i am failing at enjoying life (or, don’t quit your day job)

My freelance smoggy rainbowwork is slow, and since leaving my part-time day job five months ago, I have little to do that’s enjoyable. I wish I could have a do-over and take my job back, because after all the complaining I’d done about one supervisor and how things had gone to pot, things changed after I left. A new supervisor is at the helm, and all is good at the old place. If only I’d stayed.

So here I am with a serpentine schedule, some days going left, others going right. Some people would give their eye teeth to have a flexible schedule. They’d take up a hobby or continue with one they have and love. They’d travel, laptop in hand, and work whenever it was convenient to them, maybe looking out over a vast ocean or a forest filled with ferns and canopies of green. Maybe they’d squeeze in volunteer work, helping their fellow man and woman by serving food or rocking babies. They’d possibly simply take time to breathe, thanking their lucky stars for the time they have left on this earth.

But I’m not there yet. I’m sad, and after learning last week of a chronic illness I have, I’m depressed as well. The work I now have is not the work I love. I haven’t had the editing work that sustains my being in over a year. I feel I made a mistake in quitting the part-time job too and wish I had somewhere to go during the day to make my time feel valuable. I tried to get my old job back after another coworker left, but it’s obvious that the new manager does not want to make it work, even when he had an effortless opportunity to do so.

So I’ll trudge on, hoping something comes of the jobs I’ve applied to and interviewed for in recent weeks. There is hope over the rainbow. At this point, though, I’m just waiting for the rain to end.

what i did today while i wasn’t working (or, how bored can one get?)

bored

It’s going on three and a half months since I left my part-time job to go back to freelancing “full-time.” Anyone who solely freelances will understand my use of quotation marks. For those with a regular workload, allow me to explain. People who freelance either can’t come close to working full-time because there’s not enough work, even when having more than one source of income, or they’re flooded with work from different sources and are putting in hours equivalent to two full-time jobs.

How I Spent My Day

So what am I doing while I’m in a deep rut in freelancing and having no part-time job to scoot off to a few days a week? Let’s explore my day thus far, shall we?

  1. I got up around 7 a.m.
  2. I ate my breakfast and fed the dog, giving him a shot of insulin before cleaning up the breakfast dishes.
  3. I got showered and dressed.
  4. I sat at my desk, looking for work online, both freelance and part-time. This took approximately 1.37 hours.
  5. Took the dog for a walk around the block. Picked up the yard (because said dog rarely considers going when we’re out walking).
  6. I went back to my desk to look for more work. Did a deep dive into reading reviews on job sites for a position I’m contemplating submitting my resume to.
  7. Realized this ad runs nationwide on the company’s website and there are probably 6 bazillion applicants already. Do I throw myself into the pile? Probably will. It’s a so-called full-time work-from-home sitch, which probably means full-time on occasion. I know how it works.
  8. Watched a YouTube video of a husband-and-wife team painting a couple pieces of furniture, because apparently people can make a buttload of money doing this. (For reals?) Thought about how the unphotogenic husband, a doughy Casper of a guy, should maybe consider not being in the videos. The wife too, for that matter.
  9. Took out an unpainted framed chalkboard I picked up at 50 percent off at Michael’s two days ago and decided to paint the frame black and then white before distressing. Because point number 8.
  10. Thought I’d throw out my dog’s old food he no longer eats and fill the ginormous container with the food he currently eats.
  11. Vacuumed the area.
  12. While I was unloading multi-pound bags, I thought I’d pour my twenty-pounder of Jasmine rice into plastic containers . . . and did so.
  13. Ate lunch while re-watching last night’s This Is Us episode. I knew I’d nodded off during it, but when watching again, I realized the nodding off was actually stage three REM sleep throughout forty-eight minutes of the one-hour show.
  14. Sitting on the sofa, I realized I should wash the slipcover, so I threw that in the machine with a few pillow covers and throws.
  15. Vacuumed the area.
  16. Went back to my computer to print out a shipping label for something I need to return to Old Navy. Packaged the item and put the package near the front door to go out with tomorrow’s mail.

Being Bored

It’s now 2 p.m. I’m sitting back at my desk and I’m wondering how is it that people don’t work.

I was at a baby shower on Saturday talking to an old friend who’s only held occasional part-time jobs over the years and hasn’t worked in maybe five years. She has no kids at home. When I told her I was already looking for work after leaving a job in December, she said one word: “Why?”

I told her I’m kind of bored and, I guess, unhappy too. She said she has so much to do, and I get that. There are plenty of productive ways to keep order in a house and a life that don’t involve a paycheck. But I’ve realized over the years that I’m happiest when I’m doing work and making money.  Maybe it comes from that feeling of being behind in income and saving for retirement while I raised four kids over a great span of years. Or maybe it comes from even before that, when I lived at home. Having a job was my one way of getting out of the oftentimes chaotic household I grew up in. For once, I was able to earn a little on my own and have some freedom.

Same Time Last Year

I think back to this time last year when I was painting my kitchen cabinets. I did it over a span of five weeks, taking down a few doors and drawers and painting them and the boxes before moving on to another section. Last fall, I tore out the stinky living room carpet one section at a time and hauled it out to the patio before patching the floor and then laying down planks. I cannot believe I did those things while holding down a part-time job outside the house and working freelance from home while also doing all the cooking, cleaning, shopping, and bill-paying as well. So, yes, I can handle a household project or two, but I’m still bored if there’s little more to do.

Tomorrow, I’ll probably KonMari the heck out of one closet that’s brimming with paperwork and stuff we never use, but right now I’m going online again to find some work. It’s obvious I’m not happy if I’m not feeling productive, and to me being productive is both working around the house and working for money. We all want to be happy after all.

when the honeymoon of leaving a job is over (or, what do i do now?)

face realityIt’s been more than three months since I left my last part-time job. It was a job I took with excitement. After practically a lifetime of working freelance from home and raising four kids, I looked forward to getting back out into the “real” world, working in a field I really liked and collecting a steady paycheck. Because of circumstances somewhat beyond my control (a difficult boss, health issues, the reality of the cost of commuting to a job that paid very little), I decided to leave my entry-level job. I continued to work remotely while I held the part-time job and would have to leave better-paying work at times to drive to my barely above-minimum-wage gig. It was starting to make little sense. So, when two coworkers were promoted and replaced with inadequate substitutes and another left for a full-time work-from-home job, I began questioning my part-time career choice. So, I packed up my things and I quit, swearing to my besties at the office that I’d come by every so often.

The Honeymoon

The early couple months of leaving the job were amazing. My last day was seventy-two hours before my birthday, and I was delighted to not have to find someone to cover my shift so I could take the day off. I spent my birthday the way I wished. I did miss being out of sight and out of mind, however, when I received no happy-birthday wishes from any of my previous coworkers. My name was still on the birthdays list on the whiteboard in the break room. Did no one remember?

But Christmas and New Year’s, two and three weeks later, were quite pleasant. I had time to shop, cook, bake, buy a tree, decorate the house, and hang out with family and friends without worrying about having to run off to work or fitting those tasks in around a schedule. I also had time to have coffee with a good friend I hadn’t seen in at least nine months, go on a hike with another I hadn’t spoken to for even longer than that, and meet up with yet another longtime girlfriend. I was beginning to picture not only what I had missed while holding down that job but what I had in store for me in the immediate future and beyond, namely the freedom to do the things I wanted.

The Reality

But then reality hit. It’s now three and a half months later and not only have I not seen a single one of those three friends since, but I almost never hear from the couple-dozen people I used to work with either. I haven’t set a hiking boot on a trail, nor shared conversation over a latte, even though there’s a Starbucks on nearly every corner. I missed the constant companionship of acquaintances and good friends at work whom I could see on the regular. I also realized that people are busy, too busy to incorporate old friends who are not in the everyday picture into their lives.

The Phases of Leaving a Job

I have read that there are stages of retirement or leaving a job, something like the stages of a marriage. You start out with giddy anticipation, enjoy a honeymoon phase of doing those fun activities that had been postponed while working, and then  spiral into the reality of your new situation, which often comes with disenchantment. What at first had sounded like a permanent vacation or at least a sabbatical turns into the reality of not having enough to do to feel fulfilled. Boredom, laziness, and feelings of disillusionment can set in, and money can become an issue if the income you were used to is not there. It’s great to meet friends for lunch or a round of golf, but it’s not so wonderful if you’re on a fixed budget after a source of income has dried up.

The Next Stage

Most people do adapt to their new situation. They learn to live within their new financial means. Many fill their days with other activities to substitute for work, like volunteering or traveling.

I’d thought my freelance work would make up for what I was losing leaving my part-time job. But freelancing is a fickle work situation. (Think feast or famine.) One of my sources of income–the work I enjoy most–slowed way down this year. I had had four assignments in January and February of 2018. This year I had zero. In fact, I’ve worked on only one, single, small assignment since then.

Yes, I’m saving money by not commuting. (I spent at least $1,500 a year in gas and another $1,300 in car repairs while commuting). But when the money doesn’t appear in the form of a paycheck, it’s harder to see the savings, and many people chuck the “freedom” of being out of work with what they left: They look for another job.

A New Job?

Today, I have a phone interview for a part-time position. I’m not sure I even want this job. It sounds like it comes with a good deal of responsibility and I don’t know the exact number of hours per week or even which days and times of the day I’d be working. I also don’t know what it pays,  but from reading some of the job boards for this institution, pay likely is low, though probably a bit more than what I’d left. And the commute is shorter, not in-my-immediate-neighborhood shorter, but about half as far as the last job.

So, I’ll give the interview a go, but if I take this job or any job, it will be on my terms this time. No more nighttime work; no more weekends. I think of all the Saturdays and Sundays I gave to that last job and it kills me. That is one thing I do not regret about giving up that position.

Plus, I’ve just gotten used to my old routine of being home again. Even though I’m not bringing in the money right now, that can change, and I do like being able to throw a load of laundry in when I think of it or running to the store or walking the dog when I get the whim and not when I’m exhausted from having been on my feet and then stressed from driving home.

The honeymoon may be over on leaving my job, but I look forward to continuing in a long-term relationship with freelancing. Whether I take on a little side action is yet to be seen.

the sad and ugly truth about freelancing

coasterI have hit a dry spell in my career, as happens in the publishing industry, especially for freelancers. Not having a regular income after giving up a part-time, twelve-dollar-an-hour unrelated job a couple months ago to focus more on my editing career means regular paychecks, no matter how small, have gone away. Now I am once again in the up-and-down roller-coaster world of freelancing. And, frankly, it can be nauseating.

 

Last year my January was blazing. I had had four assignments from a publishing company I’ve worked with (you never work for anyone when freelancing, just with) for the past several years. It is work I really enjoy, not too serious of a subject matter and the editors who send out assignments are always pleasant.

This year, however, I received zero assignments from the same company. Having a slow start to the freelance transcript proofreading job I also do and no longer having income from my part-time outside-the-home job, I made a few hundred dollars this January as opposed to a couple thousand last year at this time. So what gives?

Such is the job of a freelancer. In other words, don’t quit your day job–something I am now regretting having done.

fish

Finding work in this field is very difficult. It’s by hook or by crook really. If you’re fortunate to find a major–or even small or local–publishing company’s request for freelancers, you are guaranteed to be competing with literally thousands of others who’ve also seen the ad. You may have to take a test and, if you pass, you’re put in the pool. That just means you’re swimming with an entire school of fish in your same predicament.

There are times when the sun is shining and the birds are chirping and you’re contacted by one editor for a project. If you do an excellent job, which I always do, I might add, he or she may refer you to another editor who just so happens to have a rush job at the same time or soon after. The ball can roll a few more yards, if lucky, and you find yourself handling a few assignments in a row. Sweet!

At times like that, such as January 2018, I can be busy for a few weeks straight. But once the publishing season is over (and there are only two a year that last a few weeks each), you’re once again out of sight and out of mind and have to start all over to try to get noticed six months later. If you’re not constantly contacted, wham!, the editors have hooked up with another excellent freelancer and he or she is now top of mind. Make the slightest error in a job that requires perfection and you may never be contacted again.

 

the benefits–and drawbacks–of freelancing

Yes, there are benefits to being self-employed. The freedom to work around other events in one’s life is probably the most prominent. The work-life balance is definitely there if, that is, you want more “life” than “work.” Let me say that it’s helpful to have a spouse who has a full-time job with benefits because in freelancing there are none. Zero. Zilch. Nada. I have to put money into an IRA account every year, which often amounts to a good chunk of my total earnings, or I will have no retirement savings at all.

There’s also the isolation of working at a desk in a home office, which can be your kitchen table, the section of your sofa closest to a wall socket, or a corner of your bedroom. (And people complain about cubicles? Hah!)

There are no coworkers to chat up about last night’s ball game or your picks for the Oscars either. Friends aren’t going to meet you for coffee unless they’re unemployed. And the interruptions you experience from roommates, family members, or the gardener running the leaf blower from exactly 10:34 a.m. until 10:58 a.m. straight every Tuesday on the other side of your fence all impede your concentration. Then there are the friends who text asking for one teeny-weeny little favor or your spouse wondering out loud when walking in the door at 6 p.m. why it is that the breakfast dishes are still in the sink or the laundry left unfolded from last night. I mean, we self-employed are home all day after all.

 

then comes the oversupply of work

Just when you’re used to dealing with the outside noises, the loneliness, and the work desert of freelancing, you can become flash-flooded with assignments. This is called a work glut, when you have several different entities requesting your time and talent at once. It’s then that you’d better be good at working well into the night and juggling those jobs because you can’t really tell Publisher A that you have a simultaneous assignment from Company B as well as Managing Editor C. When they hire freelancers, employers want them to be at the ready to take on the work overflow as needed. If you’re not available 24/7 12 months of the year, you’ll be passed over and another fish will be swimming for the bait before you can even kick off the wall.

Such is the life of a freelancer. You sink. You swim. Or you get out of the water. I’m starting to long for dry land.

 

will we be living with our kids forever? the possibilities of multigenerational living

The morning paper has a story of a San Diego, California, couple who sold their three-story home in a very nice part of town to move into their rental apartment building along with their grown kids and their children. As a mom of four in that same very-high-rent, high-cost-of-living area of the country, where two-bedroom apartments currently rent for over $2,000 a month on average and where buying an average-priced home means needing a $120,000 down payment (!) and an annual income of nearly $105,000, I am intrigued by this idea.

multigenerational picture

Unlike the couple featured in the story, however, I don’t have a handy apartment building to set everyone up in. I do, however, have a house and a small yard, and I’m starting to consider the possibilities. A tiny house, for one, stationed in a corner of the backyard could become home to a single adult or a couple. Even a large camper might do.

We also have one bedroom on the first floor whose wall was removed by a former owner that could be put back into use as a bedroom. It’s directly next to a full bath. A little engineering of walls could make this a cozy section of the house for one or two people.

Add to that a two-car garage that possibly, with a little insulation and installation of plumbing fixtures and more electric, could become a comfy 500-square-foot dwelling with its own entrance. People do stuff like this to open up airbnbs all the time. Why not make your home a complex for the family, especially if the possibility of your kids every buying diminishes by the year? It sickens me to think that cumulatively, my three kids who are out on their own fork over nearly $3,000 in rent every month. That’s money they could be pocketing and possibly saving up for a home of their own one day. Of course, if this idea of mine ever came to fruition, I’d charge the kids for rent, but it wouldn’t amount to an annual outlay of $36,000, that’s for damn sure.

The matriarch and patriarch of the Haven family featured in the article are in their seventies and eighties, so while they currently enjoy their separate apartment in the building, they know that one day, if needed, they won’t have far to look for help from family. That, to me, is a big bonus too. Sure, I want my kids to have their independence and the feeling of accomplishment of living on their own, but I’m a little selfish too in wanting them close by.

 

 

i’m becoming a glutton for gluten-free

gluten free

 

Since discovering I tested positive for an autoimmune disease in December, I have gone the way of the gluten-free diet.

The rheumatologist I visited thinks this is a fad diet, but research is on my side in that gluten can trigger autoimmune reactions whereby healthy cells are confused for non-healthy cells and their nuclei are attacked by our own immune systems. It’s been proven in the case of celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that manifests in the small intestines. It has also been proven in certain forms of dermatitis, such as dermatitis herpetiformis (DH),  that, according to Providence Hospital in Oregon and Washington, “is a form of celiac disease that triggers the immune system to attack the skin, rather than the small intestine. . . . If people with DH continue to eat gluten, they also may run an increased risk of developing intestinal cancer.”

If this is true with celiac and its forms, why wouldn’t it be true with lupus, which can cause a rash, balding, and even organ failure; scleroderma and connective tissue diseases, which affect the skin, including  the linings of organs, as well as joints; and inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS) that attacks the lining of the intestines, for example?

To me it makes sense. It makes sense to my neurologist too, who is an innovator in vertigo and has landed on many best-doctors lists.

What to Eat?

So here I am, now buying gluten-free pasta, breads, soy sauce, pancake mix, and even Girl Scout cookies. I’m staying away from sugar as much as possible too, so sweets are just occasional treats. If I have a chip, it’s made of corn, like tortilla chips, or I reach for my favorite snack, popcorn, instead. My cholesterol was a bit up, too, recently, so off the table goes the greasy stuff, like potato chips and fries, as well as red meat and other culprits. Any diet takes discipline, but you don’t have to hit me over the head to get me to change if it means living a less-painful, longer, happier life.

What have I noticed since the new diet started? My waistline has gone down, my migraines have decreased a lot (I’ve had one in four weeks!), and my grocery bill has gone up some. Plus, I’m finding foods in areas of the grocery store I’ve never ventured in before.

Food is fuel, period. We forget that at times. It needs to give us energy and keep our bodies functioning properly. Yes, I love food as much as the next guy. I’m a decent cook and I make a lot of different dishes, from cashew chicken to spaghetti and meatballs to yellow curry and basmati rice. Some I’ve had to eliminate, but most I simply have had to modify, like using gluten-free pasta (Barilla makes a great one that’s readily available in major grocery chains; and there’s another brand, Ancient Harvest, that uses corn and quinoa, which doesn’t hold up as well or look like wheat spaghetti when cooked, but has a delicious sweet and nutty flavor).

Take note: There are lots of good-tasting foods one can eat that don’t involve wheat products or wheat-like products at all, although you wouldn’t know this if you subsisted on the regular fast-food diet. Wheat is cheap, and that’s why McDonald’s and Burger King can sell a hamburger for about a buck. But there are alternatives. Rice flour is very close to wheat flour in consistency. I use it now to coat fried chicken, which I make with olive and avocado oils with maybe a bit of corn oil to make it stretch.

I am fortunate to have a couple grocers nearby that stock plenty of options when I am craving a slice of bread. Just this morning for breakfast I had Udi’s cinnamon raisin bread that tasted very close to the real thing, if, that is, wheat is considered “real” and everything else is not, which we’ve been led to believe all these years.

Yes, a lot of these products cost more, Cream of Rice, for example, instead of Cream of Wheat, but if your health isn’t worth it, what is?

do i have an autoimmune disease? my first visit with a rheumatologist

After a blood test for autoimmune antibodies (ANA) ordered by my gynecologist turned up positive, I went about hunting down a rheumatologist. I settled on one nearby and saw her this past week.

question mark

She started by telling me that 15 percent of positive ANA tests are false. And she questioned a bit suspiciously why I even had the test. From what I’ve read, many people present to their doctors with aches and pains and doctors won’t typically call for an ANA test. Maybe because it can be alarming to get the result? I told her my doctor has known me for thirty years and thought it unusual for me to complain of pain. I didn’t mention that this OB/GYN has witnessed me give birth with absolutely no pain meds.

She did an exam, noting my stiffness and slightly swollen knees. She ordered up eighteen blood and urine tests to narrow down this thing. She ran through my family history. I had a grandmother whose ankles and knees were crippled for as long as I’d known her, a mother who developed a thyroid condition late in life as well as breast cancer and who had high blood pressure, and a father who died of a heart attack and had angina and high blood pressure. My bp has always been good, as has my heart rate and oxygen levels. My cholesterol, however, has been slightly higher than it should be.

Not sure how I feel about this doctor. I started a gluten-free diet a month ago and mentioned it to her, but she shrugged it off, calling it a fad. I don’t agree. From what I’ve read, autoimmune diseases are linked to irritation. If gluten causes irritation, why not cut out gluten? I told her my neurologist, someone she had just commented was a good doctor, suggested a gluten-free diet. So, there!

I started going to a gym just yesterday, and I actually like it. There’s a gentle yoga class at a nearby branch I’m going to observe today, if that’s possible, to see if it’s something I want to or can do. I’ll also hop on a treadmill and a cycling machine for about an hour’s worth of a workout. I’m determined to hit this thing head on and not wait it out, hoping for the best, putting my faith in conventional-doctors’ hands, praying that it’s nothing, doing little if anything concrete to put it in check.

I’m eager to find out what the next set of blood tests reveal. I’m hoping for all negatives, but I’m too realistic to put much trust in that hope.