with a slow workweek, i’m trying to enjoy the beauty of life

 

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Having felt as though I wasted my entire day yesterday, yearning for work and clicking on the Refresh button a gazillion times to will something into my inbox, then wasting five hours –yes, five hours!–taking a test I correctly assumed wouldn’t lead to a job, I drove myself to the water today.

So here I sit, facing the glorious Pacific. I watch a couple, possibly honeymooners, approaching the water. Deeper out are surfers, some young, some old, enjoying the moderate-sized waves.

I’ve rolled up my sleeves (having fought off a farmer’s tan all summer, I don’t want to promote one now), and I’m busy doing what? Taking in my surroundings, I guess I’d say, enjoying the bounty of what God’s given us (for it can’t be just science and happenstance that made the deep-blue sea, the soft sand to walk on, and the sun to warm our bodies and souls).

I’m easing into the comfort of the scenery, but I’m still on edge. I don’t do “outside the box” really well. And being at the water on a beautiful day–the many that we have here on the West Coast–instead of being at my desk is, for me, literally outside the box when considering my house is shaped like a cardboard saltine container. I realize I have a lot to learn about living in the moment. With four kids, whose futures I’ve spent more than half my life shaping, I have become a planner and not an enjoyer of the present. I’m better at trying to figure out what lies ahead, who needs to get where, when the next pediatric appointments and tap lessons are, and how to get from one field to the other without leaving a kid waiting for a ride, than appreciating what is in front of me.

The fact that work is slow to nonexistent at the moment, with the promise of a very busy October and November ahead of me, should be a relief and a motivator to linger in the present, but to me, it’s not. I will try very hard, just the same, to make it so and take in what’s here and now and not what may be–or what should be. Yes, I’d love to have work that comes in steadily. I’m a person who likes having a plan. But it’s currently not possible.

I’m not starving. I’m not unclothed or homeless. We have enough to get us by and savings to fill in the gaps. I’m a pro at budgeting when times get tough too. And we will work as long as possible if the money isn’t replenishing quickly enough. I have to remember all this when the stress of not working and, therefore, not earning hits me.

So right now I will put my pen and paper away, continue along the path beneath my feet, and say a little prayer for the truly unemployed (and the underemployed) who don’t have this view of the ocean (and a soundtrack of crashing waves) before them. I may not have a perfect amount of work for my liking and the money coming in will have to stretch a little further than usual, but what I do have before me right here, right now is pretty perfect just the same.

 

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how being underemployed can result in a whole lot of wasted time

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I am underemployed. If I could just be paid for the time I waste looking for work, I’d have a healthy five-figure salary.

I work freelance, and for the duration of the time I’ve had little ones–and not so little ones–at home, it’s been a great thing. I could be here for the children and also be able to bring in a few extra bucks. Fast-forward twenty-five years, though, and what was once a wonderful thing is now holding me back and keeping me from moving in the right direction.

There are so many jobs I know I could do if just given the opportunity, but picking up crumbs of jobs that require copious amounts of time to do them is all I can find right now. And I’ve been looking.

I applied for a full-time job last week that I felt I was perfect for. I still see the job up on the company website, therefore, the company didn’t see me as a perfect fit. (I think the salary-requirements line tripped me up, not having any idea what real people make out there.) In addition to applying for jobs, I keep working toward getting a certificate to make me more marketable for a government-agency job, but those jobs, after having applied, can take months and months to get called back on. There is no rhyme or reason as to how people are selected for interviews, although the county’s website says that people are phoned alphabetically. Great. I’m in the middle of the alphabet (which makes me want to hyphenate my maiden and last names. I used to be a “B.”)

So today I sat down at my computer and, not having received any work again, looked at the work-at-home job sites. I found one job that looked interesting. It’s with a company that requires candidates to input metadata (whatever that is). I took the test, being that I’m good at tests and am uber proficient in editing and researching, which was part of the test. After two and a half hours of working on this three-hour exam, which partially included identifying pop culture figures and events, I was switching between open tabs in my browser when–oh, lord–I accidentally clicked on the horrible, no-good, very bad X, closing out the tab and losing all the work I had input.

I tried to recover the page, but it had flown into cyberspace for good. So I restarted the test. Having done a lot of the research already, I had half the battle won this second time around. It was a matter of remembering and, if I couldn’t do that, looking back into what I had originally researched. In the meantime, I was supposed to be watching and listening in on a webinar being presented for that certificate I’m going after. I was able to do both, albeit half-heartedly. Still, I managed and was pretty proud to have multitasked those efforts and while picking up a phone call from my husband, to boot.

After the webinar ended, having made good time on the test the second time around, I focused my mind on it and was nearly finished within two hours. I just couldn’t figure out the identities of two of the people who were featured. I tried to research some more but had no luck. So I reread and reworked some of the longer questions that needed my attention.

When I thought I had finished the entire test, I submitted it. Trouble is, I’d forgotten to fill in one of the answers–the name of some pink-bikini clad woman standing on a beach while holding a microphone as some performers were singing on a stage in the background. (Can anyone place that?) Everything else was perfect, trust me. But I knew I was doomed. I knew this was going to be one of those tests graded by a machine, whose first role was to make sure there were no blank answers. And what do you know, within minutes of punching the damned Submit button, I received a ding saying I didn’t get the job. All because of one idiotic semi-celebrity whom I couldn’t ID. No human at this company even bothered to read my answers.

What ticks me off the most is that five hours were wasted. Five hours. I didn’t even walk the dog within that time, which is something I do every morning. I hadn’t even showered. I looked at the clock and it was after 1 p.m. when I got dinged. I realized that I hadn’t gotten up from my chair since 8 in the morning. Five hours wasted because I don’t have a full-time job–or even a regular part-time job–to call my own. If I made twenty bucks an hour, that would have been one hundred dollars I could have earned.

It’s not just the money–or potential loss of it–that is so bothersome, it’s what I could have done with my time. This has been a really slow two weeks for me. Make that three or four weeks, actually. Last week I got some painting done in the house, but this week I was hoping to get some paid work. Only it never came. So after sitting at my desk and feeling like I wasted precious days in the beginning of the week, I promised myself yesterday that I’d get out of the house today. The weather has been stifling hot and my office is the hottest room in the house, and I promised I wouldn’t make myself sit and pine away, clicking through website after website to look for work one more day this week. I told myself I’d get out and get some fresh air.

But when you are at the mercy of others for work, a job can come at the least-expected time. It can pop up when you’re walking the dog or getting some fresh air or sitting in an air-conditioned coffeeshop sipping a pumpkin latte. So I’m sorry to say that I probably have a lot more disappointingly slow, unproductive days in my future as long as I can’t find a regular job. I won’t stop looking for freelance work too, but I sure as heck won’t take another five-hour test to get it. I worked backwards today. And that’s never the right direction.

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“I have a B.A. in journalism and 30-plus years of experience.”

is full-time employment in the cards? when working from home may just not cut it

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I applied for a full-time, outside-the-home position yesterday, the first full-time job I’ve appied to in about thirty-two years. I’ve been a work-at-home mom all that time, which was a great alternative when the kids were little. It brought in extra income–although at times what I earned was so piddly that it barely paid for the newspaper subscription for the year–but it kept my foot in the water of the working world and my brain from frying from kiddie overload. With four kids spread out over a lot of years, it was so easy to put them first and myself last. And I did that. Had I not had something to call my own–a little bit of employment–I’d have been much worse off.

But my youngest is now a senior in high school. He probably will not play sports this year (a great reason for a parent to have a flexible schedule is being able to drive the kid and attend away games), and he has a license and drives our old car, so I’m not even needed to transport him to and from school anymore. He’s looking for a part-time job to help pay for a phone and his insurance and to have a little spending money without having to hit up the parental unit. A job will take him away from home even more often.

In the meantime, my freelance career is in a lull. I will be madly, deeply busy in October and November, working both day and night, and I have been promised some assignments into December and January even, typically a slow period in publishing, but at present I’m bumbling around, finding stuff to do at home, like laundry and cleaning, and refreshing the home page of one of the web portals where I obtain some of my work. I can do that all day at times and find nothing or maybe one assignment that can take less than an hour. So my precious hours spent “working” from home are not getting me anywhere.

And that is why I applied to a firm that is looking for someone who does exactly what I do. Those jobs are rare to find and because it’s an altruistic nonprofit, I applied. Time will tell whether I hear back for an interview, but I was encouraged to find something so specifically tailored to my career choice.

I have applications in with a couple local government agencies as well, but with them, being placed on the eligible list is in no way a guarantee of being called for an interview. I’ll continue courses for those positions and I’ll get busy with work in the coming months and not even think about looking for something outside the home, but then the doldrums will hit again . . . and again . . . and again.

Am I ready for full-time employment outside the home? With a little adjusting, I think so. It certainly would beat hitting the refresh button and finding nothing for forty hours a week.

 

 

helicopter moms sometimes have to perform covert rescue missions too

heli-momMy daughter was robbed. Someone broke in and entered her apartment when she was away on the opposite coast Labor Day weekend.

I discovered the break-in on Labor Day morning, when I went over to feed and check on her cat. I had last been over with my teen son Saturday afternoon. We locked up and left. Labor Day morning, I put the key into her security screen door lock and it turned especially easily for an oftentimes sticky lock. I put my hand on the main, wooden door and it opened right up. I had witnessed my son locking that door and jiggling the handle to make sure it was secured on Saturday, but I had not checked it myself, so I figured he may have left it unlocked.

Then I looked and looked and looked for her cat, but I could not find her anywhere. She’s an ultra-aloof cat, even more so than most. If awards were given out for being the most aloof and unfriendly creature, she’d place in the top three and come home with a shiny trophy. So at first I didn’t think it was too unusual that I couldn’t find her, but the deeper I dove around the small one-bedroom apartment, the more concerned I became. I even asked my other daughter if she had come by or if a friend was supposed to check in on the cat, but she told me she had not stopped in and the friend was out of town too.

After about an hour of near panic, I finally got ahold of my son, who had been sleeping in, and he said he’d come by to help look for the cat. I went to the bathroom, gave one last look behind the shower curtain, and that’s when the window above the shower caught my eye. The screen was missing! Someone had entered through the bathroom window and gone out the front door. The security screen I had thought was locked when I came in had not been. I put my key in again to test the lock and still could turn the key another revolution after the deadbolt released, verifying that that morning I had just unlocked an already unlocked door.

I called my husband, who’d just arrived home from a bike ride, and told him my suspicions. I called the police, who arrived even before my son did and he had been walking to his car when my husband told him of my discovery.

With my daughter on the line (she had been traveling home that day and was at her layover city), we figured out some of what had been stolen, one item being her laptop. She called me last night practically in tears. She had just gotten off work at 8 p.m. (she’s a schoolteacher, so that’s a long day), still needed to buy groceries–her cupboards were bare from not having shopped since the week before leaving for her weekend trip, and was in a car wash, trying to remove the smut from her vehicle that had been parked out in front of her apartment all summer (fortunately, she’d had one set of keys with her on her trip and we have the other). She is in grad school and had an assignment due today that she had no computer to work on. Her work computer needed to be left at school for her student teacher to use while she attended a conference today and tomorrow. Even her tablet, a Kindle Fire, had been stolen, so she had nothing on which to do her research and write her paper other than her cellphone, which was of little value.

A couple days ago, I had mentioned helping her buy a computer to have for school, but she had thought she’d be able to use the one from work. Only that didn’t turn out to be the case. So last night, when working on a frustrating assignment while thoroughly tired, I slipped in some research on where I could get an inexpensive laptop that’s a decent brand for which my daughter could pay me back or at least use until she could get her laptop of choice. She needs the computer today.

Between assignments today, having already performed my reconnaissance mission last night, I will slip out under the cloak of darkness (well, there’s a thick marine layer anyway) and do a rescue maneuver for a Windows 10 laptop. I will then drop it into enemy territory (my daughter’s apartment aka the scene of the crime), because that’s what we helicopter moms do. We not only hover over our kids and overprotect them, we also come to their aid when needed.

p.s. After three hours of my, my son’s, and my husband’s search efforts, including scouring every bush and blade of grass in the immediate neighborhood, my cat-person younger daughter lured the terrified feline out of hiding within one minute of entering the apartment. Maybe my whirring chopper blades had scared her off.