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.

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.

painting kitchen cabinets: help, my tannins are bleeding!

I finally did it. I put a toe in the water of painting my cabinets but now feel completely drenched. And now I have tannin bleed on top of it all? Are you kidding me?yellowing-paint-on-new-poplar-doors-2

This is not a project to take lightly. All those fabulous white-painted, farmhouse kitchen posts on multiple blogs out there make it look so easy, but I’ve realized the bloggers are leaving a few details out. I have known for a long time that this is an anxiety-provoking do-it-yourself task. That’s why I painted just the backside of the cabinets, those facing the family room, two years ago with linen paint and never returned after that. It is one of the most difficult, time-consuming, and completely-obvious-that-you’ve-done-a-crappy-job tasks concerning household painting ever.

I got the desire to tackle this project years ago, pre-everybody’s doing it, pre-Fixer Upper, where something like 90 percent of Joanna Gaines’s finished products contain white-painted cabinets, including those in her own home. I’ve hated my oak, blah cabinets since we moved in twenty years ago. Over the years (usually, just before company showed up), I’d take out a can of stain and go over the blotchy areas of the wood. Before too long, I had multiple stains on the cabinets in a myriad of tones, and even though it helped a little, with wear and tear the finishes got dirty and grimy, which isn’t hard to do in as tiny a kitchen as mine. And because I never properly removed the old stain before applying a new one, it had all built up, grime and all.

I have been a fan of the homey, country (now called “farmhouse”), shabby chic look for some time. I like that it’s relaxed and easy-going. It’s not fussy nor froufrou nor prone to need an update when the latest trend comes through the door. It’s basically me. So, of course, when I came to the conclusion that my life would be so much happier with antique white cabinets, I had to try it.

My cabinets are made of oak. They’re from the early 1970s. They are not in great shape, but they’re for real, which is more than can be said of most if not all the cabinets inside your local IKEA or Home Depot. Yes, I could afford to go to one of those big box guys and order a lovely, matching set–and that’s still an option depending on how badly my cabinets turn out–but I wanted to give it the college try and paint my own. And isn’t now the time, what with all these awesome before-and-after shots on blog after blog?

I am a researcher. It’s part of what I do, so I researched the heck out of techniques (rollers or brushes, or both?), paints (milk paint, chalk paint, latex?), primers (oil or water based?), sanding options (yes or no?), top coats (flat or satin?), and colors (linen or antique white?). First, I tried linen. And it was just OK on these cabinets, so to live outside the box for once and not take the middle-of-the-road option (linen is a very beigey, middling option, by the way), I finally decided on antique white.

Two weeks ago, I applied it over my old linen-painted backside of the cabinets. Then I continued with the end boxes. Today, I struck out on a single door and a single drawer. And that’s when I discovered something a lot of bloggers don’t mention/cover up: tannin bleed!

Tannins are extracts that can leach out of certain woods, including oak, cedar, and redwood, and can alter paint, yellowing it. Not a single blogger I followed who used the same paint as I am (General Finishes milk paint) mentioned this. I’m not just blaming the wood, though. I’m sure all those years of built-up stain hasn’t helped. So, I’ve taken to sanding each piece, and priming each one with two coats of Zinsser 1-2-3 for good measure. So far, so good.

I’m nervous enough about this project, so to have a poor result right away nearly devastated me. I’m glad I have found a solution. I hope it continues to work. I will update you with the results as I go along.

brad’s status–a lot of us can relate, i’m sure

brad's statusWe might all learn a thing or two from the new film Brad’s Status. The movie explores middle-class discontent and the way comparing ourselves with others in this world of ubiquitous reminders via Facebook posts and Instagram stories can drive us to be miserable, when most of us are way more fortunate than we think and maybe more than we deserve.

In the movie, the middle-class Brad Sloan (Ben Stiller) contemplates/overthinks what he deems to be his boring, unassuming life. On first look, Brad has it pretty good. He runs a nonprofit and his wife, Melanie (Jenna Fischer), is likable, smart, and has a decent, busy career herself. His son, Troy (Austin Abrams), is not only a good kid, but bright enough and musically talented enough to be applying to and interviewing with top-notch East Coast universities, including Harvard. Brad lives in a tidy Craftsman home in a nice neighborhood of medium-sized Sacramento, California. So, what’s not to like about all that? Let’s ask Brad.

The audience learns through Brad’s voice overs just how unhappy he is. To Brad, his life pales in comparison to his college buddies’, one a successful movie producer featured in Architectural Digest for his lavish home; another a hedge-fund owner with an equally wealthy wife, four blond, rambunctious kids, and one private jet; a third who made it big in the dot-com craze and is now retired and living with two young girlfriends in Maui; and a fourth who is a successful pundit and author who is pulled in many enviable directions.  What’s prompted Brad’s over analysis is his and Troy’s East Coast trip, where Troy is to tour and interview at some of the schools on his radar, including prestigious Harvard. We learn that Brad hadn’t been accepted into his first-choice school, Yale, and see that he’s surprised (and envious) that Troy has a good shot at Harvard.

On the trip, Brad finds out how out of the loop he has become. He wasn’t invited to his L.A. friend’s opulent wedding, for one, and he feels his status, already teetering,  has not plummeted.

Of course, our Everyman does get a rude awakening, when he, of course, discovers that his friends’ perfect lives are really not so much. But the slap in the face comes late and one gets the sense that Brad may end up dipping back into the pool of despair on occasion but, for the most part, will stay on dry land.

A show of hands on who can relate to this scenario? Although we are witnesses to how good Brad has it–for God’s sake, he should be happy alone that he has just one kid to worry about and one college education to fund–we can see where he gets off feeling in the dumps about his life. Haven’t we all scoured Facebook pages, drooling over photos of our friends’ European vacations, their kids’ graduations from great schools and with exemplary grades that got them a choice of several jobs to turn down in order to take the one with the most amazing pay and benefits, and the new house/grandkid/car/kitchen–fill in the blank–that we wish we had? I know I have. Looking at my life as a married, college-educated homeowner and parent of four healthy and good kids, I think quite a few people would be envious, but the way you hear me talk of it on occasion, you’d think I lived on skid row and had a mountain of insurmountable problems to climb up and over each day. Truth be told, if we have a roof over our heads, our good health, and someone to love and be loved by we’re doing OK, my friend.

If we’re to learn anything from Brad’s Status it’s this: Be happy with what you have, be thankful for what you’re given, and stop envying those you think have it better than you. Everyone has his or her own problems or internal demons to work through even if on the surface they look like gods and goddesses.

 

 

my silver linings playbook for the new year

new-years-ball

Here we are again at the start of a year that will, from the looks of things, be full of changes and challenges. I see some good things on the horizon, like paying off a big loan this year, and I see some things that could be horrific (I already touched on that back in NovemberBut one thing I would like to accomplish this year is being more grateful and in being grateful, I cannot focus on the negative. I must find those silver linings even if I have to look through hundreds of dark clouds to do so.

How this year will be different:

  • I will write at least one blog post each week, and I will end one posting with three things I am thankful for that happened that week, even if it’s that the cats only threw up three times or that I was in line at the DMV for forty minutes less than usual.
  • I will explore my city more and enjoy the great things it has to offer. In other words, I’ll appreciate what is available to me. I live in a part of the country that people fly and drive to from all over to visit, but I sit at my desk and work in my house day in and day out, some weeks barely getting out more than a couple times and within a five-mile radius of home. I choose to go someplace fun each week. Even if I have to take my laptop with me to work there, I will get out and see this city.
  • I will not belabor bad things I have no control over. The dilemma of anxious control freaks such as myself is we worry about everything, much of which we can’t control. Unless ruminating over the horrible consequences of something that may or may not happen is actually going to help put a plan into action, I choose to not waste my time and the finite space within my brain worrying about it.
  • I will not feel as though everyone’s life is so much better than mine and be envious of the good things that happen to them. I have a terrible habit of doing that: I’ll hear something positive that a friend of mine has accomplished, like she got a new job or a new kitchen or a new car, and I’ll compare my crappy sporadic paychecks with hers or my fifteen-year-old vehicle to that shiny new one sitting in her driveway and feel bad about myself. Well, no more of that. I have been trying hard to get more and better work and I could afford a new car and a kitchen if I wanted one, but it’s not all that necessary right now. So no more comparisons. I will feel happy for her, and that’s all.
  • I will realize that others’ lives are not all they appear to be and be thankful for what I have and when things go well. A friend of mine who I never think has to struggle as much as I do told me a story of something frightening that happened to one of her children when he tried to do the right thing a few weeks ago. On the outside, her life looks better than mine, but I went home that night and thanked the heavens that I don’t have a child struggling with such an issue right now. My kids may not have the greatest jobs or be in fulfilling relationships, but at the same time, they’re not in difficult, dangerous situations either.

And that brings me back to my premise of feeling grateful for the things that are good in our lives. We all have something to be thankful for and this week, for me, it was:

  1. Having my healthy, well-rounded, smart kids around me over the holidays and getting to reconnect with friends and family members I don’t get to see all the time.
  2. Getting to enjoy a nice lunch with a view and a walk with my husband on New Year’s Day.
  3. Being alive and well.

Goodnight.

should i pursue a low-paying job to get me out of the house and back into the world? (a freelancer’s dilemma)

libraries.jpg

I am a freelancer. Anyone who’s freelanced, especially in the writing and editing field, knows it’s a lonely career path. Most of the time–in my case 100 percent of the time–is spent in a small room, at a tiny desk, where the only communicating I do is by e-mail and instant messaging. If I didn’t have a dog at my feet or a habit of talking to myself, I’d never utter a word all workday. Now I have a chance to break those bonds and get a job outside the house. But is it a job worth pursuing if it doesn’t pay well, is a fairly long commute, and would disrupt my routine?

I finally heard back from one of about nine library systems that I applied to and was put on an eligible list for over the past year. It’s actually the very last one I applied to. And that was just two weeks ago. Most of the time, names of eligible candidates are added to a list. People need to reapply if they haven’t been called in twelve months, so the wait can go on into perpetuity.

The library in question, the one library in a small city within my county, has offered me (and many others, I’m sure) an opportunity to take a test for a position that is at the bottom of the hiring hierarchy and at the bottom of the pay scale and with zero benefits. I have applied to better-paying library jobs with more responsibilities and with benefits, but I’ve yet to get a call to test for or be interviewed for one of those. This job is at the lowest wrung of the ladder, but combined with my more challenging freelance editing career it may be just what I need. Sure, I’d like more money instead of being paid barely over minimum wage, but the benefits of my taking such a job are manyfold. Still, leave it to me to find the dark cloud outside every silver lining.

Reasons to not take the job/pursue it (even if I take the test and get a perfect score, it doesn’t mean that I’m the one who’ll get chosen):

  1. The job pays very little.
  2. The commute is 25 minutes each way on a good day, possibly double that on a bad one. And it involves driving over a bridge, which is over a large body of water, which is kind of frightening.
  3. It would force me to work regular hours and I’d have to clear vacations and sick days instead of being free to take a trip around my husband and kids’ schedules or when I want to (which I rarely do, but I have the possibility to do so anyway).
  4. I’d be away from home, meaning my family and my dog, and that’s kind of hard on me.
  5. I’d be paying for gas, which I figured today would cost at least $40 a week. That’s like four hours of work just to fill the tank.
  6. I’d miss out on important events at home or even just the regular stuff, like eating dinner together (hours are 10-9 weekdays and the library’s open till 6 on Saturday and 5 on Sunday).

Now for the pluses of taking a low-paying, low-risk, low-expectations job (or at least pursuing it):

  1. I won’t feel guilty if I have to quit.
  2. The job is in the most quaint, adorable city in the county, and the library is very nice.
  3. It probably wouldn’t be very demanding work, which is kind of nice for a change.
  4. It will get me out of the house and give me other humans to talk to (see paragraph one).
  5. It will give me some stable income (maybe $8,000 or $9,000 a year) to rely on in addition to my rollercoaster freelance income.
  6. It’s part-time and wouldn’t require a huge commitment of my time, leaving me free to do my other work and have free time. Plus, unlike a retail establishment, it’s closed on holidays.

I keep kicking myself for not going after another very similar position with the main library system in my county close to a year ago. I was offered an interview but cold feet and a head filled with anxieties made me cancel. I was upset with myself for a long time for not going after it, and I swore that the next time an opportunity came through, I’d jump on it. So, with that kind of history, I plan to take the test. My chances of getting the one open position may be good or they may be not so good. I realize there will be people whose personalities mesh with the interviewers more or who know the interviewers or who just appear to be the best candidate in whatever way, like, say, they live on that side of the big, mean bridge. But it’s worth going after.

I did a dry run today. I got in my car around the time I’d have to leave for the test in two days and I dialed up my Google maps. I followed the path to the library without a hitch, and I found street parking easily. I had never been inside the building before but always wanted to go in. The pillars leading to the door, the beautiful lawn, and the coffee cart out front were beckoning me. So I went in and looked around. Dang, it was just as cozy and quaint inside as I’d imagined! Even better, in fact. There were rows and rows of books; a cute, roomy children’s section; a divine sitting area with big, comfortable leather chairs, the way a library inside a mansion might look–I could almost smell the cigars and brandy; two Christmas trees (no generic “Happy Holidays” will be uttered here, I guessed); and a big, 24 foot by 8 foot display case containing a winter scene, set up with a moving toy train and storybook characters looking on. Gazing out of the floor-to-ceiling windows with views all around, including of the adorable gazebo and park in the town square, I felt like I belonged. It was as if I’d walked into Bedford Falls or, better yet, Stars Hollow.

“I could really enjoy going to work here,” I said to myself. (No, I didn’t say it out loud this time.)

And I knew right then and there that $11 an hour or not, I’d be happy to spend time in this place. Now to get the offer….

 

he who shall not be named won the presidential election; what to do now?

I’ve woken every morning since the day of the election that shook me to the core Sad Woman Looking Lostwondering how I can live through four years of a presidency run on hatred, flimsy policy promises that a fifth grader could have spoken, and a possible cabinet that I heard Sarah Palin might be appointed to. Only in America! To say I’m in a bit of a depression is like saying the pope is a little bit Catholic. So what to do now?

I guess we all carry on and hope for the best. And if that isn’t happening, we speak up and get noticed. I feel sorry for a lot of the voters who chose Trump because they are angry and looking for a savior. I think they will be surprised that the man who they hoped would look out for the little guy (and how they thought a premade, not self-made, billionaire could do that is beyond my comprehension) will be the first to take away their health care, cause the rate at the Fed to rise and behind it costs of loans on things they don’t have the money to buy, and put their tax dollars into the military because we will need to be even more vigilant at our borders and in the air and with nations who will despise us because of what our leader has said.

How did Hillary Clinton lose? How did she not break the ultimate glass ceiling, which should have been broken long ago? Tim Kaine, for one. He brought nothing to the ticket–no progressive voters or people of color, as far as I know. Being a Clinton, for another. This was the year of change, for how many times did Bernie Sanders have to speak the word “revolution” and mention that his campaign, one that swept the nation, was built on contributions averaging twenty-seven dollars apiece? And for the Democratic Party to turn a blind eye to the gift of enthusiastic voters was insane. The Republican Party only did so reluctantly. But once the momentum was going the way of their “outsider” (a man who has changed his party affiliation more times than most people change addresses), I think conservatives had to let the wave crest and roll to the shore. And it did, like a tsunami.

I don’t worry so much for myself. I’ll be OK. I worry about my kids and the disadvantaged, the poor, the families who may be torn apart. Mostly, I worry that health care will be taken away from people who for the first time in their lives can have it and can afford it. I worry about a vehemently antiabortion VP (I honestly don’t think Trump gives a hoot about the topic personally) and what that might mean for the country. I wish there was no such thing as abortion. I’ve had four kids at times that were not ideal, so I think it can be done–and should be done. But taking away health care from women and then forcing them to carry to term, paying for their own maternity care, which is astonishingly expensive, is so, so backward. If you want women to not have abortions, then please, please make it affordable for her and the newborn as well. Don’t take away their health care or force them to not have it. More women will be having babies with problems and, for people who want to look at it in monetary terms, the rates for the rest of us will go sky high to pay for those noncovered moms and children.

My husband and I have had to pay for private health insurance a good part of our marriage and I can attest that about fifteen years back, during the Bush II administration, nearly all big health-care companies took maternity coverage out of their policies or made the premiums so high, it was unaffordable.

After my fourth child was born, for instance, we had to pay for private insurance because my husband nor I had a job with health-care benefits. The premiums were around one thousand dollars a month and we didn’t have the option of maternity coverage. I prayed that I didn’t get pregnant during that time, because maternity care is about ten thousand dollars and that’s if there are no complications. When the Affordable Care Act came along, it forced insurers to put maternity coverage back onto their policies and be affordable. It also prevented insurers from excluding people with preexisting conditions. So people who have an illness, a disease, or a disability cannot be turned away or be forced to pay higher premiums. People in the middle of cancer treatments, for instance, who maybe changed a job with a different health-care provider, could still be covered for the remaining treatments. My friend, for instance, who passed away a couple years ago, had to switch insurers because the one she had been on did not allow for experimental drug treatment. She was able to move to another plan and was then put on a brand-new drug, which extended her life a bit longer. It was a miracle, in my eyes, that she could do that. Never would that have happened if Big Health Care and Big Pharma hadn’t been forced to allow people to switch providers and policies and not be turned away.

So Donald Trump is our president in a year we should have been celebrating our first female leader and our first male “first lady.” Maybe next time. (Elizabeth Warren, are you listening?) For the time being, let us all say a little prayer and hope that Mr. Trump’s presidency isn’t the gloom and doom we think it may be. After all, four years isn’t that long. I hope the time flies.