<< Back to all Blogs
Login or Create your own free blog
Layout:
Home > Archive: March, 2013
 

Archive for March, 2013

Month of March, Financial Analysis

March 31st, 2013 at 06:09 am

March turned out to be a pretty good month. I thought I might be in the red after having to spend $355 on heating oil and $246 on doctor's visits. I also overspent on food, at $236, and had an unexpectedly higher car repair expense of $131 after Honda told me the transmission oil was very dirty.

All told, expenses totaled $1801. But my income from freelance work, unemployment, my part-time proofreading job, credit card rewards and online surveys/forums totaled $2754, leaving me with a positive balance of $953 for the month and $2,070 for the YTD.

Of course, my balance sheet always seems skewed to me since I only pay property taxes twice a year; after my next payment, I'm sure my apparent monthly savings will shrink quite a bit since property taxes come out to about $550 a month.

Keeping track of monthly income and expenses allows me to see certain "trends" right away, often as I'm filling out my Excel spreadsheet. For instance, I noticed that my p/t monthly income has been gradually diminishing since the start of the year, when I netted $1369. Their busy time is Jan/Feb. Now this month, I earned just $956, and I'm guessing it will drop further as we move into April. I talked to them Friday about this; they said they'd try to keep me busy on various "projects," so I guess we'll see.

While I was filling out the spreadsheet, I also noticed that I had forgotten to record the $46 refund I got after doing my state taxes, since I have a line item for that and it was blank. So I adjusted things accordingly.

In looking at my food bills, things are really out of control, despite my hopes that more regularly shopping at BJ's would save me money over the long run. Here's what I spent to date on food:

Jan: $496
Feb: $122
Mar: $236

And this was while I was still using up Shop Rite gift cards I'd purchased last year to hit a spending target for a credit card bonus. My hope was to try to keep it closer to $200.

This month I'll have to make an estimated quarterly tax payment to the IRS for my freelance work. It shouldn't be much because my chief client really drags its feet to pay me and in fact I have to call their accounting office Monday to inquire about some February invoices that still haven't been paid. Two months is getting ridiculous, though at least some of the time the delay is due to my marketing contact there forgetting to forward my invoices to Accounting.

But I decided to call Accounting about it first this time because it seems like my having to pester them about timely payments has an inhibiting effect on my getting more work. Not intentionally, but it's basically unpleasant for us both when I have to bring it up, so my preference would be to go straight to their Accounting office so I can avoid bringing it up with the person who gives me work if I can do so.

A little of this, a little of that...

March 30th, 2013 at 05:26 pm

Today was one of those rare days when I didn't really have any things I HAD to do, no running around and oh, I like that.

I did do some baking for Easter. I made my yummy three nut and cranberry pie, very similar to a pecan pie except it's walnuts, hazlenuts and pecans with a little maple syrup and dried cranberries. I also made some cupcakes with a crushed walnut and tahini crust and cheesecake filling that I'll top tomorrow morning with lemon curd and sliced kiwi. Does that sound good or what?

It was sunny and up to 50 degrees today so I got out there in the garage and planted some lettuce and snow peas in pots and put them in front of a large, south-facing window in the garage. They should germinate okay in there, I would think.

I did a little sweeping in the garage, cut out some dead leave from the many perennials I have stored in there (also, some very nice annual flowers overwintered again successfully there, saving me money and the need to buy any), watered them some, collected more pine cones (which I'm bleaching to a lighter color), sawed up a small amount of wood and put out some crushed eggshells for the birds, which need calcium right about now as they set about nesting.

I had some time for a 15-minute late afternoon snooze and did my April investment report. (See sidebar.) I gained about $12k for the month of March, which is doing quite well, but I need to rebalance on Monday as I'm over-weighted on domestic stocks.

My total portfolio is up to $554K now. I believe that's the highest it's ever been. Remarkably, that's $54,410 more than I had a year ago at this time, and I wasn't working f/t then, either! So that's a nice piece of change to make for doing basically nothing.

I would love to grow that to $600K, but that isn't going to happen anytime soon since I can't afford to contribute a penny without a full-time job. It's so frustrating not to be able to move toward my goals, because I have such clarity, focus and determination. It kills me to let time pass without inching closer toward my goals.

I set up my new cordless keyboard and mouse and everything's working quite nicely. It's even nicer knowing I didn't have to pay for it as I used Amazon gift cards earned from a couple of different online forums I'm in. I've been earning $40 a month from this since last year and I do look forward to that as a way to spend a little fun money without having to feel guilty about it.

I'm working on a new credit card bonus reward for the Capital One green cash reward card ($100 after spending $500). I have my eye on the Citi Thank You Premier card (not to be confused with the Amex Premier card or the Citi Thank You Preferred card, both of which I've earned upfront bonuses on already), but won't go for it til September. You have to spend $2,000 (for $250 in gift cards) but both my car and homeowners insurance are due in the fall, so it will help me spend not quite half of the required amount.

March movies

March 27th, 2013 at 07:27 am

So for the month of March I watched 7 Netflix movies, you know, the old-fashioned way where they mail you one at a time. I like that sense of anticipation waiting for a new movie to show up in the mailbox.

Here's what I saw:

Hiding & Seeking: I thought this was an excellent documentary, about a modern-day Jewish father living in upstate NY who is concerned that his two grown sons, both Orthodox, have insulated themselves in the Jewish community. He takes them on a trip to Poland to visit the Polish farm family that sheltered his father and two uncles from the Nazis by hiding them in an underground pit in a barn. Going into it, the 2 sons had conflicted views about non-Jews, not wanting to have anything to do with Poles in general since many of them collaborated with the Nazis. It's a documentary, so there are no neat endings, but there is some resolution and closure.

Delicatessen: I didn't really care for this one; it was a bit too bizarre for me, about a butcher who kills tenants who live in his building and sells the meat in his shop to impoverished customers.

I Served the King of England

The Edge of Heaven: This was very good. A Turkish man accidentally kills a prostitute and the man's grown son becomes involved with making amends for her death to the woman's daughter.

Late Bloomer: Didn't care for this one at all. About a handicapped killer.

Doubt: This was excellent. Starring Meryl Streep as the principal of a Catholic school who suspects the parish priest is molesting one of the students. Thruout the film, Meryl is steadfast in her knowledge of what the priest is doing, based wholly on circumstantial evidence, and determined to protect the boy. At the very end of the film, Meryl has succeeded in forcing the priest out (though he's just being transferred, not prosecuted) but she confesses her lingering doubt to another nun. Hence the name of the movie.

The Way Home: Great movie, poignant,funny, low key, subtle. A selfish and spoiled boy in South Korea is dropped off by his mother to live with his grandmother in the rural countryside for the summer while mom looks for a job. All he wants to do is play video games and eat fast food, but when his batteries die, he slowly becomes more receptive to another way of life and stops calling his grandmother a retard. Really beautiful movie.

What will April bring?

Tuesday doings

March 26th, 2013 at 01:12 pm

Went to the product testing place to pick up product I will test for 7 days, then return for 2nd and final visit next week = $90.

Used my 3 BP gas cards to put about $20 in the tank, but one card, which has just .65 on it, was not read correctly. Dang, I don't want to waste it. Will try again another time.

Stopped at Kohl's and wanted to use up a $19.12 balance on a gift card there. I didn't want to overspend that $19.12, so I thought I MIGHT be able to get a single top or something. I was able to get a shirt, a turtleneck and a pair of pants, all from the 60% off racks. (And I still got .84 in change back.)

Picked up a cotton long-sleeved shirt for my sister's birthday in a color (minty green?) I'll be seeing her Easter Sunday at my mother's. I think she'll like it. Hopefully it fits. Marked down to $3!!

Also got a mock turtleneck for myself ($5 and change!) and a pair of coffee colored cord pants ($8!). When I got home, I saw the receipt rang it up as "Young Men's Pants." Ha! What were they doing on the women's rack? They seemed to fit ok, altho a bit snug around the waist. For the price, I'll deal with it (and lose a few more pounds).

Amazon got the book I returned and I promptly placed another order with the money returned to my gift card balance. I really need a cordless keyboard/mouse combo becus I put the tower inside the cabinet where it's supposed to go (it'll get less dusty there and I won't have to be kicking it anymore under the desk. All the other many cords reached the tower thru a cutout hole in the back of my computer desk Except the keyboard one BARELY was long enough and sort of requires me to type with the keyboard at a funny angle and not on the slide-out tray.I also got some toiletries just to ensure free shipping.

I also brought a trunk full of heavy logs to the dump. I tried to help a senior citizen unload a very heavy tarp full of leaves from the back of his pickup, but it was super heavy. He was getting it slowly pulled off the tailgate, while I could barely budge it.

I already loaded another trunk full of logs in the car and will unload them tomorrow on my way in to work.

Everything's breaking down

March 25th, 2013 at 03:18 pm

What I thought would be a quickie visit by AT&T U-Verse turned out to be several hours; they had to install an outside line and put a big box on the outside of the house.

While he was working on that, i decided I really would like to put my computer tower inside the cabinet that's made for it in my computer desk. I'm constantly kicking a pile of wires under the desk and I'm tired of looking at it. I never put the tower inside the cabinet before becus the cables/wires didn't quite reach. Now I have it all hooked up but the keyboard wire is too short; i will have to get a new one; luckily a wireless is not that expensive but for now I'm typing at a funny angle.

I think I can notice that everything does seem slightly faster with the U-verse. Even though it's the slowest speed U-verse, it's still 25 times faster than my basic DSL. I couldn't be more pleased about that!

So I boxed up the DSL modem I'd just purchased from them and put the postage free return label on. Not exactly sure if I'll get the full $75 back or $62, sans shipping cost. It didn't seem to be working (that's why I went with the U-verse), so I would think I should not have to pay for postage for a defective unit.

I had a wireless keyboard/mouse before but something stopped working and I never took the time to try to figure out if it was the mouse or the keyboard. (It wasn't the batteries.)

I also finally succeeded in emptying a two-drawer file cabinet that sat next to the computer desk and will bring the ugly thing to the dump tomorrow. It's a bit rusty,and it's scratched up my wood floors. It took up too much room. Now I've put the printer on the computer desk itself; everything all looks a great deal more compact, neat and tidy.

And just the other day, my little shredder stopped working. Strangely, the thing is coming apart at the seam and you can see all the wires and stuff inside. I don't know how that happened. I didn't drop it. It could be unsafe to use that way. I can't seem to get it snap shut again.

I hardly did anything else today besides vacuum the upstairs.

Tomorrow I'm going to do a product testing thing that involves lotion on my arms. This is the 1st trip; after the 2nd visit, they'll pay me $90. Since I'll be 40 minutes out of my way, I'll make a point to hit the BP gas station nearby,since all the ones around here closed up. I have 4 BP gift cards burning a hole in my wallet.

Oh, and talking about gift cards, I discovered I'd put a pile of what I thought were all infrequently used credit cards in a desk drawer and forgot about them. As I whiled away the time when the U-Verse guy was here, I was going through them and realized that one of them was actually a Kohl's gift card. I called the number of it and found I still have $19 on it, so maybe I can hit a Kohl'ls on the way back from the product testing thing. I'll also stop at the landfill to unload some cut up logs. There's still quite a pile in my driveway, leftover from the big pine that came down over the winter.

Long Rant, Whining & Complaints

March 23rd, 2013 at 06:32 am

Thanks, everyone, for the kind words about my (non) job offer.

It IS very discouraging. I DO know what it feels like to just want to give up; I have to battle those feelings constantly these days. I try not to whine about it too much, but there it is.

When it comes to finances, I "did everything right" for most of my life. Thanks to frugal living and a prodigious savings rate, I was able to purchase my last two cars new, in cash. I put 45% cash down when I bought my house in 1995 (about $95,000). By my early 30s, I nearly always maxed out (to 15%) my 401k and IRA contributions, never incurred massive debt (not having kids helped) and then paid off a 30-year mortgage in 17 years, all on a single income that ranged, in the past 20 years, between $50,000 and $80,000. (OK, there was one incredible year when I grossed $130K.) But now I feel I'm being slowly, inexorably, undone by a stupid job loss just at a time when I was hoping to cap off my hard-earned retirement savings.

For years, I dreamed about a comfortable early retirement, at about age 60. I knew I would continue freelance writing on a part-time basis, but I wanted to live a lifestyle on MY terms, terms that would include lots of travel and unstructured free time to pursue my interests. A lifestyle not dictated by anyone else. Iíve always hated long commutes, fixed work hours and, most of all, office politics. The egos, the personal fiefdoms people build around themselves in reaction to the impersonal, ruthless environment that is corporate America.

Late last year, I was hired as a proofreader; I am sharing the job with another part-timer so the employer can avoid paying for our health insurance and other benefits.

They recently asked us to start making sales calls to customers who basically dropped off the face of the earth in recent years. Iím sure if they were truly valuable customers they wouldnít have us making calls to them, but I guess they figured, what have we got to lose?

Umm, first of all, they havenít offered us any commission if we make a sale. You see, theyíve discovered that you can get an awful lot done with a $12-an-hour, college-educated, white collar professional. (Maybe next week theyíll have us cleaning the bathrooms, helping out in Accounting or who knows what.) But hey! I donít have a sales background, nor do I have an interest in becoming a sales assistant or sales anything. I was hired as a proofreader, dammit, not to fill in wherever you happen to have a labor shortage.

So about a half dozen of us were assigned a bunch of calls to make. All but the two of us proofreaders are salaried employees, and all of us normally do work that doesnít involve sales. Making the calls involves a fair amount of upfront research using the companyís databases to see when the customer last placed an order, what they ordered the most of and how far away they are from reaching a certain purchase threshold that entitles them to certain discounts. We also have to inform them of various promotions weíre offering this month. Thereís a whole sales script involved. No oneís really sat down with the two of us proofreaders to familiarize us with the software. (They had a meeting about the calls on a day I donít normally work.) So the training consisted of about 15 minutes of looking over someoneís shoulder to see how she did it.

The other part-timer didnít want to do it either and was procrastinating about doing so. She was hoping she could just say hey, I was just too busy with my normal work and I ran out of time. I took the opposite tack and just got through my (half-assed) research and calls as quickly as possible. I made one sale out of about 25 calls. When I approached my manager about needing something else to do, she then wanted me to do HER sales calls for her becus she was so busy and hadnít had time to start hers yet. I told her politely no, I wasnít comfortable with doing the calls, that sales wasnít really my ďschtick.Ē Then sheís like, well, then you can do all my research for me and Iíll make the calls. I said Iíd really rather not do that, if thatís okay.(If more was at stake, I might have relented, but for this piddly job? No.) She got pissed when I said that and replied, ďWell, it may NOT be ok.Ē

She gave me something else to do and then immediately walked into her managerís office (that woman is a true sweetheart) and closed the door . Of course, she was discussing my insubordination, and I contemplated whether I would be asked to leave in short order.

That didnít happen, and the rest of the day proved uneventful, though there was tension between me and my manager, someone who ordinarily is quite cheerful and nice, though she is a control freak who doesnít allow you to think for yourself. Everything must be done precisely as she says and that, for an intelligent person, is really grating.

Thereís a strong correlation between the degree of autonomy one enjoys in their work environment and the amount of personal job satisfaction experienced. While I completely defer to this manager on all things related to proofreading (tons of procedural stuff leave little room for interpreting anything), I also notice that she rarely takes any of my suggested edits when Iím asked to proofread a letter or something else. So why bother asking me to proofread it? Even when I back up my edits with credible/reputable online sources that explain why such-and-such shouldnít be capitalized, why you donít need a comma or why you should hyphenate, she often responds with, "But thatís the way weíve always done it." But that doesnít make it right! She actually showed me a letter that one of our clients sent back to her, all marked up and edited. She was embarrassed, but instead of taking it to heart, she found ways to rationalize and justify not making any changes to it.

So maybe you can see how defeated it makes me feel to work there; when Iím asked to do what I was hired to do, my suggestions are consistently overruled, and then they get pissed when Iím less than willing to do work thatís clearly beyond the scope of my experience or current job description!

Didn't get the job...but i got AT&T UVerse

March 21st, 2013 at 05:16 pm

The guy who interviewed me sent me an email today about it. I was very disappointed, but wrote back to say, "I understand" (even though I don't) and to express an interest in doing some writing for the website, as he'd mentioned in the interview they were looking for more writers.

The publisher/owner, with whom I'd also met, wrote back to say they were happy I was interested in writing for them, that they were "very impressed" with me and hoped that as the website grew, she could find a way to put all of my skills to work...or something to that effect.

Maybe something good will come of it, even if it's just a bit more freelance work, which I could always use.

The other job I interviewed for about 2 weeks ago was with an agency. After meeting with me, she submitted my resume to the employer but after all this time the company hasn't even had the courtesy to get back to the agency. I assume that job's a dead deal.

The woman at the agency told me yesterday there was another opening and did i want her to send on my resume. I said sure, yes, even though she could tell me nothing about it and the job is located further away than I'd like but at this point.....

I spent about 2 hours on the phone with AT&T about a replacement DSL modem I bought from them for $70 which keeps dropping the Internet connection. They explained that DSL is considered obsolete technology (then why do they keep selling DSL modems?) and suggested AT&T UVerse. Initially I said no becus i'm not interested in bundling anything, but I did change my mind since the price for the first year is actually $10 cheaper than what I'm paying now ($15 a month vs $28 a month) and it's supposedly much more reliable and faster than what I have, which is slow DSL at 768k vs. 1.5 MB.

(Interestingly, AT&T just increased the cost of my basic DSL service from $25 to $28; i have no idea why. I wonder if they do that to prod people like me to upgrade to a more expensive service.)

But after the first year of paying $15 a month for the UVerse, the price shoots up to $36, which I know I won't want to pay. But there is no contract, it's just month to month, so maybe by that time I'll either have a job which enables me to pay that kind of monthly fee or, if not, I'll figure something else out and get another provider at a better cost.

The technician is supposed to come out here Monday to set it up. It's still a modem, so I don't know why they're willing to send out a technician to set it up for free (and the modem's free too) while they don't do that for the DSL modem. I'm so distrustful of big businesses like AT&T that it makes me wonder if they do something to your connection so you're stuck with it or can't uninstall it yourself or something.

I also have a postage paid shipping label so i can ship out the DSL modem once I'm hooked up to UVerse and get a refund for it.

I'm feeling very discouraged and fatalistic right now. I was really wanting that job. I'm really afraid that at my age (54 this summer) I'll never get another full-time job again.

Getting stuff done but not as much as I'd like....

March 19th, 2013 at 01:04 pm

As usual, my To Do List is a bit of a stretch to accomplish. This morning I had a 10 am oil/filter change scheduled. It was cool to schedule it online at the dealerís website. I was able to push it back an hour on account of our nasty weather here today. (I havenít been using the dealer much lately becus I found a trustworthy mechanic who will do things more cheaply, but I had a coupon at the dealer for a $21 oil change and itís more comfortable to wait for the car in their nice seating area. The other mechanic will only say heíll call me when itís ready, which can be a big pain as, without a car, it forces me to coordinate with my mother so she can give me a ride and hang out at her place until the carís done, something I canít always take the time to do.

The dealer informed me the transmission oil was really dark and did I want it changed ($79). Also, my rear brake light was out. So I had them do both since I was already there. Somehow, the $100 bill I envisioned was actually $131, even with my $18 coupon, after accounting for ďlaborĒ to change the back brake light and taxes. Sigh. They also told me Iíd need to do the front brake pads next time I did the oil change; I remember the other mechanic telling me that 6 months ago, but I think my gentle driving habits prolong my brake life. (Just for reference, I asked how much to replace the front brake pads. $299, he said. RIDICULOUS. I'm sure my other mechanic will do it for less. At least I hope so.)

My plan after getting the oil change was to hopefully hit Trader Joeís, BJs and Shop Rite for various sale items or other reasons (5% in rewards points from Capital One if you charge at least $60 at Trader Joeís), and then catch the 1 pm matinee of ďLincolnĒ at the $2 movie theater. However, it took longer to do the extra stuff to the car, so by the time I got out I had to make a decision to either go straight to the movie or do the food shopping.

The sleet and icy rain was still continuing, so I decided to bag the furthest trip out to Trader Joeís (I can try to do it again next week) and just head home, but then I wound up at Shop Rite, and then since BJs is just down the road, I did that, too. Iíd really like BJs to account for at least half of my overall grocery shopping this year since all my calculations show significant savings. It will be interesting to see if I squeak out any reduction in total grocery spending.

I was a little sad to miss the movie, as it seems I rarely do things for fun anymore! Maybe next week. They only have one weekday matinee, and thatís on Tuesdays, one of my days off from the proofreading job.

Today I was also able to mail out two return packages for about $50 worth of vitamins/supplements Iíd purchased for the acid reflux, and a book I got from amazon on acid reflux diets. Since Iíve been liberated from that particular fate, I figured I might as well get some sort of money back, even though it cost me $16 to mail the 2 boxes at USPS.
I got back home around 2ish and wanted to make lunch but then saw I had some memo editing requests from one of my clients, so I did it and sent it out, then went to get a late lunch going. Then he called and asked me to quickly edit a 2nd memo, so my lunch got cold but thatís okÖ.he got what he needed in a more or less timely fashion.

I have to call a builder tomorrow morning for the next sales brochure Iím writing and for that reason am bagging going into the proofreading job earlier than my usual 1 pm on Wednesdays. Itís a matter of $12/hr vs. $50/hr. I try to do both whenever possible, but sometimes I seem to run out of time. Have to get the agent on the phone too, but I just want to relax a bit this afternoon so will leave that til tomorrow as well.

Wondering about that web editor job I interviewed for and if Iíll hear from them after turning in my 2nd writing assignmentÖÖ.It would be HUGE to get that job, even without benefits, and EVEN if, as a one-year-old start-up, they go belly-up in a year. It would all still be worth it!!!!

A big surprise (non) diagnosis

March 18th, 2013 at 12:01 pm

OK, so today was my follow-up visit to the ENT doc to learn the results of my wholly unpleasant pH test. He told me that my acid levels were COMPLETELY normal and not a trace of acid reflux.

He seemed as surprised as I was. So he's referred me on to a pulmonologist. He said maybe I have something called "reactive lung disease," which is basically a condition where your airway is irritated by air pollution or sometimes by ongoing exposure to toxic chemicals, like on the job. The latter certainly wouldn't be me. The treatment is an inhaler.

Of course in a case like this, your first worry is, do i have cancer or a tumor somewhere that's causing my chronic cough? He said he didn't think i had that becus if so, i'd be dead already. (And besides, I've already had 2 normal chest x-rays.)

So I'm going to celebrate with a big steaming cup of strong black and yes, acid tea with a square of acid dark chocolate!! Yeah, baby.

I made the appointment with the pulmonologist, but earliest appointment I could get is a month away. I'm going to see if I can return the acid reflux book I just got from Amazon, and possibly even return some of the supplements I bought from Puritans Pride.

I guess this is good news, and am certainly relieved I don't have to give up on garlic, tomatoes, onions, strawberries or citrus fruits, but my chronic dry cough, which I've had for several years (at least 3) is somewhat troubling. I don't want to go on a wild goose chase to figure out what it is as i can't afford that in my current underemployed state. (Although I just checked to see what that pH test cost and of the total $1,000 bill, I only have to pay $23, not including the $45 for the office visit. I was afraid it was going to be a lot more becus I have a $1500 deductible and for some reason, going to an ENT (a specialty doctor) didn't require me to pay toward that deductible. I just don't get that..... but not complaining.

From what I've read online, reactive lung disease doesn't quite fit me. My cough is not triggered by exercise, and the doctor already had me do an asthma test, which was negative. So at this point, not really sure what this is.

I can say the air in my house is very dry in the winter. Years ago, when I had a new furnace put in, they guys persuaded me to disconnect the built-in air humidifier becus they said mold and stuff can grow in there and cause lots of problems. As a result of doing that, I have a VVERY dry house every winter, to the point of, if i don't run a humidifier in my bedroom, I wake up in the a.m. with a sore throat.

I'll go back to using that humidifier, but the fact is, my cough is year-round, so i don't think that's what it is.

The next step in the interview process

March 17th, 2013 at 06:48 pm

So, I was sort of looking forward to a leisurely Sunday. That was not to be.

I worked a few hours on some take-home work from proofreading job. But then when I was just wrapping up, I got a surprise email from the guy I interviewed with for the web editor job last Friday.

He said you're one of the finalists, and by the way, here's a SECOND test editing/writing assignment (It was actually two.) I mean, an interview, a look at their portfolio and the first writing assignment wasn't enough to tell you about what they can do?

Sheesh. I've been through so many of these. I do hope I get an offer.

Tomorrow I go back to the ENT doctor to discuss the results of my pH test. I am very anxious to hear whether I have minor, moderate or serious problems. I don't feel it's that bad, but that's why they call it "silent" reflux. And I have had a cough for years.

My snowdrops are in bloom. They are so reliable and always the very first flower up around here, even when there's snow still on the ground.

I've been able to reduce my tea drinking to just one cup of caffeine daily, which is "allowed." The other cup is decaf but I recently got the Dropping Acid book from Amazon and she said that it's the tea which is acidic, as well as the caffeine. So tomorrow when doing the grocery shopping, I'll pick up some chamomile tea for one of those 2 cups.

I've also stayed away from tomato sauce and ketchup, as well as citrus fruit and juice. No onions and mostly no chocolate. I want to get rid of my cough and then very slowly reintroduce certain foods to see if they're trigger foods.

I've also started taking various supplements, and more are coming in the mail. Vit. C, B12, fish oil, slippery elm bark and DGL. I may still end up taking a proton pump inhibitor like Prilosec, but my plan is not to stay on it for more than eight weeks.

I plan to fill the prescription at CVS and then switch it at the first refill to Walgreen's so I can get the $25 back for a transferred prescription. Smile

I've been able to keep my weight down to 140, which feels pretty good after flirting with 150.However, I'd like to get down to 135, or even 130. I was at 135 about 5 years ago.

Interview went great

March 15th, 2013 at 03:26 pm

I had my interview this a.m. for a web editor position at a start-up news website. It's been around since last summer.

I think it went super. I impressed him with a writing assignment and also offered up a host of ideas for improving their website and promoting it better. Which was pretty darn good considering I didn't know this website even existed a week ago and he only asked me to do this the day before the interview. I do hope they don't just steal my ideas, though.

Would love to work there. No idea what the pay would be, but they are a very small group. It would be mostly work at home, writing my stories and editing freelancers' stories, then loading all onto the site. Would need to travel to the town I went to today, about a 50-minute drive. Maybe twice a month. I can do that.

I'm pretty psyched. This seems similar to my last salaried job, writing and editing for a news type website.

If I got it, with even a very low payscale, I'd end up with maybe $1,000 more a month than my bare minimum expenses. (Remember, I paid off my mortgage.) If I could save $1,000 a month for 15 months, I could buy a new car, which I really need. (I'm driving a 1999, which still runs great, but i do feel a little nervous going on the highway for long distances.)

This is a job that would put all my marketing and PR experience to good use. At the little p/t job i have now, i feel it's largely going to waste and I am doing mindless grunt work. Well, it's not really mindless, but it is tedious as all get out and quite boring to me.

The only thing that worries me a bit is how stable this job would be. With a bit less than a year under their belt, i consider them a start-up, and that can be dicey. I worked at a start-up before that went out of business. I would have no real job security, but then, I certainly have none now, either. What if the website didn't ever really take off, or what if their advertisers dried up? (That's how i'd be paid, according to the guy who interviewed me.) What if the 3 partners ran out of money or lost interest in the venture?

I'd still go for it and just try to squirrel away as much as I could in case the unforeseeable happened. What else can you do?

The tube is out, thank God/more job talk

March 12th, 2013 at 09:48 am

After a sleepless night, I got the tube thing out of my nose this morning, thank GOD.

I told the nurse I sure hoped this procedure was not for NOTHING, because the meter never read lower than 6.8 or higher than 7.4 pH. (A normal pH is about 7.) But she said most reflux issues happen overnight, so we'll see. I hadn't checked it overnight. I have another appointment to discuss results with doc on Monday.

So far, I paid $90 for the 1st office visit and the throat exam at that time. I'm wondering what this procedure will cost me as I haven't paid a deductible this year.... If it is acid reflux, I'll likely go on meds (more $$) but I really hope that with dietary changes i don't need the meds for more than 3 months.

Today's my last free day before returning to the proofreading job. I have to go in early tomorrow because I will be arriving late, around mid-day, there on Friday. That's because I have another job interview, the 2nd in 2 weeks. (Amazing.)

This one is for a Latino news website. They need a web editor and i did that at my last job, am familiar with content management systems used to post stories to a site, edited the work of a team of freelancers, etc. I'm putting my portfolio together today/tonight. I must say it always looks impressive, and since they're also a start-up, I can talk about different things we did to build traffic to the site.

It sounds like a really good fit but I have no idea what they might pay; I've researched the company and they just started last July and have a staff of just five people. It would be full-time, work from home (great!) but no benefits. I would have to occasionally drive to the Hartford area (a little under an hour) for editorial meetings. I'm hoping no more than once a week.

I'm also hoping the job would pay in the 30s (as in $30 something an hour), but again, they're new and very small so i have a feeling it will be less, like $20 or $25/hr. I'd try to get more but i would of course quit the part-time job and take it. Even at $20/hr, it would be $700 gross for a 35-hour week vs. the proofing job, which is $240 to $300 and dwindling as we approach spring until it dries up completely during the summer months. so if I got the job, it would more than double my income. My monthly gross would be $3033, about 1.5 times my bare minimum monthly expenses, now that i paid off the mortgage.

Also i would mostly not have to leave the house, which is an awfully nice thought when you think about snowstorms, or simply having to think about what will I wear today to look presentable.

Equally important, the new job is in my field and would actually use my skills and experience, whereas the proofing job is like sooooo boring and tedious. I can't wait to quit there. The people are very nice, perhaps even more so becus they know the pay is s*** and they want to encourage me and the gal I share the job with to stay. I know that if I did quit, I'm guessing they might offer the other woman more hours, but she's already told me she could never do the job full-time. So they'd have to re-advertise the job. That's what you get when you underpay.

A very trying morning and more on those detached condos

March 11th, 2013 at 01:13 pm

It was a very trying time this morning as I drove in to get the tube thing stuck up my nose to measure the pH level in my esophagus.

It was a nurse, not the doctor, who inserted it. I was feeling very anxious, and told her so, and she explained how it all would go. However, it was extremely uncomfortable when she inserted it. It's supposed to be carefully positioned so the end of it hangs just slightly above your throat, so that you can talk, swallow and eat normally. Well, she announced it was in place and that she was now going to tape the tube to my face (the other end is attached to a small computer on a belt) and i told her NO cus it was like RIGHT in my throat and every time I swallowed, I felt it big time. No way could i deal with that for 24 hours, let alone eat.

She jiggled it around so more, which was the worst, made some adjustments, and then looked inside my mouth to see its location. It was bad enough I started to cry a little.

However, once it was in place, it wasn't so bad, and I drove myself home, trying not to turn my head too much becus it would tug a little on the tube.

I'm feeling better about it now, but will sure be glad to get this thing out tomorrow morning. I have to keep a diary and record "events" such as what and when I eat, when I cough and when I sleep. At the same time, I have to push certain buttons on the computer to record those events.

It's constantly monitoring my pH levels. Normal ph is about 7, and my ph has varied only from about 6.9 to 7.3, so I see nothing wrong with it thus far.

I sure hope this test is not for nothing! As it's going to cost me and I sure don't enjoy it. I really hope it's not inconclusive and they try to get me to do various other tests. I'm really worried about much this is going to cost. I'd like the doctor to work with me in modifying my diet and habits (like not eating 3 hours before bedtime) before the knee-jerk reaction to go to meds, which as I understand, don't really fix any damage done to your throat by stomach acids anyway.

Yesterday R. and I took a drive (with his dog) up to Madison, the town where I wanted to check out some detached condos. There were 2 open houses at this one complex. All the way up there (about an hour's drive) Ron is telling me all the reasons I shouldn't move there, which was frankly annoying. Well, he's always been that way; not one to withhold his personal opinion.

So I was quite pleased when we arrived and he had to admit it was a very nice and unusual community where the condos were really very nicely spaced away from each other with a fair amount of privacy and space and everything was very nicely landscaped.

The first one we looked at felt more like a home with a small, private yard (with an open meadow out back), 2 stories, about 1590 square feet. Very private little patio. However, the kitchen and baths were somewhat dated and I knew if I bought it I'd have to update the appliances and counters at least. $279,900 and common charges $330. Town water and shared septic. Built in 1977. It also had 3 baths, which i certainly don't need. One downstairs, and then one for each of the 2 bedrooms.

The second open house was at a smaller ranch unit, about 1290 sf and a smaller kitchen, more galley-like, but more updated and attractive. Its sales price was quite a bit less, i guess mainly becus of the smaller overall square footage, at about $249,500. This one had a nice 3-season sun room, very private. The only thing I didn't like about it (aside from the slab, not full basement which means it won't hold the heat as well) is that the entrance to another unit was nearby and perpendicular to it, making it fell vaguely like an apartment complex, while the first unit felt more like a row house.

Both units have electric heat and central air. the taxes at both units would be about $1,000 less than what I'm paying now with my house. I won't be buying either unit as my house is not ready to put on market, but i wanted to look and just see if seeing them in person would allow me to rule them out as real possibilities, or not. I have not ruled them out.

The complex is just about a mile from Hammonnasset State Park, which is right on Long Island Sound, so while we were there we checked out this rather large park. It was a nice day, so there were quite a lot of people there with dogs or jogging or just driving around like we were. They have trails, boardwalks, fishing piers, a huge nature center, sandy beaches. Lots to do. You can buy a season's pass. I could see myself taking walks there, or bicycling, 2 or 3 times a week if it was so close.

The town itself is also quite nice, old New England homes and nice shops, small downtown. Even the neighborhood where the condo complex is is also very nice, lots of old homes.

One other drawback is that if i ever needed to travel west, say to Fairfield County where I live now, you really only have way to go, and that's Interstate 95. Not a fun road to travel if you can avoid it. There's also Rt. 1, but that's just a 2 lane road with lots of stops and lights and traffic along the way.

I don't really feel that if i moved, I'd have a lot of reasons to drive back toward this way. Right now, both my parents are still alive, and that's a big reason why I might delay any move further away, for now. But aside from my parents, i have a few friends in town, and they are all moving out of state this year or next. Ron is to the east and maybe a move would put me a little further out from him, about 45 minutes, but I'm about 40 minutes away from him right now, so not much difference.

Part of me would like to move now. I wonder, too, though, whether moving when I don't have steady work would worsen things for me in that location as opposed to here. The way I see it, I've been looking for f/t work for 3.5 years. I can't see it being that much worse there if I haven't gotten a steady job here in all that time.

Moving out there would feel like starting over from scratch in a way, since I'd be leaving everything that's familiar to me here in western Connecticut. I've done that kind of thing before, but I was much younger, in my 20s, when I moved by myself to Cape cod, and then to Vermont.

It would be very important to reach out and join different groups in town to get to know people, or i could be very lonely. It's not the kind of thing that comes naturally to me but I'd need to make the effort.

Trying to stay healthy in an unhealthy world

March 6th, 2013 at 08:26 am

I zipped over to BJs this morning and was able to return about $21 worth of foods I can no longer eat: cheddar cheese and pasta sauce. I had 5 large jars of the stuff (!) and only had a receipt for the cheese. I wasn't sure if they'd take it becus if you look at their website, they say they don't take food items back. Or maybe I'm just reading it wrong.

So, my monetary loss from getting rid of all these foods is now down to just 3/4 of a bag of navel oranges, which I'll give my mother, as well as 14 cans of tomato paste, which I've offered to my neighbor. Also, 2 onions. So maybe $12 worth of food. Guess I can live with that.

While I was at BJs I got more soymilk, salad greens and organic apples, all on my "safe" list.

I'm not ready to part yet with my 2 bags of small dark chocolate squares, or my sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil (1.5 jars). Maybe I can have these things occasionally after I get this thing under control. (No one's told me yet not to eat all these things, but I've just taken it upon myself to be informed.)

I also recently returned a sun lamp (aka happy lamp), the kind that's supposed to help with seasonal affective disorder. I gave it a short run (one week), and would have given it longer, but since it said on the box you could see results in just 2-4 days, I gave it up and became more concerned about getting a refund. I really didn't notice any change at all, so I decided to return it (value about $35) so I wouldn't have yet another useless thing around here taking up space, and so I can spend the money on something else more useful to me, which these days is either gas for the car, food or products to help me do home maintenance/repairs.

Of course, since Amazon overcharges on most everything except books, I'm constantly analyzing whether I'm better off buying something on amazon using free gift cards or if i should buy cheaper elsewhere and save the gift cards for something where I can get a relatively decent deal.

Along with my ongoing concerns over diet and what i put in my mouth, I'm also becoming more resolved to make healthier choices about toiletries. Most fragrances, shampoos, lotions and make-up are filled with unsafe chemicals. But since I'm not made of money, I decided I would focus on things that stay on my skin and are thus readily absorbed into my system, as opposed to things you apply to your body but wash off fairly quickly, like body washes, shampoos and conditioners.

So I did select one or two Burt's Bees hand lotions for my amazon cart; a quick comparison to the same items' prices at Walmart showed me they were just a little more money. My hands get very dry in the winter but I no longer want to use things with ingredients I can't pronounce that disrupt my hormones or may cause cancer.

I really need to address chapstick-type products. It's another case of me having a ton of supplies that I'm reluctant to part with since it saves me money to use them up first, but lip products especially trouble me. If they wear off your lips, you can be pretty sure you're swallowing the stuff.

The more you think about it, the more crazy it seems. Like, a year or so ago I bought an air purifier for the bedroom. I don't have allergies, but with 2 cats in the house and a forced hot air heating system, there's usually a lot of dust around. I love my Airstream purifier, but it seemed so counter-productive and a little disappointing that a company in the business of "purifying" air would include 3 packets of "air freshener" with the air purifier. The air freshener packet fragrances were lavendar, lemon and citrus, I think, and while the latter 2 smelled great, you know obviously that what you are smelling is not real lemon or orange but pure chemicals.

I emailed the company a note asking for the ingredients and a rep replied that they were "nature-inspired" or something like that, which basically answered my question. When I pressed her again for the actual ingredients list, she never responded, I think becus she know this consumer wouldn't be pleased.

Also over the weekend I took advantage of a Staples offer for a free after rebate ream of paper and photo 4 x 6 paper. It's so easy to process the rebates on their website; everything you need to know is on the receipt.

Have to be at work at 1 pm today. I've been asking if she wants me to come in earlier in the a.m. for the past or so, and each time she says yes, cus there's work, but hey, if she doesn't reach out to me i don't think I'll bother, becus when I go in early, it's a real pain to work because my counterpart with whom i share the job is at our work station and I have to sit in other locations where i have to use remote web email (doesn't have my folders and saved templates that i use all the time) and sometimes i sit somewhere where there's not even a phone and i have to walk over to an empty office to make a phone call. (Wow, that was one really long sentence.) Don't really like to do my job that way so I think i'll try to stay an hour later each of the next 3 days but pass on the wandering employee routine.

For lunch today I think I'll make a fritatta with feta cheese, mushrooms and spinach. guess I'd better get started on that now.

A scary new food world?

March 6th, 2013 at 05:58 am

In my last post, I wrote about my ENT visit and the likely diagnosis of "silent" acid reflux. While I still have to go back on Monday for an unpleasant pH test, I already spent a few hours last night researching foods I should and shouldn't be eating now, as dietary management is apparently very helpful and could even get rid of this condition entirely.

So that's why I say it could be a scary new world, cus many of the foods I thought were "healthy" were apparently exacerbating the silent reflux. I need to cut back if not eliminate at least some of these foods.

One thing I eat quite a bit of, for instance, is jarred pasta sauce (Classico/Prego) over pasta, sauteed onions and garlic and a fair amount of tomato paste which I use to thicken up my homemade soups.

After reading a few very interesting diet/nutrition books over preceding months and being especially interested in Robert Lustig's Wheat Belly, I had already embarked a few months ago on a quest to lower the overall amount of whole wheat and sugar in my diet.

As part of that effort, I cut back (but did not eliminate) pasta. I also began eating more fresh fruit, and lately I'd been on a pink grapefruit kick. I was really enjoying them and eating a whole one every other day after getting a big bag at BJs. Then I moved on to the navel oranges....

And of course I'm a big tea drinker, though I rarely have more than 2 cups a day. Caffeine is not good for silent reflux; although there's always decaf, I don't know if I could entirely give up that great caffeine kick I get in the morning and then again in early afternoon when I'm feeling ready for a nap.

Other foods that aren't good are fatty meats (don't eat these much), full fat dairy like milk and cheese), chocolate (is 1 small square of dark chocolate really all that detrimental?), cranberries and soda (gave that up for the most part a few years ago).

So the whole idea of acid reflux kind of flummoxed me because I'm not a soda drinker, I don't eat too many sweets and I do make a lot of my own meals.

Now truth be told, until I get the results back from the pH test (doc said he wants me to do a barium x-ray as well to check for damage to various tissue), I don't really know how bad my reflux is. So I may be jumping the gun somewhat on all the dietary stuff and I don't know if the stricter regimen advocated by Dr. Jamie Koufman in her book would be required or if following her less stringent "maintenance diet" would be sufficient.

Anyway, I'm going to get her book called "Dropping Acid...." It's all about the acid/alkaline balance in our bodies and from what I've read, there's an epidemic of acid reflux in this country because many of the foods we eat are high in acid. Manufacturers are required by law to line the insides of bottles and jars with acid, yes acid, to better preserve foods. (Another reason to eat fresh, not processed.)

I do already do a lot of my own cooking but there are certain processed foods I admit i rely on. And one of my favorite meals for many years was a big, and I mean big, bowl of pasta with Prego sauce.

The only time I experienced ANY acid reflux symptoms aside from this cough was when i had a big bowl of pasta a little late at night, in hindsight, too close to bedtime. Then I would wake up and feel that sour taste in my throat which I knew was reflux. This happened maybe a total of 5 times over the course of the past year or two.

It's supposed to be worse than the usual heartburn many experience because the throat is much more sensitive than the stomach. Oh well. Left untreated, acid reflux is more than just an inconvenient nuisance since it can make you susceptible to esophagus cancer, which has a high mortality rate. Oh well, Didn't know these things.

However, I am a mortal human being. At this point, I think I can realistically make the following changes in my diet:

1. Reduce caffeine intake from 2 cups daily to 1 cup daily; the other cup can be decaf.

2. Just knowing my own diet and what I tend to eat the most of, i think it pretty important to pretty much eliminate pasta sauce. It's concentrated tomato. I plan to give my sauce and most of the paste away to family and neighbor. HOWEVER, I think it would be relatively safe to eat fresh tomatoes on occasion, and I'm thinking in this spring's vegetable garden I would grow just cherry tomatoes for my salads. Freezing surplus tomatoes was always such a big deal to me,for use over the winter in soups. I don't know if I should still do that.

3. I can also cut back on sauteed onions quite a bit as i seem to put them in everything, from pizza to soups to you name it.

4. After cutting back sugar elsewhere in my diet (orange juice, Kozy Shack rice pudding and sometimes chocolate pudding) and occasional cookies, I had allowed myself sugar in the form of beneficial dark (60% cocoa) chocolate, 1 or 2 squares on most days. I'm reluctant to give this up as i don't really think the quantity was enough to cause much harm, but i will read the book once i get it and see what they have to say.

The problem is, there are tons of articles and food lists online, but many of them say don't eat such and such without really explaining why, and often certain foods are on different lists depending what website you're visiting. So for instance, a lot of sites said don't eat eggs with no reason given. Then I found one site that said it's really all the butter or other fats you fry the egg in that are detrimental. So now i'm thinking that a hard-boiled egg, maybe sliced in a salad, would probably be ok but eggs for breakfast, easy over, maybe not. (I use coconut oil.)

So as you can see i still have a lot of questions about the dietary things. Apparently goat cheese and feta cheese are ok, but "high fat" cheeses aren't. Lean meat and fish ok, fatty meat no. Nearly all fruit and veggies are ok, but i saw something about strawberries and possibly cucumbers (and of course those onions/garlic).

To think that while I was sick with that middle ear infection I was eating multiple cloves of raw garlic daily, for their infection-fighting capabilities.

The more time I have to think about it, the less I'm looking forward to my return office visit Monday. They will rig me up with a tube up my nose, about the length of a piece of spaghetti. It will be attached to a small computer at my waist and I'll have to somehow live with this think for a full 24 hours, including overnight. don't know how I'll sleep. Before the doc jammed that tube up my nose in his office, they sprayed my nose with something that numbed me. But how will it work when i have it in for 24 hours? Won't it become sore? When the doctor inserted it, it was uncomfortable, and borderline painful, although that could have been for just while he was inserting it; maybe it won't really hurt once it's in place.

Thank you to FreeMe Journey for your kind words. I welcome your feedback!

The nose knows

March 4th, 2013 at 12:17 pm

OK, so Iíve had an ďunexplained coughĒ for a long time now. Several years, in fact. Each year at my annual physical I would tell my PCP (an APRN) that I still had ďthat cough.Ē They had done a chest x-ray (normal), a breathing test to rule out asthma and then I was in Prilosec for just a week, to see if I had acid reflux. I was really supposed to stay on it for at least 2 weeks, but I stopped after 1 week with no difference.

I had some extremely infrequent instances of acid reflux, nearly every time after I had a big bowl of pastaÖwith lots of acidic tomato sauceÖ. for dinner.
So, as I said, I would dutifully report the cough each year, and each year sheíd do one test and then never follow up with me, and truth be told I wanted to forget about it so I didnít call her. For some reason I had it in my head that diagnosing the source of my problem would be a long, drawn out affair with lots of diagnostic tests which, even with health insurance, I feel I can ill afford (havenít met the deductible this year).

I finally went to the ear, nose and throat guy today, who sheíd finally referred me to last year before I got that middle ear infection.

I told the doc my issues and lickety split, before I could say I donít want that long tube thingy up my nose, well, he inserted a long thin tube thingy up my nose. Frown He said it was definitely inflamed and suspected ďsilentĒ acid reflux but wants me to do another unpleasant procedure next week to determine for sure.

The unpleasant procedure is to have them insert another tube, about the size of a piece of spaghetti (not sure if thatís width or length) up my nose while itís connected to a mini computer attached to my waist. I have to go home with this thing and sleep with it overnight so it can record the acidity in my stomach! Then I return the next day to have them remove the tube. Ick. Ugh. Gag.

If thatís in fact my problem, I have to go on medication. Not clear how long. Could be a few months or forever. Also, becus Iíve had this cough for a long time, he wants me to go to a GI guy for a barium x-ray to make sure thereís no damage to my esophagus tissue or whatever. Happy, joy, joy.

I do feel somewhat relieved to know this is probably what it is. My other fear about this thing was that it was a cancerous tumor in my throat, and I was taking a rather fatalistic approach to it all. (I tend to self-diagnose the worst case scenarios all the time.) Silent acid reflux can be somewhat helped by changes in habit and diet, meaning, donít eat 3 hours before bedtime and avoid things like tomatoes (love Ďem), chocolate (oh no), alcohol, caffeine (no!), cheese and eggs (uh oh).

Iíd just like this cough to go away. Itís gotten to the point where people notice it and ask whatís wrong, and itís also frequent enough that I worry Iím gonna start hacking away during at an inopportune time, like a job interview. Which I had scheduled for this a.m. until they called and said it was cancelled cus the woman was sick.

So I go back on Monday to have the tube inserted. I have Mondays and Tuesdays off from work, so that works fine and I wonít lose any work time. But Iím already feeling nervous about it.

Credit Card Rewards

March 3rd, 2013 at 05:18 am

I see that Chase is offering the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Card, which awards you 50,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months, good for 2 roundtrip flights. And you get 6,000 bonus points after your one-year anniversary. While I havenít traveled much lately and highly doubt I will anytime soon, Iím interested in the card because you can also redeem the points for $500 in gift cards from Wal-Mart, Lowes, Home Depot or Amazon. However, the card does have a $99 annual fee. Bummer.

However, Chase has a very similar card, the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Plus Card, which offers the exact same benefits except you get 3,000 bonus points on your anniversary instead of 6,000. And this one has a $69 annual fee. Since Iím mainly interested in the rewards and wouldnít plan on keeping the card for a year, I donít much care about the anniversary points anyway.

SoÖ.while spending $2,000 in 3 months was a stretch for me last time I did it (thereís always more grocery store gift cards), it would be nice to get $430 in gift cards, which I could surely use at Home Depot for all my home maintenance/repair needs. (Amazon would never be my first choice for gift cards as their prices for anything besides books is much higher than you can find elsewhere. And now they charge sales tax in Connecticut, so that little cost savings is gone.)

I may wait until I think itís October when both my homeowners and car insurance are due. That would be a quick $1,000 spend right there. (Iíd been meaning to ask my agent if I could separate these two bills so they donít both come due at the same time cus itís one big bill, but for purposes of earning credit card rewards, it works well.)

In the meantime, Iím $50 shy of having earned a $100 reward from Bank Americard.

Weekend Edition

March 2nd, 2013 at 06:14 am

As always, I'm so glad when the weekend is here. The next 4 days are mine. It's not that I'm not still working...far from it...but my time is my own and I can decide when and how with my freelance work.

I've got a slew of things to do in the next 4 days. They're expecting possible snow flurries Sunday, and my mother's arthritis is acting up, so she's said maybe her birthday lunch on that day wouldn't be best. So we've rescheduled for next weekend, which is actually better for me anyway.

Today is my running around day. I have a lot of store returns to make, at Christmas Tree Shop and Home Depot, then I want to hit BJs and the, though it's out of the way, my sister has fresh eggs for me.
I want to finish grouting in the bathroom.

Sunday I think I can now devote to ghost-writing an article about the Connecticut housing market; it'll be in Connecticut Builder Magazine. I've written 5 or 6 of these already.

After a doctor's appointment Monday, I have an interview in the afternoon with an agency for a temp content writer job. I don't even know how long the job would last, nor whether it would make sense to quit my proofreading job to take it.

I'd probably quit to take a f/t job that paid at least $30/hr if it lasted for at least 3 months. That'd be roughly 2.5 times as much pay as I'm making now, plus I think I could switch over to the employment agency's health plan. While I wouldn't expect to save any money doing that and it's still very pricey, I believe it would reset the clock as far as COBRA goes, and after 30 days of employment I believe I could start a new 18-month period (or whatever it is), which would carry me through until January 2014 when I would probably switch to the new state health co-op.

As it stands now, my COBRA expires June 30 and without something else, I'll have to go in the state plan.

So anyway, I spent over an hour last night printing out selected writing samples for my portfolio, which I always customize to the prospective employer. This one is a consumer packaged goods company that needs someone to do internal communications and work with HR. Haven't done a ton of that, but if you work long enough as a writer, you're bound to delve into various things that aren't your primary responsibility. So I did for a time serve on my last employer's corporate newsletter committee and I was the person who wrote it after we determined the direction/theme of each issue. I've also written a lot of internal bulletins, or news updates to keep employees in far-flung locations (mainly salespeople) abreast of what was happening in the company.

The agency mentioned experience with charitable events. Not sure what exactly they'd be looking for, but again, I've written a ton of press releases for all sorts of fundraisers and special events, so I printed those out too.

Let's hope it all pays off.

Lots to do! This is good. I have yet to see the money trickle in, but there's always a 6 week delay between the time I cut the invoice and when I get paid. I have tallied up all work done year to date, whether or not I've been paid for it yet, and I've already exceeded my modest monthly income goal with still a full month to go.

At the proofreading job, the work is feeling a little easier as I'm getting the hang of it more. It's not at all an easy job despite the very low pay. Everyone in marketing, the area in which I work, seems to get along pretty well, although recently one of the women was in charge of training a new p/t hire. The job would seem simple enough: running huge print jobs off on their humongous color printer. However, the person doing it would need to be somewhat computer savvy as the way these jobs are controlled.

So the person arrived for her first day; she seemed nice enough, and I overheard her saying how happy she was to have a job, even a p/t one, cus sheíd been out of work a while. A., who was training her, seemed to be getting very impatient with her becus she wasnít catching on instantaneously. You could hear it in her tone of voice. She was getting testy and really put out. While the new hire was still there, she went in to her managerís office, which is right next to my cubicle. A. didnít even close the door, but she was talking in hushed tones to her manager, complaining mightily about how slowly the new hire was catching on.

I thought it was not a very kind thing to do, nor very professional, when she could have just waited for the part-timer to leave for the day. Then, the part-timer actually walked up to her while she was talking about her (!!) because she was in fact getting ready to leave, and she said something to the effect of, I hope I catch on quickly. So maybe she did overhear her.

The next day was pretty much a repeat of the first. After the part-timer left, A. continued to badmouth and complain about the new hire to at least 3 other people. Anyone who would listen. All. Day. Long. I mean, sheíd only been there two days; give her a break! With all of her complaining, she managed to get a closed door session with her manager and the HR manager.

I only work there 3 days a week, but by the time I returned the following week, the new hire was already history. I felt bad for her; imagine yourself in that position, feeling hopeful and excited about a new job, and possibly never realizing you could so quickly be done in by the very woman whoís supposed to train you.

So the woman, A., who got her fired, I sort of got along with, but I was always a little wary of her, I guess because I've run into her type before. Sheís got a big mouth and always speaks her mind. Sheís the type of person who can dominate others and sway a groupís opinion to her line of thinking. Iím quiet and soft-spoken. Some people feel intimidated by a quiet person because they donítí know what theyíre thinking. Sheís been somewhat nice to me, but Iíve also noticed she makes sarcastic comments a lot when itís really unnecessary. So to me sheís a mixed bag. But sheís seemed nicer to me since after the firing of the other woman and also since I spontaneously shared some of my homemade soup with her when I ran into her in the kitchen.

You may do your best to avoid office politics, but itís nearly impossible to avoid unless you work remotely.