Despite my name, I do not look at the world through rose-colored glasses. Perhaps my parents should have named me Prudence.
Seeing the bright side of life is not me. I will not be tiptoeing through the tulips. Rather, I will tread lightly over the quicksand of life.
Given the chance, I always will choose to work to put another few dollars aside, which I look at as a safety net, over spending a few others on a good time. A penny saved is a penny earned, indeed.
So, when offered five more hours of weekly wages a few months back, I jumped at the chance. I knew it would be hard. I was stretched for time already, given my newfound nonpaying job of watching my baby granddaughter about 25 or 30 hours a week, but I can do hard things. I have done hard things. And I will continue to do hard things. I. Can. Do. Hard. Things. (This will be on my tombstone, no doubt.)
But “hard” is one thing. Squeezing the life blood out of me is another.
The extra money has been nice, but it goes into the bank, which is electronically transferred to pay my bills, so I hardly even notice the extra cash.
What I do notice, though, is that I’m working every day of the week—less on the weekends, but, yes, even on weekends. I also notice having to use a grocery delivery service (and paying for the service and a decent tip for the shopper), and I notice dust bunnies, clutter, and piled-up projects everywhere I turn in my house. How are those extra five hours helping me, exactly?
I literally just this morning (again) considered dropping back down. But would I do that? Having four kids spread out over a couple decades, I have had to take freelance/low-paying jobs and haven’t earned that much money at all. I’m almost heading into my twilight years (though I won’t admit it), and I want to earn a little something to lean on when I no longer can work. I am playing catchup.
Then, behold. Today came an email from my manager stating that the budget has been revised and we will all work a certain number of hours. Those hours will put me back down to what I was working before the five-hour bump up.
To say I was elated is an understatement. How perfect for me. I doubt I ever would have asked to drop back down in hours, but to be told this is the way it will be, I’m more than happy to oblige.
This may be temporary (as I was told it likely will be), but I’ll take it for now. Maybe I can breathe a little, have a moment of fun, or at least sweep those dust bunnies out from under the rug.
To Do. Available. To Do. Available. To Do. Available.
I click on these buttons numerous times a minute, feeling like looney Alex from Fatal Attraction, sitting on the floor, flicking the light switch on and off. You know the scene: just before she slashes herself with the knife and tries to murder Michael Douglas. (Maybe I have the order wrong, but you get the idea.)
My great job, the one that was a steady 30 hours a week and paid a decent rate, in which work was plentiful at any time of the day or night, suddenly has gone dry. Because the company is shorthanded in the department that sends work to me and my colleagues, there is nothing ready for us to work on.
I quit a job to take this position. I rearranged the way I worked to take this position. For the past seven months, it was a steady job. Now there’s uncertainty of when or how much work will be available.
I’m a person who likes—thrives on, actually—certainty and security. Do not surprise me. Do not change plans last minute. Do not interrupt my way of life.
A few months ago, about five months into this job, I started watching my baby granddaughter four days a week, seven to eight hours a day. I continued working my job, as well. At first, it was a challenge. And that continued for a bit until I figured out a balance. Soon after, I was able to work my 30 hours as well as watch the baby 28 to 32 hours a week, trying at times to do both simultaneously.
I got into a groove, and, yes, that groove meant having to work several hours in the evenings and on weekends. But to help out my daughter and son-in-law and take care of the most adorable baby on the planet were worth working the extra hours on my “days off” with the baby.
Suddenly, a week ago today, in fact, the files of work I get paid to do were not posting on the platform as they had been. What was once a sea of files to choose from became a handful, and then none at all. I reached out to my (new) manager, who assured me he was aware of the situation and was trying to get information from the higher ups.
Just yesterday, he emailed me and my coworkers to say that more work is forthcoming, but there is no specific day when that will be nor how much work will be available when it does start coming in.
As someone who has spent the past 30 years in the uncertain world of freelancing, as well as taking additional part-time jobs, I was so pleased to finally find something that offered a flat number of hours and a paycheck that I could count on week in, week out. Having left a job I loved (although it paid less and offered fewer hours) to take this position was hard, but I knew I’d be helping with the baby and thought a remote job—even one that was double my number of hours—would work out better.
And it did. Until it didn’t.
Just like that the steady paycheck and the guaranteed hours each week have disappeared. Just like that my balance has been thrown off.
I’ll keep in touch with management and hope for a turnaround soon. I’ll even hunt down more work if I have to. But if straits become more dire, we may be eating rabbit stew for Christmas.
The Cabin at the End of the World (great title, by the way) is a phenomenal read for the month of October. It’s fast paced, suspenseful, filled with details, and gives just the right amount of spook and awe to make you wonder: Is this the end of the world? Is it?
The book starts out innocently enough with little Wen, the adopted daughter of the men she calls “Daddy Eric” and “Daddy Andrew,” outside in the front yard catching grasshoppers in this uber-remote cabin in New Hampshire.
Wen is startled to hear heavy, quick footsteps. She knows she’s been out front too long, she knows she shouldn’t talk to strangers, but she engages in a conversation with the large man-boy named Leonard (I’m guessing it’s not by chance that he shares a name with the Of Mice and Men character) who wanders up the driveway. She takes a liking to him, but when she hears other voices coming their way, she becomes fearful. Before Wen goes inside, Leonard gives a warning that nothing she or her daddies have done have put them in this predicament, but they must make a dire decision that will affect many, many lives.
So begins Paul Tremblay’s 2018 book that, I swear, you won’t want to put down. I’ve read my share of Stephen King, but I wouldn’t call myself a fan of horror. And I wouldn’t necessarily call this book horror either, even though it’s been placed in that genre. I do love suspense, though, and a book that is heavy on plot at times, and this has both. To me, horror is the possible, not ghouls or possessed cars. This book has a foot in reality, and that’s what makes it so scary.
Yes, there is blood and there is sadness, and you will wince probably more than a couple times from the violence, but this well-written book also delivers a thought-provoking dilemma. Will you read it, or won’t you? You will have to decide which way you will go.
How do you spend your days off? Do you like to read, take a nature walk, go to the beach, browse bookshops, binge TV shows, play at the park, see a movie, sail, go out to lunch, meet up with friends? If you do any of these things, you’re doing it right. So what’s wrong with me?
I currently have two part-time jobs equaling 36 hours a week, plus I take on freelance work when it’s available. I cook dinner six out of seven nights of the week, five if no one will be home but me. So why did I spend today, my day off:
purging five bags of sheets, bedspreads, and pillowcases from my linen closet
driving those donations to the Goodwill
grocery shopping at not one but two different stores
unloading the car of seven full bags
putting all the groceries away
making bread dough and stretching it on the hour, as needed
sweeping the entire first floor
mopping the entire first floor
sitting at my desk (eating lunch there as well) to do two-plus hours of paid work
vacuuming the upstairs bedrooms
shampooing the carpets in two of those bedrooms
cleaning the shampooer, which gets disgusting after use
and then sitting back down at my desk until I have to leave for church in a couple hours before heading back home afterward to make dinner, put it away, and clean up
I mean, who does this stuff? Who spends all week working, only to spend all weekend cleaning and running errands and doing chores?
According to Deepak Chopra, I am doing everything so wrong. I am not building “time affluence” (well, Deepak, all this work isn’t building me monetary affluence either, but I think I understand your point). Chopra thinks people should be structuring their days to have plenty of free time. In turn, we will be happy.
So apparently, that’s my problem: I don’t know how to enjoy life.
Here’s some background: I grew up in a tiny Cape Cod in upstate New York, seven people—eight when my grandmother stayed with us—in 1,200 square feet of space. My dad worked five, sometimes six, days a week in a blue-collar job. My mom worked as well, mostly part-time, while handling much of the household chores and making most of the meals. We rarely ever ate a meal out.
My dad helped out, too: He cooked on occasion and grocery-shopped, and he was very handy. So handy, in fact, that we never had a laborer in our house and never brought a car to a mechanic. No, things weren’t Chip-and-Joanna magnificent, but they ran again if they broke. (Actually, just the right amount of duct tape can fix anything.)
As a young child, I didn’t see the value in do-it-yourself. I envied families who hired people to come in and do work on their houses, believing they had more than we did, that they were special. So, I was very happy to come home one day from school and see a work crew in our front yard. What? I was so proud that my dad had actually hired out a job.
Finally, we were able to pay someone else to do the heavy lifting. Finally, I’d be like everyone else.
Turns out, the crew was from the city, putting in a sewer line.
I am very much my father’s daughter. Instead of hiring out a job, if I can do it, I will do it. Installing flooring? Check (even though my joints would ache for weeks afterward). Painting the cupboards? Check (even though it took me five weeks between my regular jobs to finish it). Drywalling to cover a gaping hole in the dining room wall after a plumbing leak? Check (even though I had to wallpaper over my handiwork).
But I’m nearing my 60th birthday, have a health condition that messes with my joints and nerves, and I wonder how much more of this I can take. Maybe it’s time to take it easier. But the work just never ends. As Roseanne Roseannadanna would say, “It’s always something.”
For instance, one of our bathrooms is in desperate need of a new sink and vanity. I painted the bathroom a few years ago, replaced the flooring a couple years before that. But the banjo-shaped sink and counter made of God only knows is crackled and disgusting. Dirt and gunk get in every crack. The plumbing backs up too. We’ve needed to replace it for a decade-plus. I haven’t done much about it because it’s a job I just cannot do.
What I can do, however, is measure the sink and countertop, drive down to the Home Depot or Lowe’s to buy a new one, and maybe even hire an installer to put it in. It’ll cost $400 to install each piece, if my memory serves me right, but that may be the best $400 (or $800) I spend in my life.
It may decrease my monetary affluence, but it surely will bring me much-needed free time. Right, Deepak?
Don’t get me wrong, the pandemic was a disastrous event, during which so many people lost their lives. I don’t want to downplay the pain and suffering of anyone in this post. But, if I may be honest, there were some good things to come out of it, namely that we were, for a brief period of time, equal.
What I mean by that is, we were all stuck in our homes, whether they be studio apartments, three-bedroom ranchers, or mansions in Beverly Hills. The world stopped for a brief period of time. We had to make do with what was in our cupboards, what was in our bank accounts, and what was churning in our minds. Nearly all jobs, no matter what they were, seemed to have stopped until we could figure out what work life would be like while a deadly virus spread worldwide.
That meant no one was out looking for a new home to buy or looking to improve the ones they had, unless they were willing to do the work themselves. No one wanted to invite strangers into their homes to fix a leaky toilet, finish caulking around the window in the den, or lay down new flooring. Every stranger came with the potential to make everyone else sick from this disease no one knew a whole lot about.
We were all hunkering down. And for the time being, I was satisfied with my vinyl floors, my ceramic tile kitchen countertop, and my permanently stained fiberglass bathroom sinks, with the barnacle-like lime scale deposits on the faucets. We were all just thankful to have a roof over our heads–even one, like mine, whose shingles warp in the sun and blow off every time there’s a stiff wind–because we were alive and well and able to plan for a time when the world would change.
Frankly, I was in my glory. No one I knew was getting renovations on their homes, which made me feel better about my predicament. But then it happened, a vaccine came to the market, followed by another and then another. We were getting out into the world more often, albeit in masks, but still. And people’s jobs were returning to a somewhat steady state.
I visited with a friend yesterday, one who lives in my immediate neighborhood and the only one I’ve seen since COVID hit. A few months back, she had a leak in one of her upstairs bathrooms that dripped into the lower-floor bathroom. After the plumber repaired the pipe, I thought she’d get some wallboard, like I did with a similar leak a few years back, and patch the thing herself (or hire someone, as is her schtick) since her insurance company was resistant to settle. All she wanted, she had told me, was the minimum, to repair the pipe and the wall–the leak and the damage done. That’s it.
Fast-forward to yesterday, and the “minimum” turned out to be two new sinks, quartz countertops, and vanity cabinets, new flooring in the bathrooms, new modern faucets, new shelving, and new decor. But it didn’t stop there: There was all new wooden flooring in the living room, the entryway, and the dining room. The stairs were re-carpeted, and the entire first floor and second floor open entryway were repainted. The new paint carried into areas not even close to the bathrooms. There was even new furniture in the living room! The minimum sure looks nice in her house.
Of course, being me, I was happy for her but also extremely envious. This is one friend who is even tighter with money than I am. I suspect she and her husband do much better than we do financially. Let’s say, at least, that their circumstances would warrant it. But my friend can have a hard time releasing the Benjamins much of the time. Until now.
I walked out of her house feeling crappy and depressed about my house and myself. Every other day, I have to scrub cat barf off the 30-plus-year-old carpeting upstairs, scrape my foot along a piece of vinyl plank I couldn’t adhere well enough to the floor, and scrub bacteria from the grout on my countertops. I look out my second-floor, leaky, aluminum-framed windows at my aging roof below, pick up dog poop from my barren lawn, and walk under the thin, broken bars holding up my Target-special gazebo of six years with two holes in the canvas cover, an Amazon replacement. I sit on baggy-slipcovered living room furniture that’s over 30 years old, including an extremely cheap-at-the time Montgomery Ward sofa ($199, I believe), whose cushions I had to make myself to replace the originals that had shrunk.
Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well last night. I kept thinking about all the projects we have to do in our house but keep deferring, things like putting in windows that don’t leak, fixing that roof, replacing the countertops, putting up a patio cover, and getting those two disgusting sinks and faucets out of here. These are jobs that go undone because I am the one in this house that does handiwork. If I, at 5′ 1-3/4″ with a 36-hour-a-week job, joint problems, and many more years behind me than in front of me, can’t do them, they don’t get done. Period. End of sentence.
Sick of my own complaining and motivated by my friend (little does she know), as soon as I got home, I cleaned up a room that was bothering me, getting rid of anything I don’t need. I then started retouching the grout in the kitchen with a white paint-like product that I saw someone I follow on YouTube use. Because if I can’t replace the countertops, then I can at least disguise that they are white ceramic tiles by making the grout match. Today, I continued on an adjacent counter.
Then, near the sink, I pulled up 20 tiles where water had seeped underneath, causing mildew to form. I stuck 20 new ones down with some Locktite (these tiles are nowhere available anymore; fortunately, the previous owner had left some spares in the garage) and just regrouted them. When the grout dries sufficiently, I will touch it up with the white grout resurfacing product. I still have another counter to go, as well.
It’s a hard job, and I wish I had the wherewithall to hire someone or ask my husband or adult sons to help, but that ain’t me, babe. I wish it were. I’d probably sleep better at night.
Just a quick post to examine how key words and SEO, or search engine optimization, are king in recruiting and finding a job to match your skills these days.
I have been applying for a job as a copy editor for months. One of the recruiting websites–a big player in the game–sent me a job link I’d “be perfect for.” It was with a company called Pizza Press that is looking for a Pizza Editor. I thought the company name and job title sounded odd to begin with, and then I read the job description. “Pizza Press” in not a publisher–not even a cookbook publisher–and “Pizza Editor” is not a job in revising copy–not even copy about pizzas. Rather, Pizza Press is a pizza joint and the Pizza Editor makes the pizzas, packages them, chats with customers, does the dishes, empties the trash, and cleans.
Now I make a pretty mean pizza, and my many years as a mom have made me nearly professional-grade level at doing dishes, cleaning, and putting things away, but I don’t think this is the job for me. Sorry, Glassdoor.
What this is, though, is a prime example of how job posting companies and job recruiters use key words and SEO to not only find jobs to post but vet candidates.
Usually Glassdoor, as well as Indeed and LinkedIn, get it right and I’m sent job postings that are a close fit for me (although some of them don’t seem to understand the difference between copywriting and copyediting, but that’s a post for another day).
In fact, just last week I was alerted to a few jobs that I finally got called up for, one of which I accepted. But once in a while job posters get it woefully wrong and end up with egg–or in this case, scrambled egg pizza–on their faces.
Of the 35 jobs I’ve recently applied to (28 since February 1), only one company has been so kind as to provide me with a proper rejection: Wayfair. How nice it was to, for once, send my cover letter and résumé into the vast void that is the Internet and to actually receive acknowledgment for my effort.
Be it bot-generated or not, Wayfair’s response was a breath of fresh air at a time when so much energy goes into applying for jobs against stiff competition in this day of far-reaching job ads. And the rejection came the very next day. No wasting my time with hours’ long tests or getting my hopes up after Indeed notifies me that my application was reviewed. What I got was a good, old-fashioned “thank you for your time, but” email. And for that, I am grateful.
This may be an understatement, but job hunting in this age is convenient but also frustrating and quite a bit sad. I am applying for work that I know I can do because I’ve done it before, for decades even. But I’m still not even getting to the interview stage.
I don’t know for sure, but it’s hard not to take the rejection as personal. It’s personal to me, because isn’t that what “personal” means?
On a good day, I picture prospective employers (who are human in my mind and not computer programs) being inundated with applications, too many to review, and understand that a cutoff has to be made somewhere.
On a bad day, I envision those reviewing my application and résumé doing the math, realizing I must have graduated college before they were born. Maybe they’d be more comfortable supervising Gen Yers or Gen Zers younger than themselves. Or maybe they feel people my age would be out of touch with the new generation and the ways and means of working in today’s world. But I have been employed consistently throughout my adulthood, I’ve taught myself how to use–and keep up with–new technology and programs that friends my age have never heard of.
Still, that aspect of employment is ever changing, and maybe they’re right. Maybe I wouldn’t be the best fit. There’s definitely a comfort level with technology the new generation has that we baby boomers do not. I’ll catch my 21-year-old, who has grown up in the age of screens, his fingers dancing and skipping around the keyboard like nobody’s business, while I want to save just about every file to my desktop and even print out a hard copy for safekeeping.
But hooking a job is more complicated than just being tech savvy.
Until I get a “welcome aboard” email, I’ll keep plugging away and see if anything turns up. And if not a job, I will hope for at least a kind rejection letter.
Sometimes you’re batting a thousand, and at other times life throws you curve balls. Actually, those both sound like OK scenarios to me. Right now, I’m at the plate waiting for that pitch to come . . . and waiting . . . and waiting . . . and waiting, but it never arrives. Oh, the pitcher is on the mound, for sure. He’s even winding up at times. He just never releases that ball, it never connects with my bat, and so I stand there, looking like a fool.
This is how I feel at the moment trying to find freelance editing work. As of 42 minutes ago, I have applied to 24 jobs since mid-November. I have gotten a couple hits and taken a few tests, but nothing has come of any of it. And I’m applying to positions that fit my experience pretty much to a T. I’m not one of those people sending in resumes to jobs in search of the next head publisher at Penguin Random House. I know my limitations, know what I can do, and I have a great track record with plenty of experience to offer.
So what does this have to do with Michelle Williams? Let me just say that if you’re feeling a little too upbeat, life is going great, and the sun never stops shining, stream a movie starring Michelle Williams and you’ll come quickly crashing down to earth. Watch her movies when you’re receiving rejection after rejection and you can pretty much guarantee a day or more of sheer misery.
I did this on Sunday. The skies were grey, I had been awash in rejection, my best friend was not feeling like talking to me, and I have fear of the unknown in my future. I streamed the indie movie called Wendy and Lucy, and it just resulted in more pain. The 2008 film is about a down-on-her-luck young woman who’s traveling in a beat-up old Honda from Indiana to Alaska. She and her adorable golden mutt break down somewhere in Oregon, and one heartbreak after another ensues. Just when you think Wendy has hit rock bottom, things only get worse.
Of course Michelle is great in this film. That’s the problem: She’s too convincing. I FEEL YOUR PAIN, MICHELLE WILLIAMS. I. FEEL. YOUR. PAIN. And this role fits her like a glove, which is why I must stop watching her movies. Have you ever seen her in an upbeat rom-com costarring Tom Hanks? Do her characters’ lives ever reflect happiness, good fortune, or even the mundane, for that matter? Of course not.
So, I am steering clear of any Michelle Williams/Debbie Downer movies until the pitcher is not only on the mound, but he’s released the ball that has connected with my bat that was misplayed in left field that got me on first base, then second, then third, then to home plate, the crowd is cheering, and endorsements are flying my way.
Today will be the second time I’ll have been tested for COVID-19. The first time, my son worked with someone who tested positive, so I thought I’d get a test too, since we live in the same house. I had no symptoms then, but now I have. For the past several days, I’ve had dizziness, a dry cough, a mild headache that is not in the location of my typical migraines, an itchy throat, and a bit of gastrointestinal distress. Saturday and Sunday, I felt fatigued as well, even skipping my daily walk Sunday on a beautiful January day.
Last Thursday, my son was told by his manager of the coffee shop at which he works that a second of his coworkers had tested positive, and one of them had worked with him on Sunday. He had just taken a test a few days before, after learning of the first positive, but now he was told that he directly worked with this second person. He tried to get in for a test on Friday, but the county-run facility had met its daily goal and was not accepting any more walk-ins. He tried again yesterday, when he would still be in the incubation period for the illness. He woke early, before the testing center opened, and was fifth in line for a site opening 45 minutes later. He is waiting for his results.
I will wait until the morning rush is a bit through and head to the testing center. I am hoping I will be able to not have to wait in a long line because, although much of the queue is outdoors, the line does travel inside a building with narrow halls.
I work in a library one day a week and the rest of the time from home, and my shift is in two days. The library is closed to patrons and I am pretty much working alone when I’m there, but my supervisor, the librarian, is also in that day. I will let her know tomorrow morning about the situation so she can plan ahead in case I do not get my results back in time. She may have to adjust the schedule and have one of my two coworkers eligible to be at work to come in (all the others are older women with underlying health issues).
I will be going to a county-run facility because getting a test through a doctor’s office is ridiculous and nearly impossible. My primary care doctor does not offer testing. Testing for the health-care enterprise she works under is conducted in a far-off part of the county it would take me 30 minutes just to get to (and then how much longer to wait in line, I wonder).
A few months ago, my son tried arranging for a test through his doctor’s office. He was told he would need to have a teledoc appointment first. He was waiting for a link by text to get on the video call, but one never came. Turns out, the link was sent via email. He missed the call and then had to pay $25 for a missed appointment. Doctors’ offices need to be better at administering tests. Why the need for an appointment of any kind if someone calls in and asks for one, advising the office staff that he or she has symptoms?
The only other option is being forced to wait in line for hours at the county sites, which is what I will probably be doing today. Fingers crossed I’m a negative, but I am really not sure. This is one test I hope to fail.
There has never been a year in my nearly six decades on this earth quite like 2020. There have been bad years indeed, but 2020 brought the entire world into a gripping tale whose pages are still being written. How will the pandemic play out? Who will be the winners? Who will be the losers? Who will be the heroes (although hospital workers, including the maintenance crew that empties the contagious waste from ICU cells, top the list, along with essential workers of every kind and the scientists formulating the new vaccines)? And who will be the villains (which is pretty obviously that hideous dictator and his mob, which includes every sycophant who helped put him into office or kissed his boots while there)?
All obvious drawbacks aside, there are some wonderful things 2020 wrought. On a personal level, being able to once again work mostly from home has been a godsend for me. Same for my husband, who no longer has to deal with the daily stress of driving an hour’s worth of heavy traffic each way just to travel 18 miles.
Unlike many other workers who found themselves struggling to adapt to working from home for the first time ever, I have many, many years of freelance work under my belt and the self-discipline and strong work ethic to go with it. I almost look forward to sitting at my desk at a scheduled time each day, powering up my computer, and working away for hours on end. (I realize I am fortunate to no longer have young children at home who need my time and attention while I work. I do remember those days well, and I respect that 2020’s parents have the added obstacle of being their child’s schoolwork facilitator in addition to tending to their own work.)
There is a slower pace to life now. The rat race is still there, I’m sure, but I think people finally realize the cheese is always going to be there, so what’s the hurry?
Another huge blessing of 2020 was the free time I now have to take a daily walk and–added bonus–to walk with a book or a podcast to entertain and educate me. I have consumed more books this year than I have in decades past because of that 30 minutes or more of bliss. Today, with Tom Hanks in my ear reading Ann Patchett’s The Dutch House, I was able to cover more territory than usual because I wanted to keep listening to the Conroys’ story).
A third plus has been staying in contact with friends. It’s times like these when we realize who our true friends are. The one friend I see makes an effort to meet for an occasional socially distanced walk or a half hour talking on her front patio. Another friend, whom I’ve actually become closer to through all this, calls every few weeks to see how we all are doing and keeps me up to speed with her and her family’s life. And I and my best friend have had regular, almost weekly phone chats to stay in touch. I miss visiting her and will never again let a year pass without seeing her.
What I miss could fill many blog posts (our annual weeklong vacation, being able to fly, gathering with family and friends on holidays, seeing my daughter and son-in-law get married in front of a roomful of well-wishers), but that’s for another time. I’m just happy that there are silver linings in that godawful year and, more importantly, there is something to look forward to, with a new administration and hope for not just going back to normal but for a new normal of equality, compassion, and change.