. The car will actually be about $10 more with Allstate compared to MetLife, but I'll save $92 on the homeowner's policy with Utica. (To achieve part of that savings, I had to agree to set up auto pay, which deducts payment from a checking account. I don't like making anything like that "auto," but it does give you 45 days before it takes the money, and if I wanted to pay by credit card (which I would, for the rewards points), I could call this guy and do it over the phone before the 45 days was up.

I had hoped to save a minimum of $100 to justify a switch, but I knew it would be tough to find that kind of savings becus I'm already doing everything I can...but i guess this is close enough. And I get away from MetLife. Just had a bad feeling about them.


October 8th, 2012 at 12:37 pm


The heat kicked on for the shortest of times last night...perhaps all of five minutes. I justed wanted it to take the chill out of the air.

I am getting a little lazy and not willing to tough things out anymore! I'll try to keep it off the rest of the week. Lows in the 40s, with one night down to 38.

Wish me luck

How well do you reinvent yourself?

October 7th, 2012 at 07:09 am

As I sit and ponder what my next job will look like, I recall many of the really great jobs I've had. I learned something from each and every one of them.

Here's a rundown, in chronological order, of every job I can remember working, along with some of the highlights and low lights:

In High School
Clerical assistant for a small p/c insurance agency. I was so efficient I worked myself out of a job. My boss didn't have the heart to let me go in person, so he left me a note, along with a $100 bill.

Assembly-line worker in a NJ factory that made street lights. I had a rather dangerous job, standing in a dark booth that simulated dusk and dawn to test and time how quickly the streetlight fixtures turned on and off. If you forgot to turn the switch before you removed the half dozen fixtures from the circuit board, you received a shock that traveled up your arm. Invariably, no matter how careful you were, this would happen time and again.

Typist in a company where my mom worked as a secretary. In those days, we still used White Out to correct typos, using real typewriters, and I used quite a bit of it!

In College
Clerical assistant in the principal's office of a local high school. I worked here 3 of the 4 years I was in college.

Nurse's aide in a nursing home. A depressing summer job. I decided to live on campus one summer in Massachusetts and rode my bike to and from work. Among the patients were a double-leg amputee diabetic who was angry at the world and a 40-something parapalegic wasting his life away in an institution. So sad. I also witnessed another nurse's aide abuse an eldery patient by roughly brushing her scalp when she hardly had any hair.

Home health aide to a homebound man who had progressive MS (how ironic is that?) and was in really bad shape. He used to be a standup comic. I left there on a Friday and returned on Monday to find he had spent the weekend collapsed on the floor, unable to get up. I had to call an ambulance and I learned he later died at the hospital of a brain anyeurism. I was very upset.

After college
Chambermaid at a summer cottage colony on Cape Cod. I also did some babysitting for a rather wellknown NY artist who vacationed there and whose daughter took a liking to me.

Assistant at an art gallery on Cape Cod while I tried to figure out what i wanted to do with my life.

News reporterfor a chain of weekly newspapers. My beat was the towns of Harwich, Dennis and Chatham. I learned an awful lot about newspaper writing and had a good and patient editor who I was able to thank a year or so ago when I found her on Linked In. I knew my towns inside and out and got to know a lot of people. Left to move on to bigger and better things.

News reporter, lifestyles editor and weekly columnist for an afternoon daily in southern NH (covering the Connecticut River valley area of Vermont and New Hampshire). The highlights were interviewing George McGovern and John Glenn when they ran for president in the 1984 NH primary (I also heard Gary Hart speak at a rally), but I won my editor's respect with a front page story/interview of the family of a local teenaged boy charged with a gruesome rape/murder. Decided I wanted to live closer to family in CT and I was also broke, so I left.

Office manager and newsletter editor for a nonprofit conservation group. First job in CT. I won a national award for the newsletter. This job was a lot of fun, varied and very hands-on, but very low-paying. I think I topped out at $25K. Still, I didn't appreciate it at the time. Left becus I needed to make more money. (This is the kind of job that would be PERFECT for me now that I've paid off the mortgage and don't need a high income but do value job satisfaction.)

Writer for a dental trade magazine and fired after just a few weeks when the owner screamed at me because I didn't know how to prepare a package for FedEx pickup. Hey, give me a break...I was a 20-something kid with limited work experience.

Marketing writer for a real estate company. Great boss who loved me. She hired me once, I was laid off, and then 10 years later, she tracked me down and hired me again. I still freelance for them to this day. They're my best client. When I worked on staff, this job offered a lot of variety and was also fun and very creative. I was laid off twice when the real estate market tanked.

Communications manager for an insurance trade group that investigated insurance fraud cases. This was an extremely interesting job. I worked with our own special agents as well as local, state and federal law enforcement to write about successful investigations/prosecutions for the newsletter we pubished and distributed to member insurance companies. Left the job when they relocated to Chicago area.

Marketing copywriter for a company that sold mutual funds and variable annuities. I was there for 7 years. This was really the start of a fairly rapid escalation in income, and this is the job I credit for giving me a really solid foundation in financial services/retirement planning copywriting, as well as a good education that I applied to my own finances. It's the job that lifted me up from a long series of mediocre-paying jobs and enabled me to buy my first house. It was here that I made the most money ever in a single year (and will likely never make again): $130K, due to some well-timed, company-awarded stock options I sold when the company went public. However, the workload was crushing and the commute was awful, 1.25 hrs 1 way. Left when I became burned out by both.

Senior Editor for a startup company that published newsletters for financial planners in the small- and mid-sized 401k market and also sponsored conferences for these planners across the country. Another extremely interesting and varied job. And I had the best ever office. It was a corner office with brick interior walls, plenty of space and my own whiteboard. Really, really nice. The CEO really liked me and gave me lots of autonomy. Too bad the company folded due to cash flow problems.

Writer for a strategic consulting firm working for financial services clients. Probably one of the most challenging jobs I've had. Writing at a very high level for senior executives. Making good money and there for just about 9 months, but then 9/11 happened and laid off about a month after that when many of our clients, some located in the twin towers and personally affected by 9/11, froze current projects; there was a great deal of uncertainty in the financial sector at the time.

Marketing manager for a PR firm specializing in broadcast PR. Fun job, lots to learn. Great boss. Perfect becus it was within walking distance of my house. Laid off after 3.5 years, along with my boss.

Personal finance writer for a consumer website covering topics related to debt, credit and household money management. Loved this job, it was one of the best. Literally wrote hundreds of web articles and blog posts. Laid off with about a hundred others in a third wave of layoffs.

Business content writer for a Fortune 100 insurance/investment company that sells variable annuities. Excellent pay with very nice work conditions. Unfortunately, this was just a contract job and had a short life.

Project editor for a publishing company doing work outside my usual realm, but it was a job. Fired when the editor in chief blew up.

I am thankful to have experienced so many interesting jobs. Can't wait to see what comes next.

Now it's your turn!

Another $250 in credit card rewards...

October 6th, 2012 at 05:53 am

I redeemed my bonus points at American Express yesterday. Monkey Mama was right; they all say you won't get the points awarded for 6-8 weeks, but I found that as soon as they received payment for my third month's statement, the points showed up online.

I didn't think Amex Premier had as many interesting store gift cards as some of the other credit card companies. For regular gift cards, they had all high end stores like Bloomingdales, Sharper Image and so on. There weren't that many "regular" stores, but they did have Walmart, so I got a $50 WM card, where I can really stretch my dollars (not that I prefer their merchandise). I also got e-gift certificates for Kohl's ($150) and Home Depot ($50). I always seem to need something at Home Depot, and it will be a treat to buy some nice clothes at Kohl's.

I am also working on another $25 GC from the Cit Thank you card and am petty close to earning it.

If you include the imminent Citi thank you card gift card plus the $108 value of the Citi Forward card promo, which pays for a year's Netflix subscription, my 2012 YTD credit card rewards total $983!

I have an $800-odd homeowners insurance bill due end of month, and I want to shop around elsewhere for a better price; Met Life routinely increases the bill every year by 15%, even with no claims by me. I can't wait to get rid of Met Life. Once I do, I'd like to have another credit card deal lined up so I can charge this big bill to the new card. I may have to settle for a $100 promo. I haven't even touched the Capital One cards...yet.

I really need to close one of the cards and can't decide which one. Any suggestions on which to ditch? Here's all the cards I have:
A green Amex card: lousy rewards, but have had it 10+ years so i will keep it.
USAA Visa: same as above; no rewards, but have had a long time.
Citi forward: Most recent acquisition and will keep to enjoy the free netflix 1-year membership
Amex Premier: This has an annual fee after the 1st year so i will positively cancel it but feel funny doing so so soon after redeeming my points, so will wait a month or so....
Chase Freedom
Citi thank you: Close to earning another GC on it.

Today I'm going to the Lutheran church fair and tag sale. I may do a bit of grocery shopping; I saw $3.99 a pound Atlantic salmon at Caraluzzi's. And I really need to walk!

This morning for the 5th consecutive day, I got a mouse in the trap. They seem to love this one area near the chimney in the basement, which I can access thru a little trap door at the top of the basement stairs. Exactly how many mice do I have??? While it's distasteful to deal with disposing them, it's better that I get them instead of the cats, who like to bring the mice upstairs. No, no no!

Yesterday was a pretty productive day. I made granola, mowed the back lawn and recaulked the bathtub, something I'd been wanting to do for ages. Yesterday it reached 80 degrees here; tomorrow, temps will get into only the 50s.

Let me ask you a personal question: how often do you clean your bathtub? I was just wondering, cus it seems i need to recaulk the seal between the tub and the tile wall every year. It gets disgusting mold on it. I must admit, cleaning is not my strong suit. I rarely clean the bathtub. Does regular...does it have to be weekly?....cleaning with Tilex or something really keep that stuff off? I wonder if it's just my tub, which is enclosed on 3 sides.

Yet another internal conversation about what I want from work

October 5th, 2012 at 05:40 am

How about that? After 3 or 4 weeks of mostly steady freelance work, I'm pretty much all caught up. I actually have free time.

I interviewed yesterday for the preschool job with the director and chairman of the board (clerical work, 4 hours daily, 5 days a week, $15/hr). The director really seemed to like me, while the COB didn't say much, so I don't know.

The director was saying how much help i could be in helping them brand the preschool and do a lot of promotional writing and PR stuff. While I am sure I could be of help there, I have mixed feelings about it all, since they advertised for "general office help" at $15/hr. I usually charge much more than that in my freelance business for marketing and PR work, so I sort of feel like this was a little bait and switch here.

They were very nice people and it's a non-profit dependent on state aid, so i know they couldn't afford to pay more. But I'm not sure it's ethical/fair to get a professional writer whom you've hired as office help to heavily discount her writing services for you (over 50%) just becus you have her answering your phones. What do you think?

Doing that kind of work for them WOULD make the job much more interesting to me, although the COB said the more routine stuff would take up 95% of my time. The director disagreed. If it did take up the bulk of my time, the job could prove very boring for me, but I'm more concerned about whether I could actually do it.

You see, I know what i'm good at and what i'm not good at. I have held a handful of customer service-oriented jobs in my life, mostly when I was much, much younger, and i found I was terrible at it becus i tend to want to do my own thing and quickly get impatient, even annoyed, with people I need to wait on. I'd like to think I've matured and would be better at it now, but there are certain personality characteristics that stay with you, and I'm thinking this could be one of mine.

So I've been feeling very torn about it and feel I should make up my mind in case they make an offer.

On the one hand, I really need the money. We're talking a difference between netting just $400 a month now from my abbreviated driving job with J., a job that will end next May anyway, versus netting about $1100 a month with this job, which is 5 minutes from home. If I took this job, no more early morning rises to drive J., and I wouldn't have to deal with bad weather, driving 2 hours plus daily.

But I think I will probably pass on the job for reasons stated above. I also found myself thinking of how much more sickness I'd be exposed to working in an environment with 60 little kids and their constant colds and all. I hate being sick, and I hate working when I'm sick.

Also, fearing that I might not do well with the customer service aspects of the job and knowing that i would likely either quit prematurely when something better came along or that they could let me go if i didn't measure up (there were complaints about my predecessor's customer service skills, apparently), it might be better to bide my time a bit longer to get something better rather than take on a job I know is iffy and leave a trail of short-term work experiences that didn't pan out.

My preference would be more hours but fewer days per week, partly so that I wouldn't have to get all dressed up and looking "presentable" just for 4 hours. Although local jobs in my hometown are pretty few and far between.

I don't know. I was thinking I could tell them something else came along if they made an offer, but then tell them i'd still be open/available to doing their PR work at the same rate of pay but on a freelance basis. So i wouldn't be tied down to working in their office and i wouldn't have to do the clerical work.

My unemployment benefits safety net is good thru year's end; after that, i'm on my own. My absolute minimum monthly expenses are $1800, so starting in 2013, whatever shortfall i have from driving J. or working at the preschool or doing something else would have to be made up by my freelance work.

That would be problematic. In 2012, my average monthly income from freelance writing alone was just about $600, so simply doing my freelance work and driving J. next year alone would not be a tenable situation; I'd have to dig into savings to pay the bills.

If I consider this as only a choice between driving J. and the preschool job, the choice is easy. (Take the preschool job.) But there are plenty of other possiblities out there. It would be a risk to pass on a possible job offer in the wings, but I think I will take my chances.

Aside from having paid off the mortgage, my financial situation is pretty much as dicey as before, yet I found myself last night responding to an email from a voting registrar in a neighboring town saying "no thanks."

Earlier this year and last, I worked as a poll worker in my hometown maybe 4 times. I did it for the money, $175. But it's a VERY long day, from about 5:30 am to 8:15 pm....15 hours!

So when I was desperate to earn income any way i could, i realized i could venture beyond my own hometown and do the poll worker thing in other nearby towns as well. I had approached this particular voting registar before but had yet to work for him. He emailed me last night to tell me about a special election they were having and did i want to work.

Again, after much internal back and forth dialogue, I decided against it. It's just a very long day and you can't leave the premises for any reasons and at least in my town, they didn't even have a refrigerator so you had to get creative about what kind of food to bring. There was an ice cooler or two there. Given how many seniors wind up doing this sort of work, I'm surprised they don't break the day up into two shifts. A 15-hour stretch is hard on anyone, but probably more so on seniors. Yes, you could take little bathroom breaks or walk around the gym if you wanted, but it's not like you could just take a nap or sit on anything other than a hard, cold metal folding chair. I must be getting old. What a complainer I've become.

Did you ever buy curtain panels with lengths that didn't match up??

October 2nd, 2012 at 12:00 pm

This was bizarre.

I recently put away a large box fan that was sitting in front of a window in my bedroom. After I removed the fan, I could clearly see that the bottom of the 2 curtain panels I'd just purchased did not line up. In fact, one was a full 2 inches longer than the other!

I wondered if, Alice in Wonderland-like, I hadn't noticed how far this old house is leaning, but no, I carefully measured and re-measured the panels and yup: one panel is quite a bit longer.

Although the other set of panels on another window "looked" all right, I decided I'd better measure those curtains, too; sure enough they were 2 different sizes with just a half inch difference.

I bought them on Amazon and the seller, which has these made in Pakistan (quality control issue, anyone?) made their return as easy as could be expected. They emailed me the label and Fed Ex came and picked it up very next day. Hope I get the credit card credit as easily.

I had actually considered switching 2 of the panels around so that the difference in length was no more than 1 inch, but when I tried them that way, yes, you could notice the difference.

And the seller has discontinued these particular curtains, so since I've got 2 windows, they've both got to be returned.

Back to square one with curtains. They made my room considerably darker than my mini blinds alone can and I believe I was sleeping more soundly. Last night, sans curtains, I slept terribly!

Today is the first day i really felt like turning the heat on. It's dreary and rainy out there. But I will resist. The forecast for the rest of the week is highs in the low 70s and I'm not sure how low at night. But the week after will be considerably cooler, with highs in the 60s.

The chilliest time all day and night is the early morning hours of around 4 or 5 am. I've caught mice 2 nights in a row. I don't know where they come in, but there's a really good spot to set my traps for them; it's inside a little door at the top of my basement stairs. It leads to nowhere, but it's an interior space by the chimney that somehow the mice get into. the cats can't get in there, but i hate having to open that little dark and peer in there to see if I have a customer. Still, much better that I catch them rather than the cats. but I can always hear when the trap is sprung, surprisingly. Its location is 2 floors down from my upstairs bedroom, but it's directly below where the floor grate for the heat is, and that's how I always hear it. The cats heard it this a.m., too.

Started work this a.m. on a new sales brochure for real estate client. Can't start writing til i interview a 2nd person, who's SUPPOSED to call me back this afternoon. I'd love for that to happen so I can write this up tomorrow, thereby clearing my plate for likely further work on the case study for same client. I also was assigned what I think is the 5th article I'll be ghostwriting for same guy I'm doing the case study for, to be published in CT Builder Magazine. I mean, they may have to hire me f/t one of these days. Smile

After the guy cut my driving hours in half, I naturally ramped up my job search to try to make up for that, with applicaitons to both f/t, contract and p.t. Wouldn't you know it, of all the jobs i applied for, the one i heard from today is a little itty bitty job, 4 hours a day, 5 days a week at $15/hr, but year round and "permanent," working at a preschool in my town.

Frankly surprised that with my resume they would call me as I have NOTHING on there that remotely qualifies me for the job, which is just general office work. But since the job was advertised only in the local paper, not online, I mentioned in my response that I was a "longtime xxx resident." There is a certain minority of hiring companies that don't want to be inundated with resumes and/or have a preference for a local resident, and that's why I mentioned my residency. Guess it worked.

So now that the driving job with J. will only gross $400 (tax-free) a month, the preschool job would be better as it would pay roughly $1,000 net after taxes. With a whole lot less driving. And the driving job would only last til next may, when J. gets his driver's license back, while the preschool job is "permanent." I assume I have an interview, but have yet to talk with the director who left a message on my machine last night.

Last night I went to another MS dinner, this time by makers of Rebif. I decided i would never use rebif as it has some potentially serious side effects, like liver damage. However, i enjoy meeting new doctors and other MS people. Last night I met a woman, the first one ever, in fact, who has as mild a case of MS as I have. She told me of a Novartis dinner tomorrow night by the makers of Gilenyia, one of the first oral drugs for MS.

I intend to go. I would love to get away from the daily self-injections I've been doing for 12 years now. Of course, i'd talk to my physician first; I'm due to see him in January. Since I'm doing so well, I'd want to ensure that switching to a different drug would make sense becus it was equally if not more effective and just as safe. so this would make my THIRD free dinner in a week.

The dinner last night at a Marriott was not as good as the first one at the Ethan Allen Inn. Will be curious to see how tomorrow night's meal at a private restaurant compares to the others.

I discovered yesterday that the PR agency has decided to handle the brochure client's edits in-house, meaning, without my help. I was wondering if this in any reflected on the quality of my work or if they just felt it was easier. Of course, getting any kind of information from the account manager at the agency is like next to impossible. I asked her for feedback, no answer. She's always "busy." So I emailed the owner of the agency, asking the same questions. I did send them my bill for all the work i did, but I'm realy curious to know what the client's reaction was to the copy I'd written. Were they generally happy with it? Were the edits relatively straightforward or more involved? Was the PR agency generally happy with my work? Will they still be interested in offering me the 2 day a week job there? All important questions! Just terrible communication.