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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.