Home > Archive: May, 2017

Archive for May, 2017

For Frugal Texan

May 31st, 2017 at 11:05 am

Thanks for your suggestion of a treat ball to keep Luther occupied. I wasn't familiar with them but found them on Amazon.

I may get one. Luther would love them as he adores dry food (he now gets exclusively wet food), although Waldo has no teeth so crunching on dry food would be tough on his gums. Maybe I could try using just soft treats.

Luther enjoyed watching a dozen different videos of cats using the treat toy. He seemed very interested. Smile

Sunday relaxation

May 29th, 2017 at 06:11 pm

It's a chilly and rainy Monday. I couldn't quite work up the enthusiasm to continue painting the bookshelves for the 3rd day straight, so I gave myself a break as it's kind of dark to do so anyway.

Instead, I:

1. Did 3 loads of laundry.
2. Changed the hummingbird sugar water.
3. Wasted time on Facebook.
4. Whipped up a batch of granola.
5. Did my monthly expense report.
6. Tidied up.

There have been unwelcome signs that Luther is getting "bored" again now that I'm away all day at work. He scratched off some wallpaper in the downstairs bathroom. I found his tooth marks on my copper spoon plant and he knocked off a small cactus in the sun room. Bad, bad Luther!

I now have a pair of wave petunias hanging on either side of the front door...nice!

Happy Memorial Day

May 29th, 2017 at 12:28 am

I hope everyone is enjoying their holiday weekend.

Today was Day 2 of painting the bookshelves. I worked on it 2 hours this morning and 2 hours this afternoon. It's very tiring. My arm was killing me using the paintbrush all that time, although with the roller it was better because I can use the roller in my right hand as well as my left.

I was wearing a respirator the whole time because the paint stinks. It's hard to breath thru the respirator. I opened the windows and had a box fan running so the cats wouldn't have to breathe it all day.

I'm only about halfway done and it's possible I'll even need to buy another gallon of paint!

Aside from painting, last night dad and I went out to dinner at a fusion Chinese/Japanese place. Dad's really into good food, and he remembered 30 years ago having a delicious bass dinner at a Chinese place where they served the whole fish, head and all, on the plate, and he wanted to re-experience that again. Well, they had it on the menu and he seemed to enjoy it. Except for all the fish bones.

After dinner we stopped at Starbucks, as we sometimes do, and got something to drink, then drove to a nearby park to sit in the car and talk til it got dark. I'm so thankful to have all this quality time with dad.

This afternoon during my painting break my friend R. stopped by to say hello and to check out the bookshelves. He invited me to dinner with him and another couple in a few weeks that I have never met. So that will be fun and a break from my usual routine.

His cancer has spread to his lymph nodes. He has started an immunotherapy that involves taking his blood, treating it somehow and then putting it back in him. It costs $93,000 (it's covered) and only extends life by 4 months, he said.

When he was first diagnosed with prostate cancer, he was very fatalistic about it. Now that the drugs he was on no longer work and his PSA is rising again, he has started seeing a naturopath (at my urging) and is taking a ton of supplements and trying to eat better. He says if he doesn't see results in 6 months' time, he's going back to bacon, burgers and pizza. He probably has a year to live and I don't know much longer he will be feeling well enough to go out and socialize. I wish there was something I could do. It's a terrible thing. I will lose my oldest friend and I don't want him to suffer.

Somehow I found the energy after painting to go to Trader Joe's as I'm vegan and I'm out of beans! I bought about 20 cans of kidney, chickpea and white beans; the cashier must've thought I was crazy.

I hope to possibly finish the bookshelves tomorrow although that would be a tall task.

I may hit BJs tomorrow morning first thing before starting the painting again.

Washing out paintbrushes and rollers is such a royal pain; I'm trying something new this time. My dad left his Starbucks cup with lid in my car, and I put the used paintbrush in there, filled it with water just to the top of the bristles (don't want to rust out the metal part), then widened the hole you normally drink out and slid the handle of the paintbrush thru that, and closed the lid on the cup with the paintbrush in it.

Then I tool the 6-inch wide roller and put it in a plastic ziploc bag. Both techniques seemed to keep the paint moist during my break of a few hours, and I hope it will work overnight. If not, I have a spare roller and maybe I'd just use one of my not-as-good used paintbrushes to finish. With the roller, I'm seeing much better results with the paint job where I just use the brush to cut out all the corners and borders of the shelves and then use the roller to fill in the center and make everything uniform.

Probably more info than you care to read about painting techniques but this is what I'm up to this weekend.

Exciting genealogy news!

May 26th, 2017 at 11:30 pm

I haven't spent nearly any time at all on genealogy stuff since I was so intent on making money, first at the education job and now at the marketing agency.

So I was totally surprised to get an email from Pastor Anders from the small German town where my grandfather grew up.

I had asked him a long time ago to take a photo of the address he had uncovered as being the family home when my grandfather was born in 1905. At that time, he sent me a photo which simply showed a few modern-looking single car garages evidently being used by private home owners, with a steep slope behind it. Whatever residential building had been there, was there no more.

Tonight he provided me some details about grandpa's home, and even better, some photos he obtained from the city archives!

Interestingly, what I assume was a multi-family home was built in 1884 as an extension to an adjacent building, which was built in 1778. The owner was, guess who? My great-great grandmother, or my grandfather's grandmother! And in 1853, the older building belonged to her father, my 3rd great grandfather. So perhaps he found some advantage to put the 2nd building in his daughter's name, or maybe he was just trying to set her up in life.

Here's the building:

Not at all what I was expecting! If you look carefully you can see some people looking out the 2nd story window. For all I know (and I guess I never will know), that could be family!

In all the research I've done on both sides of my family, this was the first evidence I've gotten that anyone was anything but of very modest means! Perhaps she inherited from her father, then; the pastor's research shows one other sibling, a son.

Here is a 2nd photo; i have no idea who the family is in the foreground, but the building in the background is again my grandfather's ancestral home.

To complete this little story it would be wonderful to find out when and why this building, and possible the whole row of buildings, was taken down or destroyed. Was there a fire? Did the city want to redevelop? One can only wonder.....

I would love to ask the pastor, but he seems so busy and he has already done so much research for me, getting nothing in return. So I feel funny asking.

A new bonus credit card

May 26th, 2017 at 10:38 pm

I just activated a new $200 bonus credit card, a reward I'll earn after charging $1,000 on it in the first 3 months. Smile That means I must charge EVERYTHING on this one card. It's the Wells Fargo Cash Wise card. They asked me to disclose name of my employer, how much $$ I make and even a phone number. I provided all that without mentioning it's a contract job, and I gave the toll free number that goes who knows where, not my local office number. It's a huge company so I don't even know if they got thru to the right HR person. They did not provide the immediate online approval I'm used to, which seemed ominous, so I was happily surprised when I got the card in the mail anyway.

I managed to work til 5 today at work, even though most people left much earlier. I take all back roads home so extra traffic wasn't an issue; in fact, it was lighter.

I'm truly surprised that my credit has managed to stay north of 800 even with all these random credit cards I keep opening.

Really ANNOYED that the person who said he wanted to buy my miter box did not respond to my message this a.m. suggesting we set up the pick up this weekend.

Here comes the weekend!

May 26th, 2017 at 09:40 am

I love the long summer up around 4:30 a.m., unable to sleep. (Of course I konked out last night at 10 pm).

Happy to be wrapping up week 3 of the new job today, although I want to ask if I can stay til 5 today (I'm sure others will be leaving early for the long holiday weekend) since I am already losing pay for the holiday itself and a half day the following Wednesday for a doctor's appointment.

This is what sucks about being a contractor. You don't get paid for holidays, or time out for doctor's appointments.

They had another happy hour (with alcohol) yesterday at the office around 4. I guess it's a weekly event! I chose not to go on either day because I don't think it's appropriate for someone getting paid on an hourly basis to be drinking while doing so.

I think I have a buyer for a nice miter box my mother used to make frames. The price is $25 and it's heavy duty metal; everything new now is plastic. I thought I sold it a year ago and drove 20 minutes to meet another guy, who then offered less than I'd asked for in the ad. So he was counting on me caving to the lower price becus I had driven all that way. Wrong. That pissed me off; didn't appreciate the less-than-honest tactics.

Anyway, this is my first attempt using Facebook Marketplace.

I did get my first paycheck and so after grossing $4166, I only netted $2841. The biggest deduction was for federal taxes, at $784!!

Still, this one check (for 2 weeks) pretty much covers my monthly expenses.

I want to revisit my witholdings. That little table on the back of the W4 is not very precise, IMO. Based on using that table, I am claiming 2 deductions, but I think I should be claiming 3 to have less money withheld from my paycheck. I know there's a way to fine-tune it (a calculator, maybe?) but I'm not sure. I'm very sure I'll remain in the 25% tax bracket.

This has happened to me before with higher paying contract jobs; too much is withheld, resulting in a large refund at year's end, when I would much prefer to get that money now.

The one big goal for the long weekend (heavenly) is to finish priming and then painting my new bookshelves. I primed about a third of it before using up the quarter of primer I had. And yes, it's going to take a lot of time. I would also like to ENJOY my holiday weekend and I need to hit Trader Joe's, BJs, Aldis, the dump and the gas station.

I found tiny butterfly eggs on my parsley (now that I know what they look like). Wow, that's early! I have released about 4 emergent black swallowtails this month that had overwintered from last year. Truly amazing that life inside those tiny cocoons somehow survived the cold of winter.

The idea behind raising them in an aquarium is that you are boosting their survival rate compared to the predation they'd face from birds and parasitic wasps if left to fend for themselves.

What a disappointment

May 22nd, 2017 at 11:00 pm

I thought I was getting paid today. No pay, all day, so left some messages with the agency. He replied back explaining that while he sends the time sheets in to payroll place every other Monday, I won't see the money til Wednesday. Sigh. Two more days.

Today was a stressful and trying day at work. We had a noon conference call with the client and I was making last minute changes and writing up "talking points" at 11 a.m.

Later in the day what I thought was a near perfect 2nd writing assignment drew lots of questions and declarations that certain copy was "clinical" and didn't "tell a story."

So we'll meet again tomorrow after I pull together some revisions.

I really don't think I'd want to do this permanently; people are continuously telling you what's wrong with what you've written, and this is long before the client even sees it and adds their .02. What an exhausting process, one I'll have to repeat 50 or so more times before I finish this job by September 1 (because that's about how many more writing assignments I'll have). Big sigh.

So it's disheartening. This is one reason why they're paying me the big bucks, no doubt. But still.

Saturday stuff

May 21st, 2017 at 12:33 am

Today is the weekend I wanted to start work on my bookshelves. As they say, the prep is what takes so much time. I had a lot of caulking to do where all the corners meet, and I was using wood putty for the little nail holes. It took a lot of time, plus 2 trips to the hardware store and 2 trips to the paint store because our local Sherwin Williams "says" they open at 8 am but actually were buttoned up tight at 8:15 a.m. when I left, annoyed as could be.

Caulking is a messy job but I had noticed an influx of carpenter ants, some of whom were on the bookshelves or on the dining room floor, and I suspect they were coming it thru some of those above-mentioned cracks.

So I think I used 2 tubes of caulk. I just had no energy or motivation to do it, for some reason, but of course I want to have it done.

In addition to doing that, I did drop off some stuff at the household hazardous waste drop off site as I didn't want to hold onto it for another year. Interestingly, they took some old perfume and baby oil but not 3 old smoke detectors.

I also had to go to the dump.

My goal for tomorrow is the following:

1. Sand everything.
2. Vacuum up all the dust from sanding.
3. Prime.
4. grocery shopping
5. Fill up gas tank.
6. Think about what to make for my work week lunches.

Painting will have to wait til next weekend.

Went to dinner with dad at the Barnwood Grill, right in the center of town. It was very noisy, very busy. Dad wants to do Chinese next weekend so he can have bass done a certain way he's had before.

He has volunteered to come to my house on a day I schedule to have a water guy here to get my pump running again for my outdoor water. I have a ton of stuff planted in pots but have to carry it out from the kitchen because my pump was running last summer during the drought and would not stop, probably becus there was no water. So I turned the power off all winter but now it's still just running, so something is not right. I hope it's not expensive.

Anyway, I don't see how I could have the guy come over to troubleshoot it now that I'm working f/t again, so having dad here that day would be a huge help.

I also want to get an electrician over here to take care of some minor issues but he moonlights so I know he could come on a Saturday.


May 20th, 2017 at 12:16 am

And the weekend is here, just like that.

There's a family of at least 4 chipmunks who seem to have taken up residence in an old vole tunnel close to my front door. They seem unusually tame to me, and Luther's not happy about it.

Here's a slice of orange I tried feeding the black swallowtail butterfly with until the weather cleared and I released him:

Hard to believe I wrapped up 2 weeks at the new job. Pay day will happen on MONDAY and I can't wait.

There were a zillion more rounds of edits to my piece but it goes to the client Monday.

In just the 2 weeks I've been there, they've already had:
1. Thursday afternoon alcoholic drinks at 3 (I skipped this and wasn't sure it was appropriate for me, a contractor, to partake)
2. A hot breakfast this morning of scrambled eggs, bacon and French toast!
3. A gourmet style food truck and all you can eat off their menu, compliments of the company. (I checked with HR and they said it was fine to join in)


I have a ton of stuff I want to do this weekend. At the top of the agenda is starting the paint job of the bookshelves. Or at least the priming.

I'm totally overrun with disgusting black carpenter ants, mostly in the kitchen, but elsewhere too. I think all that rain is to blame. And I thought I had found a way to seal off my kitchen. Apparently not. I still don't know exactly how they get in. Sprinkling ant bait is also high on my agenda.

I am trying again to sprout broccoli seeds for my daily salads. I need to go to Aldi's. I have to go to the dump and the household hazardous waste drop off is tomorrow. I want to spread a bunch of mulch on some perennial beds and plant more flowers for the butterflies, and veggies for me. I need to buy the paint for bookshelves. There's a plant sale at the middle school.

I am pooped just thinking about it.

The good and the bad

May 18th, 2017 at 11:14 am

First, the bad.

I must have told myself three times to write myself a sticky note and put it on my thermostat. The note would read: Do not turn on central air without taking outdoor cover off.

You know what happened, right? Yesterday was the first of 3 very hot and humid days, up to 95 today. Before leaving for work I set the thermostat to kick on when indoor temps reached 80 degrees. This was the very first time I'd be using it since having it installed in April.

I forgot to take the cover off.

I'm not sure when the AC would have kicked on yesterday, but maybe about 1 pm. All windows were shut and blinds drawn. So it was running, on and off for about 5 hours, until I came home from work and suddenly "remembered."

The hottest it ever gets indoors without AC is about 84 degrees.

It was noticeably cooler (tho not by a lot) and drier when I came home yesterday. So it had been on and running.

I went online to look for info on whether I damaged my AC. Some people said forget it, if you run it with the cover on, it's fried, while others said there's an automatic emergency shut-off switch that prevents it from overheating, but if that kicks on it won't run again until you manually reset it.

Well, my AC is running fine. I'm not sure why it would NOT have overheated. The cover that was on it does not cover the entire unit. The bottom 6 or 8 inches are left exposed even with the cover on, to prevent condensation from building up and rusting parts all winter long.

Maybe that helped? Maybe it helped that I set the AC to run at a relatively high temperature and it didn't need to run as much as I thought?

Maybe there's an automatic shut-off switch that doesn't need a manual reset? I don't know but I am SO SO SO thankful my idiocy does not "appear" to have damaged my new unit.

I'm happy with how it's operating though I must say the upstairs is, as usual, warmer than the downstairs. I'm not sure at what temp I should leave it on while I'm at work.

The cats make do and lay low in hot conditions, but my main concern when I'm not here is protecting my mother's art from humidity. I think I have it set at 75 now and it feels okay upstairs, but I'm wondering how many $$ that's going to add to my electric bill. Which is a good reason to re-check current electric rates. I usually lock in for a year when possible, but you can switch suppliers if you find one at a lower price without penalty, if that's the kind of plan you signed up for (and I always do). So rates could have fallen since I last signed up.

I will be very interested, and a little fearful, to see how running the AC affects my monthly bill.

In other news, I'm trying to organize my work and home schedule moving forward and asked my new manager to clarify how long I'd be working for. He said the next project will probably start in a few weeks and may overlap the existing project I'm working on now. So it sounds like no break in between. They hired a 2nd writer to help.

The deadline for the 2nd project is Sept. 1 but he's not sure at this point if I'd be working non-stop or if there would be little breaks/intervals throughout (which I'm rather hoping for, so I can play catch up on personal stuff, but not if that would reduce my overall income from this job).

Thinking about it now, I guess the deadline is the deadline. So I may just need to buckle down without breaks if I want to maximize my income because if I don't do it, the other writer will probably pick up the slack and draw from my hours.

But the good news is that instead of grossing just $8800 for 1 month's work, I am looking at earning over $35,000 for 4 months' work!

I have a doc appointment end of this month so will only work a half day that day. I am going back to my neurologist about my toes on right foot. They became numb 3 years ago shortly after I pulled my hamstring and that never disappeared. I saw 3 podiatrists, who did x-rays, and the neurologist, who tested and found my nerve conduction was normal.

Now my toes feel more stiff than numb and I'd like to rule out MS, Lyme and arthritis. I don't think it's the 1st 2, really, but not sure about arthritis. I just know the toes are very stiff and hard to flex and I might say the ankle is a bit stiff too, compared to the left foot. And I also can't walk barefoot anymore or that foot becomes very sore very quickly.

Day 5 and steady progress

May 16th, 2017 at 12:13 am

Today was the 2nd "reveal" of my copy internally, at the marketing agency where I'm doing a contract job. After the first review, she wanted me to come up with 2 more versions; at this review, they cherry-picked what they liked and asked me to make some minor revisions to 2 versions only, instead of 3.

The 3rd reveal will take place Wednesday, still internally. God willing, it will then go to the client. I'm sure I'll be sick of it by that time, but I've already finished the 2nd assignment, modeling it on the first and hoping the client likes the first.

They hired another writer, a young guy, to help me with the larger assignment that comes after this one. I guess I'm okay with that since it answers my question that yes, I will definitely be able to pick up more work at $55/hour!! Yippee yay hi ho!

For all I know, this could be my only big paying job this year. Whenever it ends, I'll be going back to my very LOW paying job with the higher education company. What a difference: $15 vs $55/hour. Which would you rather have?

I'm already planning on devoting the upcoming weekend to priming and painting my bookshelves. To clear my plate, I drove home from work a different way so I could return a top I bought for this job at Macy's.

Of course, now that I'm working f/t, I MUST go the dump and do my grocery shopping and fill up the gas tank on the weekend, but I should still have time leftover for the bookshelves.

There have been plenty of warnings on the local news that this is going to be a particularly bad tick season becus we had a mild winter and lots of rain this spring. They are right, and I am kind of freaking out because yesterday, I found a large deer tick crawling around (unattached) on Luther. I pulled it off and flushed it down the toilet. Then I called my dad to warn him becus his garden is for sure infested with ticks plus he can't see them due to his eyesight. I assumed he or the carpenters had carried the tick inside the house since the cats don't go outside.

After I hung up from dad, I was going to sit on the front stoop on a lawn chair and I found a 2nd tick crawling on the metal part. I flushed it, too. Later that day, I found ANOTHER ticket on Luther; they can't seem to attach to him becus of his incredibly long hair.

Today, I found a 4th tick again on the lawn chair, this time on the arm rest!! What is going on? The lawn chair had sat for several weeks in a shaded area of my courtyard/driveway, under the canopy of several large rhododendrons. Yesterday I moved the lawn chair to the front stoop. Could the tick have fallen onto the chair that I'd been sitting on?

It's amazing to me how the ticks were somehow transferred to Luther, whose like a magnet becus he rubs against everything. Maybe the 2 ticks I found on him were on my legs from the lawn chair and then he picked them up.

The whole thing is making me very skittish.

Bookshelves: finally done!

May 13th, 2017 at 09:26 pm

Here they are:

This is the seat/cabinet under the window. I need to buy knobs for the 2 doors.

I'm very happy with it. It came to $1600 but I have some unused trim to return for a refund, so it will be somewhat less than that.

If the rain stops, I will get paint and supplies tomorrow. I will use a good quality brush and a sponge brush to get in back of those small cubby holes above the window.

Eventually I will buy some thick foam for the cushion on seat.

After they finished up, I went to gas up my car, deposit some cash and get groceries at Aldi's. They had pints of blueberries for $1.69, which I think is a good deal. Although I remember when you could get them for $1 at summer's peak.

It's been raining all day, so this am as I was clearing space for the carpenters, I glanced at my butterfly aquarium and saw that the last of the unhatched pupa from last summer hatched into a butterfly!

I don't know how long it had been like that but I have not released it because it's so chilly and rainy. Tomorrow will be windy. I'm hoping I can release on Monday; for now, it's protected from the rain in its aquarium with screened lid, in my sunroom, with a slice of orange, some zinnias I cut from my potted plants, a water dish with marbles to perch on and a paper towel soaked in sugar water. I've check on it though and it hasn't moved from where it's hanging onto a twig from the underside. It's only about 50 degrees.

Tuesday for sure will be in the 70s and it can be released then, but I'm not sure it will last that long if it doesn't eat/drink something.

Dad's coming over tonight to see the shelves and then we'll have a great dinner at a very good Italian restaurant in town.

Undecided about reactivating my cell phone

May 13th, 2017 at 12:43 am

Cell phones and me just never clicked. I just rarely find the need to chat with anyone while I'm away from home, though certainly I recognize there are times (infrequently for me) when having a phone on the road would be very handy.

I let the minutes expire on my smart phone last February. Being unemployed, I didn't see the point in spending another $100 to keep me going for another year. It's an Android Trac Phone, pay as you go plan.

Today I had to complete 2 different time sheets for my new job. I got them signed and used the company fax to send them to the recruiter's office, who will be issuing my paychecks. The fax indicated only 1 page went thru the first time, so I sent it again and this time, the 2 timesheets went through.

That was around 4 pm and I didn't see the 4:30 m email right away from recruiter saying call me, there's a problem with your fax. Maybe he sent that after I sent the first fax, where only one page went thru. Maybe he didn't, I didn't know.

So I sent a quick email to say i was heading home and would call him when I got there. I couldn't call him at the office becus 1) i didn't have my old smart phone with me and 2) the company doesn't use normal phones. They use something called Fuze, which is a phone via computer, and I haven't set it up yet. No one's really around to help much and I thought I might even get thru the whole monthlong assignment without needing to.

I got home and there's another message from recruiter saying call me there's a problem. Of course he doesn't say what the problem is. If it wasn't that the fax didn't fully come thru, it could be becus yes, I did claim the 4 hours of at-home time I worked for the company before starting on-site. This was done at the request and blessing of my new boss there who gave me a pile of reading material to absorb about the client so I could "hit the ground running" when I started the job 4 days later. So maybe the problem was the recruiter was going to tell me I couldn't bill for that.

I still have no idea because although I immediately replied to the email, called and left a message AND scanned and emailed the 2 time sheets in case neither fax went through, the recruiter never got back to me. Even though it was just before 6 pm when I tried to call him back....not that late.

So anyway, if I'd have my own phone with me I could have easily found out what the problem was while I was still at work. So I'm thinking I should activate the stupid phone again.

Here's why I don't like using it:
1. The on/off button is hard to push. Do most people just keep the phone on at all times and then have to recharge like every day?
2. Half the time when I tried to check personal emails on the phone while i was at the bank, the internet connection did not work. I was using the bank's wifi to connect. This was totally annoying. I just don't know enough about using the settings to know what do so, especially since the phone didn't come with anything more than the briefest instructions.
3. Figuring out how to send photos I'd taken to my computer was also a real pain in the butt.
4. The phone was synced with great difficult with the Bluetooth in my car but then inexplicably was disconnected. This happened more than one.

The phone was fairly straightforward to use, so I guess for that alone I could use it but every other function just seems so complicated and a hassle. I could just get a basic phone with no internet, but then i couldn't sync it with my car's devices, and that's one of the coolest things about it! I can make calls using buttons on the steering wheel. Truth be told, once again rarely had need to do that, and the number had to be one already stored in the phone. But it was still cool.

So far, so good

May 12th, 2017 at 10:59 am

I got the first feedback on my first completed assignment at the new job. She said it was "strong writing" and she liked it a lot but asked me to do 2 additional versions so the client "has a choice." On Monday we'll meet with 2 other senior people to review the versions and then she thinks we'll be ready to present to client.

I will have today (Friday) to do that; the copy can stay the same but she wants me to experiment organizing the content in different ways, with different subheads. Kind of a pain, since each time you move paragraphs around you lose some of the connective language which you then have to adjust.

Personally I feel it's just a time-waster as I carefully thought through how best to approach the topic and the approach I chose really is the best.

My concern is reserving enough time to do the remaining 3 pieces. They kept giving me important background reading material until the eleventh hour on this first assignment, even after I'd already written it. Not the best organization.

And I'm anxious that my content passes muster with the client after the Monday meeting. I picture myself as a runner on a track clearing little hurdles.

But I hate working full time! No time left to do ANYTHING! I'm getting up earlier in the mornings, around 5:30 or so, so I can have a leisurely start to my day and not have to leave for work until 2.5 hours later.

I've been leaving the contract job at 5:15 or 5:30, getting home around 6 or 6:15, and by the time I finish with dinner, the dishes and feeding the cats, it's 7:30. Then I check emails (I'm still applying for jobs when I see them) and I am addicted to watching new episodes of The Americans (I usually try to fit in 2 full hour-long episodes), before hitting the sack at 10 or 10:30 at the latest.

There just isn't much time to think about "me" stuff. I just have to keep reminding myself how much I've grossed so far. To date, it will be about $1,760 by the end of today...just 4 days work. Yay for me!

I did decide I will be putting in for 4 hours of at home reading on my timesheet today. This is for time spent before starting the job. It's not my fault I got conflicting information about doing so, with my boss at the new job saying yes, do it, it's really important, and the recruiter saying no, don't do it because all the paperwork hasn't been finalized. I did it because I knew I wouldn't be prepared otherwise to "hit the ground running" on my first day on-site, as my boss said he wanted.

While waiting for the meeting to review my work yesterday, I was finally able to get the required online courses to launch at the office, and got them out of the way. Practically everything you try to do at the office requires a password, even the computer phone system. It was more than a little frustrating because you just get automated responses from the help desk and no one's there to walk you through things if you have a tech problem.

Tomorrow I am HOPING my carpenter shows up to finish the built-in bookshelves. It's just the cabinet below the window he needs to do. However, we're expecting rain for most of the day, starting at about 9 am. He can set up in the garage, but he'll need to keep running out in the rain with the wood he cuts. I just hope he doesn't try to bag it because next Saturday is his daughter's graduation, so it would mean at least another two-week wait, and this bookshelving thing has dragged on long enough. It still will take me quite a white to prime and paint it so my entire downstairs will remain in disarray until it's done.

Job, end of day 2

May 11th, 2017 at 12:14 am

The job is doing okay. Day 1 was a little overwhelming as "everything" was new...They use Macs, which I haven't used in 8 years, and there were various accounts to activate, an electronic timesheet, figuring out which drive to save my documents on, learning people's names, where's the kitchen and the restroom, etc. All the little things you take for granted once you've been settled into a job for a while.

Yesterday, I ate at my desk and basically took no lunch break, but today, I returned to my usual routine of eating at my desk and then walking for a half hour wherever I can. This job is in an office park on a busy road, so my walking will be restricted to in and around the buildings and a few picnic areas in the office park. It's better than nothing.

I've met about 5 or 6 people I'll be working with directly, but otherwise most people don't always bother to get to know contract workers becus they know they may not be there long. It doesn't bother me, to be honest, for the same reason: I won't be there long.

Because it's a marketing agency (consumer packaged goods), they have all these cutesy decor items around the place, like outdoor umbrellas and lawn chairs, a foos ball table and stuff like that.

I was largely finished writing the 1st of 4 marketing sheets on my first day, believe it or not, and just played with it some more today, massaging it a bit here and there and reviewing some last minute background materiaL they just gave us. I was so stressed out about having enough time to do a good job, but with all my advance prep at home (which I probably won't try to claim on my time sheet) and reading, I was pretty well prepared to write it.

See, this is how agencies operate. My opinion is this one spent way too much time talking about tone and voice and brand; they threw so much reading material at me it took me longer to read it all than it did to write the marketing collateral. I could be doing the same kind of project for a company and they would spend maybe 15 minutes talking about it and then they'd expect you to do it. But agencies turn it into a long, drawn-out "process," maybe as a means of justifying their existence.

Of course, what I've written still has to pass muster with the agency and I'm sure there will be some changes. I'm also a little nervous because the people reviewing my work are used to reading stuff for CPG (consumer packaged goods), not financial services.

I just hope none of the changes they may propose are massive. The real test is when they run it by the client bank; it makes sense to let them see this 1st piece to make sure they're happy with the voice and tone, before I move on to the other pieces.

It's a little nerve-wracking having so many pairs of eyes critiquing my work. Maybe that's one reason I never liked working for agencies.

The drive is about 38 minutes long and a pretty one at that, going through the woods and passing the reservoirs. But when I get home, I sigh with relief but have no time to get anything done. A familiar complaint, I know. I am doing this solely for the $$ and will be glad when the assignment is over. Though of course I will take the extra work this summer if they offer it. If I can just get at least a few days' reprieve in between assignments.

Still, I'd rather be doing this job now than in the dead of winter when I'd be getting up in the dark and driving home in the dark.

Bovine escape artist

May 7th, 2017 at 12:22 pm

So it's Sunday morning and I'm enjoying a late breakfast around 7:30 am, sitting at the kitchen table by the north-facing window. Out of the corner of my eye I see a flash of black. Behold, it is one of my neighbor's cows.

She disappears and I run to the back window to see her racing the length of my backyard. Most people rarely see cows move that fast. She paused at one end by my toolshed and then cavorted across the lawn once again. I can only describe her actions as gleeful and joyous, and she reminded me very much of the fawns I've seen racing around the back lawn with their mother nearby.

Then the cow disappeared up a narrow footpath through the brushy overgrowth, headed back toward my neighbors.

I called neighbor at 7:40 am and she thanked me for telling her, then went to call her husband. She said the cow is just a year old; her mother had also escaped a few times, going down to the road and getting the police involved to help corral her.

I feel sorry for their animals because I constantly hear the cows and sheep. Although they have their dogs and cats, they are not sentimental people. They are keeping the animals to raise their own meat and milk, which I "get," but I don't get the idea they are especially concerned with treating their animals humanely.

Don't know why the cows are always mooing and the sheep baaing, but if they were contented, I don't think they would be so vocal. Are they hungry? Do the cows need to be milked? Why wouldn't you board up the gaping window-sized hole in the wall of the barn so winds don't make wintry nights even more frigid? Why would you leave a ewe to deliver a lamb without veterinary assistance if it ran into trouble? The answer is, they don't want to spend the money, so as he put it, "One of 2 things can happen: either it delivers a healthy lamb, or it dies." Case closed.

Had a great dinner with Dad last night. I had sea scallops and risotto which was very good. Today for lunch I'll have the last of my wild Alaskan salmon from the freezer. After this, I will be eating strictly vegan except for my weekly dinners with Dad.

I'm very happy that tomorrow the carpenter is coming to finish the bookshelves; namely, building the window seat and cabinet below it.

I may spend some time today investigating where to buy the particular enamel paint I learned was best for things like bookshelves. I could even start sanding and priming today if I wanted.

Now my nerves kick in, background check snafu?

May 5th, 2017 at 11:23 am

I finally got word: I start the contract job Monday.

I'm about as ready as I can be: I read volumes of material they provided me and even drew up a rough outline of the first brochure (assuming I'm still writing brochures). Based on what manager said, the parameters of the job have likely changed.

I bought some new clothes, I figured out (roughly) what I'll pack for lunch, will test alarm clock tonight, etc.

And now my nerves have kicked in. Not at all unusual when starting any job, but I feel nervous about this one in particular, just because of what's expected. I walk into so many places where the existing writing is so bad that it's easy to shine in comparison. I'm not confident they'll love what I do. Worst case scenario, they let me go prior to the full 4-5 week term, bruising my ego and of course less money.

The commute is 35 minutes, all back roads and very scenic. It's the exact same route I drove to work 8 years ago to Norwalk about 4 miles further down the road.

So I passed the personal background check but am not sure about the employment check. They only check the last employer, and so I listed the education website. I gave them the general Houston number i found on their website (we've never had a need to talk on the phone) but learned later that my contact there works remotely out of Seattle.

So the firm running the check ran into problems, I spoke to recruiter, then they ask for W2 or equivalent. I had to explain they don't issue W2s to freelancers, so then they email another note asking for tax return signed by third party or 1099.

I do my own tax return so it's not signed by a third party and I don't have a 1099 since I only started with the website in Nov/Dec and hadn't made enough money ($600) for them to issue me a 1099 in 2016. And I won't get one for this year til end of year, obviously.

I really wouldn't like to send my personal tax return to some firm based in India. However, the recruiter had forwarded to me a brief email my contact at the website had written saying when i started there and that I'm doing a good job. I hope that suffices. They're only checking to confirm employment during the times I stated.

"Job, humbug!"

Amazingly, I have nothing special planned this weekend. Maybe one more load of laundry. I suppose I could even find the right paint for the bookshelves and start priming, but would rather do that on a sunny day and it is very dark and gloomy today. Lots of rain coming. No more drought.

OH! One exciting thing that happened in the midst of my bookshelving construction yesterday: I happened to be in the garage and glanced up at the aquarium I'd moved there for safekeeping while the carpenters were going in and out. (It was previously located on my front porch so I could monitor any activity.)

I saw that 2 brand new butterflies had formed from pupae made by caterpillars last summer! I wasn't sure they would survive the winter. I took them out into the bright sunshine and removed the screen top while they rested a bit and prepared for takeoff.

First one and then the other spontaneously flapped up and fluttered out of the aquarium that had been their home all winter and aloft they went. I even called the carpenters over to have a look.

NOW look at the bookshelves!

May 4th, 2017 at 07:43 pm

Now you can see they've really taken shape.

I'm very happy with the way they turned out. I designed everything as far as the dimensions of the shelves, the divided shelves on the top 2 rows, the cubby holes above the window and still to come, the bench and cabinet below the window.

Can you see the detail here? There are 4 little rosettes above 4 pieces of vertical grooved trim on either side and either side of the window.

They left here around 2:30 pm because they ran out of materials. So the one guy has to return to do the seat and cabinet below the window.

I can't wait to fill these shelves up with stuff, but I will have to prime and paint it first, which will probably take forever. I already researched paints and knew that plain latex would NOT be a good choice because when I used it on my 2 entry doors, despite having a lengthy time to dry, the paint lifted right off when I closed and then opened it.

Oil paints smell too much but I think I found something that doesn't have the tackiness of latex paint. It's called a waterborne enamel.

I'll be doing a white semi-gloss to match all my other trim. I am still thinking about whether I should paint the back of each shelf in a pale turquoise color to match my repainting of the risers on the main staircase which is close to the dining room. I got an idea from Better Home & Garden where you paint each riser, (or every 2 risers) starting from the bottom successively lighter shades of the same color. To make sure the colors match, you just go to the paint store and pick your favorite colors from one of those sample color strips. So you would use maybe 3 or 4 shades of the same color and my favorite color is turquoise.

I would use the palest shade of turquoise for the back wall of the shelves to tie that room in with the staircase, since the staircase is open on both sides, to the dining room at the right and the living room to the left.

I still don't know the status of my contract job situation. Am supposed to hear today when or if I'm to come in on Monday. If I do start Monday, I may have to wait til the following Saturday to have carpenter back to do the bench/cabinet. Which is ok, but I just don't want this to drag on too long.

Otherwise, if I don't start that contract job, he can come back on Monday to finish.

So here's the dollars and cents part of it. I gave the first carpenter $500 cash, and a day or two later, another $200 cash, for materials. I have the receipts so I now he spent about $550, leaving $143 left over which he kept when he left here so abruptly.

However, I kept track of his time spent and I calculated that I still owe him $250 in addition to the $143 he kept. For the life of me I can't understand why he thinks he's been paid in full. He's not the kind of person to be charitable and I can't imagine he miscalculated.

So to date I've spent a total of $1227 on the bookshelves; I'm hoping when he comes back (I assume without his helper tho I will check) that he could finish the bench in 4 hours or less, so total not including a few extra materials would be $1447, which I'm happy with. There are also a few pieces of molding/trim that weren't used, so I will bring back for a refund.

Murphy's Law and contract job

May 4th, 2017 at 11:26 am

Last night I emailed the person who would be my manager at the contract job that was supposed to start late this week. I asked for the latest status of my start date.

He replied back this a.m. and send they are "reevaluating" whether they need to bring in extra help and will let me know later today.

I had a feeling this could happen after seeing how this job unfolded. I understand from the company's perspective how they just want to be ready to go once they get the green light; unfortunately for me, it may end up petering out.

There is still some sort of project he had mentioned over the summer. I'm still hopeful that whether or not this assignment pans out, I can still do the 2nd assignment.

If neither of those things pan out, I intend to ask recruiter if I can get reimbursed for the 6 hrs at-home time spent prepping for this project. I know the recruiter had told me NOT to do any work before the contract papers and background checks were complete, however the hiring manager 1) gave me piles of reading material to do before arriving there 2) emailed me more reading material that night and 3) when i asked if in addition to the reading, i could go ahead and work on an outline and even start writing at home, if i found time, he basically said god yes.

My time spent only comes out to $330 so I don't think it would be a big deal for the company to pay it especially if they might like to use me for the summer project. I won't push it but I would like to at least make the case for it.

Getting ready

May 3rd, 2017 at 11:38 pm

So I'm trying to knock things off before my contract job starts. I haven't heard from my manager there since last week (he was supposed to email an update Monday) so I will email him tomorrow to see if they have a firm start date for me yet.

In the meantime, my replacement carpenters are coming tomorrow at 8 a.m. I was wanting to have my dad over for lunch, just so he could hang out with me and I wouldn't have to be alone with 2 new carpenters, but dad moves pretty slowly and would probably in the way just trying to get in the house. So I guess I won't do that.

I was able to switch a dentist appointment I had for tomorrow to this afternoon instead, so it was good to get that out of the way. My dentist likes to get to know all his patients and actually keeps notes on things, so when I came in today he mentioned that last we spoke I was in a jobs transition and was I still. I said yes, yada yada yada. He's a nice guy. He plans guitar in a band with his grown son at local bars when he's not doing dentistry. I'd like to see him play sometime.

When I go to pay, i told the woman I no longer had dental insurance and would just pay out of pocket. Umm, I knew it would be a lot but I didn't realize it would be $195. She said she would check with the dentist to see if he would waive his fee (so I'd just have to pay for the cleaning). I'm pretty sure he did that for me once before but had forgotten about it. I am crossing fingers she will call me back to say she will refund me some of the money I paid. That would be nice.

May is the nicest time of year at my home. I look outside my office window and see a gorgeous old apple tree with a canopy filled with white flowers. There's also 2 white dogwoods, a salmon azalea and so much more to come with the enormous viburnums I've got around here and the rhodies. Today was my first mowing, but he's only doing it every other week, so it will cut my bill in half.

It's getting down into the 30s tonight so as a precaution, I took plastic sheets, tarps and some plastic pots turned upside down to cover tender plants just coming up. I can't cover everything, but at least I can ensure a few things don't get zapped by frost.

I went to Macys and Kohls two days ago and spent more than I should have on a bunch of tops and shoes but I felt that I had nothing to wear and the insidious weight creep makes everything feel a little more snug than I like.

Yet I hate to get rid of most things in case I can lose weight, so as a result, my 3 closets are always bulging with clothes I don't wear. Maybe I should fold up a bunch and put them in an underbed storage container. I have one of my mother's; I just was never in the habit of storing clothes under the bed.

Tomorrow while the carpenters are here I plan to make a wheat berry salad I can bring to my workday lunches, and a fruit salad. It's quite possible they won't want me to start til Monday, or even later, but I like to be prepared.

It's been really nice this past week not having to do any freelance work for the education place. The problem with that work is that the work takes a long time to do and you "feel" extremely busy, yet the pay doesn't reflect that. There's a danger you'll allow yourself to just keep doing that once you get into the rhythm of it, but it's not enough to cover all the bills.

I redeemed earned rewards from US Bank credit card for $108 in statement credit.

Have been enjoying sitting out on my little sun room with the kitties. The afternoon sun this time of year is very nice, not too hot. Hummingbirds are already back at the feeder, and I've also seen rose-breasted grosbeak and a flycatcher buzzing around here. I repotted some cacti I purchased at the show in April. I have one succulent called Horse's Teeth that is putting out a skinny tall stem I presume will be a flower. Very exciting. Can't wait to put out certain plants for the season to reclaim some much needed room indoors, particularly in my bathroom.

I bought a butane grill lighter to see if I could use it to burn the grease/oil stains off my pavers. It didn't work. I suspect the flame is not strong or hot enough. I may try a propane torch yet though that's more money, like at least $20.

Revised bookshelving plans

May 2nd, 2017 at 02:38 pm

After my first carpenter walked off the job, I contacted 2 other carpenters. One, recommended by a friend of mine, said he could come over to look at the shelves last night, but late, around 9 pm. He never showed up.

The other one came over this morning and carefully looked at the already purchased materials in my garage and listened to what I wanted.

He agreed it would be about a day's work but wanted to bring in a helper who would make the same rate as him, at $45/hr. He said the job would go faster with one guy cutting in the garage and the other working inside.

So I'll be paying $90/hr x 8 hours = $720, but I asked about a cash discount (ALWAYS do this) and he offered 10% off, so I'd pay him $648.

So while the hourly rate sounds high, it's just one day and it's possible they could finish up sooner.

Just for comparison purposes, this rate is considerably more than my original carpenter would have charged, which would have been $200 for a day's work. What a difference!

However, according to my calculations, I still owe the first carpenter about $250; he hasn't tried to collect it, nor have I heard from him since he walked away last Saturday. I may have figured his time spent more generously than he did.

The new carpenter can't start til Thursday morning. My new contract job could start the very next day, so it's pretty important they finish this up same day. I had a dentist appointment on Thursday but miraculously I was able to move it to tomorrow.

I was surprised to be able to find someone else to do this so quickly. The 2nd carpenter was recommended by a builder I found on Craig's List who often employs him. That guy at first recommended a cabinetmaker who also works for him, but it turned out the cabinet maker (who charges $65/hr) was busy working on someone's yacht.

Crossing my fingers this will all go well. It always makes me a little nervous employing someone for the first time. There's a lot of trust involved.